Generally, when a call comes in at odd hours from a caller who is stressed, distressed, distraught, and dismayed, they are calling for Sage. He’s the consultant, after all, the Black Tower graduate with a decade on the police force.
But once in a very long while, the call is for me, someone who has an issue, usually with one of the smaller races – they don’t think to call in a mediator so often when it’s a Large Race Problem. They’re just as overwrought, just as hysterical, but usually, when it’s done, I get to laugh a little.
That was the case when the Museum of Natural History downtown called me. They thought they had a problem with brownies or pixies; something was messing up their doorways, all of them, knocking the plaster around and leaving holes in the cornices. They’d had an exterminator in, but they didn’t have bugs, and an exorcist had told them it wasn’t demons. That left, it seemed, me.
I left my youngest at home with Sage and caught the bus downtown, listening to the gossip bouncing back and forth, watching the way the human and mostly-human dealt with the non-humans and the non-even-humanoids – at least the ones that could fit on a bus. There was a lot more interaction than there had been even five years ago; it seemed as if, slow but sure, integration was happening.
Once at the museum, however, it was another story. The staff were human. The visitors were human. There were two brownies serving as janitors, but everyone seemed to ignore them. Even the archeology was primarily human, with “the other races” having one small wing. Integration, it looked like, had no place in natural history. I nearly left right then.
But the money and the reputation gains for consulting are good, and perhaps, I thought, I could do some good for their impression of the non-humans all around them. I studied their dents and holes, listening to their anguished stories while paying more attention to what the brownie janitors were trying to tell me. Not a Small Race. They didn’t know what it was either, but the small races were afraid to come here. Not even the tinies would come in the museum – and the tinies were anywhere they could find a corner.
That was a red flag, but a hard one to explain. Some humans still called exterminators when they found out they had a tiny population in their walls. So it wasn’t the smalls, and it wasn’t the tinies. A Large Race would have left a lot more wreckages – especially if they’d seen the Other Races wing. I wandered off from my handlers when they were busy arguing, and traced the impact lines in their doorways.
They found me, ten minutes later, sitting on the floor in the Africa wing, giggling uncontrollably. When I could finally get control of myself, I managed to explain.
“The giraffe,” I told them, pointing at the skeleton proudly guarding this wing. “Your people… there’s skeletons of three of a race of very small creature wired into his skeleton. There, there, and there. Their ghosts take him riding at night. They must love being so tall!”
I had a hard time getting paid for that call, but it was worth it for the story I got to tell.
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