The police had been called and the cowboy arrested. Caution had not said a word to them about Mr. Creep. Later she’d called Marylin and apologized. Marylin apologized too, and they were best friends again in an instant. For a while, everything was perfect. Then the cowboy’s trial began.
But that was two years ago now. The cowboy had been found guilty of assault. Caution had never been charged. The media frenzy had begun to die down. Thursday Escapes were nothing more than a fond memory. McPherson’s had gotten famous and started charging ten bucks for a drink, and it had been over a year and a half since Caution or Marylin had gone anywhere near there. Eight bodyguards had been reduced to three (one for Marylin, two for Caution) and both girls’ parents had stopped insisting that the guards accompany them everywhere.
Even Mr. Creep’s habit of showing up and staring at Caution was somehow less creepy to her—despite the fact that his appearances had dramatically increased in frequency and duration. Caution had almost come to see him more as set-dressing than an actual threat.
Then he spoke. Having him stare had been bad enough, but when he opened his mouth to talk, Caution thought she would faint. What he said was as alarming to Caution as the fact that he said it at all.
Creep appeared next to her on the crowded dance floor of her new favourite club. He dropped to one knee, crossed his arm over his chest and said, “Majesty.” For some reason, she had expected his voice to be British and butler-like. I was neither. He had a deep but airy voice, with just a hint of rasp to it and no recognizable accent.
Caution had stopped dancing as soon as she saw him. She looked down at him, kneeling before her, and took a minute to wish she was dreaming. “You can talk?”
Creep said nothing.
“Alright, you know what? I know I still owe you, but I think I’ve been a pretty good sport and—would you get up off the floor? Jesus.”
Mr. Creep stood up.
Caution glanced around at the crowd of people who had stopped to watch her. She grabbed Mr. Creep’s sleeve and dragged him off the dancefloor. When they were relatively alone under a stairwell and the crowd had gone back to jumping up and down, Caution pulled Creep around to face her. “Alright, spill.”
“It is time.” He spoke in an even monotone, like what he was saying was relevant, but not necessarily important.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Time for what?”
Caution looked at her watch. “What, are you like my sitter now? It’s only one.”
“We must leave this place,” Creep said simply.
“We? Aw, hell no, Creep. Look, I admit I might have had you figured wrong at first, but come on. You lurk around, you show up outside my house, you appear out of nowhere when I’m out with my friends. You’re seriously lucky I haven’t called the cops on you again. You can’t really expect that I’m going to go anywhere with you.”
“We must go now.”
“Are you deaf, or just incredibly annoying? I’m not going anywhere with you.”
For what was possibly the first time in two years, Creep’s expression changed. There was something urgent in his eyes that almost made Caution question her decision not to leave with him.
“Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll sit down and you can tell me what the hell you’re on about. But I’m not going anywhere with you, got it?” She grabbed his sleeve again and pulled him to the bench in the hallway by the bathroom. “Sit,” she commanded, as if she were addressing a dog.
Creep complied and Caution sat down beside her.
“Now,” Caution said, once she realized that Creep was not going to volunteer any information. “I’m not going with you, regardless of what you say… but where is it you want me to go?”
“Which is where, exactly?”
“It is… elsewhere. It cannot be reached by any road.”
“Uh-huh… and why do you think I need to go there?”
“You are to be queen.”
Caution shifted uncomfortably, causing the red leather of the bench to squeak. “Well, I’m not really interested in being queen, so, uh, is that it?”
Creep looked calmer than he had. “Your interest is not requisite,” he said matter-of-factly. “It is, however, paramount that you leave this realm at once.”
Caution waved some girls past them. “Because…?”
“You are in grave danger.”
“From who? You?”
“There are creatures that wish you harm.” Creep said, in his irritatingly flat voice.
“Creatures… like animals? Are they from M—whatchyacallit?”
Caution grimaced. “So, let me get this straight: I am in danger from creatures that live in some alternate dimension place called M’leo… and in order to protect myself from them, you want me to go to the place that they are, where, whether I want to or not, I will become queen. Is that about it?”
Caution looked up at the line that was forming and noticed that she was its main source of interest. She lowered her voice to a near-whisper. “Creep, I want you to listed to me. You need help in a big way. Find yourself a therapist or a spirit guide, or something because you, my friend, are totally cracked.”
Mr. Creep did not seem to take the comment as an insult or suggestion. In fact, he seemed to be pointedly ignoring Caution, paying her only enough attention for him to recognize when she stopped talking. When she did, he said, “I will watch you,” then stood and walked away.
Caution watched his black robes melt into the crowd, and without really noticing when it happened, she found she was no longer watching him, but instead the space where he had been. She sighed and stood up from the bench, shrugged her shoulders, and under her breath muttered, “alright then.”