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Raji, Book Four:
The House of the West Wind
Excerpt from Chapter One
I had only just managed to rearrange my shock into a look of kindness when I heard a faint tap on the door.
“Thank goodness, she’s come back for you.”
I pulled open the door and took the girl by the shoulder, gently pushing her out into what I expected to be the waiting arms of a repentant old woman. To my surprise, no one was there, at least not at eye-level. But when I looked down, another little girl appeared! An exact copy of the first one, including the sleeping mat. The two of them gazed at each other for a moment, with neither surprise nor recognition showing on their serene little faces.
Then, as one, they turned to look up at me.
I leaned out over them, glancing up and down the hall. I didn’t see anyone; not the old woman, not a bellhop, not even another guest. I then checked both sides of the doorway, making sure a third or fourth child wasn’t waiting to give me that blue-eyed, all too-innocent look. The girls copied my every movement, looking here and there, then back up at me, but neither they nor I saw any more children.
The girls took each other’s hands and walked past me into the room. They went to the cushioned rattan couch, sat, and scooted back, their bare feet dangling in the air. I knew from the irregular bulges in their rolled-up mats that they were used not only for sleeping, but also carried within them all their possessions. The two girls adjusted the mats across their laps and settled themselves on the couch.
I closed the door and took the rattan chair facing the girls. The chair next to me was empty, yet filled with a ghostly presence. It was almost as if Kayin had died and left me two small copies of herself.
Fuse returns to Burma in 1941 to look for Kayin. He left Raji behind in Virginia to recuperate from her ordeal, but she promised to join him later in Mandalay. It’s been eight years since Fuse and Raji left Burma on the ill-fated training mission to Ethiopia. Since then, he hasn’t heard anything from Kayin. She’s probably married by now, or at least in a relationship with someone, but he has to find out, just to be sure she’s all right. What he discovers at the old hotel is something completely unexpected