Home > Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls #5)(3)

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls #5)(3)
Author: Ally Carter

Seriously. In so many ways, we are just girls. We laugh with our friends and worry about our hair and wonder what boys are thinking. Sure, we do some of that wondering in Portuguese, but we’re still girls just the same. In that way, the people in the town of Roseville understand us better than almost all the people at the CIA.

And believe me, it wasn’t the spies-in-training I was nervous to see—it was the girls. But as the chopper landed and my mother opened the door, I knew it wasn’t possible to avoid them.

Most of the freshman class stood halfway between the side doors and the Protection and Enforcement barn. An entire class of girls I’d never seen before stood huddled around Madame Dabney, who, I could have sworn, wiped a tear from an eye when I stepped onto the lawn. For a second, it felt as if my entire sisterhood were there, watching. And then the crowd parted to reveal a narrow path and three faces I knew better than my own.

“Oh my gosh!” Liz screamed, running toward me. She seemed even smaller than usual, her hair even blonder and straighter. I threw my arms around her, knowing I was home.

Then I felt a hand reach out to touch my hair. “That dye job is going to give you split ends, you know.”

I did know. And I didn’t care. But no sooner had I reached for Macey McHenry than she pushed away, held me at arm’s length.

“What did you do to yourself?” she said, looking me up and down. “You look like death.”

Which was exactly how I felt, but it didn’t seem like the right time to say so. Everyone was watching, staring, waiting for…something. I wasn’t sure what. So I just said, “It’s good to see you, Macey.” I smiled, but then something occurred to me. “Of course, it feels like I just saw you, but…”

I trailed off. I didn’t want to talk about how my head was way more broken than my body, so I turned to my third and final roommate.

“Bex!” I yelled at the girl who stood a little apart from the others, arms crossed. She wasn’t crying (like Liz) or cringing at my appearance (like Macey). She didn’t even push closer, trying to get some kind of scoop (like Tina Walters). Rebecca Baxter just stood looking at me as if she wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about seeing me in my current condition. Or maybe, I had to admit, about seeing me at all.

“Bex,” I said, hobbling closer. “I’m back. Sorry I didn’t bring you anything.” I forced a laugh. “I must have lost my wallet.”

I wanted it to be funny—I needed it to be funny because I couldn’t shake the feeling that if she didn’t laugh then I might cry.

“Bex, I—” I started, but Bex just turned to my mother.

“Welcome back, headmistress.” She gave my mom a nod, and a look I didn’t recognize passed between them. “They’re waiting.”

“Who’s waiting?” The words echoed in the empty foyer as I followed my mother across the threshold of our school. For the first time in days, I had my bearings, and yet I still felt totally out of my depth. My internal clock must have reset itself somewhere over the Atlantic, because even before the crowd of girls began rushing through the door and down the halls, I knew that it was time to get back to class, to lab. To life. But I had absolutely no idea where that walk would lead me.

“Where are we going?” I asked. “What’s going on?”

Liz walked beside me, but it was Macey who shrugged her shoulders and said, “Haven’t you heard, Cam? You’re an international incident.”

But neither my mother nor Bex said a thing. A moment later, Mr. Smith (or someone I assumed was Mr. Smith since he always gets massive plastic surgery over the summer) fell into step beside us. “How was it, Rachel?” he asked.

Mom nodded. “Like we thought.” She took a piece of Evapopaper from him, scanned the contents, and dropped it into a small fountain, where it instantly dissolved. “The team’s on the ground?”

“Yes,” Professor Buckingham said, walking down the Grand Staircase and joining us. “They’ve scanned the area around the convent, but as soon as Cameron escaped, the Circle would have abandoned the—”

“Keep looking. Somebody had to see something.”

“Rachel.” Buckingham’s voice was no louder than a whisper, and yet it stopped my mother in her tracks. “The area is incredibly remote. We don’t even know that she was being held on the mountain. She could have escaped from a transport or…Rachel, they’re gone.”

I expected Mom to climb the stairs, to walk through the Hall of History and to her office, but she turned instead and started for the small hallway behind the Grand Stairs, Buckingham and Mr. Smith at her side.

“What else?” Mom asked.

“Well,” Mr. Smith said cautiously, “we think she should begin with a full battery of neurological tests.”

“After we debrief her,” Mom said.

“She’ll need a full physical workup as well,” Mr. Smith added. “We can’t expect her to return to class if she’s not—”

“She is right here!”

I hadn’t meant to yell—I really hadn’t. They were the last people in the world I would ever want to disrespect, but I couldn’t stand hearing them talk about me like I was still lost on the other side of the world.

“I’m here,” I said, softer.

“Of course you are.” Professor Buckingham patted my arm and turned to stare into a mirror that hung in the narrow hallway. A thin red line spread across her face, and in the reflection, I saw the eyes of the painting behind us flash green. A split second later the mirror was sliding aside, revealing a small elevator, which I knew would take us to Sublevel One.

“We’re very glad to have you home, Cameron,” Buckingham said with another pat. She stepped inside, along with Mr. Smith. Bex started to follow, but Mom blocked the way.

“You girls can go to class now. Cammie will catch up with you after she’s been debriefed and examined.”

“But…” Bex started.

“Go to class,” Mom said. But they didn’t really trust me to leave their sight again, I could tell; and Mom must have known it, because she moved inside the car without me.

“Cammie, I’ll see you downstairs in a minute,” she said, and the doors slid closed.

For the first time in months, my three best friends and I were alone. How many hours had we spent walking those halls together in the early morning or middle of the night? Sneaking. Planning. Testing our limits and ourselves. But standing there, we were all a little too straight—our posture a little too perfect. It was as if we were strangers trying to make a good impression.

“Stop looking at me like that,” I told them when it finally became too much.

“Like how?” Liz asked.

“Like you didn’t think you’d ever see me again,” I said.

“Cam, we—” Liz started, but Bex cut her off.

“You don’t get it, do you?” Her voice was more hiss than whisper. “Until forty-eight hours ago, we didn’t.”

Chapter Four

The first time I’d ever seen the elevator to Sublevel One, I’d been starting my sophomore year. Real-life fieldwork had seemed ages away. Covert Operations was a totally new subject. And Bex was my best friend. As the car began to sink into the top secret depths of my school, I had to wonder if all of those things had changed. I didn’t want to think about the way Bex had looked at me. I didn’t want to cry. So I just stood there wondering if anything was ever going to be the same again, when the doors slid open and my mother said, “Follow me.”

There’s a tone of voice that adults get that lets you know that you’re in trouble. I heard it then, and suddenly I wanted back on the chopper. Sadly, running away a second time seemed like a terrible idea, so I had no choice but to turn and follow my mother inside the room where I’d learned my first lessons in Covert Operations. But with one glance I knew it wasn’t a classroom anymore. Right then, it was a war room.

A long table sat in the middle of the space, chairs all around it. There were phones and computers, a massive screen that showed an aerial image of the convent and the mountain. I smelled burned coffee and stale doughnuts. For a second, I was tempted to close my eyes and imagine that I was just another part of the team.

But then a chair squeaked, and Madame Dabney asked, “How are you, Cameron?” and I had to remember that when you go to spy school, some questions are way more complicated than they appear.

Say “I’m okay,” and you might sound like an idiot who doesn’t care she has amnesia.

Say “I’m terrified,” and risk looking like a wimp or a coward.

“My head hurts” sounds like a whiner.

“I just want to go to bed” sounds like someone too foolish or lazy to care about the truth.

But saying nothing to the faculty of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women wasn’t exactly an option either, so I took the seat at the opposite end of the table, looked my teachers squarely in the eyes, and told them, “I’m feeling better, thank you.”

It must have been the right answer, because Madame Dabney smiled in my direction. “Do you feel like answering some questions for us?”

“Yes,” I said, even though what I needed was to have questions answered for me. Collectively, they’d probably been on a thousand different missions in their lifetimes, and I knew they’d combed the corners of the earth to find out what had happened over the summer. I wanted to know everything they’d discovered, and so much more.

Madame Dabney smiled. “Why don’t you begin by telling us why you ran away?”

“I didn’t run away,” I said, louder than I’d intended. “I left.” My mind drifted back to the night when the Circle cornered me in the middle of a mountain, and the look on Joe Solomon’s face as he triggered the explosion that, in so many ways, was still reverberating through my life. “Mr. Solomon was willing to die to save me. People were getting hurt because of me, and…I knew that I wasn’t in danger.” I looked down at my hands. “I was the danger.”

I sat waiting for someone to tell me I was wrong. I wanted them to say that the Circle had started this and the Circle alone was to blame, but those words never came. Being right had never been so disappointing.

Professor Buckingham was the only one who moved, and she leaned closer. “Cameron, listen to me.” Her voice was like granite, and the Circle seemed almost soft in comparison. “What is the last thing you remember?”

“Writing my report and leaving it in the Hall of History.”

Buckingham picked up a bound manuscript and placed it on the table in front of me. “This report?”

It looked different from the loose pages I’d left on top of the case with Gilly’s sword months before, but that was it. I knew it. So I nodded. “I was in a hurry to finish it. I had to put everything down so I could…leave.”

Buckingham smiled as if that made perfect sense. “Do you know where you went?”

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