United We Spy (Page 32)
“MI6,” Bex said with a confident nod. “I don’t want to wait anymore. I want to get to work.”
Liz looked at Macey.
“Secret Service,” Macey said. She fingered the samples of fabric she was holding, looking down at them as if she couldn’t face us while admitting her deepest, darkest secret. “I’m going to join the Secret Service. The president has a teenage daughter. And I can’t help thinking that maybe I can do for her what Abby did for me.”
Finally, Liz looked at me, but I didn’t have an answer to her question.
On the TV, a reporter was outside the Capitol building, talking about the days we’d just lived through. Iranian forces were moving away from the Caspian border. The unrest was almost over, and the Iranian ports would soon be reopened for business. The world at large knew that we had come close to tragedy, but would they ever know exactly how close? And wasn’t that our job—to make sure they didn’t have to?
“So does that mean it’s over?” I asked, the words only for myself, but the smartest girls in the world were beside me, and in unison they turned to look at the screen.
“I guess,” Liz said. She didn’t sound hopeful, though. We’d all seen how tenuous the peace was. We knew too well how easily it could all be broken—how quickly it could all happen again. There would always be people who wanted war and power and dominance. They would always be there but, luckily, so would we.
“Periwinkle or persimmon?” Macey asked. She held two scraps of fabric out for me to examine, but I was heavily drugged and more than a little skeptical.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Bridesmaid dresses. Your mom said I could plan the wedding. She doesn’t care, and between you and me I’m so relieved. It was going to be really hard to manipulate her into letting me make all the decisions anyway. So, periwinkle or persimmon?”
I pointed to one, and to tell you the truth I didn’t care which one it was. That’s the thing about getting shot twice, almost kidnapped twice, really kidnapped once, and banged on the head more times than anyone can imagine: It tends to put your priorities in order. And I didn’t care what color my dress was as long as the members of the wedding were happy and healthy and…there.
As long as everyone I loved was there.
“Spring in the gardens,” Macey said. Outside the windows, I could see the first sprinkles of green starting to cover the trees. The sun was shining and the sounds of laughing, running girls filled the halls. “After graduation.”
She nodded as if that were our most important mission yet—maybe our final mission on those grounds, all of us together. In periwinkle gowns.
“Hello, Cammie,” Catherine said as she stood in the shadows.
Sublevel Two was empty. I’d walked without a sound down the spiraling stone walkway to the room that had become a cell. The door was gone, replaced with a massive clear barrier that was no doubt blast-proof and bulletproof, and the only way in or out of the room that had been Zach’s mother’s home for the rest of the semester. But the semester was ending. Graduation was coming.
It was time to say our good-byes.
“This is such a nice surprise,” she told me. A harsh light burned overhead, casting her face in eerie shadow as she sat on the small mattress that lay on the floor. “But, of course, I knew you’d come eventually. I knew you had to come.”
It was my turn to speak—to say something. I wanted to ask her where I had messed up the previous summer—exactly how and when and why I’d gotten caught. I might have begged her to tell me if betraying our sisterhood was worth it. I might have yelled and cursed and cried for all she’d done to me. To Zach. To us. I might have done any of those things, but I couldn’t speak. So I stood, wordless, watching her, almost like looking at a dream.
“How do you like my room?”
She gestured to the stone walls and floor. There were big pads of paper and crayons, two blankets and a pillow without a case, but no chair and no window, just a bare lightbulb that swung overhead.
“Don’t feel bad for me, Cammie,” she told me. “I’m home, after all.” She stretched out on the narrow mattress, looked up at the ceiling. “I always knew I’d come home.”
I hated that fact, and she must have seen it in my eyes, because she straightened.
“What’s the matter, Cammie? Did you forget that we are sisters?”
I couldn’t speak. Words formed inside my mind, but I couldn’t will my mouth to say them.
“How is Zachary? He hasn’t come to see me. Will you ask him to come? I would consider it a personal favor.”
I’m not doing you any favors.
“Your mother comes and sees me every day. She has lots of questions.”
As she spoke, she looked like an insane person. Like she had a child’s mind inside that fully grown body. I wondered if it was an act, but then I didn’t care.
“Look, Cammie.” She picked up one of the pieces of paper. “It’s the mansion, see? It’s our home.” She unrolled the paper and held it toward the glass to reveal a drawing of the mansion made with crayons. “I made it for you.” She rolled the paper up again and slid it through the narrow opening in the glass. I took it, but I didn’t say a word.
“Doesn’t our home look like a castle in my picture?” she asked me. “I always thought it looked like a castle.”
And then she started to sing.
“Above the plains up on the hill there stood a castle bold
A gleaming palace made of white, a pillar to behold
The horsemen lived in service to the castle and the crown
But the knights rose up and killed the kings
And it all burned down.”
I hadn’t realized I’d said the words aloud until Catherine’s eyes widened.
“Do you recognize it, Cammie?” she asked. “Did I sing it to you last summer in Austria?”
Honestly, I didn’t remember. Maybe she had. But that wasn’t why I knew it.
“Oh,” Catherine said, realization dawning. She pressed her fingers against the glass. “I sang it to Zachary. Tell me, dear, does he sing it to you now?”
I didn’t answer. I just inched farther from the glass as if she might reach out, touch me with a spark.
“They are going to take me away tonight. Did you know that, Cammie? Did you know I’m leaving?”
I didn’t tell her that I did know. I didn’t say that that was why I had come—that I needed to close this final chapter. I wanted to see her there—frail and fleeting and locked inside those walls and the unhinged balance of her mind. I needed to see the woman from the roof in Boston, from the streets in D.C., from the nightmares of Austria that still invaded my mind. I needed to see her caged like an animal and know that it was over.
But I didn’t say that. I didn’t dare admit that she still had any power over me. I didn’t give her that one little bit of satisfaction.
She looked up at the walls and the ceiling—the stone that surrounded her.
“They promised me that this would always be my home. That girls like you would always be my sisters. But they weren’t my sisters, were they?” Catherine asked, but then the lunacy broke, a quick and fleeting crack, and through it I saw anger and bitterness and rage.
I saw the girl who had come to the Gallagher Academy looking for a home and found only a thing to hate. I saw the Catherine who had found, in the Circle, an outlet for her anger. I saw the woman who had tortured me once and who would gladly do it again.
“Why did you come to us, Catherine?” I asked her, finally. “You knew you would end up here—like this. Why did you do it?”
She smiled, but I guess it was her turn not to answer, to withhold a small sense of power. Instead, she just sat cross-legged on the cold stone floor and began to sing.
“But the knights rose up and killed the kings
And it all burned down.”
That night I woke up to the sounds of sirens.
“Code Black. Code Black. Code Black.”
Our graduation gowns hung on hangers from the bathroom door. A few of our things were already in boxes with labels like LIZ’S ROOM and MACEY STORAGE, but for the most part our suite looked exactly like it always did, books and clothes strewn everywhere, like the home of normal teenage girls.
Except we weren’t normal.
That was obvious as soon as the sirens broke through the air. Macey was already out of bed and pulling on her shoes. Bex was at the window, staring out across the grounds, but then in the blink of an eye, the view disappeared. Titanium shutters descended, covering the windows and blocking off all chance of us getting out. Or of someone else getting in.
“Liz,” Bex shouted. “Get up!”
“What’s going on?” Liz asked, voice groggy.
“Catherine,” I said, my blood going cold. “Tonight they’re moving Catherine.”
The halls were full as we made our way downstairs. The sirens boomed and the lights swirled, and I felt almost dizzy from the noise and the pressure. Protective cases covered all the archives, and I could hear the sounds of yelling, cries booming out through the chaos.
“Downstairs and into the Grand Hall please, ladies!” Mr. Smith yelled from the landing. “Down the stairs! Yes, please. Slowly, now. No need to rush. No need to panic. Into the Grand Hall!”
Calmly, my roommates and I fell into step with the tide of girls that was sweeping toward the Hall of History. It was organized chaos, with the swirling lights and meandering half-asleep crowds. It felt less like a drill and more like the zombie apocalypse.
“Gallagher Girl.” Zach came rushing up behind me.
“What’s going on?” Bex asked, and we stopped, stepping into the Hall of History and out of the parade of pajama-clad girls that still moved dutifully down the stairs.
“They were moving my mother when she got away.” He seemed out of breath. “All the security staff and most of the teachers are out looking for her. They’ve locked down the mansion, but it’s probably too late. She’s probably already escaped.”
“Yes, right this way!” Tina Walters was shouting from the base of the stairs. “Into the Grand Hall, munchkins. No. We’re not going to open up the waffle bar,” Tina told one over-anxious eighth grader. “Inside, now.”
“Do they really think she’s gone, Zach?” Liz asked, but I could see the answer in his eyes.
“I should have known it was too good to be true,” Zach said. “She never would have turned herself in if she hadn’t had a plan.”
The words hit me so hard, I actually had to lean against the railing. I’d been thinking the same thing for weeks—ever since the day when Agent Townsend and Zach walked a shackled Catherine back into our school and she had looked around as if she was exactly where she wanted to be. I thought about the woman behind the glass, the empty look in her eyes, and the cold fury in her words. And finally the song that she had sung to me.