Prologue

PROLOGUE: ACCIDENT

It is all about speed, driving through the desert. The faster you drive, the more you are lifted up out of the natural world. You move with no effort and the desert flows past you. Until you hit something.

A man, a product of Brighton, England, was taking his evening walk in the desert twilight. Considering the things that had taken him from the shingle beaches of the channel to the desert outside Palm Springs, he could hear the intermittent sound of cars on the road in the near distance. If he had turned to his right he would have seen the lights moving along the highway. But he preferred the shifting colors of the desert and so heard the accident instead of seeing it.

First, the sudden, quickly building sound of skidding tires. The sound of other cars trying to brake. A loud bang. Still the skid screeching. Another long drawn-out bang. A moment's silence. Then a horrible series of crashes as something pin-wheeled off the road, smashing through the desert. Sudden silence. The moment extending. Then, two voices shouting. A sudden scream. Johns stood still looking across the mesquite. It occurred to him that it could have been Ryan. He turned and walked quickly toward the end of the driveway thinking, I'll just go look and make sure. He broke into a run.

Susan Yee opened her eyes and looked up at a beautiful pattern of light coming through shattered glass. The car had stopped speeding smoothly down the road. Now she wasn't looking at the desert sweep past; she was looking at the sky. She remembered the stomach-dropping realization they were going to crash.

Susan finished breaking the side window with her high heel. Glass pebbles showered down over her. She dropped the shoe and looked for a foothold to help her in her climb up and out of the wreck. Maggie Chow lay tossed in a heap against the side window that now rested against the pavement. She tried to keep from stepping on her friend. Blood was seeping through Maggie's black hair. Susan paused, half in and half out of the car, to survey the wreckage around her. The Lincoln Town car rested on its side pointing back the way it had come. Something–she couldn't tell what kind of car–lay twisted and torn apart. And something else was off the road in the mesquite. She slid to the pavement, bent to slip on her five-inch, fuck me heels and carefully started to walk around. A car came slaloming through the wreckage and then gathered speed as it whizzed away.

"Thank you for caring,” Susan said.

"Are you all right?” It was Ryan's voice. She looked for him. He was sitting on the gravel at the shoulder of the road. She looked at him, but didn't answer. "I think I'm fucked up,” said Ryan. He kept flexing his right arm, looking at the elbow.

Two more cars slowed to make their way among the cars and wreckage. A woman stuck her head out the window of one of the cars. "Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”

"Yes. Please. We need an ambulance.” I'm in shock Susan Yee thought, "Am I hurt?”

“I get dizzy if I stand up,” Ryan called.

"Fuck you, Ryan. You almost killed us,” she said.

Susan stopped turning in a circle. She stared at what they'd hit. The wreckage off the road could have been red once. Another SUV came up, made its way through the pieces of cars, and pulled over on the shoulder of the road. A man in tennis whites got out and walked toward her. He pulled his sweater over his head as he came.

"Here. Put this on," He said, lifting the sweater over her head.

Looking down, Susan realized that her blouse had been torn away and she was naked from the waist up. A siren slowly built its alternating sound in the distance.

The ambulances seemed to arrive quickly. Susan looked up and saw the first one coming through the wavering heat. The police arrived shortly after. They seemed to be moving very slowly to the people who, having been moving so fast through space, had come to a stop so disastrously.

The center of the accident, what had once been a classic Porsche, was now red metal, ripped and hammered into a shape that resembled anything but a car. Flung from the highway, it was planted in the sand thirty feet off the road. The hot metal chunk of the engine lay twenty feet from the car. The broken bodies were where the collision had thrown them. The big Lincoln Town Car was on its side, its hood and grill destroyed. And an Audi sedan with one side deeply creased, was nestled under the rear wheel of a black Escalade.