Eventually in the distance I began to see the green lining of trees and other plant life. A few miles in the distance I saw a small town, mostly consisting of small two-story brick buildings and a neighborhood or two. I told Percy to slow down as we approached. A green sign marking "Rock Springs" flashed by.
"We better swerve around," I suggested, "Don't want to hit any pedestrians."
"Aww," groaned Percy, "I want to show off my new ride."
"You'll get your chance," I reassured him and then grip on tightly to the bars next to my seat as Percy flung us around the small town and back onto the highway.
It only took an hour to get to the Utah state borderline, and a few more till we saw Salt Lake City arise on the horizon. We passed mountains with some small ruminants of the winter's snowfall. We stayed on Highway 80 until we reached the city border.
I looked back at Jake and smiled, he looked anxious but happy and relieved to be home again.
"Just tell us which way to go," I said "And you'll be able to see Victoria in no time."
He smiled graciously at me, but didn't reply, I could see it in his eyes how glad he was to be seeing his family again.
Percy slowed us down and we cruised the streets, turning when Jake instructed. After a fifteen minute drive we finally came to a halt on a small street in the middle on a tiny neighborhood, the street was lined with freshly painted two story houses with large front porches.
Jake sighed and jumped out of the car. He walked quickly up to a blue-grey house with a giant well-manicured front lawn. The sun had reached a point in the sky where the light reflected off the windows making everything glow with warmth. I watched silently as he entered the house through the unlocked front door and closed it behind him.
From inside a heard a squeal of delight and someone yell. "Jakey!"
The a chorus a voices repeated, "Jake?"
Through the front window I could see the silhouettes of people they paused stared at each other and then embraced.
After a few minutes of what looked like hugging, I really couldn't tell because of the glare off the window, a figure came to the window. I could barely see him, but Jake stood looking at us, he smiled and waved good-bye and then turned and left joining his family. For the next few minutes Nico, Percy , and I sat in the Daemon and watched the house. The neighborhood itself was quiet peaceful, and pleasant, just like a neighborhood should be. I looked at the digital clock on the Daemon's dashboard. 3:02, it read.
No, that couldn't be right, the sun was about to set and would be below the horizon in less than an hour.
Percy glanced down at me and then at the horizon, "As Nyx grows stronger, the days grow shorter."
For a second my pulse raged, two hours shorter?
That meant she was powerful and it made me scared. If she was strong enough to cut the day down by one third then she wouldn't be as easy of a foe and I already knew she'd be quite a challenge.
Percy squeezed my hand, "You can take her."
I smiled up at him, the boy could practically read my mind, although the look of utter terror on my face might have given my emotions away.
"I think we better go get some food," suggested Percy.
I didn't feel like leaving quite yet, that unsettling feeling in my stomach was still their. I wanted to make sure everything went well for Jake, no unexpected visits from angry titans.
"Why don't you guys go ahead, and bring me the leftovers," Said staring off into the distance watching the sun as in sank closer and closer to the horizon at an alarming rate, we'd only have a hour till nightfall, "I'll hang back and make sure everything goes smoothly."
I actually wanted more than anything else to have time to myself to sit and think.
Percy nodded and I grabbed my messenger bag and climbed out of the front seat.
I went up Jake's front walk-way and sat on the large warp-around porch. It made me think of cabin 21 back at camp. I sighed, I missed being able to sit on my porch and have the only thing I worry about is how we are going to do at the next game of Capture the Flag.
'Back in the good old days,' I thought to myself. I rested my head against the railing and I let my eyes close, thinking about camp till my mind eventually drifted to Auburn. Besides Camp Half-Blood, Auburn was one of the few places where I felt at home.
A strange sound awoke me from my daze, it was familiar and eerie. A sound that used to bring a smile to my face and used to make me feel joy and nostalgia, now hearing it all I felt was dread. I shivered, it was the sound of Ice Cream Truck music. I leaned forward and listened harder. Not just any Ice Cream Truck music, a cheerful auto-tuned version of 'Do Your Ears Hang Low'. The same exact song that Lamia played.
'It's a common song,' I told myself.
But that feeling in my gut grew stronger and my stomach tightened. I watched the horizon closely and in no time a small dot emerged coming closer blaring the music through a large megaphone. I spotted the tiny little stars and stripes truck coming down the street and nearly puked.
There was no denying it.
That was Lamia's truck.
I stared in horror as kids came pouring out of the houses, dollar bills clutched in their tiny fists. All of them squealing in excitement for their delicious dairy treat. About six or seven of them in all.
I had to do something, but I was frozen. The terror of my first monster encounter flooding back. I didn't know what was happening the first time I faced Lamia and if Nico and Henry hadn't been their I would have been eaten alive.
Now I was on my own and I had six small children to protect.
But this time I knew what I was doing, I was stronger, and I had the element of surprise.
I opened my messenger bag, pulled out one of the celestial bronze forks.
Time for some target practice.
I clutched the fork tightly, rubbing my thumb along the intricate lotus design.
I steadily walked forward, the kids were forming a line now to order, shoving each other and arguing over who gets to be first. I was glad, this would give me more time to think of a plan. First I would need to check if it actually was Lamia and then I'd go from there. The second I was close enough to see the driver my breath got caught in my throat. Lamia sat glaring at me grinning, her pointed teeth shining a brilliant white. Her red eyes burned like embers and her fork tongue flicked out of her mouth. She looked ready, very ready, for revenge. Her sinister smile just emitted evil, evil that burrowed into me, like a parasite. Apparently she had re-formed since the last time I'd killed her.
I grinned back, 'If only she knew what she was in for'. I'd killed her once before and now I was back and I was better.
Her smile flicker for a minute and she broke our stare-down, and glanced at the little boy waving his dollar at her and yelling for her attention.
A plan formed in my mind and whilst Lamia was distracted taking the boy's order I jogged behind the truck and waited for my que.
I heard her hissing voice through the metal door, but it was muffled, due to the immense insulation meant to keep the ice cream cool.
"One sssecond, Deary, I'll got get it," she mused.
I jammed my fork into the crack between the doors slid it up and once I felt the lock I paused waiting listening. She was quiet but I could still hear her slithering around the back of the truck .
With a quick flick of my wrist the four prongs of my fork broke through the lock. I flung open the back doors.
Lamia whipped her head around and hissed at me, she was pouring some sort of potion onto a deformed Spongebob Popsicle, the liquid hissed and smoked as it hit the icy desert, giving off the smell of burning tires mixed with lemon. It wasn't pleasant.
Lamia roared with annoyance, it was a deep guttural sound, as if it was coming from her chest and not her mouth.
She turned to me, but I was ready, I took my fork and hurled it at her. It hit it's mark, the very middle of her forehead. She used her free hand to yank it out, and toss it to the ground nest to her, green slime bled from the small wound.
She began move her head back and forth in a strange aggravated way, like a cobra about to strike and then drew back her arm. I had about two seconds to jump to the side before a smoking Spongebob flung past me, skimming by arm, burning my flesh. It splattered on the ground and began to froth, eating away the pavement, just like my Mint-Chip Ice Cream had before.
"Careful, sssweetie, the poissson isss ssstil fresh," She seethed.
I pulled out two more forks and kept one in each hand, I sprinted at her jumping into the back of the truck next to her and hopped up on the counter, all in a matter of seconds.
She turned surprised with my agility, I kicked her in the face, her head flew back hitting the cupboards on the opposite wall. While she was till stunned I jumped down pinning her snake tail to the ground, she screamed in pain. She was still kind of out of it from my kick so with the two forks I held I pinned her to the cupboard and swiped the bottle of poison off the counter. I stood back and threw it with a my might at her chest, it shattered, the poison drenching her.
The second the liquid touched her bare skin she exploded, leaving only dust. I stood, breathing heavily, the poison had also splashed me a bit, mostly my hands but some drops on my arms and face. The spot where the liquid had hit began to burn ferociously. I was about to turn away when something rose out of the dust, a pair of dark green snake skin gloves, I picked them up an examined them. There was a tag on the inside that read:
Demon Lady Apparel
Lamia's Snakeskin Couture Gloves
To See the Rest of the Collection defeat Mormo and the current senior Empusa.
I chuckled, the demi-god world was so messed up, if I wanted the rest of the collection, I'd have to kill two other demons, probably just for a hat and a scarf. I wonder how much they cost, at least 100 drachmas.
I glanced around me large boxes full of Ice Cream and Popsicles. I couldn't just let it go to waste.
I examined the leftovers, three crates full of Popsicles, two crates full of Ice Cream bars and about six gallons of normal ice cream.
For a second I wondered if it was safe to eat, but then realized, Lamia poisoned the ice cream directly before she gives it away, so that the poison is fresh. All of this ice cream should be okay.
I poked my head around the truck, the kids stood looking up at the window, confused and impatient.
"Well, what are you doing standing there?" I asked using a cheerful voice, although I felt like my skin was being eaten, "Come on and get you Ice Cream. It's free. We're feeling generous today."
"Where did the other woman go?" asked the boy.
I thought for minute, "She's…..on her break," I decided, it sounded like a good enough lie. He bought it, so it must have been pretty believable.
All of the children rushed towards me, and with my foot I brushed away the broken glass from the poison bottle.
As I started to hand out crates to the children, their parents came out and I had to explain, "My mother and I are giving up on our Ice Cream business to start our own boutique in town. But we have all this extra Ice Cream leftover, you can take as much as you'd like."
It was pretty much all gone by the time I heard the quiet but familiar sound of the Speed Daemon come up the street. Percy parked next to the side walk and clambered out of the car, the second he saw me he dropped the In and Out To-Go bag and the ground and then realized and picked it back up. Both he and Nico stared at me with open mouths.
I strided up to them, and took the bag from Percy.
"Double-Double cheeseburger, no onions or tomatoes and a large fry," he muttered.
"Perfect, thank you," I replied, "And I think I know what we're having for dessert."