“Yeah, I was hoping to learn a few more details about that. Who hit us?”

“Eyewitnesses say it was a tow truck.”

“Driver in custody? Being charged?”

“Would be if I could find him.”

“You saying this was a hit-and-run?”

Pope nodded. “Hauled ass out of town after he T-boned you. Long gone by the time I reached the scene.”

“And no one got a license plate or anything?”

Pope shook his head and lifted something off the desk—a snow globe with a gold base. The miniature buildings under the glass dome became caught in a whirlwind of snow as he passed the globe back and forth between his hands.

“What efforts are being made to locate this truck?” Ethan asked.

“We got stuff in the works.”

“You do?”

Advertisement..

“You bet.”

“I’d like to see Agent Stallings.”

“His body is being held in the morgue.”

“And where’s that?”

“In the basement of the hospital.”

It suddenly came to Ethan. Out of the blue. Like someone had whispered it into his ear.

“Could I borrow a piece of paper?” Ethan asked.

Pope opened a drawer and peeled a Post-it Note off the top of a packet and handed it to Ethan along with a pen. Ethan scooted his chair forward and set the Post-it on the desktop, scribbled down the number.

“I understand you have my things?” Ethan said as he slipped the Post-it into his pocket.

“What things?”

“My cell, gun, wallet, badge, briefcase...”

“Who told you I had those?”

“A nurse at the hospital.”

“No clue where she got that idea.”

“Wait. So you don’t have my things?”

“No.”

Ethan stared at Pope across the desk. “Is it possible they’re still in the car?”

“Which car?”

He struggled to keep the tone of his voice in check. “The one the tow truck hit while I was in it.”

“I suppose it’s possible, but I’m fairly certain the EMTs took your things.”

“Jesus.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Would you mind if I made a few phone calls before I leave? I haven’t talked to my wife in days.”

“I spoke to her.”

“When?”

“Day of the accident.”

“Is she on her way?”

“I have no idea. I just let her know what had happened.”

“I also need to call my SAC—”

“Who’s that?”

“Adam Hassler.”

“He sent you here?”

“That’s right.”

“Did he also instruct you not to bother calling me ahead of time to let me know the feds would be rolling up in my world? Or was that all you?”

“You think I had some obligation to—”

“Courtesy, Ethan. Courtesy. Then again, being a fed, maybe you aren’t familiar with that concept—”

“I would’ve contacted you eventually, Mr. Pope. There was no intent to cut you out of the loop.”

“Oh. Well, in that case.”

Ethan hesitated, wanting to be clear, to communicate the information he wished to impart and not a shred more. But his head was killing him and the double vision threatened to split the sheriff into two ass**les.

“I was sent here to find two Secret Service agents.”

Pope’s eyebrows came up. “They’re missing?”

“For eleven days now.”

“What were they doing in Wayward Pines?”

“I wasn’t provided a detailed briefing on their investigation, although I know it involved David Pilcher.”

“Name sounds vaguely familiar. Who is he?”

“He always shows up on lists of the world’s richest men. One of these reclusive billionaires. Never talks to the press. Owns a bunch of biopharmaceutical companies.”

“And he has a connection to Wayward Pines?”

“Again, I don’t know that. But if the Secret Service was here, there was probably some investigation involving a financial crime. That’s all I know.”

Pope stood suddenly. Ethan could tell he was a large man sitting behind the desk, but standing in his boots, Ethan saw that he was an inch or two shy of six and a half feet.

“You’re welcome to use the phone in the conference room, Agent Burke.”

Ethan didn’t move from his chair.

“I wasn’t quite finished, Sheriff.”

“Conference room’s right this way.” Pope came around his desk and started toward the door. “And maybe a shirt next time? Just a suggestion.”

The pounding in Ethan’s head was becoming laced with anger.

“Would you like to know why I’m not wearing a shirt, Sheriff?”

“Not particularly.”

“One of the agents I came looking for is decomposing in a house six blocks from here.”

Pope stopped at the door, his back to Ethan.

“I just found him before coming here,” Ethan said.

Pope turned and glared down at Ethan.

“Elaborate on ‘I just found him.’”

“Last night, a bartender at the Biergarten gave me her address in case I needed anything. I woke up this morning with a terrible headache. No money. Got kicked out of my hotel room. I went to her house to get some medicine for my headache, only the address she gave was wrong or something.”

“What’s the address?”

“Six-oh-four, First Avenue. It turned out to be an old, abandoned house. In ruins. Agent Evans had been chained to a bed in one of the rooms.”

“You’re sure it’s this man you came here to find?”

“Eighty percent sure. There was a great deal of decay and his face had suffered extensive blunt-force trauma.”

The scowl the sheriff had maintained since Ethan had walked into his office disappeared, and his features seemed to soften. He walked toward Ethan and eased down into the empty chair beside him.

“I apologize, Agent Burke. I kept you waiting out in reception. I got angry that you didn’t call before coming to town, and well, you’re right. There was no obligation. I’ve got a nasty tempter—one of my many failings—and my behavior was unacceptable.”

“Apology accepted.”

“You’ve had a rough couple of days.”

“I have.”

“Go make your phone calls and we’ll talk when you’re finished.”