Mirabelle and April jumped off the parking garage ledge where they had been perched, their eyes darting around frantically.
"What was that?" April said in a whispered mumble – her mouth still full of milkshake. She gulped. "Do you see anything? I don't see anything."
"No," Mirabelle said shaking her head. "I don't see anything."
"Well, what was it?"
"I have no idea but I am fairly certain that it came from there," Mirabelle said, her eyes diverting up.
"Come on, let's go," Mirabelle said, stealing April's hand and pulling her toward the next level.
The two sort of shuffled rather than walked, one foot crossing in front of the other, squeezing between the cold concrete wall of the garage and the front ends of SUVs and sedans.
April's metallic gladiator sandals scraped against the concrete.
"What?" April asked. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Mirabelle said nothing. She looked at April's shoes and brought her gaze back up to her eyes.
"I am not taking off my shoes. I'm not."
The sounds were louder, definitely louder, as the girls turned the corner, landing on the next level. April shuddered. Mirabelle grabbed April's hands tighter but didn't stop moving up the garage.
April began to take her steps a bit more deliberately, her free hand lifting up the front of her purple dress so she could bring her right foot up to her knee and set it down gently in front of her left. Her left leg swung out wide and high before landing softly on the gray floor.
"OW!" April screamed, her eyes winced in pain.
Mirabelle brought her right index finger to pursed lips and gave April a stern look.
"Don't shoosh me. I just hit my knee against that, well, jaguar on the front of that Jag. It hurts," April said. "And, by the way, I didn't sign up for this. I signed up for the Cirque."
"Be. Quiet. Please," Mirabelle said. "I know I'm crazy but I'm not going to let this ruin my business."
Mirabelle's voice softened.
"And I can't do this without you."
Mirabelle tugged at April's arm, and the two continued to shuffle up the garage. The sun seemed to be getting lower by the second, and with each level climbed, the garage grew darker and darker.
"Did you hear that?" Mirabelle asked.
"Of course I heard that," April said.
"Not that. I think I heard a voice. Voices, maybe."
"I didn't hear any voices. You heard voices?"
Mirabelle let go of April's hand and dug her cellphone out of her pocket. She paused for a minute to fiddle with it, typing in the unlock password and selecting the camera mode.
"We want pictures of this, right?" Mirabelle said, almost to herself.
Mirabelle walked slowly, her feet deliberate, and turned the corner. She was at the very top of the parking garage, a flat expanse with a 360-degree view of downtown Fort Wayne.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. And then she got ready to snap the photo.
"Mirabelle. Mirabelle! Are you OK?"
Mirabelle opened her eyes and saw April's freckled face just centimeters from her own. She lifted her right arm and tried to swat April to a more comfortable distance but seemed to miss her.
"Honey, can you answer me?"
"Huh?" Mirabelle muttered. She felt groggy. She pressed her hands down and felt the cold cement of the parking garage beneath her.
"What happened? Did he get me?" Mirabelle sputtered.
"Which he are you talking about?" April said, standing up and taking a few steps back.
Mirabelle lifted her head and her eyes darted around. There was April, of course, and boys. Lots of boys. She counted 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5.
"He did get you," April said, pointing to the boy in the middle. His head was hung low, floppy blonde hair covering his eyes, and a skateboard was underneath his right arm.
"He – Mark – was up here skateboarding with his friends," April said matter of factly. "Those noises we heard were their tricks and crashes."
Mirabelle used her forearms to push herself up to sitting and touched her hand to her face. "No blood," she thought to herself.
"When you turned the corner," April continued, "you ran right into Mark, along with his elbow and skateboard. I think you took a good hit to the stomach, pushing you to the ground. I'm no doctor but I'd bet the combination of the adrenaline and the fall made you pass out."
"I passed out?" Mirabelle asked, scooting herself closer to the wall and using it as leverage to stand up.
"Yeah," one of the boys said with a chuckle. "You were out cold. I bet for a good minute."
"Great. Just great," Mirabelle muttered. "A grand plan to nab a vandal and I'm 'attacked' by a prepubescent boy who probably doesn't even know what his 'Jesse and the Rippers' tee means."
"What's she talking about?" Mark said. "Isn't Jesse and the Rippers an '80s band?"
"Yeah. Something like that," April said.
April held out her hand and helped up Mirabelle.
"Do you think you can walk?"
"All right. I'll take you home, and you can make me something tasty to erase this night. Maybe a black-and-blue tart?"
"Ha ha," Mirabelle said, feigning laughter. "Very funny."
"I thought so," April said, a grin ear-to-ear. "Come on, let's go."