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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25. Silence

"The food is good. You should try some, Charlie," Macey almost pleaded. Beside her, Bex was tucking into a plate of meat and vegetables with a rich gravy. Her newly-thin face pierced my mind, and I couldn't look at my friends as I declined with a shake of my head.

"Not even the creme brulee? I know it's your favourite." Liz waved her tiny saucer of the sugary pudding in front of my face, and I wanted to slap her hand away. The various scents of food were swimming through the air, making me feel sick. My friends seemed to be enjoying the meal, but I had lost my appetite.

We had got Bex back. Mr Solomon has made a deal with the deputy head of the CIA, and Bex was released, but not before she was thoroughly questioned. She may have given away intel - none of us know. It was, of course, a need-to-know basis, and Bex had no choice. If the CIA ask a question, you answer it.

The rest of lunch went by in a blur, and the next thing I knew I was swept up in crowds of chattering girls as I headed to CoveOps. Mr Solomon was teaching. I had expected him to take some time off to grieve for his son, but he was still here. He's a great spy, but he still has feelings. I didn't understand how he could push through that pain just to teach a couple of classes.

Grieve for his son. Those words still sounded foreign, and still, after two weeks, made me flinch.

But as soon as I reached the classroom and sat at my desk, I knew I had to push that aside.

"Name one of the three main ways of detecting a tail?" Mr Solomon's strong voice carried across the classroom. I was surprised to feel my arm raised in the air.

"Ms Goode?" he said, surprised too.

"Instinct," I said, my voice quieter than usual. It was the first time I had spoken in days. I had got back into the routine of school life, but with my lips sealed. I felt too numb to talk to anyone, and yet I felt able to talk to my teacher, offer an answer that I knew to be correct.

"Well done," he said simply. But I knew there was more to his words. His eyes lingered on my face for a second longer than necessary, and I could detect a hint of pain. Too soon, he looked away.

"Ms Morgan?" he said, and Cammie gave an answer. He nodded, and then Tina filled in the final puzzle piece to his question.

"Sound, sight and instinct." Mr Solomon chalked the words onto the blackboard hastily before leaning against the chair behind a desk at which I had never seen him sit.

"A constant footstep pattern. A voice you have heard somewhere before. The silence of an operative trying too hard not to be detected." Mr Solomon walked to the blackboard. "All of these are tell-tale signs that you are being followed." I felt a shudder down my spine.

"Once a stranger, twice a coincidence, three times a tail," he recited, studying each member of the class. "Do you recognise them, but can't quite remember where from? Someone familiar could easily be your enemy." Yet again I felt uneasy, tugging my sleeves down, hiding the goosebumps on my arms that had nothing to do with being cold.

"And instinct. That prickly feeling on the back of your neck. That twinge in the pit of your stomach. That feeling of being watched." 

I risked a glance behind me. Zach rested both his hands on the desk, his eyes following the words on the blackboard.

"The enemy are good, ladies and gentleman." Mr Solomon's voice pulled me back. "But you can be better."

Not always, I thought, a crippling sadness coursing through me. I pulled my satchel across my shoulder and felt Joe Solomon's eyes on my back as I left the classroom, my friends at my side. I was surrounded by allies, but I still felt alone, incomplete. Rick's presence had, at first, irritated me, but now I would give anything to see him, hear him make a sarcastic remark, tell him that I didn't blame him for anything.

But the harsh reality slammed into me - it was too late. Now all I could do was mourn him.

 

 

 

 

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