When we got back up into the daylight and started towards Collins square, I was pleased to note that the roads were clear and there was no sign of rising salt lake – and nary a corpse, nor part thereof, to be seen.
Creepy was still casting me occasional narrow looks, but I ignored him serenely.
“I do believe you’ve been stealing pages out of my playbook,” he eventually concluded in a tone of grudging admiration.
This was familiar territory. Creepy said it frequently when I said or did something unexpectedly clever. It was a safe and easy way to simultaneously acknowledge that I’d said or done something clever and claim the credit for whatever it was I’d just said or done, when there was no actual recourse to sharing the glory in any rational sense. As I believe I have mentioned, the way of the super-sidekick is the route of least resistance.
It didn’t really bother me, since Creepy self-evidently had no playbook, and he and I both knew it. It was a convenient fiction that allowed Creepy to move on and stop trying to score points on a round I had won several exchanges ago.
“Just … feel free to speak up when we’re in there,” I said. “Don’t leave me to do all the talking.”
“Of course,” Creepy said mildly. At this point, if he’d had a playbook, it would have been a one-page laminated quick-reference with LEAVE HATBOY TO DO ALL THE TALKING written on it. Reverse psychology worked on Creepy when it suited him – or more specifically when he thought it didn’t suit me. Which I suppose rather sounds like the point of reverse psychology, but I’m here to tell you it’s not as simple as that. He gave me a wide-eyed look of injured innocence. “What do you take me for?”
I sealed the deal with a narrow, suspicious glance of my own, but didn’t comment.
We stopped in front of the antique dealer’s place. It had the uninspired name COLLINS SQUARE ANTIQUES, but to the owner’s credit the window-painted sign was enhanced with the additional slogan ACTUALLY ANTIQUES OF VARIOUS SHAPES.
There was a bell above the door, of course, which jingled happily as Creepy and I Wild-Wested into the shop.