Pam and Pilcher were coming down the Level 2 corridor, two guards in tow.

Ethan glared at Ted. “You alerted them?”

“Of course not. Sit down.”

“Why?”

Ted attacked the touchscreens.

The surveillance cam feeds disappeared.

“Get them back,” Ethan said.

“If this means what I think it means, we don’t need that on the screen when they walk in here.”

Ted pulled an aerial map of Wayward Pines, zoomed down onto Kate Ballinger’s house, and exploded the interactive blueprint.

He pushed down into the camera over her bed.

Kate and Harold filled the screens—dawn light coming through their windows as they dressed.

Advertisement..

Ethan took a seat. “You’re actually helping me?”

“Maybe.”

Voices came into range just outside the door.

Then the sound of a lock clicking back.

“You better think of something quick, Sheriff.”

Ethan said, “One last thing. If I needed to speak to someone in a pinch in the middle of the day in the middle of town—”

“The bench on the corner of Main and Ninth. Blind spot. Deaf spot.”

The door opened.

Pilcher entered first, Pam right on his heels.

He said over his shoulder, presumably to the guards, “Just hang back a moment. I’ll let you know.”

Pilcher strode into the middle of the room and stared down at Ethan with a bright, focused anger.

“Marcus is in the infirmary with a concussion and a cracked skull.”

Ethan said, “Little shit pointed a gun at me. Lucky he’s not in the morgue. You give him that authority?”

“I told him to drive into town, find you, and bring you back to me by whatever means necessary.”

“Well, then I guess he has you to thank for the cracked skull.”

“What are you doing here?”

“What’s it look like?”

Pilcher looked at Ted.

Ted volunteered, “He wanted to see some live footage of the Ballinger residence.”

On the screens, Kate had moved into the kitchen.

She was running water through a French press, washing out the old coffee grounds.

Pilcher smiled. “What’s wrong, Ethan? Didn’t get enough face time last night? I’d like to see you in my residence right now.”

Ethan stepped toward Pilcher.

He had a good six inches on the man as he stared down at the tip of his nose.

Said, “I’d be happy to accompany you, David, but first I feel the need to share with you that if you ever pull any shit like that again—sending your lackey to fetch me with a gun—”

“Careful,” Pilcher cut him off. “The back end of that sentence could be expensive.”

He looked around the side of Ethan.

“You sure everything’s okay here, Ted?”

“Yes, sir.”

Pilcher looked back at Ethan, said, “After you.”

Ethan tucked his hands into his front pocket as he walked past Pam. She was smiling like a maniac, her skin still glazed with sweat from the gym.

Outside in the corridor, two large, powerful men stood on either side of the doorframe. They were dressed in plainclothes, but submachine guns dangled on straps from their necks and they watched Ethan with aggressive eye contact.

Pilcher led everyone down the corridor and swiped his keycard at the pair of unmarked doors that accessed the elevator to his residence.

He glanced back at his guards. “I think we’ve got it from here, gentlemen.”

When they were all in the car, Pilcher said, “Marcus tells me you stole his keycard?”

Ethan handed it over.

“Looks like you had a rough night, honey,” Pam said.

Ethan glanced down at his hoodie—still damp, streaked with mud, torn in several places.

He said, “I was on my way home to clean up when Marcus intercepted me.”

“I’m glad he did.” She smiled. “I like you dirty.”

When they reached Pilcher’s residence, Pam grabbed Ethan’s arm and held him back in the car.

She put her lips to his ear and whispered, “I happened to see you and Theresa out on your midnight stroll last night. Oh, don’t make that face. I haven’t told anyone. Yet. But I just wanted to let you know that I own you now.”

Pilcher showed Ethan and Pam to a circular glass table on the outskirts of an immaculate kitchen. His personal chef was already working up breakfast—the smell of eggs and bacon and ham wafting over from the large Viking stovetop.

Pilcher said, “Good morning, Tim.”

“Morning, sir.”

“Would you mind bringing out coffee? You can take our orders too. There’ll be three of us.”

“Of course.”

The light coming through the window beside the table was gray and dismal.

Pilcher said, “I hear it snowed last night.”

Ethan said, “Just a dusting.”

“First snow seems to come earlier every year. It’s only August.”

A young, clean-shaven man in a chef’s coat walked over from the kitchen carrying a tray with three porcelain cups and a large French press.

He set everything on the glass and carefully lowered the plunger.

Filled everyone’s cup.

Said, “I know that Pam and Mr. Pilcher take it black. Sheriff? May I get you some cream and sugar?”

“No thanks,” Ethan said.

It smelled like good coffee.

It tasted infinitely better than what they served in town.

The way Ethan remembered it from Seattle.

Pam said, “You would’ve been so proud of our sheriff yesterday, David.”

“Oh yeah? What’d he do?”

“He visited with Wayne Johnson. Your first integration, right, Ethan?”

“Yeah.”

“Mr. Johnson was having a difficult time, asking the hard questions they all ask. Ethan handled it perfectly.”

“Glad to hear that,” Pilcher said.

“It was like watching our baby boy take his first steps. Just really beautiful.”

Tim took their orders and headed back into the kitchen.

Pilcher said, “So we’re dying to hear all about your evening, Ethan.”

Ethan stared down at the steam rising off the surface of his coffee. He was in a rough spot. If this man were capable of killing his own daughter, what would he do to Ethan and his family if Ethan refused to name names?

But if Ethan spilled, he was signing Kate’s death warrant.

Impossible choices.

And if that wasn’t enough, Pam knew that he’d removed Theresa’s chip.