He’d started writing, and he couldn’t stop.
The stories had poured out of him and the paper had accumulated beside his desk like snowfall until he had thousands upon thousands of pages detailing the lives (as he envisioned them) of the people of Wayward Pines.
He didn’t know what he would do with all these stories.
Couldn’t fathom that anyone would ever want to read them.
His working title was The Secret Lives of Wayward Pines, and he imagined the cover as a collection of all the faces of all the people who lived down in that valley. He’d have to finish the book first, and therein lay the other problem. There was no end to the book in sight. The lives carried on. New things happened. People died. New people were introduced into town. How would one publish a living book, whose stories never ended?
The answer had come, tragically, last night as Ted sat in Pilcher’s office, watching on his monitors as a swarm of abbies swept through town.
The end would come all at once as the “god” of the town brought a swift and sudden conclusion.
The knock came early to Ted’s door.
He was lying in bed, where he’d been all night, paralyzed with fear. With indecision.
He said, “Come in.”
His oldest friend, David Pilcher, walked inside.
Ted hadn’t slept, and by the looks of it, neither had Pilcher.
The old man looked tired. Ted could see the immense hangover he carried in the squint of his eyes, and he still stunk of good scotch. A five o’clock shadow was fading in on Pilcher’s face, as well as sprouting up across his shaven head in fine speckles of gray.
Pilcher pulled the chair away from Ted’s writing desk, dragged it in front of the bed, and took a seat.
He looked at Ted.
He said, “What do you have for me?”
“What do I have?”
“Your team. You told me you would handle it. You would find out which of them helped Sheriff Burke orchestrate this rebellion.”
Ted sighed. He sat up, grabbed his thick glasses off the bedside table, and put them on. He was still wearing his stained, short-sleeved button-down and clip-on tie. Same pants. He hadn’t even bothered to take off his shoes.
Last night, in Pilcher’s office, Ted had been afraid.
Now, he just felt tired and angry.
So very angry.
He said, “When you said the sheriff had information he couldn’t have had otherwise, did you want to tell me what you meant by that?”
Pilcher leaned back in the chair and crossed his legs.
“No, not really. I just want you, as head of the surveillance unit, to do your job.”
“I didn’t think you would answer me,” Ted said, “but that’s okay. I know what that information is. I should’ve told you last night, but I was too scared.” Pilcher cocked his head. “I found the footage of what you and Pam did to your daughter.”
For a moment, it was painfully quiet in Ted’s quarters.
“Because Sheriff Burke asked you to help him?” Pilcher said.
“I sat here all night, trying to think what to do.” Ted reached into his pocket, pulled out a piece of hardware that resembled a flake of mica.
“You made a copy of the footage?” Pilcher asked.
Pilcher leveled his gaze on the floor, then back at Ted.
He said, “You know the things I’ve done for our project. For us to be sitting here right now, two thousand years in the future, the last of humanity. I saved—”
“There’s a line, David.”
“You think so?”
“You murdered your own daughter.”
“She was helping an underground—”
“There is no scenario in which killing Alyssa is okay. How do you not know that?”
“I made a choice, Ted, in that previous life, that nothing, nothing, was more important than Wayward Pines.”
“Not even your daughter.”
“Not even my sweet Alyssa. You think”—tears spilled down his face—“I wanted that outcome?”
“I don’t know what you want anymore. You murdered an entire town. Your own daughter. Years ago, your wife. Where does it end? Where’s the line?”
“There is no line.”
Ted ran his fingers over the memory shard in his hand. He said, “You can still come back from this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Call everyone together. Come clean. Tell them what you did to Alyssa. Tell them what you did to the people of Wayward—”
“None of them would understand, Ted. You don’t.”
“This isn’t about them understanding. This is about you doing what’s right.”
“Why would I do that?”
“For your own soul, David.”
“Let me tell you something. It’s the story of my life, people not understanding what I was willing to do to succeed. My wife didn’t get it. Alyssa didn’t get it. And I’m sad, but not shocked, that you don’t either. Look at what I’ve created. Look at what I’ve accomplished. If there were history books still being written, I would be listed as the most important human being who ever lived. That isn’t delusion. That’s just fact. I saved the human race, Ted, because there was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to succeed. No one has ever understood that. Well, two people did. But Arnold Pope is dead, and Pam’s missing. You know what that means?”
“It means the dirty work now falls to me.”
And suddenly Pilcher was out of the chair and moving toward the bed, Ted not understanding what was happening until the short blade of the fighting knife in his boss’s hand threw a wink of light.
In the end, Maggie and Hecter were the only volunteers Ethan felt comfortable with. No one else in the group, not even Kate, had faced down the abbies like those two. He figured most courage would wilt in the face of a charging abby. Go with known quantities.
They armed themselves.
Maggie had only shot a .22 rifle once in her life, so Ethan loaded a Mossberg 930 with buckshot for her and filled the pockets of her trench coat with extra shells. He showed her how to hold it. How to reload. Prepped her for the aggressive recoil.
He slug-loaded a Mossberg and then a .357 Smith & Wesson for Hecter.
Kate chose the Bushmaster AR-15 with a .40 caliber Glock for backup.
Standing in the passage, Ethan glanced back at the handful of people he’d armed to guard the cavern door.
“And if you don’t come back?” the officer asked.