Let them gather.
Let them go mad.
Nothing would be done without him.
No blood would be spilled.
When Pam opened her eyes, it was dark.
She was shivering.
Her head throbbing.
Left leg on fire, like something had ripped a chunk out of it.
She sat up.
Where the f**k was she?
It was freezing and dark and the last thing she remembered was leaving the hospital after her final therapy session of the day.
She’d spotted Ethan Burke’s Bronco heading south out of town. Followed him on foot…
It all came back.
She’d lost apparently.
What the hell had he done to her?
When she stood, the pain in her leg made her cry out. She reached back. A large piece of her jeans had been cut away, and a nasty, open wound oozed down her left thigh.
He’d cut out her microchip.
That f**king motherfucker.
The rage hit like a shot of morphine. She felt no pain, even when she started running away from the fence, back toward town, faster and faster through the dark forest, the electrified hum dwindling into silence.
The sound of screams in the distance stopped her.
Many, many abby screams.
But something wasn’t right.
How could there be screams coming from straight ahead?
Wayward Pines lay straight ahead.
In fact, she should’ve reached the road by—
She didn’t know how long she’d been running, but she’d been running hard, running right through the pain. She’d come a mile at least from the fence.
Not far ahead, in addition to the screams of what sounded like a massive abby swarm, she heard movement coming her way—limbs breaking, sticks snapping.
And she could swear she even smelled them, an eye-watering, carrion stench growing stronger by the second.
In all of her years, she had never wanted to cause someone pain so badly.
Ethan Burke hadn’t just cut her microchip out.
He’d somehow stranded her on the other side of the fence, out in the mean, wild world.
Ethan climbed back into the Bronco, fired up the engine, floored the accelerator.
Tires squealed on the pavement as he launched forward.
He sped into the forest, took the big looping curve that brought him back on a trajectory toward town.
The speedometer read eighty as he blasted past the welcome sign.
He took his foot off the gas, let the RPMs die.
On Main Street now, and still a quarter mile from his destination, but already he could see flames in the distance, the buildings all aglow with firelight and the kinetic shadows of the crowd.
He passed the hospital.
Four blocks from the intersection of Eighth and Main, he was steering around people in the road.
Something had been thrown through the storefront glass of The Sweet Tooth and kids were looting the candy.
This was all acceptable and expected.
The crowd became denser.
An egg broke across the passenger-side window, yolk running down the glass.
He was barely moving now, people constantly in the way.
He steered through a group of men dressed up in drag, lipstick garishly applied, wearing their wives’ bras and panties over long johns, one of them armed with a cast-iron skillet.
An entire family—including children—had ringed their eyes with dark eye shadow and painted their faces white to resemble the walking dead.
He saw devil’s horns.
Kings and queens.
Now the street was wall-to-wall.
He laid on the horn.
The sea of people begrudgingly parted for him.
Inching along between Ninth and Eighth, he saw other storefronts vandalized, and up ahead—the source of the flames.
People had pushed a car into the middle of Main and set it on fire. Its windows now littered the pavement, shivers of glass glittering in the firelight, flames licking out of the windshield, the seats and the dashboard melting.
Above it all, the traffic signal cycled on obliviously.
Ethan shifted into park and killed the engine.
The energy on the other side of the windshield was dark and volatile—an evil, living thing. He studied all the ruddy faces in the firelight, eyes glassy with whatever bathtub gin had been stockpiled and passed around.
The strangest thing was that Pilcher had been right. Clearly, the fête spoke to them. Met some deep, consuming need.
He glanced into the back of the Bronco and checked his watch.
Wool padding had been stitched into the inside of the headpiece, and it fit him snugly. He reached over and locked the passenger door, although he doubted that would make any difference in the end. Grabbing the stinking cloak and the bullhorn, he opened his door, locked it, and stepped out into the fray.
Broken glass crunched under his boots.
The smell of liquor spiced the air.
He donned the cloak.
Pushed his way into the crowd.
People around him began to clap and cheer.
The farther he ventured toward the traffic signal, the louder it grew.
Applause, shouts, screams.
And it was all for him.
They were calling his name, slapping his back.
Someone thrust a jar into his right hand.
He went on.
Bodies packed so tightly it was almost warm between them.
He finally broke through into the eye of the storm—a circle that couldn’t have been more than thirty feet in diameter.
He stepped just inside it.
The sight of them closed his throat with grief.
Harold lay on the pavement, struggling to get up, bleeding from several blows to the head.
Two black-clad officers held Kate, the woman he had once loved, each clutching one of her arms to keep her upright.
While Harold appeared stunned, Kate was fully present and staring straight at him. She was crying and he felt the tears sliding down his face before he even registered the emotion. Her mouth was moving. She screamed at him, screamed questions and disbelief, no doubt pleading for her life, but the noise of the crowd drowned her out.
Kate wore a shredded nightgown, and she stood in bare feet, shivering, her knees stained with grass and dirt, one of them skinned to the bone, blood running down her shin, and her left eye swelling shut.
A scene began to form.
She and Harold had gone to bed early—probably still hungover from the night before. The officers burst in. There hadn’t even been time to dress. Kate had gone out a window, possibly made a break for the drainage tunnels under town. That’s what he would have done. But the ten officers had her house surrounded. They’d most likely run her down within a block or two.