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Spare Tire Cupcakes
For the cake:
3 tablespoons instant coffee
1/4 cup hot tap water
3/4 cup cool tap water
1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
For the cupcakes:
White icing (go to Mirabelle's blog at www.journalgazette.net/bakinbits for a link to Mirabelle's favorite white frosting)
Mini chocolate frosted doughnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper cups or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Stir instant coffee in hot water until dissolved. Add cool water.
Blend cake mix, dissolved coffee, oil and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into lined pan until each cup is about two-thirds full.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
After the cupcakes are cool, frost the cupcakes using a piping bag with a wide round tip. Slice a mini doughnut in half, thickness wise, and set it on the side of the frosting.
Chapter 14 recap
Finn and Mirabelle get ready for the downtown business owners meeting. Eugene and Wade come into the bakery and Wade is not very nice to Mirabelle. She knows something is not right about him.
Illustration by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Ga

Chapter 15

The white rectangular box landed with a thump on the round table.

"Well, the cupcakes are here. Let's get this party started," Mirabelle said as she pulled out a chair tucked in the corner of Finn's downtown coffee shop.

Unfamiliar faces belonging to the downtown business owners seated around the table stared at her uncertainly as she pulled herself closer to the table.

"Umm, I'm Mirabelle. Owner of Queen Pin – the new bakery on Calhoun," Mirabelle stuttered, holding up her right hand as if she were going to wave. "I brought cupcakes. Spare tire cupcakes. I always bring cupcakes."

"Spare tire cupcakes, huh? What kind of joke is that?"

Mirabelle looked up and saw Finn standing near the counter, holding a large carafe of coffee.

"A joke I'd only play on you," she said with a hesitant smile.

Finn grinned and set the coffee on the table.

"I hope they taste better than your sense of humor," he said, flipping up the lid of the box. Inside were two dozen or so treats, each adorned with a chocolate-covered doughnut the size of a half-dollar.

"Why doesn't everyone grab one of these … "

"Coffee cupcakes with white frosting and doughnut garnish," Mirabelle interrupted.

"Grab one of these cupcakes that Mirabelle was so generous to bring," Finn said, "and let's get down to business."

Finn plucked a cupcake from the box and set it down in front of his seat at the head of the table. He stretched out his arm and rested his hand on the back of the chair as if to pull it out but stopped himself. He stood there, staring at the seat as if the words he was looking for were etched into the wood.

There was a cough from across the table, and Finn's head snapped up. His hair flopped in front of his right eye and he swiftly pushed it back before beginning.

"As you all know, there is something going on downtown. We've had three strikes in four days – Parkview Field, the parking garage and the parking lot near Coney Island – and some of us have already seen business drop," he said, looking over at Mirabelle. "People are getting scared. There's no way for citizens to know if anywhere downtown is safe."

"Hmph. I don't think anywhere or anyone of us are safe," Finn heard someone remark.

The gentleman was wearing a blue-and-white checked button-down and a khaki blazer. He pulled himself up to the table and pushed around the cup of coffee in front of him.

"Bruce Hall," he said.

Everyone around the table stared at him. They set down their coffees and pushed aside their cupcakes. Even if someone were to even think of scoffing at the Hall's restaurants, the business owners couldn't deny who they were … who they were in Fort Wayne.

"The attacks have been small-scale to a grand effort. Everyday citizens to downtown workers to the parents of Wildcat players, for God's sake, have been targeted," he said. "I bet you everyone in this city knows someone who's been attacked if they haven't been attacked themselves."

"And that's why we're here," Finn said. "I'm proposing that we create a sort of neighborhood watch system. I'm not sure if all of us are in a position to install cameras but we can do better to keep an eye on parking lots and alleys. Maybe some of us can do a better job of frequenting other downtown spots."

Mirabelle looked at Finn and could see that his brow was beginning to furrow and his hands fidget at his sides.

"You know," she said. "Maybe if you drive in, you could do a loop around a certain section. Umm, make sure you don't see anything suspicious."

"I just don't know," the man next to her said. "Isn't that why there's a police force?"

"Yeah but they can't be everywhere all the time," Mirabelle snapped, putting her hands around a Styrofoam cup and watching it crunch beneath her grip. "It won't hurt any of us to be on the lookout for something creepy."

"You mean like that guy?" the man said nodding his head in the direction of the door.

Leaning up against the glass of the front entrance was a shadow of a man. A baseball cap was perched on his head, keeping his face from view.

Mirabelle could see that he wasn't a tall man but he wasn't short either.

"What do you think he's doing?" Mirabelle asked, looking at Finn. "It's not like it's raining … yet."

A summer storm was rolling in and the sky had turned an ominous grayish purple once Mirabelle had arrived at the coffee shop.

"I'm just going to see if he needs something," Finn said, walking toward the door. Thunder clapped in the distance as he turned the lock on the door. It clicked once … then twice.

The man outside looked through the glass, straight at Finn.

He paused. Finn tried to get a look at him but he turned and crossed Wayne Street toward the Wells Fargo building.

"Hey. Hey! Did you need something? Are you OK?" Finn screamed, running out the door. "Hey! What a minute. HEY!"

The man's stride lengthened and his pace quickened as he disappeared into the bank drive-through. Finn looked to take another step but stopped, dead center in the Wayne-Calhoun intersection. The first drop of rain fell on his arm and he turned around in defeat.

Mirabelle was standing outside the coffee shop, her arms crossed. She wrinkled her face when she saw Finn turn.

"You might want to come over here," she shouted.

"What?" Finn asked, jogging back.

"That's what."

Mirabelle pointed to Finn's parked Prius. The passenger-side mirror was dangling by a cable, as was the mirror of the car parked behind him.

"Do you think … " Finn started.

"I don't know," she said. "Maybe?"

kdupps@jg.net

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