Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 12)

“What do I have to do, Bex?” I yelled, following her down the other side of the hill and into a small clearing. “Tell me what I have to do or say or prove.”

I stood shaking, my hands balled into fists as my best friend opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find the words.

She turned slowly and started to walk away.

“The Circle needs me alive!” I yelled, and watched her stop, but she didn’t face me. “They would have killed you, Bex. They would have killed anyone but me without a second thought. But me…they need me alive.”

“That’s funny”—Bex turned—“because you look half dead from here.”

And that was when the shot rang out.

Chapter Thirteen

My first thought was that I was wrong. In spite of everything—the sound of a rifle on that hillside seemed an almost ridiculous thing to hear. I told myself that the tree limb behind me had always been shattered. The loud noise was just a door slamming back at the cabin, the sharp crack carrying toward us on the wind.

It wasn’t really a gunshot.

But then I was on the ground with Bex, sheltered behind a log, breathing in the rich, pungent smell of the decaying bark. Wet leaves clung to my skin. Toadstools sprouted from a knot in the log, and I knew it wasn’t a dream.

It. Wasn’t. A. Dream.

I wanted to scream or cry, but nothing came except the cold, certain knowledge that they’d found me. I’d run halfway around the world and lost all memory of the journey, but they’d found me.

“Cam,” Bex said, her voice barely breaking through my mind. “Cam!” Her hand was on my arm, shaking me. Damp earth clung to her palms, and the dirt bit into my skin as she squeezed. “Cam, how far?”

“A hundred and fifty yards.”

Had my mother heard the shot? I couldn’t be sure. The trees were thick, and Bex and I had run farther than I’d thought, and we found ourselves on the other side of the ridge, the cabin and lake hidden from view by the rise of the hill behind us. We hadn’t bothered with comms units. The tracking devices that Liz had spent hours perfecting last spring were all back at school.

When another shot rang out, piercing the trunk we lay behind, I knew that help may as well have been a million miles away.

“That was closer,” I said.

Bex’s eyes were wide as she nodded. “They’re coming.”

Sure, we had decent cover there, behind our log, but that wouldn’t last for long.

“The Box Square method?” Bex suggested.

“The Brennan-Black technique?” I countered.

But neither option held any hope against a trained sniper with a clear line of sight, and we knew it.

“Stay here,” I said, and started to my feet, but Bex was stronger—her reflexes even faster than I remembered—and I didn’t have a chance to break free.

“Are you crazy?” she snapped, pulling me down.

“I’ll circle around behind him. Or her. Or them. And then—”

“Are you bloody crazy?” she asked even louder, just as another shot rang out. I could see in her eyes that we were thinking the same thing: a hundred yards.

“Bex, let me go.” I shook my head. “I can outflank them and come around from behind. I’ll be fine. They won’t—”

“Cammie, where was I standing?” Bex challenged even though I didn’t think that was the time for a pop quiz. “Where was I standing?” Bex asked again, slower the second time. I looked at the place she’d been and did the mental math.

“He missed you by at least five feet, so let’s figure he’s moving to his left.” I was right; I knew it. And yet there was something in Bex’s eyes as I spoke. Somehow I knew she was a whole new kind of afraid.

“And that means…” I started, but I couldn’t find the words. “And that means…” I tried again, but instead of the lessons of Joe Solomon, I heard the words I’d chanted to myself over and over for almost a year. They need me alive. They need me alive. They need me alive.

“Cam,” Bex said, her voice low and steady, “it means they weren’t shooting at me.”

The birds had stopped their singing. The woods were quiet and still. And that was when I heard the music again. I squeezed my hands over my ears, but the sound grew louder and louder, and my heart rate slowed. The sun must have come out from behind a cloud, because everything seemed brighter. Clearer.

“Cammie.” Bex was shaking me. Her eyes were wide with terror. And I knew that we were in something of a clearing. Aside from the log, there was no cover for ten yards in any direction. We weren’t sitting ducks yet, but the shooter was up and moving, and it was just a matter of time before he gained a line of sight.

We had to move from that position, and fast.

“Bex,” I said, reaching for my best friend’s hands.

“Yeah?”

Another shot rang out.

Seventy-five yards.

“I’m sorry.” And before she could register the words, I kicked and sent my best friend tumbling, falling end over end, down the hill.

A split second later, I followed.

True, falling headfirst down a really big hill while you’re still semi-concussed is probably not recommended, but I didn’t have many other options at the moment. I landed with a thud against a large mound of blackberry bushes. Thorns sliced into my skin. My head swirled and throbbed, and I thought I would be sick. But there was a shadow overhead, and I knew that my plan (if you want to call it that) had worked, and we’d made it out of the clearing and into the cover of the trees.

Bex had landed twenty feet away from me. Good, I thought. Stay there. Stay safe, away from me.

But it was too late. She was already up and moving toward me, like a cat.

“How many?” Bex said, her breath even and steady. A piece of moss clung to her hair, and mud stained her cheek, but she didn’t move to wipe any of it away.

“Just one,” I said, then considered. “I think.”

I hoped.

I saw a figure moving through the trees behind us, up the hill. He wasn’t big, necessarily, but he was agile and quick and lean.

And closer. Coming so much closer.

But there were no more gunshots, so either he was making up too much ground to fire, or else our move had worked, and he had lost sight of us.

We were deep in the middle of three hundred acres of timber and rocks and falling leaves. The main gravel road was probably two hundred yards down the hill. Now that we’d reached the cover of the trees, we could go down to the county road and hopefully circle around to the cabin from below. Or we could swing around wide and climb up the hill, try to pass the sniper, and make it over the rise.

“High ground?” Bex asked, reading my mind.

“High ground,” I agreed, and together we started to run.

You might think in these situations the advantage lies with the grown man with the high-powered rifle, and not with the two teenage girls in training.

Well, that, of course, depends upon the girls.

Bex was ahead of me, running up the hill, jumping over limbs and landing on rocks. Weightless. Effortless.

I, on the other hand, had an ankle that was still semi-sprained and a set of lungs that were far from operating at full capacity, and I didn’t know which was scarier: the sniper on our trail or the thought of Bex knowing that I’d lost my stamina and my memory over my summer vacation.

We could hear breaking twigs and panting breaths. Bex and I skidded to a stop, pressed ourselves against a couple of trees, and I called upon every ounce of chameleon in my blood.

The sun was high overhead—a little after noon—and the light broke through the canopy of the trees. It looked like a kaleidoscope across the ground, but Bex and I were shrouded in shadow, and I tried to remind myself that being invisible isn’t about camouflage and cover as much as it is about stillness and calm. I leaned against the tree and willed my body to be just an extension of the bark. In my jeans and dark sweatshirt, at that angle and in that light, the assassin could have looked right at me and not seen me, as long as I was still enough. But staying still wouldn’t save us, and I knew it.

“Bex,” I whispered. “I’m holding you back.”

“Don’t be silly. Of course you aren’t.”

“Of course I am. He’s a lone gunman, and we have numbers.”

She must have read my mind, because she snapped, “We’re not splitting up, so you can bloody well forget—”

“What would Mr. Solomon say?”

“I’m not leaving you,” she said, totally sidestepping the question.

“You’re not leaving me, Bex.” I smiled. “You’re doubling our chances.”

Just then a shot rang out and pierced a tree ten feet behind us. The time for arguing had officially run out. I could see it in my roommate’s eyes as she looked at me.

“I’ll see you at the cabin,” she said. It was a warning.

“I’ll see you at the cabin,” I said, and like that, she was gone.

It wasn’t scary, being alone. Bex was safer the farther she was from me. And me…well, I’d pretty much forgotten what safe felt like anyway. So I leaned against the tree, trying to catch my breath. The top of the ridge was probably eighty yards uphill over rough terrain.

I could do it, I told myself. I had to do it. Bex was going to be waiting for me at the cabin.

And that’s when the breeze picked up and the light flickered, shining for one second off a thin wire that ran between two of the trees in Joe Solomon’s forest.

Wait. I stopped and thought. Joe. Solomon’s. Forest.

The thin wire lay across a narrow path, almost obscured by fallen leaves. And if I knew Mr. Solomon, then I could have sworn that the wire was designed to trigger something—tell someone—that something was wrong on that hillside.

So I didn’t let myself think about it anymore—not about how little cover there was between my position and the narrow opening of the path. I didn’t calculate how long it would take my aunt and mother to reach me, or the odds that I was wrong and tripping that wire would do nothing at all.

I just turned my brain off and ran into the small open area, and when I reached the wire, I bolted through it, felt it brush against my ankle and break, and I didn’t slow down until I heard the shot fire and felt my body crash against the ground, warm blood spreading over my skin.

Chapter Fourteen

There was a crack as a second shot pierced the air, and a bullet hit the tree exactly where I’d been moments before. And yet I didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Someone lay across me, pressing down. And when Dr. Steve said, “Cammie, someone’s shooting.…” I didn’t think I’d ever heard anyone more afraid.

“Dr. Steve, what are you doing here?”

I wanted him to say that the others had heard the shots and come looking for us—that help was on the way. But instead he shook his head. “When you left the cabin, you seemed so upset. I thought you might want to…talk.”

I didn’t want to talk. Talking felt like the most useless thing in the world.