Nicole’s mobile buzzed. She frowned for who would be calling at this hour?
“Hello, Nicole Turner speaking.”
“This is Paul Stanton speaking, manager of the supermarket. Sorry about this early call but I know you arrive early and want to let you know what’s happened at Coffee & Chat before the police contact you.”
Nicole knew the manager but had had little to do with him. She frowned and pressed the speaker button so Rhett could hear the conversation. “Go on, Mr Stanton,” she said.
“Your shop has been vandalised with the front windows broken and graffiti sprayed across the outer walls and footpath. The police and fire brigade are here at the moment.”
“Just my shop?” Nicole gasped.
“It appears so, though the Indian restaurant next door also had windows broken. The stores further along weren’t affected nor was the supermarket itself.”
“Thank you for calling. I’ll come straight away.” She rung off and stared at Rhett with quivering lips and told him the bad news. “I’d better go.”
“I’m coming too,” Rhett said.
They arrived a few moments later to find two police cars and a fire engine in the carpark outside Coffee & Chat. When a police officer allowed them through a taped off area after Nicole said who she was, they parked and ran forward to see how bad the damage was.
A police constable came across and introduced herself as June. “The interior has some damage from glass fragments and some graffiti but does not seem too bad,” she said. “After you have looked around would you mind if I take a statement from you both?”
“Not at all,” Nicole gasped.
Several fire-fighters were sweeping up glass off the footpath and a high-pressure hose was washing down the footpath. However, the words Bitches, Whores and other graffiti in green paint were still visible.
“We’ll get it all off, Ma’am,” a sympathetic fireman said. “The paint is barely dry so comes off easily.”
Nicole stared around as she inspected the interior. As well as the broken window glass across the floor, several tables and chairs were flipped over and everything on the counter lay scattered across the floor. Luckily, her usual precaution of locking the door out into the service area and ovens remained locked and it had not been entered.
“Oh Rhett,” she sobbed. “It must have been Shelby.”
“It appears so,” Rhett replied and turned to June who was waiting nearby. “We think we may know who did it. Can we make those statements now?”
By seven, the windows had been covered in wooden seven-ply sheets, a sign Temporarily Closed sign showed and the fire brigade had gone, as had all except one police car. Chantal had arrived at her usual time and insisted on making up the school lunches while Nicole straightened out the table and chairs.
“Just leave them,” Rhett said as he tucked his arms around her.
“I have to do something,” Nicole sobbed inconsolably. “What have we done to deserve this?”
“Just don’t let her get to us. I’m sure she’ll calm down and regret what she did.”
“And try something else to push us apart.”
“She will succeed only if we let her. You’re a talented strong woman and I actually think this may help Coffee & Chat?”
“Not at the moment.” Nicole wiped away her tears and used the vacuum cleaner to suck away tiny fragments of glass.
By eleven, glaziers had replaced the broken windows for both shops and a sign went up proclaiming that Coffee & Chat was open. By noon every table was full and customers queued out the door. Rhett stayed and helped serve the sympathetic customers and Paul Stanton sent two of the supermarket workers across with baking supplies from their own bakery.
“There will he no cost to you, Nicole,” he said when he came across later. “It’ll all be covered in our insurance that extends to our shops on the property.”