Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 15)

Eventually, the tunnel widened. Pale, predawn light sliced through the room from a dusty, narrow window, and I stood, panting, the trustees’ words echoing in my head.

“Don’t do that.” Zach grabbed my hand and spun me toward him. “Don’t ever run away again.”

“I killed someone,” I said.

“You saved Bex,” he countered.

“They think I’m dangerous. They think—”

“They don’t know you!”

My hair was almost its normal color. My uniform didn’t swallow me quite like it had a week before. Slowly, my body was starting to feel more like my own. But I wasn’t the girl I’d been when I left, and I knew it. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the best spies in the world would know it too.

“They don’t know you,” Zach said again. He grabbed my hands. “I know you.”

“They’re strangers,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he agreed, as if that should make me feel better.

“Impartial, informed, unbiased strangers.” I pulled away and looked up into his eyes. “And they think something is wrong.”

I wanted him to argue, to say that everything was going to be fine. It was a lie I was ready and willing to believe. But the words didn’t come. Instead, Zach ran a hand through his hair and asked, “Why did you kill him, Cammie?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I don’t even remember doing it. I was—”

“Why didn’t you let me?”

Okay, now’s probably the time to say that I totally wasn’t expecting that.

Zach leaned closer to me, covering the minuscule space in a step. “They teach us how to do those things. At Blackthorne.”

It felt strange to have him volunteer anything about his school—his life. It felt even weirder to have him get things wrong.

“The Gallagher Academy doesn’t exactly leave its graduates clueless on the subject, you know.” I didn’t mean to sound offended, but I was.

But Zach was shaking his head. “They teach you how to save lives. They teach us how to take them. And then, how to live with ourselves after…” He touched the cool glass of the window. “It’s all my fault.”

“Nothing is your fault.”

“I told you to run away.” Zach shook his head. “I gave you the idea.”

“No you didn’t,” I said. “I’d known for a long time that it was my best option.”

“You should have taken me!” Zach didn’t seem to realize he was shouting. And if he had known, I seriously doubt he would have cared. “You needed me.”

He reached for the spot on my head, but I sidestepped his touch and moved away.

“Why? So I could watch Mr. Solomon’s protégé throw himself on another bomb to protect me? So that I could watch someone else get hurt?”

“So we could keep each other safe.”

“News flash, Zach. I am safe!”

He looked at me like I was a crazy person. Trust me. I’m a teenage amnesiac. It’s a look I know pretty well.

“You could have died, Cammie.”

“I’m breathing,” I said, defiant. “And I’m home and—”

“You could have died,” he said, easing closer.

“I’m fine,” I said just as Zach reached me.

“You could have died,” he said just as my tears finally came.

I kept shaking my head, saying over and over, “I don’t remember. I don’t remember.”

Was I talking about my summer, or about picking up the gun? Pulling the trigger, or assembling the rifle on my first day back to school? I didn’t know. Everything ran together in a blur.

“I killed someone.”

“I know.”

“I killed someone, and I don’t even remember pulling the trigger. That can’t be normal. You take a man’s life, you should remember it. You should think about it. You should know what you’re doing and…”

But I never finished because then Zach’s lips found mine. His hands burned as they left my arms and moved through my hair, bracing the back of my neck. My head still hurt, but there was no music playing.

“I remember this.” I felt my hand run along his chest, his breath warm on the side of my face. I breathed him in—Zach. “I remember this.”

And then he kissed me again, and the kiss was all that mattered. He pulled back, traced his lips across the tender place on my head.

“I…” I heard my voice trail off, my thoughts centering on the single thing I really had to know. “Are you afraid of me, Zach?”

“No.”

I looked at him, felt my hands shake and my voice break as I whispered, “I am.”

Chapter Eighteen

You might think being the target of an international terrorist organization, an amnesiac, and a girl with hair dyed in the middle of the night by Macey McHenry would make people stare at you. Well, try walking into the Grand Hall with seriously puffy eyes while holding hands. With a boy.

“Well, how are you this morning?” Tina Walters said, and I knew she had no idea what had happened on our field trip, or who had come to our door before the sun had risen. Or why.

I hoped they would never know why.

“Scoot,” Zach told her, and Tina smiled, sliding down to make room for the two of us on the bench.

He reached for the bacon in the center of the table, handed the plate to me.

“No thank you,” I said. “I’m not hungry.”

“I thought you wanted waffles,” Bex said, eyeing me.

“I—”

“Here.” Zach dropped a waffle onto my plate and reached for the butter.

“No, I’m really not—”

“You’re too skinny,” said Liz, a girl who I swear once bought a pair of pants that were a size double zero and had to have them taken in.

“It’s true,” Macey added. “Some girls look better with some fullness in their face.”

So I buttered my waffle and took a piece of bacon from the plate.

Bex smiled at me from across the table. “The hair looks good.” She turned to Macey. “Good call on the trim.”

“Yeah,” Macey said, eyeing her handiwork. “It’s a patch job, but it’s better.”

Everything looked normal. Everything sounded normal. But I still had cobwebs on my sweater and dust on my skirt, and the words I’d heard were still there, rattling around inside my head so loudly I thought that I might scream.

Zach must have sensed it, because he moved his hand to the small of my back and rested it there.

“Did you see your mom?” Bex reached for the carafe and poured herself a cup of hot tea as if nothing were wrong; but all I could think about was what I’d heard her say on my first night back: They’re pretending.

I didn’t say what I was thinking—that I was pretending too.

“Um…” I mumbled, stumbling over the answer. “She was busy.”

Everyone nodded. No one thought to ask, Busy with what?

So I ate my waffle and drank my juice and didn’t say a word about what Zach and I had overheard in my mother’s office.

“I’m stuffed,” I said ten minutes later, and nobody argued as I stood and started for the door.

With my friends and Zach around me, it might have been easy to pretend that we were typical students starting a typical day. But then Liz dropped her backpack.

Trust me when I say it was a sight I’d totally seen before. The floor was littered with textbooks and note cards, piles of paper and an extensive collection of highlighters that Liz herself had patented. But then I looked past the mess to the things I totally didn’t expect—bills and magazines, a whole bunch of thin circulars boasting pizza prices and going-out-of-business sales.

“What’s that?” Macey asked, picking up a flyer about an upcoming local election.

“Mail,” Liz said. Bex raised her eyebrows, and Liz lowered her voice. “I got it from the cabin,” she whispered. “I thought I’d go read it to him.”

She didn’t use Mr. Solomon’s name—she didn’t dare there, in the middle of the Grand Hall. But we all knew who she meant. When a pair of eighth graders stopped and tried to help us pick everything up, Macey said, “We’ve got it,” in a There’s nothing to see here tone, and the girls walked on.

“Oh, I’m sure he’s very interested in”—Bex reached for a flyer—“the prices of fertilizer at the local feed store.”

“It might help.” Liz sounded offended, and I couldn’t blame her. She had the biggest brain of anyone I knew. She was going to use all of hers to fix Mr. Solomon’s. “According to Strouse and Fleinberg, normal interactions, conversations, and activities can stimulate the unconscious mind to…”

Liz went on, citing obscure studies and unproven hypotheses, but I’d stopped listening. I was too busy staring down at a padded manila envelope that had fallen to the floor with the rest of the letters. There were Italian stamps and an airmail sticker from France.

“Who’s that from?” Bex asked, following my gaze.

My voice was tight and low as I whispered, “Me.”

Chapter Nineteen

It happened in a flash.

One moment we were staring at an envelope bearing rows of familiar handwriting and a postmark from Rome. The next, Bex was grabbing the package and running between the tables, bolting through the foyer and up the stairs.

She was practically flying. Something was coming over my roommates, pulling them toward my mother’s office, and it didn’t take a student at spy school to know that that something…was hope.

But Bex hadn’t seen the trustees. Macey hadn’t heard the deep voices on the phone. Liz didn’t know the questions that swirled around me—the ones not even she could answer. They just knew there was a clue, and so they ran faster.

“Bex,” I said just as my best friend yelled, “Headmistress,” and ran past Gilly’s sword in its gleaming case. “Headmistress!” she called again.

“Bex, I think she’s—”

My mother’s office door flew open.

“Busy,” I finished, the word more exhale than whisper.

“What?” Aunt Abby asked, and the look on her face made me skid to a stop, frozen in my tracks. Liz actually ran into me, stumbled, and knocked over a display of hat pins-slash-poisoned daggers that had been used by a Gallagher Girl during the First World War.

Zach reached down and pulled her effortlessly to her feet, but all I could do was stare at Abby, who was coming toward me through the Hall of History. She neither smiled nor joked. “This is not a good time.”

“We need to see Headmistress Morgan,” Bex said. “We need to talk to both of you.”

“Not now.” Abby started to turn and go back to my mother’s office, but Bex thrust the package toward her.

“This was at the cabin!”

Abby’s eyes got wide as she stared down and whispered, “Rome.”