Only the Good Spy Young, page 15part #4 of Gallagher Girls Series
But then Townsend said, "But, of course, if thats somehow beneath a Gallagher Girl . . . "
"No, sir!" Tina chanted.
He stepped aside and gestured toward the open doors. "Then, after you. "
What happened next was a rush of emotion and adrenalin like I hadnt felt in six weeks. It was intoxicating. I felt almost drunk. And yet I stayed still, watching my classmates race out the door and toward the waiting van.
"I suppose you think this optional, Ms. Morgan?" Agent Townsend stood staring at me through the open door.
"Of course I want to go, but there are these new security protocols" - I glanced away, somehow unable to face him as I admitted, "Professor Buckingham told me Im not allowed to leave the grounds. "
"And I suppose you think Ive forgotten that fact?"
"No, sir. "
"Then you think Im a fool. "
"No, sir, I -"
"Dont worry, Ms. Morgan, I know youre special. And because of you and your mother, Ive spent a great deal of time and energy making special arrangements," he said with a condescending smirk. "But if you want to stay in the mansion . . . "
I didnt wait for him to finish. I was already out the door.
Spies need covert operations. I know it sounds crazy, but its true. Because even though our brains are . . . you know . . . brain-sized, every undercover operative knows that a mind is totally big enough to get lost inside - to go crazy if youre left with too much time and too much room to let your biggest ears run free.
So, yeah. Spies need covert operatives. And as I sat next to Bex in the Gallagher Academy van that was carrying us through the tall, metal gates that had stood between me and the world outside, I had to ask, "Do you hear that?"
"What?" she asked. "A little voice telling you youd be better off staying where you bloody well were?"
"Nope. " I smiled. "Freedom. "
She looked at me like I might have been crazier than usual, but I didnt care.
I was riding in a van! (And in a n actual seat this time, which, let me tell you, you really dont miss till its gone. )
I was outside of school!
I was going on a mission!
I was going to . . .
Then I glanced out the window and realized I didnt have a clue where we were going.
And that made it better.
For two hours we rode in silence; the only sound was the hum of the van and the occasional snore (yes, actual snoreage) as Townsend slumped in the front seat, sleeping.
As the road stretched out before us and the trip got longer and longer, Im pretty sure I wasnt the only Gallagher Girl in that van to feel acutely aware of three important facts 1) We were missing lunch. 2) Its kinda hard to look like a super-tough, super-skilled superagent when your stomachs growling. And 3) We hadnt had a real Covert Operations lesson in months.
I stretched my arms out in front of me and thought I felt a creak. Rusty didnt even begin to cover it.
And then the van made a hard right turn, and Townsend bolted upright.
"Good," he said, without a glance out the window. "Were here. "
In case I havent mentioned it before, I go to a boarding school. With gates. And walls.
Plaid skirts and strict teachers. So while my classmates and I might be used to spending all of our time in a place that is exciting and semi-dangerous and full of incredibly delicious food, I couldnt remember a single time when Id been in a place like this.
"Oh my gosh," Tina Walter said, summing up the reaction of probably every single girl in the van at that particular moment. "Is that . . . "
But before she could finish, Agent Townsend threw open the doors and Tins words got lost in the deafening roar of a roller coaster barreling along its tracks and people screaming at the top of their lungs as the ride quickly plunged, then rose again.
Somehow, sitting in the back of the van, I sort of knew exactly how they felt.
"All right," our teacher said ten minutes later in the manner of a man who just wanted to get it over with and go back to sleep, "everybody gets a target. Everybody gets a goal.
Everybody gets an hour. "
While he spoke, his gaze swept around the entrance of the amusement park as if no place filled with that many tourists and empty calories could every leave him amused.
"There are decent people in the world, I supposed. But the world is full of decent people with useful information, and to them we must lie - from them we must steal. If anybody has a problem with that . . . well, if youve got a problem with that, you would be well advised to choose another occupation. "
He was right, of course. Theres no softer way to put it. We get close to secretaries so we can bug bosses offices. We befriend widows so we can conduct surveillance on their neighbors backyards. We are in the human intelligence business, and most of the people that we need to do our jobs are just people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So we tell lies and pick pockets and, most of all, we use.
"You," Agent Townsend said, pointing at Mack. "Theres a forty-year old man behind you with a ball cap. "
"Yes, sir," Mack said, but she didnt turn to look in the mans direction.
"Do you see him?" Agent Townsend asked, frustrated.
"Yes, sir. Blue cap, green polo, navy backpack. " Mack pointed at the reflection of the man that gleamed in the window behind our teachers head. He glanced back and saw it, and for a split second - nothing more - I thought he might have been impressed. Maybe.
"Okay," Agent Townsend said slowly, "that man just pout a piece of paper in the outer pocket of the bag. I dont care how you do it, but you need to figure out whats written on that piece of paper. "
Mack didnt need to be told twice, she turned on her heel and set off through the crowd, while I turned to study the man she was tailing.
"Wow, he really fits in," I admitted. "I never would have guessed hes CIA. "
"Hes not," Townsend said simply, still scanning the people who filled the park. "There, Ms. Walters," he said, pointing at on older lady riding and electric scooter.
"Is she from Langley?" Tina asked.
"I have no idea wheres shes from. " Our teacher shrugged. "What I do know is that she just put her credit card in her purse, and its your job to get me that number. "
"But shes not an operative . . . " Tina hesitated. "She doesnt know its an assignment . . .
So if I get caught . . . "
Townsend started at her. "Then dont get caught. "
It was still a game, I knew, but for the first time in the history of our exceptional education, the players on the other side didnt know we were playing. One by one, our classmates got their assignments until Bex and I were alone with our teacher.
"Baxter," Agent Townsend said, turning to Bex, "do you think you can find out the serial numbers of the five-dollar bill the man working at the Tilt-A-Whirl just put into that lockbox?"
The look on her face said that yes, she did think she could find out, and yet she didnt turn to walk away. She waited as our teachers gaze landed on me.
"And I guess that leaves us with Cammie Morgan. " He slowly scanned the crowd. "I think maybe well find something especially fitting for you. "
I didnt know what to say, so I stood quietly, waiting.
"There. " He pointed toward a man in a official theme-park jumpsuit. "There keys on his belt - bring me an impression of at least three of them. "
He smiled like he was so smart. I shrugged like it was so easy. Then, with my best friend beside me, I turned and started through the crowd.
Although it pains me to admit it, for his very first lesson, Agent Townsend had managed to bring us to one of the most challenging places a spy could ever be. After all, Mr.
Solomon had spent the last year and a half training us to see everything, hear everything, notice everything. And as I walked through the park, it was almost too much for my highly trained senses t
"Ooh!" I exclaimed, craning my neck as we walked past a stand selling some kind of deep-fried delicious on a stick. "I want one of those!"
"We dont have any money, Cam. "
"Ooh, I want to ride that!"
"We only have an hour. "
"I want -"
"I want you to take this seriously, okay?" Bex said, whirling on me.
"You sound like your mother," I said.
She practically glowed. "Thank you. "
"Bex . . . " I said slowly. "Im fine. "
"You say that -"
"Bex. " I cut her off and stopped in the center of the main avenue that snaked through the entire park. "Werent you supposed to be following that guy?" I pointed to the attendant pushing a cart full of lockboxes in the opposite direction.
"Im good where I am," she said.
"Bex . . . "
"Cammie . . . "
"Spot the surveillance," I told her.
I thought back to the way her parents had led us all around London - the game we hadnt played in weeks. "Spot the surveillance. "
"Man selling balloons by the bumper cars," she said, not even blinking.
"The woman with the cotton candy," I added, pointing at just one of the guards that surrounded me at every turn.
It was her turn, but I couldnt shake the feeling that the game was over. Wed stopped keeping score on a bridge overlooking the Thames.
"By my count, there are thirteen operatives tailing me right now. And those are just the ones Ive made. There are cameras every hundred yards, and if Im not mistaken, a Blackhawk helicopter just did a flyby. "
"Two Blackhawks," Bex corrected. "In a rotation. "
"See? Im fine," I said, and for the first time in a long time I meant it. I really did. It was as if the walls of my school had been picked up and transported here. It was like my school, but with cotton candy. No wonder I couldnt hold back a smile as I asked, "Do you think my mom would let Townsend bring me here if this place wasnt the Fort Knox of family fun?" Bex opened her mouth to speak, but I didnt give her the chance.
"Go," I said.
For a moment she just stood there, watching. Waiting. The my best friend turned away without another word.
For the next twenty minutes I walked alone in the busy park - past lines of people waiting to ride the Ferris wheel and buy cotton candy, through the crowd that had gathered around Eva Elvarez as she shot ninety-seven little mechanical ducks in a row. Roller coasters roared overhead with their screaming masses and screeching tracks. Wheels spun, fountains splashed, and the smell of people and junk food and heat wafted all around me until I wondered if I might be sick, overdosed on freedom.
So when the man with the clipboard walked off the main thoroughfare, I didnt mind.
Even though a girl in a private school uniform should probably stand out in a busy, public place, I was still the Chameleon, and I followed at the same easy pace and comfortable distance that had been bred into my DNA (a fact that Liz had once tried to verify in the lab, which led to the "no more blood samples this semester" rule of sophomore year).
When I wanted to stop to watch the jugglers, I watched. When I wanted to make faces at myself in the funhouse mirror, I did. When I wanted to try something called a Waffle Burger, I cursed myself for not keeping an emergency twenty in my sock, like Grandpa Morgan always taught me, and just kept walking. The man in the jumpsuit remained a constant figure in the corner of my eye.
Other author's books:
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