A machete slash severed her hand. Blood pulsed from the stump to splash the sorority-house door and security chain.
Peggy Miller, an eighteen-year-old freshman student of cinema at the University of Southern California, daughter of a New York advertising executive, stared with disbelief at the wound. As a lifelong television and movie addict, she had seen uncounted thousands of murders and mutilations. As a devotee of the horror genre, she had already made films of the macabre and terrifying, sometimes appearing in front of the camera, other times writing the script or operating the camera or serving as a makeup artist to create the images of suffering and mutilation and grotesque death.
Often she had giggled at the sight of movie blood splashing. She had twisted her face into a mask of manic rage and hacked at the other actors and actresses with plastic knives and axes. After the scene, they all laughed, the syrupy blood sticky on their bodies. Once, she had endured ten retakes of her own murder as the student director struggled to capture the
* * *
Raoul Valencia, a red-haired young Mexican from the state of Michoacan, turned the ignition key for the tenth time. But nothing. No response from the starter motor, no lights, no emergency blinker.
Only an arm's distance to his left, the headlights of Harbor Freeway traffic flashed past at sixty miles an hour. His boys — Miguel and Thomas — sat in the back seat, staring back at the onrushing traffic. His wife, Maria, held their youngest in her arms, as if to protect the baby girl from the rushing tons of metal threatening the Valencias with disaster.
When the old Buick's electrical system had failed, Raoul fought to guide the car out of traffic. Though he would not admit it even to Maria, that long moment, from the speed lane to the side of the freeway — without power, without lights, without brakes, the other cars skidding and swerving around him, his family so close to death — had been the most terrifying thirty seconds of his life. His mouth had gone dry with fear.
The sprint across the border at Juarez had been nothing. So what if the American
But when the car quit! Ayiii!
By the grace of the Virgin, they had reached the safety of the roadside. Now to start the Buick…
He must do it before the highway police stopped to help him. What if they asked for his papers?
To lose it all now — capture in Los Angeles meant return to Mexico City.
No matter. Even if the American authorities sent him back, he would return.
Taking a flashlight from under the seat, Raoul waited until no headlights threatened him, then quickly left the car. He dashed to the front of the Buick. Untying the rope that replaced the latch, he threw the hood open.