In our room an hour later, Bex was the one who told the story. About the Tower and the Circle and the mad look in our teacher's eyes as he stood shaking on the bridge. It sounded like a dozen other crazy tales she'd brought back after break, but this one, I knew, was true.
"He was sixteen?" I watched Liz plug that number into some formula in her mind, then shake her head as if it didn't compute. "No, he couldn't have been bad. I mean he can't be.
He is . . . I mean, he was . . ."
"Our age," Macey finished for her.
One of the downsides of going to a school where they teach you that you're capable of anything is that eventually you start to believe it. But none of us had ever thought ourselves capable of that.
"How does someone our age end up working for Circle?" Macey asked in disbelief.
"Blackthorne," I said simply. "The Circle recruits at Blackthorn."
"Cammie, no," Liz started, already knowing where my thoughts had gone. "Zach can't be . . ."
"But he might be. These are the facts: We know Zach was in London. And D.C. And Boston. Zach knew the Circle wanted me before we even knew the Circle existed." I looked down at my hands. "And we knew Zach's always been close to Mr. Solomon.
They've both always known too much."
"Cam, no," Macey ordered. "Stop it. Even if Mr. Solomon is a double agent or whatever, that doesn't mean Zach is too."
"Bex's mom said that having someone at the Gallaher Academy - having someone close to me - would be a high priority." I laughed sadly. "And Zach got pretty close."
"Cam, that doesn't mean anything." Liz rushed toward me. "Maybe Mr. Solomon used to work for the Circle, but now -"
"He's the good guy?" I guessed.
"Yeah," Liz said.
"Good guys don't jump into rivers in the middle of winter to get away from other good guys," I answered. "Besides, I don't think the Circle really offers early retirement."
"Okay, so Joe Solomon's a traitor . . ." Macey said as simply as if she'd said "So Joe Solomon looks good in turtlenecks." "Do you really think he'd be stupid, too?" she stepped closer. "Think about it, Cammie. Why was Mr. Solomon there?"
"He said I had to follow the pigeons."
"Follow the what?" Liz asked.
"He was talking crazy, okay?" I took a deep breath. "One second he was telling me to run, and then . . . you know."
"So you're saying that one of the CIA's best undercover operatives - not to mention one of the most wanted men in the world - walked through an MI6 surveillance detail just to tell you to follow the pigeons?" Macey didn't try to hide her disbelief.
"Yeah," I said. He said he had to see me before I got back to school. And he said when I got back to school I had to follow the pigeons."
"Tell me this, Cam." Macey placed her arm around her shoulder. She seemed so much taller than me then. "Do you believe Mr. Solomon is working for the Circle?"
"Abby and the Baxters say he is."
"What do you say?" Macey asked.
"It's true," Bex answered for me, leaning against the wall, arms crossed. "My mum and dad have been taking me on missions since before I could walk. They've never lied to me before. They wouldn't start lying to me about this." She turned and looked right at me.
"Abby would never lie to you about this."
Sometimes I hate it when my friends are right. Unfortunately, it happens a lot.
"But, Bex, your parents weren't there on election night," Macey countered. "Abby was there, but she was half dead. Cam, you were drugged and practically knocked unconscious, so you won't remember either - but I do." She shivered a little.
"I remember everything. Everyone was worried that night, but Mr. Solomon was terrified. He was as worried about you as your mother was."
"Mr. Solomon's been working for the Circle since he was sixteen! He's pretty good at faking things," Bex challenged.
Macey shook her head. "He wasn't faking."
"You can't know that," Bex said.
Macey laughed softly. "I know fake love when I see it."
I didn't know what to say, so I sank to the floor and rested my arms on my knees, suddenly far too tired for the first day of school.
On the other side of the room, Liz sat perfectly still on her bed, weighing options, waiting to cast the tie-breaking vote. When she spoke, her voice was so low. "Cam, where's your mom?"
"Buckingham said she's been temporarily detained. Whatever that means." I sighed. "She didn't even some to England after . . . everything."
"I wish she was here," Bex admitted. "There is something they're not telling us."
I pictured Zach, his breath fogging in the air as he'd said They know more than we know.
But my mother was gone. The Baxters and Abby were a thousand miles away. That morning Bex and I had walked away from England - from our last chance at answers -
except . . .
"Cam," Liz said softly, "What is it?"
"What?" Liz said. "Do you think he's going to be a good teacher?"
I shook my head.
"Do you think he's hot?" Macey asked.
"Then why are you smiling?" Liz's voice went up and entire octave, but I just looked at her - thought about a folder on a metal table and eyes that looked like they'd seen everything.
"I think he knows things."
Covert Operatives Report