Wayward Pines: The Widow Lindley (Kindle Worlds Novella)

W
AYWARD
P
INES
T
HE
W
IDOW
L
INDLEY
W
AYWARD
P
INES
T
HE
W
IDOW
L
INDLEY

F. Paul Wilson

Kindle Worlds

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2013 by F. Paul Wilson.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program. All characters, scenes, events, themes, plots, and related elements of the Wayward Pines remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Blake Crouch, its affiliates, or licensors.

For more information on the Kindle Worlds publishing program:
www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

All Rights Reserved.

Published by Kindle Worlds

Las Vegas, NV 89140

Digital ISBN: 9781477867648

The morning Karla Lindley’s daughter disappeared started off
pretty much like any other.

“Look at you,” Karla said as she finished braiding Joanna’s
hair.

Her little girl wore a light blue, long-sleeved cotton dress
and pink sneakers. Joanna was a real girly girl who insisted on wearing a dress
every day. She hated jeans and shorts. In a way this was good. When she was
misbehaving, which wasn’t often, Karla didn’t have to threaten her with
physical punishment. The threat of—horror!—having to wear pants was enough to
guarantee compliance.

“Can I go on the swing?” Joanna said in her squeaky voice.

“It’s awful early, and you just had breakfast.”

“Please, Mommy, pleeeeease?”

She never seemed to tire of that swing, though in all
fairness it hadn’t been up that long. Barely two months. Jonathan had assembled
it just before he—

Don’t go there.

“Oh, all right. You put on your vest while I put the kettle
on.”

She hefted the kettle—at least half full and still warm from
her first cup. She set the flame to high and took Joanna’s little hand in hers.

Trees surrounded the backyard on all three sides, oaks and
maples up front, all in full fall colors, backed by an impenetrable wall of the
town’s ever-present eponymous pines.

She went to lift Joanna onto the swing seat but the little
girl pushed her hands away.

“I can do it!”

Karla smiled. “My, my. Such independence.”

Truth was, Joanna was right. She’d be turning four next
month and was quite capable of hauling her skinny little butt onto the seat. More
evidence that her baby girl was growing up. Despite the inevitability, Karla
hated to admit that her baby wasn’t a baby anymore and would need her less and
less as the years went on.

She also hated to admit that she needed to be needed.

She’d missed the cut-off date for school this year, but next
fall she’d be off to pre-K. That was the rule in Pines: mandatory education
from four to fifteen. God, she was going to miss her.

She watched her little strawberry-blond darling wiggle onto
one of the pair of flat board seats—she always chose the one closer to the
house—and start leaning backward and forward as she pumped her legs to start
moving. Soon she was giggling as she soared back and forth, up and down. Was
anything better than the sound of a child having fun?

Where would I be without you, Joanna?

Karla had a pretty good idea: a lonely basket case.

Joanna was all she had. Jonathan had insisted on a house at
the edge of town. As a result they had no neighbors and very few friends. No
friends, really. Just their family unit of three.

Now down to two.

From inside came the high-pitched whistle of the kettle
starting to boil on the stove.

“Be right back,” Karla called.

“Where you going?”

“Coffee. Back in a flash.”

Inside, she turned off the heat. While she waited for the
kettle to stop whistling, she spooned coarsely ground coffee into the French
press. When the rolling boil had eased, she poured the steaming water over the
coffee, stirred the mix, then left it to brew for a couple of minutes.

In the old days—“old” being five years ago before she’d
ended up in Wayward Pines—she’d owned a Keurig machine where all she had to do
was pop in a K-Cup of whatever blend she fancied at the moment and have a
steaming cup in less than a minute. Then she’d carry it to the computer to
check her email.

She sighed. No Keurig machines or K-Cups in Pines. No
Internet either. Not even television. The soaring mountain peaks cut off the
signals, they said. But how did they block satellites?

She shrugged. No matter. She liked her coffee
paint-stripping strong, and a French press brewed far more potent joe than any
K-Cup could manage. And they all were probably better off without TV and the
Internet anyway.

All
…that used to mean three, but now it meant
two.

She shook it off. She wasn’t going to think about Jonathan
now. Not just yet.

She looked at the cut-out paper snowflakes festooning the
kitchen. Joanna’s work. One a day, every day, since last winter.

Karla placed the screened plunger atop the carafe and pushed
it down, pressing the grounds against the bottom, squeezing the last bit of
caffeiney goodness out of them. This was why she used a coarse grind—too fine
and the grounds seeped through the mesh. She poured the supernate into her cup,
added a teaspoon of honey, a dollop of light cream fresh from the town dairy,
and she was ready.

She returned to the backyard where two empty swing seats
swayed in the breeze.

“Jo? Joanna?”

No answer.

“Jo? Where are you? Are you hiding?”

Hiding wasn’t Joanna’s thing—or at least it hadn’t been. Maybe
this was a new game.

“Okaaay. I’m gonna fiiiind you.” She took a deep gulp of her
coffee before setting it on the back steps. “Ready or not, here I come.”

Trying to put herself in the mind of a four-year-old, Karla
looked around and asked,
Where would I hide?

The thick trunks of the trees rimming the property looked
good. Karla began walking the perimeter.

“Am I cold? Am I getting warmer? Am I—?”

Her throat locked when she saw the broken branches. She
froze and stared.

“J-Joanna?”

Karla tried to tell herself that Joanna had done this, that
she’d pushed her way into the underbrush to hide, but it was too thick for a
four-year-old to penetrate on the simple whim of hiding from her mother.

“Joanna!” A scream now.

Frantic, she pushed her way into the break and came upon a
small area of flattened brush. Flies buzzed around a pile of fresh stool.

Had something hidden here? Watching? Waiting for its chance?

She saw paw prints in the moist soil—oblong, each crowned
with a line of punctures. Claws?

“Jesus God!”

A wolf? A bear? She knew nothing of animal tracks, but what
else could make those punctures but claws, talons.

“Oh-God-oh-God-oh-God-oh-God!”

Frantic graduated to terrified as she pushed past the
flattened brush and deeper into the woods. The undergrowth thinned and
disappeared as the trees, mostly pines now, thickened. The forest floor became
a cushiony bed of browned needles that stretched away in every direction. They
didn’t appear disturbed. The only good thing—if anything could be good about
this—was that she hadn’t seen a drop of blood anywhere.

Karla skidded to a halt, screaming her daughter’s name. And
then she stopped and listened—for anything.

Please make a sound, Joanna.
Please!

Nothing. Nothing moving and no sound but the breeze rustling
through the branches above.

Why wasn’t Joanna calling, crying, screaming? Why hadn’t she
made a sound in the backyard? Karla would have heard her—even the slightest
squeak of alarm would have returned her to the backyard at lightning speed.

All her instincts pushed her to run now, run blindly in
search of her daughter, but another voice told her she couldn’t do this alone. She
was going to need help.

Reluctantly accepting the hard reality of that fact, she
forced herself to turn and race back to the house. She burst into the kitchen,
grabbed the phone, and hit 9-1-1. No special emergency services in Wayward
Pines, just—

“Sheriff’s office, Belinda speaking.”

“This is Karla Lindley!” she said, breathless from panic
rather than exertion. “It’s taken my little girl!”

The voice jumped an octave.
“Who? What?”

“I don’t know! Some animal! A bear or a wolf—I don’t know! It’s
taken my baby into the woods behind my house! Tell the sheriff to get up a
search party! I’m going after it!”

“Wait! You shouldn’t—”

Karla slammed the receiver down and ran back toward the
door.

Wait. She couldn’t go after whatever it was with her bare
hands. She needed a weapon. And she knew just where to find one.

She dashed upstairs to the master bedroom—the one she used
to share with Jonathan—and went straight to his closet. She had to rise on
tiptoe to reach the metal lockbox. She dragged it down and—of course—it was
locked, and—also of course—she didn’t know where he’d kept the key.

She ran back downstairs to the rear closet. Jonathan’s
toolbox sat on the floor, tucked in a rear corner. With shaking hands she
pulled out a screwdriver and a hammer. She placed the flat head against the
lock. A couple of sharp blows drove it back into the box and the lid popped
open, revealing Jonathan’s silvery gun.

Tiny scintillating lights lit the rim of her vision as she
stared at it. She’d known he had it, but she had never seen it before. He’d
take it into the woods to practice but always kept it out of sight in his
backpack, even in the house. The words
.357 MAG – 8 TIMES
ran along the
barrel, engraved in the steel. She grabbed the wooden handle and felt a strange
tingle run through her. Jonathan had never shown her how to shoot, but how
difficult could it be? Point and pull the trigger. But first she needed to find
something that deserved shooting.

A sob burst free. She prayed Joanna was still alive.

She leaped to her feet and then stopped. The gun—was it
loaded? She turned it around and looked at the front of the wheelie thing that
held the bullets and saw metallic domes in the exposed slots. She would assume
that meant the answer was yes.

She ran for the back door.

Joanna couldn’t fight the monster anymore. She’d kicked and
punched and screamed into the dirty stinky hand clamped over her mouth. Sometimes
it slipped over her nose and she couldn’t breathe at all. She felt weak and
sick, and kicking, slapping, and scratching didn’t help anyway. She was so
scared she’d wet herself. She hoped Mommy wouldn’t be mad.

She’d been swinging on her swing, waiting for Mommy to come
back, when all of a sudden the stinky hand went over her mouth and she was
pulled into the air. She’d screamed but she could barely hear herself, so Mommy
probably hadn’t heard a thing. Next thing she knew she was pressed against
dirty stinky skin as the monster carried her away from her home, straight
through the bushes and into the woods.

Even though she hadn’t got a look at it, she knew this was a
monster. Not like the monsters in
Where the Wild Things Are
. Mommy and Daddy
had read it to her many times, though Mommy hadn’t read it since Daddy went
away. Those monsters were ugly but they were clean and furry and soft looking. This
monster was hard and smooth, and what she could see of its skin through the
caked dirt looked like smudgy glass. And so stinky she almost threw up her
breakfast.

The monster wasn’t running but still it moved so fast with
its feet barely touching the ground, or at least that’s the way it seemed.

Where was it taking her? Somehow she didn’t think it was
going to crown her king of the Wild Things.

“Where’s the search party?” Karla said as she reached
Sheriff Burke.

She’d been leaning against a tree trunk, sobbing with fear
and frustration when she’d spotted his black Stetson cowboy hat a hundred yards
downhill. He wore brown pants and a darker brown jacket with a
Wayward Pines
Sheriff
patch on the sleeve. A brass star was pinned to his red and blue
flannel shirt. She’d run to meet him.

He’d been on the job only a week or so by now. No one knew
what had happened to his predecessor, Sheriff Pope. He’d gone off somewhere and
not come back. Burke didn’t radiate aggressive authority like Pope. More like
cool competence.

He shrugged the shotgun off his shoulder and pointed it at
the ground as she stopped before him.

“You’re looking at it.”

“Wh-what?” She couldn’t believe it. “But we need to canvas
the whole area!”

“Probably not the best way. More people mean more noise, and
more noise means the more warning it gets.”

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