Wayward

Page 32

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She shoved him back toward the stained-glass window with a surprising burst of force and smoothed her clothes.

Ethan fished his flashlight out of his pocket, turned it on, set it on the floor between them. The light streaming up lit their faces grotesquely.

Their breath steaming in the cold.

“I need you to trust me, Kate.”

She leaned back against the wall, said, “I need you to prove that I can.”

“How do I do that?”

“What do they know about me?”

“They know that you and others remove your microchips. That sometimes you go out at night.”

“And they sent you to investigate me?” she asked.

“That’s right.”

“For what?”

“You really want to play it that way?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Two weeks ago you’re turning this town upside down, desperate to leave. Now you’re sheriff. Clearly working for them.”

“So you know there’s a ‘them.’ ”

“What idiot doesn’t?”

“What else do you know, Kate?”

She eased down onto the floor.

Ethan sat too.

“I know there’s a fence around the outskirts of town. I know we’re all under surveillance. All the time. I know that two weeks ago you wanted the truth.”

“Have you gone beyond the fence?”

Kate hesitated, then shook her head. “Have you?” She must have read it in his face, said before he even had a chance to lie, “Oh my God, you have.”

“Tell me about Alyssa.”

Kate didn’t flinch exactly, but he read the surprise in her eyes.

“What about her?”

“You know she was killed two nights ago?”

“Are you serious?”

“She was found naked in the middle of the road, stabbed to death. Tortured.”

“Oh Jesus.” She let out a long, trembling breath. “Who found her?”

“I did.”

“Why are you asking me about this?”

“Kate.”

“What?”

“You think they didn’t know you were talking to Alyssa?”

Her eyes darted, a flicker of panic setting in.

“She came to me,” Kate whispered.

“I know. I saw the footage. You were supposed to meet with her the night she died.”

“How do you know that?” He didn’t answer, just let the realization come. Kate’s face fell. “Oh. I see. She was with them.”

“Yeah.”

“A spy.”

“What happened that night, Kate? You were supposed to meet her here at one in the morning. She documented everything. What happened?”

Kate stared at the floor.

He said, “Maybe you’ll believe this. Maybe you won’t. But I am here as your friend.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t take the risk of being wrong.”

“Tell me what happened. I can help you.”

“Do I need your help?”

“In the worst way.”

“What’s on the other side of the fence?”

“Don’t ask me that.”

“I need to know.”

“What happened to Alyssa?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you kill her?”

“You tell me. Am I a murderer?”

“I don’t know you anymore.”

Kate stood. “That hurts more than you know.”

“Did you kill her?”

“No.”

Ethan grabbed his flashlight, struggled up onto his feet. “Tell me what you’re into.”

“Goodbye, Ethan.”

“I need to know.”

“For you? Or for the people who hold your leash?”

“They will kill you, Kate. You and Harold. They will disappear you.”

“I know the risk.”

“And?”

“And I live my life on my terms. If my terms lead me down that road, so be it.”

“I just want to help you.”

“Whose side are you on, Ethan? Really?”

“I don’t know yet.”

She smiled. “First honest thing you’ve said to me. Thank you for that.” She reached out and took hold of his hand. Her fingers were ice, but the shape of the hand was familiar. The last time he’d held it was two thousand years ago on a beach in northern California.

Kate said, “You’re scared.”

Her face was inches from his. Her attention like a heat lamp.

“Aren’t we all?”

“I’ve been here nine years. I don’t know where I am. Or why. Sometimes I think we’re all dead, but in the quiet, dark hours of the night, I know that isn’t true.”

“What are you doing when you leave your house at night?”

“What’s beyond the fence?”

“I can protect you, Kate, but you have to—”

“I don’t want your protection.”

She tugged the door open, stepped back out into the night.

Five steps from the crypt, she stopped, turned, stared back at Ethan.

“The last time I saw Alyssa alive was two nights ago.”

“Where did you see her last?”

“We parted ways on Main Street. We didn’t kill her, Ethan.”

“But she was with you the night she died.”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

Kate shook her head.

“Where do you go at night, Kate? And why?”

“What’s beyond the fence?” When he didn’t answer, she smiled. “Thought so.”

“Do you love him?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your husband. Do you love him? Is it real?”

The smile vanished.

“See you later, Sheriff.”

He walked home not knowing.

Not knowing if Kate had lied to him.

Not knowing if she had been on the other side of the fence.

Not knowing if she had killed Alyssa.

Not knowing a goddamn thing.

She’d had that effect in their relationship too. He’d spend a day with her that felt like bliss in the moment, then come out on the other side unsure of where he stood. Second-guessing everything. He’d never understood if it was a conscious play on her part, or his own failing in letting this woman get so deep and tangled in his head.

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