Read The Accident Online

Authors: Linwood Barclay

The Accident

BY LINWOOD BARCLAY

Bad Move
Bad Guys
Lone Wolf
Stone Rain
No Time for Goodbye
Too Close to Home
Fear the Worst
Never Look Away
The Accident

Copyright © 2011 Linwood Barclay

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher—or in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing agency—is an infringement of the copyright law.

Doubleday Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.

Library and Archives of Canada Cataloguing in Publication is available upon request.

eISBN: 978-0-385-67059-3

The Accident
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design: Carlos Beltran
Cover art © Chris Titze
Cover photograph: Juergen Stein/Getty Images

Published in Canada by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited

Visit Random House of Canada Limited’s website:
www.randomhouse.ca

v3.1

              
For Neetha

Contents

Cover

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prologue

Two Months Later

One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen
Fourteen
Fifteen
Sixteen
Seventeen
Eighteen
Nineteen
Twenty
Twenty-one
Twenty-two
Twenty-three
Twenty-four
Twenty-five
Twenty-six
Twenty-seven
Twenty-eight
Twenty-nine
Thirty
Thirty-one
Thirty-two
Thirty-three
Thirty-four
Thirty-five
Thirty-six
Thirty-seven
Thirty-eight
Thirty-nine
Forty
Forty-one
Forty-two
Forty-three
Forty-four
Forty-five
Forty-six
Forty-seven
Forty-eight
Forty-nine
Fifty
Fifty-one
Fifty-two
Fifty-three
Fifty-four
Fifty-five
Fifty-six
Fifty-seven
Fifty-eight
Fifty-nine
Sixty
Sixty-one
Sixty-two
Sixty-three

Three Weeks Later

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

PROLOGUE

Their names were Edna Bauder and Pam Steigerwald, and they were grade school teachers from Butler, Pennsylvania, and they had never been to New York before in their entire lives. New York was hardly the other side of the planet, but when you lived in Butler, almost everything seemed that way. As Pam’s fortieth birthday approached, her friend Edna said you’re going to have a birthday weekend you are never, ever going to forget, and on that count she turned out to be absolutely right.

Their husbands were delighted when they heard this was a “girls only” weekend. When they learned it was going to be two full days of shopping, a Broadway show, and going on the
Sex and the City
tour, they said they would rather stay home and blow their brains out. So they put their wives on the bus and said have fun and try not to get too drunk because there’s a lot of muggers in New York, everybody knows that, and you have to keep your wits about you.

They found a hotel near Fiftieth and Third that was, at least by New York standards, reasonable, although it still seemed like a lot considering all they were going to do was sleep there. They’d vowed to save money by not taking cabs, but the maps of the subway system looked like a schematic for the space shuttle, so they decided, what the hell. They went to Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and a huge shoe outlet in Union Square that would have held every store in Butler and still had room left over for the post office.

“I want my ashes scattered through this place when I die,” Edna said, trying on a pair of sandals.

They tried to get to the top of the Empire State Building, but the line to get in was huge, and when you had only forty-eight hours in the Big Apple you didn’t want to spend three of them waiting in line, so they bailed.

Pam wanted to eat lunch at that deli, the one from that movie where Meg Ryan had the fake orgasm. Their table was right next to the one they used in the movie—there was even a sign hanging over it to mark the spot—but when they got back to Butler they’d tell everyone they got the actual table. Edna ordered a pastrami sandwich with a knish, even though she had no idea what a knish was. Pam said, “I’ll have what she’s having!” and the two of them went into fits of hysterics when the waitress rolled her eyes.

While having coffee afterward, Edna said, almost out of nowhere, “I think Phil’s been seeing that waitress at Denny’s.” And then she burst into tears, and Pam asked why she suspected such a thing, that she thought Edna’s husband, Phil, was a good guy who’d never cheat, and Edna said she didn’t think he was actually sleeping with her or anything, but he went there for coffee every single day, so that had to mean something. And the thing was, he hardly ever touched her anymore.

“Come on,” Pam said. “We’re all busy, we got kids, Phil’s working two jobs, who’s got the energy?”

“Maybe you’re right,” Edna said.

Pam said, “You need to get your mind off that nonsense. You brought me here to have fun.” She opened her New York Fodor’s tourist guidebook to the spot where she’d put a sticky note and said, “You need more retail therapy. We’re going to Canal Street.”

Edna had no idea what that was. Pam said you could buy purses—designer purses, or at least purses that looked just like designer purses—for next to nothing down there. You have to ask around for the best deals, she said. She’d read in a magazine somewhere that sometimes the best stuff, it’s not even out where the people can see it. You have to go into a back room or something.

“You’re talkin’ my language, honey,” Edna said.

So they grabbed yet another cab and asked to be taken to the corner
of Canal and Broadway, but at Lafayette and Grand the taxi came to a dead stop.

“What’s happened?” Edna asked the driver.

“Accident,” he said in an accent Pam thought could be anything from Salvadoran to Swiss. “I can’t turn around. Is just few blocks that way.”

Pam paid the driver and they started walking in the direction of Canal. A block up, a crowd had gathered. Edna said, “Oh my God.”

She looked away, but Pam was transfixed. A man’s legs were splayed across the hood of a yellow cab that had crashed into a streetlight. His upper body had gone through the windshield and was draped over the dashboard. A mangled bicycle was trapped under the car’s front wheels. There was no one behind the wheel. Maybe the driver had already been taken to the hospital. People with
FDNY
and
NYPD
on their backs were inspecting the car, telling the crowd to move back.

Someone said, “Fucking bike messengers. Amazing it doesn’t happen more often.”

Edna took Pam by the elbow. “I can’t look at this.”

By the time they found their way to Canal and Broadway, they hadn’t exactly put that horrible image out of their heads, but they’d been repeating a “These things happen” mantra that would allow them to still make the most they could out of this weekend.

Pam used her camera phone to get a shot of Edna standing under the Broadway street sign, and then Edna got a shot of Pam doing the same. A man walking past offered to take pictures of the two of them together, but Edna said no thank you, telling Pam later it was probably just a ploy to steal their phones. “I wasn’t born yesterday,” Edna said.

As they moved east on Canal the two of them felt as though they’d wandered into a foreign country. Weren’t these what the markets in Hong Kong or Morocco or Thailand looked like? Stores jammed together, merchandise spilling out onto the street?

“Not exactly Sears,” Pam said.

“So many Chinese people,” Edna said.

“I think that’s ’cause it’s Chinatown,” Pam said.

A homeless man wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey asked for change. Another tried to hand them a flyer but Pam held up her hand defensively. Throngs of teenage girls giggled and gawked, some able to
carry on conversations while music chattered from the buds stuffed into their ears.

The store windows were jammed with necklaces, watches, sunglasses. A
WE BUY GOLD
sign was positioned out front of one. A long, vertical sign hanging off a fire escape read “Tattoo—Body Piercing—Henna Temporary Supplies—Wholesale Body Jewelry—Books Magazines Art Objects 2nd Floor.” There were signs pushing “Leather” and “Pashmina” and countless banners in Chinese characters. And even a Burger King.

The two women went into what they thought was one store, but it turned out to be dozens. Like a mini-mall, or a flea market, with each business ensconced in its own glass-walled cubicle. They all offered a specialty. Stalls for jewelry, DVDs, watches, purses.

“Look at this,” Edna said. “A Rolex.”

“It’s not real,” Pam said. “But it looks fabulous. Think anyone in Butler knows the difference?”

“Think anyone in Butler even knows what a Rolex is?” Edna laughed. “Oh, check out the bags!”

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