Harold was now at a loss. He had committed the humiliating blunder of attempting to poach souls in another more powerful demon’s territory. This was as close to sacrilege as a demon could get, given that their very existence was predicated on the doing of any kind of dirty deed. As a result, he now found himself having to get out of town before Baron Samedi sent Mr Teeth and his steroid-enhanced buddies after him.
He trudged into the railway station with a heavy heart. Most of his busking money would have to go on a train ticket; a plane would be faster of course, but he had not made anything like enough money to pay for a flight. He scanned the destination boards and picked one at random. After all, it didn’t actually matter where he was going, did it?
He found a quiet, mostly empty carriage and slumped down into a seat by the window. Some summer this was turning out to be! His father's voice echoed in his head Get your lazy backside up to the Brightside and get yourself some soul-snaring experience instead of wasting your time daydreaming down here.
It had been an experience all right.
After a while, another passenger plopped himself down in the seat opposite Harold’s. He was a small unshaven man in a crumpled, none too clean raincoat. His face had a lumpy, misshapen look to it that hinted at lorry tyre somewhere in his ancestry.
Harold was mildly irritated by the unwelcome intrusion: there were plenty of spare seats in the carriage and yet this fellow had to come and sit opposite him. He supposed he ought to engage the man in conversation, there might be a soul in it after all. This fellow definitely looked like he had needs that could be fulfilled – not the least of which was a good bath. The decision was made for him, however, when the man started to speak.
“So. Running away, eh, Kid?”
Harold was reluctant to start spilling out his private life to this rather malodorous stranger, and somewhat stung by the implication of cowardice in the man’s tone.
“Not exactly,” he replied somewhat defensively.
The man laughed nastily.
“Whatever, kid, whatever.” He lifted up a small suitcase that Harold hadn’t noticed before and placed it onto the crumbling formica of the table between them.
“Your father sent you this as a little token of his esteem.”
Harold was all bolt-upright attention now, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“My Dad and I don’t exactly get along," he growled, "why would he be sending me gifts?”
The stranger shrugged.
“Maybe things are starting to thaw between you and he wants to make a gesture. Don’t ask me, I’m just the messenger.”
With that, he flipped open the lid of the case and spun it around with a muttered master of ceremonies-style ta-daa! so that Harold could see its contents. Harold leaned forward.
“A toy monkey?” he cried incredulously. “I’m in it up to my ears and my ever-loving Dad sees fit to send me a toy monkey?”
“Ahem!” said the monkey, clambering out of the case. “I am not a toy! “
Indeed he was not. He was in fact a small golden capuchin-like creature with bright black eyes in a wizened little face, tiny delicate black hands and feet and long curling prehensile tail. He was clad in a little pin-striped waistcoat, (complete with watch-chain) and the whole ensemble was topped by a tiny perfect bowler hat.
“My card, Sir!” he announced. A tiny white rectangle appeared in his paw and he proffered it to Harold.
Harold squinted at the minute inscription on the card. “Mister A. Tay-ah-teem-ay”, he mouthed.
“It’s pronounced Teatime, you buffoon!” snapped the simian, snatching back the card. He drew himself up to his full eleven inches of height and bowed stiffly, “Augustus Teatime, at your service.”
“And what am I supposed to do with a talking monkey?” Harold demanded.
But there was no answer because, in best dramatic tradition, the stranger had vanished.