Annabeth did her best not to sound annoyed as she gave them the clip notes version to why-the-hell-she-was-here for the fourth time. In these people's line of work, paranoia wasn't just a probable result, but a requirement. This fact didn't actually prevent her from finding them irritating, but she tried. Surely, anyone reasonable would give her a few points for that.
"All of you, did you get the plan?" the ex-policewoman (Who lost her job because she was busy saving lives, as the girl just found out. So very typical.) asked as she entered the room with a gun in one hand and bullets in the other. One of her allies, a mortal boy who couldn't have been much older than Annabeth, got up from his chair.
"We attack full force to clear the way, you and the wise chick go get the sorcerer. I still don't get why she goes in with us."
"Because she can help and won't leave me alone unless I let her," Murphy put it nicely. The real reason was exactly that, plus the fact that the leader would rather put Annabeth, and herself, in the line of fire than one of her people. That made her a good boss, in a way.
She checked for the last time that she had enough Nectar and Ambrosia with her – something she hadn't mentioned, and wasn't going to – while the others prepared their weapons. Two of them, one of whom was a werewolf and the other apparently just very well trained, started fighting over whether to take a truck or two cars.
"Definitely the cars," said Murphy. "It's less conspicuous. Daniel, Billy, if you really have to rip out each others' throats, then please do it when we're done."
"Yes ma'am," the boy rolled his eyes. Murphy was a good leader, indeed. Annabeth got into one of the cars, mentally preparing herself for the mission. It's been a long time since she last worked in a real team - not since the war, really.
One and a half hours later, she could consider her previous theory - and half of the reason why she was still here - confirmed. The sorcerer didn't put up much of a fight, not because he wasn't capable of it, but because the moment they managed to breach his defenses, a portal opened and sucked him somewhere else. The girl spent the next hour or so taking his base apart to find out exactly what he had to do with the Greeks, then made a quick phone call to avoid using Iris Messages around the policewoman. Surprisingly enough, Nico turned out to be at camp for once in his life and said he'd call back soon.
"Well?" Murphy asked, leaning on the door behind her. "Who did you call?"
"My boyfriend's, uh, cousin. I asked him to check whether the sorcerer was dead."
"How's he going to do that?"
"By going to the underworld," she explained. Everything was always so complicated when it came to Nico. "He kind of lives there."
"You have some interesting friends," Murphy muttered. "We should probably go away. Our guy made a good job at soundproofing the place, but who knows who he managed to upset over the time. The police could still come to check what he was up to, because if nothing else, then I bet he wasn't the tax-paying type. At least he didn't leave a corpse, though - That's usually the problem with fighting sorcerers. They're still human."
"I'm not sure he was one, though," Annabeth said thoughtfully. "At least, he hasn't been fighting with mortal power. It was lent to him in a Faustian deal of sorts, or maybe just for someone's amusement." Something she knew because her knife wasn't supposed to hurt a human being. Just one of the details she decided to leave out as insurance – even if it meant getting a normal weapon on the side so her story would hold without getting anyone killed. She liked to be thorough.
"Do you know who it was?"
"A spirit, according to this," she said and handed Murphy a handful of ancient Greek texts. "Don't look so surprised, of course I can read it. They're summoning rituals, apparently, but the idiot had no idea who he was summoning. I think it was one of the phonoi, random killings do match their style. Anyway, the other spirits of combat are still sulking because the war is over and they're stuck in the middle east again."
"Whatever you say. Will the spirit stick around here?"
Annabeth sighed. She hadn't lost too much thought over that. "No idea. It'll probably go on to do its thing somewhere else, and I have no plans to search for it. You can't kill a spirit anyway, so why bother?"
"You haven't found anything about your boyfriend, have you?"
"No," she said. "I think I'll go back to asking everyone until they're annoyed enough to give me a genuine answer. Not that it helps if they don't know anything..." Indeed, she was starting to think that someone with real power kidnapped Percy. Someone on par with the Olympians. But that information, even more so than the details on ambrosia and celestial bronze, was too important to just give away to a strange. Even one you exchanged life stories with. She shook her head in denial. "Anyway, this was worth a try. I'll call if I find out what happened to the sorcerer."
"Thank your friends for me. And give me those ritual instructions, I'll destroy them just in case."
Annabeth suppressed a frown. She wanted to study the texts further, but the woman obviously didn't trust her enough to leave them with her. With some help from Chiron, she could probably find copies if she ever got the time. "You do that. And we really should go away, or we'll get attacked soon. I wasn't supposed to use a cell phone." Murphy gave her a quizzical look, so she explained. "For the monsters, it's like we're transmitting our voice all around."
"Monsters can pick up phone frequencies? That's a new one."
"You're the first one who wondered about that," she half-smiled, deciding that maybe the whole taking-the-text-just-in-case thing was to be forgiven. "I'm actually not sure how it works, and the monsters are mostly too busy trying to bite my head off to explain the exact details of their sensory organs. Anyway, we're not allowed to have a phone, I just take a calculated risk. Here, call us if you ever get attacked by anything sufficiently Greek," she said and handed Murphy the business card of Camp Half-Blood. It used to be mostly satyrs who carried those around, but lately, so many demigods have been turning up that anyone remotely capable of recruiting had to join in. Anyhow, she didn't remember anyone ever using those for any other purpose (aside from the camp's organic strawberry business).
"Thanks," Murphy smiled and tucked the card into her jeans pocket. "Nothing personal, but considering the circumstances, I honestly hope we'll never meet again."
Annabeth nodded and left the place. She had things to do.