Table 26 has outstayed their welcome.
I look at my watch. The couple’s drunk. Its way past closing time. I dropped the check an hour ago. They haven’t so much as looked at it. Time to start nudging them out.
“Can I take that for you?” I ask pointing at the check.
“It’s not ready,” the man snaps.
“Actually sir, the Bistro closed two hours ago. I have to lock up now,” I counter politely.
The man glares at me. I’d be quivering in my boots if his toupee were on straight.
“Listen here,” the man says, “I own a restaurant and we’re done when I say we’re done.”
“Yeah – you can’t tell us to leave,” his date chirps, “we’re paying customers!”
I look at his date. She’s a cute girl, nice body, but her makeup’s a tad overdone. I consider pointing out she’s wasting her youth with Toupee Man but bite my tongue.
“Well sir, if you could settle up I’d appreciate it.”
What I’d appreciate waiter is another drink,” Toupee says waving me away.
I don’t move.
“Bar’s closed,” I say.
The man gives me a hard look. “You mean you’re not getting me a drink?”
“But I want another Sambuca,” his date moans.
“Get her another drink,” Toupee orders.
“Like I said sir, the bar’s closed.”
Toupee stares at me in amazement, “What’s your name?” he asks. I tell him.
“I’m calling your boss tomorrow,” he sputters.
“Go ahead pal,” I reply. When a waiter drops the honorifics and starts calling you “pal” or “lady” he no longer gives a shit about the tip.
Toupee throws his credit card disgustedly on the table. His date makes a big production of going to the bathroom. I run the check. I pray for it to be declined.
Sadly, his card is good. I hand him the checkbook.
“You’re not getting a tip,” he says.
“Very good sir,” I reply sarcastically. There’s no love lost between us. I just want them out.
His date staggers out of the bathroom. They collect their things and leave.
“Culeros,” Ernesto sighs as they walk out the door.
“You said it man. Let’s break this place down and get out of here,” I exhale heavily.
The busgirl cleans off the table. I settle the books. Ernesto turns off the lights. I’m arming the burglar alarm when Toupee and his date return.
“Did I leave my purse here?” the girl asks drunkenly.
“I don’t think so,” I reply, “let me check.”
I look under their table. No purse. “Hey Maria,” I ask the busgirl, “Did this lady leave her purse behind?”
“I didn’t see one,” Maria says.
“Did you leave it in your car?” I ask the woman.
“No, I left it here,” she pouts.
“Did you leave it in the ladies room?” I suggest.
We search both bathrooms. Still no purse.
“I’m sorry but it doesn’t seem to be here,” I say. Despite her boyfriend being an asshole I feel bad for the woman.
The girl looks at me with pure hatred in her eyes. “You stole my purse,” she hisses.
“I beg your pardon?” I exclaim.
“You were such a prick about us staying late. I’ll bet you took my purse.”
“I assure you madam that is not the case,” I reply defensively.
“We’re calling the cops,” Toupee says hotly. “You’re a fucking thief.”
“Do what you have to do,” I say disgustedly.
Toupee flips open his cell phone and calls the cops. A black and white pulls up. A young cop gets out.
“What’s going on?” he asks adjusting the gun on his belt. Great. A rookie.
The girl launches into a bullshit story about how I kicked them out and stole her purse.
“My license and credit cards were in that purse!” she cries, “now I have to replace all of them.”
The young cop’s smitten by the young woman’s charms. “I’ll get to the bottom of this,” he says reassuringly.
I roll my eyes in disgust.
“Something funny pal?” the cop asks accusingly.
“What’s funny is this lady’s story,” I reply.
“So she’s lying?”
The cop gives me a long hard stare. “Then you don’t mind if I search everybody do you?”
Holy illegal search and seizure Batman!
“I’ll vouch for the honesty of everyone here,” I say.
“You won’t mind if I don’t believe you,” the cop says.
I throw my hands up in the air. “Search me. I haven’t got the ladies purse.”
The cop frisks me. He examines the content of my wallet.
“Nothing here,” he says to the girl, “let me check the others.”
Ernesto and Maria are in this country illegally. They’re good law abiding people but they’re terrified of being deported. I can sense Ernesto wanting to run.
“Be cool guys,” I say, “this will be over soon.”
The cop pats Ernesto down. He searches Maria’s purse. Of course, he comes up empty.
“Well they don’t have it on them,” the cop says.
“Maybe they stashed it somewhere,” Toupee says with a shit eating grin.
“Please I need my purse back,” the girl says touching the cop lightly on his arm.
“Let me look around,” the cop says heroically.
“Hold on there,” I say going ACLU on his ass, “Now you need a warrant.”
“I don’t need a warrant,” the cop replies smugly.
“Well I want a sergeant here now,” I say.
The cop stops dead in his tracks. My request surprises him.
“He’s busy,” he says cautiously.
“I’ll wait.” I say folding my arms. I know lots of cops. It’s my right to ask for a supervisor.
“He ain’t coming,” the cop says.
“Well then you’re not searching the place.”
“What are you hiding?” the cop says peering at me.
“Nothing,” I say, “and besides why are you alone? Shouldn’t your partner be here or something?”
“Don’t get cute pal.”
I shrug. The cop talks to Toupee and the girl.
“I need all your addresses. Show me ID,” the cop demands.
I hand the cop my license. He takes down my information.
“You too,” the cop says pointing to Ernesto and Maria. They look terrified. They’re afraid of La Migra.
“Just do it,” I say quietly.
Ernesto and Maria don’t have licenses. They give the cop their addresses.
“Ok I have everything I need,” the cop says to the girl, “We’ll talk to these guys again tomorrow.”
“Thank you officer,” the girl purrs.
The cop, Toupee, and the girl leave, We finish closing up.
“Don’t worry,” I say to Ernesto and Maria, “Everything’s going to be all right.”
They go home shaken. I pick up the phone and call Fluvio.
“You still there?” he says sleepily.
“We have a problem,” I say. I tell him the whole story.
“Jesus,” he says, “did the guy say which restaurant he owns?” Of course that’s what concerns him. Restuarant people.
“I’ll take care of it,” Fluvio says, “go home and get some sleep.”
Well Fluvio knows a judge. The judge knows a captain, the captain calls a sergeant – and the shit starts flowing downhill. The next morning a detective pays us a visit.
“So what happened?” he asks. He’s a lean grizzled veteran whose face shows the scars of having seen everything.
I tell him. He doesn’t believe me. He doesn’t disbelieve me. He just listens.
“Ok. We’ll see what we’ll see,” he says simply. He talks to Fluvio for a few minutes and leaves.
A month passes and we hear nothing. Then one sunny morning Fluvio and I are in the back drinking espresso when the detective returns.
“You guys are in the clear with the purse thing,” he says.
“Really,” I ask surprised, “what happened?”
“The girl’s story was bullshit. She made the whole thing up because her boyfriend was pissed at you.”
“I told you she was lying,” I say to Fluvio.
“How do you know the story’s bullshit?” Fluvio asks.
“We checked with the DMV. The girl never requested a replacement license.”
I start laughing.
“So we call the girl in, “the detective continues, “and ask her why she hadn’t replaced her license. When we told her we we’re going to call her credit card company to see if she reported her cards stolen she fessed up.”
“That’s beautiful,” I crow.
“She was charged with filing a false report,” the cop says with a small smile.
“What’s the penalty?” I ask.
“In her case,” the cop shrugs, “a big fine.”
“I’ll bet her boyfriend isn’t getting any soon,” I chuckle. Karma’s a bitch.
“Well on behalf of the department I apologize for the whole incident,” he says offering me his hand, “the officer who searched you got one hell of a chewing out.”
No muss no fuss. No lawyers or lawsuits. The matter’s closed.
“Hey,” Fluvio says to the detective, “did you find out which restaurant the guy owns?’
“That clown?” the cop snorts, “he’s an assistant manager at an Outback.”
Fluvio bursts out laughing.
“Which one?” I ask.
The cop gives us the location. “You didn’t hear it from me,” he says winking.
“My lips are sealed.”
“Thank you officer for your help. Give my regards to the judge,” Fluvio says.
Fluvio and I watch the cop leave.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Fluvio asks.
“Yeah,” I reply,
“I feel like steak tonight.”
Later that night Fluvio and I pay Toupee a little visit.
But that’s another story.