Only the good spy young, p.4
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       Only the Good Spy Young, p.4

         Part #4 of Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
 
Page 4

 

  "You still dont get it, do you?" he was almost smiling as he closed the folder. "Joe Solomon is the threat. "

  "Thats ridiculous," I shot back. "Mr. Solomon is my teacher. "

  The man stood. "You can stop calling him mister, young lady. " He walked to the door and rapped on the glass. "Joe Solomon will never be your teacher again. "

  Chapter Six

  Over the next six nights the Baxters and I slept in five different safe houses.

  There was seemingly abandoned gardeners shed on an estate in Scotland, an apartment with a view of Big Ben, a cottage in Wales, and something that could best be described as a small castle, which came complete with a suit of armor and a peacock.

  Every morning we would drive. Every second there were guards.

  Sure, you might think that full access to that many covert strongholds would have made Bex and me the envy of the entire student body; but as a rule, we Gallagher Girls dont envy anything that involves guards (when youre the guardee) and spiders (and MI6 safe houses have a lot of spiders. )

  On the sixth night I woke in a narrow bed to the peaceful sound of Bexs breathing and something else - a muffled word: "Caven. "

  For a moment, I lay there, then I slipped out of the lower bunk.

  The floorboards were surprisingly quiet beneath my feet. It was freezing, but I didnt stop to rummage through the duffel bags and suitcases that sat open but neatly packed, ready for a quick escape. Instead, I walked out to the hall and eased toward the narrow, crooked staircase that led from the second story to the small landing outside the kitchen.

  Perched on the landed, I could see Mr. Baxters legs as he sat at the kitchen table, shifting slightly as he spoke. "Have you seen Rachel?"

  "Yes," a woman said in a hoarse whisper.

  "Im surprised that was possible," Mrs. Baxter said.

  The woman laughed softly. "Well I wasnt in the mood to hear that it was impossible. "

  "I see," Mrs. Baxter said.

  "Grace, how is she?" the woman asked.

  "Fine," Mrs. Baxter said. "Should I go get her?"

  "No. "

  I stood in the dark listening, while the wind blew and the castle moaned and the woman said, "Let the squirt have her sleep. "

  There was only one person in the world who ever called me Squirt, so I didnt think - I just stood, ready to bolt down the narrow stairs toward my aunt Abby. But then an arm was around my waist, and a hand clasped over my mouth. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Bexs wide eyes gleaming in the dark.

  She shook her head once, quickly. No, she was telling me. Think. We might not get this chance again.

  My best friends smile was especially mischievous (which believe me, is saying something) as she whispered, "I have a better idea. "

  Three minutes later I was standing on the top floor of the castle, looking at a small wooden box and a less-than-sturdy-rope, listening to my best friend insist, "You should do it. "

  "Why me?" I whispered, watching as the ancient box dangled in midair over a dark, empty shaft that disappeared into the cold stone of the castle walls.

  "Youre shorter," Bex said. (Which I am. ) "And Im stronger," she said. (Which she totally could be. ) "And Im . . . "

  "Afraid of spiders?" I guessed.

  But Bex plowed on, " . . . still a little deaf from the percussion grenade incident during final week. "

  So, yeah, thats how I ended up in the dumbwaiter.

  I felt myself descending through the castle walls, lower and lower, while the noises in the kitchen grew louder and clearer.

  "Are you sure you dont want some tea?" Bexs father asked.

  "No thanks, Abe. " My aunts voice sounded weak - almost frail. "I havent been sleeping all that well, to tell you the truth. "

  "Neither have we," Bexs mother added.

  The kettle began to whistle. A chair scrapped across the floor.

  "How close was it really, Grace?" Aunt Abby asked. "Was she in any danger?"

  "Cammie is in contest danger," Mrs. Baxter said as the whistling stopped.

  "You saw him, Abe?" Abby asked. Even though there wasnt a doubt who he was, it seemed to take forever for Mr. Baxter to answer.

  "Yes. "

  "How was he?" Abby asked.

  "Desperate," Bexs father answered.

  "Do you believe it?" Abby asked.

  "This is the way the Circle has worked for more than a hundred years . . . " Mr. Baxter started.

  "But, Abe, we knew him," Abby pressed again.

  After another long pause, Mr. Baxter said, "I believe Joe Solomon is the sort of man that no one will ever truly know. "

  Three seasoned and decorated operatives sat on the other side of the wall. Between them theyd probably mastered a hundred identities in a dozen countries. Names were just covers. Just legends. Hanging in the darkness, I wondered if anything about Joe Solomon was ever real at all.

  It felt as if the truth were slipping away from me, falling, until . . .

  Wait, I realized too late, I was slipping - literally.

  Through a crack in the top of the dumbwaiter, I could see Bex holding the fraying rope, trying hard to pull me back up, but the rope slipped again.

  Outside, the adults kept talking. I heard Mrs. Baxter saying, "We cant tell Cammie until were absolutely certain . . . "

  "We can never tell Cammie," Aunt Abby said.

  "Hold on!" Bexs frantic whisper echoed down the shaft as the dumbwaiter dipped again.

  This is not good, I told myself. This is not . . .

  But outside the shaft, Mrs. Baxters voice was calm. "Shes almost seventeen, Abby. And the more she knows, the safer shell -"

  "Cammie will never be safe!" Abby said, and I remembered that a semi-stable dumbwaiter was the least of my problems.

  "Hang on, Cam," Bex whispered from above. "Im -"

  "We dont know that Cammie would do something foolish," Mrs. Baxter went on.

  "Of course she would," Aunt Abby laughed. "I would. Trust me, Grace, Abe. Cammie can never know -"

  Before she could finish, I felt the bottom of the dumbwaiter dropping out from under me as, ten feet up the shaft, the old rope broke and I went hurling toward the kitchen floor.

  "What the -" Mr. Baxter started to yell.

  With a groan, I rolled over and found myself staring at a pair of gorgeous high-heeled boots, long legs, and a familiar face looking down at me, saying, "Hey, Squirt. "

  Chapter Seven

  "Cammie can never know what?" I asked.

  Bex was sitting beside me, the two of us in the hard, straight-backed chairs, looking up at her parents and my Aunt Abby. Bexs hands were rope burned. My elbow was bleeding.

  But my only concern was what had brought my mothers only sister to England and, most important . . .

  "Cammie can never know what?"

  "See?" Abby said, gesturing at the two of us. "This is exactly what Im talking about. "

  "Its true. " Mr. Baxter crossed his arms and eyed us both. His voice wasnt even a little bit playful as he finished, "They are a liability. "

  "What cant Cammie know?" Bex asked, choosing, I guess, to let the liability thing slide for the time being.

  "Go to bed, Cammie," my aunt ordered, sounding exactly like my mother.

  "No," I said, sounding exactly like my aunt.

  I was pretty sure there was about to be a hole in the space time continuum, when Abby snapped, "Cameron!"

  I was already on my feet. "So you know what you would do if you were me, and you knew this big secret . . . " I leaned across the table, almost daring her as I finished, "Now, imagine what youd do if there was something you didnt know. "

  As threats go, it was a good one. I could see it in Abbys eyes. After a moment, she pulled out the chair on the other side of the table and sank into it. I tried not notice the stiffness in the movement or the way she held one arm carefully by her side. I tried not to think about the fact that shed almost
died.

  Shed almost died.

  Shed almost died.

  "We caught one of them. " Abbys voice brought me back. "Election night . . . you were out, and I was . . . " She trailed off.

  Shed almost died.

  "From the grab team that came for you, we caught one. " My aunt gestured to the place where shed been shot. "We caught the one who did this. A week ago he decided to start talking. "

  Beside me, I felt Bex shaking, her impatience coming to a boil. "Whats this have to do with Mr. Solomon?"

  Her father warned, "Rebecca," and Abby carried on.

  "The Circle works in cells - small, isolated groups. Two Circle operatives could be sitting right beside each other and not know it. So the man in custody has some knowledge of cell operatives, but he doesnt know much. He doesnt even know why they want you, Cammie. "

  She looked right at me, and I felt my heart fall.

  "He only knows the people hes worked directly with and . . . "

  As my aunt trailed off, I saw Mrs. Baxter tense. Mr. Baxter brought his hand to his mouth as if he couldnt bear to say the words aloud.

  "And he knows the people he was recruited with," Abby said slowly. Her gaze fell to the floor. "When he was Blackthorn. "

  For days Id wanted answers - Id begged and pleaded for the truth. But now we were there and I didnt want to hear it.

  "No. Thats just what MI6 thinks, for some reason, but theyre wrong. Theres been some kind of mistake. " I tried to push away, but Abby leaned closer.

  "Joes a double agent, Cam. He was recruited by the Circle a really long time ago. "

  "How could you say that?" I snapped back. "Hes your friend. "

  "He was also friends with the man who did this!" she yelled, pointing to her injured shoulder. She looked so angry and betrayed, and when she spoke again her voice was more like a plea. "We have to believe it, Cammie. You of all people need to believe it. "

  "But . . . he was CIA . . . " It sounded childish, and yet I had to say it. I was, after all, still a child. "He was our teacher. He couldnt have been working for the Circle. "

  Mrs. Baxter was calm as she took the seat next to Abby. "Think about it, girls. You know having operatives deep inside the Agency would be a high priority for the Circle. And an operative at the Gallagher Academy - an operative with so much access to Cammie . . . "

  "Youre wrong," Bex said.

  "Its an old and effective practice," Mrs. Baxter said softly. "Recruit operatives who are young, encourage them to spend their breaks training with the Circle, working with the Circle. And then send them back to school. " She was so poised - so good and wise and beautiful that it was almost impossible to doubt her as she looked at us both and said,

  "But make no mistake, girls. We know what Joe Solomon did over his summer vacation. "

  "What if hes changed?" Bex challenged. "People change. Maybe hes not working with them anymore. "

  "Its not the Boy Scouts," Abby answered. "Its not that easy to just walk away. "

  We sat in silence for a long time before I finally turned back to my Aunt Abby. "Why did you come here tonight?"

 
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