On the day before Thanksgiving, Atticus came home from the hospital, wearing an eye patch. And just in time for Christmas, he returned to work.
Brielle, Jo, and the other waitresses threw a huge “Welcome Back” party for Atticus on the day of his return. All the customers in the dining area joined the party, glad to see the owner of their favorite restaurant return.
The restaurant was decked out in Christmas decorations. A medium-sized Christmas tree stood in the lined windows next to the entrance and wreaths hung on the double door to the kitchen and break room. A banner hung over the dining area, which read, “Welcome back Atticus! You’re just in time for Christmas!”
The song, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” blared over the speakers and everyone cheered as Atticus arrived, wearing an eyepatch, and walking on a cane.
“It’s only temporary,” Atticus told them all, “I’ll be able to ditch this thing in a month or two.”
“Welcome back, Atticus,” Brielle said with a smile as she hugged who she thought of as the best boss a lady could have.
With his sister, Jo, at his side, Atticus passed through the crowd as customers gathered around. The female customers hugged him and the male customers giving him friendly slaps on the back and handshakes.
On the marquee outside also announced Atticus’ return, reading “Merry Christmas from Bobtail Bud’s” and “Welcome Back Atticus,” underneath the first message.
Everyone was singing and cheering when suddenly, Jo looked up, in the direction of the front entrance. Her eyes widened. The surprised look on her face then turned to a scowl.
“Oh, my God! I knew we shouldn’t have announced this on the marquee outside!” she said disdainfully.
“What are you talking about?” Brielle asked.
Jo pointed toward the entrance.
Brielle and everyone around them looked in the direction Jo was pointing and, sure enough, Bobby, Ashton, Grant, and Aaron had walked in. The four lawmen were looking dead at them and smirking as they took an empty booth.
“Welp, there goes my appetite!” Brielle remarked.
“Ugh! Yours and mine both!” Jo added, her voice dripping with disgust.
Brielle stood there, hands on hips, giving the lawmen a contemptuous glare.
“So, are you even close to finding the people who assaulted Atticus early last month?” she asked in a cold tone of contempt.
“Sorry, so far, we’ve found nothing,” Ashton responded, the response being more of a taunt than an answer.”
“Gee, now! Why am I not surprised? But you can bet that if Crawford were still alive, he’d still be sheriff and he would have had quite a few leads by now,” Brielle taunted back.
Bobby came to a sudden pause. His eyes flashed, as did the eyes of the other three county cops as they all turned and looked at Brielle, then at Atticus and the other coworkers around her. The customers also heard Brielle’s remark.
“Ooooh!” One young male customer shouted derisively before everyone in the restaurant burst into loud cackles, guffaws, and horselaughs.
Without taking his eyes of rage off Brielle, Bobby and the deputies slowly and threateningly rose from their seats and stood, directly facing Brielle and the other restaurant staff.
“Well, Crawford’s dead now, ain’t he?” Bobby growled angrily through his teeth.
“Oh, you’re right, he is, which was pretty doggone convenient for you,” Brielle said point blank.
“You don’t know shit about it, gal! Which is why it’s a damn good thing you aren’t sheriff, and I am,” Bobby thundered in utter outrage.
“For you, that’s a very good thing, Bobby. Because, if I was, you’d be in jail, along with the rest of your sycophants,” Brielle said in a calm, confident tone.
“Really? Let’s get one thing straight, Brielle! We don’t have to explain anything to you!” Ashton bit angrily.
“It’s just as well. Even if you tried, I don’t think you could,” Brielle, ever so calmly, fired back.