United We Spy (Page 17)
“I know,” I said, and then it was like the crowd parted. I could see Liz staring up at a huge display from the National Security Agency, offering prizes to anyone who could crack the codes they had on their walls.
“So, do you have it?” the recruiter asked her, but Liz shook her head.
“I don’t know,” she said and turned away.
“I don’t like that,” I said, and Bex nodded in grave agreement.
“Hey, Lizzie,” Bex said when we reached her.
When I put my arm around her shoulders, I realized they were even thinner than usual. She was pale as a ghost except for the dark circles that ringed her eyes. Guilt weighed on her, and I for one was terrified of how far it might drag her down.
“Let’s get out of here,” I told her. “What do you say? Movies in the common room? We can go down to the labs, use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. You know how that always cheers you up.”
But Liz just stared blankly ahead. “I’m not hungry.”
When I followed her gaze I saw what she was staring at. Interpol had brought a map of the world, and it hung on the wall by their booth. It looked so small, not even as wide as two of our regular dining tables. It looked so big, filled with tiny towns and vast wildernesses. Every good operative knows that the world is small, but the planet is big. No one knew where my mom and Mr. Solomon were. No one knew where the Circle would strike next.
Except someone did know.
I looked at Liz again. “It’s okay,” I told her.
“Is it?” Liz isn’t one for snapping, but something in her tone froze me, shamed me. Made me feel small and helpless and weak.
“Liz, it’s going to be okay. I—”
“Hello, Cammie.” Agent Edwards was there, walking from the Interpol booth. Closer to me.
I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him. We’d first met at the career fair my sophomore year—when I was still sneaking off to see Josh. History, after all, always repeats itself.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Fine,” I said and tried to walk away.
“I hope this means you’re considering a future with Interpol. I told you a long time ago that we would love to have you. I meant it then. I still do.”
“Thanks,” I managed to mutter.
“We’d have room for your friends, too.”
This made me stop.
“Ms. Baxter and Ms. McHenry—they are interested in fieldwork, are they not? And I think everyone in this room would love to work with Ms. Sutton.”
When he talked about my friends, it didn’t sound like an offer. It sounded like a threat.
“I’m sorry, Agent Edwards. My friend isn’t feeling well. We’ve got to—”
But then he stepped closer, blocking me off from Bex and Liz, who had already started moving away.
“I was hoping to speak to your mother. Is she here?” Something in the way he spoke told me that he was measuring his words carefully. He didn’t want to push me too far, too fast. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to push me.
I didn’t answer, and my silence made Max Edwards laugh. “I guess not. You know, I’ve been thinking. Funny thing about what happened with Winters, Cammie.”
“I didn’t think it was very funny,” I told him, but Edwards talked on as if I hadn’t spoken at all.
“The gunman disabled the security cameras, did you know that?”
“So we don’t know what the two of you discussed.” He eased slightly closer. It was supposed to intimidate me, rattle me, make me want to talk. But it didn’t. It made me want to fight. “What did Samuel Winters tell you?”
“You debriefed me the day it happened, remember? I already told you everything I know.”
“Tell me again. What did you and Winters talk about?”
I cocked my hip and stared up at him. “Traitors. The weather. All the usual stuff.”
“There’s something I have to wonder, Cammie. Did the gunman turn on you because of what you heard?”
“To tell you the truth, I’ve gotten kind of used to the Circle of Cavan trying to kill me. I don’t really stop and ask questions anymore.”
But that wasn’t true. I did ask questions. All the time. And I almost never liked the answers.
“Tell me, Cammie…” He tilted his head, studying me like I was an abstract piece of art; like he wasn’t exactly sure what to see in me. “What else are you hiding?”
I should have listened to the inflection in his words—heard the tiny voice inside of me that said something was a little off about the question. But we were inside the Gallagher Academy. These were people who were in on the secret, aware of the truth. I was behind our walls. I was safe.
Or so I thought.
“Where is Joe Solomon?” He looked around, as if trying to see all my usual hiding places, peek through the cracks in the mortar.
“He’s—” I started, but Agent Edwards cut me off.
“Don’t say he’s dead, Cammie. Do not lie to me.” Then Max Edwards held out his cell phone; on it I saw an image of Mr. Solomon walking through a busy train station. He wore a ball cap and sunglasses, but there was no mistaking the man in the picture.
“That was taken this morning in London.”
“Then why are you asking me where he is?” I said, but Edwards only smiled in response.
With a finger he swiped at the screen, and the image changed. I saw the area just to Mr. Solomon’s right in the photo. I saw that he was holding my mother’s hand.
A cold feeling filled my chest, and I knew what he was saying—what the photo meant. My mother and my teacher weren’t coming back anytime soon. My mother would be on the run maybe for the rest of her life.
“So there you have it. You know Mr. Solomon isn’t in the mansion. I guess you’ll have to be leaving now.”
“Oh, Cammie. You know better than anyone that Joe Solomon isn’t the only Gallagher Academy resident who has spent time inside the Circle.”
The ice that had filled my chest just moments before began to crack. It was like my whole world was shattering, and even though I hadn’t seen Zach enter, some part of me knew what I would see as soon as I turned. He was standing by the Homeland Security booth. He was searching the crowd, looking for me. He was just another teenager thinking about the future until I shouted, “Zach! Run!”
Maybe it was instinct. Maybe it was training. But Zach wasn’t like the stupid people you see in the movies. He didn’t ask what I was shouting about. He didn’t have to be told twice. In a flash, he was bolting down the aisle, running toward the foyer.
“Stop!” one of the recruiters yelled from the far side of the Grand Hall. He lunged at Zach, but the angle was wrong and Zach pushed him easily aside and kept on powering toward the door. Agent Edwards must have positioned someone there because soon a woman was lunging in front of Zach, trying to knock him off his feet. He dove, sliding beneath her, across the hardwood floor and into the foyer. And when the woman turned to follow, Bex was there.
“No,” Bex said simply, a warning. Something in her voice stopped the more senior operative cold. Besides, Zach was already gone.
“Follow him!” Agent Edwards yelled just as I started to jerk away—to go rushing after Zach—but Agent Edwards had an iron grip on my arm. “No, Cammie. Stay,” he ordered.
I pulled my free arm back, ready to punch and kick and claw my way out of there if I had to, but then a familiar voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Agent Edwards,” Buckingham snapped, “what is the meaning of this?”
“Stay out of it, Patricia.” The man tightened his grip on my arm and spun on the Gallagher Academy’s oldest faculty member. But she’s not our weakest. Not by a long shot.
“You are a guest in these halls,” Buckingham said. The words were tinged with anger and disappointment, and her accent wasn’t genteel just then. It was frigid. “Now, let go of her.”
“We are authorized to bring in anyone who has information about the Circle of Cavan.”
“You don’t have authorization from me!” Buckingham said.
Agent Edwards released my arm and pushed me toward two of the goons who had come with him. “I assure you, Patricia, we have no desire to harm the girl.”
“That girl is a student of this school and under its protection.”
“This school…” He huffed. “This school has been hiding and protecting Joe Solomon for over a year!” I was inching back, farther away from the man and his fury. “This school took in a known child of the Circle and then allowed four of its students to attempt to save another!”
Madame Dabney came running forward. “Patricia, what’s the meaning of this?”
But Professor Buckingham never took her gaze off Agent Edwards. “These men were just leaving.”
“Oh, we’ll leave.” Agent Edwards laughed. “But we won’t be leaving alone.”
“Cammie!” Professor Buckingham shouted. “Now!”
I didn’t have to be told twice. I’d been given a direct order from a teacher. I knew what I had to do. I could hear the commotion behind me. Buckingham took a globe from the CIA’s booth and hurled it at Agent Edwards’s head, and when he ducked she brought a knee up into his face, bloodying his nose and knocking him, disoriented, to the ground.
Madame Dabney tripped one of the two goons who were supposed to be capturing me and pushed the other into the Secret Service’s booth, sending a perfectly scaled replica of the White House crashing to the floor.
In a flash, the entire Grand Hall was in chaos. It was like a street fight. A brawl.
Seventh graders jumped onto the backs of FBI agents. Seniors squared off against the CIA. It wasn’t cat versus mouse; it was spy versus spy, and I didn’t turn around to look at the destruction that I was leaving in my wake.
I was too busy trying to think: Where would Zach go? What would Zach do? He had to get away from the people chasing him, lose them somewhere in the classrooms or halls. Or passageways.
Hiding would have been easy—he had home-court advantage. But hiding wasn’t going to be enough. If they knew he was at the Gallagher Academy, he wasn’t going to be safe at the Gallagher Academy. Zach was going to have to run.
And then I knew where he’d be going.
I grabbed the banister of the nearest staircase and flung myself around, taking the steps two at a time, desperate not to be followed. And then I darted down the narrow hall lined with larger, more private rooms until I reached the only one that wasn’t used by a teacher.
When I reached the door of Zach’s room I burst through without knocking, which—to tell you the truth—was something of a mistake, because before my eyes even adjusted to the black, I felt a blow knocking me forward, off my feet and into the dresser.
“Gallagher Girl,” Zach said. He sounded furious and ashamed, both.
“Are you okay?” His hands were on me then, checking my head and my arms.