“You’ve got provisions here to last a few days,” Kate said.

“Then what?”

“I guess you’ll have to figure that out for yourselves.”

Theresa and Ben stood just inside the cavern.

They’d already said their goodbyes.

Ethan held eye contact with his wife until the heavy log door swung closed and the bolt rattled home.

It was freezing.

In the distance, daylight streamed past the opening.

Ethan said, “Nobody shoots unless we have no choice. Our best-case scenario, we get down into town without firing a shot. Once we broadcast our position, it’s probably all over for us.”

Kate led the way toward the light at the end of the passage.

Ethan replayed his last glimpse of Theresa and Ben as the door had shut between them.

Thinking, Was that the last time I’ll ever see you?

Do you know how much I love you?

They stood at the end of the ledge, looking out across the valley.

It was morning.

Not a sound rising out of the town a thousand feet below.

The sunlight felt good on Ethan’s face.

Maggie whispered, “It just feels like a nice, normal morning, doesn’t it?”

They were too far away to see anything distinct in the streets below. Ethan pictured the pair of binoculars sitting in the bottom drawer of his desk at the station. Would’ve been nice to have.

He stepped to the edge and looked straight down three hundred feet of vertical stone that glistened in the sunlight.

They worked their way across the plank and rested on the other side at the top of the highest switchback.

The stone was warm in the sun.

They down-climbed.

Clutching cables.

Following the steps that had been cut into the rock.

There were no birds out.

Not even a whisper of wind.

Just the four of them, breathing quickly.

Below the tops of the trees, below the reach of the sun, the steel cables were like ice.

Then they were off the rock, standing on the soft floor of the forest.

Ethan said, “You know the way into town, Kate?”

“I think so. It’s weird. I’ve never been here in the daylight.”

She led them into the pines.

There were still patches of snow in places, footprints from the night before. They followed the tracks down the mountainside, Ethan scanning the trees, but nothing moved. The woods felt absolutely dead.

After awhile, he heard the waterfall.

They descended a steep pitch of hillside.

Reached the stream and the opening of the drainage tunnel. The abbies Ethan had shot last night lay dead in the water and on the bank.

There was mist in his face.

He stared up at a single cascade that spilled over a ledge two hundred feet above. The sunlight made a rainbow where it passed through the falling water.

“Take the tunnel into town?” Kate asked.

“No,” Ethan said. “We should leave ourselves plenty of room to run.”

After a quarter of a mile, the terrain leveled out and they emerged from the woods behind an old, decrepit house on the eastern edge of town, the same house, Ethan realized, where he’d found the mutilated corpse of Agent Evans when he’d first arrived in Wayward Pines.

They stopped in the weeds on the side of the house.

Up until this moment, Ethan had found comfort in the silence. Now it was disquieting. Like the world was holding its breath for something.

He said, “I was thinking on the hike down. If we could find a functional car, we could haul ass to the south end of town and not have to worry about an ambush the whole time. Kate, does that old beater in front of your house run?”

“Haven’t cranked it in years. I wouldn’t want to chance it.”

“The car in front of mine does,” Maggie said.

Ethan asked, “When’s the last time you took it for a spin?”

“Two weeks ago. I got a phone call one morning, someone telling me to drive around town for a few hours.”

“I’ve always wondered why they did that,” Hecter said.

“Because roads are never completely empty in normal towns,” Ethan said. “Just another ploy to make Wayward Pines feel real. Where’s your place, Maggie?”

“Eighth Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.”

“That’s only six blocks away. Where are the keys?”

“Bedside table drawer.”

“You’re sure.”

“Hundred percent.”

Ethan peeked around the corner of the house, saw bodies in the distance in the street, but no abbies.

“Let’s sit for a minute,” he said. “Catch our breath.”

They all sat against the rotting boards of the house.

Ethan said, “Maggie, Hecter, no military experience, right?”

Headshakes.

“I was a Black Hawk pilot. Saw some insane combat in Fallujah. We have six blocks to cover across very hostile territory, and there’s a right way to move in these situations to minimize exposure. From our current position, we can only see the surrounding block, but when we get across the street, our perspective will change. We’ll have new information. Even though we have six blocks to contend with, we’re going to look at that distance incrementally. Maggie and I will cross the street first and secure a position. I’ll evaluate the area from our new vantage point, and when I give the sign, Kate and Hecter will join us. Make sense?”

Nods.

“I want to say one last thing about how we’re going to move. It’s called a tactical column. We’ll keep close together as we run, but the pace should be controlled enough for you to stay alert. If the coast is clear, the temptation will be to focus on areas in the distance to see what’s coming, but that’s a mistake. If we see abbies coming from a hundred, two hundred yards out, there’s time for us to react. Worst thing that can happen is a surprise ambush. One of these things coming out of a bush, around a corner, and then you don’t even have time to raise your weapon. So watch your danger areas. That’s top priority. If you pass a bush and you can’t see what’s behind it, you cover that bush. Got it?”

Maggie’s shotgun had begun to tremble in her grasp.

Ethan touched her hand. “You’re going to do fine,” he said.

She turned away suddenly and threw up in the grass.

Kate patted her back, and whispered, “It’s okay, honey. It’s okay to be scared. It’s right to be scared. It’ll make you sharp.”

Ethan considered how utterly unprepared this woman was. Maggie had never been exposed to anything approaching this level of horror and pressure and yet she was slugging her way through it.



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