Stood there watching, listening.
The sun felt good and warm in his face.
The breeze carried a pleasant chill.
He looked up at the sky—dark blue crystal.
This place was beautiful, no question, but for the first time, those mountain walls that boxed this valley inside instilled something in him other than awe. He couldn’t explain why, but they filled him with fear. A dread he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Maybe he’d suffered an injury. But maybe not.
Maybe being detached from the outside world now going on five days was beginning to take its toll.
No iPhone, no Internet, no Facebook.
It seemed impossible as he considered it—to have had no contact with his family, with Hassler, with anyone outside of Wayward Pines.
He started walking toward the sheriff’s office.
Better to just leave. Regroup. Reevaluate from the other side of those cliff walls.
From the comfort of a normal town.
Because something here was definitely off-kilter.
* * *
“Sheriff Pope in?”
Belinda Moran looked up from her game of solitaire.
“Hello,” she said. “How can I help you?”
Ethan asked a touch louder this time. “Is the sheriff in?”
“No, he stepped out for a moment.”
“So he’ll be back shortly?”
“I don’t know when he’s due back.”
“But you said ‘for a moment’ so I figured—”
“It’s just a figure of speech, young man.”
“Do you remember me? Agent Burke from the Secret Service?”
“Yes. You have your shirt on this time. I like this look much better.”
“Have there been any calls for me?”
She squinted and cocked her head. “Why would there be?”
“Because I told some people they could reach me here.”
Belinda shook her head. “No one’s called for you.”
“Not my wife, Theresa, or an Agent Adam Hassler?”
“No one’s called for you, Mr. Burke, and you shouldn’t tell them to call for you here.”
“I need to use the telephone in your conference room again.”
Belinda frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
She didn’t have an answer to this, just maintained her scowl.
* * *
“Theresa, it’s me. Just trying to reach you. I was in the hospital again. I don’t know if you called the sheriff’s office or the hotel, but I haven’t gotten any messages. I’m still in Wayward Pines. I haven’t been able to find my phone or wallet, but I’m done with this place. I’m going to borrow a cruiser from the sheriff’s office. Call you tonight from Boise. Miss you, love you.”
He leaned forward in the chair, got a new dial tone, and then shut his eyes and tried to conjure it.
The number was there.
He spun it out, listened to four rings, and then that same voice from the last time answered. “Secret Service.”
“This is Ethan Burke calling again for Adam Hassler.”
“He’s not available at the moment. Was there something I could help you with?”
“Is this Marcy?”
“Do you recall our phone conversation from yesterday?”
“You know, sir, we get a lot of calls here every day, and I just can’t keep up with every—”
“You told me you’d slip Agent Hassler a message.”
“What was it regarding?”
Ethan closed his eyes, took a deep breath. If he insulted her now, she’d just end the phone call. If he waited until he was back in Seattle, he could publicly eviscerate her, have her fired on the spot.
“Marcy, it was regarding a dead Secret Service agent in Wayward Pines, Idaho.”
“Hmm. Well, if I said I would give him the message, then I’m sure I followed through on that.”
“But I haven’t heard back from him. Don’t you find that strange? That an agent from Hassler’s field office—me—located another agent who had been murdered, an agent I was sent here to find, and now twenty-four hours have passed and Hassler hasn’t even returned my call?”
A slight pause, and then: “Was there something I could help you with?”
“Yes, I’d like to speak with Agent Hassler right now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, he’s not available at the moment. Was there something—”
“Where is he?”
“He’s not available.”
“Where. Is. He.”
“He’s not available at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll call you back at his earliest convenience. He’s just been very swamped.”
“Who are you, Marcy?”
Ethan felt the phone rip out of his grasp.
Pope slammed it down into the cradle, the sheriff’s eyes boring through Ethan like a pair of smoldering coals.
“Who told you you could come in here and use my telephone?”
“No one, I just—”
“That’s right. No one. Get up.”
“I said get up. You can either walk out of here under your own steam, or I can drag you through the lobby myself.”
Ethan stood up slowly, faced the sheriff across the table.
“You’re speaking to a federal agent, sir.”
“I’m not convinced.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“You show up here, no ID, no phone, nothing—”
“I’ve explained my situation. Did you take a trip over to six-oh-four First Avenue, see the body of Agent Evans?”
“You’ve called in crime scene specialists to process the—”
“It’s all being handled.”
“What does that even mean?”
Pope just stared at him, Ethan thinking, He’s unhinged and you have no support in this town. Just get a car, get out of here. Hammer him when you come back with the cavalry. He’ll lose his badge, face prosecution for hamstringing a federal investigation.
“I have a favor to ask,” Ethan said, conciliatory.
“I’d like to borrow one of your vehicles.”
The sheriff laughed. “Why?”
“Well, obviously, since the accident, I don’t have one.”