April walked down the alley, the sky still dark and the stars still out. Even at 5 a.m., it was hot and muggy. With a sigh, she pulled her long, red hair off her neck and tied it into a messy bun at the top of her head as she walked toward the bakery.
April had decided after leaving Mirabelle's apartment the night before that she should probably get to Queen Pin early to get a jump start on the day for her friend. And 5 a.m. was early. For her.
She slipped her key into the back door and went to turn it but found that the door was already unlocked. April turned the handle cautiously, cracking the door and peeking into the kitchen.
April was nearly blinded by the lights and the aroma of baked goods coming from the ovens hit her immediately.
"You're here already?" exclaimed Mirabelle, who was already busy behind the marble slab. "Yay!"
"Yay," April said hesitantly. She looked at her friend as if she were a stranger. The sullen, frustrated woman she left yesterday was gone and replaced by someone … someone who said "yay."
"So … what's going on?" April asked, tossing her purse in the office and grabbing a fuchsia apron from the hook.
"Just the usual."
"Yes," Mirabelle said with a smile. "Baking. That bananas Foster bread pudding I made last night was the best so I have some of that in there. It's a shame you missed out on it."
"Umm … about that … I'm sorry. You just seemed to be a bit to yourself. Like you needed to be alone."
"Don't worry about it," Mirabelle said. "Of course, you could make it up to me by going out tonight."
"It's Tuesday, you know."
"Yes, I know it's Tuesday. A Tuesday when a Cirque show will be at the Embassy," Mirabelle said. "And you won't even need a ticket."
"Sounds interesting. Count me in," April said, tying the apron around her waist.
The two women got to work making the day's goods – bananas Foster bread pudding, rocky road brownies, chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes and the feature of the day, Key lime chiffon cake.
Despite fears that business would be bad, Mirabelle was filled with a new sense of optimism and decided to bake at pre-vandal levels. And, to her surprise, business was better than the day before. Downtown workers trickled in throughout the morning and there was even a small lunch "rush." Mirabelle sold out of the chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes and only had one slice of chiffon cake.
In the blink of an eye, it was 4 p.m.
"April!" Mirabelle called from the kitchen of Queen Pin. "April? Where are you?"
"I'm right here," April said as she came in through the back door. "I was taking out the garbage."
"Oh," Mirabelle said. "Well, I wanted to talk to you about tonight. The show starts at 7 p.m. so let's meet in front of the Embassy at … let's say, 6:30. Does that sound good?"
"Sure," April said. "I'm sort of excited about this – something different, you know."
"Good. The drawer's been counted so I'm off to the bank and then home to get ready. I'll see you at 6:30."
April was standing outside the Embassy Theatre in an eggplant maxi dress, printed scarf and gladiator sandals. She had kept her hair in the high bun but as Mirabelle approached, she could see that her friend had redone her hair, it now smooth and purposefully unkempt.
"What are those in your hands?" April asked, nodding her head to the two cups in Mirabelle's hand, when her friend was still five feet away.
"These, my friend," Mirabelle said, "are chocolate-espresso milkshakes."
"We can't take these in there, can we?" April asked, taking the cup from her friend's outstretched hand.
"We're not going in there," Mirabelle said flatly. "We're going over there."
"To the parking garage," Mirabelle said, pointing to the structure at Jefferson Boulevard and Clinton Street.
"Am I missing something?"
"No. I hope not."
Mirabelle led April down the street and into the parking garage. She weaved quickly around the cars, making her way to the second level, where she quickly perched herself on a ledge. Her milkshake right next to her.
Patting the space to her right, Mirabelle invited April next to her.
"You want me to sit next to you? In a parking garage?" April asked. "I thought we were going to Cirque."
"Nope. I asked you to go out tonight and I said that Cirque was at the Embassy. I didn't say that we were going to Cirque.
"You see, we're taking advantage of Cirque being at the Embassy and all of these cars parked in the garage."
April stared at her friend confused.
"Are we going to try to drum up business? Put take-out menus on the cars?" April asked.
"Nope," Mirabelle said coyly.
April put her cup down next to Mirabelle's and hopped onto the ledge. She turned to her friend, looking into her brown eyes.
"OK. You need to be straight with me. What are we doing here?"
"I thought that this might be a spot for the vandal to strike. If police weren't going to up patrols, then I was going to start one of my own.
"So we're here to catch the vandal … if he comes."
"And if we catch him, then what?"
"Well, I haven't got that far," Mirabelle said. "But we both have cellphones with cameras. A couple snaps and we at least have something to give police."
April reached down for her milkshake, taking a sip before saying anything.
"You are certifiably nuts, Mirabelle. Do you know that?
"Our chances of getting anything are so slim and that's working under the assumption that the vandal will strike again."
"I'm the one who's nuts," Mirabelle said, "and yet I'm the only one who seems to be taking this seriously. Don't you think it should be the other way around?"
Mirabelle's face was a fiery red from the glow of the setting sun and, for a moment, April didn't recognize her lifelong friend.
"Well," April started, "you might not be nuts for this but whisking me off to a parking garage …"