The Pub Chapter 7 Murder Mystery - Book 1
George, the Head Chef, peered through the mesh wire dividing the lobby from the kitchen. He waved his tongs at the trio and called out, "Hello Simmons family!
Dick Simmons, George's boss and his stocky wife arrived every night at precisely the same time. Tottering along behind the couple was Mrs. Simmons' mother. The ladies wearing shapeless brown smocks and sensible shoes appeared more like sisters than mother and daughter. Dick looked the youngest of the group in spite of the extra weight owning a restaurant had added to his waistline.
Between them on a platform, a boiling cauldron of soup simmered above a gas burner near the dining room. They took a seat at their usual table where a waiter immediately appeared eager to take their orders.
“Not a bit more than four ounces for his fillet” his wife instructed the waiter glancing up over the top of smudged reading glasses. She took them off and used the end of her husband's tie to wipe her glasses clean. He complied without a word or objection.
Dick’s voice remained mostly unused in the presence of his wife and mother-in-law. From experience, he knew the best way to have a quick and peaceful dinner was to nod at whatever she chose to discuss.
“That awful weather woman from Channel 8 needs to get a new wardrobe,” Mrs. Dick said. "That color just doesn't suit her complexion." Dick made a point not to glance at her ash-colored dress and lace-up, rubber-soled flats in matching shades of drab.
With a sneer for emphasis, she shoveled in an enormous spoonful of salad Dick had prepared at the salad bar before bringing it to where she sat scanning the room. He squeezed in between her and her mother who had come back from the salad cart and was vigorously cutting the lettuce into smaller pieces.
“Too many beets.” She stabbed them with her fork and slid them onto Dick’s plate.
“Oh, really,” Dick said, covering his mouth with a starched napkin. “Do tell.”
He knew that retort would buy him an uninterrupted rant of possibly five minutes while he could let his mind wander somewhere pleasant. Perhaps he'd relive the last fishing trip in the mangrove laden canals leading to the Atlantic. A benign smile crept across his face as played back the trip when Joe had ridden along.
After dessert, Dick drove the women home, stopping just long enough to see them safely inside before he returned to the Pub. He headed directly for the large walk-in cooler to supplement his meager portion-controlled dinner. He had been hoping to find a leftover slab of prime rib when he discovered the two boys hiding in the cooler sharing a large slice of The Pub's expensive New York cheesecake.
For punishment, Dick set them to the task of cleaning the drip tubs under the refrigeration unit, a smelly, back-breaking job that no one ever wanted to do. On their knees, the smell of bleach combined with grime and goop was pungent as they scrubbed the greasy metal bins under the enormous coils.
His encounter with the bus boys done, he finally settled on an enormous sandwich piled with shaved turkey, smoked ham and a slab of gourmet cheese stacked between slices of Pumpernickel bread. He chuckled at his own good timing while making his way out of the cooler with the heaping sandwich.
Dick set it down on the counter, at the same moment catching a glimpse of green that disappeared down the dim hallway. He recognized the distinctive corduroy coat as belonging to the musician who had been on stage earlier. For the moment he smiled and focused his full attention on the Dagwood he had created.
“Now that’s a work of art.” Dick said aloud to the empty kitchen. He scooted the halves apart and opening the sliding drawer below the grill, he spooned a large portion of seasoned potatoes into the space cementing the food into one huge mountain. Through the mesh grill, he watched the Lobby door open as a young couple staggered in. He made a mental note that Joe was not at her hostess station while he carried the teetering plate back to the lounge where he resumed his customary booth.
Chewy showed up almost instantly, delivering a Rusty Nail made to perfection, the maraschino cherries neatly aligned on the wooden stir stick. He set the glass on a cocktail napkin then leaned against the bench on one arm. With his other hand Chewy wiped the table with a bar mop. While Dick’s jaws busily worked on the sandwich, Chewy used the opportunity to test his newest joke on the captive audience. He delivered the final punch line to Dick’s muffled laughter just as the stage lights came on.
The newly hired musician took a seat at center stage and tapped the microphone.
“Is this thing on?”
The audience yelled, “IT’S ON!” A few wolf whistles cut through the smoky air followed by a smattering of applause.
“Alright then, let’s ROCK!” he screamed into the mike and slammed a familiar riff on his guitar.
Chris had been a studio musician who played back-up guitar for well-known artists. To match his enormous talent he had a belligerent attitude that had ended most of his previous jobs.
Playing in this Podunk Pub had not been his idea. It had been the brainchild of his wife, Lynette. She'd been the first to find a job at The Pub as part-time bartender after their car broke down. They had been aiming for Key Largo with hopes for a new start with a brighter future.
Until they could pay for costly auto repairs, they’d checked into a motel with a small kitchenette. Lynette brought up the entertainer job she’d seen posted on the breakroom wall.
“It would only be for a short while,” she’d pleaded. “Just until we get the car fixed.”
He frowned and slammed his fist into the thin wall knocking out a large chunk of plaster.
“You know how I hate that sh..stuff,” he said. Changing his words at the last second, watched their two small girls crawl across the motel room floor. They inched closer to an overturned ashtray its contents scattered around on the dirty carpet. Chris picked up the oldest while Lynette grabbed the smaller child just in time.
“We need the money,” Lynette urged. The desperate look on her tired, once-beautiful face always worked on Chris. He planted a kiss on top of child’s curly head and agreed to call the number.
A Good Hearted Woman
Chris met Tom for the first time on the afternoon of their tryouts. They formed an immediate bond, Tom being one of the few who could see past the “rebel without a cause” attitude. He recognized Chris's burgeoning talent.
They each had auditioned for Bob, who had hired them right before his sudden, unexplained disappearance. The new manager Jason hadn't taken a liking to either of them. They both knew it was only a matter of time before the gig was up.
Tom was seated on the bar stool closest to the stage, waiting for his set to come up. He had found the new schedule posted on the break room wall listing next week’s performers. It had included neither Tom’s nor Chris’s name.
“Looks like the dad gummed gig is up,” Chris said as he left the stage. He was trying to break a lifelong habit of profanity since Lynette made him put a dollar in the cuss jar whenever he swore in front of the children.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “Our pal, Jason is behind this.” He made his way to the mike and replaced Chris on the warm stool. Another stool nearby held his standard plain Coke in a glass with one cherry and no ice. Chewy the bartender had sent it sliding down the length of the bar before Tom went on stage.
Doreen slipped into the main entrance and headed straight through the lobby toward the corner where she knew she would find Dick. He had just stuffed the last bit of his sandwich with a large fork full of potato into his mouth when she approached.
“Can I sit here with you tonight?” She asked, flashing Dick a brilliant smile. She slid into the booth beside him as he dabbed the corners of his mouth, still chewing. Doreen shoved her over-sized purse into the space between them, resting her arm on it.
Chewy arrived promptly at their booth with a tray and a look of longing directed at Doreen. He placed a Shirley Temple with a skewer full of maraschino cherries and an orange slice on the table.
"Ah, my favorite drink!" she exclaimed with a dewy expression. Chewy retreated to the bar with a warm fuzzy feeling he mistook for interest.
She smiled as Tom began his opening number. Her wicked plan was already taking shape.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Peg Cole