“Let’s not bother her for a while, okay? She’s had a hard day.”

Ethan gathered up an armful of blankets from the stash under the sofa and headed back to the study.

Theresa was shivering.

He wrapped her up.

Said, “I’ll make you something warm for dinner.”

She smiled through the pain. “That’d be great.”

Then he leaned in and whispered, “Come out in one hour, but no matter how much it hurts, walk straight. If they catch you limping on the cameras, they’ll know.”

Ethan stood at the kitchen sink, staring into the blackness out the window. Three days ago, it had been the end of summer. Leaves just beginning to take on color. Jesus, fall had been a blink—from August to December in seventy-two hours.

The fruit and veggies in the refrigerator were almost certainly the last fresh things they would eat for months to come.

He filled a pot with water and put it on the range to boil.

Stuck a roomy saucepan beside it, turned the eye up to medium, and poured a spot of olive oil.

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They had five vine-ripened tomatoes left—just enough.

A dinner plan percolated.

He smashed a clove of garlic, diced an onion, dumped it all into the oil.

While things sizzled, he chopped tomatoes.

He could’ve been standing in their kitchen in Seattle. Late Saturday afternoons, he’d put on a Thelonious Monk record, open a bottle of red, and immerse himself in cooking a fabulous dinner for his family. No better way to unwind after a long week. This moment had the feel of those peaceful evenings, all the trappings of normal. Except that a half hour ago he’d cut a tracking chip out of the back of his wife’s leg in the one spot in their house that wasn’t under constant surveillance.

Except for that.

He added the tomatoes and crushed them into the onions and poured more oil and leaned over the stovetop into the sweet-smelling wafts of steam, trying, just for a beat, to embrace the fantasy.

Theresa came out as he was rinsing the pasta. She was smiling and he thought he sensed pain in it—a subtle strain—but there was no falter to her gait. They ate dinner as a family on a blanket in the living room, crowded around the woodstove and listening to the radio.

Hecter Gaither was playing Chopin.

The food was good.

The heat enveloping.

And it all passed too quickly.

After midnight.

Ben slept.

They’d burned through the coffee table in two hours, and now the Victorian was plunging back into the deep freeze.

Ethan and Theresa lay facing each other in bed.

He whispered, “Are you ready?”

She nodded.

“Where’s your necklace?”

“I’m wearing it.”

“Take it off, leave it on the bedside table.”

When she’d done it, she said, “Now what?”

“We wait one minute.”

They dressed in the dark.

Ethan looked in on their son, found the boy out cold.

He walked downstairs with Theresa.

Neither said a word.

As he opened the front door, Ethan raised the hood of his black sweatshirt and motioned for Theresa to do the same.

They went outside.

Streetlamps and porch lights punctuated the darkness.

Frigid and no stars.

They walked out into the middle of the street.

Ethan said, “We can talk now. How’s your leg?”

“Agony.”

“You’re a rock star, babe.”

“I thought I was going to pass out. I wish I had.”

They moved west toward the park.

Soon they could hear the river.

“Are we really safe out here?” Theresa asked.

“We’re not safe anywhere. But at least without our chips, the cameras won’t pick us up.”

“I feel like I’m fifteen again, sneaking out of my parents’ house. It’s so quiet.”

“I love coming out late. You never crept out before? Not even once?”

“Of course not.”

They left the street and wandered into the playing field.

Fifty yards away, the bulb of a single streetlamp shone down on the swing set.

They walked until they reached the end of the park, the edge of the river.

Sat down in the dying grass.

Ethan could smell the water but he couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see his hands in front of his face. Invisibility had never felt so comforting.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” he said. “It was a moment of weakness. I just couldn’t stand to have this lie between us. For us not to be on the same page.”

“Of course you should have told me.”

“Why?”

“Because this town is bullshit.”

“But it’s not like there’s something better out there. If you ever dreamed of leaving Wayward Pines, I destroyed that sliver of hope.”

“I’ll take the truth any day. And I still want to leave.”

“It’s not possible.”

“Anything’s possible.”

“Our family would be slaughtered in the first hour.”

“I can’t live like this, Ethan. I thought about it all day. I can’t stop thinking about it. I won’t live in a house where I’m spied on. Where I have to whisper to have a real conversation with my husband. I’m done living in a town where my son goes to school and I can’t know what he’s being taught. Do you know what they’re teaching him?”

“No.”

“And you’re fine with that?”

“Of course not.”

“So f**king do something about it.”

“Pilcher has a hundred and sixty people living inside the mountain.”

“There are four or five hundred of us.”

“They’re armed. We’re not. Look, I didn’t tell you what was going on so you’d ask me to blow everything up.”

“I won’t live like this.”

“What do you want from me, Theresa?”

“Fix it.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking.”

“You want your son growing up—”

“If burning this town to the f**king ground would make things just a little better for you and Ben, I would’ve torched it my first day on the job.”

“We’re losing him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It started last year. It’s only getting worse.”

“How?”

“He’s drifting away, Ethan. I don’t know what they’re teaching him, but it’s stealing him away from us. There’s a wall going up.”