Wayward (Wayward Pines #2)(12)

by Blake Crouch

Pilcher sat down on the bed.

“So you tucked her away, came home, went to bed.”

“I took a hot bath first.”

“Interesting choice.”

“As opposed to?”

“Calling me immediately.”

“I’d been up for twenty-four hours. I was in agony. I just wanted several hours of sleep first. I was going to call you first thing.”

“Of course, of course. Sorry to doubt you. The thing is, Ethan, this is kind of a big deal. We’ve never had a murder in Wayward Pines.”

“You mean an unsanctioned murder.”

“Did you know this woman?” Pilcher asked.

“I’d seen her around. I don’t think I’d ever spoken to her though.”

“Read her file?”

“Actually, no.”

“That’s because she doesn’t have a file. At least not one that you have access to. She worked for me. She was due back in the mountain late last night from a mission. Never showed.”

“She worked for you as what? A spy?”

“I have a number of my people living in town among the residents. It’s the only way to keep a finger on the true pulse of Wayward Pines.”

“How many?”

“It’s not important.” Pilcher patted Ethan’s leg. “Don’t look so offended, boy. You’re one of them. Get dressed, come downstairs, we’ll continue this over coffee.”

Ethan walked downstairs in a clean, newly starched sheriff’s uniform into the smell of brewing coffee. He took a seat on a stool at the kitchen island as Pilcher pulled the carafe out of the coffeemaker and poured into a pair of ceramic mugs.

“You take it black, right?”

“Yeah.”

Pilcher carried the mugs over and set them on the butcher block.

He said, “A surveillance report came across my desk this morning.”

“Who was the subject?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“Your little temper tantrum upstairs yesterday caught the attention of one of my analysts.”

Pilcher raised his middle finger.

“You got a report on that?”

“I get a report anytime anyone does anything strange.”

“You think it’s strange it pisses me off when your peeping toms watch me with my wife?”

“Watching intimate moments is strictly forbidden. You know this.”

“The only way an analyst would know that it was no longer an intimate moment was if he had been watching during the intimate moment. Right?”

“You acknowledged the camera.”

“Theresa didn’t see.”

“But what if she had?”

“You think there’s anyone in town who’s been here longer than fifteen minutes who doesn’t know they’re under constant surveillance?”

“Whether they know or suspect, I don’t care. As long as they keep it to themselves. As long as they walk the line. That includes not ever acknowledging the cameras.”

“Do you know how difficult it is to f**k your wife with a camera over your bed?”

“I don’t care.”

“David—”

“It’s against the rules and you know it.” For the first time, anger laced his words.

“Fine.”

“Say it won’t happen again, Ethan.”

“It won’t happen again. But don’t ever let me find out that your analysts are watching. I’ll leave them where I find them.”

Ethan took a big, hot swallow that burned his throat.

“How you feeling, Ethan? You seem cranky.”

“I feel rough.”

“First thing, we’re taking you to the hospital.”

“Last time I was in your hospital, everyone tried to kill me. I think I’ll just tough this one out.”

“Suit yourself.” Pilcher took a sip and made a face. “It’s not terrible, but sometimes I could kill to sit outside a café in a European city and drink a proper shot of espresso.”

“Oh, come on, you love this.”

“Love what, Ethan?”

“What you’ve created here.”

“Sure, it’s my life’s work. Doesn’t mean there aren’t parts of the old world I still miss.”

They drank coffee and the mood lightened just a touch.

Pilcher finally said, “She was a good woman. A great woman.”

“What was her name?”

“Alyssa.”

“You didn’t know where she was until I told you. Does that mean she wasn’t chipped?”

“We allowed her to take it out.”

“You must’ve trusted her.”

“Implicitly. Remember the group I told you about?”

“The Wanderers?”

“I’d sent her to infiltrate. These people—they’ve all managed to remove their chips. They meet at night. We don’t know where. We don’t know how many. We don’t know how they communicate. I couldn’t send her in with a microchip. They’d have killed her outright.”

“So she got in?”

“Last night was supposed to be her first meeting. She’d have seen all the players.”

“They have meetings? How’s that possible?”

“We don’t know how, but they understand the weaknesses in our surveillance. They’ve gamed the system.”

“And you’re saying these people are responsible for her death?”

“That’s what I want you to find out.”

“You want me to investigate this group?”

“I want you to pick up where Alyssa left off.”

“I’m sheriff. They’d never let me get within a thousand miles.”

“After your tumultuous integration, I’m thinking the jury is still out on where your loyalties lie. You sell yourself right, they might consider you a prized asset.”

“You actually think they’d trust me?”

“I think your old partner will.”

It became very quiet in the kitchen.

Just the hum of the refrigerator.

Distant, ebullient noise coming through an open window—children playing somewhere.

Shouts of You’re it!

Ethan said, “Kate is a Wanderer?”