Grosse Bec is a man-made island that serves as a luxurious stepping-stone
between the mainland and Willard Key. If Cape October can claim a Gold Coast
shopping area, the so-called Ring on Grosse Bec is it. The rest of the town is
all malls. Alice's office is on Mapes Avenue, just off the circle that serves as
Grosse Bec's center.
She is just crossing Founders Boulevard, familiarly called Flounders
Boulevard by the natives, when she hears a horn blowing, and then the squeal of
brakes, and then a woman's voice shouting, "Oh God!" She whirls in
time to see the red fender of a car not six inches from her left hip. She tries
to spin away again, too late, and then thrusts both hands at the fender in
desperation, as if trying to push it off her, away from her. Bracing herself for
sudden impact, she feels the bone-jarring shock of metal against flesh, and is
suddenly hurtling backward off her feet, landing some three feet away from the
car's right front wheel. She feels agonizing pain in her left leg, tries to
twist away from the pain, and then does in fact twist away from the car itself,
as if it were still a menace.
"Oh God, are you all right?"
The woman is crouched beside her now. Alice looks up into an elegant face,
long blonde hair trailing on either side of it, blue eyes almost brimming with
"Are you okay?" the woman asks.
"No," Alice says.
The woman's looming face vanishes. Alice hears a car door opening. Then some
clicking and beeping sounds, and then the woman's voice again.
"Hello," she says, "there's been an accident."
She is talking into a cell phone.
"Can you send an ambulance, please?"
The ambulance gets there some five minutes later.
The police still haven't arrived by the time the paramedics load Alice and
drive off with her.
The emergency room doctor at October Memorial tells Alice she's broken her left
ankle. He tells her he will put her foot in a so-called cuff cast, which will
look like an oversized white ski boot. He assures her she will still be able to
drive because all she needs for the accelerator and brake pedals is her right
foot. He tells her walking will be awkward and cumbersome, but he doesn't think
she'll need crutches. He is smiling as he tells her all this. He seems to think
she is very lucky.
It takes an hour and twenty minutes for them to clean the wound, and dress
it, and put her foot and ankle in the cast. It is almost three o'clock when she
limps out of the emergency room. Cumbersome and awkward is right.
The woman who knocked her down is waiting there for her.
"I'm Jennifer Redding," she says, "I can't tell you how sorry
Alice guesses she is a good ten years younger than she herself, twenty-four
or -five, in there, a willowy blonde wearing tight white bell-bottom pants with
a thirteen-button flap like sailors used to wear, or maybe still did; Alice
hasn't dated a sailor since she was nineteen. The pants are riding low on
Jennifer's hips, a short pink cotton sweater riding high. In combination, they
expose a good four inches of firm flesh and a tight little belly button as well.
"I'm glad you're here," Alice says. "I never got your
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