“Yes,” I squeaked, extracting my hand. “I mean, no. I’m afraid I don’t remember. May I introduce Leo?”
“Leo!” She crushed his hand with enthusiasm. “I’m Jo.”
All these people whose names ended in o—Jo, Leo, Calypso, Apollo—suddenly made me feel like my brand was being diluted. I thanked the gods we were not in Ohio and our dragon was not named Festo.
“I think I’ll call you Josephine,” I decided. “It’s a lovely name.”
Josephine shrugged. “Fine by me. Where’s your friend Calypso?”
“Wait,” Leo said. “How’d you know about Calypso?”
Josephine tapped her left temple. “Waystation tells me stuff.”
“Oooh.” Leo’s eyes widened. “That’s cool.”
I wasn’t so sure. Normally, when someone said that a building was talking to them, I got away from them as quickly as possible. Sadly, I believed Josephine. I also had the feeling we would be needing her hospitality.
“Calypso’s in the infirmary,” I offered. “Broke her hand. And foot.”
“Ah.” The sparkle dimmed in Josephine’s eyes. “Yeah, you met the neighbors.”
“You mean the blemmyae.” I imagined the neighbors stopping by to borrow a socket wrench, or take an order for Girl Scout cookies, or murder someone. “Do you often have problems with them?”
“Didn’t use to.” Josephine sighed. “By themselves, blemmyae are pretty harmless, as long as you’re polite to them. They don’t have enough imagination to organize an assault. But since last year—”
“Let me guess,” I said. “Indianapolis has a new emperor?”
A ripple of anger washed across Josephine’s face, giving me a glimpse of what it would be like to get on her bad side. (Hint: It involved pain.)
“Best we don’t talk about the emperor until Emmie and your friend join us,” she said. “Without Emmie around to keep me calm…I get worked up.”
I nodded. Not getting Josephine worked up sounded like an excellent plan. “But we’re safe here?”
Leo held out his palm as if checking for brick raindrops. “That was my question too. I mean…we kind of led an angry mob to your doorstep.”
Josephine waved aside our concern. “Don’t worry. The emperor’s forces have been searching for us for months. The Waystation isn’t easy to find unless we invite you in.”
“Huh.” Leo tapped the floor with his foot. “So, did you design this place? ’Cause it’s pretty awesome.”
Josephine chuckled. “I wish. A demigod architect with way more talent than me did that. Built the Waystation back in the 1880s, early days of the transcontinental railroad. It was meant as a refuge for demigods, satyrs, Hunters—pretty much anyone who needed one here in the middle of the country. Emmie and I are just lucky enough to be the present caretakers.”
“I’ve never even heard of this place,” I said grumpily.
“We…ah, keep a low profile. Lady Artemis’s orders. Need-to-know basis.”
As a god, I was the very definition of need-to-know, but it was typical of Artemis to keep something like this to herself. She was such a doomsday prepper, always hiding things from the other gods, like stashes of supplies, emergency bunkers, and small nation-states. “I assume this place isn’t a train station anymore. What do mortals think it is?”
Josephine grinned. “Waystation, transparent floor, please.”
Beneath our feet, the stained cement disappeared. I leaped back as if standing on a hot skillet, but the floor was not actually gone. It had simply turned see-through. Around us, the rugs, furniture, and workshop equipment seemed to hover two stories over the actual ground floor of the hall, where twenty or thirty banquet tables had been set up for some sort of event.
“Our living space occupies the top of the grand hall,” Josephine said. “That area below us was once the main concourse for the station. Now the mortals rent it out for weddings and parties and whatnot. If they look up—”
“Adaptive camouflage,” Leo guessed. “They see an image of the ceiling, but they don’t see you. Nice!”
Josephine nodded, obviously pleased. “Most of the time, it’s quiet around here, though it gets noisy on weekends. If I have to hear ‘Thinking Out Loud’ from one more wedding cover band, I may have to drop an anvil.”
She pointed to the floor, which immediately turned back to opaque cement. “Now if you guys don’t mind, I need to finish a section of a project I’m working on. Don’t want the metal plates to cool without proper welding. After that—”
“You’re a child of Hephaestus, aren’t you?” Leo said.
Leo blinked. “No way! But that sweet workshop area you got—”
“Magical construction is my specialty,” said Josephine. “My dad, my mortal dad, was a mechanic.”
“Nice!” Leo said. “My mom was a mechanic! Hey, if I could use your machine tools, I left this dragon at the statehouse and—”
“Ahem,” I interrupted. As much as I wanted Festus back, I did not think a nearly indestructible, impossible-to-open suitcase was in any immediate danger. I was also afraid that if Leo and Josephine started chatting, they would soon be bonding over the wonders of serrated flange bolts and I would die of boredom. “Josephine, you were about to say after that…?”
“Right,” Josephine agreed. “Give me a few minutes. Then I can show you to some guest rooms and, uh, maybe get Leo here some clothing. These days, we’ve got plenty of vacancies, unfortunately.”
I wondered why that was unfortunate. Then I remembered the little girl’s empty room we’d passed. Something told me it might be best not to ask about that.
“We appreciate your help,” I told Josephine. “But I still don’t understand. You say Artemis knows about this place. You and Emmie are—or were—Hunters?”
Josephine’s neck muscles tightened against the collar of her pink polo. “We were.”
I frowned. I’d always thought of my sister’s followers as a sort of all-maiden mafia. Once you were in, you never left—unless you left in a lovely silver coffin. “But—”
“Long story,” Josephine cut me off. “I probably should let Hemithea tell it.”
“Hemithea?” The name hit me like one of the Waystation’s bricks. My face felt as if it were slipping down to the center of my chest, blemmyae-style. Suddenly I realized why Emmie had looked familiar. No wonder I’d felt such a sense of unease. “Emmie. Short for Hemithea. The Hemithea?”
Josephine glanced from side to side. “You really didn’t know?” She jabbed a finger over her shoulder. “So…I’m gonna get back to that welding now. There’s food and drinks in the kitchen. Make yourselves at home.”
She beat a hasty retreat back to her workshop.
“Dang,” Leo muttered. “She’s awesome.”
Leo arched his eyebrows. “Were you and Hemithea an item back in the day or something? When you heard her name, you looked like somebody kicked you in the crotch.”