“So,” Lee unrolled the map, “here’s what I’ve been thinking.”
The others crowded around the kitchen table, watching Lee intently. Emma, Anna, Lydia, Alexis and Francis, all staring down at the street map in front of him.
“I’m sorry,” Alexis said, “could someone fill me in on… what’s going on?”
All eyes turned to him. Anna nodded.
“He’s got a point,” she said, “I mean clearly some weird stuff’s gone down with you guys that I have no idea about… where’s Adelaide? Don’t you usually hang out with her?”
“She’s doing something,” Francis muttered, “wouldn’t say what. You’re right, we should probably explain and by we I mean Lee should probably explain.”
“A friend of mine has been wrongly accused of murder,” Lee said, “and we are going to catch the real criminal.”
Francis smoothed his hair back and exhaled slowly. He stepped over to Lee, putting his hand on his shoulder.
“I thought we agreed we were going to forget this,” he said quietly.
“That was until there was another murder,” Lee put his head to one side, “clearly the killer’s still out there.”
“So that’s problem solved,” Emma shrugged, “if they’re still on the loose it means Julian can’t have done it.”
“Not exactly,” Francis picked up the newspaper on the table, pulling it from underneath the map and unfolded it, “the police are keeping Julian under lock and key, it seems. Given he’s a rank three and an overt one at that I don’t think there’s much hope for him. There’s not a great deal connecting the two deaths, which is why they think they can still pin the other on him.”
“Except,” Lee grinned, “that the latest victim is… guess what?”
“Go on,” Emma raised an eyebrow.
“Oh you do surprise me.”
Lydia was the only one who noticed Alexis’ expression change. He blinked rapidly. It seemed to her for a second as though he were about to burst into tears. Then he looked up at her and suddenly was back to his normal, wildly staring self. Lydia looked away, embarrassed he’d seen her watching him.
“Honestly it’s like the police can’t see anything,” Lee said. Francis murmured something about turning a blind eye. Lee nodded and continued, “look on the map. Here are the sites of our deaths. They’re on the same road for goodness’ sake. I guarantee if we scope that place out we’ll find our killer. They always return to the scene of the crime.”
“So what do you suggest?” Emma said, “we put ourselves in harm’s way?”
“Yep,” Lee nodded and rubbed his hands together, “I mean you can back out now if you don’t think you can take it.”
Everyone present shook their heads. Lee grinned infectiously.
“Great,” he said, “can’t say I’ve ever been on a stake-out before. Alright here’s the deal. Each of us tells our respective parents this evening we’ll be round a friends’ place for the night. Then meet up at the street and we’ll see if we can’t catch ourselves a murderer.”
“What about Adelaide,” Francis said, “she’ll want to be a part of this…”
“Well if you see her tell her,” Lee said, “but we’ve wasted too much time already. There’s a killer on the loose and if the police aren’t going to pay attention to the clues then we’ll have to.”
A silence fell, no one was sure what to say. Alexis, sensing a pall in the conversation, rifled around in his pocket and produced a crumpled packet.
“Buffalo worm?” He said cautiously.
All eyes turned to him. Fishing inside the packet he produced a small handful of tiny, dry, maggot-like worms, which he ate.
“Eww,” Anna squinted at the packet, “Alexis what the hell are those things?”
“They’re really nutritious!” Alexis said defensively, “Full of protein. Plus they taste great.”
He offered the packet around. Strangely, no one seemed interested. Finally Lydia reached out, mostly out of pity, and popped a small handful of worms into his mouth. Her eyes widened a little. There was an expectant hush.
“Wow,” Lydia said eventually, “these are really good. Why have I never eaten them before?”
She reached out and pulled out another handful. Alexis smiled at her happily. There was a general relaxation. Anna caught Emma’s eye and grinned.
“Well,” Lee said, “gross foodstuffs aside does everyone get the plan?”
There were nods and murmurs of assent. Lee clapped his hands together with a sharp noise. His excitement was visible, not least because the map was beginning to do a little fluttering dance on the table. Francis folded his arms, but Lee’s conviction so choked the air around him that he couldn’t help but feel his heart beat a little faster. They were going to do something, to right a wrong dealt out to a fellow super-human. This was what they were for.
“Right,” Lee looked over at Alexis and Anna, “I realise you two have been pulled into this out of nowhere, but we’ll need all the help we can get. You sure you want to help?”
Alexis nodded emphatically. Finally, he had a chance to hang out with… well… they weren’t really the ‘cool kids,’ but it was a start! Anna just smirked.
“Yeah,” she said, “I haven’t got anything going on.”
“Well then,” Francis said, “see you this evening.”
Now get out of my house, he added mentally. Lee gave him a look. Francis returned one of his own. The others didn’t seem to notice this small battle of wills and headed towards the door, chatting amongst themselves. Francis and Lee followed them.
“What are we going to do about homework?” Francis muttered, “We’ve got loads.”
“It’s cool,” Lee said, “I’ll do your English if you do my Maths.”
“Deal,” Francis replied, “now… what do you think? Reckon we can catch ourselves a criminal?”
“Sure do,” Lee said, “and when we do they’ll have to release Julian.”
“Yeah,” Francis gave a brief wave to Lydia, who had turned back, then shut the door with a thump, “thing is I have the feeling we might run into some trouble.”