Tonight, the houses and buildings stood ominously dark.
Ethan turned onto Tenth Avenue and screamed through seven blocks before ripping out onto Main so hard the right-side wheels lifted off the ground.
Up ahead, at the intersection of Main and Eighth, the entire town stood where he’d left them—out in front of the opera house. Four hundred and something souls waiting around in the dark like they’d been kicked out of a ball en masse, still dressed in their ridiculous costumes from the fête.
Ethan shut off the car and climbed out.
It was eerie to see Main Street in the dark, all that storefront glass lit only by torchlight.
There was the Steaming Bean.
Wooden Treasures—Kate and Harold Ballingers’ toy store.
The Wayward Pines Hotel.
The Sweet Tooth.
Wayward Pines Realty Associates, where Ethan’s wife, Theresa, worked.
The noise of the crowd was overwhelming.
People were emerging from their disbelief and shock in the wake of Ethan’s decision to tell them all the truth about Wayward Pines. Beginning to talk to one another, in some ways, for the first time.
Kate Ballinger hurried over. It was Kate and her husband, Harold, who’d been on the execution block for tonight’s fête, whose lives Ethan’s revelation had momentarily saved. Somebody had done a fast-stitch job on the gash above her left eye, but her face was still streaked with blood, which had also matted her prematurely white hair. Kate’s disappearance in Wayward Pines had brought Ethan to this town two thousand years ago. In another lifetime, they had worked together in the Secret Service. They’d been partners. For a brief, scorching window, they’d been more than partners.
Ethan took Kate by the arm and hustled her around to the back of the Bronco, out of earshot from the crowd. She’d almost died tonight, and as Ethan stared down at her, he could see in her eyes that she was holding everything together by a fraying thread.
He said, “Pilcher killed the power.”
“No, I mean he killed the power to the fence as well. He opened the gate.”
She studied Ethan, as if trying to process exactly how bad a piece of news she’d just received.
“So those things . . .” she said. “The aberrations . . .”
“They can walk right into town now. And they’re coming. I heard them at the fence.”
“I don’t know. Even a small group would be catastrophic.”
Kate glanced back at the crowd.
The conversations were dying out, people edging closer to hear the news.
“Some of us have weapons,” she said. “A few have machetes.”
“That’s not going to cut it.”
“Can’t you reason with Pilcher? Call him back? Change his mind?”
“We’re past that point.”
“Then we get everyone back inside the opera house,” she said. “There are no windows. Just one exit on either side of the stage. Double doors leading in. We’ll barricade ourselves inside.”
“What if we’re under siege for days? No food. No heat. No water. And there’s no amount of barricading that will keep the abbies out indefinitely.”
“Then what, Ethan?”
“I don’t know, but we can’t just send people back to their homes.”
“Some have already gone.”
“I told you to keep everyone here.”
“How many went home?”
Ethan spotted Theresa and Ben—his precious family—moving toward him through the crowd.
He said, “If I can get into the superstructure, if I can show Pilcher’s inner circle who the man they serve really is, then we might have a chance.”
“So go. Right now.”
“I’m not leaving my family. Not like this. Not without a real plan.”
Theresa reached him. She’d pulled her long blonde hair into a ponytail, and both she and Ben were dressed in dark clothing.
Ethan kissed her, then ruffled Ben’s hair. Ethan could already see the man his twelve-year-old boy might become shining through his eyes. Maturity threatening.
“What did you find?” Theresa asked him.
“I’ve got it,” Kate said. “We need to be somewhere safe while you break into the superstructure.”
“Somewhere protected. Defendable. Already stockpiled with provisions.”
She smiled. “I might actually know of a place like that.”
Ethan said, “The Wanderers’ cavern.”
“That might work. I have guns at the sheriff’s station.”
“Go get them. Take Brad Fisher with you.” She pointed to the sidewalk. “He’s right over there.”
“How are we going to get this many people up the cliff?”
“I’ll separate everyone into groups of a hundred,” Kate said, “with each group led by someone who knows the way.”
“What do we do about the ones who went home?” Theresa asked.
She was answered with a single, distant scream.
The crowd had been murmuring.
Now everyone went silent.
The sound had come from south of town—a fragile, malignant moan.
Nothing that could be explained or described, because you didn’t just hear it.
You felt its meaning.
And its meaning was this: hell is coming.
Ethan said, “It’s going to be hard enough to protect the people who stayed.”
“So they’re just on their own?”
“We’re all on our own now.”
He went around to the front passenger seat of the Bronco, reached in, and grabbed the bullhorn. Handing it to Kate, he asked, “You got this?”
Ethan looked at Theresa. “I want you and Ben to stay with Kate.”
Ben said, “I’m coming with you, Dad.”
“I need you with Mom.”
“But I can help you.”
“This is how you help me.” Ethan turned to Kate. “I’ll catch up after the sheriff’s office.”
“Come to the little park at the north end of town.”
“With the gazebo?”
“That’s the one.”
Brad Fisher, Wayward Pines’s only lawyer, sat awkwardly in the destroyed front passenger seat of Ethan’s Bronco, clutching the handle on the door as Ethan hit sixty on First Avenue.