Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 31)

“What do you see?” he yelled, once I was out of sight. I sent my flashlight across the stone walls and dirty floor.

“Not much,” I said, and began to climb down the other side. But as I moved, the shifting of my weight caused the stones to move, cascading into a cloud of dust until Zach and the small ray of light behind me disappeared completely.

“Cammie!” I could hear him. The word was sheer panic. “Cammie, are you—”

“I’m okay!” I yelled back through the stone. “I’m fine, but we’re never going to be able to move all this rock.” I shined my light around the room. Twenty feet away, I saw what I was pretty sure had been an exterior wall, but decades of decay had done their damage, and now there was a small hole, dim rays of sunlight shining through.

“There’s a hole in the outside wall. It’s not big, but I think I can get out that way,” I yelled. “Just go around to the outside and meet me there.”

He must have heard me, because there were no protests from the other side of the stones, and I was left alone with my thoughts and my flashlight and the music that was in my head, growing louder.

I let the flashlight play across the walls and the floor until the light came to rest on a small stone outcropping that looked something like an altar. Dust and dirt covered the stone, so I used my hands to brush the years away, and that was when I felt it—a small indentation no larger than a quarter.

I ran my finger along the edges and stared down at the Gallagher family crest, exactly where the window had said it would be.

“I found it, Daddy.”

Part of me said I should wait for someone—to do something to mark the occasion. But I didn’t have the time or patience to delay. I felt my hand trembling as I went to the chain that hung around my neck and pulled the necklace free.

“Could it be this simple?” I asked myself, looking down at the small emblem.

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t blink. I didn’t say another word while I pressed the small pendant against the hole in the ancient slot and twisted. The whole world stopped as the stone slid away, revealing a narrow compartment full of cobwebs and shadow and a small tube sealed with wax, which felt like the most precious thing I’d ever seen.

My hands shook. My heart pounded. But I knew exactly what I was doing as I pulled the tube from the compartment and held it gingerly in my hands.…

And heard the words, “Now, I’ll be taking that.”

Chapter Thirty-eight

She was there. The woman from the roof in Boston and the tombs of Blackthorne. The woman who was Zach’s mother.

Zach’s mother was there.

She stepped from behind a pile of debris and stood silhouetted in the fading light that sliced through the narrow gap in the wall. I wanted to be wrong, but there was no mistaking her voice or her form and, most of all, the sick feeling in my gut that came from the sight of her.

She was there, standing between me and my only means of escape.

“How did you find this place?” I had to know.

“Oh, I could ask the same of you. I’ve been coming here for years.” She walked through the ruins as if she had pulled the castle down stone by stone until she finally found me and that moment.

“Then why didn’t you just take it?” I asked, bile in my throat. “You take everything else.”

“Oh, I would have,” Zach’s mother said.

She’s Zach’s mother.

She’s Zach’s mother.

She’s Zach’s mother.

“But Gilly…she was as pesky as all Gallagher Girls seem to be.”

I looked at the box I’d just opened and saw the intricate mechanism that lay inside: gears like clockwork surrounding a small compartment filled with gunpowder I didn’t dare to touch.

“Nineteenth-century explosives?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” Zach’s mom said.

“So Gilly booby-trapped it?”

I remembered Townsend’s distaste at the word and felt a nervous laugh rise up in my throat. It was all I could do to swallow it and not let the terror take hold.

“You’re going to give me that list, Cammie.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m not.”

She held out one hand as if I were going to just hand over the very thing my father had died trying to find. “Cammie,” she said, impatience ringing through her voice. “Now.” The comms unit in my ear was as dead as it had been in Rome. I was alone when she said, “Come now, Cammie. We got to be so close last summer.…”

The lie was cold and empty, and yet the smile was a real one. She was happy to be there, taunting me.

“It is so good to see you strong and well.” She talked on, then glanced down at the cylinder in my hands. “Now, hand me that very carefully.”

But I just held the thing that Gilly had hidden away—held it like my very life was trapped inside, and I didn’t dare let it out of my grasp.

When I didn’t move, Zach’s mother cocked her head. “Cammie,” she said, and slowly began to hum, “do you hear the music?”

I did hear it, and I wanted to say so, to tell her that it was always there in the back of my mind, pulsing and beating like my own heart. It was even stronger then. I felt myself start to sway, a quiet rage building, and yet I did not move to fight, to scream. It was as if I were frozen there, waiting…teetering…and then…

Dust filled the air. Bits of rock scraped my face and arms, and the force of a blow knocked me to my knees. When the smoke began to settle, I could see that the small hole had become a massive, gaping opening. The exterior wall was practically gone. There was absolutely nothing standing between me and Liz, who shrugged. “I also packed explosives.”

There was no time to hug her, because I was already pushing through the rubble, grabbing her hand in mine, and yelling, “Run!”

It had started to rain. Cold drizzle turned to pounding, piercing drops as we ran, sliding down a steep embankment, the ruins at our back.

Liz’s bag fell off her shoulder and tumbled across the rocks, leaving a trail of books and markers and tranquilizer darts. There were a scary number of tranquilizer darts. She stopped as if on instinct to reach for her things, but I pulled on her arm.

“Leave them!” I cried just as I felt a blow to my back. I fell, crashing against an outcropping of rocks, and slid across the wet stones that ran like giant steps lower and lower, closer to the cliff’s edge.

My right arm slammed against the ground. Pain shot from my elbow to my shoulder as if lightning had struck; and I couldn’t help myself—my hand fell open and the cylinder flew from my fingers and skidded across the massive slab of stone, falling to the ledge below.

“I told you to hand me the list, Cammie.”

I rolled over and looked up. Zach’s mom was standing behind me. The wind was so much stronger there, blowing against her wet hair. Rain ran down her face and clung to the corners of her mouth.

“It’s not like you even need it.” She laughed. “You’re the one person on earth who doesn’t need it. Now, give it to me!”

What did she mean I didn’t need it? I didn’t know—didn’t care.

“You want it,” I told her, climbing to my feet. “Come through me and get it.”

“Cammie, no!” Liz cried, just as a gust of wind blew from the sea and almost knocked me off balance. I glanced to the ridge below and saw the cylinder beginning to roll, closer and closer to the edge until…

“No!” I yelled, lunging for it, sliding across the wet ground. But it was too late. The precious thing was falling end over end through the rain and the wind, crashing to the stormy sea below.

From the corner of my eye, I could see a helicopter sitting on the hillside, its blades starting to spin. There was a distant crack of gunfire, muffled by the sounds of the storm. And there, on my hands and knees, I looked for any thing—any way—to make Zach’s mother hurt as much as I hurt.

Rain pounded against my face, and I crawled—the wet stone hard on my knees, grappling until I felt the barrel and the trigger, and stumbled to my feet.

The flare gun was in my hand, and my hand was pointing at her chest. I could feel my body moving independently from my mind again. The haze and the fog filled my head. I was aware faintly that my friends were there yelling, “Cammie! Cammie!”

But the list was gone, drowned in the ocean, broken on the rocks and dissolved in the rain. My father had looked for it. My father had died for it, and it was gone. I would never see either of them ever again.

So I raised the gun higher and fired.

Red streaked across the sky. With the flash, I looked down at my arms and remembered the way the red drops had stained the ground, the way the cold water of the river had felt so good against the gashes and scrapes.

I remembered water and running.

I remembered how to survive.

“Oh, Cammie, you are such a good girl,” the woman said, and I honestly couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be an insult or a compliment. There wasn’t time to ask, because she was already stepping toward the cliff, saying, “I’m sorry it has to be this way.”

And then Zach’s mother raised up her arms and jumped, diving into the waters below.

My first thought was that I had to get the vial. To find it. If it had survived, then…

I had to follow.

“No!”

I felt arms grasp my waist and draw me back.

“Let me go, Zach.”

“No, Cammie!” It was Bex’s voice, clear and strong.

“No, Gallagher Girl,” Zach said, holding me tighter, whispering in my ear. “It’s gone.”

Chapter Thirty-nine

I know the flight home wasn’t the longest plane ride of my life, but it felt like it. The ocean was so vast outside my window, and all I could think was that the list was out there somewhere. Sitting on the ocean floor. Smashed against a rock. Or maybe floating like a message in a bottle, bound to someday turn up on a distant shore.

But I didn’t know. And I probably never would.

When we finally reached the mansion, Zach insisted on walking me to my room.

“Excuse me, but aren’t boys forbidden on this floor?” Macey said on our way to the suite.

“That’s the advantage of being the only boy,” he said. “No one actually comes right out and makes rules like that.”

It sounded like a fair enough point, and Macey shrugged. We were all too exhausted to argue.

The halls were dark and empty. The only light came from the emergency exit signs, and the whole school seemed to be sleeping around us. My classmates didn’t know how close we’d come to finishing my father’s final mission. If I had my way, they never would.

“What’s wrong?” Zach said, stopping me and reading my mind.

I shrugged. “What isn’t?”

My elbow throbbed. My head ached. And I was pretty sure I was having the worst hair day ever, but when he grabbed my hand and pulled me to him, I didn’t protest.

“Hey,” he said. “It’s going to be okay. You’ll get some sleep. And everything will look better in the morning.”