Identity Unknown

"Being back here made me see how much it can get to you; the training, all of the lessons, even just the environment we are in. We aren't the same as everyone else. And everyone else can never know.'

After six months of searching for her father, Charlotte Goode returns to the Gallagher Academy. Exams and eager friends await, but something is wrong. When a phone call changes everything, Zach can offer the answer - but someone will stop at nothing to keep him silent. And when a double agent is revealed, Charlotte must choose who to trust - but time is running out, and the Academy's greatest secrets are at risk.

The stakes are higher, but is she ready?

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28. Faked

Madame Dabney's slender fingers skittered across the organ, a cue for us all to stand. A lone blackbird cawed, the sound piercing the frosted air. Snow clung adamantly to the grass and fragile trees shook with the thick October breeze. I tugged the sweater I was wearing tighter around my shoulders. It had belonged to Rick, and it was the only winter-proof black item of clothing that I could find. I had found it this morning and remembered borrowing it when we watched movies one night - I had forgotten to give it back, and now I never could.

"Riccardo was a bright, witty young man," said a man who had obviously never met him. Rick would point out that he hates his full first name, is intelligent rather than bright and that witty wasn't really his style; his true strength was sarcasm.

I noticed Ms Morgan wiping a hand across a tear stained cheek. Students shuffled uncomfortably. But Rick's father - Mr Solomon - wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"Let us sing a hymn." Several coughs followed this demand as the crowd tried to dislodge the groggy throat that everyone seemed to share. The sound of singing soon filled the air, drifting carelessly in the cool air, something beautiful on a chilled, sad morning. But the words were meaningless to me - I felt myself singing them, but my attention drifted back to memories of him, things he had said, and then the last time I saw him alive. And I knew something wasn't right.

Before I could dwell on my doubts, the service had ended. Everyone gathered around a small table brimming with hot teas and juices, a couple of limp sandwiches next to them for good measure. All morning classes had been cancelled.

"How are you holding up?" Bex handed me a tin mug.

"Fine," I replied, sipping down the hot liquid.

"You sure?" she persisted.

"Where's Mr Solomon?" I changed the topic quickly.

"Maybe he wants to say goodbye by himself," suggested Cammie, who had come to huddle with us. Bex nodded.

"Do you guys mind if I just take a walk by myself for a while?" My friends didn't decline.

I padded through the soft snow around the mansion, stuffing my hands in my pockets and trying to wrestle with my thoughts. I had found it indescribably difficult to accept that Rick had died, which I had been told was normal. But in this business, deaths can be faked. I don't know why I had such a nagging feeling that Rick was somehow miraculously alive, but I knew one person that would be able to confirm or deny my suspicions.

I saw him trekking far from the mansion, a rucksack on his back. He got into a taxi, with one fleeting glance back, his green eyes washing over the Gallagher Academy for the last time. And then Joe Solomon was travelling away from us, taking answers with him.

 

                                                          *********************************

I sprinted back up to my room, searching for a note, a clue, anything. Mr Solomon wouldn't just leave without saying anything to anyone, and I had hoped he might confide in me. But I found nothing.

You don't just walk away from this place without a good reason. The logical part of me insisted he was just taking a break to grieve, but another part of my brain screamed that something was wrong. Maybe he was forced to leave?

Townsend had been acting funny too. He would be taking over Mr Solomon's classes, I knew - he had told me himself. Perhaps it was his usual smug nature - or perhaps Townsend was in a loop about all of this.

Either way, I wasn't going to let Joe Solomon walk away. Granted, there wasn't a lot that I could do. But I could use our old dead drop.

Sure, it involved skipping class. But the benefits outweighed the risks: this was something I had to do.

I scrawled a hasty note, a rendezvous, and slipped it into my pocket, heading back outside.

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