As soon as Abigail pushed the shop door open and stepped inside, she was greeted with such cacophonous ringing she felt like a church mouse trapped in an organ pipe. She resisted the urge to cover her ears and glanced about, noting the lack of patrons.
“Mr. Debenish?” Abigail shouted over the din in the general direction of the man she assumed to be the shopkeeper.
“Good afternoon. Are you with the Bureau? Did you get my message?”
The speaker was a harried-looking man in his fifties wearing a black frock coat over a gray waistcoat and trousers. He stood protectively over a shiny mechanical National cash register. Behind him cowered an adult woman and two teenaged girls dressed in the latest, frilly high-necked fashions. White-faced, the mother hid both girls behind her plump frame and eyed Abigail with suspicion.
“Yes sir, madam, the Bureau sent me to investigate your...problem,” Abigail reassured him at the top of her voice to make herself heard over the ringing crystal.
Abigail took another few steps into Debenish’s Fine Crystal and China and surveyed the situation. The shop looked empty, except for the owner and his family, but judging from the din, they had some kind of infestation. She scanned the shop for broken glassware but didn't see any. It wouldn't be brownies, then. They'd have demolished the place before you could say “Shoo brownie shoo!”
“Sir, my credentials,” Abigail said, pushing aside a sack of djinn powder and almost impaling her hand on a split-wing bauble pin as she fished her inspector's badge from her sack of mystical odds and ends.
Mr. Debenish recoiled perceptibly from her outstretched hand, then steeled himself and collected the card anyway, holding it by the edges.
“Miss Abigail Wallace. Senior Inspector. Bureau of Mystical Affairs. Chicago. Issued 1893.”
He said something to Mrs. Debenish, who nodded, then ducked her round face behind his shoulder.
“Is there anything you can do...?” He gestured with his arm at elaborate displays of crystal stemware, dishware, and silver, all of the finest quality and all singing, clinking, and vibrating in place, seemingly of their own accord.
“Yes sir, rest assured, the Bureau will resolve this matter promptly.”
Abigail pulled a pair of silver-rimmed glasses from her bag and donned them, flipping down different colored lenses rapidly in the prescribed order.
“Ah ha! Gotcha!” That last blue lens had done the job. The trick had been to superimpose the fairy light filter over a lens with a basic tracer spell applied to it. She had to hand it to the new Djinn High Council. They really knew what they were doing when it came to mystical equipment.
She did her best to keep a straight face as she watched the scene unfold through her magicked glasses. Thousands of pixies – pygmy hippo pixies, to be exact – were having their way with every square inch of the shop. Shorter than her thumb, this genus of pixy, like the non-magical mammal they were named after, were thick limbed and chubby as a roly poly bug, and when viewed through her colorful lenses, each giggling pixie glowed with faint green light.
On the counter in front of her sat a champagne flute. Abigail picked it up and raised it to eye level. Two pixies chased each other around the rim, while another buzzed around the inside like a trapped bee. A grin twitched at her lips. They were just playing. Pixies loved crystal.
She looked towards the huddled Debenish family. If only they could see what was terrorizing their shop. Would they still be afraid? Perhaps so, she shrugged. Humans were funny that way.
“Mr. and Mrs. Debenish? Please, there is no cause for alarm.” She adopted her most reassuring tone. “You may come out from behind the register now. What you have here is simply a minor infestation of an entirely harmless creature. They were drawn to your shop by the fine quality of your crystal merchandise. You have a lovely shop, sir.”
Mr. Debenish beamed in spite of himself and stood up straighter. “We pride ourselves on quality, Miss Wallace.”
Mrs. Debenish huffed in agreement and approached cautiously with her daughters in tow.
“Now, if you please, Mr. Debenish, step outside with your family while I dispel these – ” she stopped herself before she said “pixies.” The larger cousins of these pygmies were famous for being quite troublesome, and she didn’t want to worry the Debenishs. Memories of the Downtown Chicago Pixie Palooza of 1880 were still fresh in everyone’s minds. It had taken the Bureau weeks just to...well, that was neither here nor there.
“While I dispel these unwanted guests!” Abigail continued brightly.
The owner hustled his family out the door and locked it behind him with a key. Four faces pressed against the storefront glass, and Abigail turned her back to them. The pygmy pixies had begun to gather on the counter, blinking their big round eyes at her.
One stood out from the rest, not for his size but for the copper penny he had tied to the top of his head like a bonnet. He was dragging his four-toed foot across the glass-top.
“Hi, Miss Abby...” he mumbled.
She didn’t recognize him, but that wasn't surprising. There were so many pixies now in the restricted planes, not to mention brownies and sprites, gnomes and salamanders...and they all seemed to know her name. Ever since she helped their boss overthrow the old, corrupt leadership of the Bureau, she had practically been a celebrity.
“Yes? Do you have something you’d like to say?” Abigail put her hands on her hips and gave him what she hoped was a firm look.
“What's your name? And what are you sorry for exactly?”
“I'z Duke Tumblebottom of the Southeastern Pygmy Pixie Kingdom of the Second Demesne of – ”
“That'll do," Abigail cut him off. Next, he’d start in on his genealogy, and they’d be there all day.
“And I'z apawlageeze for myze indeescreetions.”
Abigail stifled a smile. Rules were rules. She switched on the plane transit ring at the bottom of her bag, and the whole thing glowed blue.