Part 27

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PART TWENTY-SEVEN:

No Place Like Home

CHARMIAN CONTINUED LOOKING around, confused beyond description.  It looked and felt like she was back on the mainland, but she knew it had to still be a dream.  The thing was...why would the dream take her to the mainland?

Both Tal Natha and the native...Moon Wolf...had told her she knew whose dream she needed to find.  But she didn't know.  Unless it was subconsciously...

Did that mean that the person whose dream she was searching for was...Miss Anne?

She stood up and righted the fancy coathanger she'd knocked over during her fall to the floor.  Dusting herself off some more, she wandered around the store toward the book area, where she and Drake had looked at the picture of Red Bird that had started this whole thing.

For some reason she wanted to see if it were still there.  She sort of wished to bring it back to the Island with her, show it to Red Bird--show her the thing that had started it all.  The more she thought about it, though, the less sense it made; how would she manage to get the picture back to the Island, anyway?  This was just a dream.  She wasn't certain it would even arrive back with her in one piece--or at all.  At the very least, it wouldn't be the same picture she'd find here.  It would have to be some sort of copy--a dream picture, or something.

A noise from the back section of the store froze her in place.  It was dark outside--it must be night--and she assumed everyone would be asleep.  A light came on behind the counter and then a shadow appeared.

Charmian stared.

The shadow appeared to rub one eye and then stared back at her.  "Charmian?  Is that you?"

She let out her breath.  It was Miss Anne.  "Hi, Miss Anne," she said.  She looked around the store and then shrugged with an awkward smile.  "This is kind of...confusing, to say the least."

The shadow moved from behind the counter and now she could make out Miss Anne, wearing a nightgown; apparently she slept upstairs, above the store.  She looked Charmian up and down, then looked at herself, and back at Charmian and smiled.

"Well...it must be his doing again.  I didn't know he could do this.  He brought you here, into my dream?"

Charmian nodded.  "Uh-huh.  Well...sort of.  He brought me here, but he says that I knew the way."

"So you did go to the Island after all."  She tilted her head.  "What did you find there?  I've been dying to find out."

"Well...it's really long and involved...but I finally met him--Tal Natha--and Red Bird--the girl in the photo--and he told me why he wanted me there.  The thing is, there's a lot more trouble than he thought and he's in danger now, and I have to find a way to help him.  But the only way I can help him is if I get somebody who totally hates him to help him, and...well, I told you it was confusing."

"What does this have to do with you coming back here?  There must be some good reason, he wouldn't bring you here for nothing."

"Yeah, I know.  I think I'm supposed to pick up something that can help us out.  But I'm not sure what it is.  Like I said, I don't even know why I came here."

"Well, what sort of thing are you looking for?  Maybe I can help."

"I have to...bribe somebody...to help out Tal Natha.  He's really stubborn and not very easy to get along with.  He also doesn't like Tal Natha very much and what Tal Natha needs from him is really pricey so I'm not sure what to give him in return."

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