Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 13)

“Cammie, I…”

I’d never realized how pale Dr. Steve’s skin was until it stood in contrast to the red blood that was oozing down his arm.

“You’re hit,” I said.

“It’s just a…” He trailed off, grimacing in pain. “Scratch.”

I pushed him off of me and examined the wound. He was right. It wasn’t much more than a scratch—a through-and-through—but Dr. Steve wasn’t like us. He wasn’t trained for fieldwork, and he winced as if he might be sick. But I didn’t have time for sick. There was a sniper in the woods with an excellent line on us, and our luck wouldn’t hold out for long.

“Here,” I said, dragging him around the tree and hopefully into better cover. “Put pressure on it.”

I pulled off my hoodie and started to press it against the wound, but drops of blood were already falling, landing on the rocks at my feet.

Red drops on white stone.

It was a strangely beautiful sight. I couldn’t pull my eyes away, and suddenly I felt dizzy. The world was spinning, pulling me backward through time and across space until everything grew incredibly slow—as if the whole thing had happened before, exactly like that. But different.

It was a different mountain. Different rocks. Different blood.

“I was bleeding,” I said as the memory I couldn’t quite name came rushing back. The wind felt colder, the air thinner. Was that a gunshot or the sound of snow crashing through the trees? I wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

“Cammie…” Dr. Steve said slowly, his lips a thin hard line.

“I was running. And bleeding. But it was finally light out. I could finally see the sky.”

“Cammie, it’s—”

“There was blood on the ground and on the trees,” I said numbly, recalling how I hadn’t bothered to hide my tracks. “They were getting closer. But I was so weak. I was just so weak…I wasn’t going to get away. I shouldn’t have gotten away.”

The memory was stronger then, deeper. It was like I was there—really there—and everything was the same, the wind and the smells and the red, red blood. Everything was exactly the same except the screaming.

No, the screaming belonged on a different mountain. I shook my head and focused on the sound of Bex’s cries. I wasn’t in Austria. And I wasn’t broken or beaten or worn. Not anymore.

I wasn’t going to be weak anymore.

“Cammie!” Dr. Steve yelled, genuine panic filling his eyes. “Don’t!” He tried to reach for me, pull me back to the relative safety of the ground; but even with two good arms, there was no way Dr. Steve could have stopped me.

I no longer felt my ankle. Adrenaline pounded in my veins. I ran faster, leaping over fallen logs, skirting around trees and rocks. My arms pumped at my sides as I pushed my way through the thick underbrush and dense pines. Faster and faster I ran until, finally, I could make out my best friend’s shape on the horizon.

She was on an outcropping of rock near the top of the hill, the shooter maybe three feet away. Bex lunged, striking the man, but he didn’t fall. And as he shifted his weight, Bex crashed to the ground.

“No!” I screamed just as the man raised the butt of his rifle.

But Bex twisted and kicked, sending the gun out of his hands and skidding across the rocks.

And I kept running.

Bex swept her leg and knocked him off his feet. But the man was so fast, it didn’t matter. He hit Bex hard across the face, sending her tumbling down the hill.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as I reached the top of the ridge. There were no trees or shadows, and that was probably why it was so easy to see the knife—shiny and clean. The sun glistened off the blade as the gunman pulled it from a sheath on his leg and lunged toward Bex.

She tried to block the blow, but the man was so strong. And the next thing I knew, there was a splatter of blood and Bex was screaming, her face a mix of shock and fear and…relief as the man fell to the ground and didn’t move again.

The gun was in my hands.

My finger was on the trigger.

The sights were still trained on the man—on the red mass spreading out from his chest, covering the place where his heart should have been. He lay so still, as if he might be resting, the knife still glistening—shiny and clean—in his outstretched hand.

“Cammie!” It was Liz’s voice. “Cammie, Bex…Cammie!” she yelled. I heard her running up the hill, and then she came to a sudden stop. “Oh my gosh,” she said, staring at the body at Bex’s feet. I heard her begin to gag and vomit, but I didn’t look away from the man who lay lifeless on the ground.

There was a weight on the rifle, a tug, but I held it steady, kept the assassin in my sights.

“Cammie,” Zach said, pulling harder on the barrel. I didn’t know where he’d come from or how long he’d been there, but his voice was in my ear, sounding worried and afraid. “Cammie, give me the gun.”

“Give it to him.” Abby and my mother were running along the ridge toward us. Abby yelled, “Now!”

And only then did I feel like it was okay to let the rifle—and my defenses—fall.

Abby walked to the body and called to my mother. “Rachel, any others?”

“No. I think he’s alone.”

“Well, he might not be alone for long.” Abby took the gun from Zach and yelled, “Everyone, get to the van.”

“Cam?” My mother was looking at me. “Cammie, sweetheart, are you hurt?”

I wasn’t hurt. I was numb. And I liked it.

Mom shook my shoulders. “Cammie, you need to—”

“Rachel,” Abby snapped, cutting her off. “We have to go. Now.”

Bex walked to the body and started digging through the gunman’s pockets.

“He’s clean, Bex,” Zach told her. “He wouldn’t make the mistake of coming here with anything he couldn’t be found with. He was too good for that.”

“I’ve got to check—”

“He’s clean.” Zach shook his head and turned to Liz, put his arm around her, and started up the hill. “Liz, we have to go.”

“Cammie killed him,” she said, the color gone from her already pale face.

“He’s not a good man, Liz,” Zach said, turning her around. He made her stare into his eyes. “He is not a good man. It’s good that he’s dead.”

“It’s good,” Liz repeated.

“I don’t know who he is,” Zach told her. “I don’t know why he’s here, but I know Abby’s right. We have to go.”

“We know something.” My voice was frail, as if it were just a shadow who was speaking.

Liz looked at me. “What?”

“We know they don’t need me alive anymore.”

Chapter Fifteen

What I said to my mom: I’m fine.

What I said to my aunt: It’s okay.

What I said to the doctor: It doesn’t hurt.

But I wasn’t fine. It wasn’t okay. And it did hurt. Everywhere. Even in the darkness of the suite, hours later, I could feel my roommates watching me. So I closed the bathroom door and turned the shower on high, the pounding of the water drowning out the pounding of my thoughts as I gripped the sink and leaned closer to the girl in the mirror.

Dirt and mud clung to her skin. The bruise at her hairline was a sickly shade of purple and green. It looked like the kind of thing you might find floating on a pond at the end of summer.

The only light came from the night-light Liz had plugged into the outlet by the sink on the first day of seventh grade, and yet it was easy to see the mud and grime. My hoodie was gone, somewhere—covered with Dr. Steve’s blood. New bruises blended with old, up and down my arms. The mirror began to fog, closing in on me like I was about to lose consciousness, but I had to stay awake.

“Cammie.” It was Liz’s voice, her familiar, faint knock on the bathroom door. “Cam…”

“I’m fine,” I said, for what felt like the billionth time. “I’m…” And then the words didn’t come.

I’m not fine.

I looked at the girl in the mirror, staring back, broken and bruised.

I’m not her.

The thought shook me.

I’m not her! I wanted to scream, but it was like I’d lost my voice as well as my memory.

That girl had come back from summer break. She had taken things from me. Zach and Bex. My summer. My life.

I had left, but that girl was the one who had come home.

And that girl was different.

I looked down at my hands. They were sore and red and stained with Dr. Steve’s blood.

That girl had blood on her hands.

Her hands knew things I wasn’t supposed to know. She did things I didn’t want to do.

I hated that girl, hated her as much as I hated the Circle. Distrusted her more than I distrusted Zach’s mom. Enemies are nothing compared to traitors, after all. It’s the people you hold closest who have the most power to make you bleed. And that girl…she was as close as anyone could possibly be.

I didn’t mean to do it, but in the next second, a hair dryer was flying through the air. It hit the mirror, and I watched the girl shatter; but she was still there. I could see her. So I grabbed Macey’s curling iron and hurled it at the image, and another piece of mirror cracked and crashed; but the noise was nothing compared to the banging on the bathroom door.

“Cammie, open this door!” Macey yelled. “Open this—”

“Cam!” Bex yelled, and a split second later the doorjamb splintered and Bex was rushing toward me, yelling, “Cammie!” She took one look at the shattered glass and the look on my face and said, “Cam, are you okay?”

But I didn’t answer. I was pulling open drawers and scavenging inside, saying, “I hate her. I hate her.”

I looked crazy. I was acting crazy. But I knew exactly what I was doing when I picked up the scissors.

“Cam!” Liz yelled.

But I just reached for the black hair that didn’t feel like my own, grabbed a handful, and…

“Cammie, no!” Bex snapped, like you might yell at a dog for chasing cars. It was a warning that I didn’t want to hurt myself. “No,” she said again, and with one motion, she twisted the scissors from my hand.

“I killed a man, Bex.”

“He would have killed me,” she said slowly, swagger gone. Ever since I’d known her, Bex had seemed practically bulletproof; but standing there, with blood on her sleeve, she trembled. “I would have died.”

“I don’t even remember picking up the gun,” I said, realizing that that was the most terrifying thing of all.

“I’m alive because you picked it up,” Bex told me.

I turned to the mirror and gently pulled the scissors from Bex’s grasp. “She did that.” I reached for a piece of hair and was just about to cut when Bex caught my hand again.

“Don’t do that,” she said, and for the first time in months, I saw Bex smile. “I seem to remember a bangs incident in the eighth grade that taught us you are not the person who should do that.”