Chapter 1 Dolores never met a Healer she didn't like until the night they took her away. It happened at the playground on Santa Monica Beach at about two o'clock in the morning. Dolores slept in the metal tube that connected the jungle gym to the swirly slide. For a homeless woman of forty, it wasn't that bad of an arrangement. She had privacy here, and the garbage cans at the playground usually had enough juice boxes or snack packets to tide her over until morning. A passerby would, no doubt, think Dolores older than her forty years. Time on the street had a way of aging a person in much the same way war did. Her greasy brown hair hung in knotted clumps beneath a black knitted cap. Her eyes were gray, distant, and tired. Years of wind and sun had leathered her face and left dark circles under her eyes. Beneath her heavily soiled trench coat were several layers of other clothing: T-shirts and sweatshirts and all kinds of shirtsfar more than normal people would wear but just enough for someone who slept out in the cold. Tonight the cold was especially cold, the kind that snaked its way into Dolores's metal tube and then into the holes and folds of her clothing. It was a cold that had kept her up all night. And by the time the uninvited drunk man arrived, Dolores was in a particularly sour mood. He stumbled into the playground, smelling like a vat of cheap liquor. From where she lay, Dolores couldn't see him, but he was making plenty of noise and sounded like trouble. Go away, she wanted to scream. Take your booze smell and the vomit smell that's bound to be right behind it and go away. Instead he collapsed onto the slide, and the metal rang with the sound of his impact. Dolores inchwormed her way to the end of the tube and looked down. There he was, sprawled on his back in the sand, his arms spread wide, his mouth slightly agape. He must have slid right off the slide after falling onto it. Dolores shook her head. Whatever you been drinking, mister, you must have burned a lot of brain cells, because no poorly buttoned flannel shirt and holey pair of blue jeans are going to protect you from this wind. You need layers, peabrain. Layers. She wriggled back inside the tube. Not dressing for the weather was about the stupidest, most inexcusable reason for dying Dolores could think of. She was debating whether to move elsewhere for the night just in case drunk man here woke up and caused trouble, when she heard voices. "Here's one, sir." It was a man's voice, strong, probably a cop. Good. Get that stinking heap away from my slide before he throws up. "He's drunk, sir." Of course he's drunk. You got a clothespin on your nose? "He'll do," another man said. An older man, by the sound. And quieter. Like somebody used to being obeyed without having to push. The kind of person who shouldn't be in an empty playground on the beach after dark, in the winter. She knew the smart thing to do. Lie low, don't make a sound. They obviously hadn't noticed her. And that was always a good thing. "Help him to the van," the older man said. The van? Cops don't take drunks "to the van." They either book them or roll them. So who were these guys? She had to get a peek. If she moved really slowly, she could keep silent. Then again, if she moved too slowly, they'd be gone before she got to the end of the tube where she could see. So she needed just the right balance of speed and stealth. Got it wrCard, Orson Scott is the author of 'Invasive Procedures', published 2008 under ISBN 9780765352828 and ISBN 0765352826.