At dinner, I found Grace in the con café with Shirley, laughing together and speaking in conspiratorial tones. Nonetheless, I heard Shirley murmur to Grace how Melchoir Rawlings was clasping his briefcase to his chest like a long-lost love.
Her own handbag, with looked like a Cheshire cat, with the tail as the handle and one stretched hind leg as the flap, was sitting on the table. My nose and magic sense caught something unusual about it. As I approached, I told her. "You know that thing's alive, right?"
"Thank you for noticing," the purse said wryly.
Shirley stroked the top of the cat bag affectionately. "I got it from the Interdimensional Internet. KamiKrafts. I thought it was a cute play on Shinto animism. I had fill out an adoption certificate and everything. I didn't know it was a real adoption. I brought him for Grace to see."
"So she can let the cat out of the bag?" We were speaking in normal voices now, so my comment drew a combination of groans and applause. Even Coyote, halfway across the room, raised his glass in salute. Then he ruined it by lapping out of it, dog-like. I know he did it just to annoy me.
Grace just signed longsufferingly. "No, we did think this might be the answer to our brownie dilemma. We leave kitty in a mess in an out-of-the-way area, and…"
I grinned. Finally, something that showed some promise. I asked the purse, "You sure? You may end up spending a lot of time in a corner for nothing."
"Like I haven't done that before,” the bag cat replied. “It'll be the most fun I've had in years. We'll have to do something to mask my true nature, though."
"Any way to make it look like Melchoir's briefcase? Maybe give it an elf 'scent'?" I asked.
Grace said, "You think they're targeting Gozon's?"
"If not, they have an odd un-brownie-like affinity for expensive leather attaché cases."
"Well, I can do it easily enough. But where shall we put it? We need someplace public enough to attract their attention and private enough that no one notices them."
"Why?" Shirley asked. "I realize that no one's actually seen the brownies in action, but why not just set up a messy room and trap the brownies when they come to clean it."
I tried to explain. "Brownies are interdimensional beings. They can only be in our dimension when in motion, but they're only in motion when they're not seen by someone of our dimension. Even a surveillance camera observing them is enough to cause them to cease moving--and thus cease to exist in our space-time."
"Kind of like electrons, then?" Shirley said. "Not literally, but in the fact that we can know where they are or we can know where they're going, but not both simultaneously?"
"It's a little more complex. There's also magic and uncertainty involved. If you know they're in a spot, they aren't. If you suspect they are and can suspend your certainty, they can remain there--or maybe not."
Shirley laughed. "Now we're talking about Schrödinger's cat. Except in this case, we're going to use the cat to catch the quantum elf. I'm so glad I came to WG this year! Say, what about behind the convention registration table? No one will bother with it, and it's a mess! Plus, it's not an especially busy area now."
"Great." Then, despite myself, I yawned. "Sorry."
"When's the last time you slept?" Grace demanded.
I shrugged and tried not to snarl. "I tried, but someone has given out our room number and everybody wants their picture with The Dragon." Like that would be proof of anything in this day of PhotoShop and (cringe) animatronics.
"I have an idea," Shirley said. "The Everglades aren't too far from here if you fly. Maybe you could find a nice quiet spot?'
Warm, humid and no humans? This woman knew how to make my day.
She reached into her catbag and started pulling out stuff: sheets of music and scrap papers with notes--musical and handwritten--on them, lipstick, candy... No way the Brownies could resist this purse. She finally found a map and showed me the park. It was huge; as long as no one tried to follow me, I should have no trouble finding a secluded spot for a well-deserved nap.
Grace took Schrödinger the Cat bag to get catalyzed. Afterward, Shirley would drop off the purse alone, so as to not arouse suspicion. "Pursey" would take a nice long nap, flap open, and hopefully, our do-gooder brownies would rise to the bait.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
More antics, more mystery, new ending. Order from Amazon.
(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg