United We Spy (Page 19)

“Well, I’ll say this for Macey,” Zach whispered as he walked up behind me, “I like her idea of roughing it.”

I was sitting in an Adirondack chair on the deserted stretch of beach, looking out at the ocean. I’d pulled the world’s softest blanket off one of the guest beds and was sitting in the dark with it wrapped around my shoulders, my feet buried in the sand.

“We have five grand in cash and ten fake IDs,” I said to Zach. I didn’t turn to face him. The facts just came pouring out of me, unstoppable. “We have six credit cards, but I don’t trust two of them. They can be traced back to the school, so… We’ll need to get the van off the road. Too many people know it. We’ve used it too many times. So that leaves buses, I guess. We’ll have to—”

“Cammie.” My name was a whisper on Zach’s lips, and he eased closer.

“The girls did a good job packing.” I didn’t think about when they’d done it—how they’d known. But every spy knows that running away is always a possibility. “We have basic comms and Liz has enough computers to hack NASA. We still need physical gear, though. Sporting goods. Electronics. We’ll need a hardware store at some point. We should split up for that part.”

“Cam.” Zach kneeled in the sand in front of me. He took my hands. I hadn’t realized how cold they were until he rubbed them in his own. “We need to talk about them.”

“What about them?”

“Is this what’s best for them?”

“We’re going to need a team, Zach. We’re going to need this team.”

“We don’t need a team to run, Gallagher Girl. I can’t go back because my mom is part of the Circle. You’re in danger because of what the ambassador may or may not have told you. We’ve got to go to ground. You and me. We have to run. Hide. Disappear.” He said the last word more slowly. I knew how big it was and what it meant. “And it will be easier if it’s just the two of us.”

“I’m not going to ground, Zach.” I’d been thinking it for hours, weighing it. Worrying about it. So I stood and started toward the house. It was like all roads had been leading to that sandy beach for ages. Since I woke up in the Alps. Since I fell down a laundry chute in Boston. Since I pulled a pop bottle out of a trash can and said hello to a boy who had seen me in a crowd.

“Where are you going?”

I looked at the first boy who had ever seen me—the real me—and I told him, “To end it.”

“We need to talk,” I said as soon as I stepped inside.

“Good. You’re here. We need to figure out a way to make contact with your mom.” Bex was pacing. “My mum will know how. We just have to—”

“No.” I shook my head and read her eyes. “Bex, what is rule number seven for an operative in deep cover?”

Bex knew the answer, but she didn’t say it.

“An operative in deep cover operates alone without risking the safety and security of others,” I said, rattling off one of the many things I’d learned from Joe Solomon. “There are maybe a half dozen people on this planet we can trust, and if you think they aren’t going to be under constant surveillance, you’re crazy. Which means”—I took a deep breath—“from this point forward, we’re on our own.”

“But…” The words seemed hard for Liz; the weight of all that was happening was far too heavy for her small shoulders. “We have to tell someone. About my test, about what the Circle is doing. Someone has to do something about it!”

“Someone is going to do something about it, Liz.” I looked around the group. “We’re going to do something about it.”

“Cam, let’s think about this,” Zach told me, and I spun on him.

“I was supposed to sleep longer!” I heard myself shouting.

As random outbursts go, that was a pretty good one. I watched my roommates look at each other—at Zach. I watched them try to see what I was saying, so I talked on.

“Something has been bothering me ever since Preston’s dad died. The drugs they used to knock me out on the way to the prison…they wore off too soon. Our theory has always been that the Circle sent a gunman to kill the ambassador before he could talk to me. Silence him. I wasn’t even supposed to be with the ambassador when the gunman came. That was the story, right?”

“We know, Cam,” Bex told me.

I shook my head. “But what if it was just a story? What if I was exactly where I was supposed to be—exactly when I was supposed to be there?”

I watched the people I know best look at me like I was a crazy person. Trust me. It’s a look I know pretty well.

“Remember what you told me in London, Bex? That the Circle doesn’t need me dead anymore because it’s too late to stop me from telling anyone about the list?”

“Yeah, Cam,” Bex said.

“You said that they didn’t need me dead, but they’d probably still try to kill me if it was convenient—just for spite. Remember that?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Well, what if it was convenient? What if someone wanted me in that room? What if someone meant for me to die too?”

“Someone like Max Edwards?” Zach asked.

I nodded. “If I was supposed to sleep for another hour, why did he come check on me when he did? Why take me in to see the ambassador early? I mean…maybe it was all a coincidence.…”

“Or maybe it wasn’t,” Bex said.

“The Circle has moles everywhere,” Liz said. “Even on his task force.”

“Maybe they have one leading the task force,” Macey said.

“Do you think they know?” Zach asked me. “Your mom and Joe, do you think they suspect Edwards is dirty?”

“I’m not sure he is,” I said with a shrug. “But I don’t like him. And I don’t like…it. In any case, there’s no telling who we can trust.” I took a deep breath and steadied my nerves as I went on. “And that’s why we have to go alone.”

“Gallagher Girl, let’s think about this.”

“I have thought about it. And this is it, Zach. This is what comes next. I’m through waiting and hiding. I’m not running or lying low or going to ground or any of the spy terms that can basically be translated as wait for someone else to do something. I am tired of waiting.”

I looked around, expecting protests, but none came, so I talked on. “Preston’s dad asked for me and he mentioned Liz, so I think she’s right, and I think this thing is happening. I think the Circle is trying to start World War Three.”

“So that’s why we call my parents,” Bex countered, and I shook my head.

“They have a job, Bex. They have a mission.” I took a deep breath and admitted, “Every last one of them is busy tracking down the leaders of the Circle. Whether they realize it or not, they’re trying to stop it from that end. And just hearing our voices might be enough to land them in a prison too. So…no. I’m going to try to stop World War Three. And I’m asking you to help me.”

“Where do we start?” Bex asked.

I felt them all looking at me—waiting for me to say something, do something. It was the way I always looked at my mom or Aunt Abby or Mr. Solomon. I felt them waiting for orders. And I realized they weren’t going with me on this quest—they were following me. I felt the weight of the responsibility crushing down on me, and my roommates must have sensed it.

“Cam, you’re the one who saw where they’re holding Preston.” Bex was moving toward me. “You’re the one who heard what the ambassador had to say. And, Cam, you’re the only one of us who has ever been entirely on your own, going after the Circle.”

“I got caught,” I reminded everyone. Especially myself.

“You survived,” Bex told me, emphasis on the final word, on the only thing that really mattered. “So”—she took a slight step back and crossed her arms—“what are we going to do?”

I felt them waiting, watching, and I wondered if Zach was right—if the two of us would be better off on our own. But it was too late. We couldn’t lose my roommates if we tried. They were Gallagher Girls. They would find us.

“Lizzie.” I turned to her. “What happens next? I mean…what’s the next domino?”

“It could be any number of things. I built a model, and it’s scanning the Internet for anything that fits with the pattern, and then I’ll cross-reference that against—”

“Short version, Liz,” Bex reminded her.

“I don’t know yet,” Liz blurted. “But I will soon. Probably soon. Hopefully soon.”

“How soon?” I asked.

“A couple days. Maybe sooner.”

“Okay, so in the meantime, we get Preston.”

I waited for the objections, the questions, the doubts, but no one said a thing until Bex asked, “What do we know about this prison?”

“Before Joe left, he told me it’s a maximum-security facility in the Alaskan arctic,” Zach said, taking over. “Very remote. Very extreme. Very secure. Only the highest-level terror targets are taken there.”

“Because it’s so remote?” Liz asked.

Zach shook his head. “Because, officially, it doesn’t exist. Prisoners only get sent there if they are never supposed to leave.”

I didn’t want to look at Macey, but I couldn’t help myself. I watched her from the corner of my eye, waiting for her to wince or cringe, but she was stoic. Frozen.

“How big is it?” Bex asked.

“Not sure.” I shook my head. “The facility was built into the mountain, and I didn’t see the whole thing. It was like a maze. I think you’re supposed to get lost.”

“Do you remember the route you took?” Bex asked, and I smiled.

“Every step.”

“Good,” Macey said. “There’s a gun safe in the basement.”

“No.” I shook my head.

“But—”

“We can’t blast our way in, Macey. No matter how much firepower we bring, they are going to have more. Our only way in is very, very quietly.”

“It’s not that simple, okay?” Zach shook his head. Frustration poured off him in waves. “You guys don’t get it. The temperature and altitude alone make this maybe the hardest target in the country. If you think this is going to be easy, you’re crazy.”

“Zach’s right,” Bex said.

“I got out,” I said, almost under my breath.

“And you were lucky,” he countered.

Until then, I hadn’t really considered how miraculous it was. There had been too much adrenaline, too many wild thoughts inside my mind. But that didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t tell him he was wrong. I could only say, “So I can get in.”

“Getting out is different than breaking in,” Zach told me.