Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 17)

“I’m afraid the medical staff has not cleared you for this particular exercise. You will have to sit this one out, dear.”

“But I don’t want to sit anything out.”

“Cameron, I will not be responsible for you re-injuring yourself.”

Not twenty-four hours before, I’d been fighting for my life in the woods around Joe Solomon’s cabin. No one had cleared me for that, I started to say, but thought better of it at the last minute.

“In the meantime,” Professor Buckingham went on, “I believe Dr. Steve has requested a word with you.”

My classmates went still, and I felt like the least chameleony girl in the world as I gathered my things and walked outside.

“Oh, Cammie, come in. Come in.”

Whatever pain meds Dr. Steve was taking for his shoulder, they must have been the strong ones. I mean the really strong ones, because he had gotten two of his shirt buttons in the wrong holes, spilled coffee all over his sling, and he was grinning like he was six years old and someone had just given him a puppy.

“So good to see you, Cammie. So good to see you,” he said over and over, each time emphasizing a different word.

“Uh…how are you, Dr. Steve?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m fine, my dear. Perfectly fine. Just a scratch, you know.”

I did know, but all I could hear were Zach’s words coming back, echoing in my ears: You could have died. You could have died. You could have—

“Cammie,” Dr. Steve said, jarring me back. “Well, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you just took a little trip.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s perfectly natural for—”

“No, I don’t mean sorry for ignoring you. I mean sorry for…” I trailed off, but pointed to his sling. “I’m sorry.”

“You shouldn’t be sorry, Cammie,” Dr. Steve said. “I don’t know what I would have done if you’d been hurt.” A darkness covered his face. He shivered as if the thought were simply too much, and then he forced himself to smile. “Now, tell me, how do you feel?”

“I’m fine.”

“No, Cammie”—he shook his head slowly—“how do you feel?” And then I knew he wasn’t talking about my bruises or my scars or even the knot that was growing steadily smaller on my head. He was the one who’d been shot, but Dr. Steve knew that I might have been the one seriously wounded on that hillside.

“I killed a man,” I said.

“Yes, you did.”

“He was going to stab Bex, so…I killed him.”

“And how does that make you feel?”

It was an excellent question—one the Gallagher Academy had never really taught me how to answer. I was tired and confused, guilty and relieved. But most of all, I felt nothing. And nothing, as it turns out, is one of the scariest feelings of all.

When I finally got back to the suite that night, I was greeted by a single sentence and three scorching looks.

“Where were you?”

“Why?” I asked, closing the door and dropping my books on the bed. I sat down and tried to pull off my shoes, but Macey was looming over me.

“It’s almost ten,” she explained.

“Wow. I guess I lost track of time. I was in the library.”

Bex looked at Liz. “I thought you looked in the library.”

Liz’s eyes were wide. “I did.”

The three of them turned as if they’d just caught me in an elaborate lie—like I’d run away again that afternoon but hadn’t bothered to tell them.

“I was in the stacks doing that makeup exam for Mr. Mosckowitz,” I said, but they were still staring at me. “I swear.”

I held up a hand, Scout’s-honor style, and Bex eased forward, slowly shaking her head. “Now’s not the time for disappearing acts, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, meaning it. All over the floor there were papers and charts and note cards. It was exactly what I’d always imagined the inside of Liz’s head to look like. “What’s all this?”

“Rome,” Liz said, as if that single word were an all-encompassing answer to my question.

I pointed to the line on a flip chart that just read MACEY in capital letters.

Macey shrugged. “I have a jet,” she said, because, I guess, “free jet” is an asset that should never be undervalued.

“Guys, that’s awesome, but I can’t go to Rome. You know that, right?”

“But…” Macey started, then trailed off, pointed at her name. “Jet.”

I wanted to tell them that no number of flash cards could change the fact that the Gallagher Academy was the one place where I was safe. I didn’t dare say that I was terrified that if I left our walls, the trustees might never agree to let me back in. Even then, in the quiet stillness of our room, I couldn’t bring myself to relive the words I’d heard the trustees utter, so I just shook my head.

“I’m never leaving again.”

“Fine. So you can’t go. But we can.” Bex pointed from herself to Liz and Macey.

“What exactly are you guys going to do? Wander around the streets of Rome with my picture, asking if anybody saw me bump my head?”

“We have a lead, Cam,” Liz said. “This is a good thing.” She picked up the bracelet that spelled out her name. “This is—”

“A trinket. A souvenir. It’s nothing.”

“Oh, not nothing,” Macey said. She held her thin wrist out so that her bracelet caught the light. “I saw something just like it in the September Vogue.”

Amazingly, that made me feel better. “Well, at least I’m a crazy person with good taste.”

“We’ll figure it out, Cam,” Liz said, hugging me, then climbing into her bed. “I hacked into the security feeds of all the airports and train stations in southern Italy. And I’ve got a worm working its way through the customs office database, running facial recognition software and…I promise we’ll figure it out.”

Even in the twin-size bed, Liz looked tiny, lying there with her covers pulled up to her chin. I wanted to keep her safe, protect them all. And for the first time since I got back, I wondered if they would have been better off if I had just kept running.

“Cam…” Macey’s voice brought me back. “You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

“Singing that song.”

“I’m sorry,” I said with a shake of my head. Liz’s eyes were closed, and Bex was in the bathroom. Macey and I were utterly alone when she looked at me.

“Where did you go?”

“That’s a good question,” I told her, and then I tried to go to sleep.

That night, when my dreams came, they came in Italian. There were dark alleys and faceless people lurking in the shadows of my mind. I grabbed for the bracelets, but my wrists were bare.

The necklace around my neck seemed to burn. And when I jolted awake, my hand grappled with it, half expecting to feel a scar.

My first thought was: Where am I?, but the soft sheets were familiar beneath my hands. My legs were tangled in the covers, keeping me there even as my mind ran down cobblestone streets. I lay back down on the bed and forced myself to breathe. To think. It was just a dream. It was only a…

There was a sound then, soft and light, and I spun to see a figure searching my closet in the dark. Not any of my roommates. Not Zach.

Abby.

I blinked twice just to make sure my messed-up mind wasn’t seeing things, but there was no mistaking the woman who turned to me, an empty duffel bag in her hands. “Get packed,” she whispered, and tossed the bag onto my bed. “Get dressed.” She started for the door. “We leave in twenty minutes.”

Okay, I know I was half asleep and brain damaged and all, but that seriously didn’t sound like the suggestion of someone who was convinced that I would never be allowed to leave my school again.

I threw off the covers and followed her into the hall.

“Abby—” I started.

“Come on, Squirt. Clock’s ticking. Spies are fast packers. Consider it your CoveOps lesson for the day.” She gestured to the door. “Now, go. And be quiet. We don’t want to wake—”

“Us?” Bex’s voice sounded even more mischievous than usual when she appeared in the doorway and crossed her arms, then turned to the girl behind her. “What do you think, Macey? I think she’s talking about us.”

But Abby didn’t answer. She just glared at me. “I said pack and dress quietly.”

“It’s not Cam’s fault,” Bex told her. “We rigged her bed so that if she gets up, I get an electric shock.”

“Liz designed it,” Macey said, and Bex shrugged.

“We told you we were taking precautions.”

Of course. Because at the Gallagher Academy, “precautions” usually equals “voluntary shock therapy.”

“So we’re leaving?” Macey asked, following Bex into the hallway. Despite the hour, there was a brightness in her blue eyes.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Abby snapped. “Cam, you now have ten minutes to get ready. Bex, you and Macey have ten seconds to go back to bed.”

“No,” Macey said, almost whining. For the first time in years, she actually sounded like the bored, spoiled heiress she was when she’d come to us.

“Yes,” Abby countered in an identical tone. Watching the two of them square off gave me an acute case of déjà vu, remembering when Abby had been Macey’s Secret Service agent—when Abby had taken a bullet meant for Macey.

Abby had taken a bullet…

“Go to bed, guys.” My voice was flat and even.

“But—”

“But no one else is getting hurt,” I said, cutting Bex off.

“Abby?” Mom appeared at the end of the hallway. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see us up. And arguing.

“They hot-wired Cam’s bed,” Abby said with a shrug.

“Of course they did,” my mother said.

“You’ve got to take us with you,” Macey said, but it wasn’t a plea. It was more a statement of fact.

“And why is that?” Mom asked.

“We know Cammie,” Macey said. “You need us to help you figure out where she went and what she did.”

“Yeah,” Bex agreed. “And you’re not going through official channels on this, are you?”

Mom and Abby shared a glance, which was answer enough for Bex.

“Of course you aren’t. You can’t risk telling Langley. The Circle has way too many moles at the CIA. And the more people who know, the more likely you are to have a repeat of what happened at the cabin, so you aren’t telling anyone, and you aren’t taking any backup. We’re alone now. We are all alone.”

“I wouldn’t say that, girls,” Abby said. “I’ll have some backup.”

“You’re not taking enough,” Bex countered. She sounded very much like Abby’s equal. “If we were underclassmen, sure. Maybe. We would have argued, but we would have been wrong. But now we’re a semester and a half away from being field-qualified, and we’ve already seen more real-world ops than most new graduates see in five years.”