Meet the Staff - Part 2
Five Days Earlier
The camera pans to Rudolf Grayson and a middle-aged woman walking in Hyde Park. Grayson is dressed in pinstripe pants, a crisp white button down shirt and blue striped tie. The woman is several inches shorter than Grayson, barely reaching his shoulder. Her prematurely snow white hair cut is quite short, and her sparkling blue-gray eyes are young and intelligent. She could be anywhere from mid-thirties to nearly sixty; her porcelain skin is smooth, and the faintest laugh lines trace the corners of her eyes and the sides of her mouth. She is by no means a traditional beauty, but she carries her indeterminate age well, and her neat and slightly generous figure is the sort that attracts many men. As the camera zooms close, the viewer cannot tell if she wears makeup at all. A faint spray of freckles dot her nose and upper cheeks, and the tiniest shine to her lips hint at the presence of lipstick, maybe.
“Emmaline Trough, the proprietress of the Fox and Crown. You've owned the pub for how many years?”
“And yet the vast majority of restaurants and pubs close down in less than five years.”
“So I hear.” Emmaline appeared a bit saddened by that fact.
Grayson clapped his hands. “So, what's your secret? After eight years, you still fill the pub night in and night out.”
“Well. Good food, of course. And good service. But really, I try to make my guests – my customers – feel welcome.” Emmaline continued down the path, walking beside the famous chef. “My location helps – I do catch the occasional tourist walking from Paddington station to the parks, but really, it is the regulars that keep me in business.”
“So you get the occasional new customer, but it is the repeat customers that are crucial.”
“Yes, the ladies who come every other Wednesday after meeting up at the knit shop around the corner, or the lads that come to watch the Saturday football on the telly. The nearby hotels send their guests up my way, so I try to stay on good terms with them.”
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Back to the present
“Does anyone have any questions about the menu?” A tall, dark haired man stood over the group. A pencil in one hand and a pad in the other.
“You're British!” Rudolf grumbled. “No one told me Xander was British.”
“I'm not Xander.” The man said reasonably, his tone cheerful. His Cockney accent was a bit of an affectation, but not so much one that it was annoying. Somehow, it suited him.
“Yeah, you are!” One of the girls chuckled from the other table.
The man rolled his eyes. “I'm Bert. That lovely lady over there, Mary, is my wife.” He indicated the brunette that had been setting the odd table. Mary gave a tiny wave of acknowledgment to the group at Rudolf's table. “Now then, any questions?”
“How long have you worked here?” Rudolf asked, a bit of challenge in his voice.
“I don't. Work here. Really. Mary does. Has for almost three years now, I believe.” Bert seemed a bit flustered by the question, but answered it amiably.
“But you are taking our orders.” Francine pointed out.
“Yes, but I work for Xander, not the pub. I'm Xander's personal assistant.”
“You're Other Xander.” The girl from the table next them said. “See there's Proper Xander and Other Xander. Bert here is Other Xander.”
“What?” Rudolf spluttered.
“Xander has several businesses, and a family. He wears several hats, one could say. If he feels he is truly needed two places at one time, I take on the lesser of the two priorities. Jack of all trades, of sorts.” Bert nodded to the girls at the table. “The girls here sometimes find me filling his teaching responsibilities if he is needed more elsewhere.”
“What could be more important that working at the pub here? It's his business, right?”
“Well, yes. I suppose so.” Bert replied.
“So what's he been doing that is more important than being here at the pub?”
“Well, that seems a bit impertinent. But he and his wife, they have an agreement where one of them picks up their children at school, every day, without fail. It is a high priority for them. His wife is baking fresh bread for tonight's big event. So Xander, Proper Xander, went for the children. I can do plenty of jobs, but I can't be Daddy to Xander's girls.”
“Hello.” A tapping sound was heard, and Grayson looked up to see Lorne standing at the microphone. “A few announcements for tonight's big event.” The chattering throughout the bar stopped. “First, there are several seats left tonight. Seven for first seating at six-thirty – one at the bar, the rest upstairs. And twenty-four for the second seating, which is at nine. If you are interested in a seat, or more information, please talk to your server.” A low murmur went throughout the bar. “The back porch will be open on a first-come first-serve basis until it is filled. Nights will serve drinks and a buffet. All the live entertainment will be shown on the big-screen. A big thanks to both Andrew Wells and Edward Chigliak for their efforts to provide all the patrons of both Nights and Caritas a view of the entertainment.” Two men stood up from where they were standing near the stage adjusting lights and wires and mock-saluted the crowd. They were greeted by a smattering of enthusiastic applause. A red-haired girl jumped on the stage and handed a paper to Lorne. “Next, some very important instructions for any of you ladies who are on duty tonight. These are from Faith, Xander, and Buffy. So listen up. First off, and I am supposed to quote. 'Any girl who causes trouble for Little D tonight will have a permanent black, blue, green and yellow imprint of my boot on their butt.'”
Rudolf looked over to his producer and whispered. “I'm glad we're not 'ladies on duty'. What time is the demo crew arriving?”
Author's note: Northern Exposure belongs to Joshua Brand and John Falsey