Gasps rippled through the crowd.
Those closest to the Bronco were clambering back while those who couldn’t see were fighting their way toward the front of the line.
The abby was going berserk inside, talons shredding the seats as it struggled against the chain Ethan had tied around its neck.
He was still aiming the Desert Eagle at the officer, but the man wasn’t even watching the gun. He stared instead through the Bronco’s windshield at what was trying to get out.
Ethan said into the bullhorn, “I want to tell you all a fairy tale. Once upon a time there was a place called Wayward Pines. It was the last town on earth, and the people who lived there were the last of their kind.”
Ethan didn’t hear the chain jingling anymore.
The abby had broken free and climbed into the front seat.
“They had been preserved for two thousand years in a sort of time capsule. Only they didn’t know this. They were kept in the dark. By fear. Sometimes by force. They were led to believe they were dead or dreaming.”
The abby was trying to break through the windshield.
“Some of the residents, like Kate and Harold Ballinger, knew in their hearts that something was very wrong. That none of this was real. Others chose to believe the lie. Like good humans, they adapted. Made the best of a f**ked-up situation, and tried to just live their lives. But it wasn’t a life. It was nothing more than a beautiful prison, run by a psychopath.”
A large chunk of the windshield broke out and hit the hood.
“Then one day, a man woke up in town named Ethan Burke. He didn’t know it, the people of Wayward Pines didn’t know it, and the sick f**k that built this town sure as hell didn’t know it, but he had come to pull the wool away from their eyes. To show them the truth. To give them the chance to live like real human beings again.
“And that’s why I’m standing here right now. So tell me. Do you want to know the truth?”
The abby was breathless underneath him, furiously attacking the glass.
“Or do you want to keep living in the dark?”
Its head broke through.
Ethan said, “It’s two thousand years later than you think it is, and our species has devolved into the monster that’s inside my car.”
Ethan pointed the pistol at the abby’s head.
There was a long beat of silence.
People just staring.
It came through the windshield, talons scraping down the metal hood, and crashed into the officer standing at the bumper before he even thought to raise the machete.
Ethan put a bead on the back of the abby’s head and fired.
It went limp, the man underneath it screaming and flailing against the weight as two of the cross-dressed men helped drag the abby off him.
The officer sat up, drenched in gore, his forearms torn up, skin hanging in tatters where he’d tried to protect his face.
But he was alive.
Ethan said, “Is this too much for you to handle? Want to go back to killing two of your own? Or do you want to walk into the theater with me right now? I know you have questions. Well, I have answers. I’ll meet you there in ten minutes, and I swear to God if any one of you so much as lays a hand on Kate or Harold, I will shoot you where you stand.”
Ethan pulled off the headpiece, sloughed off the cloak.
He jumped onto the hood, and then stepped down to the street.
The crowd parted, giving him a wide, respectful berth.
He was still holding the Desert Eagle and his blood was hot, simmering for a fight.
Shoving one of the officers aside, he stepped into the circle. Harold was sitting up in the street in his pajamas, two officers still clutching Kate.
Ethan aimed at the one on the right.
“Did you not hear what I just said back there?”
The man nodded.
“Then why the f**k are you still touching her?”
They released her.
Ethan ran to her, knelt down in the street. He took off his parka and wrapped it around her shoulders.
She looked up at him.
Said, “I thought you had—”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. There was no other way.”
Harold was out of it, in another world.
Ethan lifted Kate in his arms.
He said, “Where are you hurt?”
“Just my knee and my eye. I’m okay.”
“Let’s get you fixed up.”
“After,” she said.
“After you tell us everything.”
Ethan led the town into the theater.
The dead abby was laid out onstage for everyone to see.
Every seat in the house was filled and there were people in the aisles and sitting on the edge of the stage.
Ethan looked down at his family in the front row, but he couldn’t get Pilcher out of his mind. What would the man do? Was he sending his men into town right now? Would he come after Ethan? Theresa and Ben? The town itself?
No. The news was out. And in spite of everything, how many times had Ethan heard Pilcher refer to the town as “my people.” They were still, after everything, his greatest assets. He might retaliate against Ethan, but the residents of Wayward Pines now knew the truth, and that was that.
Someone turned on a spotlight.
Ethan stepped into the beam.
He couldn’t see the faces now.
Only the harsh, blue-fringed light blazing out of the back of the theater.
He told them everything.
How they had been abducted, suspended, and imprisoned in this town.
How the aberrations had come into existence.
About Pilcher and his inner circle in the mountain.
A few walked out—couldn’t stand to hear the truth or didn’t believe.
But most people stayed.
He could feel the mood in the room shift from disbelief, to sadness, to anger as he described how Pilcher filmed and scrutinized their every private moment.
When he told them about the microchips, a woman jumped up and raised her fist, shouting at what she perceived to be a hidden camera in the ceiling, “Come down here! Are you watching this? Come answer for yourself, you son of a bitch!”
As if in answer, the lights in the theater dimmed.
A projector in the back kicked on and cast an image onto the pearlescent movie screen behind Ethan.
He turned, stared at the heavy white vinyl as David Pilcher appeared.
The man was sitting at his desk in a pose vaguely suggestive of a presidential address, forearms on the surface, hands clasped.
A hush fell upon the theater.