“I’ll find out.”

“You promise?”

“Yes, but you have to promise me something.”

“What?”

“You won’t breathe a word of anything I’ve told you. Not a single detail to anyone.”

“I’ll try my best.”

“One last thing.”

“What?”

“This is the first time we’ve been together in Wayward Pines without the cameras watching.”

“So?”

He leaned over and kissed her in the dark.

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They walked through town.

Ethan felt freezing motes begin to strike his face.

He said, “Is that what I think it is?”

In the distance, the light of a lonely streetlamp became a stage for snowflakes.

There was no wind. They fell straight down.

“Winter’s here,” Theresa said.

“But it was just summer several days ago.”

“Summer’s long. Winter’s long. Spring and fall shoot past. The last winter went on for nine months. The snow was ten feet deep at Christmas.”

He reached down and took hold of her mittened hand.

Not a sound in the entire valley.

Total hush.

Ethan said, “We could be anywhere. Some village in the Swiss Alps. Just two lovers out for a midnight stroll.”

“Don’t do that,” Theresa warned.

“Do what?”

“Pretend we’re in some other place and time. The people who pretend in this town go mad.”

They stayed off Main, kept to the side streets.

The houses were dark. With no woodsmoke in the valley, the snow-streaked air carried a clean, rinsed quality.

Theresa said, “Sometimes, I hear screams and screeches. They’re far away, but I hear them. He never mentions it, but I know that Ben hears them too.”

“Those are the abbies,” Ethan said.

“Strange he’s never asked me what the sound is. It’s like he already knows.”

They walked south beyond the hospital on the road that purported to lead out of town.

Streetlamps fell behind.

Darkness closed in.

A fragile quarter inch of snow dusted the pavement.

Ethan said, “I paid a visit to Wayne Johnson this afternoon.”

“I’m supposed to take him dinner tomorrow night.”

“I lied to him, Theresa. I told him this gets better. I told him it was just a town.”

“Me too. But that’s what they make you say, right?”

“Nobody can make me do anything. It’s always a choice in the end.”

“How’s he doing?”

“How do you think? Scared. Confused. He thinks he’s dead and this is hell.”

“Will he run?”

“Probably.”

At the edge of the forest, Ethan stopped.

He said, “The fence is about a mile straight ahead.”

“What are they like?” she asked. “The abbies.”

“Like all the bad things you have nightmares about when you’re a kid. They’re the monsters in the closet, under the bed. There are millions of them.”

“And you’re telling me we have a fence between us and them?”

“It’s a big fence. Has electricity going through it.”

“Oh, well, in that case.”

“And there’s a few snipers up on the peaks.”

“While Pilcher and his people live in safety in the mountain.”

Theresa walked a few steps down the road, the snow collecting on her shoulders, on her hoodie.

“Tell me something. What’s the point of all those pretty little houses with white picket fences?”

“I think he’s trying to preserve our way of life.”

“For who? Us or him? Maybe someone should tell him our way of life is over.”

“I’ve tried.”

“We should all be in that mountain, figuring something out. I’m not living the rest of my life in some psycho’s model train town.”

“Well, the man in charge doesn’t share your view. Look, we aren’t going to fix this tonight.”

“I know.”

“But we will fix it.”

“You swear?”

“I swear.”

“Even if it means losing everything?”

“Even if it means we lose our lives.” Ethan stepped forward, opened his arms, pulled her in close. “I’m asking you to trust me. You have to go on like nothing has changed.”

“That’s going to make my psychiatrist appointments interesting.”

“What appointments?”

“Once a month, I go to an appointment, talk to a shrink. I think everyone does. It’s the only time we’re allowed to open up to another human being. We get to share our fears, our thoughts, our secrets.”

“You can talk about anything?”

“Yes. I thought you knew about these meetings.”

Ethan felt his hackles rising.

He pushed the rage back down—it wouldn’t help him now.

“Who do you see?” he asked. “A man? A woman?”

“A woman. She’s very pretty.”

“What’s her name?”

“Pam.”

He closed his eyes, drew in a deep, cold shot of piney air.

“Do you know her?” Theresa asked.

“Yes.”

“And she’s one of Pilcher’s?”

“She’s pretty much his second in command. You can’t tell her anything about tonight. Or your chip. You understand? Nothing. Our family would be killed.”

“Okay.”

“Has she ever inspected the back of your leg?”

“No.”

“Has anyone?”

“No.”

He checked his watch—2:45 a.m. Nearly time.

He said, “Look, I’ve got someplace to be. I’ll walk you home.”

“Seeing Kate again?” she asked.

“And her group. Pilcher’s dying to know what they’re up to.”

“Let me come.”

“I can’t. She’s expecting just me. If suddenly you show up too, things could get—”

“Awkward?”

“It could spook her. Besides, she and her people might have killed someone.”

“Who?”

“Pilcher’s daughter. She was a spy. Point is, I don’t know if they’re dangerous or not.”

“Please be careful.”

Ethan took his wife’s hand and they turned back toward home.

The lights of Wayward Pines looked hazy through the snow.