The Pub - Chapter One
A Murder Mystery
Trouble at Work
Joe pulled her car into a spot on the far edge of the parking lot and turned off the engine. She took a moment to watch the water shimmer in the morning light as dawn broke over the channel. A lone fisherman readied his boat for the day toiling in a breeze that swept along the creaking dock. She longed to spend the day on the ocean with the wind in her hair, gliding on the crest of the waves. Dick’s boat rested alongside other pilot house boats tied to the dock.
It had been a long time since he invited her out on the vessel, a majestic boat built to ride the rough seas. The recent financial trouble at work took a toll on their friendship and even on her chances of keeping her job. She wondered how things could have gone sour in such a short a time.
She crossed the nearly empty parking lot and unlocked the back door to the restaurant. This early, there were few cars, mostly leftovers of patrons and staff who shared a ride or took a cab. She stopped and flipped on the light at the service kiosk and made a pot of coffee. Carrying her favorite mug with her, she opened the office door and walked into an odor of stale cigarettes and mildew. Turning the air conditioner on sent a wet cloud of vapor into the dank room.
From the metal filing cabinet, she pulled out the checkbook and started running totals on the numbers written in the ledger. Today, she was determined to track down the error in the books and put a stop to the bounced checks. Once it was after nine am, she would telephone those with past due house accounts. Payroll was due again in two days. She knew it might not cover all the bills for meat, produce and supplies for the bar, but with any luck it would keep the customers coming in and cover the overdraft.
She never understood why Bob let people run up house accounts like he did. Some totaled in the thousands of dollars. Collecting from these deadbeats was the worst part of her job. The other tasks were more like what she'd done at the bank; counting mounds of cash and balancing the registers. Bob always insisted on taking it to the bank himself in Dick’s fancy car while she and Dick ate lunch. The free meal was one of the things that won her over when it came to taking the job. Eating at a fancy restaurant every day was something she could never afford on her bank salary that was certain.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Dick told her again yesterday. It was among his favorite sayings; that and rattling on about having a Plan B.
“Yeah, I know,” she answered.
It wasn’t hard to remember why she took the job as the Pub’s bookkeeper. The bank salary left her struggling to meet her everyday bills. Any hope of advancement died when they promoted the security guard to head teller. It made the tellers furious, but, despite their grumbling, most did nothing about it. Joe started looking for a new job and found that in the beach side resort there were few places with regular eight to five hours. Most places in town, with its access to boating and fishing, required working nights and weekends. The people that worked at the area restaurants and lounges were mostly transient, moving around from one place to the next. Joe wasn’t like that. She wanted stability.
At first the bookkeeping job seemed like a dream come true. The Pub was a popular and fun place to work with great food and live entertainment. She spent many evenings there as a patron, enjoying the lively atmosphere that filled her lonely nights. The day the bookkeeping job fell into her lap, she jumped at the chance. These days, she often asked herself why she ever left the bank.
Bob is gone,” Dick told her. “He's disappeared without a trace.”— Dick Simmons, Pub Owner
The Captain and Tennille - From the 70s
Joe missed the good old days. Lately her working hours were filled with tension and stress. Paychecks were bouncing and people were blaming her. There were rumors that it was her fault; that she wasn’t hired for her bookkeeping skills. The rumors hurt but not enough to make her quit. Over the past week she made up her mind to solve the cash flow problem whether it was an accounting entry like a deposit recorded twice or something else.
The numbers added up to the same balance three times in a row. Two hours flew by as she poured over the totals in the register. Her eyes were bleary when the door squeaked open and Dick stood in the doorway wearing a grim expression.
"Bob’s gone,” he said immediately. His eyes drifted to the tangle of adding machine tapes that snaked across the desk. Joe removed the chewed stub of a pencil from her mouth. It left a black smear on her lower lip.
"What do you mean gone?" she asked.
American Pie - Don McLean
Despite her constant reminders to her manager, Bob, the bank statements were still not in the files. There should have been plenty of cash to cover payroll last week with money left over to pay the suppliers. Vendors had the restaurant on notice. They stopped delivering unless she paid them in cash. “I need those bank statements,” she’d told Bob again days earlier. His bloodshot eyes glared as she pushed a bit harder. “What if Ervin shows up? The last time, that was the first thing he wanted to look at.” Bringing up the CPA from Hell turned Bob’s face to a frightening dark red color.
“If he shows up tell him to ask me,” he shouted, spit flying. Tomato juice sloshed over the rim of his glass as he teetered about in the small room, bent over to avoid the sloped ceiling. “Like I said, I balanced them myself while you were wasting time on some other worthless crap.” That was a new one, even for the master of insults. “You don’t need them to do your job,” he yelled, storming out of the room. Through the closed door he yelled, “I need that staff schedule I told you to get done. Work on something useful for a change.” Joe’s mouth fell open. That was the last she’d seen of him the remainder of the day.
Applicants flooded in hoping for the vacant position with its lucrative rewards. Beyond the sizable salary, there were free meals, adult beverages and the use of a spacious waterfront apartment. With high hopes of a promotion, the restaurant's assistant manager, Chip, took on the additional duties in Bob's absence. Once Jason showed up among the candidates for the job, Chip's enthusiasm dimmed visibly.
Jason's years of experience running a string of lounges in Jamaica set him far above the others drawn in by the perks of the job. He landed at the top of a short list and when the interview concluded, the two partners stepped away from the table leaving Jason to ogle the waitresses.
"He's the best we've seen so far," Ervin told his partner.
"You want to make a decision this soon?" Dick asked stirring cream into a glass of iced coffee. The other man drew a glass of cold milk from the dispenser. In a well-practiced motion, he pulled a bottle of Maalox from his pocket and took a long swig.
"I've seen enough applicants," he answered. "Let's get this guy on board."
Let Me Be There - Olivia Newton John
© 2012 Peg Cole
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