Article Index

Chapter 1

I   like my kitchen.
   I like to eat and I like to cook.
   Digestion is my favorite form of exercise.
   I am comfortable there.
   Or I used to be.
   Until the guy with the gun pointed at my head got between me and the back door. Both back doors – the one to the back yard and the one to the garage. That’s gonna play hell with your comfort zone, not to mention your appetite.
   Backed up against the counter with no place to go. The drain didn’t seem to be an option.
   My husband, Tim, has a weird ability to talk to me inside my head. We can’t explain it and we no longer try.
   Tim was screaming inside my head for me to duck, to fall down, to strip, to do whatever was necessary to keep the guy with the gun talking. He was on his way with John, the local detective, lights flashing and siren screaming.

   The guy with the gun was screaming at me, screaming I had to die because he had some kind of agreement with Anubis, the Egyptian deity with a dog’s head. 
   I didn’t understand that one either. 
   Hey, with a gun pointed at your head your ability to grasp convoluted theories pretty much goes out the window or maybe it managed to fit down the drain.
   Being there, at that time, with two men yelling at me, one present, one trying desperately to get to me, both of them giving me different orders I did the only thing I knew to do.
   I prayed.
   I asked the Lord to watch over Tim.
   I asked for forgiveness.
   I watched the finger inside the trigger guard of the pistol tighten, the knuckle turn white. I squeezed my eyes shut, tightening every muscle I had in preparation to be ripped by a bullet.


   A gunshot inside a small room is very loud, even if the gun in question is a small, black pistol. When it’s two gunshots, it’s twice as loud. When it gets to three it can be deafening when they all fire at the same time.
   Everything happened at once.
   The front door blew off the hinges and hit the floor with a bang.

   The door to the back yard blew off the hinges and hit the floor with a bang.
   Three shots were fired at the same time, one loud bang in high definition.
   The guy with the gun hit the floor.
   I hit the floor.
   John Kincaid, our local detective, came in the front with a gun in his hand. Tim was on his heels, so close they cast one shadow.
   Our lawn care guy, Chris, stood in the back door, with a gun in his hand.
   The guy on the floor groaned and began to cry.
   I wet my pants.
   Just a little bit.

~ ~ ~

   Can I just say I am modest, shy, quiet and unassuming? Or I used to be. After the past months I was beginning to reconsider.
   I was assaulted in the public park.
   A couple I didn’t know tried to drown me.
   A college kid attacked me.
   My house was broken into.
   My truck was vandalized.
   I broke a guy’s face with a chair.
   And now this – gunshots.
   In my kitchen.
   Tim didn’t slow down. He plowed past John, stepped over the guy on the ground and dropped to his knees in front of me.
   Muse are you hit? Talk to me, babe. Come on! Talk to me!

   I’m okay. I think.
   Thank you, Lord. You sure you’re okay?
   We gave up trying to explain Tim’s weird ability to pop into my mind. There’s a flash of blue, the smell of ozone, and he’s talking. Inside my head. No one else can hear him. Now he was talking in my head while my face was mashed into his chest.
   I opened my eyes.
   “I’m okay,” I said aloud.
   Tim got an arm around my shoulders and helped me sit up.
   “I’m okay, Tim” I said, mentally checking my parts for bullet holes.
   John Kincaid, the detective, had stopped at the man on the floor, crouching beside him long enough to take away the little black gun and put it on the table. He kept his own gun pointed at Chris, who stood in the gap that used to be my back door.
   Chris seemed surprised to be there, his eyes vacant. His right hand drooped with the weight of a silver pistol.
   “Put it down, very carefully,” John ordered in a cold, official voice.
   Chris bent and placed his pistol on the floor, then stood up, hands in the air. He blinked and shook his head a couple of times like a swimmer coming out of the water.
   “Back up, hands on the wall,” John ordered, moving to retrieve the gun and lay it up on the counter. Chris turned and put both hands on the wall.
   All this time the guy on the floor was bleeding.

   “Come on, Muse, let’s get you up.”
   “I want to move,” I said, still on the floor. “I don’t like this house any more.”
   Tim hugged me against him. “We’ll see what we can do, Muse. Come on, let’s get you up.”
   With his arm around my shoulders he helped me to my feet. My knees didn’t want to work.
   “She all right?” John called. “She hit?”
   “She’s good,” Tim answered. “You need help?”
   “Can you call it in?”
   “Got it,” Tim said, and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
   Tim called 911, reported shots fired, one man down and gave our address.
   On the floor, two feet from us, But Bill, the guy who tried to shoot me, writhed like a snake with a broken back. His feet made funny scraping sounds as he pulled up one, then the other before he straightened them, like he was swimming, or trying to crawl.
   “You sure you’re okay?” Tim asked. “Talk to me, babe.”
   “I want to move,” I repeated. “I don’t want to live here anymore.”
   Tim chuckled. “You know, I can understand that. We’ll see what we can do. Let’s get you in a chair.”
   He hooked a chair from the kitchen table with his boot, slid it over and eased me into it.
   “I’m right here, babe. You’re safe. It’s over.”
   I heard the rattle of handcuffs and peeked around Tim to see John snap them into place on Chris’s wrists. All this time Chris was silent, not a word, not one I heard anyway. He looked at the wall.

   I leaned around Tim a little further and looked at Chris.
   “Hey, Chris,” I said.
   “Hey, Miz Tanner,” he nodded and turned his head to look at me. “You okay?”
   “Yes, thanks. I think I’m good. How about you?”
   John was patting down Chris’s pockets.
   “Glad you’re okay, ma’am,” Chris said, clanking the handcuffs at his back. “I’m okay. I thought you might need some help.”
   “Appreciate it, Chris, and thank you. I was in trouble.”
   John took his elbow and put Chris in another kitchen chair. Then he knelt by the guy on the floor.
   I glanced down and quickly looked away.
   Bill’s sliding around had smeared blood all over the floor in shades of pink, crimson and a thick, oily bright red. What I glimpsed of his shirt was dark, almost black at the shoulders, both shoulders wet and glistening.
   Tim shifted in front of me, and blocked my view of Bill.
   “What happened?” His eyes dark with concern
   “Me? Are you talking to me?”
   “Yeah, babe, I meant you,” he answered. “Can you tell me what happened? What’s he doing here?” He tipped his head at the man on the floor.
   “Bleeding,” I said. “On everything. Grab a towel or something.”
   Then the sirens screamed in, drowning the scene in noise.

   More people rushed through the hole in the wall that used to be my front door. The door was on the floor, one side higher because of the knob it rested on. The second guy in lost his balance on the unsteady door, stumbled and staggered until he hit the newel post of the stairs. He bounced off, regained his footing, and joined another guy on the floor by Bill.
   The two EMT guys squatted by him, one on each side, and checked him over. He yowled every time one touched him, a sound somewhere between a cat in a tree and a pig stuck under a gate.
   Two police officers stood in the door to the kitchen, awaiting John’s directions. One of them, Officer Chuck, I knew.
   “Take this guy outside and read him his rights,” John ordered, taking Chris by the arm. “Put him in your car till I get there to talk to him.”
   Chuck took control of Chris and guided him out through the hole in the wall.
   John lifted the front door off the floor, propped it up against the bookcase and cleared the way for foot traffic.
   Tim shifted to the side to watch Chris leave in cuffs.
   The EMT’s worked over Bill, one of them talking into his collarbone to some kind of gadget clipped there. The other had pulled off the BP cuff and wrapped it up, calling out numbers. Voices filled the room, punctuated by bursts of static from police radios.
   One of the EMT’s left and returned with a folding gurney that he snapped into position. John had to move out of their way. My kitchen wasn’t all that big and now crowded with men trying to work around one another, there was barely room to breathe.

   Bill howled some more as the EMT’s lifted him onto the gurney. When he was strapped down he went into a constant groan.
   I wanted to go pour salt on his wound. Or wounds if there was more than one.
   “He gonna make it?” John asked.
   “Yeah, he’ll be all right,” answered one EMT. “May need some surgery. Hit in both shoulders. One went right on through. Pretty good shooting,” he winked as he grabbed one end of the gurney. “We’ll take him to emergency.”
   With care they managed to get the gurney outside and down the porch steps.
   John sent one officer with the ambulance, keeping Officer Chuck outside with Chris. When the ambulance siren faded away the kitchen was quiet.
   Very quiet.
   I could hear the clock over the stove ticking.
   John came to squat in front of me, taking one of my hands between his bigger ones.
   “Can you tell me what happened, Tee?”
   “He came in and pointed that gun at me and started ranting that I had to die,” I told him. “The reason was a little blurry.”
   “Okay, Tee. Relax. Can I make you a cup of tea?”
   “I’ll do that,” Tim said and turned to fill the kettle and set it on a burner. “You hit him in both shoulders?”
   “Didn’t know if he was left handed or right handed,” John grinned. “To tell the truth I only fired one shot. Chris must have fired the other.”
   “Chris shot him, too?”
   “Yeah, looks like. Unless you’ve got a gun.”

   “You wouldn’t let me have one,” Tim answered.
   John glanced at Tim and stood up.
   “You would have killed him. I’m gonna go talk to the lawn guy. And grab a camera. Don’t step in the blood.”
   I gagged and looked up at the ceiling.
   There were several cobwebs up there I hadn’t noticed before.
   “Can I clean this up a little?” I heard Tim ask.
   “The counter?” John asked. “What’s up there? Splatter?”
   I gagged again. Audibly.
   “No, the floor. Some of that blood,” Tim answered. “It’s clean up here.”
   “Wait till I get some pictures,” John said. “Leave it till then. It’s a crime scene.”
   “Can I take Tee out of here?”
   “Yeah, take her in the living room. Just be careful where you step. Don’t let her walk in it either.”
   Tim helped me stand, then lifted me up and held me against his chest.
   I buried my face in his neck and closed my eyes.
   I didn’t want to see the floor.
   Tim carried me into the living room.
   A cool ocean breeze blew in the opening where the front door used to be.
   He set me on the couch, pulled down the afghan, and wrapped it around me.
   “I’ll get the tea, babe. Just be a minute, okay? Do you want me to start a fire?”
   I nodded, my teeth beginning to chatter.
   I heard John’s voice talking to someone on the porch, although I couldn’t make out the words.

   Two men in uniform came in and went straight to the kitchen. Muted voices came from the kitchen, Tim’s among them.
   The wall reflected flashes from the kitchen where they were taking pictures. A lot of pictures.
   Tim brought me a cup of tea and sat beside me.
   I wrapped both hands around the mug.
   “You want to talk about it?” He brushed my hair back, his fingers as gentle as a butterfly’s kiss.
   “Not really,” I said.
   “Just a couple of questions?”
   I nodded my head and sipped tea.
   “How did he get in?”
   “I opened the door.”
   “Okay, then what happened?”
   “Tim, I am so sorry!” I leaned forward to set the mug on the table. “He said you asked him to pick up your jacket. He said he was taking it up to you, so I let him in. He waited here while I went up to get your coat.”
   “You didn’t do anything wrong, Muse. It’s fine. It’s over.”
   I leaned back and sighed.
   “You sure you’re okay? You’re kind of pale, babe.”
   “I just spent an hour with a madman who had a gun in my face. I watched his finger, Tim! On the trigger. Getting tighter and tighter. It turned white! The knuckle turned white!” I took a deep breath. “No. I am not okay.”
   Tim gathered me to his side and tucked my head into his shoulder.