Ethan glanced over. “Where’s your wife?”
Brad said, “We were in the theater. You were talking, telling us everything. Then I looked over and Megan was just gone.”
Ethan said, “Considering what she was teaching the children behind their parents’ backs, she probably figured people would see her as a traitor. Feared for her life. How do you feel about her now?”
This seemed to catch Brad off guard. Normally, he was spit-shined and clean-shaven, the model of a competent young lawyer. Now, he scratched at the sandpaper on his chin.
“I don’t know. I never really felt like I knew her or that she knew me. We lived together because we were told to. We slept in the same bed. Sometimes we slept together.”
“Sounds like a lot of real marriages. Did you love her?”
Brad sighed. “It’s complicated. You did the right thing, by the way. Telling us.”
“If I’d known he’d kill the power to the fence—”
“Don’t go there, Ethan. You can’t play that game. You did what you believed was right. You saved Kate and Harold. Showed us all what our lives are really worth.”
“I wonder,” Ethan said, “how long that sentiment is going to last once people start dying.”
The high beams fired across the dark sheriff’s station. Ethan steered over the curb and took the Bronco right up the sidewalk. He brought it to a stop a few feet from the entrance and climbed out, clicking on a flashlight as he and Brad reached the double doors. Ethan unlocked them, propped one open.
“What are we grabbing?” Brad asked as they ran through the lobby and turned down the corridor to Ethan’s office.
“Anything that shoots.”
Brad manned the flashlight as Ethan pulled guns out of the cabinet and matched up the ammunition.
He set a Mossberg 930 on the desk and pushed in eight slugs.
Fed thirty rounds into the magazine of a Bushmaster AR-15.
Topped off the mag for his Desert Eagle.
There were more shotguns.
A .357 Smith & Wesson.
He got two more handguns loaded, but it was all costing too much time.
KATE HEWSON BALLINGER
She grabbed hold of Harold’s arm. Her husband was taking his group to an entrance a few blocks south, and she was leading hers to the north end of town.
She threw her arms around his neck, kissed him long and deep.
“I love you,” she said.
He grinned, his silver hair sweat-plastered to his forehead despite the chill, the bruises on his face beginning to blacken.
“Katie, if something happens—”
“Don’t do that,” she said.
“Just get your ass to the cliff.”
Several blocks away, something howled. As she moved toward the crowd of people waiting to follow her to safety, she glanced back and blew Harold a kiss.
He snatched it out of the air.
In her bedroom, Jennifer set the candle on the dresser and stripped out of the costume she’d worn to the fête—a black trench coat over red long underwear, topped off with a homemade pair of devil’s horns. Her nightgown waited for her, hanging on the back of the door.
Once in bed, she drank her chamomile tea and watched the candlelight dance across the ceiling.
The tea went down warm.
This had been her routine going on three years now, and she thought it had been wise not to break it tonight. When your world falls apart, cling to the familiar.
She thought of all the other residents of Wayward Pines.
They’d be going through some version of this.
Questioning all they’d been told.
Coming to terms with how grievously they’d been wronged.
What would tomorrow bring?
The window beside her bed was cracked, a stream of chill night air trickling in. She kept her room cold by choice, loving the feel of sleeping in a freezing room under a mountain of blankets.
Through the glass, it was absolutely dark.
The crickets had gone silent.
She set her mug of tea on the bedside table and pulled the blankets up over her legs. There was only a half inch left of the candle on her dresser, and she didn’t really want to be in total darkness just yet.
Let it burn out on its own.
She shut her eyes.
Felt like she was falling.
So many thoughts, so much fear pressing in.
A tangible weight.
She thought of Teddy. This last year, she’d found herself remembering his smell, his tone of voice, what his hands had felt like on her body, far clearer than her memory of his face.
She was forgetting what he looked like.
Somewhere out in the darkness, a man began to scream.
She’d never heard screaming like this.
Horror and disbelief and incomprehensible agony all compressed into a single outburst that seemed to go on and on and on.
This was the sound of someone being killed.
Had they gone ahead with Kate and Harold’s execution anyway?
The screaming stopped like a spigot had been turned off.
Jennifer looked down.
She was on her feet, standing on the cold hardwood floor.
She went to the window, raised it several inches higher.
Cold flooded in.
Someone shouted inside a house nearby.
A door slammed.
Somebody sprinted through the alley.
Another scream echoed through the valley, but this one was different. It was the same sound that monster had made inside the sheriff’s Bronco.
A god-awful, inhuman shriek.
Other screams answered as a strong, pungent smell—like rotten musk—pushed into the bedroom, riding on the breeze.
A low, throaty growl started down in her garden.
Jennifer closed her window and threw the lock.
She stumbled back, and as she sat down on the mattress, something came through the living-room window downstairs.
Jennifer jerked her head toward the door.
The candle flame on the dresser winked out.
She let out a gasp.
The room was pitch black, her hand invisible in front of her face.
She jumped to her feet and staggered toward the bedroom door, banged her knee on a hope chest at the foot of the bed, but managed to stay on her feet.
She reached the door.
Heard the steps creaking as something came up the staircase.
Jennifer eased the door shut and felt around for the lock.
It clicked into the housing.
Whatever had broken into her house was now out in the hallway, the floorboards groaning under its weight.
More noise downstairs.
Clicks and screeches filling the house.