Only the Good Spy Young, page 23part #4 of Gallagher Girls Series
The forest was dark and still. Only the faintest hint of stars and moonlight shone through the dense canopy of trees.
I felt someone poke me, and I turned to look at Bex, who raised one finger, as if to say, listen closer. And then I heard it: a distant rumble, low and steady, drifting through the trees.
Zach started walking, and the four of us followed until the leaves overhead began to hin, and we were back under the open sky. Soon, we were staring over the side of a massive cliff, listening to a deafening roar.
" What is that? " Macey yelled, peering over the edge.
Zach didnt even glance at the river that raged beneath us, slicing through the wilderness two hundred feet below.
"Thats our ride. "
Anyone whos ever driven by the Gallagher Academy can see it standing safely behind its tall stone walls and strong fences. With one glance at the mountains that rose above us and the roaring river that raged below, I realized that the Blackthorne Institute had its own kind of walls. By the time wed rappelled down the side, persuaded Liz into a flimsy black rubber boat, and pushed into the current, Id realized that the Gallagher Academy might have the best security money can buy, but what Blackthorne had was priceless.
(Note to self: if you somehow get a real Covert Operations teacher before the end of the semester, this field op should be worth extra credit. )
"Are you sure theres no other way in?" Liz asked. Her eyes were closed, and she was holding her second-favorite laptop, wrapped in a watertight case, as if her life depended on it.
Zach laughed. "Only the ones that sane people would use. "
The whitecaps were come faster. My fingers froze around my paddle, and as we crested a massive wave, Liz would have flown free had Bex and I not been there to grab her.
"And whats wrong with being sane?" Macey yelled through chattering teeth over the roar of the water.
Zach smiled and yelled, " Insane means fewer cameras!"
I didnt think it was possible, but in the next second I could have sworn the water started rushing faster. The roar became louder. Through the light of the moon, I could see the water stretching out before us, and then . . . nothing. It was as if the river before us had fallen off the face of the earth.
"Zach . . . " I didnt try to hide the panic in my voice. "Zach, why did the river disappear?"
I asked, already dreading the answer. "Zach!"
And with that, the ground, the water, everything fell out from beneath us and we rushed over the falls. It was like a roller coaster - but faster. And wetter. And far less comfortable as we tumbled through the night sky, waiting for the splash.
HOW TO BREAK INTO BLACKTHORNE
(A list by Operatives Morgan, Baxter, Sutton, and McHenry)
Step 1. Become slightly crazy.
Step 2. So crazy you actually volunteer to go over a fifty-foot waterfall.
Step 3. Swallow a lot of very cold river water.
Step 4. Cough and gag.
Step 5. Repeat Step 4 until it feels like maybe your lungs arent inside your body anymore.
Step 6. Remember that a really cute boy is beside you, so try to cough in a far more attractive manner.
Step 7. Be grateful youre still alive.
The first thought that came to me after the falling and the flailing and the gagging and the swimming and the "is everyone al right-ing" was that I was lying on my stomach on the rivers rocky bank. There was a wide open field in front of me, while behind us, sheer, steep cliffs rose straight up into the sky and the river still roared deafeningly loud in our ears.
"No fences?" I asked.
Zach studied me. "No need. " He pointed to the river and the cliffs. "Besides, this isnt the kind of place people are anxious to visit," he said flatly. I started to speak, but he cut me off. "Youll see. "
Grandpa Morgan always says that to know a piece of grass, youve got to see the ground that grew it. Maybe thats why I remember every detail of that night, every inch of ground we covered, as I followed Zach to the place that had made him, seeing them both with fresh eyes.
In the moonlight, I could plainly see a long-distance rifle range thirty yards away. "Are those . . . "
"Yeah," Zach said, as if he didnt want to hear the rest of the question.
"How far away are the targets?" Bex asked.
Zach turned to us and whispered, "Far. "
We passed a massive trench that had been hand-dug into the ground. Heavy ropes hung form the highest branches of tall trees. And beyond it all, there were muddy paths and rocky hills. I knew that despite the natural wonder of it, nothing about Blackthorne was beautiful; I knew that even in the sunshine, something about that place would always be a little dark.
Finally, we reached a fence that was at least fifteen feet tall. Moonlight glistened off the strands of barbed wire that circled at the top.
"Subtle," Bex said, staring up at it.
"This is the perimeter of the central grounds," Zach said. "As far as the general public knows, Blackthorne ends here. Follow the fence, and two hundred yards down youll find a data access point that all of the electronic security runs through. " He looked at Liz.
"You know what you have to do?"
Liz beamed. "Yes. "
"Youre up to it? Because youre only going to have sixty seconds to run the hack. Sixty seconds or we dont make it in. Or back. "
Liz looked insulted. "I know. "
"Shes got it," Macey told him.
Zach took a deep breath. "Yeah. I know. Im just . . . it looks different form this side, you know?"
Not for the first time, I wondered whether or not Zach had dropped out of school at Blackthorne, where he was living, how he was surviving, but this didnt seem like the time to ask questions. He probably wouldnt have answered anyway.
"Security between here and there?" Bex asked.
"Walk softly and youll be fine. "
Still, my three best friends in the world looked concerned.
"Bex and Liz can handle the perimeter," Macey said, turning to me. "Maybe I should come with you. "
"The more people who go, the more likely we get seen," I countered.
"Yeah," Zach said. "Which is exactly why you should stay here. "
"You said yourself you dont know exactly whats in there, Zach. Going in without backup is foolish. "
"Then let me be foolish. "
"Because I have to do something, okay? I cant sit tight and . . . be patient . . . I need to do something. "
No one said anything for a moment. We were all too wet, too sore, and wed come entirely too far to turn back.
Then Macey stared right into Zachs eyes. "Were leaving her with you," she warned.
"Ill be fine, Macey," I said, but it was as if she hadnt heard a word.
"Were leaving her with you," she said again. "And if you make us regret that . . . "
" I wont," Zach said, and somehow I believed him.
The Operative was led through a series of gates, doors, and really muddy ditches. The Operative did not, however complain about ruining her favorite pair of jeans. (Even though she really, really wanted to. )
On the other side of the chain-link fence, I guess I thought the world would change. And it did. Just not in the ways I was expecting.
I have seen the Gallagher Academy on the coldest of nights and the hottest days. I have crawled through its deepest passageways and stared out of the highest windows. I have walked across it in deep snow and heavy rain.
I know what a spy school looks like!
Or, at least, I thought I did. Until them.
Zach and I lay on our stomachs at the top of a low ridge, staring down at the Blackthorne Institute for Boys through the glare of a searchlight that swept across the grounds from the schools tallest tower. Most of the buildings were low and squar
Despite the hour, a group of twenty boys was running across the open field that lay between the tree-covered hill and the big square buildings. They wore yellow jumpsuits and ran in perfect unison, marching, really, their chanting cries echoing through the valley in the dark.
"Night drills," Zach whispered, but drills for what, I didnt dare to ask.
A pair of headlights appeared at the gates, shining past the guard station and onto the gravel lane.
"Mom," I whispered.
"Right on time," Zach said.
When my mother began the drive toward the main building, I lifted my binoculars and carefully studied the sign that hung on the gate that swung open. BLACKTHORNE
INSTITUTE FOR BOYS, PRIVATE DETENTION FACILITY. DANGER. NO
TRESPASSING BEYOND THIS POINT.
The last year flooded back in bits and pieces - the perfectly made beds in the boys
temporary quarters in the East Wing; the way the boys had twitched and squirmed as if theyd never worn a suit jacket or tie in their lives; and, most of all, the look is Zachs eyes as hed warned me that I wouldnt like life at his school - wouldnt like it at all.
"Youve got your cover, Gallagher Girl," Zach said quietly. "Weve got ours. "
Upon gaining access to the Blackthorne Institute for Boys, The Operatives were able to ascertain the following:
· The Blackthorne Institutes firewalls, according to Operative Sutton, were good.
But not quite good enough.
· As a part of their cover, the residents of the Blackthorne Institute were forced to wear jumpsuits in a shade of yellow that, according to Operative McHenry, doesnt look good on ANYONE.
· The guards at the Blackthorne Institute utilized a fairly aggressive form of perimeter patrol that was very effective except when an intruder knows the Bazinsky Method (which Operative Baxter did).
Zach had been right, of course. His school wasnt like my school. Blackthorne tried to look like a place for thugs, and the Gallagher Academy appeared to be a palace for princesses. My school was a half mile from Highway 10. Zachs school was hidden in the mountains, shielded from the outside world.
They had barbed wire, and we had stone walls.
Their school looked like a prison made to keep people in, and my school appeared to be a mansion built to keep people out.
But as I lay with Zach in the dark at the top of the ridge, I heard him breathing. His arm was arm against mine, and I feared I might sweat or fidget, that he might feel the blood that was pumping too fast through my body and guess the thoughts that were raging inside of me - all the things I didnt trust him to see or know.
I tried to pull away, but he put his hands on my shoulders and held me there. I knew that the Blackthorne Institute lay just beyond that ridge with its guards and teachers and little Joe-Solomons-in-training, and yet it felt like Zach and I were the only people on earth as he pressed his body against mine.
His hands moved to cup my face, and in the faint traces of light, I saw his eye perhaps more clearly than I ever had.
Zach saw me.
Zach knew me.
I was anything but invisible as we lay in the shadows, his face inches away from mine.
"Stay here," he whispered. I felt the words brush across my skin. "Pleas, Gallagher Girl, just stay here. "
I wanted to pull away ,to remind him that I was a big girl, a highly trained operative, a spy - that Id been training for this mission my entire life, and I wasnt going to be left on the sidelines. But in that dim space with Zach pressed tightly against me, only one thought came to mind. I kissed him - longer and deeper than I ever had before. The school was not watching us this time. There was nothing playful in his tone. We were just two people kissing as if for the first time, as if it might be the last.
Other author's books:
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