Authors: Kathryn Thomas
“Good.” I snuggled in a little tighter and threw a leg over his to get comfortable. We lay still and quiet for a long time, my eyes closed as his slow steady breathing relaxed me. Even with us still fully dressed, I was so warm, comfortable, and secure in his embrace that I didn’t even realize when I slipped into sleep.
We awoke early. Because of my new schedule, I had moved my appointment to the first one in the morning. Cain and I hadn’t made love last night. He held me, as I asked, until I felt him relax and his breathing became slow and regular. I wanted him, but he looked so tired that I just let him sleep, thinking we could make up for it this morning. Unfortunately, though the morning sickness was better, I was in no mood for play, much to our mutual disappointment.
All during my breakfast of fruit, I watched Cain. He didn’t look as ragged as he had last night, but he still didn’t have the crisp, playful, attitude that he normally did, and it worried me.
Breakfast completed, we visited the doctor and everything checked out fine. I was really starting to show now, but everything was progressing just as it should be. As the doctor was talking to us, Cain’s phone vibrated. He pulled it out, looked at it, then silenced it and tucked it away. But I could tell from his face something had happened.
The moment we stepped outside the office he pulled his phone. “I need to check in,” he said as he dialed the phone. “Thad, what’s up?” he asked as he took me by my elbow and escorted me to my car. “They what?” he shouted as he stopped walking in the middle of the parking lot. He looked at me and I could see the fury on his face. “I’ll call New Jersey right now and then I will be there as soon as I can. I’ll leave within the hour.” He stabbed at the screen of his phone with a thumb and for just a moment I thought he was going to throw it. “Something has come up. I have go,” he growled.
“Don’t be like that,” he said as he hustled me to my car. “You have to go to work anyway, right? I will be back as soon as I can.”
“What’s going on?”
“The Bulls. They are talking shit and stirring up trouble. This has just about gone far enough and we are going to have to deal with them once and for all.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we are going to have to step on their dicks. Nothing to worry about. We’ve done it before, and we are about to do it again.”
It had been three days since Cain left in a flurry to return to Dallas. He had called me that night and apologized for leaving so suddenly, but I could tell he was distracted. My emotions were all over the place. On one hand, finding out that the Hellhounds sold black-market guns didn’t bother me all that much and I was much relieved that it wasn’t something worse. But on the other hand, the problem with the Bulls was exactly the kind of thing that I had been worried about. I didn’t know what ‘stepping on their dicks’ involved, but it sounded violent and dangerous.
Then there is this shit,
I fumed as I stared at the computer screen. Something wasn’t right with the inventory. There were losses that I couldn’t account for and I didn’t know if it was my error or if the new bartender was being a little liberal with the free drinks. For the life of me I couldn’t get the receipts to tally to the inventory, but the books were in such a mess when I took them over, I wasn’t sure of anything. I had checked my numbers three times, and I was still off by nearly eight grand for the week. With a sigh I pulled out last week’s receipts and started again. I had already verified my inventory count, so if I didn’t tally this time, I was going to bring it to Peter’s attention and give him a heads up that something wasn’t right.
“Peter,” I asked an hour later as I stuck my head into his office. “Can I get the last two months of inventory and receipts?”
“Sure. Why?” he asked.
“I can’t get the numbers to balance and I’m looking for a starting point.”
He grinned at me. “See why I asked you to take this on? Inventory was so screwed up that I finally got to where I just took your numbers and adjusted the inventory to match.” He turned in his chair and dug in a file cabinet. “Here you go,” he said as he handed out two thick folders.
“Your inventory system leaves a little to be desired,” I teased as I took the folder.
“I know. Believe me, I know. That’s why this is perfect. You can get this mess straightened out while you are pregnant. Thanks again for doing this.”
I smiled and gave him a nod as I backed out of his office. It’s always nice to have the boss thank you.
I spent the next six hours checking and rechecking. I went back to the last two months that I was working the bar and started there. I had to fudge the numbers to get them to align to start with, but from there inventory and receipts tracked close enough that I felt confident that I had starting point.
But then when I had been replaced as the bartender, the receipt and inventory had started to diverge again. It was almost six o’clock and I saw Tina head down the hall, grinning at me as she passed. I didn’t like her very much because she was under the mistaken impression that she had gotten my job because she was a better bartender than I was, not because I was pregnant. That fact was still a secret between Peter and me.
“Tina!” I called, rising to follow her.
“You have a minute?”
“For you? Sure. What’cha want?”
“I’m having trouble balancing your receipts to the inventory.”
“And that is my problem how?”
“I’m just checking to make sure you’re recording all the drinks you serve, including the comps.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What are you suggesting?”
“Nothing. I’m just looking for a little help here. I have to start someplace.”
“Why don’t you start with your counting?”
I bit my tongue. If I were in her shoes, I would be insulted at the question myself. “I already did. I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m just looking for the problem.”
“No. You’re looking to create a problem. Just because Peter asked me to replace you is no reason to get all bitchy with me.”
“I’m not being bitchy!” I protested. “Peter asked me to get a handle on the inventory. Okay, that’s what I’m trying to do. But we are having a lot of losses, more than I can explain by slop.”
“Sloppy bookkeeping you mean.”
She was really starting to annoy me. “Look, all I want is a straight up answer. Are you recording all your receipts?”
“Yes. Now, why don’t you go back into your little office and let me do what I do, okay?”
I didn’t like her tone, not one little bit, but I said nothing. “Thank you. That’s all I needed to hear.” I turned on my heel and reentered my office. It was time to go anyway. I gathered my stuff and as I walked out, my day done, I decided that I was going to have to dig a little deeper. I was confident in the inventory now, so that left only one other place for a problem.
“What are you doing?” Peter asked as I tallied the bottles behind the bar. It was almost time for the bar to open, but I was nearly done with my count.
“I can’t get receipts to balance,” I said as I finished my count. It was only a gross estimate of what was behind the bar, but it was one more data point I could use to track usage.
“Is there a problem?” he asked, his tone saying more than his words.
“Maybe. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
“Do you think the problem is with Leslie or Tina?”
“I’d rather not point fingers,” I said, though Leslie and I had worked together for a couple of years and we never had a problem.
“Okay. Let me know what you find.”
“I will. Can you pull the last six months of receipts and inventory?”
“If I can find it. Why?” Peter asked as he looked at me through narrowed eyes.
“I’m trying to get a baseline for losses.”
“Didn’t you go to school for biology?”
I giggled. “Yeah, but I can’t stand it if my numbers don’t balance. I’m one of those that obsesses over a penny in her checking account or on her credit card statement.”
Peter chuckled. “I knew there was a reason I picked you to do this. Yeah, stop by later and I will give you the receipts as far back as I have. The rest are in storage.”
“Thanks, Peter. If I find out anything I will let you know.”
“I’m counting on it.”
It took almost two days of head down number crunching, but I finally worked out that over the previous six months,
The Cat’s Claw
averaged a loss of about two percent, which seemed reasonable. That accounted for spills and what I called slop, the splashes and drips that invariably occur when flairtending, along with the slightly uneven amounts served up. But for the last three weeks, we had been averaging a loss of about five percent. That was just too big of a jump to account to for with just a change in bartenders. Tina was either skimming or she wasn’t recording her comps properly, but either way, she was crooked.
I hung around that evening until Tina arrived. “Tina! I need to speak to you.”
“It’ll have to wait. I have to get to work,” she said, barely slowing.
“I’m on to you,” I said loudly.
That got her attention. “What do you think you are onto, sweetheart?” she said as she stepped into my office.
“You’re either skimming or not recording your comps. Whatever you’re doing, you need to stop. Now.”
“I’m not doing a fucking thing,” she snarled shutting the door. “Running you mouth is going to get you into a world of shit.”
“Bullshit,” I retorted. “Our losses have gone up three percent since you started here.”
“So what? Three percent isn’t bad. Not everyone can be perfect, like you. Oh wait. You were replaced. Maybe you weren’t so perfect after all.”
three percent. We are at five percent. And it’s funny how that jump came almost as soon as you got here.”
“You’re fucking crazy!” She turned to go.
“Am I? I have the numbers to back it up.”
“Then I guess you better go to Peter with it, huh?” she said as she closed the door again.
“Yeah, maybe I will. But I wanted to give you a chance to get your act cleaned up. It’s only three week’s worth of data… it could be anything. A fluke. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions. But I’m watching you now and if you’re skimming, I’m going to nail your ass.”
“You need to mind your own business, bitch.”
my business,” I said with a nasty smile. “I’m better than you and I’m smarter than you, and I’m going to take you down.”
Tina stared at me a moment then smiled condescendingly. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we? You can’t prove shit, so give it your best shot.”
“Count on it. Make sure your resume is polished up. You’re going to need it. Or maybe you can just go back to that shit-hole you came from.”
“Fuck you, you bitch!” Tina snarled as she snatched open my door. “You mess with me and I will fuck you up.”
I blew her a kiss just to piss her off. “When you’re ready to get it on, just let me know. Now get out of my office.”
She stepped into the hall and gave me the finger before stomping away.
“What was that all about?” Peter asked as he stepped into my office.
“We were discussing our inventory discrepancy.”
“What did you find?”
“Only that since Tina came on board our losses have doubled. Up from just a tick over two percent to just under five.”
“Son of a bitch. You think she’s skimming?”
“Don’t know. But something is going on, that’s for sure.”
I saw his face harden. “I’m going to take it out of her ass if she is.”
“I don’t have any proof,” I cautioned. “But I can show you my numbers if you want to see them.”
“Yeah. But tomorrow. You’re late already and I have another problem to deal with first. Celina and Perrin got into another pissing contest last night in front of the customers. The three of us are going to have a come to Jesus meeting about that shit. Again.”
I couldn’t help but giggle. “What was it this time?”
“Same as always. Stealing tips. I’m going to start doing communal tips if this shit doesn’t stop.”
I grimaced. “Don’t do that just to make a point. Everyone will hate it. I would, for sure, if I were still working the bar.”
“I know, but Goddamnit, those two are starting to piss me off.”
I snickered again. “You know, that is one thing I
miss – all the sniping and backbiting.”
Peter grinned at me. “Really? I don’t understand why not. Go home. We’ll talk about this other problem tomorrow.”
I arrived home in a good mood. I shouldn’t have been, considering that I had potentially uncovered an employee stealing from the bar, but I was anyway. It made me feel good that I had tracked the problem down and Peter seemed willing to take my word for it without even questioning me. It also didn’t hurt that I was putting the screws to that bitch Tina.
I flopped onto the couch and kicked my shoes off. If I weren’t pregnant I would have had a drink to celebrate. As I sat for a moment I wished idly for Cain to be there. I was in the mood for some lovin’, but wouldn’t you know it, he wasn’t around. That was another issue we were going to have to work out. This long distance romance shit was for the birds.