“You’re a nomad?”
“I’ve been gone three and a half years. Came back through the fence yesterday at dawn.”
“I know you have questions, but if you’re looking for your family, I found them last night.”
“Theresa had locked herself and Ben into the jail cell in the sheriff’s station.”
“They’re there right now?”
Ethan took off running up Tenth Street, maintained a full sprint for six blocks until he rushed into the sheriff’s station, gasping for breath.
“Theresa!” he shouted.
He shot down the hallway toward the cell at the north end of the building, and when he saw his wife and son alive behind the bars, his eyes filled with tears.
Theresa fumbled with the key, turned the lock.
Ethan pushed the door open and embraced her, kissing her face, her hands, like it was the first time he’d ever touched her.
“I thought I’d lost you,” he said.
“You almost did.”
Ben nearly tackled him.
“You okay, buddy?”
“Yeah, Dad, but we almost died.”
Gunshots started up again, several blocks away.
“You brought the cavalry,” Theresa said.
“Have you rescued a lot of people?”
“There’s a group in the basement of the school that’s going to be okay. A security team is fanning out through town right now, killing everything that isn’t human, saving whoever else they can. Why didn’t you and Ben stay in the cavern?”
“The abbies came back,” Ben said. “A lot of people stayed, but Mom and I found another way down the cliffs.”
“Those who stayed, I don’t think they made it,” Theresa said.
Through the bars, Ethan noticed Pam, dead on the floor. “She found us here last night,” Theresa said. “We were locked in the cell, with no weapons. She was going to kill us.”
“To hurt you.” Theresa seemed to shudder at the memory of it. “Adam Hassler saved us,” she said.
“Did you know he was here?” Ethan asked.
The chain gun started up again.
Ethan pulled out his radio, and said, “Burke here. Over.”
Alan’s voice responded: “Yeah, go ahead? Over.”
“Can you send a truck up to the sheriff’s station? I found my family. I want to get them someplace safe.”
FIVE YEARS AGO
She stands in the rain, barefoot, her hospital gown soaked straight through to her skin, staring up at a twenty-five-foot fence whose barbed wires crackle with electricity.
Two signs nearby warn:
RISK OF DEATH
RETURN TO WAYWARD PINES
BEYOND THIS POINT YOU WILL DIE
She crumples down in the dirt.
It’s dusk, on the verge of becoming too dark to see in these woods.
She’s at the end. At her end.
No one to turn to.
Nowhere left to run.
Sobbing uncontrollably as the freezing rain beats down on her.
Hands grab her by the shoulders.
She reacts like a wounded animal, tearing herself away and scrambling off on all fours as a voice calls after her, “Theresa!”
But she doesn’t stop.
Struggling up onto her feet, she digs in for a sprint, feet sliding in the wet pine needles.
The hands tackle her to the ground, her face crushed into mud, pressing down on top of her and trying to roll her over. She fights back with everything she has, arms tucked into her sides, thinking, If those hands get anywhere near my mouth, this ass**le is going to lose fingers.
But he manages to roll her onto her back and hold her arms down, pinning her legs under his knees.
“Let go!” she screams.
She looks up at her attacker. It’s almost too dark to see now, but she recognizes his face.
From another life.
A better time.
She stops struggling.
He releases her arms and helps her to sit up.
“What are you . . . ? Why . . . ?” So many questions screaming through her mind she can’t focus on which one to give voice to. At last she lands on, “What’s happening to me?”
“You’re in Wayward Pines, Idaho.”
“I know that. Why is there no road out of here? Why is there a fence? Why won’t anyone tell me what’s happening?”
“I know you have questions—”
“Where’s my son?”
“I may be able to help you find Ben.”
“You know where he is?”
“No, but I—”
“Where is he?” she screams. “I have to—”
“Theresa, you’re endangering yourself right now. You’re putting both of our lives at risk. I want you to come with me.”
“To my house.”
He takes off his rain jacket, wraps it around her shoulders, and pulls her up onto her feet.
“Why do you have a house here, Adam?”
“Because I live here.”
“For how long?”
“A year and a half.”
“I know it must feel that way to you right now. I’m sure everything seems strange and wrong in this moment. Where are your shoes?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m going to carry you.”
Hassler scoops her up into his arms like she weighs nothing.
Theresa looks into his face, and despite the horror of her last five days here, she can’t deny the comfort she feels staring into familiar eyes.
“Why are you here, Adam?”
“I know you have a lot of questions. Let me just get you home first, okay? You’re practically hypothermic.”
“Have I lost my mind? I don’t know anything anymore. I woke up in the hospital here, and these last few days have been—”
“Look at me. You’re not crazy, Theresa.”
“You’re just in a different kind of place now.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“I know, but if you trust me, I swear I’ll take care of you. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you. And I’ll help you find your son.”