Chelsea looked up at the shadow shifting between the two houses, suddenly glad that Angelina hadn’t let go of her hand after they’d stopped singing. She squeezed Angelina’s hand tighter.
Jen turned to Chelsea and Angelina with a bright smile.
“We’ll be fine! Look how many of these guys we have on our side.” Jen gestured toward Falcon’s brothers.
A nearby brother who still had hands gave them a thumbs up. Chelsea gave him a smile and wave that felt awkward.
Mrs. Sharma was still facing down the two sisters. Chelsea couldn’t see her face, but Mrs. Sharma’s posture was almost too rigid, to the point of making her look afraid.
“You expect me to believe that you have no idea what’s back there in the shadows?”
“Someone’s flattering herself. We don’t expect you to believe anything,” said the taller sister. “You’re not in charge of us anymore. We don’t care enough to lie to you.”
“I’m not flattering myself, and I’m not under any misconception that you care about me. You’ll lie to anyone. Whether or not you care has nothing to do with it.”
There was another movement in the shadows between the two houses. Then a humanoid figure about three meters tall rose up.
She heard Belfry sniff the air, then felt him begin to tremble.
As the figure approached, she could make out the silhouette of four massive, powerful arms.
“What the heck is that thing?” said Jen.
“That’s definitely not one of our sisters,” said the shorter sister.
“Hey,” said Angelina. “We know that guy!”
Zogzhesh walked toward them, his tongue flicking in the air.
“You know a giant snake monster?” said Lachlan.
“I’m not even gonna ask,” said Sam.
“Probably a wise decision,” said Lachlan.
Mrs. Sharma’s body grew even more rigid, folding her arms defensively in front of her. Chelsea wondered how she managed the defensive position while still holding onto the knives.
“It’s you.” Mrs. Sharma’s voice was small, with a subtle tremor.
“We meet again, Mona Sharma,” said Zogzhesh.
“What do you want with me?” she said.
“You think I’m here for you? I see you’re still as self-important as ever.” Zogzhesh stroked his chin with his scepter. “Then again, your ego was what allowed you to escape my judgement.”
“If you’re not here for me, then why are you here?”
“Angelina Bianchi stands behind you, correct?”
“One of the kids behind me is named Angelina,” said Mrs. Sharma. “She said she encountered you before, but I’m not sure why you’d be looking for her.”
“Hi!” said Angelina. “What’s up?”
Angelina let go of Chelsea’s hand and started forward, pushing her way between Naomi and Mrs. Sharma with her shoulder so she stood in front of Zogzhesh and the two sisters. Chelsea was surprised Mrs. Sharma didn’t scold Angelina for shoving her.
Chelsea wished Angelina wouldn’t stand so close to three very dangerous creatures. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination, but the two sisters seemed to be eyeing Angelina more hungrily than Chelsea was comfortable with.
“You promised to help me return to my home,” said Zogzhesh. “It would seem you’ve forgotten your promise.”