“Ethan, tell us everything you saw.”
Threatened with her life, Alyssa might not have named names, but she had undoubtedly told her father, or Pam, the truth.
She would’ve said that Kate’s group wasn’t dangerous.
Weren’t planning a revolution.
That they only met to experience moments of freedom.
And still she was murdered.
The truth hadn’t helped Kate and her group. The truth hadn’t saved Alyssa.
In a moment of horrifying, blinding clarity, he understood what he had to do.
“Ethan, for f**k’s sake.”
But his only play.
He said, “I got in.”
“What does that mean?”
Ethan smiled. “I saw the inner circle.”
“You were taken to where they meet?”
“They blindfolded me and led me off into the forest. We climbed this cliff to a cavern halfway up the mountain.”
“Could you find this place on your own?”
“I think so. I wasn’t blindfolded for the return trip.”
“I’ll want you to draw a map.”
“So what did you see?”
“There were fifty or sixty people there.”
“Including your former partner and her husband?”
“Oh yes. And Kate and Harold? They were clearly running the show.”
“You recognized others?”
“We’ll need a full list of names.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem. But you should know something.”
“I went into last night expecting a harmless gathering. Anytime there are rules in place, it’s human nature for people to sneak around them. The speakeasies of the 1920s are a perfect example. But this gathering, these meetings—they aren’t harmless.”
Pilcher and Pam exchanged a glance, the surprise in their faces unmistakable.
Clearly, Alyssa had told them the opposite.
Ethan said, “Frankly, I thought you were just being a control freak, but you were right. They’re actively recruiting new members. And they have weapons.”
“Weapons? What kind?”
“Homemade mostly. Hatchets. Knives. Bats. I saw one or two handguns. They’re amassing quite the armory.”
“What do they want?”
“Look, everyone was very nervous having me around.”
“I can imagine.”
“But from what I gathered, they want to take control. To turn the entire town. That much is clear. They aren’t risking their lives to go to these meetings just to sit around and talk about the good old days before Wayward Pines. They know they’re under surveillance. They know there’s a fence. Some of them have even gone to the other side.”
“I don’t know yet.” Ethan wrapped his hands around his coffee mug to let them warm against the heated porcelain. “I’ll be honest. I was skeptical going in,” Ethan said. “But you… we… have a serious problem.”
“What about Alyssa?” Pam asked.
“Are you asking if they killed her?”
“Well, nobody walked up and confessed while I was there, but what do you think? Look, these people are ultra-paranoid about being discovered. They don’t know specifically who you are, David, but they know someone like you exists. They know someone is controlling all of this. And they want to stop you by any means necessary. They want a war. Liberty or death and all that shit.”
Tim returned carrying a silver tray.
He set down a plate of fresh fruit—certainly the last of it—from the gardens.
“A poached egg on sourdough for you, Mr. Pilcher. Eggs Benedict for you, Pam. And scrambled for you, Sheriff.”
He freshened up everyone’s coffee and left.
Pilcher took a bite of his egg, studied Ethan for a moment.
He said finally, “You understand, Ethan, that a war between the last several hundred human beings on the face of the earth is something that cannot be allowed to happen.”
“What would you propose?”
“If you were me, what would you do?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t really had a chance to consider it.”
“Why do I find that hard to believe? Pam?”
“Well now. First things first, I would have our super-duper sheriff here write down the names of each and every person he saw last night at the little soiree. Then I would ask me,” she pointed at herself, “to put together a small team. We’d roll through town, and in one night, disappear every last motherfucker on that list.” She smiled. “Then again, I’m on the rag, so maybe I’m just feeling a bit bloody—no pun intended.”
“You would put them all back into suspension?” Pilcher asked.
“Or kill them horribly. I mean, at this point, they kind of strike me as lost causes, don’t you think?”
“How many did you say there were, Ethan?”
“Fifty or sixty.”
“I can’t see sacrificing so many of my people. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I have to think there’s a percentage of Kate’s group who could be persuaded by means less final than torture and death.”
Pilcher dashed a modest helping of salt across his egg.
Took a bite.
Gazed out the window in the rock.
It was a stunning vista through the face of a cliff. A thousand feet below, a forest swept down the mountainside into town.
When Pilcher turned back to the table, he wore a new look of resolve.
He said, “Ethan, it’s going to be an interesting night ahead for you.”
“You’re going to call your first fête.”
“Kate and Harold Ballinger will be the guests of honor.”
Pam was beaming.
“What a brilliant idea,” she said. “Cut off the head of the snake, the rest of it dies.”
Pilcher said, “I know the only fête you’ve experienced, Ethan, was your own, but I assume you’ve studied the manual. That you know what will be expected of you.”
“Any qualms with overseeing the execution of your former fling?” Pam asked.
“Your sensitivity is overwhelming,” Ethan said. “Someday remind me to explain to you what empathy is.”
“Perhaps it was poorly phrased,” Pilcher said, “but the question is apt. Are you up to this, Ethan? And don’t misunderstand me and think that I’m implying you have a choice in the matter.”