As Hassler approached the entrance to the water tower, a woman stepped out of the shadows beside the door.

She said, “You’re late.”

“By five minutes. Relax. He up there?”

“Yeah.”

She couldn’t have been much older than twenty. A thin, muscular build, crazy gorgeous, but with dead eyes. An interesting choice for Pilcher’s muscle. She certainly put out the confidence of someone who could handle herself.

She stood between Hassler and the door, blocking his way.

He said, “Do you mind?”

For a beat, it seemed like she might, but she finally stepped aside.

As Hassler moved past, he said, “Don’t let anyone come up.”

“Thanks for telling me how to do my job, g-man.”

The metal clanged under Hassler’s wing tips.

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He trudged up the stairs.

The observation level was low lit, a circular brick wall punctuated with arched windows that had been covered in heavy-gauge screens to stop anyone from going through. More floor-to-ceiling fencing guarded the seventy-five-foot drop into the open spiral staircase.

Wearing a long black coat and a bowler hat, David Pilcher sat on a bench on the other side of the observation deck.

Hassler circled around and took a seat beside him.

For a moment, nothing but the sound of rain hammering on the roof above them.

Pilcher looked over with the faintest smile.

“Agent Hassler.”

“David.”

Out the window, the skyline of Seattle looked like a neon blur through the low cloud deck.

Pilcher reached into his coat and took out a fat envelope.

Set it in Hassler’s lap.

Hassler carefully opened it, peeked inside, thumbed through the hundred-dollar bills.

“Looks like thirty thousand to me,” he said, resealing the envelope.

“You have news?” Pilcher asked.

“It’s been fifteen months since Agent Burke’s disappearance and Agent Stallings’s death. There have been no leads. No new evidence. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying anyone at the Treasury Department is ever going to forget that we had one agent killed and three go MIA in Wayward Pines, Idaho. But with no new information, they’re just spinning in their tracks and they know it. Two days ago, the internal investigation into my missing agents was officially deprioritized.”

“What do your people think happened?”

“The theories?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s all over the map, but nothing remotely close to a bull’s-eye. They had Ethan Burke’s ‘hope service’ today.”

“What’s a hope service?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“You went?”

“I went to the after-party at Theresa’s house.”

“I’m going to pay her a visit after you and I are finished.”

“Really.”

“It’s time.”

“Theresa and Ben?”

“I have a theory that if I can keep families together when possible, the transition will be smoother on the other side.”

Hassler stood.

Walked over to the window.

Stared out past the glass conservatory, which was illuminated with holiday lights.

He could hear traffic and live music down in Capitol Hill, but up here at the top of the water tower, he felt removed from everything.

Hassler said, “Have you given any thought to what we talked about last time?”

“I have. And you?”

“It’s all I think about.” Hassler turned, stared at Pilcher. “What will it be like?”

“What will what be like?”

“Wayward Pines. When you come out of whatever it is you call—”

“Suspended animation.” Pilcher’s face grew dark. He said, “You already know far more about my project than I’m comfortable with.”

“If I wanted to bring you down, David, I could’ve done that months ago.”

“If I wanted you dead, Agent Hassler—you and everyone you love—there is nothing in the world stopping me from making that happen. Not from prison. Not from the grave.”

“So we’ve established trust,” Hassler said.

“Perhaps. Or at the very least, assured mutual destruction.”

“No difference in my book.” Freezing spits of rain blew in the window. Hassler felt them misting the back of his neck with an unpleasant chill. “So, back to my question, David. What will it be like when you all wake up?”

“At first, work. Lots and lots of work. The town will have to be rebuilt. That’ll take some time. But then? I don’t know. We’re talking two thousand years from now. This tower we’re standing in will be in ruin. That skyline? Gone. All the people in this city and their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren disintegrated into nothing. Even their bones.”

Hassler clutched the fencing over the window.

“I want to be a part of it.”

“It’s no guarantee, Adam.”

“I understand that.”

“This is Columbus in search of the East Indies. Man flying to the moon. A million things could go wrong and we never wake up. An asteroid could hit. An earthquake. We could wake to a toxic atmosphere or a hostile world we never imagined.”

“Do you really think that’ll happen?”

“I have no idea what we’ll be waking up to. Only an image in my head of this perfect little town where humanity gets a chance to start over. That’s all that’s ever driven me.”

“So you’d let me come along?”

“I’m already fully staffed. What skill set would you bring?”

“Intelligence. Ability to lead. Survival skills. I was a Delta Force operator before I joined the Secret Service, but I’m sure you already know that.”

Pilcher just smiled, said, “Well, I guess you’re in.”

“I have one favor to ask, and if you agree to it, you can have this envelope back.”

“What?”

“Ethan Burke never wakes up.”

“Why?”

“I want to be there with Theresa.”

“Theresa Burke.”

“That’s right.”

“Ethan’s wife.”

“Yes.”

Pilcher said, “Are you in love with her?”

“I am actually.”

“And is she in love with you?”

“Not yet. She’s never stopped loving him.” Hassler felt the ulcer flaring in his stomach. That green flame of envy. “He cheats on her with his ex-partner, Kate Hewson, and still she takes him back. Still she loves him. Have you ever met Theresa Burke?”