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It's a funny thing about being hit in the head. Afterward, you're never quite sure what happened. You only know that something did.
At five in the morning on June the seventh, I was pushing my dessert-laden old pie wagon up the walk to the Roundhouse, a failed restaurant I'd leased and was converting into a catering-events center.
At half-past five, I was lying in the grass, wondering what I was doing there and why I was in so much pain.
Reconstruct, I ordered myself, as I wiped gravel from my mouth. I hadn't fainted. But I had been knocked out. My head throbbed, my knees stung, and the back of my neck felt as if it had been guillotined with a dull blade. I groaned, tried to move my legs, and was rewarded with a wave of nausea. I rubbed my eyes and tried to think, but the memory remained out of reach.
My husband, a cop, often tells witnesses to begin their story at daybreak on the day they see a crime. This gives folks a chance to talk about how normal everything was before events went haywire.
So that's what I did.
I closed my eyes and recalled rising at four, when mountain chickadees, Steller's jays, and all manner of avian creatures begin their summer-in-the-Rockies concert. I showered, did my yoga, and kissed Tom, to whom I'd been married for two years, good-bye. He mumbled that he'd be in his office at the sheriff's department later in the day.
When I checked on my son, Arch, he was slumbering deeply inside his cocoon of dark blue sheets. I knew Arch would wait until the last possible moment before getting dressed to assist with that day's catered event. But at least he was helping out, which was more than most fifteen-year-olds would be willing to do at the start of summer vacation. I loaded the last of the event's foodstuffs into my catering van, made the short drive up Aspen Meadow's Main Street, and rounded the lake. A quarter mile along Upper Cottonwood Creek Drive, I turned into the paved Roundhouse lot, where I'd parked and unloaded.
So far so good. I remembered merrily wheeling my cart up the gravel path toward the back door of my newly remodeled commercial kitchen. Peach pie slices glistened between lattices of flaky crust. A hundred smooth, golden, Tennessee chess tartlets bobbled in their packing. Threads of early morning sunlight shimmered on the surface of Aspen Meadow Lake, two hundred yards away. In the distance, a flock of ducks took off from the lake, quacking, flapping their wings, and ruffling the water.
Recalling all this made the area behind my eyes sting. But when I tried to turn over, pain ran up my side and I gasped. The desserts, the lake, the ducks. Then what?
As I'd steered the wagon toward the ramp to the back entry, I'd noticed something odd about the Roundhouse kitchen door. It was slightly ajar.
A thread of fear had raced up my neck. My body turned cold and I stopped the cart, whose creaky wheels had been filling the morning silence. A thump echoed from out of the kitchen. Then a crack. As I reeled back on the path, someone leaped out of the kitchen door.
A man? A woman? Whoever it was wore a black top, black pants, and a ski mask. The intruder lunged down the ramp. Wrenching the pie wagon backward, I teetered, then backpedaled furiously. He -- was it a man? -- shoved the cart out of the way. It toppled over. Pastries spewed onto the grass. The prowler loomed, then hand-chopped the back of my neck. The force of the blow made me cry out.
With silver spots clouding my eyes, I'd registered crumpling, then falling. I'd bitten my tongue and tasted blood. Then there had been the terrible pain, and the darkness.
Okay, so that was what had happened. But why had someone wearing a mask been in my kitchen in the first place? I did not know. What I did know was that lumps of granite and sharp blades of drought-ravaged scrub grass were piercing my chest. Again I tried to lift myself, but a current of pain ran down my body. When I thought, You have an event to cater in six hours, tears popped out of my eyes. Who could have done this to me? Why today, of all days? My business, Goldilocks' Catering, Where Everything Is Just Right!, was set to put on only our second event since I'd leased the Roundhouse. It was a big lunch following a funeral -- a funeral that might as well have been mine.
Water burbled nearby: Cottonwood Creek, a foot below its normal flow. A car rumbled past -- the beginning of the morning commuter traffic from the stone and stucco mini-mansions that ranged along the upper part of the creek. Positioned as I was on the far side of the Roundhouse, it was unlikely that any of the lawyers, accoun-tants, or doctors making their way down to Denver would see me and call for help. With enormous effort, I pushed up to my elbows, fought queasiness, and got to my feet. The overturned pie cart lay a few feet away. Crusts and fruit slices littered the sparse grass. Tartlet filling oozed into the dust.
I almost thought, Peachy!, but stopped myself.
I limped to the van and climbed inside. Then I locked the doors, opened the glove compartment, and pulled out the thirty-eight I'd started keeping in there since the twenty-second of April. That was when my ex-husband, Dr. John Richard Korman, had had his prison sentence commuted by the governor of Colorado.
He had been serving four years for aggravated assault and probation violation. Although he'd beaten me up plenty of times before I'd kicked him out seven years ago, the assault he'd been convicted for -- finally -- had been his attack on a subsequent girlfriend. Unfortunately, he'd been behind bars for less than a year.
Excerpted from Double Shot by Diane Mott Davidson. Copyright © 2004 by Diane Mott Davidson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.