“I warned you.” Hamish’s voice was soft, lacking in accusations. He knew the situation was beyond the bear’s ability to foresee. He and Barnabus stood over Montrose’s comatose body, the sounds of the cafe drifting up through the floor.
They stared at their friend, willing him to awaken, but nothing could rouse him. Every attempt to remove the cord from his wrist had failed. The flight from the Workshop was furious as Barnabus half-carried Montrose until they reached the doorway.
They stood in silence for some time before a disturbance below broke through their reverie. Barnabus sighed and went to the rocking chair in the corner, seated himself, and slowly began to rock back and forth. Moments later the door opened and Marley entered. She stared from Montrose to Hamish before stalking across the room to Barnabus. Ambrose, Sonny, and Letitia entered, then went to the bedside, keeping vigil with Hamish. All four found it preferable to ignore what was about to happen.
Marley grabbed Barnabus by the collar, dragging him to his feet.
“You careless fool!” Her shout caused a lull in the sounds of the cafe. “How many bears must be hurt because of your willingness to lead them into danger,” she continued.
Barnabus stared at her, but did not respond. Their violet eyes locked together. Eventually, releasing a long held breath, she released Barnabus and turned back to the bed. He continued to stand where she left him, still saying nothing. Eventually the others began to murmur amongst themselves. They had not noticed that Barnabus had moved until the door clicked shut behind him.
The chatter in the cafe lulled again as Barnabus walked through. Those who had not heard of him before, learned his name in the days since he returned from the Workshop carrying Montrose. Now the place muttered about the bear’s reputation. He said nothing, but exited the buildings, easily slipping into the flow of beings outside.
It took longer to reach his destination than before. He was not in a hurry; it gave him time to think. Arriving at the building with the barely seen staircase and did not knock when he reached the bottom, but entered unannounced. Baba Stratha hobbled quickly into the candle light, but was unable to speak before her visitor.
You know what happened,” he stated. “You did not disguise us as well as you indicated.” His voice was flat, lacking in emotion.
The two-faced hag said nothing, but waited.
“You know what I am and I know what you are, so let’s not waste too much time over mutual distaste. Tell me what I want to know.”
Stratha’s lips twitched as though she was about to speak, but thought better. Her eyes narrowed as Barnabus flexed his fingers and long, thick claws emerged.
“Fine, she said at last, “You must find the first teddy bear, imposter. Now leave.”
“Not good enough. Give me a heading to begin with.”