Ally Carter has posted many deleted scenes on her website, though she doesn't post many and some of the parts them are incorporated differently in the books.
Deleted Scene 1Edit
As we made yet another turn I realized we weren’t walking anywhere in particular. We were just…walking.
It’s a basic rule of CoveOps to be a moving target, so that night I walked with Joe Solomon through dim corridors and down deserted halls until we found ourselves at the far end of the second story of the mansion. Stone steps spiraled from the first floor, past a massive stained glass window that had once been heart of the Gallagher Academy Chapel, and as Mr. Solomon sat on the fourth step from the bottom I wondered if he’d come there for confession.
“So,” he started, sounding uneasy, as if the words were foreign to him. “I was home over the break,” he said and I thought Joe Solomon has a home? I never really thought about our teachers outside of work and the fact that a man like Mr. Solomon might live somewhere seemed amazing to me. Mr. Solomon is someone’s neighbor. Mr. Solomon has a mortgage.
“And I was cleaning out my basement.”
Mr. Solomon has a basement?
“And I found these,” he said, as he reached into his pocket for a manila envelope. “I could have brought them to class…” he placed the envelope in my hand “…but I didn’t think…” he trailed off, and for the second time in seven minutes Joe Solomon didn’t have the strength or courage to say what came next.
The weight was uneven, like a puzzle that’s been broken apart and a part of me wanted to shake it. If Liz had been there she probably would have rushed it immediately to the lab for analysis, but all I could do was stare at it, wondering what was so important Joe Solomon had pulled it from the basement and given it to me.
“They’re pictures,” he said.
“Oh,” I muttered. “Thanks.”
“Of your dad.”
I felt the cold stone seep through my jeans as I sank to the bottom step without realizing I was no longer on my feet. The envelope lay in my hands like an offering in that holy place, and even though Mr. Solomon’s knee pressed against my shoulder, even though his breathing was the only sound in that vast, deserted hallway I forgot I wasn’t alone.
“I thought you should have them,” Mr. Solomon said. “He’d want you to have them.”
Of course I already had pictures of my father, hundreds of them--the kind you keep pasted in books and the kind you keep frozen in your mind. Even without spy training I would still remember his face, his smell, the way his hands fit around my waist as I stood on his toes and danced on the kitchen floor. But sitting there that night with Joe Solomon I knew there was a side of my father I had never seen, I remembered that the man inside that envelope was in most ways a stranger.
I felt Mr. Solomon stand slowly and take a step away from me, up the stairs.
As I sat on the cold stone steps, watching the moonlight fall through the big stained-glass windows my internal clock must have switched off, because when I finally made it back upstairs and opened the door to our suite, Liz met me at the door, shouting, “Do you know what time it is?” and for the first time in years I didn’t know the answer.
“So?” Bex said, rushing forward. “What did Solomon want?”
Even Macey dropped her books to look at me as I walked toward my bed. Down the hall, the common room was quiet.
“Cammie,” Liz said, her voice dripping with fear and excitement and smelling like Aquafresh. “What happened?”
I placed the envelope on my bed. “He had some old pictures of my dad he wanted me to have,” I said as I started changing into my pajamas walking toward the bathroom.
“Ooh, let me see—" Liz said, grabbing the envelope before I could stop her.
But it was too late, the envelope was already open and pictures were falling to my bed.
“Ooh,” Macey said. “Hottie.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Mr. Solomon is very—"
“Not Mr. Solomon, silly,” Macey said. “Your dad.” She eyed the picture in her hands. “He’s got that whole strong, silent type thing going on.”
“How can you tell?” Liz wanted to know because…well…Liz never passes up an opportunity to learn something.
Deleted Scene 2Edit
“Is that Glycolysis or Gluconeogenesis?” Macey asked. Yes—our Macey. The Macey who had crawled out of a limo and bragged about only eating eight hundred calories a day. I know what you’re thinking—sometimes it amazes me, too.
I squinted through the glow of the secret room, absorbed in its tomb-like silence (luckily Macey’s nose ring only makes that annoying wheezy noise when she’s sleeping.) I leaned toward my stack of seventh grade notebooks and dug until I found the one labeled biochem.
I licked my thumb like Grandpa Morgan always does when he’s reading the newspaper and started flipping through pages. Halfway through a lecture about Amino Acid & Peptide Structures a series of doodles caught my eye in the margins. Most of them were in Bex’s distinctive handwriting. Like…
Do you think my boobs look any bigger today, because I think I felt them growing last night?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if they hired some hot guy to teach CoveOps when Buckingham retires?
And, my personal favorite…
Whose bright idea was it for Mr. Mosckowitz to get a perm?
It’s kind of amazing we made it this far, when you think about it. I kept flipping through the pages, through the years, remembering the things we were learning and the celebrities we were stalking (not that I’m not admitting that we were the ones who programmed that satellite to take pictures of Matt Damon—even if it was exceptional work…)
Then I saw it:
Lifetime Goals and Objectives of Cameron Ann Morgan
-Graduate from Gallagher Academy (obviously)
-Pass CoveOps Gauntlets Senior Year (obviously)
-Become youngest field agent to ever lead mission for CIA
-Develop breasts (preferably in the B to C cup range)
-Buy awesome house to share with Bex and Liz (ideally one with a pool)
-Invent calorie-free chocolate chip cookie dough
-Gain Top Secret, Eyes Only security clearance
-Find out who was with Dad on his last mission
-Find out what happened
-Do what has to be done…
Papers were everywhere—class notes and study sheets, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when Macey started digging. I should have been ready for when she picked up the slip of paper that had tumbled from my bag and asked, “What’s this?”
She didn’t know what A29-b stood for, of course, but as her gaze swept across the words “Career Track Declaration” I saw recognition dawn.
“It’s nothing,” I said, grabbing it from her hand as I gathered my things and stood to leave. I closed the seventh grade notebook and my seventh grade dreams. “I don’t have the answer, Macey,” I said.
And I didn’t.
Deleted Scene 3Edit
Sunday night supper with my mother was different that week. No matter how many times I showered and changed my clothes, I couldn’t help thinking that I stilled smelled like the Abrams family garbage and that my mother would notice. After all, this was the woman who just by noticing a change in the guy’s cologne, was able to expose a double agent who was selling black-market booby traps to rebels in Uzbekistan. So was it so hard to believe that she’d smell a strange boy’s toothpaste on my fingers?
I sat through frozen pizza and bagged salad, trying not to think about the fresh vegetables and cartons of eggs that I knew filled the Abrams family refrigerator (or at the very least, their trash). I imagined his family sitting down to dinner together every night, someone saying grace, someone else asking him to pass the potatoes. I took another bite of my pizza. It was still cold in the center, but I smiled and told Mom it tasted good. There are some lies that even the most seasoned secret agents will believe.
Deleted Scene 1Edit
“What do you want, Dillon?” I said.
“I want you and your snotty little friends out of my town and out of my sight.”
I threw my hands out to my side. “That it?” I took a step, needing my walls--not to keep me safe but to keep me hidden in a way I hadn’t been since Josh had first seen me.
I felt my hands to into fists, heard my slow voice as I said, “Leave me alone, Dillon.” But I thought give me a reason.
But Dillon wasn’t backing down; he didn’t take the hint. I was just a girl he hated; someone he had four inches and sixty pounds on; he could be tough with me—be strong—or whatever the definition of strong that people like Dillon have to use in order to make themselves feel worthwhile.
“You’re not so hot now, are you, Gallagher Girl?” he leered, pacing around me, stepping closer and closer until I had to turn to follow him and I felt like I was riding the merry-go-round that was only twenty feet away.
“You’re gonna leave my friend alone,” Dillon said, and I knew he didn’t think it was a question.
“Josh can make up his own mind.”
“You got a real smart mouth, you know that? Maybe someday someone’s gonna wash that smart mouth out. Maybe—“
“Is there a problem here?” a voice came from the shadows. Dillon spun to see the boy who stepped into the park, but I didn’t have to turn around. “Hey, were you guys gonna use the slide or do you mind if I go?” Zach said.
Zach reached for me. I felt his hand slide down my wrist and into my hand that had become a fist without my knowledge.
“Yeah, I was just telling your girlfriend to stay away from my buddies,” Dillon said.
I expected Zach to make some kind of smart comment about the girlfriend remark, but instead he just smirked at me and said, “Leave the nice boy’s friends alone, sweetheart.”
Then Zach turned around; he started away.
And I felt the punch before it landed.
Call it women’s tuition or P&E training or just really, really good instincts, but I knew to duck. And spin. And take two steps back before Dillon could pull his beefy arm back again.
And then I noticed something weird. Something scary. Something that I didn’t know if I could understand flooded into my brain as I realize that the fist wasn’t pointed at me.
I turned to the boy beside me. My hand was suddenly cold as I realized that Zach was no longer holding it. Instead, he was lying on the ground, Dillon standing over him.
“Cammie,” Zach said, holding a hand out, freezing me in that place and time and it was the look in his eye even more than his words that told me, “Don’t.”
And then something strange occurred to me: Zach must have felt the punch coming, too. Zach must have known to duck.
But he didn’t.
And then I knew that being a spy isn’t really about knowing how to throw punches; sometimes it’s about knowing when to take them.
Dillon was looking down, taunting as he kicked Zach once in the side.
Zach who was highly trained.
Zach who was highly skilled.
Zach who could have flattened a punk like Dillon with both hands tied behind his back…
Was lying there. Bleeding. And acting like the rich, spoiled, privileged boy that any boy temporarily enrolled at the Gallagher Academy was supposed to be.
“Yeah!” Dillon snapped as if he was so tough. As if Anna Fetterman couldn’t have put him in a full body cast with her new mastery of the ____ maneuver. “I thought you were all talk,” Dillon spat back as he turned and slowly walked away.
“Zach, you idiot,” I told the boy on the ground as soon Dillon was out of earshot. “I’m gonna—“ I started then turned to where Dillon was disappearing, but Zach grabbed my hand.
He looked up at me and said, “You know that I know you can handle yourself, right?” He looked at me as if he genuinely cared about the answer, so I nodded my head dumbly and said, “Yeah.”
I sank to the curb beside him, turned his face so I could see the coming bruise, but he pulled away and turned to face me.
“You know I just couldn’t have him showing up at the county hospital telling the cops about some hundred pound girl kicked his butt?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Stop fidgeting.” I held his shoulder, gingerly touched a growing bruise.
“You know I’ve been hit harder?”
And then I couldn’t help myself, I laughed a little. “Of course.”
“You know there are worse ways to hurt a person?” He was right and we both knew the answer had nothing to do with banned interrogation tactics and the Geneva Convention. There are worse ways, and Zach and I had already lived through enough of them to last a lifetime.
“You’re bleeding,” I said, rubbing his temple with my sleeve.
“It’s not so bad. He…”
“What? Hits like a girl?” I guessed, thinking it was funny, needing to laugh, to do anything to make one of us look away, but instead Zach didn’t laugh, didn’t blink, he just stared harder and said, “Not the girls I know.”
Aside from the creaking swings that swayed in the soft breeze the world was quiet and still. Josh and I had come to that park; he’d told me stories and I’d told him lies, and like it or not those lies had brought me to that park again, another boy’s blood on my sleeve.
For the whole walk back to school we didn’t say a word.
And for the first time, I didn’t mind.
Deleted Scene 2Edit
Following Joe Solomon into the CoveOps elevator brought a strange set of emotions to the surface. On one hand, he is Joe Solomon (and close proximity to six junior spy boys hadn’t diminished his hotness.) On the other, there were about a million other things I wanted to be doing. But I also knew I couldn’t do anything about any of them—not really. So I was glad to be locked inside that elevator. It felt good to follow him through the maze of Sublevel One.
I wanted a mission—a task, a purpose. And when he said, “I suppose you know what this is,” I was relieved to look at the big steel door in front of me.
“It’s the Safetronic 4700,” I said in awe.
He smiled. “That’s right. We just got it in.” He kicked the steel door like a used car salesman kicks tires. “It’s the best commercially-available safe in the world—just the type of thing an operative might encounter in the field.”
I ran my hands across the smooth shiny surface. “It’s uncrackable.”
He laughed. “I hope not.”
And then he pushed me inside.
As much as I dearly love being a Gallagher Girl sometimes, it kind of cramps my style—especially when pushed and locked inside the world’s best safe. On a great TV night. When I have a headache.
And when I’m not alone.
I heard the laughter behind me and turned to see the hollow, empty room that might have been a suburban garage. If all garages are made from titanium and are located 30 yards under ground.
“Well, he said he was bringing me company,” Zach said slowly. Then he shook his head. “I should have known.” He smiled. “So, shall we get cozy?”
“NO!” I snapped and he laughed. That’s right. Actual laughter. I could have killed him then, and there would have been no witnesses (but I also would have been the only person with means and opportunity, so I didn’t.) I sauntered over to the locks. “We get to work.”
My focus narrowed; my fingers flew. There’s something so liberating about finding a zone, being free of thought and doubts and relying on instinct, on action. Everything faded away. I focused on the mechanisms, tried to shake them from my mind, remembered that life was like that assignment—unlocking one door at a time, and the longer I stood there the more I felt myself fade away, my consciousness go on cruise control until…
“Wow, you’re super cute when you focus.”
He made a show of looking around the empty room. “Yeah, must have been.”
“Just… Just be quiet and let me—"
“No, I mean it. You get this little wrinkly thing.” He held his thumb and forefinger to the center of his forehead. “Right here. It’s just cute as—"
“Do you want to stay in here all night?” I snapped.
He leaned against the wall beside me, crossed his arms. “Might as well.” Then he looked around the room. “I’ve stayed in worse.”
But then my stomach growled. (Please tell me he didn’t hear that. Please tell me he didn’t hear that.) “Well, I—" It growled again. Louder. (Please tell me he’ll at least ACT like he didn’t hear that.)
“I’ve got homework.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled then interlaced his fingers and stretched his arms out, popping his knuckles. “Gotta study hard, get ready for that next mission.”
I so didn’t want to have that fight. Not then. Not ever. Sadly because I’ve been trained not to start fights I can’t win. The boys had beaten us. We knew the rules. We did our best. They just did…better.
I stared at the mechanisms my fingers seemed frozen to. “Look, I—"
“Why don’t you ever ask me about it?” he asked, and I couldn’t help myself, I looked at him, but he just glanced away. Something lingered in the air between us, and I knew he wasn’t talking about missions or homework or anything else that only seems important when you’re sixteen. It was a different Zach entirely who said, “I’ll tell you mine if you’ll tell me yours.”
Maybe it was the impenetrable door, the six feet of solid steel that surrounded us on all sides. We had to come to a vault for Zach to let his defenses fall, and at that moment he reminded me of a bird that had fallen from its nest. I started to reach for him, to comfort him, but then I remembered Grandpa Morgan’s warnings that there are some wild things you’re not supposed to touch.
“It was a mission.”
I don’t know why I said it. The words were foreign to me—not English—not something I had ever said, and yet they slid so effortlessly from my throat they must have been back there, fully formed, for years waiting for that chance to seep free.
“My dad went on a mission. He didn’t come home. Nobody knows what…happened.”
Then Zach looked at me. “Somebody knows.”
And then the lock miraculously turned. The tumblers fell into place. The door swung open, a metallic grating sound echoing through the still, quiet room, Zach’s haunting words following me as I started up the stairs.
Deleted Scene 3Edit
As we’d turned down an alley, dogs barked through chain link fences. Rusty trash cans sat abandoned by the side of the narrow lane. Last semester I had found my way out of spy school and onto ordinary streets full of ordinary houses and ordinary people. This semester it seemed I was seeing the back side of those same houses—the sides they don’t really want you to see.
“Hey,” Zach called behind me, but I didn’t slow down. “Hey,” he called again. “Am I going to have to jog to keep up with—“
But before he could finish I whirled on him, pushed him up against a garage, his arms immobilized, and even though he was a good four inches taller than me I knew I had the upper hand.
Still, he was grinning that slow, mocking grin—the grin of someone who either knows too little or too much but in either case doesn’t care.
“Stop smiling,” I ordered, amazed at how level my voice sounded when, inside, I wanted to break and scream and cry, and I just knew he’d hear it and that would make it worse. I’d have to use all the skills in my extensive arsenal just to disappear and never see him again—face him again.
But he must not have heard my breaking heart, because the smile just grew wider and he said, “Gee, Cammie, if you want to put your arms around me all you have to do is ask, but I think Dillon back there might--"
“Don’t you ever paint me into a corner like that again!” I shook him, banging him against the garage but he didn’t even flinch. He never fought back.
He just stared deeper into me and slowly said, “Why?” he asked, eyebrows raised, daring me. “Because it might be hard on your love life? It’s no big deal. So Jimmy—"
“Josh!” I yelled. “His name is Josh, and I shouldn’t even be telling you that because you don’t deserve to know it—to say it—you don’t deserve to know anything about him because he’s—“
“Friends with that guy?” Zach asked. His voice was softer, not mocking now, consoling.
You know the phrase saved by the bell? Well, Josh was saved by the horn—literally—because I was seriously getting ready to find out if he would fit inside one of those trashcans when I heard a horn sound behind us and sensed movement at the end of the alley. Still, I didn’t loosen my hold on Zach. I didn’t stop to breathe until I heard Joe Solomon call, “Get in!”
Deleted Scene 4Edit
The day after fall finals, Bex, Mom and I caught a plane for Omaha and left our spy roots behind (Bex didn’t even pack her brass knuckles.) I missed Josh—a lot—but Bex and I couldn’t even talk about him because Mom was almost always with us, and even when she wasn’t, Grandma and Grandpa Morgan’s house wasn’t exactly soundproofed and I was pretty sure my mom would have better-than-average eavesdropping abilities. So, Bex and I ate a lot of Grandma’s homemade candy, and slept a lot, and tried not to laugh too hard when Mom caught the kitchen on fire while she was trying to learn how to make fudge. (She should really stick to espionage. It is in everyone’s best interest.)
Bex and I shared the sleeper sofa in the basement. On Christmas Eve we were lying there, and I guess neither one of us could sleep because after a long time, I heard her say through the dark, “You’re lucky to have them, Cam.”
It took me a minute to realize who she’d been talking about. Then I remembered the packages that had arrived that day and were waiting for her under my grandparents’ tree. The postmark had been London, but I knew her mom and dad were somewhere in northern Africa—we didn’t know where; we didn’t even know if they were together. It was nice that they’d remembered to send her something, though, and as we lay silently in the dark, I realized that, for spies, sometimes nice has to be good enough.
I rolled over and tried to go sleep, but for the first time maybe ever, I could see why someone like Bex could envy someone like me. She had both of her parents some of the time, but I had one parent most of the time. I understood how it might have seemed like a pretty good deal. I tried not to think about Josh and his stories of a huge tree and homemade bread and a house full of relatives. When I finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamed about what it would be like to have both of your parents all of the time.
When I woke up, it was Christmas.
Deleted Scene 1Edit
Spies have hideouts and safe houses; deep hidden vaults filled with cash and passports in almost every major city in the world. We have places we can go to sleep, to think, to disappear. My friends call me the Chameleon, because, believe it or not, I have more of those places than most. But there are some places where even the most seasoned operatives can’t hide.
“Cammie,” a voice carried on the wind and found me and I made a mental note that most counter-intelligence professionals have nothing on grandmothers when it comes to tracking someone down.
“Cameron Ann, I know you’re out here.”
“Hi Grandma,” I said, swinging from the rafters of the barn and dropping to the dusty floor beside her.
“Ooh!” she snapped, bringing her hand to her chest as if I’d just scared the breath out of her. “Don’t do that!”
“Sorry,” I told her.
“What are you doing out here?”
She looked at me, her eyes asking a hundred questions ranging from “what sixteen-year-old girl voluntarily does homework in the middle of summer vacation” to “why would you do your homework in a barn rather than an air-conditioned house?” But her lips didn’t utter a single word. (Which was a very good thing because I didn’t want to say that this particular homework was for Dr. Fibs’s science class and even I couldn’t lie well enough to explain the aromas that even massive amounts of cow manure might not disguise.)
“Well, come on inside,” Grandma said, turning and starting toward the barn doors that stood open, framing a scene of the Sandhills that rose and fell behind her.
“In a minute,” I said, already starting for the ladder to the hayloft above.
But Grandma turned and snapped, “Now.” She rubbed her hands on her apron, and I knew it wasn’t a request. “You have a call. Long distance.”
As I trailed behind her my thoughts flew on the dry wind.
I thought about my classmates who seemed to scatter to the far corners of the world whenever school wasn’t in session. I thought about my mother who had put me on a plane the first day of summer break and hadn’t sent so much as a postcard since.
And finally I thought of two boys: one who probably wouldn’t have a clue how to call me; and one who didn’t really strike me as the telephone type. Performing a classic single-operative surveillance operation while tracking me through the local Wal-Mart, sure. Calling a girl up like a normal person, not so much.
“Which one of us is the old woman?” Grandma asked, walking faster, but still I lagged behind, searching the wide horizon because even though two semesters of Covert Operations training had taught me that the Morgan homestead would be a surveillance nightmare, I still looked around for eyes I could always feel but never quite see.
To our right, sheets hung on a line, flapping in the strong wind. In the west, a storm clouds grew, so I called, “I’ll come back and get the laundry before it rains.”
“It’s not gonna rain,” my grandmother told me as she started up the steps.
“But—” I pointed toward the dark clouds.
“That rain isn’t for us,” she said in the manner of someone who has learned long ago that the Sandhills can play tricks on you. A dry patch of highway can catch the sun and look knee-deep in water. A grain elevator can seem like it’s just down the road, when in truth it’s forty miles away. Clouds can bellow and brew, but then three plump drops of rain might land in the front yard, sending plumes of dust up in their wake, and that will be all of the storm.
“Things, Cammie,” Grandma said, pulling open the screen door, “are not always what they seem.”
My grandmother is wiser than all the geniuses I know put together sometimes. She knew what my school has spent more than a hundred years teaching—what every spy has to know in her soul. But I didn’t appreciate it then like I do now. I heard the sound of the ranch around us—a gate swinging free inside the corrals; newly weaned calves pacing fences, bawling for their mothers; and the noise of an old, boxy television blaring the sounds of the six o’clock news. I listened to all that, but I didn’t I didn’t truly hear my grandmother’s words until much, much later.
If I had, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the phone.
Deleted Scene 1Edit
If you’re a teenage girl, and if you’re traveling out of the country without your parents for the very first time in your life, then you’re probably pretty used to having rules. If you’ve been sneaking out of your top secret spy school since you were in 7th grade, then you might not be used to following them. But this time, I knew was different.
As I followed Bex’s mother down the narrow hall I heard my mother’s words coming out of Bex’s mother’s mouth.
“Best to stay away from the windows,” she said.
“Snipers,” I added.
She nodded. “Of course that’s not The Circle’s pattern with you thus far, but these things do change, you know?”
I did know.
When we reached the door I saw Bex’s father standing at the window, staring out.
“Everyone ready then?” he asked. When he spoke he looked like his daughter. They both had light brown eyes and they sparkled in the same way, but Bex most closely resembled her mother. And maybe that was why it was so strange to hear the words, “Cammie, love, we really don’t have to do this,” coming from the woman’s mouth.
Bex didn’t worry. Bex didn’t warn. She’d been my best friend for years and I had never seen her wear such a grown-up worry. Some might say that was because we were far from grownups, but I knew better. By that point I knew a lot of things.
“I’d really like to go,” I told her. “I won’t take any chances,” I said, practically pleading by then. “I’ll be…good.”
Mrs. Baxter’s eyes were softer. “I know, dear.”
Bex’s father peeked out the narrow window by the door. “Backup is in position,” he said.
And then my best friend was beside me and her parents led the way out into the cold.
Cammie's First DayEdit
I’m not a girl who lives in mansions. I don’t summer at the Vineyard or ski the Alps. Sure, my mom is always saying that I’m an extraordinary young woman, but moms aren’t really the most impartial judges of these things. Especially when they’re holding open the door of a limousine and trying to convince you to crawl inside and leave behind the only home you’ve ever known.
Sure, I knew where we were going. Technically speaking, I had been preparing for this day my whole life. Still, I’m pretty sure I held my breath for the entire two-hour ride through the Virginia countryside—right up until the moment the limo slowed, and these great big gates swung open and we started down a long, winding lane. At that point, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t breathing . . . at all. We drove past a guard shack by the gates that looked normal enough—but when one of the guards opened the doors, I saw the largest bank of security monitors I’d ever seen. We continued on, passing this huge lake, where a glass dome rose from the center of the water. Three women were walking toward it—you know, across the lake. I glanced at my mother, because even though I might be exceptional in her eyes, I’ve never walked on water, and I really didn’t know how I was going to start now.
I wanted to stop and study everything. And I wanted the car to go faster.
I wanted to ask a million questions. And I wanted nothing to interrupt what I was pretty sure was the coolest moment of my entire twelve-year-old life.
But most of all, I wanted my mom to tell me it wasn’t all a dream. That I really was going to follow in her footsteps. That I really was about to enroll in the best school in the world. That I really was going to go to a school for spies. “Welcome to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women,” my mother said as we climbed out of the car. I turned to face her, but she was busy gazing up at limestone walls that seemed to belong to another world, with stained-glass windows straight out of a cathedral. She wasn’t staring at the building as if it were a mansion, or a school. Or a job. Instead, she stood there, staring as if she were . . . home.
PROS AND CONS OF LIVING IN A REALLY, REALLY BIG MANSION: PRO: It turns out mansions come with chefs!
CON: Chefs don’t like it when you sit on the counter and make suggestions like you do with Grandma Morgan.
PRO: The Gallagher Mansion comes with acres and acres of grounds perfectly suited to goofing off.
CON: Acres and acres of grounds are the perfect home for approximately nine trillion ticks, chiggers, and other things that find my ankles delicious.
PRO: Every grade has its own common room with a huge TV and comfy couches.
CON: Common rooms can be pretty lonely when you arrive two weeks before classes start and are temporarily the only girl in the entire school.
PRO: There is an entire portion of the library dedicated to Television: covert uses of.
CON: All those corridors mean that it takes FOREVER to get anywhere! (Note to self: see if there might possibly be shortcuts of some kind.)
For two weeks I wandered the halls and browsed the library. I helped my mom hang pictures in her office and explored the grounds. But on the Sunday before classes started, I woke up and rolled over in bed, listening. It didn’t take long to realize that this day was different.
Screaming. There was a lot of screaming. For a second I wondered if maybe the Gallagher mansion might be haunted. I stepped outside my room, and three girls rushed past me so quickly they were almost a blur. That’s when I remembered what day it was—those weren’t the screams of Gallagher Girls past, they were the “Welcome home” cries of Gallagher Girls present.
And I was supposed to be one of them.
For two weeks I’d been lost and alone inside the huge halls, but as I started downstairs, I couldn’t help but think that the Gallagher mansion was nowhere near as intimidating as the girls who lived there.
I mean, seriously. Almost every girl that passed was speaking in a totally different language. I saw one girl run up to hug her friend from behind—but instead of turning to hug her back, her friend spun around and flipped the girl through the air as if she weighed about ten pounds. And that wasn’t even the crazy part. The crazy part was that the other girl (the flippee—not the flipper) landed on her feet and didn’t even act mad about it!
I squeezed myself up against the dark-paneled walls because even though my mom had been teaching me self defense for years, no way was I ready for full-contact hugging before classes even started. Instead, I tried really, really hard to be invisible as I moved down the stairs. It must have worked, because somehow I don’t think anyone even noticed me. Well, not until it was too late.
“Oops!” A very tall, very pretty girl with dark shiny hair and big brown eyes practically knocked me off my feet. “I’m so sorry!” she cried, catching me before I could stumble. “I didn’t even see you there.”
She looked at her friend, an even taller redhead, who shook her head as if she hadn’t seen me either. Maybe there was a ghost inside the Gallagher Academy’s walls—me.
“That’s okay,” I said, staring up at the faces in front of me—and I mean way up. I’ve always been a perfectly average height for my age, but standing there I felt like a little kid, especially when the dark-haired girl leaned down and said, “You must be a newbie!” She looked around as if something was wrong.
The redheaded girl turned to her friend and said something in a language I had never heard before. Her friend laughed and replied in something that sounded like Farsi, but I couldn’t be totally sure because I was standing there . . . talking to Gallagher Girls. And they were looking at me as if they knew I didn’t belong there.
You might think I was imagining this, but I wasn’t. I know, because the red-haired girl looked at me then and said, “You don’t belong here.”
“But the admissions committee said I could come!” I blurted. Which must have been hilarious, because they laughed. The girl with the dark hair put her arm around me.
“No, I mean the seventh graders are supposed to be downstairs for orientation. No wonder you’re lost, poor thing.” They started back down the stairs. “Come on, we’ll show you. I’m Neha, by the way. That’s Jen.”
It occurred to me that girls like Neha and Jen had once been newbies, too. “It’s nice to meet you,” I said. I smiled, but drew back. “I’m on my way to orientation right now, actually. My mom and I moved in a couple of weeks ago. I can find it.”
“Oh. Okay,” Jen said slowly, looking me up and down. “I guess we’ll be seeing you around.”
“So that’s the new headmistress’s daughter?” I heard Neha whisper.
“I guess so,” Jen said. “I’d forgotten how tiny they are.” And from her tone I knew what was coming next. “Poor thing. I don’t think I’d look that good if I just lost my dad.”
As I walked through the halls, every girl seemed to be staring, every voice seemed to be whispering—and I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone in that entire building already knew all about me. About Mom. And most of all, about Dad.
I wanted to be invisible again. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to do anything but go to a stupid orientation. But then I heard my mother’s voice.
“It’s so great to have you here,” Mom said as the door to her office opened. Even though she’s one of the world’s best spies (which is frequently synonymous with liar), I knew she was telling the truth. “I hope you’ll be very happy here, Rebecca—”
“My friends call me Bex,” a girl with a strong British accent interrupted.
I don’t know if it was instinct or training (or maybe some mother/daughter psychic connection), but for some reason, in the next instant, my mother was calling, “Cammie!” as if she could see me from where she stood. Which she couldn’t. But spies (not to mention mothers) have their ways.
Walking toward my mother’s office, I tried to remind myself that there had been tests to get into the Gallagher Academy. And committees and reviews. But looking at the girl who stood beside my mother confirmed that I was right and that there had been some terrible, horrible, soon-to-be-reversed oversight, because she and I were absolutely nothing alike.
She was tall, with graceful arms and strong legs. I lookedlike taffy that had been stretched at the county fair. Her dark skin glowed so radiantly that she looked like she must have been painted by Michelangelo or something. I had a blotchy red spot on my chin that was about to become my very first zit.
She stood at the epicenter of the single greatest covert training ground in the world as if she were finally meeting her destiny, and I knew the universe had made a mistake. Rebecca Baxter was the one who was born to be a Gallagher Girl. Rebecca Baxter had been on a plane for nine hours to get here, but she was the girl who was truly home. She was everything I’d ever thought a Gallagher Girl would be; I didn’t even compare.
An older lady I’d never seen before appeared in the doorway behind my mother. “If that’s all, headmistress, I believe the seventh graders are waiting.”
My mother waved her away. “Of course, Patricia. Don’t let me keep you.”
The woman swept past me and down the stairs, but Rebecca hardly seemed to notice her. Instead, she looked at me with a kind of pure curiosity.
“You’re Cammie?” she asked as if I couldn’t possibly be the Cammie—the daughter of the woman who stood beside us. “You’ve been here two weeks already?” she asked.
Immediately I felt like an idiot. Why had I spent all last Friday rearranging the furniture in my room instead of learning Arabic? Rebecca probably would have already memorized half the library. Just when I was sure she would write me off as a total waste of space, she yelled, “You have to tell me everything!” and flung herself toward me, wrapping her arms around me and nearly cutting off the circulation to my arms. Rebecca had no doubt already mastered two years worth of Protection and Enforcement curriculum. Luckily, I didn’t have to respond because a loud, clear voice boomed from the foyer beneath us.
“Welcome, ladies, to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.” Rebecca and I glanced over the railing to see the older woman from Mom’s office standing at the base of the massive staircase. She peered out over a group of girls who looked just as terrified as I felt. “I am Professor Patricia Buckingham. And in the next two hours we will touch only a fraction of the history of the sisterhood that each of you are about to enter.”
Beside me, I heard Rebecca whisper, “Brilliant.”
As we followed Professor Buckingham from room to room on the first floor, she rattled off facts and figures about the mansion. “This is the Grand Hall. It was built by the Gallagher family during the second—and largest—of the family’s renovations to the mansion itself.”
Meanwhile, beside me, Rebecca—I mean Bex—was full of questions.
“So, is it true they’ve got Albert Einstein’s brain and are using it to power a supercomputer in the basement?” Bex asked me, her arm looped through mine.
Was that possible? I shrugged, feeling even dumber than before.
“I heard there was an entire hidden floor where they keep the really classified stuff. Will we see that, you think?”
“I . . .” I wasn’t really sure what to say, but luckily, at that moment, Professor Buckingham stopped in the center of the long room near my mother’s office and announced, “The Hall of History, ladies.”
For the first time I really looked at the room that stood between my mother’s office and the world. “Here lie just a few examples of what makes up this school’s exceptional past. I bring you here today because you represent the future.” She swept her hands out wide.
“In 1865, Gillian Gallagher was a girl not much older than each of you.” Professor Buckingham looked at us all in turn. “She was everything a young woman of the age was supposed to be: intelligent, well-read, accomplished, and beautiful. She was also more than a century ahead of her time. I will not tell you the entire story of Ioseph Cavan now—there’ll be plenty of time for that later—but it is important that you know now that you are not here by accident. You are here because Gillian Gallagher founded a school where young women who are ahead of their times would always have a place to learn, achieve, and be exceptional.”
In the next instant Professor Buckingham reached out and touched a pedestal that stood in the center of the hall.
A strange red light covered her palm as if her hand were on fire, and yet she didn’t jerk away. Instead, she watched calmly as the base of the pedestal opened and a sword rose out of it, reflecting the eerie light.
As the sword glowed behind us, Bex turned to me and whispered, “This is going to be an incredible year. I’m really glad to know you, Cammie.” Something in the way she said it made me think that maybe I’d just found my first best friend.
“Um . . . excuse me?” The voice was so soft we almost didn’t hear it, and the accent so Southern that I couldn’t place it. I turned around, and right then I discovered I wasn’t the shortest Gallagher Girl in history.
I’d seen her, of course, standing quietly in the group, but until I saw her up close, I couldn’t appreciate how tiny the little blond girl really was. Her small hands grasped a pink notebook as if her life depended upon it, but she didn’t move to write. Instead, she just looked at Bex and me as if we were as cool as Neha and Jen. I really didn’t have the heart to tell her she was mistaken. About me, anyway.
“Hi,” the girl said again,“I’m Liz. I don’t mean to bother y’all, but . . . I mean, I wanted to introduce myself, you see, because . . . I guess . . .” She stopped and seemed to gather herself before blurting, “I’m your roommate!”
“I’m Cammie, and this is—”
“Oh, I know who you are.” As soon as the words left her mouth, the girl turned the brightest shade of red I’d ever seen on a human being. She turned to Bex. “You’re the first U.K. student in Gallagher Academy history. And you’re a second-generation Gallagher Girl,” she said, turning to me.
“And your mom’s the headmistress and your . . .” But then Liz trailed off. She gave me the look that people always give when they’re about to say “your dad” and then realize too late that it’s a mistake. “You wouldn’t know me though,” she said quickly. She blushed again. “I’m nobody.”
I thought about what Professor Buckingham had said about it being no accident we were here. “Somehow, I doubt that,” I said.
Liz smiled and walked toward the pedestal while the rest of the class moved to look at the artifacts that filled the room. “Wow!” Liz said. “It really is the prettiest thing I ever—”
Just then her shoe caught on the rug, and sent her hurtling toward the sword’s protective case with every ounce of momentum her seventy-pound body could muster.
“NO!” Professor Buckingham cried and lunged toward us, but a bright light had already filled the room. A sharp crack echoed through the hall. And Liz’s hair was starting to smoke.
A goofy look crossed her face, and I could have sworn she whispered “Oopsy daisy” as she crumbled to the floor.
Well, the good news was that Gillian Gallagher’s sword was only charged with enough electricity to knock a person out. The bad news was that our seventy-pound roommate counted as only half a person.
Liz’s thin hair was still sticking almost straight out from her head. Small bandages covered both of her small hands. Her pale skin had a sort of cooked look about it, but she didn’t seem to notice, and neither did Bex. They were sitting cross-legged on their beds, looking around the totally cool room where I’d been sleeping for two weeks, and I felt like I was seeing it for the first time too.
“We’re really here, aren’t we?” Liz asked.
“Yeah. It’s brilliant,” Bex replied.
“I wonder who’ll go there.” Liz pointed to the fourth bed that sat in the corner of the room, just a bare mattress and box springs. A clean slate.
“Ooh,” Bex said, loving the game already. “Maybe a diplomat’s daughter who is being chased by terrorists and we have to protect her?”
Liz laughed and scooted forward on her bed. “Or maybe a girl who is some kind of science prodigy—”
“Like you,” Bex added, but Liz talked on.
“—and she has to come to the Gallagher Academy to finish her research for . . . something cool.”
“Yeah,” Bex said, turning to me with wide eyes. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to supply my own crazy theory about our future roommate. I was supposed to wonder what was going to come next. But instead I sat listening to the laughter and thundering footsteps that filled the corridors.
For the last two weeks, I’d been roaming the halls of the Gallagher Academy by myself. I’d been an only child for twelve years. And though the Gallagher Academy had basically been part of me for my entire life, it wasn’t until that moment that I felt like a member of the sisterhood.