PROLOGUE from “Why Natasha?”
There should have been a sound–she knew that much–but she was also aware that not hearing anything was curious. It was as if she was watching someone else from a detached distance. A voice came. The voice was followed by an explosion of white light. Then all was darkness.
Her next awareness was of lying on her back and of the intense throbbing in her lips. She tried unsuccessfully to lift her head. The failure to lift herself brought to her awareness the dull pain in the back of her head and how difficult it was to breathe. She rested her head against the ground and just concentrated on moving her lip. All that did was double the pain.
“Just lie still,” a calm male voice said.
She squinted, then closed her eyes, then opened them as wide as she could in an attempt to get the face behind the voice into focus.
“You’re ok,” the voice said.
“What happened?” Nattie asked as the man’s face came into view.
“As near as I could tell you were sucker punched.” The voice was impassive, professional.
“You never saw it coming. He walked up to you, said something, and then bam. You didn’t lift your arms; you didn’t flinch; you didn’t protect yourself at all.”
Nattie noticed that he was in a blue uniform. He was a policeman.
“My partner and I saw the whole thing. We were parked right over there.”
Turning her head to look in the direction where he pointed made Nattie wince. Her neck was stiff. She labored to take a long deep breathe and began to sit up.
“Are you sure you’re ready to do that missy?” the policeman asked, but seeing that she was not to be dissuaded he put his left hand under her right arm and supported her neck with his right. “Just go slow,” he encouraged.
Once she was upright, Nattie bent her head forward and fought off dizziness. She touched her lips. She could not tell if they were swollen yet but she knew they would be. Her front teeth felt loose against her tongue.
“Do you know who hit you?”
Lifting her head Nattie gazed across the parking lot outside her office. After a prolonged consideration she slowly turned to face the officer, who was still squatting next to her. “I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” he said, “we’ll know who he is soon enough. My partner caught him as he ran around the front of your building.”
Laughing more heartily, the officer said, “He wasn’t the brightest assailant we’ve ever had to catch. He attacked you right in front of us and then when he tried to make his escape he ran straight towards us.”
How nice for you, thought Nattie.
“Are you sure you didn’t recognize him? It looked like he said something to you just before he hit you.”
“He did.” she remembered. “He asked me my name.”