Monday, June 27, 2011

Beach Tale: "To Trick a Thief", a self-sleuthing short story

Who is stealing the tips at a small diner?  Tawny, one of the waitresses, aims to find out.  All the clues are there for you to figure it out, too.  The solution is at the end of the story.  

To Trick a Thief
by Jayne Ormerod
  
        “Ya’ll travel safely,” Tawny said, placing the check on the table.  Early June vacationers had been traveling through at a steady stream, heading for the outer banks of North Carolina for their summer beach vacations.  But despite the high turnover at her tables, tips had been disappointingly low.  She’d held off getting new brakes for her car, hoping she’d make enough extra money early in the summer in order to afford them.  At this rate, they’d have to wait another week.  Or two.      
          Loaded down with five plates piled high with pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, fries, coleslaw and fresh from the deep-fryer hushpuppies, she passed the table that had just left and spotted a stack of singles tucked under the salt shaker.  Good.  Maybe her luck was about to change.
          After delivering the food and chatting with the family hailing from Ohio, she returned to the table to find it already cleared for the next guests.  A few bills were tucked under the salt shaker, but not what she’d seen when she’d passed a few minutes ago.  Somebody had stolen more than half of her tip.  Although frustrating, it was not an uncommon occurrence in a place that catered to people traveling through.  Having cash lying out like that was tempting for someone who would be leaving the town limits within the next twenty minutes.    
But as the day wore on, Tawny made a point to eyeball the money on the table and compare it with what was there when she returned.  Yup, money was disappearing at an alarming rate.  That meant it wasn’t a random traveler, but somebody within their own ranks. 
         
          “Cassie,” Tawny asked the other waitress as they filled drink orders at the soda dispenser.  “Have you noticed tip money disappearing?”
          “Honestly, I haven’t been keeping track.  My mind is more on my sick baby.”
          Cassie needed the money to pay the doctor bills.  Could she be so desperate as to steal from Tawny’s tables?
          “Hey, Bradley,” Tawny asked the busboy as he wiped down a table for twelve.  “Did I see you riding a bicycle to work today?”
          “Yes, ma’am,” the starting pitcher of the high school baseball team answered.  “I smashed my truck into a tree during the rain storm last week.  I gotta scrounge up two-hundred and fifty for the deductible before Mr. Donaldson will start the repair work.  I’ve got about half of it so far.”
          Tawny had known Bradley since the first time he’d eaten an entire Key Lime pie at age three.  He wouldn’t steal money from the waitresses, would he?
           “Bobbie Jo,” Tawny called to the hostess as she straightened a stack of menus.  “How are your wedding plans coming?”
          Bobbie Jo crooked a finger Tawny’s direction, then leaned in and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, but Slade and I are eloping next weekend.  We’re taking off to Atlantic City after the race Friday night.  Isn’t that just the most romantic thing in the world?”
          Romantic, yes.  Expensive, no.  At least not in comparison to the lavish event they’d been planning.  But still, no fun going to the casinos if you didn’t have plenty nickels for the slots.
          Tawny spent her break talking to the cooks.  Both had money worries of their own, but since neither wandered past the kitchen door, had no opportunity to slip the tips into their pockets.
          During the lull between lunch and dinner, Sheriff Pettinger bellied up to the counter for his usual cup of homemade tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  Tawny sat next to him and rolled silverware into napkins while whispering her concerns.  He whispered back a way to catch the thief.
          After a dinner rush that lasted past ten o’clock, Tawny went around and asked every employee of the diner to contribute four dollars towards a group donation in memory of the town’s mayor, who’d been a regular customer.  When Bobbie Jo handed over her share, Tawny said, “Thank you.  Now please give me the forty-five dollars you stole from me today.”    
          Solve this mystery yourself:  What had Sheriff Pettinger proposed as a way to trick the thief?

Solution:  Tawny had put a small ‘x’ on twenty of her own dollar bills and added them to the tips on her tables waiting to be picked up.  At the end of the night, when she called for the contributions for the mayor’s memorial, the one who turned over the money with the ‘x’ on it was the thief.   

5 comments:

catierhodes said...

I guessed it might be Bobbie Jo, figuring she wouldn't be back after her elopement. What a cool idea for a blog post!

Patty Blount said...

*claps* Oh, this was so much fun! Great idea.

Rhonda Hopkins said...

Fun! :-)

Charlottemacaw said...

Love it. Your mind must run 24/7:)
It is always so much fun to read where it will take me.

Ann Yost said...

Jayne - you are too smart for me -- I couldn't figure out what the sheriff had told her. Mostly, you made me HUNGRY!!!