Seth looked up from his menu and smiled. He’d been spotted even in the middle of a packed dinner service.
“Melanie, this is Detective Bill Crash. Bill, this is my wife, Melanie. If it wasn’t for Bill, I never would have heard of this place.”
“Ma’am, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Bill replied as he took her hand in his. “Seth said he wanted to bring you here. My cousin will be thrilled to know it made such a good impression that he brought you back for dinner.”
“Oh, this is your cousin’s restaurant? How lovely and, please, call me Melanie or Mel. Ma’am makes me feel older than I already am.”
“Old? I was going to run you in for underage drinking.”
“Seth, you didn’t warn me your friend was such a charmer,” Mel giggled. “Won’t you join us?”
Bill tried to decline, insisting he didn’t want to intrude but he quickly learned when Melanie gets an idea in her head she doesn’t let go. Before the detective could offer up a reasonable excuse, she had already flagged down the waitress for a third place setting.
“I feel terrible intruding on your date night.”
Melanie disregarded Bill’s concern with the wave of her hand and a round of drinks.
“Besides, the place is packed and it will free up a table for someone else.”
Bill smiled and thanked them for the company. Both Melanie and Seth listened with rapt attention as he captivated them with stories from the Gerald Rhymes case. Bill was careful to avoid discussing anything that might spoil Melanie’s appetite and he was in mid-sentence when Seth cut him off.
“I can’t believe he’s back. He’s got some nerve.”
While Bill and Melanie craned their necks to see what had gotten Seth so upset, he reached for his cell phone.
“Seth, put your cell phone away. That’s just rude.” Melanie whispered through clenched teeth.
“I’m not using the phone, Mel. I’m taking video.”
“Video? Of what?”
“That same guy, over there in the blue striped tie, was here this afternoon and nearly got our waitress fired. I think he’s trying scam another free meal.”
By the time Melanie, Seth and Bill were mid-way through their dessert course, the same man pulled the same maneuver. Minutes after his entrée had been delivered; he opened his brief case and stuffed food into a plastic bag. Once his plate was empty he started his act, bellowing that his waitress was ignoring him and threatening to write a bad review.
“We’ve got you this time you rat-bastard.”
Seth hit stop and charged across the dining room with Bill and Melanie in tow. Not only was the man exposed for his fraudulent behavior, several patron snapped photos and went to the restaurant’s defense via social media.
“Hopefully, he’ll end up banned from more than a few restaurants now that people are wise to his tricks.” Bill said.
“That’s too nice for the likes of him.”
Seth’s eyes burned with rage. He wanted that scheming piece of filth to suffer like one of the characters in his books.
“Excuse me; I was wondering if you were telling the truth about having this guy on video? If so, we’d like to feature it on the evening news and on our website.”
Seth looked up and recognized the area's most popular news reporter, John Stevens. He paused, trying to remember if they’d discussed anything that would identify himself or the detective. As if sensing his dilemma, the reporter promised that they could remove all audio while he was present. Seth looked for approval from his dinner party and they both nodded in agreement.
“Great! Here’s my card. Why don’t you stop by the station tomorrow and we’ll take care of everything.”
**Please return Monday, August 25th for the next installment of SERIAL**