Despite the new protection of his jacket, she trembles violently in Hassler’s arms.
He carries her through the dark forest and the pouring rain.
Her last memory before waking in this town is of sitting in her home in Queen Anne across from a man named David Pilcher. It was the night she’d thrown a party to celebrate her missing husband’s life, and after all the guests had left, Pilcher had shown up on her doorstep in the wee hours with a mysterious offer: come with him, and she and Ben could be reunited with Ethan.
Apparently, the promise had not been kept.
Theresa lies on a sofa pulled close to an open woodstove, watching as Adam Hassler adds pine logs to the fire. The deep-down cold is beginning to retreat from her bones. She hasn’t slept in forty-eight hours—since waking up for a second time in a hospital bed to that awful, smiling nurse—but now she can feel sleep stalking her. She won’t be able to hold out much longer.
Hassler stokes the flames up into a roaring blaze, the sap boiling and popping inside the wood.
Every light in the living room is out.
Firelight colors the walls.
She can hear the steady rain hammering the tin roof above her head, ready to put her under.
Hassler scoots back from the fire, sits on the sofa’s edge.
He looks down at her with a kindness in his eyes that she hasn’t seen in days.
“Is there anything I can get for you?” he asks. “Water? More blankets?”
“I’m okay. Well, not okay, but . . .”
He smiles. “I know what you mean.”
She stares up at him. “These have been the weirdest, worst days of my life.”
“What’s happening to me?”
“I can’t explain it to you.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“You disappeared from Seattle the night of Ethan’s celebration-of-life party. You and Ben.”
“I figured you had gone to Wayward Pines looking for Ethan, so I went looking for you.”
“Shit. You’re here because of me.”
“I drove into town two days before Christmas. All I remember is a Mack truck coming out of nowhere, sideswiping my car. I woke up in the hospital, just like you did. No phone, no wallet. Have you tried to call out to Seattle?”
“I phoned my sister, Darla, I don’t know how many times from that pay phone beside the bank, but it’s always either a wrong number or there’s no dial tone.”
“Same thing happened to me.”
“So how do you have a house here now?”
“I have a job too.”
“You’re looking at the sous-chef in training at the Aspen House, nicest restaurant in Wayward Pines.”
Theresa searches his face for signs of bullshit, but he looks absolutely sincere.
She says, “You’re the special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Seattle. You—”
“Things have changed.”
“Just listen to me.” He puts his hand on her shoulder. She can feel its weight through the blanket. “All the questions, all the fears you have, I had them too. I still have them. That doesn’t change. But there are no answers to be had in this valley. There’s only a right way to live and all the other ways that get you killed. As your friend, Theresa, I hope you can hear me. If you don’t stop running, this town will murder you.”
She looks away from Hassler, into the flames.
The firelight blurring through a sheet of tears.
The scary thing, the truly scary thing, is that she believes him.
One hundred percent. There’s something wrong, something evil about this place.
“I feel so lost,” she says.
“I know.” He squeezes her shoulder. “I’ve been there, and I’m going to help you in every way I possibly can.”
He found Kate that evening, sitting in her living room, staring into the cold, dark fireplace.
He sat down beside her, set his shotgun on the hardwood floor.
Abbies had broken in at some point. The front windows were smashed out, the interior looked vandalized, and it still smelled like those creatures—a harsh, alien stench.
“What are you doing in here?” Ethan asked.
Kate shrugged. “I guess I feel like if I wait here long enough, he’ll come walking through that door.”
Ethan put his arm around her.
She said, “But he’s not going to walk through that door ever again, is he?”
It seemed as if it was only by sheer force of will that she held the tears back.
Ethan shook his head.
“Because you found him.”
The light splintering through the busted windows was growing weaker by the moment. Soon, it would be dark in the valley.
“His group was run down in one of the tunnels,” Ethan said.
Still no tears came.
She just breathed in and out.
“I want to see him,” she said.
“Of course. We’ve been gathering up the dead all day, doing what we can to prepare them for—”
“I’m not afraid to see him torn up, Ethan. I just want to see him.”
“How many did we lose?”
“We’re still recovering bodies, so right now we’re only counting survivors. Out of forty hundred sixty-one in-town residents, we’re down to a hundred and eight. Seventy-five are still unaccounted for.”
“I’m glad it was you who came with this news,” she said.
“They’re bringing all the survivors into the mountain for the next few nights.”
“I’m staying right here.”
“It’s not safe, Kate. There are still abbies in the valley. We haven’t gotten them all. There’s no power. No heat. When the sun drops, it’s going to get very dark and very cold. The abbies still inside the fence will come back into town.”
She looked at him. She said, “I don’t care.”
“You want me to sit with you for a while?”
“I want to be alone.”
Ethan rose to his feet, every inch of his body sore, bruised, done. “I’ll leave this shotgun with you,” he said, “just in case.”
He couldn’t be sure that she’d heard him.
She was utterly elsewhere.
“Is your family safe?” Kate asked.
“I’ll come back in the morning,” he said. “Take you to see Harold.” He moved toward the front door.