pilfering

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Bone watched her when he could. He knew something was hinky; he just couldn’t say what it was. Sharon would order, say, two manhattans up. He’d pour and she’d plop in a coupla cherries. Biz by the book. Right?

But he noticed—sometimes—not always—she took an olive or a lime or maybe twist on the side. What was that about? Was she garnishing drinks by multiple choice? He couldn’t figure it. After all these years he was sure she knew which fruit went with which drink.

At the Madhouse all the servers had their own spaces in the wait station or the kitchen. Nothing special, just little nooks and crannies they used to stash the stuff that was too much hassle to drag around in an apron all night. Credit card vouchers, cigarettes, extra pens, maybe a personal supply of demitasse spoons and more often than not maybe a little taste of something nice to be sipped at or saved for later. Items stored in these spaces were sacrosanct. It was more than the Golden Rule. Whether they were hidden or in plain sight, no one fucked with them. Ever.

Prime spaces passed from server to server. When Albert was working he took the space between the ice tea and the coffee filters, right next to the computer terminal, as his own. If Albert wasn’t working that space belonged to Thea. And on the rare occasions when both Albert and Thea were off, the slot belonged to Nick. It was sort of a sliding scale of seniority measured in convenience.

Sharon had been at the Madhouse a long time. But she still had the worst space. When Donna quit she could have taken the one next to the register. That would have given her easy access to the thick pile of guest checks she needed to keep track of each night.

Or when April went back to school, Sharon could have insisted on her space in the service bar and saved herself some extra steps. But she didn’t. She preferred the same old slot she’d had since she was a rookie. This was in the kitchen next to the ice machine—a long walk down a long hallway.

Bone wondered and watched. Finally he nailed it when he saw Sharon in the dressing room with a brown bag. He knew the scam. She was making her own drinks. Safeway vodka—no doubt soon to be Stoli in the dining room. Neat, he thought. Now the Madhouse had two service bars. He could live with that. The only change he was going to insist on was a two-dollar tariff on lemon twists and olives.

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