Still gripping the sword, Arch obediently scrambled onto a braided rug I'd made during our financial dark days. He was wearing a navy sweat suit -- his substitute for pajamas -- and thick gray socks, protection from the cold. Protection. I thought belatedly of Tom's rifle and the handgun he kept hidden behind a false wall in our detached garage. Lot of good they did me now, especially since I didn't know how to shoot.
"We'll be right there," announced a distant telephone voice after I babbled where we were and what had happened. Jake's howl and the screaming security system made it almost impossible to make out the operator's clipped instructions. "Mrs. Schulz?" she repeated. "Lock the bedroom door. If any of your neighbors call, tell them not to do anything. We should have a car there in less than fifteen minutes."
Please, God, I prayed, disconnecting. With numb fingers, I locked Arch's door, then eased to the floor beside him. I glanced upward. Could the glow from the aquarium light be seen from outside? Could the shooter get a good purchase on Arch's window?
"Somebody has to go get Jake," Arch whispered. "We can't just leave him barking. You told the operator you heard a shot. Did you really think it was from a gun? I thought it was a cannonball."
"I don't know." If any of your neighbors call ... My neighbors' names had all slid from my head.
The front doorbell rang. My eyes locked with Arch's. Neither of us moved. The bell rang again. A male voice shouted, "Goldy? Arch? It's Bill! Three other guys are here with me!" Bill? Ah, Bill Quincy ... from next door. "Goldy," Bill boomed. "We're armed!"
I took a steadying breath. This was Colorado, not England or Canada or some other place where folks don't keep guns and wield them freely. In Aspen Meadow, no self-respecting gun-owner who heard a shot at four A.M. was going to wait to be summoned. One man had even glued a decal over the Neighborhood Watch sign: This Street Guarded by Colts. Although the county had sent out a graffiti-removal company to scrape off the sticker, the sentiment remained the same.
"Goldy? Arch?" Bill Quincy hollered again. "You okay? It doesn't look as if anybody's broken in! Could you let me check? Goldy!"
Would the cops object? I didn't know.
"Goldy?" Bill bellowed. "Answer me, or I'm breaking down the door!"
"All right!" I called. "I'm coming!" I told Arch to stay put and tentatively made my way down the stairs.
Freezing air swirled through the first floor. In the living room, glass shards glittered where they'd landed on the couch, chairs, and carpet. I turned off the deafening alarm, flipped on the outside light, and swung open the door.
Four grizzled, goose-down-jacketed men stood on my front step. I was wearing red plaid flannel pj's and my feet were bare, but I told them law enforcement was en route and invited them in. Clouds of steam billowed from the men's mouths as Bill insisted his companions weren't budging. As if to make his point, Bill's posse settled creakily onto our frosted porch. The men's weapons -- two rifles and two pistols -- glinted in the ghostly light.
Bill Quincy, his wide, chinless face grim, his broad shoulders tense, announced that he intended to go through the house, to see if the shooter had broken in. I should wait until he'd inspected the first floor, he ordered, pushing past me without further ceremony. Bill stomped resolutely through the kitchen and dining room, peered into the tiny half-bath, then returned to the hallway and cocked his head at me. I tiptoed behind him to the kitchen. He shouted a warning into the basement, then banged down the steps. If the intruder was indeed inside, there could be no mistake that my neighbor intended to roust him out.
Jake bounded up to Arch's room ahead of me. Scout, our adopted stray cat, slunk along behind the bloodhound, his long gray-and-brown hair, like Arch's, turned electric from being suddenly roused. Following my animal escort, I silently thanked God that none of us had been hurt, and that we had great neighbors. The cat scooted under the bed used by Julian Teller, our former boarder, now a sophomore at the University of Colorado. Arch asked for a third time what had happened. I didn't want to frighten him. So I lied.
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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