“His brother cut off his head,” I supplied. The memory surfaced from the dark stew of my mortal brain, though I did not recall the details. “Agamethus was the brother of Trophonius, the spirit of the Dark Oracle. He…” There was something else, something that filled me with guilt, but I couldn’t remember.
The others stared at me.
“His brother did what?” Calypso asked.
“How did you know that?” Emmie demanded.
I had no answer. I was not sure myself where the information had come from. But the ghost pointed at me as if to say, This dude knows what’s up, or possibly, more disturbingly, It’s your fault. Then he again made the gesture of holding a sphere.
“He wants the Magic 8 Ball,” Josephine interpreted. “I’ll be right back.”
She jogged over to her workshop.
“The Magic 8 Ball?” Leo grinned at Emmie. The name tag on his borrowed overalls read GEORGIE. “She’s kidding, right?”
“She’s dead serious,” Emmie said. “Er…so to speak. We might as well sit.”
Calypso and Emmie took the armchairs. Leo hopped onto the couch next to me, bouncing up and down with such enthusiasm I had an annoying pang of nostalgia for Meg McCaffrey. As we waited for Josephine, I tried to dredge my memory for more specifics about this ghost Agamethus. Why would his brother Trophonius have decapitated him, and why did I feel so guilty about it? But I had no success—just a vague sense of unease, and the feeling that despite his lack of eyes, Agamethus was glaring at me.
Finally, Josie trotted back over. In one hand, she gripped a black plastic sphere the size of a honeydew melon. On one side, painted in the middle of a white circle, was the number 8.
“I love those things!” Leo said. “Haven’t seen one in years.”
I scowled at the sphere, wondering if it was some sort of bomb. That would explain Leo’s excitement. “What does it do?”
“Are you kidding?” asked Leo. “It’s a Magic 8 Ball, man. You ask it questions about the future.”
“Impossible,” I said. “I am the god of prophecy. I know every form of divination, and I have never heard of a Magic 8 Ball.”
Calypso leaned forward. “I’m not familiar with this form of sorcery, either. How does it work?”
Josephine beamed. “Well, it’s supposed to be just a toy. You shake it, turn it over, and an answer floats up in this little plastic window on the bottom. I made some modifications. Sometimes the Magic 8 Ball picks up on Agamethus’s thoughts and conveys them in writing.”
“Sometimes?” Leo asked.
Josephine shrugged. “Like, thirty percent of the time. Best I could manage.”
I still had no idea what she was talking about. The Magic 8 Ball struck me as a very shady form of divination—more like a Hermes game of chance than an Oracle worthy of me.
“Wouldn’t it be faster if Agamethus simply wrote down what he wanted to say?” I asked.
Emmie shot me a warning look. “Agamethus is illiterate. He’s a little sensitive about that.”
The ghost turned toward me. His aura darkened to the color of a blood orange.
“Ah…” I said. “And those hand gestures he was making?”
“It’s no form of sign language that we can figure out,” Jo said. “We’ve been trying for seven years, ever since Agamethus joined us. The Magic 8 Ball’s the best form of communication we’ve got. Here, buddy.”
She tossed him the magical sphere. Since Agamethus was ethereal, I expected the ball to sail right through him and shatter on the floor. Instead, Agamethus caught it easily.
“Okay!” Josephine said. “So, Agamethus, what do you want to tell us?”
The ghost shook the Magic 8 Ball vigorously and then threw it to me. I was not prepared for the sphere to be full of liquid, which, as any water-bottle-flipper can tell you, makes an object much more difficult to control. It hit my chest and dropped into my lap. I barely caught it before it wobbled off the couch.
“Master of dexterity,” Calypso muttered. “Turn it over. Weren’t you listening?”
“Oh, be quiet.” I wished Calypso could only communicate 30 percent of the time. I rotated the ball bottom-up.
As Josephine had described, a layer of clear plastic was set in the base of the sphere, providing a window to the liquid inside. A large white multisided die floated into view. (I knew this thing smacked of Hermes’s wretched gambling games!) One side of it pressed against the window, revealing a sentence written in block letters.
“‘Apollo must bring her home,’” I read aloud.
I looked up. Emmie’s and Josephine’s faces had become twin masks of shock. Calypso and Leo exchanged a wary glance.
Leo started to say, “Uh, what—?”
Simultaneously, Emmie and Josephine unleashed a torrent of questions: “Is she alive? Is she safe? Where is she? Tell me!”
Emmie shot to her feet. She began to pace, sobbing in great dry heaves, while Josephine advanced on me, her fists clenched, her gaze as sharp as the pointed flame of her welding torch.
“I don’t know!” I tossed Josephine the ball as if it were a hot baklava. “Don’t kill me!”
She caught the Magic 8 Ball, then seemed to check herself. She took a heavy breath. “Sorry, Apollo. Sorry. I…” She turned to Agamethus. “Here. Answer us. Tell us.”
She threw him the ball.
Agamethus seemed to regard the magical sphere with his nonexistent eyes. His shoulders slumped as if he did not relish his job. He shook the ball once again and tossed it back to me.
“Why me?” I protested.
“Read it!” Emmie snapped.
I turned it over. A new message appeared out of the liquid.
“‘Reply hazy,’” I read aloud. “‘Try again later.’”
Emmie wailed in despair. She sank into her seat and buried her face in her hands. Josephine rushed to her side.
Leo frowned at the ghost. “Yo, Cheese, just shake it again, man.”
“It’s no use,” Josephine said. “When the Magic 8 Ball says try again later, that’s exactly what it means. We’ll have to wait.”
She sat on the arm of Emmie’s chair and cradled Emmie’s head against her. “It’s all right,” Josie murmured. “We’ll find her. We’ll get her back.”
Hesitantly, Calypso stretched out her palm, as if she weren’t sure how to help. “I’m so sorry. Who—who is missing?”
With a quivering lip, Josephine pointed to Leo.
Leo blinked. “Uh, I’m still here—”
“Not you,” Josephine said. “The name tag. Those overalls—they were hers.”
Leo patted the stitched name on his chest. “Georgie?”
Emmie nodded, her eyes puffy and red. “Georgina. Our adopted daughter.”
I was glad I was sitting down. Suddenly, so many things made sense that they overwhelmed me like another vision: the two aging Hunters who were not Hunters, the child’s empty bedroom, the crayon drawings done by a little girl. Josephine had mentioned that Agamethus arrived in their lives approximately seven years ago.
“You two left the Hunters,” I said. “For each other.”