Jake swiped the bottle of gin across his till. Beep.
‘I thought you said you weren’t going,’ said Kate from her seat behind him. ‘I distinctly remember the words ‘hot pins’ and ‘eyes’ being used.’
Jake continued swiping. Beep. Beep. Beep.
‘I changed my mind,’ he said over his shoulder. They weren’t supposed to talk to each other while serving customers, but the middle-aged woman in front of him was glued to her mobile phone, and Mr. Peters had sleazed off down aisle seven after Sally from Baked Goods.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
‘That’ll be £137.63 please,’ said Jake as he glanced at the three carrier bags he’d just filled with top brand goods worth more than he’d earn in the next three days. Without looking up from her phone, the woman tossed him her debit card. Jake bit his tongue.
‘Well, I’m not going,’ said Kate. ‘Not after last year. He can fire me if he likes. No job is worth having to go to one of Pervy Peters’ team building evenings. I had enough of that kind of thing when I was on the force.’
‘Good for you,’ Jake said. It was all right for Kate. She was retired and only worked at the store a couple of shifts a week to keep herself ‘out of mischief’. What she earned, she spent on presents for her grandkids and holidays with her husband. For Jake, this job barely kept the bailiffs from his door.
‘Any cash-back?’ he asked the woman.
She carried on tapping her phone. ‘£50.’
Jake processed the transaction and handed the woman her money. As he closed the till, he turned back to find her hand thrust in front of his face.
‘You’ve only given me thirty,’ she said, spreading the notes out. ‘I asked for fifty.’
Jake’s stomach sank. ‘I’m sure I gave you fifty, Madame.’
‘If you gave me fifty, why do I only have thirty?’
Because, thought Jake, even though you’ve clearly got more money than sense, you still get a buzz from stealing.
‘Call your supervisor,’ said the woman as she slapped the money on the conveyor belt. ‘Now.’
It took Mr. Peters a surprisingly short time to respond to the bell.
‘Councilor Duncan,’ he said, smoothing his hair as he approached the checkout. ‘How lovely to see you. What seems to be the problem?’
Jake suppressed a groan. This wasn’t good.
In less than a minute, Peters had listened to Councilor Duncan’s complaint, decided that Jake was in the wrong, ushered him from his seat, taken his place and opened the till.
‘You have my sincere apologies.’ Peters handed over a twenty-pound note. Councilor Duncan nodded. ‘By the way,’ said Peters, as he watched her slip the money into her purse. ‘Has the council had a chance to review the plans for the store’s extension yet?’
As she turned away from the checkout, Councilor Duncan smiled. ‘I think that item has just moved to the top of our agenda.’
‘Mr. Peters,’ said Jake, once the councilor was out of earshot, ‘I swear I gave her the full fifty.’
Peters held up his hand. ‘You need to be more careful. Remember your training. Count out the money, one note at a time, onto the conveyor belt, then there can be no arguments. If your till is down at the end of the day, I’ll be docking the missing money from next week’s wages. Understand?’
Jake knew when he was beaten. ‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Good lad.’ He patted Jake on the shoulder. ‘And don’t forget, everyone,’ he called across the store. ‘Tonight’s the night. The Good Intent. 9pm sharp. Time for a bit of team building.’
‘I thought you weren’t coming,’ said Jake, as he nursed his half-pint of shandy. He couldn’t afford a night out and a twenty-quid fine.
‘I wasn’t,’ said Kate, sipping her white wine. ‘But then I was chatting with Sally in the locker room and she told me something I think you’re going to want to hear.’
Sally from Baked Goods opened a packet of crisps and spread them on the table. ‘Last week, when Ian was off and I had to do a shift on the tills, Councilor Duncan diddled me out of a twenty too.’
‘What?’ Jake sat up straight.
‘As soon as I hit me bell, Pervy Peters appears, commandeers me till and hands over the cash. No questions asked.’
‘You think they’re in it together?’ asked Jake.
‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the moment Peters puts in his planning application, Councillor Duncan starts being given the wrong amount of cash-back,’ said Kate, her eyes shining.
‘All right, everyone,’ came a shout from the centre of the bar. It was Mr. Peters. ‘Time to get started. Who’s up for a game of Two Truths, One Lie?’
‘Oh, this should be good,’ said Jake with a smile. Sally and Kate smiled back at him.
‘We are!’ they shouted.