Here’s the opening sequence of the new story, whose outline is here: there’s been a body found at a regional Burning Man.
“Build a giant statue, set it on fire, dance around it naked.” Inspector Mustapha Alawi guided the Lexus off the country road and into the ruts hundreds of cars had made in the red Georgia clay underneath the grass. “Am I missing anything?”
Detective Diana Siddall was slumped in the passenger seat, looking green. They’d been partners long enough for Mustapha to know it wasn’t carsickness, but rather Diana being out of the city and in clean country air that mostly smelled of cowshit. “They’re all tripping out of their minds,” she said.
“Well, duh. Come on, we did this when I was young. Three days of peace and music.”
“I thought you were killing Viet Cong, in the jungle?”
“Generational thing. And it was North Vietnamese Army: the Viet Cong were done for by the time I got there. Only difference is, I bet these kids are streaming the whole thing on the Internet.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“We’re like sixty miles from Atlanta.”
The track felt bumpy even through the Lexus’s suspension. They turned a corner and emerged into a large fallow field where hundreds of cars were lined up neatly under the hot spring sun. The track ran through the center of the field, where in the shade of an enormous solitary tree a few shirtless people sat in camp chairs. As they approached the tree, a woman stood up and walked to Mustapha’s window. Cheerful, thirtysomething, flabby, topless, $5000 worth of tattoos, mostly mermaids. She produced as if from thin air a barcode scanner. “Y’all need to have your wristbands on before–”
Mustapha showed her his shield. “Atlanta Homicide. You want to point us to Sheriff Marconi?”
She stood up, blew out a sigh. “Yeah. They’re waiting for you. It’s going to be way easier for y’all to park and walk in.”
She waved them over to a spot in the shade. As they were parking, Mustapha was momentarily distracted by a vision walking toward him: a much slimmer, rather younger woman, lovely, smiling. No obvious tattoos, but her skin was mostly covered with body paint: amateurishly applied yellow and green sunflowers. “Hi,” she said to Mustapha through the still-open window. “Welcome to Euphoria. I’m Peaseblossom. I’ll take you to the effigy.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Mustapha as he started to exit the vehicle.
“You might want to put it in park,” said Diana.