The Pub Aftermath, Chapter 5
Joe got up early, plagued by bad dreams and restless sleep after her visit to the prison. Discovering that Doreen owned a necklace identical to her own somehow seemed to lessen its value in her mind. It also made her wonder about Doreen and Dick. She’d thought of herself as special to him, albeit in a platonic way. She hadn’t considered that she might not be the only one he favored.
She poured over the collection of discarded items in the spare room, sorting and marking prices with masking tape. Her efforts to keep her mind off the unnerving visit weren’t working.
“Maybe I’ll add my necklace to this pile,” she said, tossing it into a box of discarded costume jewelry. An instant change of heart made her quickly pull it back out. Rather than put it back around her neck, she slipped it into the pocket of her jeans.
When the phone rang, she fought her way out of the clutter in the spare room and ran to pick up the phone. She imagined it might be Tom who, in ways that were becoming typical, hadn’t called in days. Instead, it was a stranger’s voice.
“Is this Joe Mitchell?”
“This is Detective McGuiness with the Brevard County Police.” Her heart faltered for a microsecond before it started pounding.
“Yes, this is Joe.” She set her coffee on the table with shaky hands. The voice continued.
“Ms. Mitchell, do you know a person by the name of Jason Flint?” Hearing that name took her off guard. She’d given little thought to her former manager since his abrupt departure. Mainly, his absence was a welcomed gift.
“What about him?” she asked.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but he’s been found dead.”
Joe’s knees grew wobbly. She slumped down into a nearby chair. Realizing it was where Jason had last sat the morning after the fire, she jumped back up and stood nervously twisting the phone cord.
Rumors had made the rounds at work about Jason’s possible involvement in the murder of Dick’s partner. Most of the staff were surprised when he was cleared early in the investigation. Some questioned how he could be cleared when a suspect hadn’t yet been arrested. Others remained unconvinced of his innocence. His reputation for excessive drinking and chauvinistic, blustery behavior didn’t win many hearts. But most of those employees no longer worked there, scattered to the wind like chaff in a town of tourists and drifters. Few remembered the facts of the case other than local business owners that tried to keep the story alive. Mystery was good for business.
It wasn’t as if Joe was surprised by the news of his death. With Jason’s tendency toward booze and food to the excess, she figured it was a heart attack.
“What happened?” she asked. The officer skillfully deflected her question.
“We’d like to ask you a few questions about Mr. Flint,” he said. “When can you come to the station for an interview?”
“What? Why me? I haven’t seen him in months!”
“I understand you worked for him,” the voice said. “Perhaps you can shed some light on questions we have about the circumstances of his . . . departure.”
“Okay, but I have to work tonight,” she answered. “Can I come by after my shift ends? It will be late.” Crap, she thought, not again. Not another investigation. The events of the recent past came flooding back.
“That’s fine. I’ll be at the station late, anyway,” Detective McGuiness said. “Someone will be there to let you in.”
Florida Police Station
Joe hadn’t wanted to hear Jason’s name ever again. She’d been happy to know he was back in Jamaica where he’d managed a string of lounges before coming to The Pub. She thought about his new wife. Was her name Melinda? No, Melissa. Everyone she knew still talked about his fast-track romance with a woman he’d found working as a hostess at another restaurant. He’d picked her up when he was scouting the competition, looking to steal entertainers from other restaurants and talk them into working at The Pub.
He’d fallen fast for the buxom redhead half his age. Their unexpected romance had simmered during the trial. She’d become a regular at the lounge, sitting so close to Jason it often looked like she was in his lap. Their public displays of affection embarrassed even the most seasoned staff who avoided their booth unless summoned.
After Tom was charged with the partner’s murder, Joe focused on her musician friend with no time to spare for Jason or his latest romance.
Now, one phone call put Jason back into the center of things.
When the phone rang a second time Joe was unnerved. This time it was Tom.
“Have you heard the news?” he asked.
“Well, hello to you, too,” she said. “Yes, I’ve heard.”
“Oh yeah, hello!” he said. “Sorry about that. But isn’t that fabulous news?” Tom’s hatred for Jason was no secret. Customers and staff were witness to their frequent verbal battles. In fact, anyone who’d worked at the restaurant knew to expect a shouting match anytime the former manager and the musician crossed paths. One of Jason’s final moves at the Pub had been to fire Tom along with almost every other musician his predecessor, Bob, had hired.
“I can’t say it’s a good thing to hear that name again,” Joe answered twisting the phone cord in her fingers.
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
“I just got a call from a Detective McGuiness,” she said. “They want to ask me some questions.” She moved to a stool at the breakfast bar and sat down. She tipped an empty coffee mug to her lips and looked longingly at the empty coffee carafe.
“Yeah, he called me, too,” Tom cackled loudly. Joe held the receiver away from her ear until he stopped.
“Tom,” she scolded.
“It was all I could do to keep from cheering,” he added. Joe frowned. She had her own reasons to dislike Jason but none went as far as wishing him dead.
She was suddenly glad she hadn’t shared her news about her plans to leave town. She and Tom were at the point of no return in their relationship. With his inability to remain monogamous and her unwillingness to put up with it, it was only a matter of time before she called it quits.
“I’ll talk to you later,” she told the delirious Tom before hanging up on him.
The phone rang almost immediately and Joe considered not answering it. The first call telling her about Jason’s death started the morning off badly. Of course, it hadn’t gone all that well for Jason, either. Then, Tom’s call with his thoughtless remarks reminded Joe of the tension that had filled her life for months at The Pub. Besides costing him his job, it had made things difficult between she and Jason.
But it wasn’t Tom calling back. This time it was Dick.
“Good morning, Joe. I hope I haven’t called too early.”
She hadn’t heard from the owner since the new management took over at the restaurant. His hands-on management style had gone by the wayside after the murder. The corner booth she’d shared with him on many nights was now filled with strange new faces of the piano crowd, a new crew of customers and boss kissers. Joe watched it all play out from her hostess podium in the lobby. She’d been effectively voted out of the inner circle.
“Hello there, stranger,” she said, hoping it wasn’t more bad news.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ve been meaning to call but there’s been so much going on with the transition of the partnership.” There was a moment of awkward silence before he continued.
“That’s okay,” she said, fumbling one handed with making a new pot of coffee. She spilled some coffee grounds and brushed them into the sink.
“I got a call earlier and wanted to give you a head’s up,” Dick said. She put the receiver between her shoulder and her ear as she filled the reservoir with water, then pushed down the lid and started the machine.
“If it’s about Jason, I’ve already heard.” The words came out colder than she intended. She softened her tone and asked, “What happened? I thought he’d left town.”
“Well, he did, but he came back a few weeks ago,” he told her. “He’d married some woman he’d met at one of the restaurants along the strip.”
“Yeah, I heard about that.” She couldn’t imagine the swaggering, lecherous Jason in a committed relationship.
“She has a young son,” he added. Joe felt worse for the kid than she did for his mother whose judgement she seriously questioned.
“I know that will be hard on them both.”
“But I didn’t call just to tell you that.”
“Really,” she said. “I hope it’s not more bad news.”
“Oh, I don’t think it is,” he said. “I’ve got a proposition for you.”
Uh oh. Here it comes. She thought about the necklace.
Can't Go For That
“Oh, sorry, that didn’t come out like I intended it to.” He chuckled. “I meant to say, I have a job that you might be interested in.” Now he had her undivided attention. “It’s something I think you’d like.” With the recent cut in her working schedule, her paycheck would no longer be enough to cover rent and utilities. It was the main reason she wanted to leave town - hoping for a better paying job.
“What kind of a job?” she asked.
“Let’s discuss it over lunch,” he suggested. “I miss your company.”
“I’ve got to be at The Pub by three,” she told him. She was on the schedule to work the dinner service which would end around eight o’clock. It was just enough hours to take up most of her day but not a full eight hours.
“That’ll give us plenty of time,” he said.
“Okay,” she told him. “That sounds great.” She didn’t mention the call from the detective. She figured they could talk about that at lunch.
“How about meeting me at the Lobster Pot around eleven-thirty?” The Lobster Pot restaurant was about five miles north of The Pub their closest competitor and where many of their former employees had ended up working.
“Okay, I’ll see you there.”
After the call ended, Joe became optimistic for the first time in a long while. It quickly morphed into a sense of foreboding once she remembered the interview scheduled for later that evening with Detective McGuiness.
Sailing, Christopher Cross
To My Beta Readers
I hope you know how much I appreciate your continued readership of this story that is in the developmental stages of becoming my third novel. If there are areas where you find it confusing or sketchy, if you find typos or grammatical issues, if there are time sequences that don't make sense, please let me know in the comments so I can improve this work. Thanks to each of you!
© 2019 Peg Cole