All eyes turned to Lee, who was getting unsteadily to his feet. Francis sagged with relief.
“You’re okay!” Adelaide blinked at him, “What did he do to you?”
“No,” Lee shook his head, blinking rapidly, “you don’t understand. Julian wasn’t attacking me… we were just… having a chat.”
“What?” Adelaide raised her eyebrows incredulously. She turned to Julian.
“Feels like the less I say here the better,” Julian murmured in her mind.
“Julian isn’t doing anything dangerous,” Lee explained hastily, “what he was doing was just… connecting with me. That way he could speak mind to mind with me.”
“It’s as hippy as it sounds,” whispered Julian.
“He has no connection with the murder that took place. The ‘other part’ of his business is just… well he’s a vigilante.”
Adelaide stared at Julian incredulously. He twisted his tentacles coquettishly.
“A super-human vigilante?” Emma smirked, “Give me a break. If you were a real vigilante you’d have been lynched long ago. Normals don’t like it when we presume to take the law into our own hands.”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing?” Julian asked.
“It did occur,” Francis murmured, “though we’re not the ones with giant monstrous tentacle heads.”
“Hey that’s a bit of a low blow,” Julian said, “besides, that would suggest my whole head is a single huge tentacle. Clearly, it isn’t. Point taken, though. I can’t say I haven’t seen my fair share of lynch mobs in my time. But listen, I wasn’t trying to hurt Lee. You heard what he said. I was just trying to show him the inside of my mind. The direct facial attack is the easiest way of doing it, for reasons known only to my messed up physiology. You just reach in, touch the brain-”
“You touched his brain!”
“Yeah, but I didn’t damage it. Promise. The procedure’s usually harmless.”
“Look,” Julian sounded annoyed, “you didn’t exactly give me much choice with all your accusations. I had to prove for certain that I had nothing to do with the murder. Lee can verify, I couldn’t lie to him, my mind was entirely laid bare to him.”
“Yeah, he couldn’t,” Lee nodded hurriedly, “by the way man, your mind is something else. Most people’s minds are pretty tiny. Yours is huge and beautiful.”
“Yeah well if I’d been given the choice between beautiful mind and beautiful body I’d have taken body each time,” Julian replied, “but I’m stuck with this, so thanks. It’s nice at least someone can appreciate that I have the mind of a handsome man.”
“Yeah well I still don’t trust-”
Adelaide was interrupted by a small explosion. A shower of shattered bricks and rubble burst outwards in a small wave from the other side of the warehouse building, Peter, who had been standing gawking at them since their conversation had begun, leaped backwards in surprise. A cloud of dust swirled up in front of the hole that had been blown through the wall for a moment.
“That was surprising,” said Julian, without even turning. Then, after a pause, “I hope someone’s going to pay for that. Walls cost a lot.”
“Sorry,” a voice drifted out of the hazy mist, a dark figure strode out of it towards them, “the entrance was perhaps a little too flashy. I’m learning on the job.”
Adelaide looked around at the others. They moved together to form a defensive huddle.
“Who on earth is that?” Lydia hissed into Adelaide’s ear.
“If I knew I’d tell you.”
“Amadeus!” Julian spread his arms wide, “We haven’t met, I just like announcing people when they come into the room.”
The figure stepped out of the shadows. He was tall, lean and muscular, with cropped black hair and aquiline features. The smoke swirled around him as he moved forward, glancing quickly back and forth at the contents of the room.
“Little young for a crime fighter aren’t you,” Julian said, “seems to be my day for getting ambushed by teen vigilantes, huh?”
“Yes well it’s all about doing what’s right,” Amadeus shrugged, “they’ll tell you we teens are the future, in which case I think we might as well live in a better future. Evidently I’m not the only one who thinks this.”
He nodded and his eyes met Adelaide’s.
“Adelaide,” he said, “I’ve heard about you.”
“Oh God,” she groaned, “another psychic. How many even are there!”
“No, just a fan,” Amadeus grinned.
“How do so many people know about us? We haven’t even fought any crime yet!”
“Yes well I guess this is your first then,” Amadeus said, gesturing to Julian.
“I’m sorry?” Adelaide said.
“Mr Julian Hex?” Amadeus stepped over to him.
“That’s the name,” Julian said, “not my given name. I don’t have a given name. I got to pick one, see. Sometimes I wonder whether Julian was the right choice.”
“Yes,” Amadeus nodded, “well I’m afraid you’re under arrest for the murder of Victor Harrows.”
“Oh,” said Julian. Then he was quiet for a few seconds. “Okay. Look… I’m just going to pop off for a second.”
He ran. He had a surprising turn of speed and managed to reach the metal rungs of the ladder and began to climb as quickly as he could. Amadeus snorted to himself and ran in pursuit. He was fast. Really fast. Before Julian could reach the top of the ladder Amadeus’ hand had grabbed him by his tentacles and pulled him back off the ladder, dragging him down to the floor. Julian lay there, arms spread out feebly.
“Okay,” he murmured in their minds, “clearly that decision’s been vetoed. Sure I can’t go to the loo?”
Amadeus stood back. His hand uncurled and a few bloody tentacles dropped to the floor.
“Ewe!” Lee stepped backwards, “what the hell man!”
“Sorry,” Amadeus looked over at him, “but Mr Hex here is a wanted criminal.”
“He hasn’t done anything!” Lee cried, “Anyway, what authority do you have? You’re as old as us.”
“Oh, I didn’t come alone,” Amadeus said.
There was the sound of boots behind them and they turned to see a small army of police officers stepping carefully through the hole in the wall.