“You look better than two days ago!” Leslie exclaimed and pushed me backwards to check me head to toe. She was right, while I had marks on my wrists and ankles they were hidden by my jeans and a long-sleeved top. My throat had marks around it, and my mouth was bruised and slightly swollen, but I was healing, and that’s what mattered.
“I feel better, Chance has been spoiling me,” I replied, smiling. Leslie raised a knowing eyebrow, and her brown eyes smirked at me and then turned to Chance.
“Hey,” she said, greeting him. Chance gave a similar reply and then motioned both of us over to a table with four chairs surrounding it.
“Asked you here for a reason, was impressed the other day woman when you put your co-workers ahead of yourself, ain’t many who’d do that,” Chance said.
“Those kids needed it more than me,” Leslie shook her head.
“Nah woman, was generous, impressed my brothers and me. You ever thought of opening your own business?” Leslie laughed at Chance and then stopped when she realised, he was serious.
“Chance, I’m a waitress in a diner, where do you think I’d get the money to open my own place?” Leslie asked, smiling.
“You just landed a bonus,” Chance replied. Leslie grew quiet as she accepted his words.
“Yes, but I don’t think it’s enough to open my own place, the setup costs are more than I can afford.”
“What if Hellfire backed you? What would you open?” Leslie’s head shot up as she considered his words.
“There’s two things, one a diner, it’s what I know how to run, I’m not much good as a chef, but I know how to run it. My dream though, is a quaint old-world tearoom, but the menu varied, so good old American food and mixed with English afternoon tea and good sturdy breakfasts. Maybe the second idea wouldn’t work too well, it’s mixing two cuisines, but hey, you asked,” Leslie said.
“Expand on the idea,” Chance demanded, and Leslie sat back and considered it. Chance waited patiently as she thought it through in more detail and Leslie began to talk.
“A double shop front, one half dedicated to the kitchen and chef’s area, and with counters, a bakery and quick eats counter with items such as sandwiches and easy to carry out food. I’d want a breakfast menu, a classical mix of English foods. There’s a gap in the market around Spearfish for an English tearoom, it would be a novelty. A lunchtime menu with things such as soups, jacket potatoes etcetera and then a dinner time menu of English food again.
I want an old English tearoom setting in the restaurant and then Clio behind the counters as the baker. Her baked goods are to die for, no one has ever complained about them. We’d need a chef as we’d keep Clio busy with baked goods. Maybe we could even open at night as a restaurant, serving traditional English dishes,” Leslie broke off and stared at Chance.
“Come with me both of you,” he said, rising to his feet and led us out the clubhouse and up the street to a double-fronted shop.
“Bought this a few years ago, no idea why, it was a whim. One that Rooster has berated me over ever since,” Chance said as he inserted a key and opened the door. We walked into a dimly lit dusty space that with a lot of imagination, I could see how it could be the bakery part of Leslie’s dream. There was an arch between it and another space, which was in reality, the second shop. This space was big enough for over thirty tables, seating six or four people.
“Well, what do you think?” Chance asked as Leslie poked around in both spaces.
“They’re big enough alright, but I don’t have the money to buy you out or to install, repair and decorate. It’s a lovely dream, Chance, but it’s a no go,” Leslie said quietly, looking as though Chance had snatched her favourite toy away.
“Clio’s my woman, you both get that right?” Chance asked. We both nodded. “Then I want to invest in something my girl wants. Clio’s more intrigued than she’s letting on and if she had the money, she’d be snatching this chance with both hands.” Leslie and Chance both turned and looked at me, and I stared back at them dumbfounded.
“Well, yes, I’d be interested but Leslie’s right, this will take more money than we both have,” I said to fill the silence. Chance grinned at me as the door opened, and a scowling man entered.
“‘Bout time you found something to do with this fuckin’ space,” he growled, his way of a greeting.
“This is Rooster, he’s Hellfire’s secretary, we got a proposition to put to you both,” Chance said as he hooked a dirty chair. Chance flipped it around before sitting on it, leaning his arms on the back. Leslie and I both dragged up rickety chairs and sat near him, curious to hear what the two men would say.
“Can do this two ways, one Hellfire invests on behalf of Clio and yourself. That means whatever is invested Leslie, you own half the debt, we’d do everything needed and then split the deficit in half. You can then use your money to pay a lump sum off and then pay the rest back at ten percent of your takings per month. Clio’s half of the takings we’d take twenty percent until her debt is paid back.
The second way is Hellfire comes in as a silent partner with both of you. Hellfire has the money to do so and we ain’t interested in running a bakery slash tearoom. We’d want thirty percent of profits after tax, and the rest would be split equally between you and Clio,” Rooster explained, and my eyes went wide. Wow, those were two great offers, but before Leslie could speak, I spoke up.
“I told you I don’t expect you to give me money and stuff, I can make an earning on my own,” I said softly, and Chance’s eyes narrowed on me.
“I know you can baby, fuckin’ damn proud of how you stood on your feet alone for so long but you ain’t alone now. When you got attacked, I saw the pain in Leslie’s eyes, pain for you, so I know she’s a good woman. You both need jobs, hate the thought of either of you ending up working for another Benny, we have a solution and one we can make work. Hellfire’s flush baby, you don’t need to know how flush, but setting two good women up in a bakery and tearoom ain’t gonna dent our coffers.”
“It’s gonna poke our other bone-idle brothers into doing something. The building next door was a department store, got ideas for that’ll work, if we have you women in here,” Rooster said.
“This is a tremendous opportunity, can I think it over, please?” Leslie asked. Chance looked at her and gave it to her straight.
“Think it over all you want woman, you either own half a business, or you come on board as a manager. Ain’t gonna let the woman who looked at Clio with such pain in her eyes, fly by the seat of her pants. Partner or manager, don’t give a shit which, but partner’s better. Got your other four chicks’ temporary jobs, for now, was thinking they could work for you and get paid a shit load better,” Chance said. That got Leslie, I saw it hit home and her eyes closed as she chewed over her options.
“There’s a pleasant couple of options, I’m leaning towards manager but know if I do that, I’ll regret it. Can I please just take twenty-four hours to consider the options? I think you’re right Chance, I don’t want to work for another Benny, and this means I wouldn’t have too.”