Luckily, things took a turn for the better. The following week, Brielle began working as a waitress at “Bobtail Bud’s Buffet.” Bobtail Bud’s was a part of “The Double Nickel Truck Stop.” The Double Nickel was one of the newer businesses in northern Glover County, just outside of the town of Mills, which was just a mile from the county line on Hwy 72. The truck stop consisted of a nice restaurant (Bobtail Bud’s), a hotel, and a small grocery store. It even had a truck wash in the back. The building was a long, tan-bricked structure with a large, lighted highway shield just under the name of the business. Inside the shield was the number 55.
The restaurant was open 24 hours and always packed with customers, a few locals but mostly truckers who were passing through. It didn’t take Brielle long to smile and banter her way into the hearts of all the truckers who stopped there to have a bite to eat. She even charmed her way into the heart of Atticus Carpenter, the owner and manager. She also made a friend out of Josephine, Jo for short, who was an older waitress and Atticus’ sister. She and Atticus took Brielle under their protective wings.
In the years since Brielle graduated Thomasville, she had become expert at opening doors with only a smile. Over the years, she’d developed a killer charm that was rare in Glover County. The transformation was almost unbelievable, even for Brielle. She had indeed gone from a bullied, painfully shy and withdrawn teenager to a highly confident, outgoing, and charismatic young lady.
As the weeks rolled by, Brielle raked in the tips from the truckers. She had such a way of making the truckers feel relaxed around her. She made it a point to make them feel good about themselves. It was because of her outgoing and down-to-earth nature that complimented her long blonde hair and svelte, hourglass figure, that the tips rolled in, earning Brielle as high as two hundred, fifty dollars in tips on some nights, and as low as one fifty on others. The tips more than compensated for her minimum wage hourly salary.
Each waitress was allowed to keep all her tips because Atticus, an older man of about 55, was a fair man who didn’t believe in splitting tips. He knew that any time waitresses were made to split their tips, the laziest of them would get rewarded unfairly.
Brielle Granted Divorce in Absentia
The following week, having filed for divorce just before she left California, Brielle had been granted her divorce in absentia as the courts took her fear of running into Bill and the numerous past police reports of domestic violence into consideration. Bill was ordered to pay Brielle four thousand dollars per month in child and spousal support.
On Wednesday night, just before Thanksgiving, Bobtail Bud’s was buzzing with truckers and travelers headed to see family for the holiday. Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on The Road” was playing loud over the speakers.
Brielle was on the job serving a table full of truckers their meals and bantering with them when she looked up and saw Sheriff Bobby walk through the front entrance. She paused and he glared at her from across the dining area. And when their eyes met, Bobby’s eyes seemed to pierce right down into her soul.
Atticus, who was back in the kitchen, happened to look through the pass through, and notice Bobby too. The owner/manager stopped suddenly as his face changed from smiles and laughter with the other cooks to the look of contempt toward the crooked sheriff.
Ashton came in after Bobby and they both took a seat at one of the booths and each grabbed a menu off the menu rack that sat on the table.
Brielle came back to the pass through and turned in the empty tray. Atticus saw the ashen look on her face.
“Is everything okay, Brielle. You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Atticus said, concerned.
Brielle leaned through the pass through to get closer to Atticus so that he could hear her over all the noise.
“Atticus, please tell me I don’t have to serve those two. Please. Let the newest waitress have them,” she pleaded, “I just can’t deal with them.”
“The sheriff and the deputy sheriff?” Atticus asked.
Brielle paused before answering.
“I completely, understand. You go back in the back. I’ve got this,” Atticus assured her as he took her hand in his and patted it.
Atticus removed his apron and came out of the kitchen. He walked across the dining area and approached the table where the two crooked lawmen sat.
“How can I help you gentlemen?” Atticus asked with slight sarcasm in his tone.
Atticus Confronts the Bullies
“Well, well, Atticus Carpenter. Long time no see,” Sheriff Bobby said with a smug grin.
“Not long enough,” Atticus sneered.
“We just thought we’d come by and see how business was doing here and to get something to eat. Wow! Looks like you’re doing good for yourself these days, Atticus,” Deputy Ashton Childers said with a smirk.
“You’re right. I am, and it’s because I keep out the riffraff!” Atticus said rudely.
“The riffraff, huh?” Bobby said. He then pointed at Brielle, “Like that thing over there? I mean, damn, Atticus. You’ll hire anybody, won’t you?”
Ashton chortled derisively.
“That’s my business, Bobby!” Atticus asserted brutally.
“Well, hell. I’m mean, look around you,” Bobby continued, “Business is really booming at the Double Nickel. ‘Seems to me that you’d be a little more careful who you hire.”
“’Seems to me that’s none of your business who I hire. She’s a good worker with a winning personality and I like her. And the customers do too, she keeps them happy.”
A Cruel Dig
“I bet she does. I bet she keeps them real happy. In fact, I wouldn’t put it past her to use one of your hotel rooms and invite a few of them for dessert. And why not, most of these truckers stay on the road, what? Probably three weeks out of a month? I imagine those long transcontinental trips can get pretty lonely. And they’d take her up on it too ‘cause it sure beats spanking your monkey,” he said, his voice dripping with disdain.
The sheriff chuckled.
“Atticus, you wouldn’t be using those hotel rooms for prostitution, would you? You do know we have ways of finding out if you are,” Sheriff Bobby grilled, because sure to taunt Atticus and talk loud enough for some of the customers to hear.
Luckily, music was playing, and the surrounding clamoring of customers was loud enough that the chances of anyone else overhearing the conversation was next to none.
Jo came out of the women’s room and tightened the strings of her apron. She then paused when she looked up and saw Atticus standing over the table at which sat Bobby and Ashton. She noticed the body language and facial expressions which told her that the encounter was not a good one.
She rushed over to a couple of younger waitresses, whispered something to them, then went into the kitchen where Brielle was.
Brielle isn’t the only Target in Thomasville
“Come on, let’s go ahead and take our break,” Jo suggested as she took Brielle by the wrist.
With Jo leading Brielle, the two women rushed back into the breakroom and sat at one of the four tables there. Jo then reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a half-empty pack of Pall Malls and a lighter. She lit up, took a long draw, inhaled, then blow out a huge puff of smoke.
“Those two creeps!” Jo growled.
“The sheriff?” Brielle asked.
“Yep! And his no-good deputy!”
“You’ve had bad experiences with them too, huh?” Brielle asked.
“Have we ever! They come in here and give Atticus a hard time every chance they get!” Jo said bitterly, taking another draw off her cigarette.
“What’s their problem with Atticus?”