He lay on his side with his head propped up with one arm, watching his wife sleep.
The warmth of her body heated the space between the sheet and the comforter.
She’d left the window cracked open an inch off the sill and the air creeping in was cold enough to make him wish he’d pulled another blanket out of the oak chest at the foot of their bed.
He thought he might drift off for a half hour or so, and he tried to shut his eyes, but it just wasn’t happening.
So rarely did his mind ever stop.
Kate had undoubtedly read his note.
But what had she made of it?
Sitting in the coffee shop seven hours ago, he’d finally decided on a course of action.
Ripped a strip of blank newsprint off the latest edition of the Wayward Light and written:
They know about you. They’re watching you. They sent me to investigate you. Mausoleum. 2:00 a.m. Tonight.
No moon and a billion stars in a black, black sky.
The small, duckless pond in the city park beginning to rim with ice.
In the afternoon, one of Pilcher’s men had delivered a new Bronco to the curb in front of Ethan’s house, the SUV identical to its predecessor, if not a trace shinier.
But Ethan had chosen to walk.
He thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his parka, fingertips tingling in the cold.
Soon he was moving alongside the river, the ruckus of water passing over rocks and the clean, sweet smell of it in the night air.
Had it only been two weeks since he’d crossed this river in the dead of night, the entire town in pursuit, and fled upcanyon?
He didn’t feel anything like that man anymore.
Ethan climbed over a disintegrating stone wall that looked straight out of a Frost poem, the rocks cold as blocks of ice to the touch.
The gravestones glowed like ancient faces under the starlight and the sound of the river fell away.
Ethan passed through waist-high weeds, through groves of scrub oak.
Here among the dead at the south end of town, the lights of Wayward Pines were all but invisible.
The mausoleum appeared in the distance.
Had she come?
The old Kate would have. No question.
But what about the new one? The Kate who’d lived in Wayward Pines for nine years. The Kate he no longer knew.
Something loitered in the back of his mind. Something ugly and off-balance.
What if Kate and her group had tortured and murdered Alyssa Pilcher.
You have no idea what she’s capable of.
He couldn’t rid himself of what Pilcher had said yesterday morning, and as he approached the crypt, it occurred to him—I should’ve brought my gun.
The mausoleum stood in a stand of mature aspen trees that had already dropped their leaves—gold coins scattered in the dying weeds. The stone planters that framed the iron door had long since crumbled, but the columns retained their form.
There was no wind.
The river nothing more than a whisper.
He said, “Kate?”
Dug a flashlight out of his pocket, swept the beam through the aspen, called her name again.
Ethan forced the heavy door open, its bottom dragging across the stone with a teeth-aching groan.
He put his light inside.
It fired the stone walls.
The stained-glass window in the back.
She wasn’t here.
He walked slowly around the perimeter of the crypt, shining his light into the surrounding weeds, which were already bending under the weight of a fragile glaze of frost.
Ice crystals glittering in the beam.
He arrived back at the entrance and sat down on the steps between the columns as the realization slowly dawned that she hadn’t come. He’d made a risky play, tipped his hand, and scared her off.
What would she do now? Run?
He killed the light.
The walk over from his house and the anticipation of seeing her had bolstered him against the cold, but now it came screaming in.
He struggled onto his feet.
Drew in a sudden breath.
Kate stood five feet away, a ghost in the dark, dressed completely in black with a hoodie pulled over her head.
As she moved forward, the blade of the butcher knife in her hand threw a glint of starlight.
Ethan said, “A knife? Really?”
“Thought I might be coming to a fight.”
“Did you now?”
“Never know these days.”
“Will you put it the f**k down? I didn’t even bring a gun.” She just stared at him. He couldn’t read her eyes in the low light, but her mouth was a thin, tight line. “What? You don’t believe me? Wanna pat me down, Agent Hewson?”
“Open your jacket.”
Kate slipped her knife into a makeshift sheath that had been constructed out of duct tape.
Her hands slid around his waist.
Then up and down his thighs.
“You still got it,” Ethan said.
“Still frisk like a pro.”
Kate stepped back. She looked at him with a hardness he’d not seen in her eyes before. At least not aimed at him.
“Are you f**king with me?” she said.
“No. Are you here alone?”
“You think we’re dumb enough to let you take both of us?”
“No one’s trying to take you, Kate. At least not tonight.”
“I don’t even know if I believe you.”
“But you came.”
“I had a choice?”
“How about we talk inside.”
Ethan followed her up the stone steps into the crypt.
When they were both inside, she put her shoulder into the door and forced it shut.
Faced Ethan in the dark.
“Are you chipped?” she asked.
“So they know you’re here.”
Kate spun and grabbed for the door handle, but Ethan dragged her back.
“Relax, Kate. It doesn’t matter.”
“The hell it doesn’t. They know you’re here.”
“Only my location. The mausoleum isn’t miked. I’m not miked.”
“But they know you’re talking to me tonight?”
“They sent me.”