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Unusual calls were the norm in Steve’s line of work.
Ever since the non-human races had started moving into the cities in the mid-twenties, spurred by talk of prosperity and just in time for the Depression, the underbelly of the urban areas had been getting weirder and weirder.
Gone were the days when an exterminator could lay down some poison gas and call it good; gone were the days when cockroaches and rats were the biggest problems. Drets, tiny dragon-like insects, proliferated (and ate cockroaches, and sometimes started fires). Creels, about the size of a large mouse but armored like an armadillo, chewed through wires and ignored rat poison.
The family that called him Tuesday, however, thought they had a mundane infestation of termites. They’d heard scratching in the walls, and noticed some sawdust near an electrical outlet. Steve knew of seventeen things that could be, only two of which were more benign that termites, but if they wanted to insist they had small wood-eating insects, well, he’d come in and pretend he was looking for small wood-eating insects.
The wife hovered. He hated that sort, but what could he do? He set out his kit, ignored her worried fussing (“You won’t need any of that magical stuff. We just have bugs.”), and set to work finding out what was in their walls.
“Do you have to cut into the wall?”
“Yes, ma’am. This is where you said you had the problem?” He already knew it wasn’t termites, but he wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
“Right there, yes, all through this wall. That wallpaper was very expensive.”
“I’ll cut on a seam; it will be easier for the paperer to repair it that way.”
“No, ma’am, that’s all in the contract you signed.” He sighed – they never read it – and went back to sawing into the supremely ugly wallpaper.
“Ey, ey! That’s my wall!” The tinny voice made Steve stop cutting; down by his toes, a tiny man – a Tiny man, to be specific, was shaking a fist at him. Steve grinned.
“Ma’am, I’ve found your problem, and it’s definitely out of my jurisdiction, but I can suggest a good co-habitation counselor.” He carefully picked up the Tiny man so that the client could see him. “You have Tinies.”
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