As Julie took the first curve of the causeway, her VW bug shone like a fire engine. The Reach was empty since the lobstermen had left land to lay traps at sea. She rounded the second curve, and her car veered. It flipped over the boulders, flanking the causeway, and thudded into the cold water, landing on its hood. Down in the blackness of the clam flats, she tapped desperately like a beetle in a pot, to please, please get her out. Water began to rise over her fingers, so the line of free air, air for her only, began to slice down.

The tide lurched. Hands pressed the windows as mouths spoke in a gurgle, Come out, come out. The back door creaked wide so that Julie flew to standing. The torn fibers of her tux rippled like jelly fish legs. A hand pressed her side; a crying woman leaned close. Julie’s toes numbed into cubes. Air lifted her lungs. She felt that not a stone or shark could hurt her. A smell of gas tickled her nostrils. The sky got bluer every moment as heat tried to come in through her head.

Sergeant Burke came to the scene. Bending over the busted windshield, he kept whistling in disgust. “Fried brake pads, rusted floorboards.” Sucking pecan chunks from his rear teeth, he folded his arms. “She was darn lucky,” he said, “Hit the tide right— just enough water to soften her impact. Ten minutes later, and, hell, no one could have opened that back door.”

He scrawled notes on his pad and grinned, despite himself. The VW Bug rose like a bizarre trophy in the water —its unscathed rear bumpers glinting in the sun. Halved more than ruined, the car stood like a sheared lobster.

Novel excerpt