Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Page 2Ally Carter
But somehow I knew that the Office of Operative Development and Human Intelligence was probably far less concerned about the trash thing than it was about what came after the trash thing. So I was fully prepared when Polygraph Guy said, "Did The Subject follow you during your Covert Operations final examination?"
I thought about Josh appearing in the abandoned warehouse during finals week, bursting through walls and commandeering a forklift to "save" me, so I swallowed hard as I said, "Yes. "
"And was The Subject given memory-modification tea to erase the events of that night?"
It sounded so easy coming from him, so black-and-white. Sure, my mom gave Josh some tea thats supposed to wipe a persons memory blank, erase a few hours of their life, and give everyone a clean slate. But clean slates are a rare thing in any life—especially a spys life—so I didnt let myself wonder for the millionth time what Josh remembered about that night, about me. I didnt torture myself with any of the questions that might never have answers as I sat there, knowing that there is no such thing as black-and-white—remembering that my whole life is, by definition, a little bit gray.
I nodded, then muttered, "Yes. " Like it or not, I knew I had to say the word out loud.
He made some more notes, punched some keys. "Are you currently involved with The Subject in any way?"
"No," I blurted, because I knew that much was true. I hadnt seen Josh, hadnt spoken to him, hadnt even hacked into his e-mail account over winter break, which, given present circumstances, turned out to be a pretty good thing. (Plus, I had spent the last two weeks in Nebraska with Grandpa and Grandma Morgan, and they have dial-up, which takes forever!)
Then the man in the wire-rim glasses looked away from the screen and straight into my eyes. "And do you intend to reinitiate contact with The Subject despite strict rules prohibiting such a relationship?"
There it was: the question Id pondered for weeks.
There I was: Cammie the Chameleon—the Gallagher Girl who had risked the most sacred sisterhood in the history of espionage. For a boy.
"Ms. Morgan," Polygraph Guy said, growing impatient, "are you going to reinitiate contact with The Subject?"
"No," I said softly.
Then I glanced back at the screen to see if I was lying.
If youve ever been debriefed by the CIA, then you probably know exactly how I felt two hours later as I sat in the backseat of a limousine, watching city give way to suburbs and suburbs to countryside. Dirty piles of blackened ice became thick blankets of lush white snow, and the world seemed clean and new—ready for a fresh start.
I was through with lying (except for official cover stories, of course). And sneaking around (well…except when involved in covert operations). I was going to be normal! (Or as normal as a student at spy school ever gets a chance to be. )
I was going to be … myself.
I looked at my mother and reiterated the promise that I would never let a boy come between me and my family or my friends or matters of national security ever again. Then I realized that shed hardly said a word since wed left D. C. "I did okay, didnt I?" I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Of course, sweetie. You aced it. "
Which, not to sound conceited or anything, I kind of already knew, because A) Ive always tested well, and B) people who fail polygraphs dont usually walk out of top-secret facilities and get driven back to spy school.
Then I thought about the one-way glass. "You got to watch, didnt you?" I asked, fully expecting her to say, You were great, sweetie, or I think this might be worth some extra credit, or Remember, breathing is key when youre being interrogated with a TruthMaster 3000. But no. She didnt say any of those things.
Instead, my mother just placed her hand over mine and said, "No, Cam. Im afraid I had some things to do. "
Things? My mother had missed my first official government interrogation because of … things?
I might have asked for details, begged her to explain how she could miss such a milestone in a young spys life, but I know the things my mother does typically involve national security, fake passports, and the occasional batch of weapons-grade plutonium, so I said, "Oh. Okay," knowing I shouldnt feel hurt, but feeling it anyway.
We sat in silence until there was nothing to see outside my window but the tall stone fences that circle the Gallagher Academy grounds. Home.
I felt the limo slow and stop behind the long line of nearly identical chauffeured cars that brought us back to school each semester. It had been more than a century since Gillian Gallagher had decided to turn her familys mansion into an elite boarding school, and even then, after more than a hundred years of educating exceptional young women, no one in the town of Roseville, Virginia, had a clue just how exceptional we really were. Not even my ex-boyfriend.
"Tell me everything!" someone cried as soon as I opened the limo door. Sunlight bounced off the snow, blinding me before I could focus on my best friends face. Bexs caramel-colored eyes bore into me, her brown skin glowed, and, as usual, she looked like an Egyptian goddess. "Was it awesome?"
She stepped aside as I crawled out of the car, but didnt pause because…well…Bex doesnt exactly have a pause. She has a play and a fast-forward and occasionally a rewind, but Rebecca Baxter didnt become the first non-American Gallagher Girl in history by standing still.
"Did they grill you?" she continued. Then her eyes went wide and her accent grew heavy. "Was there torture?"
Well, of course there wasnt torture; but before I could say so, Bex exclaimed, "I bet it was bloody brilliant!" Most little girls in England grow up wanting to marry a prince. Bex grew up wanting to kick James Bonds butt and assume his double-0 ranking.
My mom walked around the side of the car. "Good afternoon, Rebecca. I trust you made it back from the airport okay?" And then, despite the bright sun that glowed around us, a shadow seemed to cross my best friends face.
"Yes, maam. " She pulled one of my bags from the open trunk. "Thanks again for letting me spend winter break with you. " Most people wouldnt have noticed the slight change in her voice, the faint vulnerability of her smile. But I understand what its like not to know what continent your parents are on, or when youll see them again. If ever. My mother was standing right beside me, but all Bex had was a coded message saying her parents were representing Englands MI6 in a joint project with the CIA, and that, like it or not, they couldnt exactly come home for Christmas.
When Mom hugged Bex and whispered, "Youre always welcome with us, sweetheart," I couldnt help thinking about how Bex had both of her parents some of the time, and I had one of my parents most of the time, but right then, neither of us seemed entirely happy with the deal.
We stood in silence for a minute, watching my mother walk away. I could have asked Bex about her parents. She could have mentioned my dad. But instead I just turned to her and said, "I got to meet the woman who bugged the Berlin Embassy in 1962. "
And that was all it took to make my best friend smile.
We started for the main doors, pushing through the crowded foyer and up the Grand Staircase. We were halfway to our rooms when someone … or rather, something…stopped us in our tracks.
"Ladies," Patricia Buckingham called as I reached for the door to the East Wing—and the fastest route to our rooms. I tried the knob, but it wouldnt budge.
"Its …" I twisted harder. "…stuck!"
"Its not stuck, ladies," Buckingham called again, her genteel British accent carrying above the noise in the foyer below. "Its locked," she said, as if we have locked doors all the time at the Gallagher Academy, which, let me tell you— we dont. I mean, sure, a lot of our doors are protected by NSA-approved codes or retinal scanners, but theyre never just…locked. (Because, really, whats the point when there are entire sections of our library labeled Locks: The Manipulation and Disabling of?)
"Im afraid the security department spent the winter break fixing a series of … s
hall we say … gaps in the security system. " Professor Buckingham eyed me over the top of her reading glasses, and I felt a guilty lump settle in my gut. "And they discovered that the wing had been contaminated with fumes from the chemistry labs. Therefore, this corridor is off-limits for the time being; youre going to have to find another way to your rooms. "
Well, after three and a half years of exploring every inch of the Gallagher mansion, I knew better than anyone that there are other ways to our rooms (some of which require closed-toe shoes, a Phillips-head screwdriver, and fifty yards of rappel-a-cord). But before I could mention any of them, Buckingham turned back to us and said, "Oh, and Cameron, dear, please make sure your alternate route doesnt involve crawling inside any walls. "
This whole fresh-start thing was going to be harder than I thought.
Bex and I started toward the back stairs, where Courtney Bauer was modeling the boots shed gotten for Hanukkah. When we passed the sophomore common room we saw Kim Lee showing off the derivation of the Proadsky Position shed mastered over break. We saw girls of every size, shape, and color, and I felt more and more at home with every step. Finally, I pushed open the door to our suite and was halfway through the throw-your-suitcase-onto-the-bed maneuver when someone grabbed me from behind.
"Oh my gosh!" Liz cried. "Ive been so worried!"
My suitcase landed hard on my foot, but I couldnt really cry out in pain because Liz was still squeezing, and even though she weighs less than a hundred pounds, Liz can squeeze pretty hard when she wants to.
"Bex said you had to go in for questioning," Liz said. "She said it was Top Secret!"
Yeah. Pretty much everything we do is Top Secret, but the novelty has never worn off for Liz, probably because, unlike Bex and me and seventy percent of our classmates, Lizs parents drive Volvos and serve on PTA committees and have never had to kill a man with a copy of People magazine. (Not that anyone can prove my mom actually did that—its totally just a rumor. )
"Liz, its okay," I said, pulling free, "It was just a debrief. It was normal protocol stuff. "
"So…" Liz started. "You arent in trouble?" She picked up a massive book. "Because article nine, section seven of the Handbook of Operative Development clearly states that operatives in training may be placed on temporary—"
"Liz," Bex said, cutting her off, "please tell me you didnt spend the morning memorizing that book. "
"I didnt memorize it," Liz said defensively. "I just…read it. " Which, when you have a photographic memory, is pretty much the same thing, but I didnt say so.
Down the hall, I heard Eva Alvarez explaining how Buenos Aires on New Years Eve is awesome. A pair of freshmen rushed by our door talking about who would make a better Gallagher Girl: Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Veronica Mars (a debate made much more interesting by the fact it was taking place in Farsi).
Bright sunlight shone through our window, bouncing off the snow. It was a new semester and my best friends were beside me. All seemed right with the world.