United We Spy (Page 14)
If I slowed down, I’d die.
I was deep underground in a facility so secure there were probably only a handful of people who knew it even existed, but someone from the Circle had found Winters there. Someone was still looking for me.
The corridor curved and branched, and footsteps echoed in the hallway. I looked for a way out, but then I realized a pair of guards was running toward me.
A deep voice ordered, “Spread out. Find her.”
I thought maybe I should trust them, but then I remembered I couldn’t trust anybody.
So I pressed myself deeper into the shadows and the pair ran past. As soon as they were gone, alarms began to sound. The overhead fluorescents pulsed. The lights on the surveillance cameras began to blink, and I knew that the system was rebooting. It wasn’t just a camera malfunction, the sirens said. The facility knew there was a breach, a gunman. A body. They would know that I was on the loose, and maybe they would blame me—how did I know? All I was sure of was that I wasn’t safe there.
My side ached and my head hurt, and when the hallway branched, I stopped and looked and listened.
Heavy cables ran overhead, electrical lines that carried currents and pictures and sound. But one hall had fewer lines, so that was where I went.
I slowed my pace, moving carefully. There was a storage room that was locked. A vacant room that I thought must have been a cell. And then there was another door. Through the tiny window, I looked into what must have been a guardroom. Monitors covered one wall, and on them I saw people walking in cells, sleeping on cots.
Red lights whirled. Gates swung shut. The images changed then, and I saw him.
He was asleep in a cell—I didn’t know where. He looked so peaceful. So innocent. There was no way for him to know that somewhere in that labyrinth, his father’s body was lying on the floor—that I still had his blood on my hands.
And then more than ever I knew I had to get out of there. I had to survive so that I could get him out too.
Thirty yards down the corridor, a metal barrier began to fall out of the ceiling, blocking off the only other exit. I had no idea what lay in that direction, but I knew I couldn’t go back the way I’d come, so I bolted forward. My hands pumped at my sides. My lungs burned, but I didn’t let that stop me as I dropped to the ground, sliding faster and faster. I felt the metal barrier graze against my hair—a few strands even caught in it—nothing but faint traces that I had been there as I made it to the other side.
There was an air shaft. I didn’t know where it led or what would greet me on the other side, but what else was new?
Cold hit me as I opened the shaft.
I didn’t think twice. I shimmied inside. And that was when I felt the fall.
You might think I’m exaggerating. But, believe me, this time I’m totally not. I felt myself begin to slide, with nothing to hold on to. No way to stop my descent. Suddenly, I burst free of the shaft and landed on what felt like a slab of solid ice.
But then even the ground gave way beneath me, and soon I was falling, tumbling. Snow covered me, and I rolled over and over. Freezing dampness clung to my hair and my skin. My teeth rattled, and instantly I understood why my breath had been so labored, why my head had hurt so much.
Agent Edwards hadn’t brought me down to the facility. I clawed backward, easing across the ledge on which I lay.
He’d brought me up.
I looked out at a sky that was so blue it was almost too bright to look at. A few fluffy white clouds floated by. Ridges of mountains surrounded me, and everywhere there was snow and rocks and big pine trees heavy with needles.
Those weren’t the Alps, I was certain. The air and the sky just felt different than they had last fall. My internal clock had reset itself somehow, and I knew the sun felt lower than it should have. I was north. Very, very north. Alaska, maybe? And I was alone, clinging to a narrow ridge, a foot from the edge of the world.
They’d come looking for me eventually, wouldn’t they? Follow my tracks? Find me? But would they reach me before night fell and the temperature dropped? Never before had my uniform skirt felt so short, my sweater so thin. I couldn’t stop shaking and telling myself that I had come too far to freeze to death on that mountain.
People would be looking for me. The gunman would get caught. I was going to be okay, but only if I kept going, so I didn’t look back. A hundred yards down the steep face of the cliff, I saw a loading bay—what I assumed was probably the main entrance to the facility. So I set one foot in front of the other and got ready to make the climb.
THINGS TO EXPECT AFTER A SECURITY BREACH AT MAYBE THE MOST SECURE PRISON ON THE PLANET (ALSO, AFTER CLIMBING DOWN A MOUNTAIN):
(A list by Cameron Morgan)
Hot chocolate. Seriously. The guards who find you are going to insist that you keep moving and change into warmer clothes, but the real medicine is hot chocolate. The hotter and the chocolatier the better.
Turns out, if you escape from a high-level detention facility, really big, really macho guys stop looking at you like you’re cute and start looking at you like you’re awesome.
After doing a climb like that with no gear and no help, nobody seems to think they need to drug you to get you OFF the mountain.
The trip home takes A LOT longer when you’re fully conscious.
Long trips are an excellent time to think.
You may totally not like what you’re left to think about.
“Cammie!” Mom said as soon as I walked through the school’s front doors. She rushed across the foyer and threw her arms around me. Then, just as quickly, she pushed me away—held me at arm’s length—and examined me as if trying to make sure Agent Edwards was returning me in the same condition I’d been in when I’d left.
I wasn’t. And my mother, spy that she is, could see so.
“Are you okay?” she asked, and I nodded.
“Yes. I’m fine.”
But my mother just slid her gaze onto Agent Edwards. “Did they find out how the shooter got in?” she asked.
“Uh…yes.” He spoke the word too carefully. “The gunman was a guard at the facility. He’d been turned.”
“I see,” Mom told him. “Kiddo.” Mom smoothed my hair. Her hand cupped my face. “Why don’t you go upstairs? Go to bed. You need your rest.” Then Mom turned her full attention back to the man who’d brought me home. “I need to talk to Agent Edwards.”
There was a feeling coursing between them—two veteran operatives, powerful people, neither one used to backing down. I eased away, but I don’t think Agent Edwards or my mother even noticed that I was still standing there. They were too busy staring daggers at each other.
“You have a lot of nerve bringing her back like this.”
“Would you have rather she not come back at all?” the man asked.
“Don’t be coy with me. She was supposed to be safe with you.”
“I’m very sorry your daughter had to live through that,” Agent Edwards said.
“Live being the key word, of course.” Mom leveled a glare at him.
“What do you mean, Rachel?” Agent Edwards sounded tired and impatient and ever so slightly annoyed.
“I mean my daughter was flown to the far corner of this country only to see the ambassador killed and have the gunman turn on her.”
“Former ambassador,” Max Edwards corrected. “And as the head of the interagency task force, no one regrets his death more than I. He had information we needed, Rachel. After all, that’s why your daughter was there.”
Mom sidled closer. “And as soon as he started talking, he was killed? And the girl he was talking to was targeted?”
“It was regrettable.”
Mom shook her head slowly. “To say the very least.”
I watched my mother in that moment, the narrowing of her eyes, the straightening of her spine. She moved ever so slightly in front of me as if to block any more bullets that might be heading in my direction. And I knew what she didn’t say: that I wasn’t out of danger. Not by a long shot.
“It was an isolated incident,” Edwards told her.
“Was it?” Mom asked. “Was it really? I thought your task force was impervious to moles.”
“No one is taking this breach more seriously than I am, Rachel.”
“Well, evidently you aren’t taking it seriously enough,” Mom said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means it’s hard to sail a leaking ship,” Mom told him. “Perhaps your mole-free, traitor-proof task force isn’t quite as safe as you thought.”
“Tell me, Rachel”—I watched the man shift, take a different tack—“where is Joe Solomon? Where is he right now?”
“Joe Solomon is dead.” Mom’s voice cracked. She’d spent enough time imagining what it would be like to lose him that it probably wasn’t hard at all for her to pretend that she had. “He was killed in an explosion at the Blackthorne Institute last spring. As the head of the task force, I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”
“Of course.” Edwards smiled. “How silly of me to forget.” He stepped toward the door but glanced back at my mother. “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again soon.” He nodded in my direction. “Cammie,” he said, then opened the door.
He didn’t turn back again, didn’t falter. But even after he was gone, his presence lingered. I felt it in my bones, saw it in my mother’s eyes as she kept her gaze trained on the front windows, watching the headlights of Max Edwards’s car disappear.
“They know,” Mom said. She didn’t look at me. She just kept staring into the darkness, almost like she was waiting for black helicopters and SWAT teams to descend upon our grounds and swarm all over the mansion. “They know about Joe.”
“They suspect,” I tried to correct her; but Mom just shook her head.
“No, Cammie. They know. Or they think they know, and that is all they need.”
“So what does that mean?”
“Joe’s not safe here.” Mom looked numbly at the closed door.
“The task force isn’t going to work, is it?” I asked.
I waited for my mother to answer, but it was like I hadn’t spoken at all. The answer was the silence that stretched between us.
“So what does that mean? Do we go back to looking for the Circle leaders ourselves? I think we’ve got to. We should call the Baxters, right? Maybe—”
“You should go to bed, Cammie.”
At last, my mother looked at me, but it wasn’t the look I’d grown used to. She didn’t want to be alone. She looked at me like maybe it was the last time she’d ever see me—like that moment was precious and rare and fleeting. Only then did I realize just how close I’d come to never coming home again.
Mom hugged me and smoothed my hair. She kissed the top of my head just like she’d done when I was a little girl.
“You’re so grown-up, kiddo,” she said, and I felt myself blush a little. “When did you get so grown-up? You don’t even need me anymore.”