* * *

A long table crowded the conference room, with barely enough space between the chairs and the wall for Ethan to make his way toward the rotary phone down at the end.

He dug the Post-it Note out of his pocket and lifted the phone.

Dial tone.

He spun out the number.

It rang.

Afternoon sun slicing between the blinds and striking the table’s polished wood veneer in blades of blinding light.

Three rings in, he said, “Come on, baby, pick up.”

After the fifth ring, he got the machine.

Theresa’s voice: “Hi, you’ve reached the Burkes. Sorry we aren’t here to take your call...unless of course you’re a telemarketer...then we’re thrilled to have missed your call, and, in fact, we’re probably dodging it and encourage you to forget this number. Otherwise, leave it at the beep.”

“Theresa, it’s me. God, I feel like I haven’t heard your voice in years. I guess you know that I was in a car accident out here. No one can seem to find my phone, so if you’ve been trying to call, I’m sorry. I’m staying at the Wayward Pines Hotel, Room Two Twenty-Six. You might try calling the sheriff’s office also. I hope you and Ben are OK. I’m all right. Still a little sore, but doing better. Please call me at the hotel tonight. I’ll try you again soon. I love you, Theresa. So much.”

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He hung up the phone, sat there for a moment trying to conjure the number to his wife’s cell. Got as far as the first seven digits but the final three remained shrouded in mystery.

The number to the Seattle field office came to him instantly. He dialed, and after three rings, a woman whose voice Ethan didn’t recognize answered.

“Secret Service.”

“Hi, it’s Ethan Burke. I need to speak with Adam Hassler, please.”

“He’s not available at the moment. Was there something I could help you with?”

“No, I really need to speak with him. Is he out of the office today?”

“He’s not available at the moment. Was there something I could help you with?”

“How about I try him on his cell? Could I have that number, please?”

“Oh, I’m afraid I’m not allowed to give out that information.”

“Do you understand who I am? Agent Ethan Burke?”

“Was there something I could help you with?”

“What’s your name?”

“Marcy.”

“You’re new, right?”

“This is my third day.”

“Look, I’m up here in Wayward Pines, Idaho, in the middle of a shitstorm. Get Hassler on the phone immediately. I don’t care what he’s doing. If he’s in a meeting...if he’s taking a shit...put him on the goddamned phone.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“What?”

“I’m not going to be able to continue this conversation with you speaking to me like that.”

“Marcy?”

“Yes?”

“I apologize. I’m sorry I raised my voice with you, but I have to speak with Hassler. It is urgent.”

“I’d be happy to slip him a message if you’d like.”

Ethan closed his eyes.

He was grinding his molars together to keep from screaming through the phone.

“Tell him to call Agent Ethan Burke at the Wayward Pines Sheriff’s Office, or at the Wayward Pines Hotel, Room Two Twenty-Six. He has to do this the moment he gets the message. Agent Evans is dead. Do you understand me?”

“I’ll give him the message!” Marcy said brightly and hung up the phone.

Ethan pulled the receiver away from his face and slammed it five times into the table.

As he was hanging the phone back up, he noticed Sheriff Pope standing in the doorway to the conference room.

“Everything all right, Ethan?”

“Yeah, it’s...just having a little trouble getting through to my SAC.”

Pope came inside and closed the door. He sat down at the end of the table opposite Ethan.

“You said there were two missing agents?” Pope asked.

“That’s right.”

“Tell me about the other one.”

“Her name’s Kate Hewson. She worked out of the Boise field office, and, prior to that, Seattle.”

“Did you know her there?”

“We were partners.”

“So she got transferred?”

“Yes.”

“And Kate came here with Agent...”

“Bill Evans.”

“...on this top-secret investigation.”

“Right.”

“I’d like to help. Would you like my help?”

“Of course, Arnold.”

“OK. Let’s start with the basics. What does Kate look like?”

Ethan leaned back in his chair.

Kate.

He’d so thoroughly trained himself over the last year not to think of her that it took him a moment to retrieve her face, the memory of it like tearing open a wound that had just begun to scar over.

“She’s five-two, five-three. Hundred and five pounds.”

“Little gal, huh?”

“Best lawman I’ve ever known. Short brown hair last time I saw her, but it could have grown out. Blue eyes. Uncommonly beautiful.”

God, he could still taste her.

“Any distinguishing marks?”

“Yeah, actually. She has a faint birthmark on her cheek. A café au lait about the size of a nickel.”

“I’ll put the word out to my deputies, maybe even have a sketch of her drawn to show around town.”

“That’d be great.”

“Why did you say Kate was transferred out of Seattle?”

“I didn’t say.”

“Well, do you know?”

“Some sort of internal reshuffling was the rumor. I’d like to see the car.”

“The car?”

“The black Lincoln Town Car I was driving when the accident happened.”

“Oh, of course.”

“Where might I find that?”

“There’s a salvage yard on the outskirts of town.” The sheriff stood. “What was that address again?”

“Six-oh-four First Avenue. I’ll walk you over.”

“No need.”

“I want to.”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Why?”

“Was there anything else you needed?”

“I’d like to know the results of your investigation.”

“Come back tomorrow after lunch. We’ll see where we’re at.”