“Well, thanks for dinner,” Mirabelle said from the top step of Queen Pin. “It was …”
Mirabelle could feel herself choking on the words that should come next – great, fantastic, awesome, the best date of her life. But even after enjoying a delicious dinner (risotto for her, spaghetti and meatballs for him) and effortless conversation, no doubt made easier by the two glasses of wine she had had, Mirabelle couldn’t muster the confidence to tell him the truth. Especially as Harrison stepped up closer to her, his breath a warm contrast to the cool night air. He looked down at her, his blue eyes sparkling from the street lights, and he took his right hand to her face. His fingers grazed the outline of her cheek bone, brushing away the stray hairs eclipsing Mirabelle’s eye.
Harrison leaned into her and placed his right hand on the door behind Mirabelle, bracing himself against the bakery.
“It was great,” he whispered into her ear.
Mirabelle nodded, her lips frozen.
She could feel Harrison move his head and smell the cannoli on his breath. Her eyes closed in anticipation.
“Actually, if I can be honest, tonight wasn’t great,” he said softly. “It was more than that.”
His lips gently pressed Mirabelle’s, and it took her a moment to respond to his kiss. When she did, she did so hesitantly.
“Is Harrison really kissing me? Me!” she thought.
She reached out her arm and put it on his chest to make sure that he was there, that he was real. Harrison reached up and grabbed her hand. He moved his lips from hers and kissed her hand.
“Can we do this ag …,” Harrison began to say.
“Can we what?” Mirabelle whispered.
Harrison turned his head and stared north toward Main Street, where the red and blue lights of police cruisers reflected in the window of the bank building.
Mirabelle had been so engaged by Harrison that she hadn’t heard the sirens of the police growing and stopping at the corner of Main and Calhoun, nor had she seen the bright lights piercing the evening sky.
She turned her head to match Harrison’s line of sight and dropped his hand.
“What do you think,” she started. “What do you think is going on?”
“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know.”
Mirabelle walked down the steps, April’s sandal clapping as she did so, and brushed past Harrison.
She leaned her body one way, then the other, as she moved up the street trying to get a better view.
“I wonder how many cars are up there,” she said. “That’s a lot of lights in those windows.”
“Three or four, maybe,” he said. “Hey, where are you going?”
“Nowhere,” Mirabelle said, April’s sandals still clapping as she walked.
“Come back!” Harrison said, almost a pleading in his voice. “You don’t need to go up there.”
Mirabelle didn’t go back. She didn’t stop. She didn’t even turn around.
Harrison took a slow jog up the street after her and by the time he caught up with her, Mirabelle was standing on the east side of Calhoun, staring at the parking lot where the famous Santa hangs every year.
“What do you think happened?” she asked, nodding across the street.
A dozen officers, working in pairs, were crouched down and peering intently at either end of the cars with flashlights in their mouths.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I wonder if I know any of the guys working the scene.
“Stay here. I’ll see what I can see.”
Harrison shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and walked across the street.
There was a group of four officers standing next to the attendant’s booth on the north side of the lot, talking and making notes. Harrison couldn’t see the faces of two of the men, but he was sure he knew one of the guys.
An officer scribbling furiously on a pad of paper looked up.
“Hey,” Harrison said, walking toward him. “It’s Harrison Todd. I met you the other week out at the TinCaps game. I’m friends with Rusty.”
“Oh, … oh yeah. How’s it going?” Hank said, extending his hand to Harrison.
“Good, I guess. I was over at Queen Pin and I saw the cruisers. Couldn’t help myself – I had to walk down and see what’s going on.”
Hank put the cap on his pen and slipped it into his pants pocket, flipping his notebook shut at the same time.
“I don’t think we’re ready to say anything right now,” Hank said. He leaned in closer and lowered his voice.
“Especially with the vultures hovering,” he added, gesturing to a cluster of news vans.
Harrison nodded with understanding.
“Can you nod then?” Harrison asked. “Was it the vandal?”
Hank moved his head up and down slowly, then paused. “Bumpers. Pulled ’em off one by one, like an assembly line.”
Harrison looked back at Mirabelle, her arms crossed across the dress. Even from a distance, he could see the worried look on her face, her forehead furrowed.
“This isn’t going to make you happy,” he thought to himself, taking slow, hesitant steps toward his date. “Not. At. All.”