"You seem happy." Artie commented as he pulled his cloak tighter.
"Just thinking of that Sinatra song." Jacob said.
"A Foggy Day." Jacob began snapping his fingers. "A foooogy daaay. Iiin Londooon toooown . . ."
"Alright, I get it." Artie said before he found himself in musical. "We're suppose to stay incognito, remember?"
"Oh cut me some slack." Jacob protested. "We're basically in the New York of Europe. There's Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Palace." Jacob turned to see Artie had disappeared. "Artie? Artie?"
"How much?" Artie asked.
Jacob turned around to see Artie handing a bill to an old man who gave him something wrapped in old newspaper.
"What the heck is that?" Jacob asked when Artie caught up.
"Fish n' chips." Artie held it out."Kinda like British hotdog."
"Except you know what in it." Artie took a piece. "Try it!"
After spending a week crossing the North Atlantic Ocean on Artie's motorcycle and eating nothing but raw fish, if Jacob didn't see a fish for another ten years it'd be too soon.
"I'll pass." Jacob asked. "So who are we looking for again?"
"Hershel C. Molks." said Artie.
"Don't you think it's weird we actually got a name this time?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that map Athena gave us only showed us where Carlos and Colin were." Jacob reminded. "Yeah, it told us what city they were in and their addresses, but we had no idea who were looking for. What makes this Hershel kid so different?"
"Well, Athena not only gave us the map but probably collected information to make it." Artie said thoughtfully. "And going by the little blinking owl that map used, I can't blame her for showing a little extra attention to her kid. Say what you want, but you can't say she ignores her kids."
"True." Jacob admitted. "I'd still prefer an address though. London's a big city for two demigods to cover."
"Maybe he's suppose to find us?" Artie offered. "If anyone could figure they're not completely human, I'd bet a drachma it'd be a child of Athena."
"Maybe." Jacob frowned. "Or Athena is testing us." Jacob looked around before speaking. "Don't you think it was weird that a sea monster attacked Rodrigo just as we arrived in Portugal? Then there's those Laistrygonians in Carlos' school. Not to mention Colin nearly took your head off."
"I was fine." Artie protested.
"And about to fitted for a wheel chair." Jacob snapped. "The way your head whipped back, I almost thought he snapped your neck."
"He probably could." Artie rubbed his jaw. "Even after all that nectar I still feel sore."
"Let's find a hotel." Jacob suggested. "We've been at it nonstop since we hit Portugal."
"With what money?" Artie asked.
"Don't play dumb with me." Jacob pointed to Artie's belt. "I found that card in your belt when we camped in Black Country Forrest."
"What card?" Artie frowned. "And what were you doing searching through my belt?
"The one that says Olympian Express: Royalty Issue with the name Artemis Raposo Gallezi: King of the Hunt." Jacob shrugged. "I found when you said you were going to find dinner and you had matches in the belt."
"I think it's in case of emergencies." Artie sighed. "I don't know where it came from, but I found it the day after we found Rodrigo and I was searching for money to buy some matches and salt."
"Really?" Jacob raised an eyebrow."You don't where you got a credit card?"
"I think my mom knew something might come up and we'd need money." Artie tossed the oil stained newspaper in a nearby bin. "If that's the case, I don't want her on my case that I went crazy with it when we get back."
"I'm not saying we rent out the queen's palace and use MI6 to find this Hershel kid." Jacob said. "I say we should find some quiet little motel and take a day."
"Doing what?" Artie asked. "Have afternoon tea?"
"You need to rest." Jacob insisted.
"No, you're not." Jacob stepped in front of him. "Sometimes I think you're letting all these close calls go to your head."
"Thorn when you were eight and again when you were twelve, Ares and Orion on your quest, Percy's quest to find the masterbolt and the golden fleece, Thorn again in Maine, the Talos prototype, Thorn in San Francisco, and Atlas on Mt. Tam." Jacob counted each on a finger. "Someone stupid would start to think they can't be killed after that many brushes with death."
"That what I used to think." Artie admitted. "Then someone told me about the samurai and how they thought.
"Yeah." Artie nodded. "They have a saying. Shinu koto to, anata ga sunde iru koto o kitai."
"What dose it mean?"
"Expect to die and you will live." Artie said. "It means if you fight like you have nothing to lose, then you won't. Annabeth taught me that. That's why I keep pushing. If I had given up just once while Thorn was chasing me, I wouldn't be here."
"I,uh, um." Jacob struggled to find the words. "I didn't . . . I mean . . ."
"Relax." Artie put a hand on his brother shoulder. "I get what you're trying to say."
"It's just so wrong." Jacob said quietly.
"I'm your older brother!" Jacob said a bit loudly. "I was suppose to take care of you when mom died, but how was I suppose to when I couldn't find you?" Jacob motioned up and down. "Now look at you. Not only able to take care of yourself, but King of the Hunt too. You could probably take an army on by yourself."
"If I did," Artie embraced him. "I'd still want you with me." Artie rolled his eyes. "Look, you're the doctor right?"
"Right?" Jacob wasn't sure what Artie was getting at. "At least the closest thing you have to one who'll ignore the fact you don't have insurance."
"And is it your valid medical opinion that I need rest?" Artie asked. "To recover from all the traveling and monster fighting we've been doing?"
"And if I ignored you, I might find myself too tired and wounded to fight?"
"Then I guess it counts as an emergency." Artie smiled. "At least I can tell Artemis that if she asks why we rented a room instead of camping out." Artie then pointed to the fish n' chips vendor just down the block and held out a ten pound note. "Tell him to keep the change if he can point us in the direction of a small motel that tourist don't know about."
"Why don't you go?" Jacob asked.
"Didn't you just say I'm not immortal?" Artie smiled. "I might trip and break my neck."
An hour later, Artie was fuming on a balcony overlooking Hyde Park of a lavish hotel room. The carpet was a thick red layer and decorated with gold and silver designs. The lamp on the hand crafted red mahogany nightstands looked like they were practically made of gold the way they shined. Framed paintings of pristine British landscapes hung on the walls. The television set was a state of the art flat screen plasma sixty inch that was mounted on the wall like one of the paintings. The bed was big enough for four people and was not only soft as a cloud, but had been made with the softest silk Artie had ever touched.
Artie had handed Jacob the credit card while he chatted with an old cabbie about private schools in London so he could rent a small room in the corner of a quiet motel. Instead, Jacob had walked down the block to a high class hotel and booked a suite with a balcony. By the time Artie caught on, it was too late.
Artie turned as the bathroom door opened and Jacob emerged in white robe with the hotel logo embroidered on the chest. Jacob was drying his long hair with a towel and appeared to be on cloud nine. Artie picked up on the scent of expensive soap and more hair care products than he could count.
"Man, did I need that!" Jacob exclaimed as he stretched. "What do you want for dinner?" He picked up a menu of a nightstand. "Hmm, I was kinda hoping to try that bangers and mash I keep hearing about."
"It's just sausages and mashed potatoes." Artie grunted. "Not exactly a five star meal. It'd be like going to the Ritz and asking for a grilled cheese."
"What's up your butt?"
"Nothing." Artie sighed, not wanting to get into it and turned back to watching Hyde Park. "Put me down for two Lancashire Hotpots and a pot of Earl Grey. I could use something to help me sleep."
"I saw a pharmacy down the block." Jacob offered. "I could run down and pick up some that over the counter sleeping pills."
"No." Artie said gently. "No pills. Took me forever to stop kick them."
"What?" Jacob set down the menu. "Kick what?"
"When I first got to camp, I had trouble sleeping." Artie's shoulders sagged. "I'd wake up jumping every time someone coughed, mumbled, or turned over in bed. I wouldn't sleep until the sun came up and gods help anyone that shook me awake and learned the hard way I kept a knife under my pillow." Tobias fluttered down and perched on the railing. Artie rubbed the hawk's head soothingly. "I started sneaking out at night and found a tree to sleep in. For some reason I felt better in a tree surrounded by monsters in the woods than I did in a cabin surround by sleeping campers."
"And you still have trouble sleeping?" Jacob asked.
"I have odd night here or there, but who doesn't now and then?"" Artie shrugged and seemed exhausted. "After that witch incident in the Sea of Monsters, all I really need is a few large plates of hot food and something warm to wash it down."
The next morning, Artie and Jacob began their search for Hershel C. Molks who was somewhere in Jolly Ol' London. Going by what Artie got from the cabbie, they began with the schools. They figured Hershel would have had a couple of accidents that somehow branded him as a trouble maker and leave them a trail until they found his current school. From what Percy had told Artie about his life before discovering he was a demigod and what Annabeth said about other demigods as well, it seemed a good place to start.
St. Bartholmew's School for Boys was a bust and so was the London Film Academy, although Jacob thought Artie was doing his own version of sight seeing. Gower House School's records did not show anyone by the name Hershel C. Molks and neither did the Durston House or Francis Holland School. St. James Junior School also came up with nothing.
Around mid day, they decided to break for lunch at a cafe. Artie used his credit card again and they both sat down for nice lunch. Artie had a thick piece of roast beef with boiled vegetables and mashed potatoes while Jacob had lamb instead.
"Don't you think he could have been home schooled?" Jacob asked between bites.
"Would explain why nearly twelve schools don't have a record of him." Artie admitted. "Still, I think we should keep trying the private schools for today. We'll try the public schools tomorrow and see what happens."
"It'd help if we knew how old he was." Jacob complained. "We've only been looking at high schools. What if he was held back or doesn't start until next year?"
"I don't think he'd ever be held back. This is a son of Athena we're talking about." Artie smiled. "But there's no way of knowing what grade he's in. I'll give you that."
"We just don't have enough information!" Jacob sat down his cup a little hard. "What does she expect us to do? It's not like he's in the phone book."
Artie's hand froze, fork halfway to his mouth. "You checked the phone book?"
"No?" Jacob's eye grew wide. "It seemed so obvious I thought you did."
"It never crossed my mind." Artie stood and laid the card on the table. "There's a payphone in the back. I'll be right back."
An hour later, Jacob and Artie found themselves standing outside a door next to a convenience store called Speedy's with a red canopy.
"Are you sure this is it?" Jacob asked. "Seems kinda obvious."
"There was only two Molks in the phone book. One was Arthur D. Molks, an uncle or something, but this one said Hershel C. Molks." Artie turned and asked. "What do you mean by obvious?"
"We're on Baker Street." Jacob pointed down the block. "122A Baker Street actually and down there is 221B Baker Street. Don't you think its a little strange were looking for a child of Athena down the block from where Sherlock Holmes lived?"
"Sherlock Holmes isn't a real person." Artie reminded him.
"I know." Jacob said. "It just seems off to me that we'd find him here of all the streets in London?"
"The phone book said Hershel C. Molks." Artie repeated.
"But we're looking for a kid." Jacob said. "If this kid is old enough to rent an apartment, don't you think it's weird he's gone so long without trouble?"
"Maybe one of the Molks is his father and he's really Hershel C. Molks the second." Artie offered.
"Then wouldn't the map have said so?"
"That what I thought, but it's the best we have." Artie said. "If this doesn't work maybe we can — "
"Oy!" shouted a gruff voice. "Clear the way you two."
They turned to see two police officers and a man in suit pushing a forth man in handcuffs towards the door. They imdieanty stood aside as the two policemen opened the door and shoved the handcuffed man through before slamming the door shut.
The man in suit stood outside and seemed to be guarding the door. He looked to be about twenty or so and seemed annoyed. His hair was black and cut short, but he hadn't shaved in a few days.
He smiled at the boys. "Sorry about that lads."
"No problem." Artie said politely.
"Here to see Hershel?" asked the man. "The both of ya?"
"Kinda." Jacob answered.
"Well, he'll see ya in a mo." The man held out a hand. "In the mean time, I'm Gregory."
"Artie." Artie shook his hand.
"And I'm Jacob." He did the same.
"You two aren't from around here, are you?" asked Gregory. "America if I had to guess from your accents."
"Could you excuse us for a moment?" Artie smiled politely.
"Sure." Gregory returned the smile.
Artie led Jacob a bit away and said in Portuguese. "I'm going to see if I can sneak in."
"Why?" Jacob asked in Portuguese. "He said he'll be with us in a minute."
"I didn't like they way they dragged that guy in there." Artie responded. "If this the guy we're looking for, then I'll catch his scent." Artie looked to Gregory before speaking. "I've seen enough mobster movies to know an armed guard when I see one."
"Alright, I'll cover for you." Jacob said. "But be careful."
Artie nodded and pretended to use the payphone while Jacob began speaking with Gregory. Once Artie saw he was distracted, he slipped in to the alleyway. He quietly climbed up a dumpster, or a skip he heard someone call it, and balanced on the edge. He held his breath so not gag on the smell of rotting garbage and inched until he was just under the ladder of a fire escape. He jumped and his hand caught the bottom of the platform. Artie knew if he'd alert the whole city if he pulled down the ladder.
He carefully pulled himself up and laid down and crawled to the window. He peaked and saw no one was there. He quietly climbed the stairs to the second floor the final level other than the roof and saw this window had been cracked open. That was good because he could hear voices.
"If it's all the same to you inspector." said a young man's voice. "I prefer to hear it from Jimmy with my own ears."
"Let me remind you boy that the only reason we're here is because your father — "
"Let me remind you, inspector, that you came to me for my opinion and not the other way around." said young man sternly. "I was in the middle of an important experiment when your superior rudely demanded — "
"Alright." said the same gruff voice. "Jus' get on with it."
"Just tell me what happened from the beginning." said the young man's voice gently, but clearly bored.
"We'd been to a bar." said a third ,much older, voice and he seemed very nervous. Artie guessed it was Jimmy "Nice place and I got to chattin' with one of the waitresses. Karen weren't too happy with that so when we got back to the hotel, we end up having a bit of ding-dong, don't we?"
The man paused and Artie heard the unmistakable sound of a bored sigh from what Artie guessed was from the younger man.
"She's always gettin' at me, saying I weren't a real man." continued Jimmy.
"Wasn't a real man." corrected the younger one.
"It's not 'weren't'. It's wasn't." the young one explained impatiently.
"Well, uh, I don't know how it happened, but,um, suddenly there's a knife my hand." Jimmy seemed to be fumbling for words. "You know, my old man was butcher so I know how to handle knives. He learned us how to cut up a beast."
"Taught." corrected the young man again.
"Taught you to cut up a beast."
"Yeah, then, well I'd done it."
"Did it!" snapped Jimmy angrily and Artie heard the sound of hand slamming a table as he shouted. "Stabbed her! Over and over and over again, and I looked down and she weren't — "
Artie heard a sharp sigh and he could only guess who it was.
"Wasn't." growled Jimmy. "She wasn't moving no more."
"Any more." Jimmy corrected himself. "God help me, I don't know how it happened, but I swear it was an accident I swear."
"I'm sure it was." said young man dryly. "Now could you tell it backwards?"
"Tell me how it happened, but reverse the order." explained the young man slowly. "If you're telling the truth, then it shouldn't be that difficult."
"Hold on a minute." said the voice which Artie recognized as the Inspector. "How is that gonna bloody help?"
"A tip for your interrogations, inspector." said the young smugly. "Liars only fabricate thier stories in one order, from beginning to end. They don't think to rehearse it in reverse. So if Jimmy cannot do so then, when combined with his failed polygraph that you no doubt administered at the station, he is clearly lying." Artie the sound of chair scraping the floor and he guessed someone stood.
"Hey, ya gotta help me, Mr. Molks." begged Jimmy. "Everyone down at the pub says you're the best."
"Go on." said who Artie guessed had to be Mr. Hershel C. Molks.
"Without you, I get hung for this." said Jimmy desperately.
"No, no, no, Jimmy. Not at all." said Hershel gently. "Hanged, yes I'm afraid."
Then Artie heard the sound of struggling and Jimmy cursing as he was led out from the room. Artie nearly jumped when the window flew open, but he kept still. When no one emerged, he relaxed. Then he began to hear the sound of a violin being played expertly and delicately. It was pleasant and soft, but Artie thought it sounded a bit sad.
Suddenly a phone rang and Artie heard Hershel stop his violin playing and picked up the phone.
"Hello?" Hershel paused and seemed to be listening. "I understand. Thank you. What? Oh, I'm sure it's fine."
"I just put the kettle on a moment ago if you want a warm cup of tea." said Hershel as he hung up.
Artie almost answered, but he guessed someone must have entered while Hershel was playing the violin and he hadn't heard them enter.
"If you are expecting to develop a tan on that fire escape, I'm afraid you've chose the wrong season." said Hershel. "Not to mention the wrong city for that matter."
Artie sat up and looked at a boy hardly fourteen standing in the middle of the room and Artie guessed he was feeling what Clarice Starling felt when she first met Doctor Hannibal Lector in Silence of the lambs. The boy had very pale skin like he avoided the sun at all cost. His eyes were a striking gray, not unlike Annabeth, but with none of her warmth. He seemed to be breaking down Artie and was silently calculating as he worked his way down. Artie guessed he did this a lot if the wrinkling around his eyes was any sign along with the bags under those eyes. His raven black hair looked tousled and neat at the same time the way the strands curled around his head.
Artie saw he was very slight, not unlike him, and seemed to be a bit tall for his age. He was wearing a sky blue button down shirt, with the top button unfasten and no tie, under an unbuttoned black blazer and tucked into a pair of black pants. He wore simple polished black loafers on his feet.
"How did you know I was there?" Artie climbed through the window.
"I had the uneasy feeling I was being observed, but it wasn't until a moment ago that my suspicion was confirmed." Hershel directed Artie to an armchair. "Please, sit."
"What do you mean — " Then it dawned on Artie. "Oh, the phone call."
"Hmm, not bad." Hershel said. "Maybe you're not a typical idiot."
"Meaning I'm still some kind of idiot?" Artie asked skeptically.
"Practically everyone is." Hershel shrugged. "Unfortunately, you're not the first to spy on me. That's the reason I keep that homeless man across the street as a cheap surveillance camera. For a few pounds and warm meal here and there, he calls me whenever someone, or several someones, avoid using the front door." Hershel leaned forward and asked."So Brazil or Mexico?"
There was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" Hershel called out.
"It's me, Hershel." said a voice that Artie recognized as Gregory. "Unlock the door."
"Follow your spirit . . ." Hershel said carefully.
"Oh come on!" Gregory protested. "Every bloody time."
Hershel waited not saying and watched the door.
"And upon this charge . . ." Gregory said lazily
"Cry, God for Harry, England." responded Hershel.
"And St. George!" Gregory snapped. "Now open this door while its still standing."
Hershel crossed the room and opened the door to reveal Gregory and Jacob standing. Artie turned and saw Jacob was holding a brown paper wrapped box in his hands.
"How did you get inside?" Gregory asked.
"The fire escape." said Hershel. "John called me."
"Oh." He gave Artie a once over. "Seeing as you're still in one piece, no harm done."
"Here." Jacob handed the box to Hershel. "The landlady, Mrs. Morstan she said her name was, said this is for you."
"Thank you." Hershel took the box and studied Jacob for a moment. "Hmm, cousins. That's interesting."
"What?" Jacob looked to Artie.
"Please sit." Hershel motioned to a chair next to Artie. "Gregory, be so kind to fix the tea. I'll only be a moment."
Without a word to confirm, Hershel disappeared behind a door. Gregory appeared from the kitchen a moment later and laid down a tray with tea, milk, and cookies — or biscuits as they were called Artie remembered.
"So what's the case?" Gregory asked as he poured the tea.
"Case?" Artie asked.
"Yeah." said Gregory. "Lots of kids your age have been showing up lately since Hershel saved that banker's boy from being — "
"AHHHHHHHHHH!"shrieked Hershel from the other room which was followed by the sound of something shattering against wall.
In the time it took for Jacob and Gregory to stand, Artie was already throwing the door open. He saw it was a simple bedroom. A small bed with a nightstand, a desk, and a bookshelf.
"Don't move!" hissed a voice.
Artie turned to see Hershel in the corner, scared of his mind. His eyes were wide and he was shaking as brought his knees to his chin and hugged them.
"What's wrong?" Artie looked around the room. He sniffed the air, but didn't smell any monsters. "Why did you scream?"
Hershel lifted a hand a pointed a shaking finger to the desk where the box Jacob had given him. Artie approached the desk slowly, stopping when Jacob and Gregory entered to see what the commotion was. He saw the shattered remains of a lamp around the desk and the box was upturned on top of the desk.
Artie snatched the box away and was greeted by an old friend, though Artie knew he was warning him off and was probably as scared as Hershel. They had met while Artie was in northern Brazil, but Artie had seen pictures of him for years in school. He had seen plenty of people keep them as pets and knew they were relatively unaggressive. He was surprised by the sheer size, but then he remembered this particular child of Arachne was the second largest of its kind in the world. Even as Artie approached, he was in awe of its size.
"Hey there." Artie stretched a hand and its front legs twitched higher, another warning. "No one's gonna hurt you."
"Don't!" hissed Hershel.
"Shh!" Artie laid his arm on the desk with his hand open. "Come on." He crooked his hand. "You just scared him. That's all." He lowered his front legs and tapped Artie's palm experimentally. "See? I'm going to hurt you." Artie smiled and kept coaxing as it began crawling onto him. "That's it. I won't let them hurt you." Artie repressed a fit of the giggles as its hair tickled his bare skin while it scurried up his arm.
"What was in the box?" Gregory was kneeling by Hershel. "Hey! Look at me Hershel!"
"Artie?" Jacob was checking Hershel's pulse. "What was in the box?"
"A fellow countryman." Artie turned and Jacob saw the largest tarantula he had ever seen in his life sitting on Artie's head like a hat. "Lasiodora parahybana! But I know him as the Brazilian Salmon Pink Bird-eating Tarantula." Jacob swore he saw the eight legged rat on Artie's head bow.
A few minutes, Artie's settling on the name , and some gentle coaxing back into her box, Charlotte the spider was safely tucked away and giving to Mrs. Morstan who said she had a nephew who collected them.
Artie had made a mental checklist and found Hershel was two for four. Artie's nose caught the faint smell of sweet olives, just like Annabeth and all of her siblings. Hershel's reaction to Charlotte, which was a strange stroke of luck, was another clue. All Artie needed was to find a way to check just how smart Hershel was and he had all the proof he needed to be sure Hershel was the son of Athena.
They all sat in the common room, everyone but Hershel sipping tea. Artie watched with interest as Hershel tore up the room looking for something.
He snatched a book off the mantle, opened it, and tossed it aside. "Nothing!" He hissed and turned to Gregory. "Greg, I need some. Get me some"
"No." Gregory said plainly.
"Get me some!"
"No!" He turned to Hershel. "Cold turkey, we agreed no matter what."
"I practically had three bloody heart attacks a few minutes ago!" Hershel complained. "With my ruddy ADD, I need something to calm down!"
ADD? Artie thought. Check again.
"No matter what!" Gregory said firmly. "Anyway you paid everyone off, remember?" Gregory took a sip of tea and smiled smugly. "No one within a two mile radius will sell you any."
"Stupid idea!" Hershel yanked open a drawer of desk and ruffled through it. "Whose idea was that?"
Gregory cleared his throat. "Yours."
"I'm lost." Jacob said. "What are you looking for?"
"Cigarettes." Gregory muttered. "Impossible habit in this city."
"Tell me where they are please!" Hershel started tossing papers in the air. "Please!"
"Sorry." Gregory without a hint of sincerity. "Can't help you."
"I'll give you next week's lottery numbers!"
"Worth a try." Hershel ran to the kitchen and Artie Jacob heard the sound of silverware crashing to the floor. "Oh bugger all!"
"You finished those last week" Gregory called. "Have a cuppa tea."
"I need something stronger than tea!" Hershel came back in sat defeated, glaring at Gregory. "Why are you doing this to me!"
"You asked me to."
"Well, now I'm unasking you." Hershel snapped. "I am an adult."
"Coulda fooled me." Gregory laughed. "Just cause you got yerself emancipated, something I still don't how you did it at thirteen, doesn't mean you're an adult." He slid a cup and saucer in front of him. "Now have some tea and listen to what these fine boys have to say." Gregory turned and smiled apologetically. "There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I'm afraid Hershel here likes to play jump rope with it"
"Jaime sent that thing!" Hershel muttered to himself as he sipped some tea. "It has to be her." Then he seemed to register what Gregory had said. "For your information I'm sixteen now."
"Jaime?" Artie asked munching on biscuit.
"Jaime Mary Aty." Gregory pronounced the last word like eighty. "She and Hershel have been fighting each other since primary school."
"She has never forgotten when the judges of the city Junior Science Fair thought my designs for a solar powered home, cost effective so sixty percent of the country could afford it, was chosen and awarded instead of her designs for new kind of ballistic missile." Hershel seemed to be calming down. "We've been trading blows every since. Now it seems she had lowered herself to humorless pranks."
"Have you tried chocolates and flowers?" Jacob grinned.
"I beg your pardon?" Hershel looked taken aback.
"Good luck with that." Gregory chuckled. "I sooner belive Hershel actualy fought someone."
"If we are done poking fun," Hershel clasped his hands together and looked to Jacob and Artie. "Can we get to the business at hand? What brought you here?"
"Your mother." Artie said going for the conversational jugular. "She sent us to find you."
"Does her depravity know no bounds!" Hershel shot to his feet. "How much did she pay you!"
"Whoa!" Jacob held up his hands. "Calm down there, Sherlock."
"Don't call me that!" Hershel snapped. "Its not funny and most certainly not clever."
"Did I miss something?" Artie looked to Gregory.
"Its Jaime's pet name for him." Gregory explained. "She figured out Hershel's name is an anagram for Sherlock Holmes." He shrugged. "Probably don't help the C stands for Conan and his dad is Arthur Doyle Molks."
"Look, Hershel." Artie said calmly. "I swear we didn't even know about Jaime until a couple of minutes ago. Your mother really did send us."
"Why would she care after nearly sixteen years?" Hershel demanded. "I haven't heard a word from her in all my life and I'm meant to believe that, rather send a letter or show up herself, she sent two cousins from Brazil?"
Artie and Jacob paused and looked to each other.
"How did you know we were cousins?"
"Oh, no." Gregory rolled his eyes. "Hershel, don't."
"You just want to show off."
"Of course I do." Hershel turned. "I'm a show off. It's what we do."
"How did you know?" Artie paused. "Hold on. Before Jacob came up, you asked Brazil or Mexico?"
"Yes." Hershel nodded. "I wasn't sure to which."
"But now you know?" Jacob asked.
"I knew when you entered." Hershel answered.
"Well, my first clue was Artie's skin tone." Hershel grasped Artie by the chin and began turning him side to side as he began speaking quickly. "Brown as nut. Lack of a British accent told me you hadn't simply been away on holiday, but somewhere from the Americas. Your speech screamed northern United States, New York most likely going by its popularity. Any father north you'd have either french inflection or a Boston manner." Hershel was speaking like a machine gun, but had stopped shaking Artie's like a rag doll. "But New York is too far north to develop such a rich deep tan. Must be he was born and raised farther south, but outside of the US since there isn't a hint of a southern drawl. So that meant either Central or South America." Hershel was blind to the stares he was receiving from the Gallezi's and the glare from Gregory and he grabbed Artie's head and turned it to show his left profile. "Then there was the scar on his left eye. Too crooked for a knife, but it is similar to one I received when I was little from an alley cat. Considering it is much wider and larger, a large cat." Hershel grabbed and rubbed Artie's palm. "Ignoring the possibility of a zoo and those callused hands, it's very likely a hunting accent. Now where could one receive a scratch from a large cat outside of zoo? Either the Amazon Rainforest or Lacandon Jungle." Hershel motioned to Artie. "Which left me with the question . . ."
"Mexico or Brazil." Artie whispered in awe.
"Then you." Hershel turned to Jacob and it was his turn have his neck bent every which way "A very similar skin tone, but not as rich. No British accent, but not an eastern accent like Artie either. So that leaves California. Like New York, I'd guess Los Angles or San Fransisco." Hershel then motion to Jacob's belt and plucked the Rio De Janerio coat of arms buckle and Jacob struggled to hold up his pants with his hands. "That was another clue. Clearly you have a strong tie to Rio De Janerio. Most likely a birthplace." Hershel then pointed to the both of them, tossing the buckle to Jacob "Both of you were born in Rio, long enough to receive a similar scar." Hershel grabbed each by the chin and turned them, Artie to his left and Jacob right. "By the same cat if not one of the same species. You act like brothers, though Artie seems to act like the elder rather than Jacob who clearly is the elder, but your features say otherwise." Hershel released them and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "So both born in Rio, but both speak with inflections of the United States and opposite sides of the country to boot. You share similarities though not enough to be brothers, but too much to be second and third cousins. That leaves only plain cousins."
"So my belt," Jacob caught his buckle that Gregory tossed to him. "Told you for sure we were from Rio."
"That and the fact that Artie mentioned that spider that Jaime no doubt sent. " Hershel shuddered at the thought, but regained his composure. "Artie said it was a Brazilian Salmon Pink Bird-eating Tarantula. A bit of long name if you ask me."
"And how just how long did it take for you to put that all together?" Artie asked.
"I put it all together when Jacob handed over that box." Hershel said. "When he explained where it can from I caught on entirely. Your relation to each other I pieced together while I was looking for my emergency stash in the kitchen."
I'm glad Annabeth isn't here. Artie thought to himself and hid a smile. She'd kill me on the spot if I even hinted I met someone smarter than her. He clapped. "I bow to mechanic."
"Excuse me?" Hershel looked confused.
"It's a line from Robin and the Seven Hoods." Jacob rolled his eyes. "Artie likes to quotes movies when he can."
"We all have little quirks." Artie smiled. "What I meant — "
Artie was interrupted by an eight bit version of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
"Sorry. It's mine." Gregory produced a cellphone and began speaking. "Hello, Watson's Detective Agency. This is — " Gregory paused. "Yessir. I understand, but . . ."
"Watson's Detective Agency?" Jacob asked.
"Yes." Hershel nodded. "No one would take an agency seriously if a sixteen year old teenager was the detective instead of the former doctor." Hershel shrugged. "It's sometimes annoying, but then I saw when no one take you seriously they don't really care if you hear them or not. Most just assume I'm his son or an assistant."
"Right away, sir." Gregory closed the phone and spoke to Hershel. "The chief detective inspector wants us at the station right away. Apparently someone in the holding cells walked out the front door without anyone seeing him."
"And the culprit has no ties to organized crime?" Hershel stood and pulled on a coat. "It would be altogether obvious how he got out."
"No." Gregory patted pockets to make sure he had everything. "They said just some back alley mugger. They probably want you to find the hole so they can plug it."
Artie and Jacob followed Gregory and Hershel out as they tried to get Hershel to listen, but he wouldn't.
"Hershel!" Artie was practically pleading while Gregory tried to flag a cab. "This is serious. More serious than you could imagine."
"I can imagine quite a bit." Hershel said dryly. "I don't understand your game. First you say my mother sent you after nearly two decades of silence and now you say its bigger than that. Which is it?"
"Both!" Jacob cried. "Your mom and her family are — "
"I hope I'm not interrupting." said a smug voice.
Everyone turned, then looked down, to see a young blonde girl in a wheelchair. Had she been able to, she would have stood almost a foot over Artie's six feet. She looked cute if not for her empty,almost reptilian, eyes. It was like she didn't see three people in front of her. She saw prey. She was wearing snowboots and thick pants on long thing legs and wore leather drving gloves on her hands with her green coat.
Artie instinctively sniffed the air and his eyes went wide.
"Jaime." said Hershel somehow sound colder than coldest Victorian winter.
"You ssseem to be doing well." Jaime smiled brightly at the three boys and everyone but Artie flinched. There was something sinister about that smile. "Did you like your Christmassss presssent? I picked it out mysssself."
"You surprised me," Hershel frowned. "Now I have to find something for you. I'll have to make sure to pick something just as good."
"Don't try too hard, my little Sssherlock." Jaime winked. "Ssssurprises have never been your thing." She seemed to notice Artie was staring. "Can I help you?"
"Hershel?" Artie said calmly, not taking his eyes from Jaime. "How good is your memory?"
"How good is that?" Jacob asked, wondering why Artie was staring down a girl in a wheelchair.
"It meansss he hasss perfect recall." Jaime exaplined, returning Artie's stare.
"When did you first meet Jaime, Hershel?" Artie felt his claws tingling. "When exactly?"
"It was — " Hershel paused. "We were . . ." This had never happened before Hershel realized as tried to place it. "She . . . I . . . uh . . . I can't . . . I can't remember."
"Thought so!" Artie growled.
Before anyone got wise to what he planned, Artie did something shocking. He quickly flipped the brake on Jaime's wheelchair as he slashed at her face with his claws. Jaime managed to jump back enough to avoid having her eyes hit, but Artie's heart wasn't in it. It was just a distraction so she didn't see him placing a foot on her chair and kicking as hard as he could, sending her speeding backward onto a busy Baker Street.
Cars screeched to a stop on both sides and were rear ended by the others behind him. Pedestrians paused and turned to see the commotion as cabbies got out from their taxis and shouted. No one saw Jaime as a huge red double decker bus screeched to a halt in front of them.
"Are you insane?!" Hershel demanded not believe what he just saw.
"She wasn't who you thought she was." Artie said tensely.
"What was she one of them?" Jacob asked sounding concerned.
"What the bloody hell was that about?!" Gregory ran up to them. "Tell me I didn't just see what I saw."
Artie ignored Gregory and said to Jacob. "Yes, but I'm not sure what exactly."
"You just pushed a disabled girl into traffic!" Hershel shouted.
"A girl maybe, but not human" Artie looked around and seemed to be searching for something. "And definitely not disabled."
"What are you talking about?" Hershel demanded.
"Elementary, my dear Hershel." Artie smiled. "She was — "
Hershel saw something suddenly shoot out from behind Artie and wrap around his neck, choking down his movie quote as it yanked him back. Hershel swore what he saw next was a clear sign he didn't just suffer from ADHD, but from dementia as well.
It looked like that Jaime had not only escaped being crushed by several cars, but had miraculously regained the use of her legs in the strangest and most impossible way possible. She was standing tall on one long thin leg, but her other leg was wrapped around Artie's neck as it dangled him off the ground.
Then things began to really get weird, but at least it explained why Jaime had a serious lisp when she spoke.
Slowly her skin began to appear bumpy and change color. Soon her skin resembled green and yellow reptilian scales. Her nails had become long black needle like claws and a forked tongue flicked in and out as she smiled at the struggling and kicking demigod which revealed rows of hooked teeth that Hershel recognized as the teeth of an anaconda. Jaime's hair was still blonde, but it didn't appear as clean as before. Now he was her legs weren't really legs, but long snake trunks.
"That'sss new." Jaime smiled. "Mossst cannot sssee me for what I am." She cocked her head. "How did you know?" She seemed displeased with Artie's choked gasps for air and slammed him hard against the red decker bus. "Ssspeak and I might jusssst let you go."
Suddenly she turned and hissed at Hershel and Jacob. "Do not even think about it, half blood!" She dragged a claw across Artie's cheek. "Or I might nick ssssomething vital. Drop them!"
Hershel turned to see Jacob laying down two bronze boomerangs on the floor. He wasn't sure what made him act, but Hershel recalled how Gregory always kept a SIG Sauer pistol in a police officer's leather strap. He saw Gregory was scared but also confused to what he was seeing. Quickly, before Gregory tried to stop him and Jaime was occupied with Jacob, he snatched the gun.
Jacob saw and shouted. "No! That won't — "
Hershel, mentally thanked Gregory for the trips to a firing range, emptied the gun into Jaime's body. Hershel then swore someone had forgotten to tel him the laws of physics had been altered. The bullets passed right through Jaime like she wasn't even there.
"Sssame old Ssssherlock." Jaime tsked. "Never lissstening to othersss."
"Let him go!" Gregory charged.
"No!" Jacob snatched up his boomerangs in the blink of an eye.
Jaime sneered and whipped her other leg into Gregory's chest, sending him crashing into a stopped cab. Fortunately, it was enough for Jacob's boomerangs to collide with Jaime's head and she dropped Artie. Artie coughed as he quickly ran to Jacob.
"Thanks." Artie coughed. "Cut it a little close."
"You have your quiver?" Jacob caught his boomerangs and Hershel noticed he was wearing bronze gauntlets.
"No." Artie stood rubbing his throat.
"Left them both at the hotel." Artie grunted. "Along with my armor."
"So like old times." Jacob frowned.
"I wouldn't say that." Artie stuck two fingers in his mouth. "But I would say no king fights on the front lines.
Artie whistled loudly, the piercing sound carrying louder than the honlng of car horns and shouting voices.
Hershel saw hundreds of rats scurrying out from beneath sewer grates and behind trash cans. All of them large with either black or brown fur. They also weren't alone and Hershel saw dozens of cat mixed among them with shades of bright colors among a sea of black and brown. Then, bringing up the rear, were the dogs. English Cocker and Springer Spaniels of varying colors and sizes with clumps of dirt in their coats were accompanied with occasional jet black Bull Terrier.
"I will feassst on half blood flessssh tonight!" screeched Jaime, brandishing her claws. "Come!"
Artie smiled. "In chess, the pawns go first."
Artie pointed behind her.
Jaime turned. "Oh . . ."
"Fly my pretties!" Artie cackled. "Fly!"
Jaime's howls of pain was engulfed by a sea of barks, hisses, and squeaks as was physically drowned in an ocean of London's strays.
Hershel turned to Artie. "Explain!"
"What would you say if I said that your mother was Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom?" Artie asked.
"Considering what I just saw." Hershel gulped. "I'd have to believe you."
"Really?" Jacob asked. "That easy?"
"Eliminate the impossible." Hershel said. "Whatever remains, however improbable, is the solution. Your Greek goddess theory fits as good as any."
Suddenly there was a clatter of metal and wood on stone. They looked to see a white sword and black cane on the floor at their feet. Hershel turn up to see a hawk with dark red tail feather soaring off.
"Here!" Artie pressed the cane into Hershel hand and snatched up the white sword. "Jaime there is going to keep coming unless we stick her with celestial bronze."
"This is wood." Hershel held up the cane.
"Twist and pull." Jacob said.
Hershel did and was shocked to see he was hold a three foot long sword of glowing bronze with a silver owl on the hilt. The blade was straight and had point for thrusting as well as a razor edge for slashing.
"I've never used a sword in my life." Hershel laughed at the strange turn his life was taking. "Gregory has always handled the rough."
"It's easy." Jacob laughed.
"How?" Hershel chuckled. "Stick her with pointy end?"
"It's been working wonderfully for me for sixteen years." Artie shrugged. "Why change it up now?"
"It's a sword, Sherlock, not a fighter jet" Jacob rolled his eyes. "What's so hard about swish, swish, stab?"