Marley stood watch over Montrose’s prone form. The others came and went, but she stood waiting. There was a sliver of remorse for her words to Barnabus, but truth is found in anger. Hopefully Teddy could find him and assist in the search, but also talk some sense into the bear.
“We should be looking for a way to help Montrose, not trusting that mad bear to succeed!” Ambrose thumped his paw against the wall. Sonny nodded his agreement, though Latricia seemed pensive. She had taken the habit of waiting to see how Marley reacts before settling her mind on a subject. Hamish sat watching them all. He rarely spoke, which was unnerving to see the corgi so subdued.
Marley looked around at the assembled faces before stopping at Ambrose.
“No. As perturbed as I am with him, I cannot deny that Barnabus has a reputation for success. We must give him the time to return.”
Ambrose did not look convinced, but said nothing more.
Marley returned to her thoughts, not voicing the question in her mind: How could Barnabus have freed her years ago but be helpless to do the same for Montrose?
Eventually Hamish returned, walking over to Marley.
“Stratha wants you to visit,” he said.
“Curious,” she replied, “but I am not willing to leave Montrose.”
Laticia stepped up, placing her paw on Marley’s shoulder.
“I’ll stay with him,” she whispered. “If not for him, I would have lost more than an eye.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and took the bear’s paw in her own.
Marley looked at the young bear before nodding at Hamish, leading the way out of the room. The small group made their way down the twisting streets to Stratha’s subterranean lair. The bear led the way inside without bothering with knocking. Stratha looked up in annoyance, but shrank back from the cold, violet eyes boring into her.
“You called on me, witch,” she snarled, “speak quickly.”
Taken aback, Stratha tried to salvage her haughty demeanor. “You have an endangered companion. I have news for you…” she broke off when Marley interrupted.
“You aided those two fools to go somewhere they shouldn’t have stepped foot. You are the reason for Montrose’s condition. This had best be good.”
“I have information regarding Shankill. He has another cabinet being constructed in a young woman’s dreams.” She held out a smooth stone carved into the likeness of a book. Marley accepted the token, closed her eyes, and her lips moved slightly as though she was whispering to herself.
“Very well, witch. I will look into this.” The bear turned on her heel and stormed out into the street, followed closely by her companions.
A hollow chuckle sounded out of the shadows. A marionette shuffled up behind Stratha, stroking her withered cheek with a shaking wooden hand.
“Very good, very good! More fruit for a garden!”
Stratha shuddered under the puppet’s touch.
“Just remember our deal, marionette.”