The Pub - A Murder Mystery, Chapter 2
The aroma of prime rib drifted into the small room where Joe sat in a tangle of adding machine tapes and stacks of cash. She looked up and frowned at the interruption.
"Someone's got a boyfriend," George crooned. The high-pitched, girlish tone was at odds with the chef's hulking size as he towered in the door frame. One hand held kitchen tongs which he used to hold the door open. His other hand held something behind his back.
George often made excuses for ducking into her air conditioned office to get out of the steaming kitchen. This time there was a legitimate reason. Tipping forward like a ballerina, he leaned in and set a floral arrangement in front of the bookkeeper.
She had learned to steer clear of the Head Chef who liked using his tongs to pinch the female staff. Her first week on the job on her way past his grill, he'd sneaked up behind her and picked her up bodily, like she was a cheerleader, and pointed her toward the upper cabinets.
"Grab those napkins for me, would ya'?" Snickering, he peeked under her mini-skirt as he held her in mid-air. Joe flushed bright red as the kitchen staff stared.
George wore a familiar smirk this morning as he reached across her desk, plucking the greeting card from the flowers. From the piles on her desk, she grabbed a wooden ruler and smacked him on the hand. He dropped the card and winced, kissing the welt that appeared. She read the card and picked up the phone. She was dialing an outside line when suddenly, her manager appeared in the doorway right behind the chef.
"You, OUT." He pointed a knobby finger at the suddenly somber chef then towards the kitchen. There was an awkward dance at the door as George backed his substantial frame out of the space and Jason came in. The chef made a silly face at Joe behind Jason's head as the door slammed in his face.
"So, how about it?" he asked with a wink. She turned her attention to the mound of papers spread across the desk. He slid into the bench opposite her as a cold silence prevailed. Unaffected, he stared at the top of her head, whistling off key.
Jason had been hired to replace Bob, her manager that disappeared without a trace. Rumors of embezzlement and altered books put Joe under scrutiny during the investigation that followed. She was thankful her friendship with the owner saved her job at the restaurant.
"I'm sure you had nothing to do with the missing cash, Joe," he told her as the investigation dragged on. His fondness for her was no secret.
Dick liked being seen with pretty women who were willing to chauffeur him around in his Maserati. He told her they were checking out the competition when he invited her to join him for dinner at comparable restaurants along the coast. Joe ended up driving back most evenings when he drank too much.
The silent partner from Chicago wasn't nearly as friendly. In fact, he hadn't made up his mind about the bookkeeper and her part in the financial turmoil that followed Bob's departure.
Joe was busy ordering the week's liquor supply when he showed up unannounced at the office shortly after Bob left. She looked up startled to see him standing, briefcase in hand, at the open door. The last time she'd seen Ervin had been when she interviewed for the job. She was thankful he left the day-to-day operational decisions to Dick. According to Ervin, all that was about to change. He could be heard around the restaurant blustering about his plans.
"I'm here to get to the bottom of this and straighten out the accounting mess. Be assured, heads will roll." Employees tried to steer clear of the so-called silent partner.
Jason spent nearly two weeks during the investigation, back in Jamaica, closing out his affairs before moving into the condominium that came with the position. He returned to town just in time to join the staff's as they celebrated the silent partner's departure for Chicago.
The new food and beverage tracking system Ervin had put in place during his scrutiny of the books caused confusion and grumbling from the staff. On the bookkeeping end, Joe was flooded with indecipherable food tickets while the staff tried to use the new complicated system which Ervin insisted was an improvement.
With Ervin gone, Dick allowed Jason to change the system back to the old food and beverage codes which made Jason an immediate hero of all the staff except Joe, who had to deal with the confusion of returning to the old system. New hires had been trained one way. Now they had to learn the old method of handling food orders. Registers were out of balance for weeks during the transition.
Jason had a certain charm that drew other men to him to share a round of drinks, some bawdy jokes and a hearty pat on the back. But it didn't take long for the new manager to alienate most of the female staff with salty innuendos and off color remarks. He was particularly adept at annoying his bookkeeper who spent most of her day in the tiny office behind the kitchen.
An aromatic waft of roasting prime rib and the sound of vegetables being chopped drifted in as the door opened and Jason stepped inside.
"Joey!" He'd taken to calling her by that name once he discovered it annoyed her. He smirked at the grimace that crept over her face as he made his grand entrance. The phone clanged, echoing off the walls of the office. She answered it, eager for a diversion from whatever reason he had for being there.
"Good morning, The Pub. How may I help you?" She turned away from the stare of the manager who took a seat on the bench across from her.
"Hey, baby!" a familiar sleepy voice spoke in her ear.
"Yes, I have that file right here," she answered. Shuffling through the paperwork piled on the table that served as her desk, she opened a file at random and added, "I can send you an itemized statement if you like."
The door slammed behind Jason as he stood up and stormed out.
"But Baby," the man said, "don't you recognize my voice? It's me!" He drew the word out in a sing-song whine.
"Of course I do," she answered with her manager out of the room. "He was in here."
"Oh. I get it. Meet me for lunch?"
"Noon in the lobby," she said hanging up as Jason came back with the staff schedule he'd ripped off the bulletin board. He tossed it on the desk in front of her. Several names were crossed off so forcefully the page was torn in places. One of the crossed off names was Chip's, the assistant manager.
"What's this about?" Joe asked.
"You've been promoted."
"What about Chip?"
"Oh," he answered. "That's your first assignment. You get to tell him he's fired."
"What if I don't want the job?"
"Then, there's the door," he said, grinning like a baboon.
Want to Start at the Beginning?
- The Pub - A Murder Mystery, Chapter 1
When the manager of a restaurant - nightclub disappears amid rumors of missing cash, its bookkeeper, Joe Mitchell, is at the center of suspicion. She gets a new manager and everything changes for her.
© 2012 Peg Cole