The afternoon July air was hot and thick, and Jennifer Sanders could feel the beads of sweat forming along her brow. She reached down for her purse, lying on the sidewalk, and pulled out a Clinique compact. She inspected her makeup, used the powder puff to blot her face, and pushed her sandy blond hair behind her ear.
"Are we ready?" she asked, looking up at Mike.
"Sure are," Mike said, adjusting the heavy camera on his right shoulder.
"OK. Let's get this done," she said, tugging at her brightly striped shirt and buttoning her white blazer.
One last-minute check in the mirror and she was ready.
"Good evening. This is Jennifer Sanders with Indiana's NewsCenter. I'm standing here on South Calhoun Street in downtown Fort Wayne. This normally bustling block, filled with restaurants and offices, is now deserted after a vandal struck earlier today. Just behind me is the parking garage where 53 vehicles had a window broken and graffiti on the driver's-side head rest.
"I'm here with Fort Wayne Police detective Hank Parker," Jennifer said, turning to the officer and placing the microphone near his mouth. "Detective Parker, can you tell me about what happened today?"
"A call came into the 911 dispatch center about 9:45 this morning from the owner of a vehicle parked in the garage," Hank said. "The owner reported that the driver's-side window was broken and the inside of the car was vandalized.
"A Fort Wayne Police officer arrived on the scene about 8 minutes later and discovered that other vehicles had been damaged. A survey of the garage found a total of 53 vehicles had been damaged."
"Our sources report that an 'X' was painted inside the vehicle," Jennifer said. "Do police think that means anything?"
"We're not sure at this time," Hank said stiffly.
"Do police have any idea how such an act went unnoticed on a busy Monday morning?" Jennifer probed.
"We're working with the owner of the garage to review surveillance video," Hank reported. "At that time, we'll try to determine what exactly happened this morning."
"Any idea if this act was a solo effort or perpetrated by a group?" Jennifer pushed, hoping to gain ground with the detective.
"Not at this time."
"And," Jennifer began, pausing for a moment. "Do police think this act of vandalism is related to the incident at Parkview Field? Should residents be worried about parking their vehicles downtown?"
"We are investigating each crime individually at this time," Hank said diplomatically. "People should be cautious but continue on with their day-to-day lives."
"Thank you, Detective Parker," Jennifer said as she did an about-face to the camera. "This is Jennifer Sanders, reporting from downtown Fort Wayne for Indiana's NewsCenter."
Jennifer handed off the microphone to Mike and unbuttoned her blazer.
"This is crazy, huh," Jennifer exclaimed. "So … off the record, Hank. What the heck is going on?"
"I wish I knew. I really do," Hank said. "We thought it was just a one-time thing at Parkview Field. After today, I'm not so sure. I guess we'll wait and see."
"No extra patrols?" Jennifer asked.
"Not yet," Hank said. "Well, it was nice chatting, but I do have to go."
"Thanks for the interview. I'll be in touch," Jennifer said, reaching into her pocket. "And, if you have any tips for me, here's my card. My cell numbers are on there. Day or night, call me if something happens."
Hank took the card hesitantly and put it in the pocket of his navy blue uniform shirt. "I'll do that," he said, turning around and walking to his cruiser.
Mirabelle watched the officer walk away as she sat at the window table of Queen Pin, her feet propped on an adjacent chair. She had positioned herself in the front of the bakery in the hopes that she could hear the TV reporter's interview. Instead, she found the emptiness of the bakery and the downtown streets to be deafening.
It had been five hours since she saw the cruisers across the street, three hours since she had seen a customer and almost two hours since she had sent April home. Now, at 3 p.m., with no one in sight, Mirabelle decided she might as well clean up and head home. Maybe she could invite April and Finn over for dinner.
Mirabelle swung her legs off the chair and stood up, making a slow move toward the kitchen.
"Oh, excuse me," Mirabelle heard someone say behind her.
Mirabelle turned and saw the TV reporter just centimeters from her face. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't even hear the bell ring when the reporter opened the door.
"Oh, sorry," Mirabelle said. "How's it going today?"
"Good," Jennifer said, walking around Mirabelle and making her way to the counter. "But hot."
"I agree with you on that one," Mirabelle said.
"If I heard correctly," Jennifer said as she set her purse on the case and removed her blazer, "I can get an ice cream sandwich made with your famous cookies."
Mirabelle grabbed a piece of wax paper from behind the corner and slid the glass door open. "You did hear correctly. You can pick any two cookies – they don't even have to be the same flavor – and pick your ice cream. Today, we have vanilla, chocolate and coffee."
"OK … ," Jennifer said, her voice trailing off, as she bent over to check out the cookies in the case. She whispered the names of the hand-sized confections – double chocolate hazelnut, tropical macadamia nut, peanut butter, garbage.
"Garbage," Mirabelle replied with a smile. "Garbage is the 'everything but the kitchen sink' cookie – chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanuts, crushed pretzels.
"It's sweet and salty – best of both worlds," Mirabelle assured her.
"OK, then. Let's do two garbage cookies with vanilla ice cream."
Mirabelle grabbed a cookie and a clean scoop and headed to the freezer. Not even a minute later, she was back with an ice cream-topped cookie and seconds later, it was a sandwich.
"Can I wrap this up for you?" Mirabelle asked.
"That would be great."
As she folded the wax paper around the cookie, she had a nagging desire to ask Jennifer about her interview. She was sure the reporter would tell her to watch the evening broadcast, but it was worth a shot … maybe.
"Here you go," Mirabelle said. "That will be $4.95."
Jennifer opened her purse and dug around for the before finding a $5 bill.
"I'm sorry, but I have to ask," she heard Mirabelle say. "Did the officer you interviewed mention what they are doing about the vandal – or vandals?"
"Nothing," Jennifer said, handing over the money. "I don't think they know what to do."
"Hmmm … well, that's not very reassuring."
Jennifer put her wallet in her purse and grabbed her change and her sandwich. "You'd hope someone would be doing something," she said and walked off.