Annabeth met Murphy for the second time two days later, and she wasn't the tiniest least happy about it. As a matter of fact, she barely managed to conceal her annoyance at getting mixed up in her business.
On a better day, the daughter of Athena would've found the woman intriguing; she was a mere mortal, not even a clear-sighted one, but she knew a whole lot about everything supernatural that Annabeth only suspected and theorized about. She would've wanted to know how it all worked and how the beings she only found out about now could've stayed hidden from humans – and even worse, from demigods like herself – without being protected by the mist. Not to mention what wizards were and whether they could be considered human, what they could do, maybe also how Murphy got to know a wizard in the first place. Not to mention his name was Harry, of all things, and now that she thought about it, she could practically hear Percy making some dumb remark.
On a better day, the much older, yet equally broken woman would've perhaps answered those questions about Harry Dresden, instead of trying to conceal her grief.
But those were just fantasies, and reality insisted to stubbornly cling on. Annabeth's boyfriend was still missing, and neither she nor Nico or any other of Percy's friends were coming any closer to finding him.
The most noteworthy fact was, as Annabeth realized while dodging an attack from something green and insect-like, that this day managed to suck even more than the previous ones.
"What are you-" the tiny blonde woman hiding behind a stack of shipping containers silently asked. She was standing completely still, her posture proving beyond any doubt that she's been doing this before Annabeth was even born. The girl vaguely recognized the gun she was holding from the sketches that their whole cabin was covered in a few years back – something about the Hephaestus cabin and the adjustments the barrel needed to fire celestial bronze rounds. As if that mattered right now, when the damned thing was pointed right at her head.
It was one of those times she wished Percy was here, even more than so than every single moment since he disappeared. Sure, he was about as good at strategic thinking as Apollo was at shutting up, but it was nice to have someone on your team who's invulnerable and fast enough cut a bullet mid-air. Her own chances to dodge successfully from this range were fifty-fifty at best, which was nowhere near worth the risk. She shook her head franticly and pointed the dagger she held in her right hand at the monsters that swarmed all over the place, hoping it would get the message through. So much for strategy.
Murphy nodded and pointed the weapon at the monsters instead. The girl took it as a sign that she was allowed to come closer. "Are you going to kill them?" she asked in a whisper.
The woman raised an eyebrow. "What kind of a question is that?"
"They are obviously controlled by that… spell-caster, I suppose. Those things-"
"Worms is a sorcerer," Murphy corrected a few moments too late.
Annabeth ignored the comment. "-those things only attacked me when I tried to attack them first, so I'd say they respond to violence. They aren't acting on their own accord. Getting rid of the so-called sorcerer sounds a lot more productive, depending on what would happen to the creatures then."
Murphy frowned. "I don't know what they are. They can either dissolve into thin air, continue to do their thing here, go back to where they came from…"
"Or be freed of the sorcerer's spell and start eating people?" Annabeth suggested.
"Seems like you've done this before."
"Not in this particular scenario, but I tend to assume the worst. Either way, you'd better-"
"Leave?" Murphy continued the nearly-silent conversation that seemed to consist mainly of interruptions. "I've had this conversation before, and if anyone is leaving, it's you. This isn't your responsibility, it's mine."
That one did wonders to Annabeth's opinion on her. The mortal woman wasn't particularly nice to talk to, but she was so very interesting. The girl still wanted nothing more than to find Percy, but after all, she had no leads and already checked out everyone on the Greek side of things who was ready to talk. She had nothing to lose here. Maybe, just maybe, she could find out something important if she stayed in Chicago for a few more days.
"No such thing," the girl hissed in her most stubborn tone. "If you don't agree to let me help, I'm just gonna do it my own way. Who knows, I might even interrupt your plan by accident and get everyone killed."
Murphy suppressed a curse and asked, "You have a way with words. How does it even concern you?"
She smirked. "I'll give you my story if you give me yours."