Amy thought washing dishes would make a good 2nd job, it was just a restaurant.
Shadows in the Soul
By Jill H. O’Bones
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental or used fictitiously.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission.
Shadows in the Soul
COPYRIGHT © 2018 by Jill H. O’Bones
The gray sky grew a shade darker as rain clouds crawled in from the south, covering the late afternoon sun, giving the surroundings a more haunted appearance. Amy stared across the street at the three-story, extensively remodeled building. She thought that maybe it had been a hotel at one time, but with how it blended in with the shadows created by the grove of trees that bordered the property, it no longer resembled a place to sleep, instead, a hiding place of secrets.
From the foundation to the roof, the old brick building was black, and if it weren’t for the dull shafts of sunlight filtering through the clouds, Amy would’ve never noticed the tinted windows on the second and third floors. She saw no evidence of them on the first; except for the double black glass doors outlined with swirling thin silvery-blue lines, which were the only other colors Amy could see on the building. The combination gave it an even more eerie atmosphere, as if a warning to those approaching that they might not be able to leave.
That feeling didn’t stop there, it continued into the parking lot where six-inch wide silver/blue straight lines marked the spaces for cars to park on the pool of glossy black tar that flowed from the building to the dark stone wall. From there it funneled out between the two stone columns at the property’s border, over the dark gray sidewalk, and onto the old pothole filled street, where it abruptly ended in the shape of a hand fan.
A dark brown delivery truck rumbled by, spraying the sides of Amy’s car with water and slush. She studied the black plaque attached to one of the stone columns. The swirling silver writing announced...
1514 W. Maple Road.
“This can’t be right,” Amy mumbled, looking down at the folded newspaper in her hands, re-reading the help wanted ad she had circled Saturday morning.
"Dishwasher needed. Apply at 1514 W. Maple Road, St. George. Monday, March 16 from 2-4:30 PM."
“This can’t be...” she sighed, as she felt her hope drop.
For the past ten years, her co-workers at Inspirational Printers have kept her up to date on everything that went on in the towns’ triad, plus any city within a fifty-mile radius. The opening of a restaurant had never been a big deal, but just over a year ago, when the rumor started that there was going to be nude dancing at the one opening in St. George, shutting the place down before it opened the gates of hell was the only thing those pious Christian women could talk about. They couldn’t stop preaching that stale beer and grease did not make it a restaurant, and any place that worshiped nakedness, also worshipped Satan. Amy wasn’t, as she called them, a closed-minded Christian, and stayed out of it as best as she could. They already had condemned her to hell because she didn’t go to church, and she fell even deeper into the pit after she divorced her husband.
“Why would a strip club need a dishwasher?” Amy asked herself, and then she thought of the other restaurant whose gimmick involved women and owls. A lot of people and places created gimmicks to attract attention. Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne were two of her favorite music artists and their so-called ‘evil’ music and ways had made them millions.
Amy used her teeth to pull off her thin black glove and let it hang there as she unfolded the newspaper, skimming the ads, ignoring the ones titled ‘work from home’. There weren’t very many listed and most of them she wasn’t qualified for, not with just a high school education, and she wasn’t interested in a full-time job, she already had one, she only needed part-time, and just for a few months.
"Wait staff/entertainers needed."
Amy stopped and let the glove fall to her lap. She had skipped that listing because she knew no one would hire her for that kind of position. She was too old and didn’t have the body or the looks, let alone the confidence. She always had a touch of shyness, but over the last eighteen years it had slowly grown into a different kind of monster.
“Experience in the art of dance required.
“Applicants must be at least 21 years of age.
“Auditions Monday, March 16 from 2-4:30 PM. At Serenity: 1514 W. Maple Road, St. George.”
Amy glanced back at the dishwasher ad: the addresses were the same.
It made sense to advertise the two positions separately: that way the waitresses would know what they were getting into before they applied, however, the dishwasher would have no clue unless they were paying attention. Amy could imagine how many men would apply for the job just for a free pass into the place to watch the women dance.
She glanced at her watch; it was a couple of minutes after four; then she stared back at the building. The empty feeling in the pit of her stomach felt as if it was going to eat her from the inside out.
'They’d never hire me,’ the voice inside her head said. ‘I’m too old, ugly, and fat.’
Amy jumped when the car’s heater growled as the fan, once again, threatened to lock up. Smacking the top of the dash, the growling stopped and a new rattle laughed at her. Amy knew she had to get a second job, her car wasn’t going to make it too much longer, and if she didn’t have a car, she’d lose the job she already had.
That job at the printers kept her in her small one bedroom apartment and paid her bills and the ones her ex-husband stuck her with. More importantly, it kept her son in college. Grants, scholarships, and loans paid for most of it, but her kid still needed help to buy food, clothes, and pay for those hidden college costs.
It seemed that after Amy paid the few hundred for the remainder of her son’s registration each semester, a month or two later a new charge would appear. The special case he needed for his art class cost a hundred bucks for a cheap one, the two hundred dollars of special paints and pencils had to be ordered. The cost of clay, and the fee for him to use the kiln, then there was the extra books that were needed later on in the semester. Tim, Mike’s father, wouldn’t lift a finger to help; he only paid for his son’s health insurance that the court ordered him to, and not a cent more.
Taking a deep breath and blinking back a tear of frustration, Amy slipped her glove back on and put the car into drive. As she drove into the parking lot, she wished the black tar would swallow her up.
She tried to push her fears down about going into the building, but her insides still twisted as she reached for the pair of tennis shoes on the seat next to her. Carefully, so not to move the piece of cardboard that was covering the hole in the car’s floor, she slipped her feet out of the muck boots that were a couple of sizes too big, but they protected her feet and pant legs from the freezing cold slush and water that splashed up out of the hole. She wanted to blame her husband for the hole in the floor, but it was her fault. She trusted him and he betrayed her.
Her stomach danced from nerves as she got out of her car, and her legs started shaking as she walked towards the glass doors. It wasn’t from being nervous, the trembling was because her blood was warming her legs after the freezing air had blown up around the thin piece of cardboard. Her legs were stiff from the cold and it hurt to walk. The deep breaths she was taking weren’t doing much for the pain or the anxiety, but it was something different to concentrate on.
With a final deep breath, she grabbed a hold of the door’s handle and saw her reflection in the dark glass, which made her take in a short gasp. She looked like a ghost of herself. Her dark brown hair now looked dead and dirty, the creases in her forehead appeared even deeper, and the bags under her eyes were now black, making her light brown pupils seem lifeless, and with how her cheeks seemed to sag down, it created the illusion that her face was stretched instead of round.
‘Why make a fool out of myself? There’s still time to turn around and walk away. I’d have more luck getting a paper route.’
Amy pulled the door open and walked in. The smells of sweat, old beer, and grease of the dive others had made her believe the place was didn’t assault her, instead, the scent of spices that begged to be sampled, welcomed her.
Lit with a soft, gentle white light, the foyer was warm enough to sit on one of the identical silver-pillowed benches placed on either side of the room while waiting for a car. Narrowing the passageway, only to allow two people to enter at a time, was a black podium, the front swirled with silvery/blue lines. A small silver reading lamp sat on the top, its black hat spotlighting the keyboard of a laptop and shining just enough light onto the nearby telephone so the numbers were legible.
Standing behind it, as if the maitre’d of an expensive restaurant, not a strip club, typing on the computer’s keyboard, was a woman with wavy light brown hair that hung just past her shoulders. Its artificial blonde highlights seemed to reflect and magnify the dim light making it appear as if the area around the woman’s head was glowing. As Amy walked closer, she could see that the woman had to be at least six inches taller than Amy’s five-six. The woman’s height, perfect hair, and makeup made Amy feel even less of a person.
In the dimly lit room behind the woman, everything was black; the walls, the carpet, and the twenty tables and their two matching chairs. The only other color Amy could see from where she stood was the silver chair legs and the lights’ mirrored reflection on the highly polished black tabletops.
When the woman glanced up from the computer, Amy wanted to guess her age to be around thirty-five, and there was something in the way the woman stood and in her dark brown eye color that told Amy that behind all that beauty was also experience.
Upon eye contact, the happy smile that was on the woman’s perfectly painted face faded. “Can I help you?” she asked through her nose as if puzzled on the reason why Amy was standing there.
Amy took a breath, lowering her eyes. “I would like to apply for the,” but as she said dishwasher position the woman let out an irritated breath, and the noise felt like a punch to Amy’s chest.
Eyes tight, as if trying very hard to be civil, the woman pushed a piece of paper across the small tabletop. “You will need to fill this out. Please follow me.” Even before Amy had the paper in her hand, the woman had turned and started to walk away.
Amy went by the podium, hurrying to follow the woman, and the thicker black carpet sank a little under her feet, throwing off her balance. She glanced down and in the dim light she could see thin silver/blue lines twisting throughout the carpet.
Cautiously, Amy walked and as her eyes adjusted, she could see more detail. The walls were not just black; silver and blue sparkled in the matte paint giving the room a 3D star effect. As her eyes adjusted even more, she realized it wasn’t a black wall at the far end of the room, but a circular shaped platform, its base painted black with silver and blue glittering in the lights, blending in perfectly with the surroundings. Continuing the camouflage, a black silk curtain hung down from the ceiling, the ends caressing the top of the stage as it swayed in a breeze only it could feel, making the colors within the fabric quiver like silver and blue stars.
On the right, a few feet from the stage, was a seven foot black counter, its black top polished like the tables to reflect the light, the front swirled with the same colors and designs as the podium at the entryway. Behind it were two doors painted to blend in with the walls, and in between them was a shorter counter where, in the middle, a small black sink sat. Above it three shelves were stocked with bottles of liquid, their brown and clear colors only identifiable against the black wall when the dim track lighting, hidden somewhere along the shelving, hit them at the right angle as she walked.
Amy was so impressed with the place that she almost didn’t notice the woman stopping at a table in the middle of the room.
“Jonathan will be with you shortly,” the woman barked while signaling for Amy to sit. “Please have the application filled out before he arrives.”
“Thank you,” Amy replied, pulling a chair away from the table, and it slid like silk over the carpet. With a sneer, the woman walked gracefully back to the podium, picking up the phone as soon as she got there.
Before her self-doubt could make her run out of the building, Amy sat and laid the paper on the table in front of her. The application was generic, as most of the others she had filled out over the last month had been; it just wanted her general information: name, address, social, birthdate, previous jobs, etc. As Amy dug in her purse for a pen, she couldn’t keep her eyes from scanning the room.
To the left of the stage, hidden in the shadows, a ghost of a light announced that there was an emergency exit that Amy could see no proof of in the darkness. To the right, tucked in the corner at the end of the counter space was a third door, it too painted to blend into the surroundings.
Amy glanced back up to the woman at the podium who didn’t seem as if she was paying any attention to her, but at what was on the top of the surface. The desire to run out of the place came over Amy so suddenly that she had to take a deep breath, trying to shut out the words her mind was yelling at her, and put all of her attention on the application.
‘They won’t hire me, why waste the time? Even if it’s a strip club or a fancy restaurant, they would never want someone like me working here.’
Her muscles tightened as if to spring up from the chair, but the burning pain that shot through every nerve in her feet begged her to try. If she didn’t get a better car soon, her toes might not make it another year, unless it was too late and they were already suffering from frostbite.
Only being able to calm the trembling in her hands, Amy filled in the lines on the paper in front of her, thinking about each letter as she wrote them down, fearing not being done when they came to interview her, and making the words so messy nobody could read it.
In silence, she wrote down her information, then sat for ten minutes straining to hear anything other than a hum of the lights. The woman was still at the podium keeping herself occupied with the computer and even when she moved, she made no sound.
“Annie will show you the routine so you can fill in for Hadley on Saturday.” The man’s voice was only a little louder than a whisper, but in the silent room, it sounded like a yell and Amy jumped, turning to the voice so quickly that she felt a sharp stab in her neck. The door closest to the stage was closing, letting Amy glimpse white light beyond that was blinding after sitting in the dark room for so long.
A tall man had come into the room with a young woman who had long blonde hair that bounced as she walked. “You will need to come up with your own routine in two weeks,” he said to the woman as they strolled by the counter towards Amy.
As they got closer, Amy could see the man was dressed in dark slacks and a matching polo shirt, but the room was too dim for her to tell the color of his short professionally styled hair, except that it was dark. The woman had on a pair of tight pink pants and an extremely tight white button shirt. As they got closer, Amy grew even more self-conscious. They were both extremely attractive.
With perfect makeup on her young skin, the woman looked more like an eighteen-year-old girl as she glowed in the dim lighting. The man next to her held his head high and with his defined jaw and matching nose, Amy could only guess his age to be somewhere over thirty.
“I already have so many ideas,” the girl squealed like a teenager.
“That’s wonderful,” the man replied in a smooth and professional voice. “Annie, or any of the other dancers will be more than willing to assist you. But remember,” the man’s voice took on a soothing, almost seductive tone. “The dance is an expression of the human body, of emotions, hopes, dreams, and even the things that scare you. Your movements must be as if they belong in a museum in heaven, not on a street corner.”
“I’ll remember,” the girl breathed.
They glanced over at Amy as they walked by, and she could see the question, ‘what is she doing here?’ on both of their faces.
At the podium, the man stopped. “We shall see you Wednesday at four to begin your training.”
“I’ll be here,” the girl said. “Thanks again for this opportunity. I won’t disappoint you.”
The light in the room brightened as the front door opened, then dimmed when it closed. Now Amy felt even more uncomfortable as she saw the man and the woman at the podium standing shoulder to shoulder. She couldn’t hear anything, but knew they had to be talking about her. Feeling the shame of not being young and beautiful, Amy lowered her head and eyes to stare at the paper laying on the table. Movement in the corner of her eye set her heart into a gallop as she saw the man walking her way. When she could hear muffled footsteps coming closer, her heart threatened to pound its way out of her chest.
“I’m Jonathan Nikolaidis, the owner of this establishment,” the man said, standing at the other side of the table.
Amy stood, ready to shake his hand, “Amy Jonson.”
He sat, not returning the gesture.
'Doesn’t want to touch a thing like me,' Amy’s thoughts replied as she sat.
Doing her best to keep her expression calm, Amy tried to make eye contact, except she couldn’t, his eyes were just too brown; deep and dark that she could feel cutting into her soul, judging her.
The man’s eyes flickered down to the paper on the table for just a split second, but he didn’t move to pick it up; his eyes were right back on her. For a second their eyes really met and what Amy believed she saw in his made her feel two inches tall and no better than dog shit on a car tire.
“The human senses are a delicate mixture to each individual,” he said with a soothing voice. “What one may see as beautiful, another may see completely opposite. It is the same for taste, smell, and touch. The feel of silk may bring exotic thoughts to one, to another, terror. I do my best to gratify every taste a man or woman could have in my establishment, but it is a thin line between desire and dislike. I also must maintain a strict environment for those who work here. This is their home, where they can be themselves. We are free spirits, we joke around like family, and we also share an intimacy as lovers would because of what we do. To us, the human body is a work of art and something to be desired, that is why we take care of each other and we must be able to trust one another and be able to joke around freely.” He leaned forward, “Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Amy squeaked.
‘He’s telling me as nicely as he can that I’m ugly, and he doesn’t want me here.’
He nodded. “Do you have any dance experience? Ballet perhaps?”
He fought not to roll his eyes. “My waitresses,” he said tiredly, “are also my dancers. It is a requirement. The human body cannot maneuver gracefully around the tables if it does not know how.”
“I’m applying for the dishwasher position,” Amy said, fighting the impulse to run away.
His blink was his reply and he eyed her in that polite, but “you need to leave right now”, way.
With her hope fading and the condescending expression on the man’s face, Amy’s dead emotions flamed for a second and she met his stare. “Sorry for wasting ‘your’ time,” she snapped, and as she stood, she took her application with her. “You could’ve just told me the position was filled, instead of being a polite dick head.” After the words left her mouth, she paled and her muscles tensed, causing her shoulders to rise up to her ears as if protecting them from verbal blows.
She spun and was two steps from the table when he spoke with a relaxed tone. “Tell me a little about yourself.”
Stopping, she turned to face him, pissed that he was going to yank her around for more entertainment. He motioned to the chair she’d been sitting in without a smile or any expression. For a second she was torn.
He smiled and held out his hand as if he was waiting for something. It took Amy a second to realize he wanted her application. Another second passed before she handed it to him.
“So tell me, Amy,” Jonathan said, motioning to the chair she’d been sitting in with his free hand, as he skimmed over the front of the paper. “Are you married, a boyfriend perhaps?”
She about answered then closed her mouth, ‘Why did he need to know?’ she asked herself.
His eyes peeked at her over the top of the paper. “As I said, my employees are my family. I do not want a jealous husband or boyfriend hanging around my home.”
His explanation made sense. “No. I’m divorced,” she murmured, still apprehensive.
Nodding, he flipped to the back of the paper where her employment history was, “Any children?” One of his eyebrows rose and he put the paper down on the table.
“I have a son.”
“Would he have a problem with you working in this establishment?”
“No.” She wasn’t going to tell him that her son hardly spoke to her anymore; it wasn’t his business.
“I see that you work at Inspirational Printers, aren’t they a religious printing company?”
“Yes.” Her heartbeat jerked, that would be a good reason not to hire her.
“And you would not have a problem working in this establishment? We are not ashamed of the human body, we dance mostly nude.”
“No, but they might.”
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “So why are you applying here. You already have a very good, full-time job.”
“I need a second one.”
“I would imagine that your present job pays very well, why would you need another one?”
She felt uncomfortable letting him into her private life. Letting out a breath, she said, “I need a new car.”
“And what is wrong with the car you have now?”
“Nothing really, except there isn’t a driver’s side floor, and the heater is going out.”
His face was emotionless and he leaned back in his chair. After a few seconds, he said, “The position pays seven-fifty an hour, Tuesday thru Saturday, from five-thirty to midnight, or whenever you are done. If you are serious about wanting this job, your first day will need to be tomorrow and you will have to be here at five to fill out the paperwork.”
Amy waited for any sign that he was messing with her, but all he did was regard her with a calm expression.
“I can show you around if you are still interested in the position,” he said as he stood.
“Yes,” she said slowly, waiting for a punchline or any hint of malice.
“This way please,” he said, holding out his arm towards the bar.
When she stood and was next to him, she felt even more ashamed of herself. The man had to be at least six three and even though his clothes were not tight, she could still see that he was more muscular than she had first thought. Now she felt like an even fatter blob.
As they walked to the door near the stage, he pointed to the two behind the counter. “The first door,” he said, “goes into the dish room. The waitresses and waiters will bring the dishes through there. The second is where the wait staff picks up the customer’s food.”
When they reached the door near the corner of the room, he opened it, and Amy followed him into the bright hallway. For a few seconds the brightness blinded her, but Jonathan didn’t seem phased, as his pace didn’t pause.
Ten steps in, there was another hall to the left, making an intersection. Jonathan stopped but did not turn. “The first door on the right is where the bathrooms and dressing rooms are,” he said. “The door on the left goes behind the stage and to my office. That is where you will go tomorrow evening as soon as you arrive.”
Amy wasn’t sure but it appeared as if there was a second door on the right further down the hall that he did not mention.
Without a word, he started walking again and with her eyes now used to the bright light, she was able to see down the hallway. At the very end was a large door that was a shade darker than the white of the walls and floor. In the corner was a small table with two TVs and a box of some sort on its top.
Halfway down the hall, Jonathan stopped again. A six or seven foot wide opening was on the right, which he turned to, and Amy followed him into the kitchen.
The room was huge. A long silver counter split the room in half, above it hung a bronze colored metal cage, and suspended by hooks through the holes in their handles were bright silver spoons, ladles, and other utensils in different sizes. Placed evenly along the small raised shelf that went down the middle of the table were carousels full of spoons, whisks, and jars of spices. Below the table was another shelf with stacks of pans, bowls, and cookie sheets in multiple sizes.
Straight across the room, lining the wall were five ovens of different shapes and sizes, some with burners and others with smooth tops. On Amy’s left, a shelving unit reached from floor to ceiling, filled with all sorts of boxes, bags, and containers. The next wall was taken by two heavy-duty silver doors that led into the walk-in freezer and refrigerator.
A shorter table was along the wall to Amy’s right that had a sink in the middle. An electric hand mixer and a blender both had designated places at opposite ends of the counter. Their accessories, and even more pots, pans, and other equipment waited on the bottom shelf.
Three wide doorways were across the room to her right. Between two stood three tall rolling racks that were filled with gray trays of small silver plates, larger black plates, small and large black bowls, black coffee cups, and clear water, wine, and champagne glasses. A fourth cart was halfway through the farthest doorway, which contained similar dishes along with round containers filled with silverware.
“Dennis,” Jonathan said without warning, startling Amy. “I have your new dishwasher.”
“Already?” a male voice called out from behind the wall where the tall racks were standing. A moment later a man just as tall as Jonathan, with a little extra padding around his waist, but as handsome, stepped through the middle doorway. He was wearing khakis and a red polo, his dark blond hair trimmed in a crew-cut style.
“Dennis, this is Amy,” Jonathan announced walking towards the man. Amy followed, feeling the anxiety starting to crush her. “She’ll be starting tomorrow,” he added.
Amy looked at Dennis and into his dark brown eyes.
He stopped dead. “I was not expecting a woman,” the man forced out, his eyes scrutinizing Amy.
“Well, I don’t see her sneaking out to watch the show like the last four, or is it five, dishwashers, you had hired,” Jonathan grumbled, then glanced at Amy. “Is that correct?” he asked with a hint of humor in his voice. “You’re not going to sneak a peek, are you?”
“No,” she replied.
“Well then, let me show you the dish room,” Dennis huffed, his voice filled with irritation.
With Jonathan behind her, she followed Dennis through the middle doorway into the white room. It wasn’t a very big space, just a rectangle with only enough room between the bright silver counters for two people to pass, where Dennis was standing, studying her. One counter had three large, deep sinks, and counter space at either end. There was one water faucet with a long hosed sprayer above the middle sink, and the elongated spout would be able to reach all three after moved into place. Above it was a box with two different bottles of chemicals inside, each with its own hose and button.
The opposite counter was just as long as the first. It had counter space, then a small round sink with just a sprayer on the backside, a section of space, then a metal thirty or so inch rectangular box with a rod running from corner to corner, followed by even more counter space. At the far end of the room was the other end of the rack sticking into the doorway, plus room for all of the tall racks to stand without being in the way, but instead there were five two-shelved small silver carts, each with a stack of light grey tubs.
Opposite that, on her right, was an open space with three more silver carts with stacks of tubs. Above them, in the corners, were shelves. One had a small oscillating fan, and the other an old radio.
“The wait staff will bring the dishes through there,” Dennis said, pointing to the door, “leaving them for you to scrape out, rinse off, and send through the sanitizer. Have you ever worked with a sanitizing machine?”
Dennis shook his head as he forced out a breath. “I’ll teach you how to use it tomorrow, but I won’t have time to babysit you.”
Amy nodded, afraid to say anything because Dennis didn’t act as if he was thrilled she was there.
“Over here,” Dennis said, pointing to the three sinks, “is where you’ll be washing the pots and pans. I expect everything to sparkle and shine when they’re done.”
“Dennis likes to see his reflection,” Jonathan whispered.
“Not funny,” Dennis snapped. “The city is trying to find any reason to shut us down thanks to those religious nuts, and it’s not going to be my fault.”
“Yes, dear,” Jonathan replied, and Dennis gave him a glare that made Amy hold her breath to keep herself from bolting, knowing if he looked at her like that, she’d be gone.
“I think you’d better stop with the coffee,” Jonathan said, with a chuckle. “You’re going scary again.”
Jonathan laughed and then turned to Amy. “Dennis isn’t scaring you away is he?”
“No,” Amy said, lying. She wanted to run out of there and not come back, but she was almost too frightened to move.
“Good. Then how about if I show you the laundry room and the employees’ entrance.”
Amy nodded and followed Jonathan out of the dish room and back through the kitchen, relieved to be in the bigger room.
“Dennis and Tobias take care of the deliveries,” Jonathan said as they walked into the hall, “but Dennis may have you help rotate stock if it’s a slow night or if he is expecting a big delivery.”
He walked down the hall, and just over midway between the kitchen entrance and the table at the end, he stopped at the door on the opposite side of the kitchen. “The laundry,” Jonathan announced opening the door, walking inside.
Amy followed him, staying in the doorway, holding the door open. A washing machine and matching dryer sat along the wall facing the door. Between them was a shelf with a jug of soap, one of fabric softener, a spray bottle of stain fighter, and a box of dryer sheets. In the corner, an ironing board was set up with the iron on its end, and an unlabeled white spray bottle dangled from its trigger off the board. Along the other wall was a long empty table, and above it, a single rope was stretched from wall to wall, with spring-loaded blue, green, red, and yellow plastic clothespins clipped to it.
Jonathan spoke as she scanned the room. “We use cloth napkins and they are to be washed separately, as are the kitchen rags, and our uniforms. Speaking of which,” he said looking at her, “What size of shirt do you normally wear?”
Amy swallowed; it was always embarrassing giving out her clothing size. She always got her shirts a size bigger to hide the fat, so the bottom hem didn’t rise up and show skin when she lifted her arms. “Two X in men’s,” she said softly.
His eyes narrowed. “Pants?”
She stared down not wanting to see his response. “Sixteen in women.”
“Dennis has all of the instructions for washing and drying taped to the machines,” Jonathan went on. “The kitchen staff is responsible for the rags, aprons, and napkins, but the napkins have the priority. Dirty uniforms are tossed into there every night,” Jonathan said pointing to a tall white basket in the corner next to the washer, that had a black pant leg draped over its side. “Everyone shares in folding them. The costumes are the dancers’ responsibility, although there may be a few occasions you’ll have to take them out of a machine; but unless you know for sure, don’t put anything in the dryer, hang it. You can fix wrinkles, not shrinkage.”
He stepped back towards her, pointing to her right. “You can put your stuff in these lockers while working, the ones in the dressing rooms are for the wait staff.” He motioned for her to go back out into the hall, where he led her to the table. Now that she was closer she could see that the box on the table was a time clock similar to the one she used at the printers, but a little more high-tech. And the chair that was hiding behind the desk didn’t appear very comfortable. She also hadn’t noticed the three inch by three-inch little flap cut into the back door at eye level until she was walking towards it.
“While we are open there will be someone, usually Warren, here at the door watching these screens,” Jonathan was saying. “There is a camera on the front parking lot and one on the employees’. Warren will intervene if anyone is in the parking lot that doesn’t belong. Occasionally someone thinks they can sneak in. I protect my employees as I would my family.”
Amy nodded when he looked at her. She understood doing what one could do to protect family.
“I will have your keycard ready for you tomorrow. Do not lose it because not only will it unlock the back door at any time, it is also your time card. You just have to swipe it as you would a credit card. Tomorrow night, Warren will let you in; just knock. Any questions?”
Amy shook her head, “No.”
He smiled and opened the back door to the outside. The smell of the chilly, moist air was plain to her nose after the wonderful scents inside the building. When the breeze sent a chill through her body, it reminded her of the cold ride home that was to come. It was only ten miles, but when it was freezing cold it felt as if it was fifty.
She followed Jonathan outside. Seven nice cars were parked in the closest row to the building, but three of them looked expensive. When the door shut behind her, with a metallic click, she flinched. She’d have to walk around the building, right into the wind, to get back to her car.
“Tomorrow night, park back here, and as close to the building as you can. If you ever see anyone lurking around, do not leave your car. Lock your doors, lay on the horn, flash your lights, do whatever to get them to run off, and call for help! The number for my office will be on the back of your keycard. I do not want employees calling the restaurant’s number; we need to keep that line open for reservations.”
Amy nodded, but felt a little gnawing of worry in her gut. She had heard that the crime rate in St. George had skyrocketed, and a place that had women dancing around naked had to attract the questionable crowds, so it was no wonder Jonathan was talking about safety. But was it all talk, or did he really care about his staff?
He went back to the door and from his breast pocket took out a card that resemble a credit card, sticking it into a small slit near the door handle, then pulled the card out. A green light flashed and he pushed down on the handle, opening the door. “Just like at a hotel,” he stated.
She nodded, only familiar with the idea of using a card for a key because of TV. The last motel she stayed at was a rundown, roadside, no-tell motel for her honeymoon, but it used a real key.
For the first time, he held the door open, allowing her to enter before him. Back in the hall, the warmth and delicious smells caressed her as she walked toward the front of the building with Jonathan.
“The third floor is where I, Dennis, Tobias, and Karen live. Karen is the woman who greeted you at the door. There are apartments on the second floor that the employees can rent,” Jonathan said as they went. “I keep one open in case the weather makes travel dangerous. Presently, there are two open if you need a place.”
“No, thank you. I have an apartment in Foster.”
He nodded and kept talking. “The basement has an exercise room with just about everything, and we’ve got a mock stage down there that the dancers use to practice.”
Now back in the restaurant’s dining room, Amy could see Karen watching as they walked through. “On the last Sunday of the month we all get together,” Jonathan said. “I supply the food and drink, and that’s when the dancers show off their new routines for feedback, and we also use the opportunity to get to know the new employees. You do have the right not to answer the questions you feel are too personal, but the ones you do answer, answer honestly.”
Amy replied with a nod, but didn’t like the sound of it.
“Tomorrow then,” he said, stopping at the podium.
“I’ll be here,” Amy said, glancing at the woman who just gave a blank expression in return. By herself, Amy walked out of the restaurant, and fought the urge to run to her car.
During the ten-mile drive back to her apartment in Foster, Amy kept her eyes on the road and tried not to get her hopes up.