Shirley walked into the security office, a defeated look on her face. She sighed. "Well, that's all the rooms occupied by Mensans in the hotel. We're down to searching the conference rooms now."
I growled. After Coyote's confession, the audience decided to get in on the game and arranged search parties to scour the hotel. In the meantime, Grace and I had retired to the office to make some calls. The shifts had just changed, and I was explaining to Officer Gary what was up.
"So Brunhilde had been hiding the bull in her breastplate, but negotiated with Cambridge to borrow it. He put it in his briefcase--"
"Why did she give it to him now?" Gary asked.
"She said she kept feeling 'tickles,' and thought the brownies might have been searching her. Probably her imagination. They'd have taken it from her. My theory is that since Gozon entrusted her with it, and she entrusted Cambridge, there wasn't enough disorder to trip their radar. However, when Coyote stole the briefcase, neither were where they belonged, so they acted."
"So they cleaned it and put it back where it belonged? Where's that?"
I tossed my head. The whole situation had gone from annoying to absurd. "You never know with brownies, which is why they make bad housekeepers. Grace put in calls to her order to check with the Faerie Vatican and the churches where the bull had been held, and I asked my contacts to do the same for your Vatican, just in case. Gozon and Galendor are both having their people search likely places in Elf lands. In the meantime, we're searching the hotel. For all we know, they may have decided the most logical place is nearby, where all the concerned parties can work things out."
Shirley snorted. "Gozon and Galendor were arguing in the lobby last I saw. They're being polite, but I don't think they'll work anything out without a negotiator."
A negotiator? I looked at Grace, saw she had the same idea.
"It can't be that easy," Grace said.
"You never know with brownies. Come on!" We headed out the door.
"Hold on. I'll drive you." Gary snatched up his keys, walkie-talkie and Taser and followed. He got us a cart and we piled in. I gave him our room number.
"You didn't check your room?" he asked.
"We were getting to it! We didn't think it a likely spot, until what Shirley said about negotiators."
Grace explained. "The Church has a longstanding role of negotiating between warring parties, and I'm the nearest representative. However, if it's not in our room, we may want to see if there are any priests in the hotel, then call the local clergy."
Gary's walkie talkie went off. He groaned. "Sorry, guys. Disturbance in the Con Café. Gotta detour and drop me off."
He turned us around. Soon we heard the clattering of pans and a French voice shouting, "No! Bad Doggie!" The door banged open and a large grey coyote, gravy dripping from his chin, tore out of the café. A flying ladle barely missed him. A couple of Mensans screamed and flattened themselves against the walls as he ran past.
I leapt out of the cart and had tackled Coyote before he'd gone halfway down the hall. He turned with a snarl, saw my fangs were bigger, and whined.
"Don't change form until we find your clothes," I warned. I noticed he'd slipped the police anklet that was part of his probation, but the silver bracelet Grace had bespelled to keep him from escaping had transformed into a collar. I got off him, hooked my tail through it and led him back to Gary.
"I think someone just broke parole." I almost sang it. I live for moments like this. "Grace, Shirley, go check the room. I'll help Gary escort this dog to the pound."
It didn't take long to find his clothes, and soon, he was human, handcuffed and enduring the verbal abuse of Jean Pierre d'Pasimmonierre as he demanded he be charged for crimes against all France and the BAC. When Coyote tried to protest that he was only looking for the bull, Jean Pierre screamed, "That was fish, you bad doggie" and started to beat him about the head with his chef's hat. Beautiful. The only thing that could top the day was Grace's call.
"It was in the room safe," she said. "Cleaned, restored and beautiful."
I laughed. "Tell Shirley: I know it sounds redundant, but she's a genius."
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(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg