“What kind of law does Mr. Fisher practice?” Theresa knew it was a stupid question. All likelihood, Mr. Fisher sat in a silent, rarely visited, rarely called office all day just like she did.

“Not sure,” Ethan said. “We’ll have to put that on our list of things to talk about.” He squeezed her hand. It was sarcasm in her husband’s voice. No one else would have picked it up, but to her it was biting. She looked up at him, smiled. Something shared and knowing in his eyes. The intimacy of an inside joke.

It was the closest she’d felt to him since his return.

She could envision a lifetime spent trying to create such flashes of connection.

The Fishers lived in a cozy house at the northern edge of town.

Megan Fisher opened the door before Ethan even had a chance to knock. She was midtwenties and very pretty in a white dress with lacing along the bottom. The brown headband that kept her hair back was the same color as her tanned, freckled shoulders.

Her smile reminded Theresa of a movie star smile—toothy and wide, and if you stared too hard at it, not quite real.

“Welcome to our home, Theresa and Ethan! We’re so thrilled you could make it!”

“Thanks for having us,” Ethan said.

Theresa presented the bread wrapped in cloth.

Megan cocked her head disapprovingly. “Now, I told you not to bring a thing.” She accepted it nonetheless. “Oh, it’s still warm!”

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“Fresh out of the oven.”

“Please come in.”

Theresa reached up and swiped Ethan’s cowboy hat.

“I can take that,” Megan said.

The house smelled like supper, and supper smelled good. The heat coming out of the kitchen brought with it chicken roasting with garlic and potatoes.

Brad Fisher was in the dining room, arranging the last of four place settings at an elaborately candled table.

He walked into the foyer with a smile and a hand outstretched. Two or three years older than his wife and still wearing—Theresa guessed—his work clothes. Black wingtips, gray slacks, a tieless white oxford with the sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms. He looked like a young lawyer, exuding a streak of hard, scrappy intelligence.

Ethan shook his hand.

“Sheriff, great to have you in our home.”

“Great to be here.”

“Hello, Mrs. Burke.”

“Please. Theresa.”

Megan said, “I’ve got a couple things to finish up before we sit down. Theresa, want to help me in the kitchen? Perhaps the guys can enjoy a beverage on the back porch.”

Theresa washed a bag of salad greens. Through the window over the sink, she could see Ethan and Brad standing out in the grass with glasses of whiskey. She couldn’t tell if they were actually talking. The yard was fenced. It backed right up against a cliff that soared over a thousand feet in a series of dwindling, pine-studded ledges.

“Megan, you have a beautiful home,” Theresa said.

“Thank you. You’re too kind.”

“I believe you’re teaching my son this year.” She didn’t mean to say it. The words just came. It could’ve been an awkward moment, but Megan recovered graciously.

“I sure am. Ben’s a lovely boy. One of my best.”

And offered nothing else.

Their conversation moved in fits and starts.

Theresa sliced a warm beet into livid-purple medallions.

“Where do you want these?” she asked.

“Right here would be great.”

Megan held out a wooden bowl and Theresa scooped in two handfuls. She thought beets smelled like dirt in a weirdly pleasing way.

“You work in real estate, right?” Megan asked.

“I do.”

“I’ve seen you through the storefront window, sitting behind that desk.” She leaned in confidentially. “Brad and I are trying, if you know what I mean.”

“Really?”

“If we’re successful and Mr. Stork brings us a special delivery, we’ll be in the market for a bigger place. Maybe we’ll come see you. Let you be our agent. Show us some of the best properties Pines has to offer.”

“I’d love to help out,” Theresa said.

She still couldn’t get over the strangeness of standing in Megan’s kitchen like everything was normal. Megan had only come to town a couple of years ago, and her integration had been disastrous. She’d made two escape attempts. Tried to claw the former sheriff’s eyes out. Theresa could still remember sitting at her desk one afternoon and staring through the window as Megan broke down in the middle of Main Street in broad daylight, screaming at the top of her voice, “What the f**k is wrong with this place? What the f**k is wrong with this place? None of you are real!” Theresa had expected a fête that night, but the phones had never rung. Megan vanished. Three months later, Theresa saw her back in town—Megan walking down the sidewalk with a look of total peace. Soon she was teaching at the school. Then married to Brad. Megan had played important roles in subsequent fêtes. Had even wandered into the circle with a tire iron and dealt a blow to a dying runner.

Now they were cooking together while their husbands drank whiskey outside.

A question repeated in the back of Theresa’s mind as she washed the purple stains from her hands.

How did they finally break you?

Ethan stared up at the cliff and sipped his whiskey.

It was excellent—a Highland single malt. Aside from the awful-tasting beer on tap at the Biergarten, you couldn’t buy booze in town on a regular basis. Ethan supposed he understood Pilcher’s thinking—life in Wayward Pines was struggle enough. The presence of a liquor store might very well turn it into a town of drunks in short order. But every now and then, Pilcher released a few bottles of good stuff into circulation. They’d turn up at the grocery store, as expensive pours in the restaurants. And when the town was in a dry spell, people made their own.

“Scotch okay, Ethan?”

“It’s great. Thank you.”

Brad Fisher.

Ethan had read his file for the second time just last week.

Born in Sacramento.

Harvard law grad.

General counsel for a start-up in Palo Alto.

Brad had been traveling through Idaho on a two-week summer road trip with his new bride when they’d stopped in Wayward Pines for a night. The report had been unspecific regarding whether Pilcher had orchestrated the same type of collision he’d used on Ethan and many others.

Like everyone else in Pines, the Fishers had woken up eighteen hundred years later in this beautiful prison of a town.