“Can you hear me?” Ted’s voice came loud and clear through the speakers.
Ted’s fingers worked the touchscreens and the image of Wayward Pines and Brad Fisher’s lifelong trajectory switched back to twenty-five separate images.
“I’m one of three real-time surveillance techs,” Ted said. “Through that door over there, we have four more surveillance techs reviewing flagged footage and audio round-the-clock. Tracking persons of interest. Generating reports. Communicating with our in-town team. With you. Do you understand how the system gathers and sorts data?”
“I’m not saying video isn’t crucial, but it’s really the audio that we lean most heavily on. Our system runs state-of-the-art voice recognition software, which pings off certain words, tones of voice. We’re not looking as closely at the actual words as the emotion behind them. We also have body-language recognition, but it’s less effective.”
“Care to demonstrate?”
“Sure. Bear with me. It’ll be disorienting at first.”
The screens began to change.
—a woman washing dishes—
—a schoolroom, with Megan Fisher pointing at a blackboard—
—the riverside park, empty—
—a man sitting in a chair in a house staring into nothing—
—a man and woman f**king in a shower—
It went on like this.
Images coming faster and faster.
Snippets of audio.
Pieces of conversation meaningless and out of context, like a child turning through stations on a radio dial.
“You catch that?” Ted asked.
The images froze. One of them filled the screens.
The view looked down from a ceiling at a woman leaning against a refrigerator, her crossed arms outlined in DayGlo.
“There,” Ted said. “That’s a defensive posture. See the recognition overlay?”
A man stood in front of her, his face out of view.
“Let’s see if we can’t capture a better angle.”
Three different camera views of the kitchen streamed past too quickly for Ethan to process any of it.
“Nope, that’s as good as it gets.”
Ethan watched Ted’s right hand raise a digital volume bar.
The eavesdropped-upon conversation became prominent in his headset.
The woman said, “But I saw you with her.”
The man said, “When?”
“Yesterday. You guys were sitting at the same table in the library.”
“We’re friends, Donna. That’s all.”
“How do I know it’s not more than that?”
“Because you trust me? Because I love you and would never do anything to hurt you?”
Ted killed the volume. “Okay. I remember this couple. He is actually cheating on her. He’s done it with at least four women I can think of. Real scumbag.”
“So you won’t continue to monitor this?”
“No, we will.” He typed as he talked. “I’m flagging this camera feed right now. Later today, one of my techs will scan Mr. Cheater’s footage from the last week or so. Confirm none of his trysts are getting out of control. Mr. Pilcher and Pam will have surveillance reports on their desks first thing tomorrow.”
“They’ll take whatever action they deem necessary.”
“You mean they’ll stop him from doing this?”
“If his behavior is seen as a threat to the general peace? Absolutely.”
“What will they do to him?”
Ted looked up from the controls and smiled. “You mean what will you do. All likelihood, you’ll be the one to handle it, Sheriff Burke.”
Ted reset the screens to the single aerial view of Wayward Pines.
“Now that you have a basic understanding of how our system works and its capabilities, I’m at your disposal. What do you want to see?”
Ethan leaned back in his chair.
“Can you pull up Alyssa’s tracking chip?”
A red blip appeared in a house at the east end of town.
Ted said, “Obviously, that’s not her. The night of her death, Alyssa removed her microchip and left it in her bedside table drawer.”
“I didn’t even know Pilcher had a daughter. How’s he holding up?”
“To be honest, I don’t know. David’s a complicated man. Values, above all, control of his emotions. He’s grieving privately, I’m sure.”
“Where’s Alyssa’s mother?”
“Not here,” Ted said in a tone that discouraged further inquiry.
“All right, let me see her movement around town going back one week.”
Ted worked at the controls.
The blip went from the house, to the community gardens, and back.
Then it moved out of the house and off the map.
“Was that when she was last inside the mountain?” Ethan asked.
Alyssa’s microchip moved back into town.
Up and down Main Street.
The community gardens.
Then home again.
Ethan stood up from his chair and stretched his arms over his head.
“Can you pull another microchip?” Ethan asked.
“You mean Kate Ballinger.”
Ted keyed in her name and tapped a panel with his right hand.
A second blip materialized in another part of town.
Ethan asked, “Is it possible for you to isolate all instances where these two dots were in the same place at the same time?”
“Now you’re talking. How far back?”
“Same date range. Starting one week ago.”
Ethan watched Ted input the parameters into a data field.
When he looked back at the screens, there were four paired blips on the aerial map.
“Pull video and audio feed from each encounter? Thought you’d never ask.” Ted exploded the first of two pairs of dots in the community gardens. “This was the first encounter,” he said. “Happened six days ago. Give me a second. Let me find the best angle.” He cruised through a number of vantage points—far too fast for Ethan to comprehend anything. “Okay, here’s our winner.”
Kate filled the screens. She wore a summer dress, sunglasses, a straw hat. She strolled toward the camera between rows of raised flowerbeds. A woven basket dangled from one arm, bulging with vegetables and fruit.