Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 22)
“July.” Preston looked afraid again. And he was right to. “She showed up on the Fourth of July. I remember because I’d been wishing there were fireworks.” He looked at me. “Then you came and…well…I guess I got them.”
“She came here—to this embassy—in July?” Abby asked.
“No.” Preston shook his head. “She came to me.”
The room was cold and still. Outside, the sun was beaming. It was going to be a gorgeous fall day, and I tried to imagine Rome in summer.
“You said you were backpacking through Europe and missed a train, got separated from your parents. That’s what you said, at least.”
“But you saw through me?” I asked, genuinely embarrassed.
“Really, Cam…you didn’t even have a backpack.” He laughed and shrugged. “At first I thought…well, I don’t know what I thought. You were sick or something. You totally charmed Mom and Dad, though. They insisted you take the guest room across the hall from mine, and it felt like you slept for a week. You were so—”
“And you didn’t call me!” Macey shouted. I saw Townsend shift, annoyed, but Macey couldn’t be held back. “My friend shows up on your doorstep in a foreign country, exhausted and alone, and you didn’t think ‘Hey, maybe I should drop Macey a line’?”
“Macey,” Abby said, but Macey pushed her aside.
“She was alone!” Six months’ worth of worry and grief was pouring out of her. “She was sick and she was alone…all summer. She was alone,” Macey said one final time and backed away.
Everyone—Bex and Abby, even Townsend and Zach—stood staring. It seemed to take forever for Preston to drop into a chair. “Do you ever think about Boston, Macey?” he asked. “About what happened on the roof? I do. I think about it all the time.”
He ran his hands through his hair, then placed them on the table.
“I still dream about it sometimes.” He made a slow circular motion in the air with one finger. “I see the helicopter—the way the shadow spun on the roof. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that spinning shadow. And the way the two of you didn’t seem afraid. And that woman—” At the mention of his mother, Zach went horribly still. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget that woman.” Preston shook his head and looked at Macey. “I think about it all the time.”
“No,” he snapped, cutting her off. “You don’t. Because, if you did, then you’d know that when the girl who saved your life shows up on your doorstep hungry and exhausted, you take her in, and you bring her some food, and you wait for her to wake up. You want to know why I didn’t call you? Because when that girl shows up on your doorstep, you do exactly what she says to do, and she said not to call anyone.”
Preston pointed to me, then stood and paced to the windows that overlooked the front of the embassy where tourists and expatriates stood waiting for access to that small piece of American soil.
“Everyone comes here when they’re lost.”
It made sense, why I’d come there. The only question that remained was why I’d had to leave.
“Preston,” I said, “was I…dangerous?”
“What?” he asked and shook his head. “You were sleepy. That’s it. I thought you were just exhausted and needed a place to rest.” He wheeled on me. “Now it’s your turn to explain. What brings you back?”
“Preston, it’s sort of…complicated. You know what happened on election night and in Boston, but you don’t know about—”
“The Circle of Cavan,” Preston filled in.
“Ms. Morgan,” Townsend warned.
“It’s okay,” Preston told him. “These rooms are swept for bugs every day, and my dad doesn’t allow regular surveillance in the family quarters. We can talk here.” He looked at me. “You really don’t remember?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Don’t remember…what, specifically?” he asked.
I took a deep breath. “Summer.”
I expected him to ask questions, to give me the Cammie’s-lost-her-marbles or someone-is-playing-tricks-on-me looks, but they didn’t come. Instead, he reached into his pockets and pulled out a passport and a small book bound in the Gallagher Academy’s own library.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I thought you would call or something after you left, but—”
“She left?” Bex asked.
“Yeah. I came home one day and your stuff was gone. I found a stained towel and an empty box of hair dye…and these.”
Zach reached for the passport and smiled. “I know this name. It’s one of Joe’s. You must have gotten it from his stash.”
He handed the passport to Abby, but it was the book I was afraid to touch, not because it was unknown to me, but because I could recite every word and knew it had no place within those walls.
Bex turned to the first page and read the opening line: “‘I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they just disappear…’”
“What is that?” Zach asked, and I shook my head. It felt so strange that he could know me and not know those words.
“It’s a report,” I said. “About what happened fall semester, sophomore year.”
I’d written those words so long before, they felt almost like ancient history. I wasn’t embarrassed, I realized, because in so many ways they had been written by another girl.
A silly girl.
A naive girl.
A girl who missed her father and longed for a normal life.
I didn’t want normal anymore. Right then, I was willing to settle for life. Period.
“I brought a fake ID and an old CoveOps report to Rome. To sleep,” I said, bewildered.
“No.” Preston shook his head. “After a week or so you woke up and…” He trailed off, looked at us all in turn. “You were here, Cammie, because you said you needed to rob a bank.”
The piazza was busy late the next afternoon. We stared down at it from the roof of a building across the way. I knew where the pigeons went when they scattered and what gelato stores were popular with tourists and which ones the locals preferred. But despite six hours of staring at la Banca dell’Impero, I still had no idea if I’d been there over my summer vacation. Or why.
All I really knew were the options.
Option one: forget what we’d heard and go back to school. Option two: call the CIA, the Marines, MI6, and the entire alumni association of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, and in the process, call a whole lot of attention to ourselves. Option three: we could watch and we could wait.
So option three was what we did.
“Guard change,” Bex said, her eyes never moving from the binoculars that had been a permanent part of her face for hours. Townsend made a note, and I remembered the immortal advice of Joe Solomon that, at its heart, being a spy is boring.
The older I got, the smarter my teachers became.
“Where’s Zach?” I asked.
“Working,” Townsend said from behind us.
“I want to work,” I told him. “Why can’t we work?”
“We are working, Cam,” Bex reminded me. “Just…safely.” Bex raised the binoculars again, and I thought about how neither she nor Macey had let me out of their sight all day. (I did, however, draw the line when Bex tried to handcuff herself to me before we napped that morning.)
It had been a full-time mission just staring down at the cobblestones, and I couldn’t help but remember that this too would pass. I wasn’t going to spend forever looking. Eventually, I had to get off that roof.
But I was still there an hour later when Zach and Preston climbed over the ladder that ran to the fire escape at the roof’s edge.
“You got it?” Townsend asked.
“Yes, sir,” Zach said, and I found it more than a little disturbing how fantastically the two of them were getting along. They were all monosyllables and perfect posture. I slumped against the stone railing, tired and annoyed.
“Don’t mind me,” I said. “I’m just the person who tried to rob the place last July.”
“No, you didn’t,” Abby said, appearing on the roof. She was wearing a trim suit and tall black boots. Her hair was pulled into a sleek ponytail at the nape of her neck, and either I was imagining things or Townsend wasn’t quite as good a spy as I thought, because I could have sworn I saw him drool a little.
Note to self: your aunt is a hottie.
“There was no break-in at that bank.” The cool wind blew the ponytail, splaying dark tresses across Abby’s fair skin, but she didn’t move to brush the hair away as she turned to look at Townsend. “If Cammie, or well…Summer Cammie…came to Rome to visit that bank—”
“It was that one,” Preston insisted, but Abby talked on.
“She either didn’t do it—”
“Or she did it so well it didn’t send up any flares?” Bex guessed.
Abby nodded. “Exactly.” She turned to me. “So I don’t think you did it.”
“Maybe she did,” Macey said, leaping to protect my honor. “Cammie could rob a bank.”
“Yes, she could,” Abby agreed.
I just sat there, craving gelato.
“But not that bank,” Townsend said, stepping closer to my aunt and giving her a knowing nod.
The building across the way looked like a church or a beautiful old mansion. I’d been staring at it long enough to know it also looked like a fortress.
Preston inched forward, as if part of him knew that he’d stumbled (or been dragged) into a conversation that was about ten times beyond the clearance level of an ambassador’s son.
“Like I told you yesterday and”—he looked at the group and then at me—“you last summer, my dad banks there. That bank is popular with a lot of diplomats. Foreign dignitaries…”
“Spies,” Aunt Abby finished for him.
“Your mom? Does your mom bank there?” I asked Zach, crossing the distance between us in three short strides. “Does she?”
He turned and stared into the distance. “I don’t know. It seems like her sort of place.” Then he turned back to me in a flash. “Which is why it’s time to let the CIA take over.” He cut his eyes at Townsend. “And MI6 if they want in.”
“Oh,” Townsend said slowly, “MI6 does.”
“But—” I started, and Zach cut me off.
“But now we get you out of here.” He reached for me.
“No,” I said, jerking away.
I looked to my best friends for backup, but Bex just shook her head. “I agree with Zach.”
“Big surprise,” I huffed.
“You don’t know what you’re walking into, Cam,” she told me. “You don’t know why or how or even if you’ve walked in there before.”