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Home > United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(9)

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6)(9)
Author: Ally Carter

So I just put my head down and kept on swimming, dragging Preston toward the shore.

The current must have carried us farther away from the wreckage than I realized, because when Preston and I came up for air, I gasped and looked around—waiting—but no shots came.

In the distance, there was shouting.

“Cammie?” Preston said, his voice groggy. “What happened? Where am I?”

“We went for a little swim, Pres. And now we’ve got to go for a run.”

“I don’t feel so good.”

“I know, but you can do it. Come on. I’ll help you.”

Running down the streets of Rome, I didn’t dare stop to think about what we must have looked like. A tiny line of blood was smeared across Preston’s face. My wet hair was tangled and filled with broken glass. Blood ran into my eyes, and the sweatshirt we’d packed for Preston was two sizes too big and hung off him like a wet blanket.

Macey and Bex and Liz were on the other side of the river, running past an SUV with a pair of busted headlights, and I immediately knew what had caused the crash. As they passed, the SUV revved its engine and started chasing after them, swerving in and out of traffic. Other cars stopped, but the SUV just kept coming, plowing onto sidewalks, bursting through barricades.

“Run!” Bex yelled, her voice carrying across the river, and Preston and I didn’t have to be told twice.

I reached for Preston’s hand, dragging him away. But the motorcycles were already weaving across a bridge, rushing toward us. I heard the haunting, piercing wails of police cars and fire trucks. In less than two minutes our sinking truck would be surrounded by authorities. Cops and bystanders would fill the streets, searching.

The motorcycle engines revved.

We didn’t have two minutes.

Preston’s hand was too still. He was going into shock. Of course he was. He was human. He was just a boy, no matter who his father was. And I knew it was up to me to pull the ambassador’s son away from the sirens and the sinking truck, the motorcycles and the men who wouldn’t stop until they found us.

Preston was the asset. The Gallagher Girl part of me knew that getting him out of there was my job—my mission. “Let’s go,” I shouted.

“This way,” Preston said. We were on his home turf, and I let him drag me into an alley I’d never seen before. Laundry hung on lines overhead, blocking out the sun. And still we ran faster and faster, pushing aside the low-hanging sheets that floated around us like ghosts. And then we broke free of the alley and onto another street, light streaming all around us, and I knew where Preston was going.

“Is that the embassy?” I asked, already sure of the answer.

“Yeah. We’re almost there.”

Even drenched and freezing, shocked and terrified, Preston was stronger than he looked. It was all I could do to stop him.

“No!” I shouted, jerking his arm, pulling him out of the street.

“Cam, we’ll be safe at the embassy. It’s US soil. They can’t get us.”

“No, Preston.” I shook my head. I found his eyes. I had to make him see—make him understand. But not even the Gallagher Academy can teach you how to change somebody’s world, alter everything they’d ever thought was true.

“What aren’t you telling me?” he shouted. It went far beyond fear and rage and panic. Preston was desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. “It’s the Circle, isn’t it? They’re after us.”

“Yes.”

“Is it because of last summer? Because you stayed here? Did you leave something or—”

“The Circle isn’t after you, Preston. The Circle…it is you.”

“What do you mean?”

“When did you get your new bodyguards? Was it back before Christmas?”

He didn’t say a word, but the answer was written all over his face.

“A lot of strange things started happening then, didn’t they?” I asked him. “Murders of prime ministers…disappearances of bigwigs in the European Union… Strange things keep happening to powerful people. People whose families have been powerful for centuries. People whose ancestors used to follow the teachings of a man named Iosef Cavan.”

“No.” Preston shook his head. He eased away from me.

“Think about it, Preston. Something has been different lately, hasn’t it? Your dad, he’s been changing his patterns. Fewer trips out of the embassy? New cars? New guards? New protocols?” I spoke slowly, but still Preston inched farther and farther away from me and the things I had to say. “Someone is hunting Circle members, Preston—the descendants of the Circle founders.”

“No.” Preston shook his head.

“Someone is hunting you.”

Carefully, I reached into the pocket of my jeans, my cold hands scraping against the wet denim; but I clawed until I found the piece of paper. Gently, I unfolded it, peeling back the damp layers until I could look down at the names I knew by heart.

“This is why they wanted me, Preston. Because years ago I saw this list. Because I knew about the people who founded the Circle of Cavan. Look, Preston. Look!” I pointed to the names. “Elias Crane. His great-great-great-great grandson is dead. Charles Dubois’s great-great-great-great granddaughter and her kids are probably dead. Look at the last name, Preston.”

“No.”

“Samuel is a family name, isn’t it?” I asked. “Wasn’t your dad named for a relative who fought in the Civil War?”

There was no denying the truth in what I’d said, but Preston just shook his head.

“So what if he was? That doesn’t mean my family has anything to do with the Circle.”

“Yes, Preston.” I nodded. “That’s exactly what it means.”

“You’re wrong. You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying.”

“My parents were nice to you. My dad helped you!”

“He tried to kill me, Preston. He would have killed me.”

“You’re a spy. You lie. It’s what you do.”

“I’m not lying now.”

Preston continued to inch away from me—from the truth he no longer wanted to hear.

When a helicopter roared overhead and began to land in the courtyard inside the closed gates of the embassy, I looked away for a split second. I swear I didn’t lose focus for more than a breath. But when I turned back, Preston was bolting into the street, into traffic, pushing people aside and running against the grain to the embassy’s gates.

“Dad!” he yelled, and then I saw what he was seeing. Ambassador Winters was out of the building and walking across the courtyard. He crouched beneath the chopper’s spinning blades and only stopped when his son’s cries broke through the air.

“Dad! Wait! Open the gates,” Preston yelled.

“Preston, stop,” I called after him.

He stole a hurried, frantic glance in my direction, but ran even faster, as if he was no longer sure exactly who to trust. I totally knew the feeling.

“Open the gates!” Preston yelled again, but the guards must have been given some kind of order because they glanced at the ambassador and the gates stayed closed.

“Dad!” Preston yelled. He gripped the iron fence, pleading. But the man only ran faster to the chopper and closed the door, blocking off the sound of Preston’s cries.

“Dad?” Preston asked one final time. This time it wasn’t a scream. It was a whimper.

Then the whole scene changed.

It was like the whole thing was happening in slow motion. I heard the sirens. I recognized the snipers for what they were the moment they appeared on the embassy’s roof. What I didn’t know was why.

The helicopter started to rise, but someone fired a warning shot and the chopper hovered.

More guards filled the courtyard, rifles trained on Preston’s father. And when a voice came booming through a bullhorn, I knew.

“Samuel Winters, you are under arrest,” Agent Townsend said. I saw him appear then, through the crowd. My aunt Abby stood at his side, her dark hair blowing in the swirling wind. “Land the chopper or we will fire. I repeat, we will fire.”

“What…what’s happening?” Preston asked, turning to me. “You brought them here.” He glared.

“I didn’t.”

“That’s your aunt, Cammie! I know you brought her here!” He pointed to where Agent Townsend was dragging Preston’s father out of the helicopter and placing him in handcuffs.

“I didn’t know they were coming. But I knew you were in danger,” I said. “It will be okay, Preston. You have to trust me.”

And maybe he would have. Maybe he would have believed what I was saying—despite what he was seeing. Maybe everything would have made sense in a matter of time if Agent Townsend hadn’t turned and started toward us, yelling, “Preston Winters?”

As soon as I heard Agent Townsend’s voice, I felt a sense of relief. He’d help us get Preston home. He’d help us keep Preston safe.

“Where are they taking my father?” Preston asked, but he didn’t rush the man. He was shaking too badly. I didn’t know if it was the cold or the rage, but I guess it didn’t matter.

Agent Townsend reached for Preston’s trembling hands. “Mr. Winters, you are under arrest for the suspicion of espionage.”

Townsend spun Preston around, pressing his body into the fence.

“No!” someone shouted. I saw Bex and Liz running toward us, neither of them able to keep up with Macey. They all had blankets draped over their shoulders, but Macey’s blew free as she ran. She looked a lot like an angel losing her wings.

“Take him away,” Townsend told another agent, but Macey was on him then.

“Stop,” she yelled, trying to get to Preston. “He doesn’t know anything.”

“That is for us to determine, Ms. McHenry.”

“You’re wrong! You’re making a mistake,” she shouted.

Agent Townsend had been our teacher. He’d been our ally. Our confidant. Our friend. Sure, we’d never really liked him; but I’d grown fond of Agent Townsend. He was one of the good guys, but that didn’t stop Macey’s fists from beating against him. She looked frail and feminine. She didn’t fight like a Gallagher Girl right then. She fought like a girl who was watching the only boy who’d ever known and cared about the real her being dragged away. Maybe forever.

A pair of agents took Preston by each arm and led him to a white van that sat in the courtyard, lights spinning.

There was another van exactly like it not far away, and I could see the ambassador sitting in the back. The streets surrounding the embassy were on fire with lights and sirens and swarming crowds, but the ambassador looked only at me. He gave a nod in my direction as if to make sure I knew it wasn’t over.

Then another man climbed into the back of the van and sat beside Preston’s father. I recognized this new man, though it took me a moment to remember from where. The man’s hair was slightly thinning. He had a normal build. A normal face. He could have been an accountant, an English teacher, a mid-level manager in any company in the world.

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