He plucked a biplane from its string and swept it across the battlefield, making aeroplane engine noises as he knocked down little German soldiers.
‘Oh, right,’ I said. I knew Annabeth’s dad was a professor of military history. She’d never mentioned he played with toy soldiers.
Zoë came over and studied the battlefield. ‘The German lines were further from the river.’
Dr Chase stared at her. ‘How do you know that?’
‘I was there,’ she said matter-of-factly. ‘Artemis wanted to show us how horrible war was, the way mortal men fight each other. And how foolish, too. The battle was a complete waste.’
Dr Chase opened his mouth in shock. ‘You –’
‘She’s a Hunter, sir,’ Thalia said. ‘But that’s not why we’re here. We need –’
‘You saw the Sopwith Camels?’ Dr Chase said. ‘How many were there? What formations did they fly?’
‘Sir,’ Thalia broke in again. ‘Annabeth is in danger.’
That got his attention. He set the biplane down.
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Tell me everything.’
It wasn’t easy, but we tried. Meanwhile, the afternoon light was fading outside. We were running out of time.
When we’d finished, Dr Chase collapsed in his leather recliner. He laced his hands. ‘My poor brave Annabeth. We must hurry.’
‘Sir, we need transportation to Mount Tamalpais,’ Zoë said. ‘And we need it immediately.’
‘I’ll drive you. Hmm, it would be faster to fly in my Camel, but it only seats two.’
‘Whoa, you have an actual biplane?’ I said.
‘Down at Crissy Field,’ Dr Chase said proudly. ‘That’s the reason I had to move here. My sponsor is a private collector with some of the finest World War I relics in the world. He let me restore the Sopwith Camel –’
‘Sir,’ Thalia said. ‘Just a car would be great. And it might be better if we went without you. It’s too dangerous.’
Dr Chase frowned uncomfortably. ‘Now wait a minute, young lady. Annabeth is my daughter. Dangerous or not, I… I can’t just –’
‘Snacks,’ Mrs Chase announced. She pushed through the door with a tray full of peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches and Cokes and cookies fresh out of the oven, the chocolate chips still gooey. Thalia and I inhaled a few cookies while Zoë said, ‘I can drive, sir. I’m not as young as I look. I promise not to destroy your car.’
Mrs Chase knitted her eyebrows. ‘What’s this about?’
‘Annabeth is in danger,’ Dr Chase said. ‘On Mount Tam. I would drive them, but… apparently it’s no place for mortals.’
It sounded like it was really hard for him to get that last part out.
I waited for Mrs Chase to say no. I mean, what mortal parent would allow three underage teenagers to borrow their car? To my surprise, Mrs Chase nodded. ‘Then they’d better get going.’
‘Right!’ Dr Chase jumped up and started patting his pockets. ‘My keys…’
His wife sighed. ‘Frederick, honestly. You’d lose your head if it weren’t wrapped inside your aviator hat. The keys are hanging on the peg by the front door.’
‘Right!’ Dr Chase said.
Zoë grabbed a sandwich. ‘Thank you both. We should go. Now.’
We hustled out the door and down the stairs, the Chases right behind us.
‘Percy,’ Mrs Chase called as I was leaving, ‘tell Annabeth… Tell her she still has a home here, will you? Remind her of that.’
I took one last look at the messy living room, Annabeth’s half-brothers spilling LEGOs and arguing, the smell of cookies filling the air. Not a bad place, I thought.
‘I’ll tell her,’ I promised.
We ran out to the yellow VW convertible parked in the driveway. The sun was going down. I figured we had less than an hour to save Annabeth.
‘Can’t this thing go any faster?’ Thalia demanded.
Zoë glared at her. ‘I cannot control traffic.’
‘You both sound like my mother,’ I said.
‘Shut up!’ they said in unison.
Zoë weaved in and out of traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun was sinking on the horizon when we finally got into Marin County and exited the highway.
The roads were insanely narrow, winding through forests and up the sides of hills and round the edges of steep ravines. Zoë didn’t slow down at all.
‘Why does everything smell like cough drops?’ I asked.
‘Eucalyptus.’ Zoë pointed to the huge trees all around us.
‘The stuff koala bears eat?’
‘And monsters,’ she said. ‘They love chewing the leaves. Especially dragons.’