Only the Good Spy Young, page 12part #4 of Gallagher Girls Series
"Allegedly?" Bex said.
Townsend ignored her. "But now the Circle has strong-holds in every corner of the world. It is important to understand that, unlike most political and religious-based groups, the Circle of Cavan has no cause - no calling or purpose beyond profit and power. They are large enough to be dangerous and small enough to slip through cracks. They are mobile, careful, and very highly trained. And the scary thing is - for the most part - were the ones who trained them. "
"What does that mean?" Tina asked.
"It means I wasnt lying when I said they are almost always double agents," he snapped.
"The Circle excels at isolating and recruiting agents who are young, vulnerable, or both. "
"But how do you know?" Tina asked.
A sly smile slid over his face as he stood and studied us all in turn. "Because Im the man who tracks them. "
If we hadnt hated him a lot, we might have liked him a little at that moment. But we did.
So we didnt.
"Make no mistake, girls, the Circle is dangerous now for what they are, but who they are.
And where they are. And they could be anyone. They could be" - he turned to look at my mother - "anywhere. "
Number of hours I wandered around the mansion, going nowhere: 6
Number of secret passageways I looked for in the hopes of going somewhere: 27
Number of secret passageways I found that were actually still working: 1 (But it only went to the kitchen. )
Number of cookies I swiped while in the kitchen: 1 (Oh, okay, 3 - but they were really little cookies. )
Number of times I wanted to cry: 9
Number of times I changed my mind: 9
And so I just kept walking - through the library with its rows of books and dying fire, past the elevator that could no longer take me to Sublevel Two. The halls were quiet and dark, as if the mansion itself were sleeping - resting up for a new day. And then I stopped at the Hall of History and stared at the sword of Cava, realizing that for the first time since November, I was actually alone.
Well . . . almost.
"Hello Ms. Morgan. " A deep voice cut through the darkness behind me.
Sure it was two in the morning on a school night, but somehow I wasnt surprised when I turned and saw Mr. Smith. Well . . . actually . . . the fact that he was walking around in slippers and one of those old-fashioned nightshirt did surprise me; the fact that he was awake did not.
"I . . . " I started. Somehow, even though I technically wasnt doing anything wrong, I felt like Id been caught. "I couldnt sleep. "
"Its okay, Ms. Morgan. " He came to stand beside me in the warm glow of the swords glass case. Protective beams rippled through the room like waves.
I glanced at my teacher. Maybe it was the hour, or the fact that one of us was wearing a dress (and it wasnt me), but I dared to ask, "So whats your excuse?"
"A seasoned operative should always check his or her perimeter at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. " I glanced at Mr. Smiths nightgown - I mean shirt . . . nightshirt. If unexpected was what it took to stay safe, then Mr. Smith was going to be alive forever.
"You will do well to remember that, Cammie. "
"Yes, sir. " I stared at the sword. "Thank you. Its actually kind of nice . . . "
But then I trailed off. I didnt dare say what I was thinking.
"It okay. " There was a knowing wink in Mr. Smiths eye. "You can say it. "
I glance down at the floor. "Its nice getting some actual Covert Operatives Advice. Ive missed it. "
"Mr. Townsend is a fine operative, Cammie. "
"Yes, of course, I didnt mean to imply -"
"Ambitious. Proud. Calculating . . . but he is perhaps not a natural for the classroom?"
"No," I agreed. "Hell never be as good as . . . " nut I stopped short, suddenly unable to say the name aloud.
"No, he isnt what youre used to," Mr. Smith agreed.
"I believed him. " I dont know where the words came from, but there, in the light of that sword, I simply had to set them free. "Joe Solomon is a liar. And a traitor. And I believed him. Even after London . . . He was talking crazy and I still -"
"Was he crazy, Cammie? Was he really?"
I looked at the most careful spy Id ever known - stared up into the fifth face Id seen him wear, and tried to focus on the eyes that hadnt changed since my first day of seventh grade.
"Joe Solomon is many things, Cammie. But crazy? Crazy is the one I dont think Ill ever believe. "
Mr. Smith took a step toward the Grand Staircase, the hem of his nightshirt swaying as he moved.
"Do try to get some sleep, Cammie. And good night.
Walking back upstairs that night, I thought of Mr. Smiths words and the way Mr.
Solomon had gripped my hand at the Tower of London and pulled me through the dark.
As I started up the old circular staircase that leads to the junior suites, cool air landed on my arms, and I looked out through the old wavy glass. It reminded me of the cold wind in London, the rippling waves of the Thames as if flowed below.
I remember how lost Mr. Solomon had seemed as he hugged me on the bridge - how very strange and foreign the gesture had felt.
Where do men like Joe Solomon go when they fall? I asked myself. I wondered if there would be any help for him, waiting on the shore.
I took another step, but as I moved up the spiral stairs, something outsides caught my eye.
Something made me stop and stare out across the grounds.
Lights from the mansions windows streaked through the darkness, pebbling the dark, cloudy sky. And that was when I saw them - the birds that were sweeping out into the open air and then back again, stretching their wings.
For a moment, I stood still, listening to the howling wind and the faint cooing of the birds, and my teachers words that had been playing over and over in my mind for weeks.
"Follow the pigeons. "
"Its there!" My voice was cracking, and the words came in short gasps as if I were out of shape. Out of time. "Mr. Smith was right. He isnt crazy!"
I heard my roommates footsteps on the stairs behind me, as Bex asked, "Cam what are you talking about?"
"The pigeons!" Im sure I must have looked like an insane person. And technically, I have been hit on the head a lot, so my roommates had good reason to look at each other as if all that brain trauma was bound to catch up with me eventually.
"Cam," Liz said slowly, her eyes still puffy from sleep. "Where are we going?"
Something was alive in me then. Maybe fear. Maybe dread. But mostly, I think it was hope as I climbed the stairs, higher and higher. When we reached the landing, I felt the cold air that seeped through the seams in the stone, and in that second my heart stopped. I stood, frozen by the cold stone beneath my fingers and a hope that I didnt dare sat, as I traced rough carving of the bird in flight, and pushed.
The five largest stones receded, revealing a small compartment and a rusty lever.
"Cammie!" Liz exclaimed. "No. Youre not supposed to leave the mansion! What are you doing?"
But she was too late, because the door was already swinging open, a rush of freezing wind was blowing against my face and across my bare legs, but I didnt feel the chill.
I just turned to look at my best friends, who stood in the light of the doorway, and said,
"Im following the pigeons. "
Wed been here before, of course. Just a few months ago wed sat on the dusty, overturned crates that were the last relics of the Gallagher Academys once-proud covert carrier pigeon breeding program. Wed sat there for hours, looking out onto the lights of Roseville, talking about the people who were after Macey. After me. But now, the space looked totally different.
"What . . . " Liz started, looking around. "What is all this?"
Chalkboards lined the inner wall of the rampart, far away from t
"This must be what Mr. Solomon wanted us to find. " I stepped closer to the blackboards that had Mr. Solomons words scrawled over every inch. "He risked everything - just to tell me to find this," I said.
"Cammie . . . " Bex started. "You know as well as I do he was talking crazy. He wasnt Joe Solomon. "
"But were here," I snapped back. "Its not crazy if were here. "
"What does it say?" Lizs voice was soft, her eyes focused as she stepped slowly closer to the board, and I knew she wasnt talking to us; her mind was lost in code, tying to see through the chaos.
"What is it, Liz?" Macey asked.
Liz shook her head. "I . . . I dont know. Ive seen anything quite like it. "
"Its crazy, is what it is. " Bex banged her fist against the board.
"Think about it, Bex. Think. Hes one of the most wanted men on the planet, and Im the worlds best guarded girl. Why come to me in London? If hes working for the Circle, why take that risk?"
"I dont know, Cam. Why did he kill your dad? Why did he join the Circle in the first place? Maybe he snapped or broke or . . . " I thought that she might cry. "Maybe this is what he is now. "
"Was he crazy during finals week? Was he crazy in D. C. ?" I felt Mr. Smiths words washing over me. "If hes not crazy, Bex, then he came to London for a reason. " I threw out my arms and stepped closer to the boards. "He came to London for this. "
The four of us were standing in the very place Joe Solomon had stood, staring at the words and numbers and diagrams that hed written. There were answers here. Clues. Hed risked his freedom - his life - to bring me to this rooftop. I had followed the pigeons, and that night I stood without a coat in the freezing cold, trying to decipher what they had to say.
Behind me, a pigeon cawed. The sound was eerie and loud as I squinted through the dark toward the ledge. It cawed again.
"Stupid birds," Liz said, shooting her hands toward the lone pigeon that sat perched on the railing.
Most people dont know that anything could be a cutout, a go-between, a messenger for spies. This part of the mansion existed because pigeons had once been some of the best.
They never talked when interrogated; even the best spy satellites in the world couldnt track them.
"Go on," Liz said again. "Get -"
"Wait," I said, reaching for my best friends hands, staring at the small bird that sat stoically, waiting in the dark.
"Cam. " Bexs voice was soft. "Cam, what is it?"
I inched toward the bird and reached for the tiny slip of paper wrapped delicately around its leg.
If youre reading this, youve found it. And if youve found it, you know. Must see you.
Meet me at the place where we did the brush passes. Send me back the time.
And please be careful.
The words were neatly typed. There was no signature - no name of any kind. And even though I know it had been reckless to send it, reckless for me to read - totally and completely foolish to even think about doing as it said - the truth of the matter is that a spys life isnt about never taking chances. Its about taking chances that are worth the risk.
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