United We Spy (Page 30)

I felt the blood flow out of my face. My hands tingled. My heart pounded. And I thought for just one second that I’d be sick. There was too much emotion inside of me, and I felt the bile in my gut come to a simmer and then a boil, and I wanted to explode.

“Cammie?” Amirah’s voice cut through the haze. “Who is that?”

“He’s no one, Amy,” I said, pushing her behind me. “Just someone I used to know.”

“He looks familiar,” she said.

“Don’t look at him,” I warned. “Don’t talk to him. And do not listen to him.”

“Come now, Cammie,” Dr. Steve said with a chuckle. “Is that any way to talk to an old friend?”

“I already have enough friends, thanks.”

“Where is she?” he demanded. “Where’s Catherine?”

“The school. She’s being held in one of the Sublevels.”

He knew to stay back a little, far enough away that I couldn’t kick or punch or wrestle the gun from his hands.

“Then we’d better start walking.”

“Let Amirah go, Dr. Steve. You don’t need her,” I told him.

He laughed. “They need her, Cammie.”

“I thought we were on the same side now,” I tried to tell him. “Catherine said you just wanted to stop the Circle leaders and their war. To do that, we have to keep Amirah safe. We have to—”

“I don’t have to do anything, Cammie!” He was shouting. It was like the rage and stress were too much for him, and he wanted it to end as much as I did. But then he stopped. There was a new light in his eyes—a realization that he had the power to change everything.

“The Inner Circle needs you to die,” he said. His gaze fell on the girl behind me.

“That’s why we have to get her back to school, Dr. Steve,” I tried to tell him.

“They’re going to assassinate you,” he said to Amirah, but she didn’t wince or speak. She just put her hand at the small of my back as I moved to shield her more.

“Yeah, but we’re not going to let that happen, are we, Dr. Steve?” I took a slow step forward, closing the space between us.

“No. They can’t kill her if she’s already dead.”

He raised the gun higher, aiming it over my shoulder, and I knew there were no words—no logic—that could change what he was thinking. So I stopped thinking. I stopped waiting. I stopped planning and fearing and hating the man with the gun. I stopped being afraid for me, and I started caring only about my sister.

Without a word, I lunged in Dr. Steve’s direction, faster than I ever knew I could move. It must have scared him because he fired. Once. Twice.

Blinding pain coursed through me, but I didn’t stop. I just kept running toward him, catching his gun hand in my arms and spinning.

Was it starting to rain or was I sweating? I didn’t know. All I was sure of was that a pair of headlights had appeared in the dark. The car was racing toward us.

Dr. Steve fired again, and I kicked, knocking him to his knees. The gun clattered to the ground and I spun, sending him into the street, right into the path of the speeding car.

I heard the crash.

I saw the blood.

And then there was nothing but the sight of Dr. Steve’s crumpled body and the sound of Agent Edwards saying, “Cammie? Is that you?”

I don’t know what I must have looked like, between the blood and the falling rain. My hair matted to my head and clung to my face, water dripping into my eyes as I squinted against the glare of the headlights. The windshield wipers of the car sloshed back and forth like a metronome.

“Cammie, you’ve been shot!” Agent Edwards looked from Amirah to Dr. Steve, lying bloody and broken on the ground. “Is he dead?”

“I…I don’t know,” I told him. Amirah was rushing toward me, terror in her eyes.

I watched Agent Edwards study her, almost as if she were a painting. “Amirah…it’s you. You’re safe. Thank goodness. Now, come on, you two. We’ve got to get you out of here.”

He threw open the back door of the car, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to go to him. Instead, I stooped to pick up Dr. Steve’s gun. It was heavy and cold in my hands.

“Cammie, you’re bleeding. Come on. We’ve got to get you girls back to school.” He looked up and down the dark streets like he was worried about who or what might be coming for us next. “Cammie, come on.”

My left arm felt useless at my side, but it didn’t hurt, and I didn’t move to get into the car. I couldn’t. So instead I just asked, “What are you doing here, Agent Edwards?” I shifted a little, putting Amirah at my back.

“Cammie, I’m scared,” she told me, but I kept my sights on the man in front of me.

“Ms. Morgan, come with me. Now!”

“Why did I wake up early?” I asked him. He looked at me as if I were as crazy as advertised. The girl who had been brainwashed, kidnapped. Broken. “In Alaska, I was supposed to sleep longer. And yet you came out early to check on me anyway. Was it an accident?”

“What are you talking about, Cammie? You’re in shock. We don’t have time for this.”

“Did you want me to wake up early? Did you want me in that room when Ambassador Winters died?” He was frozen as I spoke. “Did you want me to die too?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“There’s something that’s been bothering me all these weeks. Why did the CIA want Zach? Want me? We’re just kids.”

“Oh”—he laughed—“I think we both know you’re more than that.”

“The CIA had no reason to chase Zach and me…and Liz. But the Circle did.”

“Cammie, you and Amirah need to come with me. Now.”

“Don’t go with him, Amirah.”

“I won’t,” she said. Her voice didn’t tremble or break. She wasn’t just a queen; she was a Gallagher Girl, as she told me, “I have your back.”

I raised Dr. Steve’s gun, took aim at the center of Agent Edwards’s chest.

“You don’t want to do that, Cammie,” he told me.

“Yeah,” I said, my voice even. “I think I do.”

But the man in my sights just smiled and laughed.

“How long have you known?” he asked.

“Deep down…I think always. But for sure since the night of the career fair. You shouldn’t have come for Zach and me. That was a mistake.”

“No.” He laughed then. “That was perfect.”

I was just starting to ponder what he’d said—what it meant—when I heard a sniper’s shots ring out.

“Down!” I yelled, pushing Amirah behind the car just as the windshield shattered.

Dr. Steve was right. The Inner Circle wanted Amirah to die, but she needed to die on their terms, and the more public her death the better. Something tragic. Something visible. So I was certain of one thing: Their sniper wasn’t shooting at her. He was shooting at me.

I turned and, with my good arm, fired in the direction where the sniper must have been.

With my back turned, Agent Edwards didn’t hesitate. He ran for Amirah, who ducked beneath his grasp and swept at his legs just like we all learned to do during Intro to Protection and Enforcement, but no seventh grader can take down a fully-trained operative, and when Amirah appeared again, Agent Edwards’s arm was around her throat.

“Drop it, Cammie,” he yelled, backing away, dragging Amirah with him. His gun was pressed against her temple. She trembled but didn’t cry.

“Now!” he yelled. “I’ll shoot her here. I will. I don’t want to—there are so many more interesting ways for her to die. But she’ll be dead either way, so it’s your call. Now drop it.”

Slowly I let Dr. Steve’s gun fall to the ground.

The pain in my left arm was growing sharper and the rain fell harder. I knew that if Amirah and I didn’t make it back to school soon, my friends would come looking for me. But I also knew that they would be too late.

“You don’t have to die here, Cammie,” he told me.

“Maybe I do,” I said, and realized that I meant it. I would die to save Amirah. I would die to stop World War III.

“Cammie?” Amirah’s voice broke, but she smiled. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course I do,” I said, and then Amirah grabbed Agent Edwards’s arm. And bit.

I killed a man once. I wasn’t sure how the rifle got into my hands. I hadn’t remembered firing. I didn’t know what I was doing—how. Why.

This wasn’t like that.

That night I was aware of everything. Every drop of rain. Every swipe of the wiper blades.

I knew exactly how long it took for me to fall to the ground and exactly where I’d find the gun. I remember the feel of the metal against my fingers. I was aware of my breath going in and out. And when Agent Edwards fired at me I was aware of that too.

Pain seared through me again—a hot, burning stab in my gut—and yet my body found a strength I didn’t know it had, correcting as I fell. When I took aim at the very place Amirah had been just seconds before and pulled the trigger, I knew the risk. I knew the cost. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if I had to.

But I didn’t have to.

Amirah’s screams pierced the air, but she crawled away from the man who was falling to the ground. His blood was on her shirt, but she didn’t seem to be in any pain. Her pain, I knew, would come later. For the moment at least, adrenaline and fear would keep her going, keep her safe.

“Cammie!” I heard my name ring out in the distance, but I was hearing things, I was certain.

Blood trailed into my eyes. Pain filled my body.

“Amirah,” I said, grasping for her. “You have to get in the car. You have to drive it to the school. Go fast. Go now.”

“I’m not going to leave you.”

“I’ll be okay,” I told her. “I’ll be—”

“Cammie!” I heard the voice again and that’s when I grew certain I was dreaming, drifting slowly away.

“Just do me a favor,” I said, the words barely louder than a whisper.

“Anything.”

“Don’t ever go anyplace without backup, okay?” I said, then laughed, but the pain was too much, and I crumbled over on the pavement. “It’s a rookie mistake.”

“Cammie, I can get you into the car,” Amirah told me, but I just shook my head.

Someone had to stay with Dr. Steve. Someone had to watch Agent Edwards’s body. There were a half dozen reasons I could have given for not getting into that car, but the truth was the one thing I didn’t want to say: I didn’t want Amirah to watch me die.

My eyes were too heavy then. The ground was so soft; I just wanted to lie there and sleep.

“Go, Amirah. Go and don’t look back.”

She nodded. Raindrops clung to her eyelashes, and when she blinked, I couldn’t tell if she was crying.

“Cammie!” I heard my mother’s voice again. I hadn’t heard it in so long that it sounded like a ghost, calling to me, coming to take me to my father.