“We were told to wait,” the blond said.
Ethan shoved the door closed after him.
The morgue smelled like a morgue. Antiseptic not quite masking the embedded musk of death.
The flooring was white tile, badly stained, and slightly concave with a large drain in the center.
Alyssa lay naked on the stainless-steel autopsy table.
The sink behind the table was leaking, the sound of dripping water echoing off the walls.
Ethan had only been inside the morgue once before. He hadn’t liked it then, and he found it infinitely less charming with a corpse in situ.
There were no windows, no other source of light but the examination lamp.
Standing next to the autopsy table, everything beyond was lost to darkness.
Over the drip-drip-drip came the hum of the refrigerated morgue drawers—a stack of six stationed against the wall beside the sink.
The truth was he didn’t know what he was doing. He wasn’t a coroner by a long shot. But Pilcher had insisted he examine the body and produce a report.
Ethan set his Stetson on the organ scale above the sink.
Reaching up, he took hold of the lamp.
In the hard light, the wounds looked clean. Neat. Impeccable. No ragged skin. Just dozens and dozens of black windows into devastation.
The woman’s skin was the color of primer under the burn.
He went appendage by appendage studying the punctures.
It grew harder with her lying dead on a table under this cruel clinical light to think of her as Alyssa.
He raised her left arm into the light and studied her hand. There was dirt under her fingernails. Or blood. He imagined her hands desperately pushing into the fresh wounds, fighting to stanch the blood that must have been pouring out of her.
So why, aside from the oak leaf fragments in her hair, was she otherwise clean? Without a trace of blood or bloodstain on her skin? He hadn’t seen any blood where he’d found her in the road. She’d obviously been killed elsewhere and moved to that place. Why had they drained her blood? To transport her without leaving a trail? Or something more sinister?
Ethan studied her other arm.
He didn’t want to, but he shined the light briefly between her thighs.
No bruising or damage evident to his untrained eye that might suggest sexual assault.
Because he couldn’t help but handle her body gently, it took him three tries to roll her over.
Her arms clanged against the metal table.
He brushed the bits of gravel and dirt off her back.
There was a recent wound on the back of her left leg.
A scarred-over incision.
The cut made—he guessed—to extract her microchip.
He pushed the light away and eased down onto the steel, adjustable stool. The way she lay draped across the cold table—exposed, degraded—ignited something inside of him.
Ethan sat in the dark wondering if Kate could really have done this.
After a while, he got up and walked to the door.
Pilcher’s men stopped talking when he stepped out. He looked at the tall blond and said, “Could I speak with you for a minute?”
Ethan held the door and the man walked into the morgue.
“What’s your name?” Ethan asked.
Ethan pointed to the stool. “Have a seat.”
“What is this?”
“I’m asking you a few questions.”
Alan looked dubious. “I was told to bring her here and put her into cold storage when you were finished.”
“Well I’m not finished.”
“Nobody said anything about answering questions.”
“Quit flexing and sit down.”
The man didn’t move. He had a good four inches on Ethan. His shoulders were miles apart. Ethan could feel his body priming for a fight, heart rate ramping, battle trance coming on. He didn’t want to throw first, but if he didn’t have surprise, if he didn’t bring Alan down in the first few seconds, the likelihood of beating this man who was built like a Norse god seemed a bit of a stretch.
Ethan dropped his chin an inch.
A half second before he exploded off the balls of his feet and drove his forehead into the man’s face, Alan turned and took a seat as instructed.
“This isn’t what I was told,” Alan said.
“David Pilcher, your boss, has given me unlimited access, unlimited resources, to find out who did this. You want me to find out, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.”
“Did you know Alyssa?”
“Yeah. There are only a hundred and sixty of us in the mountain.”
“So it’s a tight-knit group?”
“Were you aware of Alyssa’s activities in Pines?”
“So you two were close?”
Alan stared at her body on the table. The muscles in his jaw fluttered—rage, sadness.
“Had you been intimate with her before, Alan?”
“Do you know what happens when a hundred and sixty people live in close quarters, knowing they’re all that’s left of mankind?”
“Everybody f**ks everybody?”
“You got it. We’re a family in that mountain. We’ve lost some of our own before. Mostly nomads who never returned. Got themselves eaten. But never anything like this.”
“Everybody’s shaken up?”
“Big time. You know that’s the only reason Pilcher’s letting you do this, right? He banned everyone from investigating her death.”
“Because of retaliation.”
A subtle, raging smile tugged at the corner of Alan’s mouth.
“Do you have any concept of the slaughter I could rain down on this town with a team of ten armed men?”
“You understand not everyone in Wayward Pines is responsible for her death.”
“Like I said, there’s a reason Pilcher’s letting you run this show.”
“Tell me about Alyssa’s assignment.”
“I knew she was living with the townies. But no details really.”
“When’s the last time you saw her?”
“Two nights ago. Sometimes, Alyssa would come back to the mountain to stay the night. It was strange. You ever seen our barracks?”
“I think so.”
“There are no windows. We’re talking small, cramped, impersonal spaces. In Pines, she got to live in a house all to herself, but she missed sleeping in her room in the mountain. Go figure. Considering who she was, she could’ve lived anywhere. Done whatever she wanted. But she pulled her weight. She was one of us.”