Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 14)
And then the strangest thing happened: my roommates laughed. I looked in the mirror and realized I was laughing too.
Macey turned to Liz. “Dr. Fibs has hydrogen peroxide in the lab, right?”
Liz sounded almost offended. “Of course he does.”
“Get it,” Macey said, turning back to me. “We have work to do.”
It wasn’t like we talked a lot. But then again, it’s not like there was all that much left to say. We’d seen things. We’d done things. And I wasn’t the only one who was still waiting for me to come home from my summer vacation.
I leaned over the sink and let Bex wash and bleach my hair. Then Macey took the scissors and trimmed away my dead, uneven ends. I sat, letting my best friends work around me, watching as the person I had been last summer washed away down the drain.
That night I couldn’t sleep.
It might have been the adrenaline or the new scratches on my body. I told myself it had something to do with the smell of hydrogen peroxide which lingered in the air, but if that was it, then I was the only one it bothered. My friends were around me, snoring softly. Bex had an ice pack on her shoulder. Macey slept with a self-satisfied smirk across her face. And Liz was listening to headphones, memorizing the audio version of some ancient textbook while she dreamed.
But not me.
I lay on my back, staring at the ceiling, and every time I closed my eyes, I saw the blood on Dr. Steve’s sleeve. Every time I almost drifted off to sleep, I heard the music, soft and lingering in the corners of my mind.
Finally, I threw the covers aside, crept into the bathroom with its busted mirror, and pulled on my uniform as quietly as I could.
“Where are you going?” Bex asked when I reappeared. She was sitting up in bed and squinting at me through the dark.
“Waffles,” I told her. Bex raised one eyebrow, doubtful. The clock beside her bed read five forty-five a.m. “The kitchen will be open soon, and I want…” There were so many ways that sentence might have ended. Answers. My memory. But most of all I needed my mom to hug me and smooth my hair and tell me I wasn’t a terrible person for pulling that trigger the day before.
So instead I just said, “Waffles. I’m craving waffles.”
Bex rolled onto her side. “Tell your waffles hi for me.”
There’s something especially beautiful about the Gallagher Academy when the classrooms are dark and the halls are quiet. Moonlight falls through the stained glass windows; shadows creep across the stairs. It looks like the most peaceful place on earth. Too bad every spy knows that looks can be deceiving.
“Thank you for coming.”
At the sound of Professor Buckingham’s voice, I froze in the middle of the Hall of History, staring down at the foyer below.
“You really didn’t have to rush,” Buckingham said, closing the front door behind two women I’d occasionally seen but had never met.
They wore heavy coats and heavier expressions, and there was no uncertainty at all in the younger woman’s voice when she said, “I assure you, we did.”
“Where’s Rachel?” the older woman asked.
“In her office.”
“And the girl?” the young woman said.
Buckingham seemed to bristle a little at the word, but she folded her hands and said, “Sleeping.” She gestured toward the Grand Staircase. “We’ll be ready to begin soon.” I slid around the corner while they climbed. It was easy for me to be invisible in the long shadowy corridor. I was still the Chameleon, after all, as I stood watching the trustees descend upon the Gallagher Academy.
Knowing they were there because of me.
There’s a passageway I never use. Or, well, hardly ever. Seriously, that particular passageway is an EMERGENCY SITUATIONS ONLY kind of thing, and, call me crazy, but it was starting to feel more than a little emergency-ish by the second.
The trustees were there.
In five and a half years at the Gallagher Academy, I’d seen them at my school maybe a half dozen times (and that included the time Dr. Fibs accidentally activated—but didn’t detonate!—a nuclear warhead in the labs). This wasn’t a meeting, I knew. This was an emergency.
“Where are you going?”
I stopped and turned, and wondered if I’d ever get used to the sight of Zach in our halls, wearing his official Gallagher Academy workout gear—the clean white T-shirt with the official school crest. It was maybe the best cover legend I’d ever seen: Zachary Goode, preppy schoolboy. But I couldn’t touch him. It was like there was still a fire between us. I wondered if we would ever leave the tombs.
“Cammie,” he said, urgency rising in his voice, “are you—”
“I’m fine,” I said, darting into a sitting room that nobody ever used. “Hold this.” I picked up the fireplace poker and moved it out of the way.
“Gallagher Girl…” He sounded skeptical, but that didn’t stop me from pressing against the Gallagher Academy crest that was engraved into the mantel. Zach stood in wonder as, one by one, the stones began to roll away.
“I just want to check on something.” I ducked down and stepped over the ashes of a fire that had long since gone out, careful not to leave any tracks.
“Does this something have anything to do with the two limos that just pulled up outside?” Zach asked, and followed. But I didn’t answer.
“I thought the passageways were all blocked off,” he said from behind me.
“The ones they know about are closed up. And besides, this one doesn’t go outside. It’s not a perimeter threat.”
The passageway was dim and tight. Old wooden beams cut through the space, covered with dust. There were spiderwebs and a mouse or two, and Zach had to crouch low and turn his broad shoulders at odd angles to follow, but he did. And he didn’t say another word.
“Originally, a lot of these were servants’ hallways.” I leaned down and slipped under a beam. “For a while, during the Civil War, the mansion was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It wasn’t until Gilly took the building over and turned it into a school that she really started expanding everything, though. She had to keep up appearances, you know. It was just as important then that the truth about us stay a secret.”
I went on, slipping forward as quiet as a ghost, toward the narrow passage that looked through a small opening, right into my mother’s office.
Mom sat stoically behind her desk. Abby was at her right side, standing almost at attention. I felt Zach catch my arm. “You don’t want to be here, Gallagher Girl.”
“It’s the trustees, Zach. The trustees never come unless something big is going on.”
“If it were something that pertained to you, then you’d be in the room and not spying on it.”
“Why are you up, Zach?” I asked, and I could tell the question had knocked him off his game.
He actually stumbled a little before saying, “At Blackthorne, we ran drills every day at dawn. Old habits die—”
“How did you find me?” I went on, too exhausted to listen to any more lies. “Mom told you to keep an eye out for me this morning, didn’t she?”
“Cammie,” Zach started.
“She didn’t want to risk my seeing…this.” I turned back to the small opening and studied the two trustees who sat at the center of the room. Professor Buckingham stood by the windows, and everyone seemed focused on the speakerphone that sat on the edge of my mother’s desk.
“Rachel, I understand your concerns,” a male voice boomed from the box.
“With all due respect, sir,” Abby said, “I don’t think you do.”
“Abigail,” the older of the trustees warned.
“We told you Cammie went to the cabin when she left here last summer,” Abby said. “And now it looks like the Circle has probably had the place under surveillance since the day she got back.”
“Agent Cameron, are you implying…”
“That the CIA has a leak, sir?” Abby guessed. “Yes, I am.” She took a deep breath, and I got the impression that this was well-worn territory in a long conversation. “Where the Circle is concerned, the CIA always has leaks.”
“That wouldn’t be a concern if you’d just keep the girl inside the school,” said another male and unfamiliar voice. I wished the Baxters were there. I got the impression that Mom and Abby needed all the allies they could muster.
“Truthfully,” the younger trustee started, “given recent events, I’m far less concerned about whether or not it’s safe for her to leave than whether or not it is safe for her to stay.”
“Cammie is not dangerous,” Mom said.
“Really, Rachel.” The older trustee cocked an eyebrow. “I think there’s a body in the morgue at Langley that says otherwise.”
“That was self-defense,” Buckingham snapped from her place near the window.
“Yes, it was.” The older woman turned to her. “This time. But can anyone swear that there won’t be a next time?”
No one said a thing. I guess none of them was certain of the answer. It took me a moment to realize: neither was I.
“If it’s true that the Circle no longer needs—or wants—her alive, then the girl faces a serious threat, that’s certain,” the younger trustee said. “But what we would like to know is whether or not she is a threat.”
I felt myself tremble. My hands balled into fists. For a second I thought I was seeing things, my vision going as black as my memories as the older trustee turned to my mother and asked, “Is the girl stable, Rachel?”
“The girl’s name is Cammie,” Aunt Abby said.
“Is she capable of betraying the confidence and security of this school?” the trustee went on. “Rachel, you had to know that your daughter wasn’t…herself.”
My mother didn’t turn away from the accusation. She held her head high. “Oh, I know that very well.”
How many times had my mother warned me not to pick at my memories, not to go digging around in the dark? I realized then that Mom and Abby weren’t just afraid of what I might have lived through. They were terrified of what I might have done.
“When the Circle had her…” Abby started, but one of the trustees cut her off.
“If the Circle had her.”
“What are you saying?” Mom countered.
“Maybe they never had her at all. Maybe they sent her back for some reason,” the trustee said, running through the options.
“Cammie is no double agent. She wasn’t turned,” Abby snapped, but the trustee talked on.
“The truth is, we don’t know anything. Your daughter ran away, Rachel,” the younger trustee said. “I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re very interested to know exactly who came back.”
I didn’t want to watch any more. I couldn’t bear to listen. So I pulled away and pushed farther into the tunnels, deeper and deeper into the belly of the school. Zach was taller and stronger, but I had a body that was made to disappear, and I could hear him chasing after me, struggling to keep up.