He was way past his prime, the years having caught up to him. He walked with a distinct limp, his left foot akimbo to both legs and his right foot. His hair was peppery white and he crouched over, his stocky frame making him appear to be like a large medicine ball with legs and arms. His favorite hangout was a competitor’s pub down the street where he would sip ‘special coffees’ all day long until summoned. Whenever he would show up he always carried an oversized pipe wrench, as old as he was or even older. He had an edge about him, not giving a damn about what was going on in the world around him, and he liked it that way. He was the go-to maintenance guy for our ‘unique’ set of problems, and the other pubs/hotels in the downtown core felt the same way as well.
She manned the bar and I place emphasis on the use of gender terminology for she would, and did, easily go toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with any foul-mouthed intoxicated male who should have been cut off a couple of hours earlier. Without blinking an eye she would come out from behind the bar and remove said male from the premises like she was throwing out Kleenex. Then she would march back in and with a stare-down that would make Clint Eastwood hesitate she would challenge the room before returning to her roost behind the bar.
Then there was the barmaid’s equal – the bosses daughter who ran the kitchen and banquet facilities like she knew what the hell she was doing, although most of what she knew came from reading a housekeeping magazine or attending another snub your nose high in the sky event for the rich and not so famous. Consequently, we were serving panini sandwiches when most patrons just called it a grilled cheese. Her form of managing people was through the use of yelling, screaming, and demeaning antics, designed to intimidate, humiliate, and segregate. Consequently, the staff all had various psycho semantic symptoms.
Her husband, on the other hand, was literally half the size as her and as timid as a garlic-flavored pickle. Together, they both owned and operated a local butcher’s shop slash mini-grocery store just down a couple of blocks from this hotel. He spent most of his time there and she spent most of her time away from him, sitting in the pub, talking shit with the rest of the patrons until called upon to yell at someone new in the kitchen. When their business didn’t do so well, he headed north to work on the oil rigs and they both seemed to enjoy the break from each other. One of those times away, he found Jesus and came back a changed man, much to her frustration. Jesus didn’t seem to bring new life to their marriage and eventually it crumbled apart.
Interestingly enough this woman was the daughter of the wife who co-owned the business with her husband, however he was not her father. The owners were both working on their second marriages, the first one for her not working out so good. The daughter was proof of that fact. Ironically, perhaps, the daughter also had a daughter from a previous relationship, who ran around like she owned the place, and enjoyed taking off, chasing the parties and the who’s who in the larger cities in the area. When the money dried up and mom was tired of bailing her out, the owner allowed her granddaughter to work in the restaurant, bringing her natural charm into the mix.
Then there were the owners. A husband and wife team who had been together for quite awhile, remarkably as I discovered but it seemed it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. He had spent his career as a pharmacist and I forgot what she had done but together they had amassed enough of a nest egg that they no longer needed to work. Instead, he got bored out in the eastern part of Canada and went online looking for something to do. He found this hotel for sale and thought that was a brilliant idea that would keep him busy, keep his investment secure, and allow him to play some more golf.
He couldn’t of been more wrong.
In the end, their decision kept the slot machines busy in the area, and a fresh supply of wines in the pub, only enjoyed by her while he sampled the many beers in both his pub and his cold beer and wine store, where he opted to spend the majority of his time. They both did not want to be there, perhaps even the day after they first bought the place but most definitely now, when forced to take it back over from the person they had hoped had bought it but instead scammed them out of more than one hundred thousand dollars.
When I sat down to talk with this couple I found myself drawn to them. I liked them. I liked their quirkiness. I felt sorry for them and I wanted to help them out. We talked about and agreed on a weekly salary. We then talked about what they needed me to do.
They weren’t sure.
So, we started with the most pressing issue. They were being audited for both the provincial sales tax and national sales tax, and in particular how that related to their liquor sales. An audit meant that instead of just focusing on the last six months of when this scam artist had the business and refused to pay these sorts of things – they were going back the maximum five years. Turns out, paperwork and administration was not really their strong point. They had the receipts but they were stored loosely in empty liquor boxes down in the crawl space by the massive steam boilers.
And so this is where I began. Day one.