Mac was Albanian. His long Albanian name was unpronounceable. He americanized himself with Mac. His greasy spoon was Big Macs Burgers Home of the Little Mac Burger. Mac had a problem and I was to solve it.
“Someone stealing my money. You private eye. You find. Tell me. I fix a them good.”
“Why do you think you’re getting ripped off?”
“Because at end of day there is not enough money for me to, how you say, skim off top.”
“Let me get this straight.” I said. “Someone’s been ripping off your cash that you should be ripping off and you want me to finger the employee by working as an undercover waitress and catch them in the act and you’ll take it from there. Is that correct?”
“Ya I break a their neck.”
Ignoring his somewhat blunt response, I went on. “You got a waitress that just had a baby and I’m to take her place until she’s back. If the thievery stops while she’s off, she’s your culprit. If not it’s one of your other three employees.
“Ya must give her leave or she sue family leave law. If crook, no have to pay family leave money.”
“And if not what about the others. What about your cook?”
“Not cook. He my nephew. He know I break a his neck. Besides job pay how you say it under the table and he illegal.”
“You’ve got two other waitresses. Tell me about them.”
“One my cousin. Same as nephew pay under table and illegal. Besides...”
“I know you break a her neck.”
“No! I never hurt a woman. Pay someone to break a her neck.”
“Your other waitress a relative too?”
“No American. Good for business. Look like Dolly Parton. Her name is Raedeen.”
“Why didn’t you just grill Raedeen and the momma on leave about this. Let them know you’re on to the stealing?”
“No can do. Get sued sex harass.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’ve waitressed before and worked retail. I’ve seen people pocket and palm a bill or two in my day. I know what to look for. Now are we agreed on my fee?”
“Agreed and if catch thief quick will pay a bonus.”
Mac took cash from his billfold and brought his fistful of dollars under the table at which they sat. He bent over and extended his arm toward me. “Here.”
“I guess you really do pay under the table.”
Next day, was my first day on the job. Raedeen was a Dolly Parton wannabe. Poured into her dress and blouse with a shoe horn. Mini skirt and full low cut frontal view with platinum blonde hair piled high. The rear and front body parts of her body extended. Her waist was so small that it was disproportionate to her figure and looked like it had to hurt.
I asked her during a break how comes she dressed like that. “That’s where the money is honey,” she giggled.
I watched her. She didn’t always take the money off the tables to the cash register right away. Sometimes she went out for a ciggy, or back to the store room, or to the ladies room first. So a couple of times I peeked in the ladies room. She didn’t see me but I saw her continually playing with her hair. Case solved.
It had to have been a good day for business. Mac and his nephew never left the grill and kept us waitresses on our feet all day. After closing Mac came over and sat down beside me.
“Here try Little Mac Burger. Bigger than other guys Big Mac,” he said and plopped it down before me.
Oh it definitely was. “Why not call it Bigger Mac Burger? You’ve got them beat in size.”
“No can do. Those guys sue me.”
“I don’t get it Mac. You’re not afraid to ‘break a’ somebody’s neck but afraid of getting sued all the time. What’s with that?”
“Not afraid of the law. Just afraid of lawyers.” And with that he plopped the day’s receipts down on the table and started counting then cursing in Albanian. “Should be more.”
“I know where your money is Mac. Call Raedeen over here and have her plop her butt down.”
Mac waived Raedeen over. She came and sat down. I got up, went over to her and pulled off her Dolly Parton wig, held it high and shook it. Bills floated to the ground. “That’s where the money is honey,” I taunted to Raedeen and left.
Next day I was back before they opened for my bonus. Mac called me over to the his table. “Put hand under table,” he said and handed me a wad of bills. “Raedeen paid your bonus and my money back, he said as Raedeen walked through the door. “Can’t fire her. Too good for business. Besides she know if she steal again I...”
But I cut him off and finished his sentence, “break a her neck.”
Bryan Grafton is a retired attorney whose stories have appeared in Heater, Romance Magazine, Frontier Tales, Fear of Monkeys, Clever Magazine and the Zodiac Review.