Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 32)
Sometimes the best advice is the simplest—every good spy knows that. So I chose to believe him.
He kissed me on the forehead and started back the way we’d come, but at the last second I called, “What’s her name, Zach?” He turned back to me. “Your mother…I don’t even know her name.”
“Catherine. Her name is Catherine.” Then he smiled a little sadly and went downstairs.
Even after I woke and got out of bed, I didn’t feel better. To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel anything. I was faintly aware of the fact that the halls were empty, the corridors quiet, as I walked alone to the closed door and raised my hand to knock.
“Come in! Come in,” a voice yelled, and the door creaked open. “It’s good to see you, Cammie.” Dr. Steve put a book into a large satchel, then snapped the lock and gestured to the chair beside the fire. “I appreciate your coming so late.”
“It’s not late,” I said, then glanced at the window and saw that it was dark outside. I looked down at my legs and remembered I was wearing my pajamas.
Dr. Steve walked around his desk, took the seat opposite mine. “I heard about what happened in Ireland, Cammie. And I wanted to know…how are you?”
It was a question I’d heard a lot in my life. How’s your head? How’s your safety? How’s your heart? So I answered as truthfully as I could.
“I don’t know.”
“I can imagine that you might feel sad and confused after what happened. It’s only natural. Here”—he handed me a piece of paper—“I find that it can be very helpful to write those feelings down.”
“I’m sad and confused,” I said, writing out the words. “It’s only natural.”
“Of course it is.” He leaned forward, looked at me through the light of the fire. “Do you get tired of wearing that necklace, Cammie?”
My hand went to my throat. “This necklace?”
“I feel foolish for not realizing what it was earlier. But of course you didn’t have it at the stone house.”
“No,” I said. “When I was in Rome, I mailed it to myself with a bunch of other jewelry.”
Dr. Steve laughed. “You’re a very smart girl, Cammie.”
“That’s why you’re such a formidable opponent for the people who have been after you.”
“I guess,” I had to admit, but truthfully I didn’t feel formidable in any way.
“Tell me about that song, Cammie.”
“What song?” I asked.
“The song you were just singing.”
“I wasn’t singing any song.”
“Yes you were. It was this song.”
Then Dr. Steve pushed a button and I heard it—I really heard it—the music that had been playing inside of me from the moment I woke on that narrow cot.
I felt myself begin to sway, and when Dr. Steve said, “Sing it, Cammie,” I began to hum because there were no words.
“Do you remember the first time you heard that song, Cammie?” Dr. Steve said softly.
“It was the week before my father disappeared—the day he took me to the circus.”
“That’s right. Think about the circus. It’s like you’re there now. What do you see?”
“There is a lion tamer and some clowns and—”
“Where is your father, Cammie?”
“He’s beside me. We are walking through the crowd. A woman is stopping in front of us. She’s dropped her purse and he’s helping her. There’s a napkin on the ground.”
“What does he do with the napkin, Cammie?”
“He offers it to her, and she says, ‘No, that’s trash.’ Then he puts it in his pocket and leads me away.” My voice was flat, but something in my mind recognized the scene for what it was. “It’s a dead drop.”
“It is,” Dr. Steve said.
“There’s a list of names written on the napkin. It’s the list that Gillian Gallagher wrote. I am supposed to remember that list.”
I knew it was true—that it was right—but even as I spoke the words, there was something in my mind, like a tiny ripple on a perfectly still pond.
“Dr. Steve,” I said, my voice slightly stronger, “how did you know it was a stone house where they held me?”
Dr. Steve smiled. “Because I was there, of course.”
“Of course,” I repeated, and I honestly felt embarrassed that I hadn’t remembered. It was like I’d failed a test, and I wasn’t looking forward to the day when Mr. Solomon found out. “I’m sorry I forgot.”
“Don’t be. We would never have let you escape if we weren’t certain we could make you forget.”
“So I didn’t block it out because it was too painful? I didn’t…mess up?”
“Oh, no, my dear. You did exactly as we needed you to do. And it almost worked. We got so much further here—in the safety of your school—than we did on the mountain, didn’t we?”
“Yes,” I said.
“We learned so much. But, of course, we never quite learned what we were looking for. A part of you always resisted.…You never quite let us in.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“Oh, that’s okay. We were worried for a while, but now that we have the original list that Gillian hid in Ireland, it doesn’t matter.”
“But I saw the vial go over the cliff,” I said, thinking about Zach’s mother and her long dive to the rocky waters below.
“Yes. But it didn’t break, and dear Catherine was able to retrieve it. So now we have it, you see.” He smiled at me kindly. “Which means now, I’m afraid, we don’t need you.”
I actually felt ashamed. I didn’t like being unnecessary—a disappointment. There had to be something else I could do, so I asked, “But…why? If you’re part of the Circle, why would you need to know what Gillian learned about the founders of the Circle?”
He chuckled his aren’t you adorable laugh. “Now, Cammie, you know that I’m just a lowly worker bee. No one knows who the heads of the Circle are. No one knows who calls the shots—the inner circle.” He smiled at his own cleverness. “Do you think the CIA and MI6 are the only ones who would like that information?”
“So the Circle has a splinter group?” I asked.
He nodded, eyes wide in the dark. “Yes. There are people within the Circle who want very much to use that list. And there are other people—powerful people—who would gladly kill you to keep it from ever being found.”
I watched him shiver as he sat by the fire. All the color drained from his face. “I was so afraid they were going to kill you, Cammie.” He nodded slowly. “And they would have, eventually. The people in charge would have sent more snipers, other grab teams. They wouldn’t have stopped until you were—”
“But now they will stop?” I asked, hopeful.
“Yes. Now it all will stop.” He nodded and patted my hand. “For you.”
“I just want it to be over,” I said.
“I know, Cammie. Write that down,” he told me, so I did.
It felt so easy, sitting there by the fire. So peaceful. I’d never known how much work it was to think, to worry, to feel.
“You’re very tired, aren’t you, Cammie?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s okay,” he told me, and pointed again to the paper. As I wrote how tired I was, he talked on. “We’ve been working so hard to help you remember what you saw at the circus. But now you don’t have to remember anymore. In fact, now I need to make sure no one ever questions you again. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” I said. It sounded like the sweetest possible release.
“Trust is an important thing to an operative, isn’t it, Cammie? Important to a girl.” Dr. Steve moved a little closer, looked into my eyes. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Good. Now, I need you to go to the terrace beside Madame Dabney’s tearoom. You’re going to stand on the balcony and watch me drive away. When I’m safely out of the gates, I need you to jump.”
“When you’re safely out of the gates, I’ll jump.” I stood to leave, but something stopped me at the door. “Dr. Steve,” I said, thinking of the gun in my hands in CoveOps, the shot I didn’t remember firing on the hill. “Did you teach me how to kill?”
“No.” He shook his head slowly. “You mastered those skills all on your own.” He picked up the bag that sat beside his desk and reached for his jacket. “It’s been very nice knowing you, Cammie. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye, Dr. Steve,” I said, then climbed the stairs and went to the fifth floor to die.
I didn’t pass a soul on my way to the fifth floor. It was almost three a.m., the perfect time for roaming the halls unobserved. Too late for the night owls finishing papers and cramming for tests. Not yet time for the early birds who liked to start the day with a solid workout in the barn or by checking on an experiment in the labs.
So I was alone, walking through the dark halls that I know better than anyplace else on earth.
I didn’t try to hide the sound of my footsteps. I wasn’t careful with the doors. I wasn’t breaking any rules, wasn’t hiding or sneaking. I was just a girl following the orders of a teacher as I reached the fifth-floor landing and opened a window to step onto the small balcony outside.
The only thing I regretted was that I hadn’t gone to get a coat. Oh well, I thought, putting my arms around myself, inching closer to the edge. I wouldn’t be cold for long.
I couldn’t see the main gates from where I stood, so I climbed over the railing and dropped onto the sloping roof, inching around the corner of the building until the freezing north wind blew into my face.
The past few days had been filled with sleet and rain, and the whole roof was covered with ice, so I had to be careful where I stepped. Dr. Steve had told me to wait until he was through the gates, and I didn’t want to fall too soon. A lot was riding on my getting it just right.
I reached up and touched the necklace at the base of my throat. I had only worn it for a few weeks, and yet it felt like part of me. It was the last thing my father would ever give me—his final gift. Tears filled my eyes, and I shook my head, trying to toss the thought aside, but that just made me lose my balance, skid a little, so I stopped and stood perfectly still, my eyes on the gates.
The music was louder then, and I hummed along with it, remembering that day in the sixth grade when Dad came home with two tickets for the circus.
I was too old for the circus, I’d told him.
“That’s funny,” he’d said. “I’m not.”
And so we’d driven all the way across Virginia. Four hours in the car, just the two of us, talking and laughing and eating peanut M&M’s until our fingers looked like rainbows.