Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 19)

“Very well, Ms. Morgan.” We’d reached a place in the market where the streets branched and the crowds were thinner. He released my shoulders and stepped slightly away. “What do you see?”

I took a deep breath and told myself that it was just another school assignment. There was no difference between that busy foreign street and the Roseville town square. It was just another Wednesday.

I turned and looked, saw a vendor selling cashmere gloves and heavy coats. I smelled freshly roasted nuts, and in the distance, someone was playing a guitar, picking out a song with words I didn’t know. It was the kind of place a person might go to fall in love; but Zach was on another continent, and my mind was totally supposed to be on other things.

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the hot sun on my skin. I mentally changed the bulletproof vest for a tank top, my sneakers for sandals. A sweet taste lingered on my tongue, and part of me knew that I’d tasted the gelato before—that I’d sworn to come back and try that place again.

“Take your time, Cam,” Bex said, and I opened my eyes just as the crowd parted, and I found myself staring at an old woman in a stall twenty feet away.

“Ah, signorina,” the old woman said to Macey, reaching for her arm. Abby moved to block her way, but then the old woman saw me. She stopped and stared and said, “So you did come back.”

It took me a moment to register that she was speaking in Italian.

And she was speaking to me.

“Your friends”—she gestured to Bex and Macey—“they like very much?”

“What are you talking about?” I moved toward her too quickly. I could tell she was afraid, but I couldn’t slow down as I blurted, “How do you know me? What—”

“Cam.” Bex’s voice cut me off. “Look,” she said, pointing to the jewelry that filled the woman’s booth. Necklaces and earrings and bracelets—hundreds of bracelets exactly like the ones my best friends wore.

“I make myself,” the old woman said. Her English was broken and heavily accented. “You look so lovely, signorina.” She patted her hair as if to say that something was different. “I like. Shows your pretty face.”

I had been there. I’d had long hair, and I had been there.

“When?” Macey pushed me aside to ask the question. “When was she here?” she said again, this time in Italian.

The old woman looked at her as if she were crazy not to just ask me, but then she shrugged and answered. “It was July, I think. Very hot.” She fanned herself and turned to me. “Very busy day, but you waited. You and your young man.”

For a moment I was sure I must have been hearing things. The crowded streets were too loud, my head too broken. But the words were still there, echoing down the cobblestones.

Me and my young man.

“What…what does it mean?” Macey asked.

“It means Cammie was here,” Townsend said simply.

“And I wasn’t alone.”

Chapter Twenty-three

Abby must have been the one who found the safe house, because Townsend didn’t like it.

“The building across the street is under construction,” he snarled as soon as we’d carried our bags inside.

“The elevator has key card access, and I’ve hacked into the surveillance cameras from every system on the block,” Abby argued. “We have a three-hundred-sixty-degree visual.”

“Excellent.” Townsend dropped his bag. “Now the Circle can see us from every angle.”

“Don’t mind Agent Townsend, girls,” Abby told us. “He’s a glass-half-empty kind of spy.”

“Also known as the good kind,” he countered. Abby huffed.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” she said, but Townsend either didn’t hear or didn’t care. He just went to check the windows of the small apartment, mumbling about inferior locks and closed-circuit TVs as he went.

There were only four rooms in the flat, a living room with galley kitchen, two bedrooms, and one bath. Abby pointed to the door that led to the largest bedroom in the back. “You’re in there. It’s time for you three to get some sleep.”

“But I’m not sleepy,” Bex said.

“Doesn’t matter. We lost six hours in flight, and now it’s bedtime.” Abby cocked a hip. “Jet lag—it’s killed more spies than anthrax. Now, go. Townsend and I will take shifts. We need the three of you rested.” Abby grabbed a duffel and headed down the narrow hall. “Meanwhile, I’m going to call in.”

I didn’t follow. I just stayed in the dim living room, listening to my aunt’s voice, soft and low, coming from the other room. Somewhere in the apartment, water was running. I could imagine Macey washing her face, Bex brushing her teeth. The smart thing would have been to do exactly as my aunt had told me and at least try to rest, but I was both too wired and too exhausted to sleep. Rome was right outside our window, and through the glass, the city called to me. It felt like we were playing a very strange, very high-stakes game of hide-and-seek, and I didn’t have a clue where Summer Me might have been hiding.

“It’s probably best not to stand next to the window, Ms. Morgan.”

“I know,” I said, the words coming out harder than I’d intended. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I guess—”

“It’s okay, Cammie. I know that you know. Your aunt hasn’t ruined you entirely. Yet.”

And then, in the reflection in the glass, I could have sworn I saw Agent Townsend smile. It was the closest thing to a compliment I’d ever heard him give. And even though it wasn’t much of one, I was willing to take it.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked, the question taking me by surprise. “Why are you…helping me?”

“You assume that helping you is why I’m here.” The man leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “Perhaps I have ulterior motives.”

“Oh,” I said, and then I couldn’t help it: the words of MI6 and the CIA, the trustees, and even my own mother were coming back to me in a flood. “Is it because I’m dangerous?”

“It is.” He didn’t try to soften the words, cushion the blow. He just pushed away from the wall and added, “But not in the way you think you are.”

When Townsend pulled aside the heavy curtain, the glow of the streetlights sliced across his face, highlighting dark stubble and striking blue eyes.

“Whatever is in your mind, Ms. Morgan, the Circle has devoted a great many resources to getting it—and now to making sure no one else can have it. That makes it something I would very much like to have. And that makes you someone I would very much like to protect.”

He had the quiet, confident gaze of a truly great operative, and it felt a little like I was looking at Zach…in the future. I remembered why, once upon a time, for about a second and a half, I’d thought Agent Townsend was dreamy.

“You can have it.” I couldn’t help myself; I smiled. “If we figure out what it is, I’ll totally give it to you.”

He smiled back. “Deal.”

I could hear Abby on the phone, her voice floating toward us from the other room.

“Now go to sleep, Ms. Morgan. That aunt of yours is difficult enough when things go according to plan.”

Someone had boarded up the windows of the bedroom and brought in three small mattresses. Macey and Bex were each sitting on one, and Abby paced between them, a satellite phone to her ear.

“She’s right here, Rachel,” Abby said. She rolled her eyes, then nodded. “Yes, I’m looking at her. Ha-ha.”

She sounded like a kid sister, and for about the zillionth time in my life, I regretted being an only child. But then Macey threw a pillow at Bex, and I realized that maybe “only child” was just a technicality.

“You want to talk to her?” Abby asked me, but of all the things I wanted to say to my mother, none of them would help, so I shook my head and sank onto an empty mattress.

“She’s in bed,” Abby told her sister. “Yeah,” she said, nodding. “Uh-huh. Of course. Yeah, well you can tell Townsend—Why is everyone forgetting about Buenos Aires?!” She threw her hand in the air, and my friends and I had to bite back a laugh. “Yeah,” Abby said, after a long time. “Don’t worry. She isn’t leaving our sight.”

Finally, Abby hung up the phone. Only then did I notice the way that Bex and Macey were sitting, straight up on their beds. Waiting, listening.

“What’s going on?” I asked, searching their eyes for some kind of clue.

“Just checking in with your mom, Squirt.” There was no worry in Abby’s voice. No fear. It was exactly how she was supposed to sound. She gave me a quick wink and closed the door, and my only thought was Aunt Abby is the Best Liar Ever.

“Tell me,” I said, turning to Bex.

“Don’t be silly, Cam. For a totally unofficial mission, this thing is going way better than—”

I turned and set my sights on Macey. “What is it?”

“It’s nothing,” she said.

“So there is an ‘it’?” I asked.

Macey looked like I’d just kicked her in the stomach. I turned back to Bex, who shrugged and said, “It’s probably nothing.”

“You know who I was with, don’t you?” I asked, standing and moving toward her, but she was already up and meeting me halfway. “You know!”

“Shh. Do you want Townsend busting in here?” she asked, but I talked on.

“I’ve told you everything I know, and now the two of you are holding out on me?”

Interrogation tactics, I learned from Mr. Solomon. Guilt, I got from Grandma Morgan. It must have worked, too, because in the next moment, Macey was saying, “I trust Zach, Cam. I know his mom is evil and all, but I know evil parents. And I know you don’t have to end up like them, so I trust Zach.”

I stood there listening to the words, but they didn’t quite make sense.

“Uh…okay,” I told her. “But Zach was with Bex last summer.”

“Not with me with me,” Bex clarified.

“Yeah,” I said, almost ashamed of where I’d allowed my mind to go just days before. “Of course. He was with your—”

“And not all summer,” Bex said, staring down at her hands.

“Bex,” I spoke slowly, surely, “tell me everything you know.”

In the living room, Townsend and Abby were arguing again, their voices floating through the wall; but the only words that mattered were Bex’s.

“After you left and school was out, your mom was going crazy, and Mr. Solomon was…sick. So my mom said Zach should come to London—that’d he’d be safe with us.” Bex shook her head slowly. “Everything was crazy. Everyone was crazy.”

“Bex, I know.”

“No,” Macey snapped. “You don’t. Remember when I ran away? Well, multiply that by about a thousand and then maybe you’ll start to understand.”