It was 3 am. Carolyn Montoya was running for her life.
After her doctor had diagnosed the 31-year-old mother of two as being in the early stage of diabetes, he prescribed exercise and a special diet to keep her from getting worse.
After ruling out several options, jogging worked best for her, and this unconventional hour was the best time for her.
It had several advantages. She enjoyed the privacy of jogging around the closed shops. She could avoid impulse buying -- and please her husband Carlo -- by harmlessly window shopping.
She pulled up alongside the COPPER PENNY boutique, which showcased Patricia Inc.'s fashions and products. Mrs. Montoya had shopped there once or twice, as she read the store's motto, "For the adventurous woman."
She didn't consider herself adventurous. She was a simple housewife content to give her husband and kids a good foundation and a good home, as her mother had tried to do for her and her sisters in Palo Verde.
She also didn't consider herself adventurous jogging alone at this hour, neither was she naive. She had her four-footed protector and running partner Siegfried keeping pace with her. She carried a fully-charged electronic stun gun in a holster on one hip, a canister of pepperfoam on the other, and had been taking kickboxing classes down at her husband's gym.
In the last year she had only been accosted once, by a drunk who would not take "no" to his request for money. His priorities changed very quickly after she 'kissed' him with her stun gun's 300,000 volt touch.
Since then, she felt confidant that she could handle just about anything the neighborhood could dish out.
She would not have been so self-assured if she had seen the nondescript dark sedan slowly cruising down the street from behind her. And her suspicions would have peaked if she'd noticed the absence of licence plates, and the black hoods that obscured the faces of the car's three occupants.
Carolyn Montoya had just reached the Victoria's Secret shop. Jogging in place, she eyed the sexy fashions as her cassette player switched sides on her exercise accompaniment tape.
The rear window of the sedan silently rolled down, and what appeared to be a thick section of metal pipe eased out. A moment later the pipe shuddered, and a puff of smoke appeared at the open end.
Carolyn Montoya would later report that there had been no advance warning prior to the explosion, that suddenly she and her German Shepherd were thrown to the sidewalk by the concussion, and by the time she had regained her wits and looked back in the direction of the blast two blocks away, the COPPER PENNY boutique was engulfed in flame.
The explosion shattered nearby windows and set off car alarms for a half-mile in all directions. And there had been no mention of the nondescript dark sedan with the three hooded occupants.