Rain splattered down upon Sheryl Howard’s prone body. Her crumbled form was in a heap on the sidewalk in front of the Tip Top Café on Charles Avenue.
“Sheryl!” Nan McHough screamed from inside the tiny restaurant.
The cafe manager shouted as he ran from behind the counter. “I just dialed 911.”
Nan pushed away from her booth and beat the manager to the door.
Sheryl and Nan were reporters for the Herald Bagatelle newspaper, a competing paper in the city of New Orleans. The Bagatelle featured the more sensational side of the news. The two friends had met to have coffee and discuss a mysterious envelope delivery at the newspaper.
Nan pushed through the door. “Sheryl, Sheryl.” Her calls were nearly drowned out by the passing traffic and patter of rain. “Sheryl,” Nan repeated and knelt next to her friend.
Sheryl moaned and propped herself up with one hand. “Oh, eek! I think my skirt is ruined.”
“How can you think of your skirt when you were just mugged.” Nan didn’t know whether to laugh or scold her friend.
The manager, out of breath, but holding an umbrella, put his hand on Nan’s shoulder. “I saw the whole thing. I was putting rolls on the counter when that guy just pushed her down. What'd he want?”
Sheryl looked around. Her purse was lying beside her. “I guess it wasn’t money.”
“Sheryl, he took your briefcase.” Nan looked franticly around the sidewalk
“There’s nothing in that but some obits and…” She paused. “Oh, Nanny, the envelope with your bracelet.”
Nan sunk her shoulders. “I know.”
The bracelet was evidence in a murder case, which Nan was involved. She had wandered into the crime scene and the victim had identified Nan with his dying gesture.
“Whoever rolled you musta wanted something.” The manager, extended one hand to Sheryl, with the other hand he clung to his umbrella.
Sheryl gave him a strange look. “Yeah, you think so?” The snide tone in her voice was interesting contrast to her rain soaked position.
Nan brushed down Sheryl’s skirt and coat. “Let’s get outa the rain.”
“Good idea,” Sheryl began limping toward the door of the café.
The manager held the umbrella over Sheryl and opened the door. He appeared to look down the street. “I hear a siren, Police are on their way.”
Sheryl and Nan settled back in the booth that they had occupied just minutes before. The manager put two cups of coffee on the table and continued to hover over the two women. “On the house.” He smiled and wiped his hands on his apron. “Like, you’re okay right?” He directed his question to Sheryl. “You got rolled on the sidewalk, that’s public property, I think.”
“Don’t worry, I am not going to sue you.” Sheryl laughed. “Thanks for the coffee.”
Nan looked at the brown liquid. “I bet it’s not decaf.”
The manager ambled back to the counter. “I’ll see if there's any fresh.”
“Nan, the package is gone.” Sheryl tried to brush back her hair.
“Sheryl, you’ve been robbed, my old bracelet is not going to make or break the case.”
“Did you see that guy?” Sheryl looked over her shoulder as if the people who mugged her might be lurking.
“All I saw was a painter. I guess he was a painter; he had white coveralls with paint splotches all over them. But, I didn’t see the vehicle license plate. I think I saw blotted out sign on the side of the van, but I don’t remember what it said.”
Sheryl leaned out of the booth. “Hey.” She tried to hail the Manager. “Did you get a look at that van the painters were driving.”
“Naw,” he answered. “It was kinda on the corner, all I know is that was white and a lot of paint marks on it.”
Nan scooted to the edge of the seat. “Yeah, that’s what I saw too.” She thought for a second, and then leaned out of the booth and shouted to the Manager, “Maybe you could ask your waitress, the one who brought us coffee when we got here first time.”
The manager put a pencil behind his ear. “You mean the woman who was with you? I haven’t had a waitress since Katrina.”
Nan and Sheryl looked at each other. “uh oh.”
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