Only the good spy young, p.17

Only the Good Spy Young, page 17

 part  #4 of  Gallagher Girls Series

 

Only the Good Spy Young
 


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Page 17

 

  I recognized the sound. Id heard it once on our Arlington town house as neighbors brought casseroles and condolences. Id felt it at the ranch as relatives I barely knew spilled onto my grandparents porch, the four walls of the house too thin to hold us and the news that my father was never coming home. The junior CoverOps class was mourning, and one by one, every girl in the van came to realize what my roommates and I had known for weeks - that Mr. Solomon hadnt been on a mission. Mr. Solomon was a whole different kind of gone.

  When we pulled through the gates that night, it seemed like every light in the mansion was on. I could imagine girls inside, laughing and heading downstairs for supper, talking about papers and tests. But as we crawled from the van and watched Agent Townsend stride through the front doors, we all stayed perfectly still, a heavy drizzle and the memory of all wed seen settling down around us, no one wanted to carry in all inside.

  "I never knew," Anna Fetterman said. "I never even guessed. Im making a mistake, arent I?" She looked right at me as if I should know. "I shouldnt be on the CoveOps track. I shouldnt . . . I never knew. "

  "No one knew. " Eva Alvarez placed an arm around Annas shoulders. "No one knew what he was. "

  "Is. "

  No one heard me whisper, but that was just as well. After all, no one else had stood in the amusement park graveyard and heard him say the Circle was coming. No one else had felt his warm hands on the bridge. I might have been the only Gallagher Girl in the world at that moment who knew that Mr. Solomon wasnt in the past tense.

  So I walked toward the doors and stepped inside, certain of one thing: Joe Solomon was very much alive.

  Well, actually, technically, I tried to step inside.

  Girls filled the entryway and covered the stairs, and it took all the strength I could muster to press out the rain and into the crowd that was staring as my mother and Agent Townsend stood in the middle of the foyer floor.

  "Whats going -"

  "Shhh," a senior hissed, stopping Tina midsentence.

  "Youre welcome, by the way," Townsend said, turning toward the stairs, but my mother blocked him, looking anything but graceful.

  "You had no right to take my daughter out of my school -"

  "Your school?"

  He should have been afraid. The last time Id seen my mother look that way had been on a street in Washington, D. C. , as he sister lay bleeding.

  He should have been terrified.

  "My daughter is not some pawn to be used on a whim!"

  "Now, Rachel, dont think of her as a pawn. Its more like . . . what is it you Americans say . . . we dangled an apple out in front of Joe Solomon and -"

  "The term is carrot," my mother corrected. "And it doesnt apply to teenage girls. "

  There was a knowing gleam in Townsends eyes as he smiled. "Oh, is it? Maybe you use apples for something else?"

  Some people think the key to strength is knowing how to hit. But thats now it. As I stood peering through the crowd at my mother and the man who had taken me out of the safety of the mansion, I knew real strength is not hitting when what you want to do most is kill.

  Townsend must have sensed it too, because something changed in him then. "We had thirty agents in the parks interior and another sixty on the perimeter grid. We had eyes on her the whole time. We knew Solomon would show himself and as soon as he did, our agents were on him. She was fine. "

  He leaned closer to my mother, not blinking, not teasing, not even mocking. He laughed, but not like it was funny. It was closer to a laugh of disbelief.

  "Ms. Morgan, we got him!"

  "If you even put a student in danger again -"

  "Oh, I thought you Gallagher Girls were immune to danger. "

  Despite the hundred girls that filled the foyer, no one moved or gasped or tried to defend our honor. We stood silently, waiting for our headmistress to say, "Oh, we are quite used to being underestimated, Agent Townsend. In fact, we welcome it. "

  That conversation probably violated every spy code and teacher code and headmistress code know to man, but that didnt matter. They couldnt see the hundred girls who stood watching. Despite their training, they didnt hear the way we held our collective breath.

  This fight was like the tide: it had been a long time coming and there was no way to hold it back.

  "Joe Solomon agreed to take this job only when he knew he would be teaching your daughter, isnt that right. "

  Mom folded her hands in front of her. "Ive already answered that question in great detail for people with far more authority that you. "

  "And that didnt strike you as odd? A man like Joe Solomon coming here?" He laughed again. "But of course the Circle has always liked to recruit agents young. What is it they say, the greener the fruit, the easier it turns?"

  "Yes," my mother admitted.

  "He was here a year and a half?" Townsend asked, but my mothers voice was clam, as if hed asked about the weather.

  "He was. "

  "Thats a long time - long enough to recruit anyone he might need. Turn someone?"

  "As I already informed your superiors, Agent Townsend, if the Circle has any Allies here, theyd better pray that you find them before I do. "

  Agent Townsend was a large man, for covert operations. He was at least six inches taller and seventy pounds heavier than my mother (and that wasnt counting his ego), and yet there wasnt a doubt in my mind that he knew she was exactly right.

  He watched her slowly turn and start up the stairs. She was almost gone when he called,

  "Joe Solomon isnt going to hurt your daughter, Ms. Morgan. You dont have to worry about him hurting anyone ever again. "

  I realized in that moment that he believed it - he really did - and for a second I wanted to believe him. He was a good spy, after all. A senior operative. A teacher. And standing there, surrounded by my sisterhood, I might have convinced myself that it was true - that I was safe.

  But then my mother stopped and turned.

  "Im sorry, Agent Townsend, but Joe Solomon is the last of Cammies worries. "

  * * *

  Our chef was making my favorite soup for dinner, but my roommates and I didnt run to the Grand Hall. We stood silently side by side while the rest of our school slowly drifted down the halls and up the stairs, carried away by a wave of gossip and fear and disbelief.

  "Sublevel Two. " I didnt whisper. I know that was foolish now, but at the moment, I , Cammie the Chameleon, didnt have the strength to hide. "Were going to find a way into Sublevel Two. "

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  HOW NOT TO BREAK INTO

  SUBLEVEL TWO

  (A list by Cameron Morgan, with

  help from Macey McHenry)

  ·Digging: Because a person would have to dig . . . a lot. And besides, the maintenance staff would totally notice any big holes that appeared in the middle of the lacrosse field.

  (Plus, it can totally ruin a manicure. )

  ·Anything involving an elevator shaft: Sure, every Gallagher Girls gets her very own crossbar on the first day of eighth grade, but its not as simple as prying open the doors and shimming on down to the subs. (Besides, in our experience, doors at the Gallagher Academy arent exactly pry-able. )

  ·Sweet-talk: Because sweet-talking might make the sweet-talkee suspicious about the sweet-talkers plans and motivations - not to mention that even the burliest members of the security staff are probably afraid of taking us into the sublevels and getting . . . you know . . . killed.

  ·Teleportation: Sure, Liz says she has an excellent working theory, but she doesnt have a prototype yet, and without a prototype its pretty much a moot point.

  ·That thing Bexs parents did in Dubai with liquid nitrogen, and earthquake simulator, and a ferret: Because we dont have a ferret.

  __________

  It only took three weeks.

  I know that sounds like a lot of time - and it is. But also, it isnt. Because . . . well . . . in the clandestine services, n
othing ever happens quickly (except when it does). Nothing is ever, ever easy (except when it is). And, most of all, nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan (except in the movies).

  Its dirty work that is almost universally slow, tedious, repetitious, mundane, morose, and just in general boring (except for the parts when people might die).

  We could have done it sooner and it still wouldnt have felt soon enough. We could have planned for years and we still wouldnt have felt ready. So, yeah. It took three weeks.

  For Liz, to crack the code. For Macey and Bex to gather the gear. For me to plan our way inside.

  By one a. m. on the night in question, we were making our way down the third-floor corridor as quickly and as quietly as we could without making it obvious that we were trying to be both quick and quiet.

  The Operatives fully understood that the first step in Denial and Deception Operations in denial. And its way easier to deny being involved in some rogue, undercover operation if youre wearing jammies.

  "Theres still something I dont understand," Liz whispered. "If Mr. Solomon is so desperate to have this book or whatever it is that is located inside Sublevel Two, then why did he make it impossible to access Sublevel Two?"

  "Because he wanted to make it impossible for the wrong people to access it," I said peeking around the corner, where, as if on cue, Agent Townsend bounded down the stairs. I threw myself against the wall, forgetting that we hadnt broken any rules at that point and there were at least a dozen perfectly valid reasons we might have been there.

  But Im a chameleon. Ill take being invisible over being justifiable any day.

  His footsteps echoed like thunder in the empty hallway.

  I didnt want him as I whispered, "Its time. "

  At 0135 hours, The Operatives proceeded to the small stairway beneath the Grand Stairs, but they didnt stop at the mirror that concealed the elevator to the sublevels.

  At 0136, Operative Morgans stomach began to growl, and the entire team realized the importance of not skipping meals prior to incredibly important covert operations!

  Bex led us to the small closet at the base of the stairs and pulled out a backpack stocked with utility belts, cables, and a very handy gadget that Macey had made in her Intro in Accessories class (which is never what the new students think its going to be about).

  And as we stepped outside, I realized that it was warmer. Spring was coming, but I had barely noticed.

  "Look. " I stopped and looked at my three best friends in the whole world. "Weve only got three minutes until the guards are going to patrol this sector, and I totally understand if you dont want to go. I dont know if this is going to work, and even if it does, we dont know exactly what were going to face down there. "

  From the look on Bexs face, I knew there was no way she was going to be left out of anything covert. And dangerous. And utterly gray in the black-and-white spectrum of right and wrong.

  Still, I had to go on. "If anything happened to any of you . . . " I started, but then I couldnt finish.

  "So if theres a computer down there that weve got to hack into in sixty seconds, youre going to do it?" Liz asked, strapping a belt on over her pajamas.

  "And you really think Im going to miss this?" Bex pulled her belt from the top of the pile.

  We all looked at Macey. "You need me," she said reaching for her belt like a queen taking her scepter.

 
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