Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 24)
There was a new attendant waiting for me when I finally opened the door and stepped outside. He glanced behind me and saw the empty box sitting on the table, then asked in Italian if everything was okay.
“Sì,” I told him. I started to turn and go back the way we’d come, but the man gestured in the opposite direction.
“This way,” he said.
“But…” I pointed to where the main lobby lay.
“The exit is this way,” he said, so I followed.
I don’t know if it was some latent memory or just a sick feeling in my gut, but the comms unit in my ear crackled, and I felt alone with that strange man.
Way too alone.
The corridor slanted upward, and as we walked, I knew we had to be nearing the surface, and yet there was nothing but static in my ear.
Something was wrong, I knew it. And then the man leaned forward to push open a door. His blazer gapped, and that’s when I saw the gun beneath his arm, holster unclasped and gun ready to draw.
A primal, urgent cry was sounding in my head, and before the sunlight even hit me, I was already spinning, kicking him to the ground, knocking his head against the stone wall and starting to run.
“I’m in an alley southwest of the bank,” I said, but no one answered. Even the static was gone. I heard nothing but the revving of engines as two motorcycles started down the alley, coming fast.
I turned and bolted in the other direction. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the bank had been compromised. My comms unit was silent. And the motorcycles were getting closer.
Soon they’d overtake me. My only hope was the street.
I had to make it to the street.
“Cammie!” a voice yelled. Ambassador Winters was parked in the mouth of the alley, throwing open the door of a car. “Get in!”
It didn’t feel like a rescue, and it wasn’t an extraction. I studied Preston’s father—the way he gripped the steering wheel too tightly and drove too fast down incredibly narrow cobblestone streets.
“Ambassador Winters, thank you so much. I was lost and—”
“Now’s not the time for lies, Cammie,” he said, glancing frantically at the street behind us. He hunched over the wheel in a totally inappropriate posture for high-speed driving as he examined the rearview mirror. “How many are there?”
“Excuse me?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“I know why you were at that bank, Cammie!” he snapped. “It’s the same reason I helped you access it last summer. Now, how many men did the Circle send?”
“You’re not an agent,” I said. I could tell by the sweat beading at his brow, the death grip he kept on the wheel. He looked more like Grandpa Morgan than Joe Solomon. And yet the words were real: the Circle. “How do you know about—”
“I thought we covered this last summer, Cammie. Now, tell me how many—”
“One in the bank. Two on the street. Probably more along the perimeter.”
He breathed deeply and spun the wheel, sending the black car skidding onto a narrow street that I doubt any tourist ever saw.
“How do you know about the Circle, Ambassador?”
He gave a short, nervous laugh. “I was almost President of the United States, Cammie. There are certain things that, at certain levels, you have to know. Not to mention that for a time, a lot of very smart people thought the Circle of Cavan was after my son.” He glanced at me quickly from the corner of his eye. “I’m surprised you forgot that.”
“I’ve been forgetting a lot lately.”
I turned to the window as I said it. We were passing a bridge, and artists stood along the roadside with their canvases and paint. The skies were clear and blue. It was beautiful there.
But that was before the windshield shattered.
My head snapped, and the car spun.
I was faintly aware of the sensation of being weightless and then rolling, over and over. The crunching metal made a sickening sound. Shards of glass pierced my skin. It felt like I was running face-first through barbed wire. And yet all I could do was hope that I wouldn’t be sick, knowing I would never recover from the shame of puking all over Preston’s father.
When the car finally came to rest, the windshield was gone and the windows were shattered. There was nothing at all between me and the man who was climbing from his motorcycle and walking toward me—boots on cobblestones, broken glass crunching beneath his feet.
I shook my head and felt glass fall from my hair. Either it was luck or adrenaline, but I felt no pain or fear. Something in my training or my broken mind was taking over, and I was grabbing the ambassador’s hand and pulling.
“Ambassador, we have to move. Do you hear me? We can’t stay here.”
The shrill sound of sirens echoed in the distance. A crowd was gathering. People called out in Italian that help was on the way. But from the corner of my eye, I saw two men crawling from the van that had struck us. A motorcycle revved in my ears, and I saw a second rider coming through the crowd.
“Ambassador, can you move?”
“What…Yes.” He sounded groggy and disoriented—confused—so I gripped tighter.
“We have to run. Now.”
A hundred yards away, I saw the entrance to the market we’d visited on our first day, with its stalls and merchants and tourists, and that was where I led, pulling as hard as I could, looking back over my shoulder at the men who followed us through the crowd. I tried to ignore the stares of the tourists, the blood running down the side of my face.
“Ambassador, stay with me,” I said, talking as much about his mind as his body. “Do you have a panic button?”
“Did your security detail give you a panic button? If so, press it now.”
He shook his head. “Not since the campaign. What’s that thing in your ear?” he asked. “Is it working?”
“No,” I told him. “Someone’s jamming the signal.”
“So we’re…alone?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I said, trying to reassure him. “We’re together.”
The market seemed more crowded with the ambassador’s arm around my shoulder, the two of us limping along side by side. Every few feet we had to stop for him to catch his breath or his balance.
“Cammie, you should go without me. Leave me here.”
He had a point. Maybe he was in more danger with me than without me, but something told me that the men on our trail were the types who didn’t like to leave any loose ends behind, and right then, Preston’s dad wasn’t a powerful dignitary. He was a witness.
“No luck,” I told him, taking his hand. “You’re stuck with me. Now, run.”
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“The embassy.” I thought about the walls, the gates, the marines. Rule of thumb: when in doubt, find a marine. “It’s a quarter of a mile away.”
“This is faster,” he said, pointing to a secluded alley.
“No, Ambassador. We need crowds. Crowds are good,” I said. And I meant it; but that didn’t mean it wasn’t hard trying to slip between the crush of bodies, going against the current.
“There, Cammie.” Mr. Winters pointed to a police officer walking our way.
“He’s with them,” I said.
“How do you—”
“Shoes,” I whispered, and pulled Preston’s dad behind a stall, slipping out of the fake officer’s path. “He’s wearing the wrong shoes.”
“Oh…” The ambassador’s voice was more like a whimper, and I hated myself for bringing my trouble to his doorway. “What did you mean, Cammie? When you said you were forgetting a lot lately?”
“I sort of have…amnesia.” I spat out the word and shook my head. “I don’t remember last summer.”
“Just last summer?” he asked.
“Yeah. I know it sounds crazy and all but—”
“No.” He wiped the sweat on his upper lip. Blood stained his sleeve. “Nothing really sounds crazy to me anymore.”
I’d never thought about the things a person must see when they’re a footstep away from the presidency. All good spies know that ignorance really is bliss. Mr. Winters looked like a man who knew things he truly wanted to forget.
I totally knew the feeling.
“Just a little bit farther,” I told him when we left the market. The crowds were thinner on the broad, public street. I could see the embassy up ahead. “Ambassador?” I said, studying the blood that ran down his hairline. “Ambassador, stay with me. We’re almost—”
But that was when I saw the van, big and white and coming far too fast. I should have run. I should have screamed. I should have done anything but stand there, locked in a memory of the year before, in Washington, D.C., as the Circle came for me the second time.
“Cammie,” the ambassador said, shaking me. “Cammie, this way.”
He was trying to pull me away from the van that had screeched to a halt in between us and the embassy. The door was sliding open. I wasn’t sure where reality stopped and memory began. But it wasn’t a grab team—not anymore. They didn’t need me alive.
And then I heard the music, low and steady in the back of my mind. I started to sway. To hum.
“Open the gates!” I yelled, pulling the ambassador behind me.
A man was out of the van and coming closer, so I lowered my shoulder, rammed him as hard as I could, and never broke stride.
“Open the gates!” I yelled through the crowded street.
Everyone was turning, watching. The ambassador’s arm was draped around my shoulders as I half pulled, half carried him toward the imposing building.
“The Ambassador,” I yelled to the marines at the gates. “The Ambassador has been injured!”
I don’t know whether it was my words or the sight of the man limping and bleeding, but the gates opened.
There were guards and marines, and a final, fading rev of a motorcycle engine as I dragged Preston’s father past the fences, safely onto American soil.
I kept the journal on my lap for the next five hours.
Townsend was behind the wheel of a car with tinted windows. Abby followed us on a motorcycle, looping in front for a while, then falling behind, a constant circle of surveillance. Zach and Bex were in the tail car, and I only registered enough to be grateful that Zach was driving (a person can’t go through Driver’s Ed with Rebecca Baxter without being at least a little bit traumatized by the experience).
But I didn’t ask where the cars came from.
I didn’t wonder where we were going.
I didn’t mention the men who had chased me from the bank.
To do that would have meant 1) wondering if I’d walked into that very trap last July; and 2) admitting that we’d gone to all that trouble to get a journal that I’d had six months before.
Summer, it seemed, had happened for nothing.
“Cam?” Macey’s voice was soft. The car stopped. “Cam,” she said, and I felt a touch on my shoulder, a light shake. “We’re here.”