Back in my old life, my ex-husband had often stumbled in late. I'd become used to the drunken harangues, the flaunted infidelities, the midnight arguments. Sometimes I even thought his girlfriends used to follow him home, to stake out our house.
Of course, I absolutely believed in Tom's fidelity, even if he had been both secretive and preoccupied lately. Before he left, he'd even seemed low. I hadn't quite known how to help. Try as I might, I was still getting used to being a cop's wife.
Five minutes went by with no sound. My mind continued to meander. I wondered again about Tom. Six A.M. on the East Coast was he up? Was he still planning on flying back this morning, as he'd promised us? Had he made any progress in his investigation?
The case Tom was working on involved the hijacking -- on a Furman County road -- of a FedEx delivery truck. The driver had been killed. Only one of the suspected three hijackers had been arrested. His name was Ray Wolff, and he was now in the same cell block as my ex-husband, Dr. John Richard Korman. The Jerk, as his other ex-wife and I called him, was currently serving a sentence for assault. During Arch's weekly visit, John Richard had boasted to his son of his acquaintance with Ray Wolff, the famous killer-hijacker. How low things had sunk, I thought, when a father reveled in his own criminal infamy.
I shivered again and tried not to think of the threats my ex-husband had sent from jail. They'd been both implied and overt. When I get out of here, I'll set you straight, Goldy. To Arch, he'd said, You can tell your mother your father has a plan. I guess I wasn't surprised that those tiny signs of remorse John Richard had shown at his trial had all been for the benefit of the judge.
I jumped at the sound of a third, louder crack. Downstairs, Jake let out a tentative woof. I hit the phone's power button as an explosion rocked our house.
What was that? My brain reeled. Cold and trembling, I realized I'd fallen off the bed. A gunshot? A bomb? It had sounded like a rocket launcher. A grenade. An earthquake. Downstairs, glass crashed to the floor. What the hell is going on?
I clutched the phone, scuttled across the cold floor, and tried to call for Arch. Unfortunately, my voice no longer seemed to be working. Below, our security system shrieked. I cursed as I made a tripping dash down the unlit hall.
The noise had been a gunshot. It had to have been. Someone had shot at our home. At least one downstairs window had been shattered, of that I was certain. Where is the shooter now? Where is my son?
"Arch!" I squawked in the dark hallway. Dwarfed by the alarm, my voice sounded tinny and far away. "Are you all right? Can you hear me?"
The alarm's wail melded with Jake's baying. What good did a security system do, anyway? Alarms are meant to protect you from intruders wanting your stuff -- not from shooters wanting your life. Yelling that it was me, it was Mom, I stumbled through my son's bedroom door.
Arch had turned on his aquarium light and was sitting up in bed. In the eerie light, his pale face glowed. His toast-brown hair had fanned out in an electric halo, and his hastily donned tortoiseshell glasses were askew. He clutched a raised sword -- a gleaming foil used for his school fencing practice. I punched the phone buttons for 911, but was trembling so badly I messed it up. Now the phone was braying in my ear.
Panic tensed Arch's face as he leaned toward the watery light and squinted at me.
"Mom! What was that?"
Shuddering, I fumbled with the phone again and finally pushed the automatic dial for the Furman County Sheriff's Department.
"I don't know," I managed to shout to Arch. Blood gurgled in my ears. I wanted to be in control, to be comforting, to be a good mother. I wanted to assure him this was all some terrible mistake. "Better get on the--" With the phone, I gestured toward the floor.
Excerpted from Sticks & Scones by Diane Mott Davidson Copyright 2001 by Diane Mott Davidson. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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