I wasn’t so sure.
I went after Mrs Dodds.
Halfway up the steps, I glanced back at Grover. He was looking pale, cutting his eyes between me and Mr Brunner, like he wanted Mr Brunner to notice what was going on, but Mr Brunner was absorbed in his novel.
I looked back up. Mrs Dodds had disappeared again. She was now inside the building, at the end of the entrance hall.
Okay, I thought. She’s going to make me buy a new shirt for Nancy at the gift shop.
But apparently that wasn’t the plan.
I followed her deeper into the museum. When I finally caught up to her, we were back in the Greek and Roman section.
Except for us, the gallery was empty.
Mrs Dodds stood with her arms crossed in front of a big marble frieze of the Greek gods. She was making this weird noise in her throat, like growling.
Even without the noise, I would’ve been nervous. It’s weird being alone with a teacher, especially Mrs Dodds. Something about the way she looked at the frieze, as if she wanted to pulverize it…
‘You’ve been giving us problems, honey,’ she said.
I did the safe thing. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’
She tugged on the cuffs of her leather jacket. ‘Did you really think you would get away with it?’
The look in her eyes was beyond mad. It was evil.
She’s a teacher, I thought nervously. It’s not like she’s going to hurt me.
I said, ‘I’ll – I’ll try harder, ma’am.’
Thunder shook the building.
‘We are not fools, Percy Jackson,’ Mrs Dodds said. ‘It was only a matter of time before we found you out. Confess, and you will suffer less pain.’
I didn’t know what she was talking about.
All I could think of was that the teachers must’ve found the illegal stash of candy I’d been selling out of my dorm room. Or maybe they’d realized I got my essay on Tom Sawyer from the Internet without ever reading the book and now they were going to take away my grade. Or worse, they were going to make me read the book.
‘Well?’ she demanded.
‘Ma’am, I don’t…’
‘Your time is up,’ she hissed. Then the weirdest thing happened. Her eyes began to glow like barbecue coals. Her fingers stretched, turning into talons. Her jacket melted into large, leathery wings. She wasn’t human. She was a shrivelled hag with bat wings and claws and a mouth full of yellow fangs, and she was about to slice me to ribbons.
Then things got even stranger.
Mr Brunner, who’d been out in front of the museum a minute before, wheeled his chair into the doorway of the gallery, holding a pen in his hand.
‘What ho, Percy!’ he shouted, and tossed the pen through the air.
Mrs Dodds lunged at me.
With a yelp, I dodged and felt talons slash the air next to my ear. I snatched the ballpoint pen out of the air, but when it hit my hand, it wasn’t a pen any more. It was a sword – Mr Brunner’s bronze sword, which he always used on tournament day.
Mrs Dodds spun towards me with a murderous look in her eyes.
My knees were jelly. My hands were shaking so bad I almost dropped the sword.
She snarled, ‘Die, honey!’
And she flew straight at me.
Absolute terror ran through my body. I did the only thing that came naturally: I swung the sword.
The metal blade hit her shoulder and passed clean through her body as if she were made of water. Hisss!
Mrs Dodds was a sand castle in a power fan. She exploded into yellow powder, vaporized on the spot, leaving nothing but the smell of sulphur and a dying screech and a chill of evil in the air, as if those two glowing red eyes were still watching me.
I was alone.
There was a ballpoint pen in my hand.
Mr Brunner wasn’t there. Nobody was there but me.
My hands were still trembling. My lunch must’ve been contaminated with magic mushrooms or something.
Had I imagined the whole thing?
I went back outside.
It had started to rain.
Grover was sitting by the fountain, a museum map tented over his head. Nancy Bobofit was still standing there, soaked from her swim in the fountain, grumbling to her ugly friends. When she saw me, she said, ‘I hope Mrs Kerr whipped your butt.’
I said, ‘Who?’
‘Our teacher. Duh!’
I blinked. We had no teacher named Mrs Kerr. I asked Nancy what she was talking about.
She just rolled her eyes and turned away.
I asked Grover where Mrs Dodds was.
He said, ‘Who?’
But he paused first, and he wouldn’t look at me, so I thought he was messing with me.
‘Not funny, man,’ I told him. ‘This is serious.’
Thunder boomed overhead.
I saw Mr Brunner sitting under his red umbrella, reading his book, as if he’d never moved.
I went over to him.