When the operative from the observation tower appeared on the opposite end of the bridge, I knew we were surrounded.
"Cammie, now!" Mrs. Baxter ordered, but I stayed frozen in place.
"Her father was my best friend!" my teacher shouted, the words echoing off the river and out into the night.
Bex's father nodded and eased closer. "I know."
"This is crazy, Abe." Mr. Solomon shook his head.
"Sure it is," Mr. Baxter said calmly. "But protocols exits for a reason, Joe. We know -"
"We know how this ends!" my teacher shouted.
"Not this time," Mr. Baxter said. "Not necessarily. Not if you let Cammie go, and come with me."
"Mr. Solomon . . ." I didn't recognize my own voice. It sounded far off and frail. I saw the way I stayed in the shadows, not fighting against my teacher's grasp. Weak. I felt weak.
And so I pulled away.
"Cammie, come here," Bex's mom ordered again. I could see Bex behind her, not moving. Dazed. "Cammie!" Bex's mom snapped, but I looked at my teacher.
"Mr. Solomon, what is going on? Why are you here? Why didn't you meet Zach? Why do they keep looking at you like . . . Why are they talking like you're the enemy?"
"The CIA has some questions for him, Cammie," Mr. Baxter answered. "That's all. He just needs to answer some questions."
"You're gonna try to turn me in, Abe?" Mr. Solomon laughed, then turned to Bex's mom.
"Grace? Are you going to cuff me in front of Bex and Cammie?"
Bex cried, "No!" but her mother's voice was even as she said, "You know we have to."
"Mom!" Bex cried.
"Rebecca, stay out of this," Bex's father warned. Then he turned to look at the man we all knew - the man only Bex and I still trusted. "You should have known better than to come here, Joe."
"I had to talk to Cammie."
"Cammie was safe with us," Bex's mother told him.
My teacher just shook his head. "Cammie isn't safe anywhere."
I didn't want to cry then, but I couldn't pretend anymore either. I wasn't on vacation. I was hiding. I was like the ravens, a prisoner of a destiny I didn't know and couldn't control. So I looked at the grown-up I knew I knew best - the only man I'd truly trusted in a very long time.
"Mr. Solomon, please, what's going on?"
And then his hands were back on my shoulders. "Cammie, you have to follow the pigeons."
"I . . . I don't understand."
"Promise me, Cammie! No matter what, promise me you will follow the pigeons."
It didn't make any sense - not the words or the look in his eyes or the way my best friend's parents stood staring as if the moment they'd been dreading for days was finally here.
A siren sounded, and I felt suddenly unsteady on my feet as if the earth was moving.
"Mr. Solomon," I spoke slowly, calmly, "maybe you should come with us . . . We'll call my mom and she'll explain that you're a teacher and that there's been some kind of mistake and . . ."
But then I couldn't finish because the earth was moving. The siren was growing louder; spectators were beginning to call out from the riverbanks. In a terrible flash, I remembered that Tower Bridge is a drawbridge, and Mr. Solomon and I were standing in the center.
The bridge lurched and Bex yelled, "Cammie!" but her mother held her back. I grabbed at the rail as the bridge rose higher and steeper, and Mr. Solomon reached for my shoulders, holding me, steadying me.
"Cammie, you have to promise me!"
"Okay, Mr. Solomon. Of course. I promise."
"Thank you, Cammie." He relaxed his grip and lowered his head. For the first time, he seemed to breathe as he sighed, "Thank you."
"Okay, Joe" Mr. Baxter inched closer. "You talked to Cammie. You got your promise.
Now, come on. Let's go get this settled."
But Mr. Solomon was backing away, his gaze still locked on me.
"The pigeons, Cammie."
"The pigeons," I said.
And then one of the greatest spies I've ever known ran toward the rising edge of the bridge and propelled himself over the top, flying falling. Bex's parents rushed after him, but I was already there, staring into the Thames.
And Joe Solomon was already gone.
During winter break of our seventh-grade year, Bex helped her parents expose a double agent who had been working inside M16. The summer she turned fourteen she swears she disabled a bomb beneath the royal family's box in the bleachers at Wimbledon. But as Bex and I sat in the back of an M16 van with the words "Handy Helpers House Painting Service" painted on the side, I knew no Gallagher Girl had ever brought a story quite like this one home from school vacation.
I tried recounting the facts for myself - how the first agent to reach us was left-handed and had green eyes, how the phone number on the side of the van had a Surrey exchange.
I remembered all the details - every single one. After all, Mr. Solomon had trained me well. And that was the problem, really.
Mr. Solomon had train me.
Mr. Solomon had taught me.
And then Mr. Solomon had dragged me onto that bridge and jumped into the cold, dark waters of the Thames. So I sat quietly with Mr. Baxter on one side of me, and Mrs.
Baxter on the other, waiting for the world to stop spinning in the wrong direction.
But, of course, for all Rebecca Baxter's talents, waiting totally isn't one of them.
"What was that?" Bex exclaimed as soon as the van doors slammed.
"Quiet, Rebecca," her mother ordered.
"Because it looked like the two of you just tried to arrest Joe Solomon," Bex said. "Is that what it looked like to you, Cam?"