A man wearing a headset turned in his swivel chair.
“I was told you could help me,” Ethan said.
The man stood. Short-sleeved button-down adorned with a clip-on tie. Balding. Mustached. What appeared to be a coffee stain on his lapel. He looked like he belonged in mission control, and the room certainly emanated a nerve-center vibe.
Ethan closed the distance between them, but he didn’t offer his hand.
Said, “I’m sure you know plenty about me, but I’m afraid I don’t even know your name.”
“I’m Ted. I head up the surveillance group.”
Ethan had tried to prepare himself for this moment. For meeting Pilcher’s number three, the man tasked with spying on the people of Wayward Pines in their most private moments. The urge to break his nose was even stronger than Ethan had anticipated.
Have you watched Theresa and me together?
“You’re investigating Alyssa’s murder?” Ted asked.
“She was a great woman. I want to do whatever I can to help.”
“Glad to hear that.”
“Please, have a seat.”
Ethan followed Ted over to the monitors. They sat down in swivel chairs on wheels. The control panel looked ready-made to fly an alien spacecraft. Multiple keyboards and touchscreen technology that looked more advanced than anything Ethan remembered from his world.
“Before we start,” Ethan said, “I want to ask you something.”
“All you do is sit in here and eavesdrop on private lives. Correct?”
Ted’s eyes seemed to cloud—was that shame?
“That is my life.”
“Were you aware of Alyssa’s mission in town?”
“Okay. So here’s my question. You’re in command of the most sophisticated surveillance system I’ve ever seen. How did you miss her murder?”
“We don’t catch everything here, Mr. Burke. There are thousands of cameras in town, but most of them are indoors. We had a far more extensive exterior network when Pines began fourteen years ago, but the elements have exacted considerable damage. They’ve killed cameras. Drastically limited our eyesight.”
“So whatever happened to Alyssa…”
“Occurred in a blind spot, yes.”
“These blind spots—do you know where they are?”
Ted turned his attention to the controls, his fingers moving at light speed across an array of touchscreens.
The camera feeds vanished.
Twenty-five monitors now merged into a single image—an aerial photograph of Wayward Pines.
Ted said, “So we’re looking at the town and the valley. Pretty much every square foot of real estate inside the boundary of the electrified fence. We can push in anywhere we want.” The image zoomed down onto the school—the playground equipment crystallizing into sharp focus.
“Is this real time?” Ethan asked.
“No. This photo was taken years ago. But it’s the grid upon which all of our tracking relies.”
Ted tapped the screen at his fingertips.
A DayGlo overlay appeared.
Most of the town was covered.
Ted pointed at the screens.
“Everywhere you see this overlay, we have a current, real-time, microchip-triggered camera feed. But you’ll notice black spots, even within the coverage.” He tapped his controls and a single house filled the screen. The overhead perspective changed to a three-dimensional street-level view. With a swipe of his finger, the Victorian’s windows and wood siding stripped away and the image became an interactive blueprint.
“You’ll note there are three blind spots in this residence. However…” The DayGlo overlay was replaced with solid red. “There are no what we call ‘deaf spots.’ This house, like every other residence in town, is sufficiently miked to capture anything above thirty decibels.”
“How loud is thirty decibels?”
Ted whispered, “A library conversation.” He returned the screens to the aerial image of Pines with the DayGlo overlay. “So aside from a few blind spots in each house, most of indoor Pines is thoroughly wired. But once you get outside, even in town, the system begins to show cracks in its veneer. Look at all the black areas. There’s a backyard with no visual surveillance whatsoever. The cemetery is a disaster—just a few cameras here and there. And as you move away from the center of Pines and toward the cliffs, it only gets worse. Look at these blind spots on the south side. Twenty-acre stretches of completely unmonitored terrain. Now, in theory, we have a way to handle that.”
Ted punched in something on a keyboard.
A new overlay meshed with the DayGlo.
Hundreds of red blips appeared.
The vast majority clustered in a six-block radius near the center of town.
Some were moving.
“Recognize those?” Ted asked.
“We’re reading four hundred sixty signals. One short.”
“That’s because I’m sitting here with you?”
Ted moved the cursor over a stationary blip in a building on Main Street. He tapped the touchscreen. A text bubble blossomed.
Ethan read, “Brad Fisher.”
“I believe you had dinner with Brad and his wife last night. It’s 10:11 a.m., and Mr. Fisher is in his law office. Right where he’s supposed to be. Of course, all this data can be massaged any number of ways.”
Every blip disappeared except for Fisher’s.
The time stamp at the bottom of the screen began to run backward.
His blip moved out of the building, north up Main Street, and into his house.
“How far back can you go?” Ethan asked.
“All the way to Mr. Fisher’s integration.”
The red dot raced all over town.
“And I can give him a trail,” Ted said.
A trail appeared and scribbled everywhere, like someone pushing a stylus across the screen.
“Impressive,” Ethan said.
“Of course, you understand our problem.”
“System works until people cut out their microchips.”
“It’s not an easy or painless procedure. Of course, you know that.”
“So what exactly do you do all day?” Ethan asked.
“You mean how does one go about monitoring an entire town?”
“Put on that headset.”
Ethan grabbed it off the console.