United We Spy (Page 18)

“I’m fine.”

“I’m so sorry. I thought you were—”

“I know.”

“Who are they?” he asked.

“Interpol. CIA. They’re everyone, Zach. And they’re looking for you.”

There was a backpack on his bed. He never carried it to class, and immediately I knew that it wasn’t for textbooks and homework. He kept that bag packed and ready at all times, just in case he had to run.

I knew because I had a bag just like it.

I heard noises, footsteps pounding up the stairs.

“Come on,” I said, reaching for his hand. “We’ve got to disappear.”

And then I led him down the hall. When we reached a maintenance closet, I pulled him inside. It was too small, though. I’d never shared it with anyone before, and I found myself pressed against Zach, his arms around me, his backpack at our feet.

“That’s his room!” someone said. They knocked down the door of his bedroom while Zach and I stayed pressed together in the black. “Find them!”

“Are you going to hide me in here forever?” he whispered.

“Maybe,” I whispered back.

“He’s been here,” the men outside said. “He’s gone.”

“Or maybe”—I ran my hand up Zach’s chest, put my arms around his neck—“I am just going to do this.”

And then I pulled the lever. I watched Zach’s eyes go wide as the floor beneath us gave way and together we dropped straight down, sliding through the ventilation system of the school, shooting like a dart away from the people trying to find us.

“You’re crazy,” Zach said when we finally landed with a thud two floors down.

“I’m a good person to know, Zachary. You should have figured that out by now.”

“Oh…I have.”

“Okay, lovebirds,” said a voice behind us. I turned to see Bex, Liz, and Macey standing watching us, arms crossed. “Let’s go.”

It wasn’t the time to tease. It wasn’t the place to flirt. So I led the way through the inner workings of the school. We didn’t speak again. Not when we stood pressed together and listened through a vent to two FBI agents discussing Zach’s whereabouts. No one asked for an explanation when I found a length of rope and used it to lower myself into the basement level.

I thought back to a dark street in D.C. Get her.

I heard the shots in the prison and the yells of the guards. Find her.

I felt the people at my back. Find them.

And in my heart I knew that the girl I’d been on New Year’s Eve was foolish. It wasn’t yet time for me to stop running.

“This is it,” I said when we pushed out of the basement and into a small shack that sat near the edge of the trees. “Over there,” I said, pointing to a section of the main fence covered with overgrown rosebushes and thorns. “There’s another tunnel there. It will lead us to town.”

“Okay.” Zach took a deep breath and turned to me. “I guess this is good-bye. For now.”

“I’m going with you,” I said.

The words hit Zach, and he looked between me and my friends, already knowing what would come next.

“And where she goes, we go.” Liz folded her thin arms across her chest.

“Cammie, your mom’s going to come back,” Zach told me, and I couldn’t help myself—I turned and looked back at the school.

Lights burned in every window. A searchlight swept across the grounds. I heard barking dogs and shouting men. The search would widen and spread, and it wouldn’t stop until it found Zach.

Found us.

“No.” I shook my head. “They’re gone. And they can’t ever come back.”

“Gallagher Girl,” Zach started, but I cut him off with a nod.

“Them.” The word was a whisper. “He said find them. That’s why it isn’t safe for me to stay.” I reached up and gripped his shirt, made him face me as I said, “Think about it, Zach. Winters, Preston, you… They’re coming for anyone who has ever been inside the Circle.”

“Which is why it isn’t safe for you to come with me.”

“But I was inside the Circle—all last summer. Winters would only talk to me.” I watched Zach shake his head, try to cast aside the thought he didn’t want to dwell on. “I’m going,” I said.

“We’re going,” Bex corrected.

“Fortunately,” Macey added with a smile, “I had the foresight to pack Liz’s van with various essentials.”

Liz blushed. “I might have helped.”

“No,” I said.

“But…I brought gummy bears,” Liz said as if that should be enough to neutralize any potential problem.

“If you leave now, you won’t get to come back. Go to class.” I looked at Liz. “Graduate. Leave, and we don’t know what will happen. Which is why the three of you should stay.”

“You really think we’re going to do that?” Macey sounded like she might laugh.

“I think the three of you have never run away before.” I looked down at the ground, the only memory I had of last summer flashing through my mind.

“Leaving can’t be nearly as hard as being left, Cam,” Bex warned. Something in her voice said she still hadn’t forgiven me—that maybe she never would.

I looked at our stone walls and iron fences, and even though we were perfectly dry, I had to shiver a little, thinking about Rome, about when my friends and I had been stuck on opposite sides of the river, no safe way to cross. I felt like my sisterhood and I were about to be on different sides of a vast expanse. I’d have to keep swerving, dodging, running, hoping someday to meet again.

“If we’re going, we have to go now,” Macey said.

And with that it was decided. We couldn’t stay at school forever. After all, we’d spent years preparing for life beyond its walls. We just never knew we’d be rushing out to meet it quite that quickly.

“This way,” I said, pulling back the branches of a rosebush that, rumor said, had been planted by Gilly herself during the Civil War. Behind it was one of the oldest passageways at our school. It dated back to the Underground Railroad, and I knew we weren’t the first desperate people to find it, to need it, to enter into darkness hoping to find a little light at the tunnel’s end.

Zach went first. Then Bex and Macey and Liz. I was supposed to bring up the rear, yet I stopped for a moment, took one last look at the gray stone building, the lacrosse field, and the frost-covered line of trees. In the moonlight it looked almost like a painting. Like a dream. And maybe it had been that for me once. But now, whether I liked it or not, it was time to wake up.

“Cammie!” someone called through the dark. I turned to see Professor Buckingham standing at the door. She was looking at me. Her hair was a mess and her dress was ripped.

Part of me thought that I was in trouble, grounded, facing detention for life. But then Buckingham smiled and raised her hand in something that wasn’t quite a wave, not quite a salute. It was more like she was reaching up to grab a fistful of that night air, to hold it like a memory.

“Good luck,” she yelled, then turned and hit a button on the wall.

Instantly, the sirens began to screech. “Code Black. Code Black. Code Black.”

Lights swirled. Titanium shutters covered all the windows. Barriers slid into place over every door, blocking me off from my teachers, my school. My home. Locking the men and women who’d been sent to find me inside one of the most secure buildings on the face of the earth.

There was only one way left to go, so I turned and started down the dark and dusty tunnel. And for the second time in my life, I ran away.

Chapter Twenty-two

I’ve never been a fugitive before.

I’ve been a runaway, a chameleon, an amnesiac. A spy. But fugitive was new to me, though I have to admit, not entirely unexpected.

We took shifts, driving down two-lane blacktop and interstates, winding mountain roads. We backtracked and sidetracked and did every countersurveillance thing any of us had ever learned. But, most of all, we drove. Not stopping, not resting through the night.

“We’re here.”

I heard Macey’s voice and felt the van come to a stop, bolting upright despite the weight of Liz sleeping across me.

“Ten more minutes,” Liz mumbled. Part of me wanted to let her go back to sleep. Part of me wanted any excuse I might have to think the night before had been a dream.

“Uh, Macey,” Bex asked, straightening. She scooted up to lean between the front seats. “Where exactly is here?”

And then I saw what Bex was seeing. Miles of white-sand beaches stretched out on either side of us. The van sat in the center of a circular driveway. There were intricate iron gates and a massive fountain that was dry and full of leaves. The sky was gray, just like the ocean, and as soon as Macey opened her door I heard the waves crashing into land.

But all of that paled in comparison to the house. (And when I say “house” what I really mean is “mansion.”) It was at least three stories tall with balconies and shaker shingles, and something about that moment made me feel like I’d fallen asleep in an old Dodge minivan and woken up in another world. In Macey’s world.

“Come on,” Macey said.

“Macey…” Bex sounded cautious. “We probably shouldn’t stop.”

“Well, I’m stopping,” Macey said, spinning on us. “And I’m eating a real meal and finding a real bed. So…we can rough it. Or we can rough it.” She pointed at the mansion. “And I, for one, need a shower.”

She was out of the van and starting toward the doors. Bex and I began to run after her, but Zach was already there.

I don’t think he’d slept. I didn’t remember him eating. He looked exactly how he’d looked the moment we left the school. Alert and alive and more than a little like a cross between Joe Solomon and Agent Townsend.

“We have to stay off the grid, Macey. It’s not safe for us to go anywhere anyone might think to look for us.”

“Relax.” She tried—and failed—to push past him. “It belongs to some friends of my parents. They’re in the middle of a really nasty divorce and the judge has barred both of them from the premises. The housekeeper isn’t even allowed in, so trust me. We have the place to ourselves.”

“We can’t just break into a house, Macey,” Liz said.

But Macey only smiled and reached into a potted plant by the front door. Moments later, a key dangled from her fingers. “Who said anything about breaking?”

Creeping inside the big, empty house, I had to admit that Macey was right. No one had been there for ages. I looked around the shadowy rooms. Heavy curtains hung over all the windows. Sheets covered the furniture. The refrigerator was empty, but the pantry was stocked, and so we ate soup and crackers and kept the curtains drawn and the lights off.

We slept all day and paced all night and even the moon felt like a searchlight, sweeping across the ocean.