As soon as Liz saw the empty bed, she knew something was wrong. Of course, people at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women were used to Elizabeth Sutton’s knowing things no one else had figured out, but that morning she wasn’t recalling something she’d read in a book. Her realization wasn’t the result of years of research and experiments. Although, technically, Liz was a genius, it was her gut and not her head that made her stare at the empty pillow, the perfectly tucked covers, and say, “Oh no.” “What is it?” Bex groaned, half-asleep. “If you’re complaining ’cause you lost your lucky highlighter again, I’m gonna—”
“It’s Cammie,” Liz said, still staring at the pillow. “She’s gone.”
Bex, however, didn’t seem concerned as she rolled over and pushed her hair out of her eyes. “She probably just got up early to study.”
“Earlier than I got up?” Liz asked.
It must have been an excellent question, because Macey threw aside her covers and searched the four corners of the suite with her big blue eyes, as if Cammie were there, hiding in the shadows, ready to jump out and say boo. Liz began to shake. Her mind began to race.
There were hundreds of places that Cammie might go to be alone or think, to study or cry. Everything would be okay, Liz told herself, and took a deep breath. But it was the look she saw in Bex’s eyes that scared her. And, with that, the girls knew it was time to go to work.COVERT OPERATIONS REPORT“Where do you think she is?”
At 0500 on the morning of June fourth, Operatives Sutton, Baxter, and McHenry awoke to find Operative Cameron Morgan was not in her bed and had, apparently, not returned to her room the night before. The Operatives did not, however, panic.
Liz didn’t want to yell, but she couldn’t help it. She’d always been the smallest of her friends, and her voice had always been the highest. At times like that, when adrenaline mixed with fear, Liz had to lash out. She felt like a hot-air balloon, too light and inconsequential to be held down.
“You don’t think she did something stupid, do you?” Liz asked. “Because I’m starting to think she might have done something stupid.”
“Cam’s got to be here,” Bex said. She was pulling on her uniform, scanning the floor for her shoes. “She’s here somewhere. She couldn’t have gotten far.”
“Unless she has a jet.” Liz stopped cold. “Do you think Cam has a jet?”
Macey shook her head, no, but Bex just plowed through the door and said, “I think she has a death wish.”
PLACES WHERE THE OPERATIVES LOOKED FOR CAMMIE MORGAN:
- The P&E barn
- Dr. Fibs’s lab
- Madame Dabney’s tearoom (because Operative Morgan has been known to stress-eat the chocolates Madame Dabney keeps stashed in the credenza)
“What about Zach?” Macey said three hours later. “Shouldn’t we ask him if he’s seen her? Maybe they’re just off somewhere together. Maybe she’s not… gone.”Day 1: Zach
She kept her voice low because the halls weren’t empty anymore. The sun was up, and light streaked through the windows while girls darted down to the labs or outside for a pre-test run to clear their heads. It was finals’ week at the Gallagher Academy, and the whole school was awake and alive and looking for answers.
Unfortunately, not everyone was finding them.
“That’s true,” Liz said, hopeful. “Maybe she’s just with Zach.”
Bex asked the scariest question of all: “What if she isn’t.”
“Still,” Liz said, “we should ask him.”
She didn’t see the dark shadow that stood in the doorway, broad shoulders looming over them, saying, “Ask me what?”
Bex and Macey and Liz were staring at him, speechless. If there was one thing Zach had learned from his time at the Gallagher Academy it was that jabbering, talking girls are normal. Quiet, staring girls are not. And where Gallagher Girls are concerned, abnormal is almost never good.Day 1: Macey
“Maybe we weren’t talking about you,” Liz said with a shrug that told him she was trying to lie, to flirt a little, in the hopes that he wouldn’t notice. It was something she’d probably seen Macey do, he thought, but on Liz it didn’t quite work.
“I’m the Gallagher Academy’s only male student,” Zach said. “That means, considering faculty and staff, the chances you are talking about me are about… ” He let his voice trail off and looked at Liz.
“One in nine.”
Liz and statistics did work, Zach thought and smiled.
“So,” he said slowly, “like I was saying, ask me what?”
But the three girls didn’t respond, and Zach suddenly realized the only thing that could possibly scare him more than their silence.
“Where’s Cammie?” he said.
“Studying,” Liz blurted at the same time Bex said, “P&E barn.”
“She’s studying P&E,” Liz hurried to add. “In fact, Bex and I were just about to go—”
But Zach wasn’t listening anymore. Liz was the smartest. Bex was the strongest. But Macey was the one who would never hesitate to do the uncomfortable thing, so she was the one he turned to.
“Where is she?”
“Zach,” Liz said, “we told you she’s—”
“We don’t know,” Macey said.
“Macey,” Liz hissed, but Macey talked on.
“She wasn’t in the suite when we got up. We’ve been looking for her since five, but no sign so far.”
Macey kept talking. Zach saw her lips move. He was sure she was going through all the places they’d been that morning, all the rooms and passageways they were about to check. But the words didn’t matter, so he didn’t hear them. There was no reason to listen to their theories when he already knew the truth.
In spite of all his training, he barely had the strength to stand. He leaned against the wall. “She’s gone.”
“Come on, this is Cammie we’re talking about,” Liz said. “You know how she is. I’m sure she’s just off someplace, thinking. There’s no way to know for sure that she’s gone gone.”
“I know,” Zach said, then turned and started through the halls.
“Hey!” a girl he didn’t know yelled when he pushed past her. She was so small, so fragile. A part of him knew he was supposed to stop and apologize and make it right, but he didn’t even slow down.
He felt too big and awkward and strong, and he knew he didn’t belong among the Gallagher Academy’s fine and precious things.
He didn’t belong anywhere.
The tie they made him wear was too tight around his neck. He clawed at it, but he couldn’t stop running. He could do nothing but go faster through the halls that were more crowded by the second, pushing up the stairs toward Cammie’s mother’s office, knowing exactly what he had to do.
Find a superior.
Report the breach.
Face the music.
“Zach!” Macey yelled behind him, but only Bex could keep up.
“Zach,” she said, and grabbed his arm, spun him around to face her.
“Let me go, Bex.”
“Zach, just tell me what’s going on,” Bex tried. “Just—”
“Guys.” Liz’s voice was too high. She sounded terrified as her pale finger pointed to the tidy stack of papers resting on top of the case with Gillian Gallagher’s sword. “What’s that?”
Source: Gallagher Academy
The case that held the sword was electrified. Macey knew that much. Every Gallagher Girl knew that much. It wasn’t something that was supposed to be messed with, bothered. That was where they kept the sword that Gillian Gallagher had used to kill an assassin a hundred and fifty years before, but right then, Macey couldn’t shake the feeling that the sword wasn’t nearly as dangerous as the pages that lay on top of its case.
“It’s Cam’s report. Why would she leave this here?” Liz asked in her she’s so silly tone. “I should take it back to the room. She’s going to need this. She has to—”
“Liz,” Bex said, reaching for her.
“Cam’s going to need to finish her report, Bex,” Liz talked on in the manner of someone who doesn’t want to listen. Of all the things that Liz was good at, Macey knew, denial was possibly what she did best.
What Macey did best was take action.
Before anyone could stop her, she pulled the papers from the top of the case and ripped off the rubber bands that bound them.
“She’s gone,” Macey said. Her gaze never moved from the words at the bottom of the very last page. “She left last night to find answers.”
In the next instant, the pages were gone—out of her hands and into Bex’s. Macey watched Bex and Liz scan the final pages, memorize Cammie’s last words. But Macey was having trouble breathing. She wasn’t afraid, she realized. She was furious.
And she wasn’t the only one.
“What does Cam mean when she says Zach was right?” Bex asked, pointing to the words Cammie had written and turning to look at the boy beside her. His hands were clenched into fists as he stood silently, shaking. But he didn’t move to touch the pages.
“Well, Zach,” Bex asked again, “what does she mean?”
To a lot of people, Zach Goode probably seemed fearless. Having a mother who’s an international terrorist-slash-psychopath will do that to a boy. He had mastered the tough guy facade long before he and the boys of Blackthorne ever strolled through the doors of the Gallagher Academy. But Macey had always known better. Probably because Macey had always known boys.
But when Bex moved toward him that morning, he seemed more fragile and damaged than usual.
“Well, Zach, what does she mean?” Bex yelled.
“I saw her—a few days ago. And we talked. I told her that she and I are the only people the Circle would hesitate to kill.” He took a deep breath. Sadness filled his eyes. “I told her that maybe we should run away together.”
“You told her to run away!” Bex yelled.
“I told her we could keep each other safe,” Zach tried to explain. “I never said she should take off on her own.”
“Of course she was going to take off on her own!” Bex lashed back. “This is Cammie we’re talking about. Anyone who knows her would know—”
“Stop it!” Macey snapped. “Just stop it! Both of you.”
“I know Cammie,” Zach said, his voice low and even.
“No.” Bex shook her head. “You don’t.” Then she whirled around and started for the headmistress’s office.