Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 7)
“I’m not?” I asked, honestly not sure of the answer anymore.
“No.” He shook his head, looked at the low stone ceiling and too-close walls. “It’s just like the tombs.”
I breathed in the musty air, and my mind flashed back to the cramped, abandoned tunnels that ran through the mountains that surrounded the Blackthorne Institute. There had been a time when I would have done almost anything to find out the secrets Zach had been hiding about his school, but a lot of things had changed during that fateful mission last semester.
The path was clear ahead of me. Only Zach blocked the way behind. And yet I couldn’t move.
I just stood, staring. I didn’t mention the fact that his mom had spent the last year trying to kidnap me.
It didn’t seem like the time to ask why he’d never told me that Blackthorne was really a school for assassins.
All the things that had been weird the last time I’d seen him had just gotten weirder. I’d been running for months, for miles, but those unsaid things were still there, exactly where we’d left them.
“Cammie, we’re in here,” Abby yelled through a hole in the stone that could best be described as a doorway. So I turned and went inside.
I’d always suspected that my aunt Abby was the kind of woman who would be good at almost anything she tried. With one glance at her walking through the classroom, handing back old assignments, I could tell that teaching would be no different.
“I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s little lesson in overt surveillance countermeasures. It’s a very important subject, regardless of what Agent Townsend thinks,” Aunt Abby added to the senior CoveOps class. “Ms. Walters, please remember that setting a suspected observation point on fire is effective but perhaps a little too overt in most cases.”
Tina shrugged, and I looked around. Classroom didn’t really seem like the right word to describe the space. It was more like a cave outfitted with long, tall tables, each with a pair of stools. I stood by the entrance, realizing there was no room at any of the tables for me.
“Come on up here, Cam.” Abby pulled a stool from the corner and placed it behind the table at the very front of the class. “You can share with me.”
Climbing onto that stool, I felt entirely too visible, conspicuous. It wasn’t just the chameleon in me who wanted to hide. It was the Gallagher Girl who’d broken the rules, been foolish—gotten caught. I couldn’t help feeling that Sublevel Three might spit me out because I hadn’t earned the right to be there.
Then my aunt moved to the corner of the tall table and leaned against it, like I’d seen Joe Solomon do about a million times.
“Professor Townsend,” she said, with a roll of her eyes, “suggested that this section of the curriculum be postponed—I don’t think he even bothered to teach it to the seniors last year. Not that he taught anything else,” she added under her breath. “But I say you need to know.”
She walked to a corner of the room, picked up one of the wooden crates that were stacked there, carried it to the front table, and set it down beside me.
“I say it’s time for you to know”—she held the crate by its ends and flipped it, sending at least a dozen objects skidding across the table—“about this.”
There were springs and tubes, small cylinders I’d never seen before. The whole class leaned closer to get a better look—everyone but Zach, who didn’t move, didn’t stare.
“You know what this is, don’t you?” Abby asked him.
He seemed almost ashamed when he said, “Yes.”
“I thought so.” There was no judgment in Abby’s voice. “Do you feel like telling us about it?”
Zach shook his head. “No.”
Abby looked as if she couldn’t really blame him. “The Gallagher Academy takes protection and enforcement seriously. And for good reason,” my aunt said, and I could have sworn that, for a split second, her gaze drifted to me. “But there are certain things we have not covered…until now.” She stepped away from the table and moved closer to the rest of the class. “These boxes contain long-range, high-powered rifles, and they are part of the most controversial topic that we will cover at this school. So why is that?” she asked, moving down the aisle, all eyes trained on her. “Why do people like Agent Townsend think you shouldn’t be around”—she gestured to the weapon on the table—“these?”
Tina Walters raised her hand. “Because they’re dangerous?”
“Yes,” Abby said. “But not exactly in the way you think.”
“Because they’re…active,” Eva Alvarez tried. “It’s not like P&E, when it’s about protecting yourself. They’re for going on the offensive.”
“Yes, they are. But that’s not why they are so controversial.”
The class sat silent, transfixed, as Aunt Abby studied every student in turn. “Doesn’t anyone want to guess why—”
“Because weapons make you lazy.” Bex’s voice sliced through the room. “Because if you need a gun, it’s probably too late for you to actually be safe.”
“That’s right.” Abby smiled. “They are among the last things we teach because they are among the very last things you need to know.”
It seemed like too much responsibility for just a bunch of moving parts. I glanced quickly down at the pile on the table, reached to finger the pieces of cool metal, the heavy springs, while my aunt talked on from her place in the center of the room.
“They will not keep your covers. They cannot recruit and train an asset. Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentleman, in the field, the only weapon that will truly keep you safe is your mind, and that is where any decent operative puts her time and her faith. And so what I teach you today is not the skill of a true spy. It’s the skill of a killer.”
Everyone was watching Abby. But not me. I was watching Zach. He kept his gaze glued to his hands. They were clasped together, resting on the table, his knuckles completely white.
“What I teach you today,” Abby went on, “I teach you in the hopes that you never, ever need to—”
“Oh my gosh!”
I heard Tina scream, but I didn’t know why until she added, “Cammie!”
Everyone was looking at me.
“What?” I said, and only then did I notice the gun in my hands. Heavy and cold, fully assembled and pointed at the door.
I wondered for a second where it had come from—how someone could have slipped it into my hands without my knowing.
“How did you do that?” My aunt’s voice was cold and scared. “Cammie, how did you—”
She reached for the gun, but my hands were on some kind of autopilot, moving independently of my mind. They slid a bolt, split a section of the rifle away from the body, rendering the weapon useless—but it still felt like a viper in my hands.
“Cammie,” Zach said, moving off his stool and easing toward me, “put the rifle—”
Before he could finish, I dropped it, heard it smash onto the desk. But it was still too close. I was afraid of what it might do, so I jumped back. The stool crashed against the floor, and I stumbled, trying to keep my balance, pressing close against the wall.
“Cammie, how did you do that?” Abby asked, eyes wide. It was all I could do to look at her. “I don’t know.”
My feet beat against the damp ground. My heart pounded in my throat, and my arms pumped, my blood burned. I could have sworn I felt the fire, breathed the smoke. The tombs were closing in on me. Except I wasn’t in the tombs.
“Cammie!” Macey yelled through the narrow tunnel-like space, but I couldn’t turn back.
“Cammie!” Aunt Abby’s voice echoed through the halls, and I knew she was chasing me, but I kept running and running, until finally the tunnels ended and I found myself in the small cavelike space that Bex and I had seen when we’d returned to school last January. My ankle hurt and my side burned, but I found the ancient ladder and started to climb, higher and higher into the belly of the school, until the ladder gave way to a staircase, and the staircase led me to the hidden door behind Dr. Fibs’s file cabinets in the basement labs.
I was out of the tombs. I was safe. But I kept running.
Classes must have let out, because the halls began to flood with girls. Everything was a blur of books and backpacks, washing around me over and over like the icy river, and I felt like I might drown. I held tightly to the railing in the Hall of History, looking down on the foyer below, trying to catch my breath. My hands were shaking, and they felt like they no longer belonged to me but were instead the property of the girl who had washed up on the convent’s banks.
What had that girl known? And done?
The back of my neck was wet with sweat. My hair was too short, my uniform too big. And the music was back again, too loud inside my head, pulsing, drowning out the sounds of my school, the yelling and laughing of the girls—everything but the voice that came as if from nowhere, saying, “Hello, Cammie.”
Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder. But it felt like someone else who was turning, grabbing the hand, and kicking at the leg closest to me. That girl was spinning, using gravity and momentum to push the two-hundred-pound man toward the railing.
My hands stopped shaking. My knuckles turned white. But I didn’t even feel the throbbing of the throat that pulsed beneath my fingers, or hear the cries sweeping through the gathering crowd.
There was yelling. Shouting. Teachers pushed their way through the bodies, trying to get to me—to stop me. To break me out of whatever trance it was that held me, until…
I heard the word. I knew the voice. There was a pale hand reaching slowly toward my own.
“Cam,” Liz said softly. “That’s Dr. Steve. You remember Dr. Steve, don’t you? He’s from Blackthorne—Zach’s school. You remember Blackthorne.”
I did remember Blackthorne. Blackthorne made killers. Assassins. Blackthorne was where Mr. Solomon had almost died, so I squeezed harder.
But then Liz’s hand touched mine. Her skin was warm against my fingers. “The trustees said that Zach could stay if he had a faculty adviser, so Dr. Steve came. It’s okay, Cam. You know him, don’t you?”
Only then did I see the look in Dr. Steve’s eyes; did I feel the terror pulsing through the crowd.
I must have pulled him from the railing, placed him gently on the floor, but all I remember was the way my hands shook, as if resisting. My hands were not my own.
“Cameron!” Professor Buckingham was at Liz’s side. “Cameron Morgan, what happened here?” She turned to Dr. Steve. “Dr. Steve, are you—”
“I’m fine,” he choked out, his face as white as a sheet. He looked like he’d just seen a ghost. It took me a moment to realize that the ghost…was me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry,” I said again.