“Because I told some people they could reach me here.”
Belinda shook her head. “No one’s called for you.”
“Not my wife, Theresa, or an Agent Adam Hassler?”
“No one’s called for you, Mr. Burke, and you shouldn’t tell them to call for you here.”
“I need to use the telephone in your conference room again.”
Belinda frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
She didn’t have an answer to this, just maintained her scowl.
* * *
“Theresa, it’s me. Just trying to reach you. I was in the hospital again. I don’t know if you called the sheriff’s office or the hotel, but I haven’t gotten any messages. I’m still in Wayward Pines. I haven’t been able to find my phone or wallet, but I’m done with this place. I’m going to borrow a cruiser from the sheriff’s office. Call you tonight from Boise. Miss you, love you.”
He leaned forward in the chair, got a new dial tone, and then shut his eyes and tried to conjure it.
The number was there.
He spun it out, listened to four rings, and then that same voice from the last time answered. “Secret Service.”
“This is Ethan Burke calling again for Adam Hassler.”
“He’s not available at the moment. Was there something I could help you with?”
“Is this Marcy?”
“Do you recall our phone conversation from yesterday?”
“You know, sir, we get a lot of calls here every day, and I just can’t keep up with every—”
“You told me you’d slip Agent Hassler a message.”
“What was it regarding?”
Ethan closed his eyes, took a deep breath. If he insulted her now, she’d just end the phone call. If he waited until he was back in Seattle, he could publicly eviscerate her, have her fired on the spot.
“Marcy, it was regarding a dead Secret Service agent in Wayward Pines, Idaho.”
“Hmm. Well, if I said I would give him the message, then I’m sure I followed through on that.”
“But I haven’t heard back from him. Don’t you find that strange? That an agent from Hassler’s field office—me—located another agent who had been murdered, an agent I was sent here to find, and now twenty-four hours have passed and Hassler hasn’t even returned my call?”
A slight pause, and then: “Was there something I could help you with?”
“Yes, I’d like to speak with Agent Hassler right now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, he’s not available at the moment. Was there something—”
“Where is he?”
“He’s not available.”
“Where. Is. He.”
“He’s not available at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll call you back at his earliest convenience. He’s just been very swamped.”
“Who are you, Marcy?”
Ethan felt the phone rip out of his grasp.
Pope slammed it down into the cradle, the sheriff’s eyes boring through Ethan like a pair of smoldering coals.
“Who told you you could come in here and use my telephone?”
“No one, I just—”
“That’s right. No one. Get up.”
“I said get up. You can either walk out of here under your own steam, or I can drag you through the lobby myself.”
Ethan stood up slowly, faced the sheriff across the table.
“You’re speaking to a federal agent, sir.”
“I’m not convinced.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“You show up here, no ID, no phone, nothing—”
“I’ve explained my situation. Did you take a trip over to six-oh-four First Avenue, see the body of Agent Evans?”
“You’ve called in crime scene specialists to process the—”
“It’s all being handled.”
“What does that even mean?”
Pope just stared at him, Ethan thinking, He’s unhinged and you have no support in this town. Just get a car, get out of here. Hammer him when you come back with the cavalry. He’ll lose his badge, face prosecution for hamstringing a federal investigation.
“I have a favor to ask,” Ethan said, conciliatory.
“I’d like to borrow one of your vehicles.”
The sheriff laughed. “Why?”
“Well, obviously, since the accident, I don’t have one.”
“This ain’t Hertz Rent-a-Car.”
“I need some transportation, Arnold.”
“It’s just not possible.”
“Is this your sheriff’s department? You can do whatever you want, right?”
The sheriff blinked. “I don’t have one to lend you.” Pope started walking down the length of the conference table. “Let’s go, Mr. Burke.”
Pope stopped at the open door and waited for Ethan.
As Ethan drew within range, Pope grabbed his arm and pulled him in close, his large, powerful hand crushing his biceps.
“I may have questions for you in the not too distant,” the sheriff said.
Pope just smiled. “Don’t even think about leaving town.”
* * *
Walking away from the sheriff’s department, Ethan glanced over his shoulder, saw Pope watching him through a split in the conference room blinds.
The sun had gone behind the mountains.
The town stood silent.
He put a block between himself and Pope’s office and sat down on the curb of a quiet street.
“This isn’t right,” he whispered, and he kept whispering it.
He felt weak and hungry.
Tried to lay everything out, all that had happened since he’d come to Wayward Pines. Scrambling to assemble a snapshot of the entire picture, thinking if he could see it all at once, he might piece these bizarre encounters together into a problem to be solved. Or at least one that made sense. But the harder he tried, the more he felt like he was thinking inside a cloud.
An epiphany: sitting here wasn’t going to change a damn thing.
He came to his feet, started toward Main Street.