Went to the closet, unlocked the door.
He’d only opened it up once before, his avoidance purely psychological. The things inside represented what he hated most about this job, this town. What he’d been dreading since day one.
His predecessor’s costume hung from a brass wall hook.
During his own fête, he’d only glimpsed Sheriff Pope from afar, the details of this outfit lost in the midst of Ethan’s fear and panic.
Up close, it looked like the cloak of a demon king.
Fashioned out of a brown bear’s coat, there was extra fur padding under the shoulders and it tied across the collarbone with a link of heavy-gauge chain. The fur itself clumped in places where Ethan suspected blood had spattered, stuck, dried. But no effort had been made to clean the garment, which reeked like the breath of a scavenger—rotted blood and decay. None of it rivaled the adornments. The scalp of every prior guest of honor had been stitched into the fur. Thirty-seven in all. The earliest resembled beef jerky. The most recent were still pale.
On a shelf above the cloak rested the headdress.
The skull of an abby formed the centerpiece. The jaws were wide open, held in place with metal rods, and a rack of antlers had been screwed down into the top of the brainbox.
A sword and a shotgun lay across brackets in the wall, the rhinestones that covered them glittering under the overhanging lightbulb.
Ethan startled when his telephone rang.
Such a rare occurrence.
He walked out into his office, around his desk, and caught it on the fifth ring.
Answered, “Sheriff Burke speaking.”
“Do you know who this is?”
Even though he spoke at barely a whisper, Ethan recognized the voice as Ted’s.
He said, “Yes. How’d you know I was here?”
“How do you think?”
Of course—Ted was watching him from surveillance inside the mountain.
“Is it safe for us to talk like this?” Ethan asked.
“Not for long.”
“They’ll find out?”
“Eventually. Question is, will it matter when they do?”
“What does that mean exactly?”
“I found it.”
“That thing we were looking for. It was buried, hidden deep, but nothing can truly be erased.”
“Not over the phone. Can you meet me in the morgue in twenty minutes?”
“Dr. Miter just walked into your station. You better get going.”
Ethan heard voices in the background, the sudden shuffle of Ted hanging up his phone.
The moment Ethan shelved his phone it rang again.
“Hi, Belinda,” he said.
“Sheriff, there’s a Dr. Miter here to see you.”
To reinsert my microchip.
“I’m kind of in the middle of something. Would you mind getting him a cup of coffee and showing him over to the waiting area?”
Ethan opened the deep left-hand drawer of the desk, lifted out his leather belt and holster, strapped it on.
He turned his attention to the gun cabinets, unlocked the doors and the drawer on the middle one.
From the drawer, he lifted out a Desert Eagle, popped in the magazine, holstered it.
Then he took down the Model 389 Rifle—a camo-stock with a blued assembly and 4x32 scope.
His phone rang again.
He grabbed it.
“Um, Dr. Miter doesn’t really want to wait anymore.”
“A doctor who doesn’t want to wait. Do you see the irony there, Belinda?”
“I’m sorry, sir?”
“I’ll be right out.”
Ethan hung up the phone and moved to the window beside the gun cabinet. It was a slider. He opened the clasps, forced it open, then pushed the screen completely out of the frame.
Climbing awkwardly over the sill, he lowered himself behind the row of bushes that lined the front of the building.
Fought his way through the grabby branches and jogged down toward the street.
He’d driven the Bronco to work this morning and he pulled open the driver-side door and stowed the rifle on the gun rack.
As he cranked the engine, he could hear the phone in his office ringing again through the open window.
Ethan pulled his Bronco into an empty parking space on Main and walked over to the storefront glass of Wooden Treasures.
Kate was sitting behind the cash register, staring with a kind of bored, blank intensity into nothing. To go from that brilliant sliver of freedom last night back to the day-to-day enslavement that defined life in Wayward Pines must be a crushing thing, he thought. Figured the days after their secret parties were filled with hangovers and the hard edge of reality. Of what their lives truly were.
Ethan knocked on the glass.
They sat on the bench on the corner of Main and Ninth.
The downtown had emptied out.
It didn’t look real anymore.
Could’ve been the set of a movie after production had stopped.
Already the light was beginning to fail as the sun slipped behind the western wall of rock.
“We’re safe to talk here,” Ethan said.
“You look terrible,” Kate said. “Have you slept?”
“I need to know how to find the tunnel under the fence.”
“There isn’t time to explain. Have you been to it?”
“Once,” she said. “Years ago.”
“Did you go through to the other side?”
She shook her head.
“How do I find it, Kate?”
“There’s a big dead pine stump. As tall as you. Bigger around than anything near it. If it’s still standing, you can’t miss it. The door to the tunnel is right beside it, in the forest floor. It’ll be covered over with pine needles. I don’t think anyone’s gone to the other side in a long, long time.”
“Is it locked?”
“I don’t know. Ethan, what’s going on?”
He stared at her.
Wanting to tell her.
Wanting to warn her.
He said, “You’re just going to have to trust me.”
Ethan parked his Bronco out of sight in the alley behind the hospital.
Slipped in through a service door.
The ground floor stood absolutely silent.
He took the stairs down to the basement and stepped out into the intersection of four vacant corridors, headed toward the windowless double doors at the terminus of the east wing.