He's walking home from school, four days after Carl Powers died, when Amanda Atkinson falls into step alongside him.
He's wary immediately. Amanda doesn't take this route home. There's no reason for her to be here now, on the last street before he gets home, when all the other kids have peeled away and he's alone.
And how did she follow him this far without his noticing?
"Can I ask you a question, Jimmy?" Her accent is already perfectly Brighton. You'd never know, just from listening, that her family arrived from New Jersey in the States just six months ago. He's spent those six months unsure of what to make of her - sometimes he thinks she's smarter than everyone around them, the way he is, but then she'll say or do something so hopeless he decides it must be wishful thinking.
He hadn't expected her to join in on the taunting.
(But no, that doesn't make sense, either. Bullies like an audience.
But what else does can I ask you a question ever mean?
What is she doing?)
"Can't stop you, can I?" His own accent is still Dublin, will always be Dublin. He won't have that part of him taken away, no matter what they do to him.
"Where did you get the botulinum toxin?"
He's so blindsided there's no hope of hiding his reaction. He actually stops in his tracks like some kind of idiot cliché as his stomach turns to ice.
"Oh, don't look like that," she says. "No one else will ever work it out and I'm not going to tell. You did it all brilliantly."
. . . brilliantly?
For the first time, he looks cautiously up at her. Instead of the horror he's imagined seeing on people's faces, in all his fantasies where they know exactly what he wants to do to them and that he is so capable of doing it, she's smiling at him. Beaming at him, really, like he's the most fantastic thing she's ever seen.
No one has ever smiled at him like that before. He can't stop the answering smile that tugs at his mouth.
She giggles and gives his shoulder a friendly nudge with hers. "Go on then, Jimmy. Tell me."
"Jim," he says, abruptly. "I like Jim." He's never bothered to tell anyone that before. No one listens.
He thinks she might.
"Jim," she says. "Okay." She tilts her head consideringly, then says, "I'm keeping Amanda for now, it's too dull for people to trace later, but someday I'm going to use my middle name instead. It's Irene. You can call me that, if you don't tell anyone."
He shouldn't be so easily bought by a little bit of transparently strategic secret-sharing. As she speaks, though, her smile quirks in a way that suggests she knows he understands exactly what she's doing, and that's when he starts to like her anyway.
"I won't," he says. "I don't want to talk about it out here, though. My parents won't be home till late, we can talk there."
"Perfect," she says.
By the time they've reached his front door, the future Jim Moriarty and Irene Adler have become inseparable.