15 I Wrestle Santa’s Evil Twin
‘Tell me when it’s over,’ Thalia said. Her eyes were shut tight. The statue was holding onto us so we couldn’t fall, but still Thalia clutched his arm like it was the most important thing in the world.
‘Everything’s fine,’ I promised.
‘Are… are we very high?’
I looked down. Below us, a range of snowy mountains zipped by. I stretched out my foot and kicked snow off one of the peaks.
‘Nah,’ I said. ‘Not that high.’
‘We are in the Sierras!’ Zoë yelled. She and Grover were hanging from the arms of the other statue. ‘I have hunted here before. At this speed, we should be in San Francisco in a few hours.’
‘Hey, hey, Frisco!’ our angel said. ‘Yo, Chuck! We could visit those guys at the Mechanics Monument again! They know how to party!’
‘Oh, man,’ the other angel said. ‘I am so there!’
‘You guys have visited San Francisco?’ I asked.
‘We automatons gotta have some fun once in a while, right?’ our statue said. ‘Those mechanics took us over to the de Young Museum and introduced us to these marble lady statues, see. And –’
‘Hank!’ the other statue Chuck cut in. ‘They’re kids, man.’
‘Oh, right.’ If bronze statues could blush, I swear Hank did. ‘Back to flying.’
We sped up, so I could tell the angels were excited. The mountains fell away into hills, and then we were zipping along over farmland and towns and highways.
Grover played his pipes to pass the time. Zoë got bored and started shooting arrows at random billboards as we flew by. Every time she saw a Target department store – and we passed dozens of them – she would peg the store’s sign with a few bullseyes at a hundred miles an hour.
Thalia kept her eyes closed the whole way. She muttered to herself a lot, like she was praying.
‘You did good back there,’ I told her. ‘Zeus listened.’
It was hard to tell what she was thinking with her eyes closed.
‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘How did you get away from the skeletons in the generator room, anyway? You said they cornered you.’
I told her about the weird mortal girl, Rachel Elizabeth Dare, who seemed to be able to see right through the Mist. I thought Thalia was going to call me crazy, but she just nodded.
‘Some mortals are like that,’ she said. ‘Nobody knows why.’
Suddenly I flashed on something I’d never considered. My mom was like that. She had seen the Minotaur on Half-Blood Hill and known exactly what it was. She hadn’t been surprised at all last year when I’d told her my friend Tyson was really a Cyclops. Maybe she’d known all along. No wonder she’d been so scared for me as I was growing up. She saw through the Mist even better than I did.
‘Well, the girl was annoying,’ I said. ‘But I’m glad I didn’t vaporize her. That would’ve been bad.’
Thalia nodded. ‘Must be nice to be a regular mortal.’
She said that as if she’d given it a lot of thought.
‘Where you guys want to land?’ Hank asked, waking me from a night of fitful sleep.
I looked down and said, ‘Whoa.’
I’d seen San Francisco in pictures before, but never in real life. It was probably the most beautiful city I’d ever seen: kind of like a smaller, cleaner Manhattan, if Manhattan had been surrounded by green hills and fog. There was a huge bay and ships, islands and sailboats, and the Golden Gate Bridge sticking up out of the fog. I felt like I should take a picture or something. Greetings from Frisco. Haven’t Died Yet. Wish You Were Here.
‘There,’ Zoë suggested. ‘By the Embarcadero Building.’
‘Good thinking,’ Chuck said. ‘Me and Hank can blend in with the pigeons.’
We all looked at him.
‘Kidding,’ he said. ‘Sheesh, can’t statues have a sense of humour?’
As it turned out, there wasn’t much need to blend in. It was early morning and not many people were around. We freaked out a homeless guy on the ferry dock when we landed. He screamed when he saw Hank and Chuck and ran off yelling something about metal angels from Mars.
We said our goodbyes to the angels, who flew off to party with their statue friends. That’s when I realized I had no idea what we were going to do next.
We’d made it to the West Coast. Artemis was here somewhere. Annabeth, too, I hoped. But I had no idea how to find them, and tomorrow was the winter solstice. Nor did I have any clue what monster Artemis had been hunting. It was supposed to find us on the quest. It was supposed to ‘show the trail’, but it never had. Now we were stuck on the ferry dock with not much money, no friends and no luck.