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Kim McDougall Author

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Kyra Meets Jacoby

I rang the doorbell of a cottage in a quiet Pointe Claire neighborhood, in the west end of the ward. Midmorning. Kids at school, professionals at work. The street was calm except to my ears. I felt the magic of a brownie’s heart beating furiously as it hurried to a burrow across the street. In a tree hanging over the lawn, a bird tucked a twig into a newly made nest with the faintest scraping of bark. As a young girl, this heightened sense had driven me to the brink of madness. Now it made me a great exterminator.

The door opened to a woman in a ratty blue housecoat. She was neither old, nor young, but beaten down by life. Mousy hair flattened one side of her head as if she had just woken from an unmoving sleep. She eyed me warily.

“Kyra Adams. Valkyrie Pest Control.” I flashed an official-looking badge. Along with my uniform shirt, the badge put people at ease, empowered them to open the door to a stranger. That and a mild glamor let them ignore the three-foot sword strapped to my back.

The woman mumbled something and turned down a hall. I followed, checking my manifest

“You’ve got raccoons? Is that right, Mrs. Henderson?” 

“Uh-huh. Coons in the chimney.” Her eyes shifted uneasily in the dim living room. An unearthly giggle echoed from above. I glanced at the fireplace. We both knew there were no raccoons. Mrs. Henderson mumbled something about coffee and hurried away.

I crouched on the hearth. Thanks to a run-in with a rock troll last month, my neck creaked with pain as I peered up the flue. I shone my flashlight into the dark space. Yellow eyes peered back at me.

“Hello, pretty Kyra-lady.” The creature shifted, showering me with ash. His long fingers hung onto the bricks like suction cups.

I sighed. At least I wouldn’t need a coon trap. Those critters could be vicious. 

“Jacoby, get out of there or I’ll wring your skinny little neck.”

“No!” The dervish stuck out his tongue like a naughty child, a disarming gesture coming from a creature that looked like a wizened old gnome with poodle fur. At nearly two feet tall, Jacoby was large for a dervish and he was cramped in the small space. His thin face accentuated the bulbous eyes that glared at me through the nest of his frizzy gray fur.

I reached for him but he scooted up the brickwork out of my grasp. Ash and debris fell on my head. Mrs. Henderson might keep a tidy house, but her chimney was a mess. 

Jacoby giggled again. He was enjoying this way too much. 

I scooted out of the hearth and straightened, brushing ash off my pants.

“I need to get something from my truck,” I called out to Mrs. Henderson, then nearly bumped into her in the hallway. 

“Do you have a ladder?” I whispered.

“A ladder?” 

“Shh! I don’t want him to hear.”

She frowned at me like I was crazy for worrying about what raccoons thought, then said, “Garage.”

Outside, I pulled a chimney cap from my truck bed and found the ladder. It was just tall enough to reach the lowest part of the roof. I climbed over the shingles to the chimney and snugged the cap on it, then climbed back down.

Inside, Mrs. Henderson was standing in the doorway to the living room, her coffee mug forgotten in her hand. 

“Don’t like coons,” she grumbled. “Filthy buggers.” 

I nodded, not wanting to tell her how much worse it would be to have a fire dervish nesting in her flue. 

Back at the hearth, I reached into the fireplace but my sword stuck on the mantle. I shifted it and pushed into the small space. My left hand held the flashlight. My right reached up and gripped Jacoby’s toe. It was surprisingly soft and fuzzy.

“You’ve nowhere to go, Jacoby.” 

He whimpered like a lost puppy, but I didn’t buy it. 

“Now make this easy and come out or I’ll have to smoke you out.”

The dervish growled but inched toward me. I grabbed him around the neck like wrangling a snake, the only way to ensure he didn’t bite me. I yanked him out of the chimney. A cloud of soot followed us into Mrs. Henderson’s living room. She stood in the doorway with a frown like a skid mark. 

“Got him,” I said, coughing. Jacoby wriggled in my grip, his limbs dangling like wet noodles.

“Those raccoons’ll nest anywhere, huh?” I shoved the dervish into a canvas bag and willed him to be quiet.

Mrs. Henderson’s mouth flopped open in protest, but she shut it before saying something she would regret. By the time she told this story to all the neighbors, she’d be convinced it really was a raccoon. Humans are weird like that.

“I’ll dispose of it. You might want to get your chimney swept. A lot of debris up there.” 

Mrs. Henderson nodded and frowned at the black cloud of soot settling over her beige carpet and sofa. From my back pocket, I pulled out my widget with the invoice. As she tapped her widget to mine to make the payment, she wouldn’t look at me or the twitching sack in my hand. I thanked her and let myself out.

“Okay, Jacoby. That’s the third time I’ve rousted you this month.” I dumped him on the sidewalk and grabbed him by the scruff when he tried to run. 

“Nuh-uh. Promise first.”

He squirmed in my grip, but I wouldn’t let go.

“Fine.” He crossed his arms and pouted. “I leaves the Hendersons’ shadows.”

“Not good enough.” Fae used words like labyrinths, to confuse and confine people. Their promises were more or less binding, but you had to be sure of the bonds, or they would slip right through.

“Hmmmph. I not nests in the Henderson’s chimney again.”

“Still not good enough. I want you to leave Pointe Claire. I’ve answered three sightings in one month about you. Next time, someone will call Hub instead of me and then you’ll get kicked out of the ward altogether.”

“Where wills I go?” I could see real worry in his eyes. Then his expression deepened to mischief. “I could lives with you?”

“Not likely.” 

My reputation for rescuing strays was well known but even I wouldn’t live with a dervish. Critter wrangling rule number six: Don’t take in any rescue that can burn up in a fiery tornado. That one’s just common sense.  

“Find yourself a nice old manor-house with dozens of chimneys, where you won’t bother anyone.”

He glared at me.

“I mean it, Jacoby. If I find you in this part of town again, I’ll take you to Hub Station myself.” The dervish stiffened, all pretense of sulking gone. Hub was the local law enforcement, and not known for leniency. 

Jacoby wilted. “I agrees.”

“Promise.” I shook his collar again.

“I promises not to nest in Pointe Claire.” He grumbled the words, but I heard them and they were binding, not permanent, but at least it would keep him away for a few months. I let him go. His sharp little teeth clamped on my arm, drawing blood before he grinned and scampered away.

Damn, that hurt.

After stowing my kit in the bed of my truck, I disinfected my arm and wrapped it in a tight bandage that immediately soaked through with blood. Just another battle scar for the exterminator. I checked my schedule. The next appointment was clear across town. A termite infestation. Gods, I really hoped it was just bugs.