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Home > United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(15)

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(15)
Author: Ally Carter

“Of course I need you.”

“No, Cammie.” She held me tighter, looked into my eyes. “You’ve already handled situations that agents twice your age would crumble under. You’re a tremendous operative. And you’re ready, sweetheart. When the time comes, I promise you, you’ll be ready.”

“Okay,” I said—because what else could I say? It was like my mother was talking in riddles, and I was far too exhausted to try to break the code.

“Now, go on. I’m sure it’s killing Zach and the girls not to have all the details. Just promise me you’ll try to get some sleep.”

“I promise,” I said.

“Cammie.” Mom’s voice stopped me. “I love you, sweetheart.”

“I love you too,” I told her, and then I walked away.

“So, Cammie,” Bex’s voice was cautious. It was a new approach for her, and it scared me. “How was it?”

“It was awful. They shot Ambassador Winters right in front of me. It was…awful,” I said again. I didn’t care how ridiculous I sounded.

“It’s okay, Cam.” Bex eased slowly closer. “Just tell us what you know.”

“They knocked me out to take me there. I don’t even remember leaving the mansion. And when I woke up I was groggy and sick. And then Agent Edwards realized I was awake and he took me inside the prison. I thought I was going to see Preston, but it was his dad instead. Preston’s dad asked for me. And then they killed him. They shot Ambassador Winters. They shot him and then they came for me.”

“Was Preston there?” Macey asked, but she didn’t face me.

“He was in a cell in the facility. I didn’t see him, though. I saw a video feed, and he was on it.”

“Was he hurt?”

“He looked fine, Macey. Just fine. I didn’t see him up close, but the ambassador was okay, so that tells me—”

“Until they killed him,” Macey cut me off.

“What?”

“The ambassador was okay until they killed him—that’s what you mean, right?”

“Don’t think about this, Macey.”

“Think about what? The truth? Because that is the truth, isn’t it? Someone didn’t want Winters talking, so they killed him. Because he knew something. And maybe Preston knows it too. Maybe now you know it. Maybe…”

“They’ll come after me again?” I finished her thought in spite of how much I hated it. I didn’t want to go back to being the girl the Circle of Cavan was chasing.

“What did Winters tell you, Cammie?” Bex was in front of me, staring into my eyes. If she could have reached into my head and pulled the truth out she would have, but all she could do was hold me perfectly still and say, “Think!”

“Cavan,” I said. “We talked about the Inner Circle and Preston and…” I trailed off, stunned by what I remembered.

“What?” Macey asked.

“Liz,” I whispered. “He talked about Liz.”

“This Liz?” Bex asked, pointing in our roommate’s direction.

“Yeah.” I shook my head, the whole thing coming back in bits and pieces. “He asked about you.” I looked at Liz, whose eyes were even bigger and bluer than usual. “He said how smart you are. It was almost like he was trying to tell me something.”

“About Liz?” Macey asked. “That’s ridiculous. I mean, no offense, you are smart. It’s just…” Macey’s voice trailed off as she turned to Liz, who had gone even paler. “I mean, it is ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Liz’s voice was so soft it trembled. “Maybe it’s not.”

Chapter Seventeen

Liz looked at all of us, blue eyes darting, filling with grief and fear and tears.

“Liz, you’re scaring me,” I finally said when her silence became too much.

“I think it’s my fault,” she blurted, and the tears silently rolled down her face. Her pale cheeks burned crimson, and the words came in ragged stops and starts.

“I think it was me.”

“What’s you?” Bex asked.

“Do you guys remember the tests? Before we started school?” Liz asked.

Bex shook her head. “There were no tests, Liz. We’ve been on break. Remember?”

“No. Not now. When we were sixth graders? Before we started here at all? There were those tests. Remember those?”

“Sure. We took a few tests,” I said.

“Well, I took more,” Liz said. “I took dozens. Hundreds. Probably because my parents weren’t spies. I don’t know why. I just know that I was poked and prodded and questioned for months. Personality tests. IQ tests. Psych profiles.”

“What about them, Lizzie?” Bex asked.

“The butterfly effect.” Again, Liz’s voice cracked. She brought her hands to her face.

“Sit down,” I told her, but she didn’t move. She just kept shaking her head back and forth, over and over, until I thought she might get dizzy.

“A butterfly flaps its wings over the ocean and there’s a hurricane in Asia.”

“We know what the butterfly effect is, Liz,” Bex said, but it was like Liz never even heard her.

“All things are connected,” Liz said. “Like dominoes. Like a house of cards. Like—”

“We’re going to need more facts and fewer similes, Lizzie,” I tried.

“It’s all my fault!” she shouted again.

“Liz, am I going to have to hit you?” Bex asked. “Because I’m totally willing to hit you.”

“I’m not hysterical, Rebecca.” I don’t know if it was the use of Bex’s full name or the tone of Liz’s voice but I knew right then that whatever Liz was worried about—it was real. And it was bad.

“Liz, calm down,” I tried. “Breathe. What is your fault?”

“Think about it,” Liz went on after a minute. “One of the tests I had to take was on abstract thinking. You know—big questions. Crazy theories. If the earth were in the path of a meteor made of cheese, how would you stop it? That kind of thing.”

“Your tests had cheese meteor questions?” Bex asked. I shushed her, and Liz talked on.

“Well, one of the questions was ‘How would you start World War Three?’ That was it. A hypothetical. A crazy notion.” Then her eyes got even bigger, her voice clearer. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know what the Gallagher Academy really was at the time. I just knew that it was really exclusive and I wanted to get in. I wanted to get in so badly.… So when they asked me how I’d start World War Three, I told them.”

The idea washed around the room, settling on us all slowly, like someone had left a window open and the fog was rolling in.

“I thought it was just a hypothetical. It was supposed to be a hypothetical! But now…”

“What did you tell them?” I asked.

She looked up at me, absolute terror in her eyes. “I told them that World War Three would start with a tanker blowing up on the Iranian coast of the Caspian Sea and a bridge going out in Azerbaijan.”

We’d talked about those tragedies at the Welcome Back Dinner, and I thought back to that night—how quiet Liz had been. How worried. And I realized how long Liz had been carrying that weight.

“Liz, I’m sure it’s nothing,” Macey said. “It was just a ship. It wasn’t even a military ship. And that bridge was just—”

“A trade route,” Liz cut her off. “More importantly, that bridge and the ports along the Caspian coast are Iranian trade routes. And with every route that gets cut off, the Iranians have to start using other routes that go through more and more volatile territories. Like Turkey or Afghanistan or Caspia.”

Liz seemed exhausted, as if the sheer act of admitting it all out loud was about to be too much for her.

“I’ve been wondering about it for a while now. What if I was right? What are the odds of those things just randomly happening? And then…what if they weren’t random?” Liz trembled, the last bit of color draining from her face. “Remember what Knight told you in Cambridge? That the Circle is planning something terrible and it has already begun?”

“Liz,” I asked, “are you saying…”

“I think the Circle has my test. And I think they’re using it to start World War Three.”

Chapter Eighteen

No one told Liz she was crazy. As far as I could tell, no one even thought it. Mainly because A) Liz’s particular brand of crazy doesn’t include being stupid. And B) Take it from the girl who spent most of the past semester being totally brainwashed—in our world, crazy never means impossible. And, besides, I didn’t know what the Circle had done, but I did know they were capable of anything.

So we didn’t panic as we ran downstairs. No one cried or yelled or sounded any alarms as we rushed through the dark and sleeping hallways. And yet there was a hurried, frantic pace to our steps—like this secret was on our heels and we had to outrun it.

My mother’s office light was on and the door was closed.

“Mom,” I yelled, banging on the door probably louder than I needed to. “Mom, it’s me. I need to talk to you. It’s an—”

But then the door opened, cutting me off.

“Ms. Sutton,” Professor Buckingham said when she caught sight of Liz. “What is wrong with you?” She eyed all four of us with our untucked shirts and sloppy ponytails. We didn’t look like trained covert operatives, I was sure. But I didn’t care.

“We’re looking for the headmistress,” Macey said as if that were explanation enough. Professor Buckingham looked back as if it wasn’t.

“She’s not here, girls.”

“She was just here,” I countered.

Then I heard the voice. “Gallagher Girl?”

I turned and saw Zach in the corner of the office. His eyes were narrow and cautious.

Buckingham glanced in his direction, then explained, “I was just giving Zachary a message, and then I was going to come find you.”

“We need to see the headmistress,” Liz blurted, but Buckingham didn’t waver.

“That was the message, I’m afraid,” our teacher said. “Cameron, your mother and Mr. Solomon have been called away—”

“Called away?” Macey asked. “Where? When?”

“Just moments ago,” Buckingham said, and I thought about the way my mom had hugged me in the foyer, the finality of her words, and, at last, I heard them for what they were. They weren’t a good night. They were a good-bye.

“Something urgent has come up and the two of them had to…leave,” Buckingham finished, choosing her words carefully.

“But—” Liz started, and Buckingham cut her off.

“But nothing. Listen to me very carefully, girls. They had to go. They will be gone indefinitely, and they will be unreachable. Do not try to follow them,” Buckingham warned. “Do not try to track them down. If you want them to be safe then you will follow these instructions. Do you understand?”

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