The barkeep said, “Sir?”
“Johnnie Walker Blue. Neat.”
“Those bottles are actually more for atmosphere and extra special occasions.”
“All right. Then what do you recommend?”
“I make a mean martini.”
“By all means.”
He watched the barkeep pour from various unmarked bottles into a big martini glass, which he set on Ethan’s napkin and garnished with a wedge of green apple.
The man said, “Cheers. First one’s on me.”
As Ethan raised the glass to his lips, he heard Kate’s voice: “Now try and keep an open mind.”
She claimed the barstool beside him as he sipped.
He said, “Wow. Well at least they got the glassware right. Until now, I’ve never actually wanted to untaste something.”
It was odorless, but on the tongue the overwhelming note was burn, followed by a strong citrus pucker, and a finish that was mercifully short, like the flavor had just fallen off a cliff.
He carefully returned the martini glass to the napkin.
“You aren’t going to tell me this bathtub gin grows on you.”
Kate laughed. “You look good, Agent Burke. I have to say the elegance of the black suit and tie suits you a thousand times better than that woodsy sheriff getup.”
In the reflection of the mirror, people were dancing to a slow jazz tune. He spotted Imming and his goons in tuxedoes, passing a mason jar and watching the band.
Ethan reached for the stem of the martini glass, thought better of it.
“Nice digs,” he said. “How’d you get all of this up here?”
“We’ve been bringing things for years. Glad you could make it.”
“Well, I barely did, and I still don’t understand what it is I made it to. Is this a costume party?”
“So what’s everyone pretending to be?”
“See, that’s the thing. Nobody here is pretending, Ethan. This is a place to come and be who you really are.” She turned in her barstool, surveyed the crowd. “We talk about our past here. Our lives before. Who we were. Where we lived. We remember the people we loved, who we’ve been separated from. We talk about Wayward Pines. We talk about whatever we want, and we have no fear of anything inside this room. It isn’t allowed.”
“Do you talk about leaving?”
“So you’ve never been to the fence?”
She sipped the foul concoction posing as a martini.
“But you didn’t go to the other side.”
“No, I just wanted to see it. Since we started coming to this cave, we’ve had three people cross to the other side.”
She hesitated. “There’s a secret tunnel.”
“And let me guess.”
“None of them ever returned.”
“That’s right.” She stepped down off her stool. “Dance with me.”
Ethan took her hand.
They walked across the uneven rock into the throng of slow dancers.
He cupped his hand to her back but kept a respectful distance.
“Harold won’t mind,” Kate said. “He’s not the jealous type.”
Ethan pulled her closer, their bodies almost touching. “How about this?”
“When I said he’s not the jealous type, that wasn’t a dare.”
But she didn’t pull back.
He hated how good it felt to touch her again.
“What do all these people think of me being here? They act like they don’t even realize the sheriff is in the house.”
“Oh, they realize. We had discussions about it. I convinced them you could be trusted. That we needed you. I stuck my neck out.”
“You do need me. That’s true.”
“Question is, do we have you?”
“If I say no, will I wind up naked and stabbed to death in the middle of the road?”
He felt Kate’s fingernails dig into his shoulder.
There was fire in her eyes.
“Not me, not any of my people laid a finger on Alyssa. We aren’t revolutionaries, Ethan. We don’t come to this cave to stockpile weapons and plan a coup. We meet here to be in a place where we aren’t watched. To feel like human beings instead of prisoners.”
He guided her away from the music.
“I’ve been wondering something,” he said.
“Two things really. First, how did you figure out that you had a microchip in your leg? Second—how did you know that if you removed the microchip, the cameras wouldn’t see you? I don’t know how you could possibly have just guessed that.”
She looked away from him.
Ethan pulled her out of the main cavern and into the colder passageway.
It had been there always—he saw it now. An embedded suspicion. But up until this moment, until he’d actually voiced the question, the simplicity of the truth had eluded him.
He said, “Kate, look at me. Tell me the truth about Alyssa.”
God, he’d forgotten how well he knew this woman, how easily he could see straight through her. He thought of the photograph of Kate and Alyssa behind the bar as he caught something else in her eyes that she could no longer hide—pain, loss.
“She wasn’t only their spy, was she?”
Kate’s eyes filling with tears.
“She was yours too.”
They spilled down her cheeks and she let them go.
She said, “Alyssa reached out to me.”
“Years? So you know everything. You’ve known all this time.”
“No. She never told us what was beyond the fence. She said it was for our own safety. In fact, she made it clear that leaving would be death, that all of us, her included, were stuck here. I believed her. Most of us did. I never knew where Alyssa came from. Where she lived when she wasn’t in town. How she knew all these things that we didn’t. But she hated how we’re treated. These conditions. She said there were others like her who felt the same way, and she gave her life to help.”
“She was your friend?”
“One of my best.”
“So the bell pepper, the secret notes, Alyssa’s investigation…”
“All for show. They made her investigate us. Maybe they were onto her. Suspected what she was doing.”
“Do you know who they are? Did she ever tell you?”