The last few fluorescent light panels near the morgue had gone out.
He reached the doors in semi-darkness.
Ted stood at the autopsy table at an open laptop.
Ethan walked over as the doors swung closed behind him.
Said quietly, “We safe to talk here?”
“I killed the surveillance cams to the hospital’s sublevel.” He glanced at his watch. “But they’ll only stay in sleep mode another ten minutes.”
“Upstairs in a therapy session.”
Ethan moved around the gleaming table, stood beside Ted.
He glanced at the cold chambers, the sink, the organ scale. Ted had angled the examination lamp away from the table, so it fired one corner with an obscene radiance and left the rest of the morgue to shadows.
The laptop finished powering up.
Ted typed in his username and password.
“Why here?” Ethan asked.
“Why did you want to meet here?”
Ted pointed at the screen.
The footage rolled.
From a corner in the ceiling, a camera aimed down at Alyssa.
Ethan said, “Fuck.”
Strapped with thick, leather restraints to an autopsy table.
To this autopsy table.
“No audio?” Ethan asked.
“Didn’t have time to find it. Trust me, you’ll be glad of that.”
Alyssa was screaming something.
Her head lifting off the table.
Every muscle straining.
She took a handful of Alyssa’s hair and jerked her head down hard against the metal table.
David Pilcher moved into the frame.
He set a small knife on the metal and climbed up onto the table.
Sat astride his daughter’s legs.
He lifted the knife.
His lips moved.
Alyssa screamed something back as Pam held her head in place.
Pilcher’s lips pursed.
His head cocked to one side.
He didn’t look angry.
Wore no expression at all as he stabbed his daughter in the stomach.
Pilcher pulled out the blade as Alyssa writhed against the restraints.
Black blood began to pool on the autopsy table.
Pilcher’s lips moved again as Alyssa’s face disintegrated into agony, and when he raised the knife for another strike, Ethan turned away.
He felt sick, swallowed against the taste of iron in the back of his throat.
“I think I get the idea.”
Ted leaned down and typed on the laptop.
The screen went mercifully black.
“And it goes on like that,” Ted said. “On and on and on.”
Ethan felt shaken for having seen it.
Thought of all those black holes in Alyssa’s body he’d seen that first day in the morgue.
He said, “So that night, after Alyssa and Kate parted ways, Pam followed Alyssa, somehow got her down here in the basement. Maybe Pilcher was already waiting for them, maybe he came after. When I inspected her body several days ago in this morgue, I wondered how and why she had been drained of blood. Where she had been killed…”
“And you were standing at the scene of the crime.”
Ethan stared down at the drain beneath his boots.
“You have a copy of this footage, Ted?”
“I made several.” Ted reached into his pocket and took out a fingernail-sized memory shard. “This one’s for you. It won’t play on any device in town, but in case something happens to me and the other copies of this footage, keep it in a safe place.”
Ethan slid the shard into his pocket.
Ted looked at his watch. “A few more minutes and we better be gone. What now? I considered just airing this footage on every screen in the mountain.”
“No, don’t do that. Go back to work. Carry on like nothing has changed.”
“I’m hearing there’s going to be a fête tonight for the Ballingers. Word’s already spreading in the mountain they’re responsible for Alyssa’s death. What are you going to do?”
“I have something in mind, but I haven’t told anyone.”
“So just stand by?”
“Okay.” Ted took one last glance at his watch. “We better get moving. The cameras wake up in sixty seconds.”
It was four in the afternoon when Ethan reached the curve in the road at the end of town. He kicked the Bronco into four-wheel low, drove down the embankment and into the forest.
The ground was soft and patches of snow lingered in the shade between the pines.
It was slow going.
A half mile seemed to take forever.
He spotted the first pylon through the windshield, and as he approached, the cables materialized, and then the coils of razor wire along the top.
He stopped the Bronco thirty yards back.
Dark enough to warrant headlights, but he didn’t want to risk turning them on.
Sitting behind the wheel as the engine idled, he couldn’t escape what a fear-inspiring thing it was to behold.
Just some steel and current.
And considering all that it was expected to keep out of Wayward Pines, and what it was intended to keep safe, it seemed so very fragile.
Hardly like all that was standing between humanity and extinction.
Kate had been right.
The stump was unmissable.
From a distance, it looked like a great silver bear, standing on its hind legs, the dead, gnarled branches near the top raised high like threatening claws. The kind of ominous shape which, at dusk, might give someone a start.
Ethan parked beside it.
He grabbed the rifle.
Stepped down onto the forest floor.
It was getting dark too fast.
The door slam echoed through the woods.
Then silence rushed in.
He circled the stump.
There was no snow here, just a bed of compressed pine needles, and nothing that would indicate a door.
He opened the back window of the Bronco and lowered the tailgate.
Grabbed the shovel and the backpack.
A half hour into digging, the head of the shovel struck something hard. Throwing it aside, he fell to his knees, used his hands to tear out the rest of the pine needles—two, maybe three years’ worth of accumulation.
The door was made of steel.
Three feet wide, four feet tall, flush against the ground.
The handle was locked down to an eyebolt with a padlock, which years of rain and snow had rusted into oblivion.
One hard blow from the shovel broke off the lock.
He shouldered the backpack.
Loaded the rifle.
Slung it over his right arm.
He drew the big pistol and jacked a .50-caliber hollow-point cartridge into the chamber.