Id Tell You I Love You, But Then Id Have to Kill You, Page 2Ally Carter
"Im pretty sure we can handle it," Liz soothed, prying the paper from Annas frail hands. "All Buckingham does is tell horror stories about all the stuff she saw in World War Two and show slides, remember? Ever since she broke her hip shes—"
"But Buckingham is out!" Anna exclaimed, and this got my attention.
Im sure I stared at her for a second or two before saying, "Professor Buckingham is still here, Anna," not adding that Id spent half the morning coaxing Onyx, her cat, down from the top shelf of the staff library. "Thats got to be just a start-of-school rumor. " There were always plenty of those—like how some girl got kidnapped by terrorists, or one of the staff members won a hundred grand on Wheel of Fortune. (Though, now that I think of it, that one was actually true. )
"No," Anna said. "You dont understand. Buckinghams doing some kind of semiretirement thing. Shes gonna do orientation and acclimation for the newbies—but thats it. Shes not teaching anymore. "
Wordlessly, our heads turned, and we counted seats at the staff table. Sure enough, there was an extra chair.
"Then whos teaching CoveOps?" I asked.
Just then a loud murmur rippled through the enormous room as my mom strolled through the doors at the back of the hall, followed by all the usual suspects—the twenty teachers Id been looking at and learning from for the past three years. Twenty teachers. Twenty-one chairs. I know Im the genius, but you do the math.
Liz, Anna, and I all looked at each other, then back at the staff table as we ran through the faces, trying to comprehend that extra chair.
One face was new, but we were expecting that, because Professor Smith always returns from summer vacation with a whole new look—literally. His nose was larger, his ears more prominent, and a small mole had been added to his left temple, disguising what he claimed was the most wanted face on three continents. Rumor has it hes wanted by gun smugglers in the Middle East, ex-KGB hit men in Eastern Europe, and a very upset ex-wife somewhere in Brazil. Sure, all this experience makes him a great Countries of the World (COW) professor, but the best thing Professor Smith brings to the Gallagher Academy is the annual anticipation of guessing what face he will assume in order to enjoy his summer break. He hasnt come back as a woman yet, but its probably just a matter of time.
The teachers took their seats, but the chair stayed empty as my mother took her place at the podium in the center of the long head table.
"Women of the Gallagher Academy, who comes here?" she asked.
Just then, every girl at every table (even the newbies) stood and said in unison, "We are the sisters of Gillian. "
"Why do you come?" my mother asked.
"To learn her skills. Honor her sword. And keep her secrets. "
"To what end do you work?"
"To the cause of justice and light. "
"How long will you strive?"
"For all the days of our lives. " We finished, and I felt a little like a character on one of my grandmas soap operas.
We sat down, but Mom remained standing. "Welcome back, students," she said, beaming. "This is going to be a wonderful year here at the Gallagher Academy. For our newest members"—she turned to the table of seventh graders, who seemed to shiver under her intense gaze— "welcome. You are about to begin the most challenging year of your young lives. Rest assured that you would not have been given this challenge were you not up to it. To our returning students, this year will mark many changes. " She glanced at her colleagues and seemed to ponder something before turning back to face us. "We have come to a time when—" But before she could finish, the doors flew open, and not even three years of training at spy school prepared me for what I saw.
Before I say any more, I should probably remind you that I GO TO A GIRLS SCHOOL—thats all girls, all the time, with a few ear-drop-needing, plastic-surgery-getting male faculty members thrown in for good measure. But when we turned around, we saw a man walking in our midst who would have made James Bond feel insecure. Indiana Jones would have looked like a mommas boy compared to the man in the leather jacket with two days growth of beard who walked to where my mother stood and then—horror of horrors—winked at her.
"Sorry Im late," he said as he slid into the empty chair.
His presence was so unprecedented, so surreal, that I didnt even realize Bex had squeezed onto the bench between Liz and Anna, and I had to do a double take when I saw her, and remembered that five seconds before shed been MIA.
"Trouble, ladies?" she asked.
"Where have you been?" Liz demanded.
"Forget that," Anna cut in. "Who is he?"
But Bex was a natural-born spy. She just raised her eyebrows and said, "Youll see. "
Bex had spent six hours on a private jet, but her cappuccino-colored skin was glowing, and she looked as if shed just walked out of a Noxzema commercial, so I really wanted to be petty and point out that the sign in the foyer said we were supposed to be speaking English with American accents during the Welcome Back Dinner. But as the only non-U. S. citizen Gallagher Girl in history, Bex was used to being an exception. My mom had bent some serious rules when her old friends from Englands MI6 called and asked if their daughter could be a Gallagher Girl. Admitting Bex had been Moms first controversial act as headmistress (but not her last).
"You have a good holiday, then?" Throughout the hall, girls were beginning to eat, but Bex just blew a bubble with her gum and grinned, daring us to ask her for the story.
"Bex, if you know something, youve got to tell us," Liz demanded, even though it was totally pointless. No one can make Bex do anything she doesnt want to do. I may be a chameleon, and Liz may be the next Einstein, but when it comes to general stubbornness, Bex is the best spy ever!
She smirked, and I knew shed probably been planning this scene since she was halfway over the Atlantic Ocean (in addition to being stubborn, Bex is also quite theatrical). She waited until all eyes were on her—holding the silence until Liz was about to explode, then she took a warm roll from the basket on the table and nonchalantly said, "New teacher. " She tore the bread in half and slowly buttered it. "We gave him a ride from London this morning. Hes an old pal of my fathers. "
"Name?" Liz asked, probably already planning how she was going to hack into the CIA headquarters at Langley for details as soon as we were free to go back to our rooms.
"Solomon," Bex said, eyeing us. "Joe Solomon. " She sounded eerily like the black, teenage, female James Bond.
We all turned to look at Joe Solomon. He had the scruffy beard and restless hands of an agent fresh off a mission. Around me, the hall filled with whispers and giggles— fuel that would have the rumor mill running on high by midnight—and I remembered that, even though the Gallagher Academy is a school for girl geniuses, sometimes the emphasis should be kept on the girl.
The next morning was torture. Absolute torture! And thats not a word I use lightly, considering the family business. So maybe I should rephrase: the first day of classes was challenging.
We didnt exactly go to bed early … or even a little late … or even at all, unless you count lying on the faux-fur rug in the common room with the entire sophomore class sprawled around me as the basis for a good nights sleep. When Liz woke us up at seven, we decided we could either primp for an hour and skip breakfast, or throw on our uniforms and eat like queens, before Professor Smiths 8:05 COW lecture.
B. S. (Before Solomon), waffles and bagels would have won out for sure. But today, Professor Smith had a lot of eye-lined and lip-glossed girls with growling stomachs listening to him talk about civil unrest in the Baltic States when 8:30 rolled around. I looked at my watch, the ultimate pointless gesture at the Gallagher Academy, because classes run precisely on time, but I had to see how many seconds were standing between me and lunch. (11,705, just in case youre curious. )
When COW was over, we ran up two flights of stairs to the fourth floor for Madame Dabneys Culture and Assimilation lessons which,
sadly, that day did not include tea. Then it was time for third period.
I had a pain in my neck from sleeping funny, at least five hours worth of homework, and a newfound realization that woman cannot live on cherry-flavored lip gloss alone. I dug in the bottom of my bag and found a very questionable breath mint, and figured that if I was going to die of starvation, I should at least have minty-fresh breath for the benefit of whatever classmate or faculty member would be forced to give me CPR.
Liz had to go by Mr. Mosckowitzs office to drop off an extra-credit essay shed written over the summer (yeah, shes that girl), so I was alone with Bex when we reached the base of the grand staircase and turned into the small corridor that was one of three ways to the Subs, or subfloors, where wed never been allowed before.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, we tried hard not to blink or do anything that might confuse the optical scanner that was going to verify that we were, in fact, sophomores and not freshmen trying to sneak down to the Subs on a dare. I studied our reflections and realized that I, Cameron Morgan, the headmistresss daughter, who knew more about the school than any Gallagher Girl since Gilly herself, was getting ready to go deeper into the vault of Gallagher secrets. Judging from the goose bumps on Bexs arm, I wasnt the only one who got chills at the thought of it.
A green light flashed in the eyes of a painting behind us. The mirror slid aside, revealing a small elevator that would take us one floor beneath the basement to the Covert Operations classroom and—if you want to be dramatic about it—our destinies.
"Cammie," Bex said slowly, "were in. "
We were sitting calmly, checking our (synchronized) watches, and all thinking the exact same thing: something is definitely different.
The Gallagher mansion is made of stone and wood. It has carved banisters and towering fireplaces a girl can curl up in front of on snowy days and read all about who killed JFK (the real story), but somehow that elevator had brought us into a space that didnt belong in the same century, much less the same building, as the rest of the mansion. The walls were frosted glass. The tables were stainless steel. But the absolute weirdest thing about the Covert Operations classroom was that our teacher wasnt in it.
Joe Solomon was late—so late, I was beginning to get a little resentful that I hadnt taken the time to go steal some M&Ms from my moms desk, because, frankly, a two-year-old Tic Tac simply doesnt satisfy the hunger of a growing girl.
We sat quietly as the seconds ticked away, but I guess the silence became too much for Tina Walters, because she leaned across the aisle and said, "Cammie, what do you know about him?"
Well, I only knew what Bex had told me, but Tinas mom writes a gossip column in a major metropolitan newspaper that shall remain nameless (since thats her cover and all), so there was no way Tina wasnt going to try to get to the bottom of this story. Soon I was trapped under an avalanche of questions like, "Wheres he from?" and "Does he have a girlfriend?" and "Is it true he killed a Turkish ambassador with a thong?" I wasnt sure if she was talking about the sandals or the panties, but in any case, I didnt have the answer.