At the intersection of First and Thirteenth, Ben whispered, “Mom!”
Theresa glanced back.
Three blocks down Thirteenth Street, two pale forms were running on all fours in their direction.
“Sprint!” Theresa screamed.
They accelerated, a surge of adrenaline-boosting power and speed. She leapt over the curb and raced up through the trimmed grass toward the entrance to the sheriff’s office.
Once inside, Theresa stopped and looked back through the glass doors toward the street.
“Did they see us come in here?” Ben asked.
The first abby hit the intersection at full speed, and without missing a beat, altered its course, now heading straight for the sheriff’s office.
“Come on!” Theresa wheeled around and bolted through the lobby.
The farther they moved away from the entrance, the darker it got.
Crossing the threshold, she turned the corner into Ethan’s office, saw the gun cabinet wide open, ammunition spilled across the floor, several rifles left behind on the desk.
The bottom cabinets of the gun case were open too.
She reached inside, pulled out a large pistol, pointed it at the wall, and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. The safety was on or it wasn’t loaded or both.
She grabbed a revolver out of the case but it was empty, and she didn’t even know how to break the cylinder open to load it assuming she could even match up the right ammo. From where she crouched by the gun case, there were at least half a dozen different sizes of cartridges scattered across the floor beneath her feet.
“Mom, what are you doing?” Ben asked.
This wasn’t going to work. They were out of time, and despite being married to a Secret Service agent, she didn’t know the first thing about firearms.
“New plan,” she said.
She jerked open Ethan’s desk. It had to be there. His first week on the job, Ethan had given her a tour of this place, including locking her into the single jail cell as he swung the key on his finger by the carabiner it was attached to, smirking as he drawled, “Unless you can think of some way to bribe the sheriff, looks like you’re spending a night in lockup, Mrs. Burke.”
She’d seen him return that key to this middle desk drawer, and now she reached all the way to the back, fingers desperately searching.
She felt the carabiner, pulled the key out, and rushed around the desk to Ben.
“What are we doing?” he asked.
“Just follow me!”
They tore back down the hallway.
An abby screamed outside.
“They’re here, Mom!”
As they crossed the lobby, Theresa glanced toward the entrance, saw the pair of abbies running up the walkway lined with baby pine trees, seconds away from entering.
She shouted, “Faster, Ben!”
They turned down another dark hallway.
At the far end, Theresa saw the black bars of Wayward Pines’s only jail cell.
First time she’d seen it, it had reminded her of the cells in The Andy Griffith Show. Something almost quaint about those vertical bars. The single bed and the desk inside. The kind of place where the Saturday-night drunks had a standing reservation.
Now, the cell looked like a life raft.
The hallway opened up at the end, the fading evening light slanting in through a high window.
Theresa slammed hard into the cell bars as the abbies crashed through the glass doors into the station.
She clutched the key, worked it into the lock.
Talons clicked down the dark hallway behind them.
One of the abbies shrieked.
The dead bolt turned.
Theresa opened the door, and screamed, “Get in!”
Ben rushed into the cell as the first abby launched out of the corridor.
She stepped in, jerked the door closed, and locked it a half second before the abby rammed the bars.
As the first abby picked itself up off the floor, its partner crawled out of the hallway.
It was the first time Theresa had seen an abby up close.
The one that had crashed into the cell was huge and covered in gore.
Death emanated off its blood-soaked skin.
Ben’s back was up against the wall, his eyes gone wide, a puddle forming under his feet.
“Can they get us in here?” he asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?”
When the second abby collided with the bars, the entire structure shook.
Theresa wrapped her arms around Ben as the first abby stood to its full five-and-a-half-foot height.
It cocked its head and watched them through the bars, milky eyes blinking, processing, problem-solving.
“What’s that thing moving inside its chest?” Theresa whispered.
“That’s its heart, Mom.”
“How do you—” Oh. Right. He’d learned about them in school.
The heart beat rapidly, blurred and distorted through the layers of skin, as if Theresa were watching it through several inches of ice.
This one’s legs were short, and standing straight, its arms reached all the way down to the floor. It slid its right arm between the bars—slim but rippled with muscle. It was over four feet long, and Theresa watched in horror as those black talons stretched across the floor of the cell.
“Get away!” she screamed.
The other abby came around the side of the cell and did the same. Its left arm was five feet long and when one of its talons grazed Ben’s shoe, Theresa stomped on its claw.
The abby roared.
Theresa pulled Ben toward the corner farthest away from the bars, where they climbed up onto the metal bed frame.
“Are we going to die, Mom?”
Three new abbies emerged from the corridor and broke for the cell, screeching and hissing. There were more behind them, the noise in the room growing and growing.
Soon there were fifteen arms reaching through the bars, and more abbies hurling themselves at the cell.
Theresa sank down onto the bare mattress and held Ben tightly in her arms.
The light coming through the window had changed from blue to purple, the room becoming steadily darker.
She put her lips to Ben’s ear and said over the noise of the monsters, “Think about another place, another time.”
Ben trembled in her arms, and still more abbies streamed into the room.
Theresa stared up at that high window as the monsters shook the bars and crashed into them and reached their hideously long arms into the cell.
The last thing she saw as the light went away was the room beyond the bars packed wall to wall with abbies and one of them kneeling down in front of the lock, trying to dig its talon into the keyhole.