Percy nodded grimly. The crocodile was still distracted by its nasal intruder, but I doubted the shabti would last much longer. Under that much stress, the hippo would soon melt back to wax.
“You’ve got some moves, Carter,” Percy admitted. “Anything else in your bag of tricks?”
“Nothing,” I said dismally. “I’m running on empty. But if I can get to that clasp, I think I can open it. ”
Percy sized up the petsuchos. The cul-de-sac was filling with water that poured from the monster’s hide. The sirens were getting louder. We didn’t have much time.
“Guess it’s my turn to distract the croc,” he said. “Get ready to run for that necklace. ”
“You don’t even have your sword,” I protested. “You’ll die!”
Percy managed a crooked smile. “Just run in there as soon as it starts. ”
“As soon as what starts?”
Then the crocodile sneezed, launching the wax hippo across Long Island. The petsuchos turned toward us, roaring in anger, and Percy charged straight at him.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to ask what kind of distraction Percy had in mind. Once it started, it was pretty obvious.
He stopped in front of the crocodile and raised his arms. I figured he was planning some kind of magic, but he spoke no command words. He had no staff or wand. He just stood there and looked up at the crocodile as if to say: Here I am! I’m tasty!
The crocodile seemed momentarily surprised. If nothing else, we would die knowing that we’d confused this monster many, many times.
Croc sweat kept pouring off his body. The brackish stuff was up to the curb now, up to our ankles. It sloughed into the storm drains but just kept spilling from the croc’s skin.
Then I saw what was happening. As Percy raised his arms, the water began swirling counterclockwise. It started around the croc’s feet and quickly built speed until the whirlpool encompassed the entire cul-de-sac, spinning strongly enough that I could feel it pulling me sideways.
By the time I realized I’d better start running, the current was already too fast. I’d have to reach the necklace some other way.
One last trick, I thought.
I feared the effort might literally burn me up, but I summoned my final bit of magical energy and transformed into a falcon—the sacred animal of Horus.
Instantly, my vision was a hundred times sharper. I soared upward, above the rooftops, and the entire world switched to high-definition 3-D. I saw the police cars only a few blocks away, the kids standing in the middle of the street, waving them down. I could make out every slimy bump and pore on the crocodile’s hide. I could see each hieroglyph on the clasp of the necklace. And I could see just how impressive Percy’s magic trick was.
The entire cul-de-sac was engulfed in a hurricane. Percy stood at the edge, unmoved, but the water was churning so fast now that even the giant crocodile lost his footing. Wrecked cars scraped along the pavement. Mailboxes were pulled out of lawns and swept away. The water increased in volume as well as speed, rising up and turning the entire neighborhood into a liquid centrifuge.
It was my turn to be stunned. A few moments ago, I’d decided Percy was no magician. Yet I’d never seen a magician who could control so much water.
The crocodile stumbled and struggled, shuffling in a circle with the current.
“Any time now,” Percy muttered through gritted teeth. Without my falcon hearing, I never would’ve heard him through the storm, but I realized he was talking to me.
I remembered I had a job to do. No one, magician or otherwise, could control that kind of power for long.
I folded my wings and dove for the crocodile. When I reached the necklace’s clasp, I turned back to human and grabbed hold. All around me, the hurricane roared. I could barely see through the swirl of mist. The current was so strong now, it tugged at my legs, threatening to pull me into the flood.
I was so tired. I hadn’t felt this pushed beyond my limits since I’d fought the Chaos lord, Apophis himself.
I ran my hand over the hieroglyphs on the clasp. There had to be a secret to unlocking it.
The crocodile bellowed and stomped, fighting to stay on its feet. Somewhere to my left, Percy yelled in rage and frustration, trying to keep up the storm; but the whirlpool was starting to slow.
I had a few seconds at best until the crocodile broke free and attacked. Then Percy and I would both be dead.
I felt the four symbols that made up the god’s name:
The last symbol didn’t actually represent a sound, I knew. It was the hieroglyph for god, indicating that the letters in front of it—SBK—stood for a deity’s name.