Jerry signed the contract and sighed. He had given it his all, but sometimes dreams only come true for a short while. Coffee Snobs Unanimous hadn't really been able to run properly after Kate and Dave had left. He'd found it incredibly difficult to find good people, since most of them were being snatched up by the new Java House around the corner.
Rebecca. She had ruined everything. Again. He had said he didn't need Kate and Dave, but he'd soon realized he actually did. A lot. He found out quickly that he actually knew nothing about running a coffee house at all, and had been leaning on their combined knowledge to keep everything running smoothly.
He'd walked past the Java House a couple of days before and had seen Rebecca behind the counter. But not as a barista, as the manager. And he'd seen two other very familiar faces there too, smiling behind the counter.
Without them, everything was slowly turning to shit, and Jerry was smart enough to recognize a sinking ship when he owned one.
So he handed over the now signed contract to the new owners. Well, their lawyer, anyway. A corporate chain doesn't really send their CEOs out to buy out other coffee houses.
CSU would from now on become a part of a massive national coffee chain. He detested the idea of corporate coffee operating here, but there was one major silver lining he very much enjoyed. There were no corporate coffee houses in this area yet. And they would be competing directly with Java House. And they would crush them.
Rebecca would get hers yet.
And, of course, there was the minor detail of getting paid rather lucratively for the location, which he had snapped up for a nice bargain price after the fire had destroyed the previous business operating here -- the previous incarnation of the Java House.
Jerry went home that night and walked past the new Java House again. He knew he shouldn't go in, and decided that he definitely wouldn't. Then he realized he was already inside, and it was almost his turn to order. "Shit," he thought to himself as the person in front of him finished their order. "I shouldn't get so lost in thought."
Dave looked up, saw Jerry standing there awkwardly, and grinned.
"Hello, boss," he said as sarcastically as he could.
"Dave," Jerry said with his anger barely hidden.
"One Himalayan, hold the milk and sugar?" Dave said, pulling up one corner of his mouth to make his grin slightly more menacing.
Jerry sighed and nodded.
Dave rang it up for 6 dollars, then added 350 dollars to the price.
"Wait, what?" Jerry said, confused.
"Yeah. You never paid me my last week, did you?" Dave said smugly.
"I'm sure I did!"
Dave grinned again and turned to the door behind the counter.
"Kate! Jerry's here to see us!"
The door opened and Kate walked out.
"Oh, hi, boss," she said, and they both grinned. Jerry did not.
"Jerry here says he paid our last week at CSU. I can't seem to remember if that's correct, did he?"
"Oh, he surely did not, friend Dave."
"Ah, I see, well, that settles that, then."
He rang up another 350 dollars, for a total of 706.
"What? You can't do this!" Jerry said, looking around to see if any of the other customers would back him up. They did not.
"I think I can, though. But, as always, the customer is king. Would you like to speak to my manager?"
Jerry nearly choked. Dave and Kate both laughed.
"It's okay, I can go get her," Kate said as she turned around.
"No, no!" Jerry said. "No need."
He grabbed his phone and checked his bank balance. The money from the sale wasn't in yet. The lawyer had said they would go through additional checks and the money would be his within a work week. He had just over 800 in his account.
Jerry didn't want to give them anything. They had walked out on him, his dream. They had left his empire to crumble, and now the traitorous bastards were working for the enemy. But he also saw himself as an honorable man, one who does what's right. Even if they didn't fucking deserve it.
"After this we're done," Jerry said, not hiding his anger anymore.
"Sure. Pay us and we'll give you your coffee. Then you can be on your merry way."
Jerry sighed and put his card in the machine. He entered his pin and hesitated slightly before hitting 'OK'.
"Alright, then. One 'unadulterated' Himalayan coming right up," Dave said cheerfully.
Jerry walked towards the end of the counter, and he was not feeling great at all. But it was the right thing to do. But dammit, did he not enjoy doing the right thing right now.
He saw Dave take the money he had just paid from the till.
Jerry's eyes widened and he saw an opportunity. If he could film them taking money from the till, he could send the video anonymously and get them fired. Jerry grabbed his phone as quickly as he could and tried to find the camera app he hardly ever used. He tapped it when he finally found it, in the folder he'd created for apps he never used, called 'stuff'. It opened up and showed him the introduction screens about how to use the camera. He had never even opened it before, and he'd had this phone for over a year.
By the time he was done, Kate was behind the espresso machines working and Dave was helping another customer.
He sighed. Perhaps it was best to just let it go. Realistically he had to admit that he had made the mistake of letting them go. Or, perhaps, that he had caused them to want to leave. He knew he wasn't the easiest to deal with sometimes, but that was just his passion for coffee! It made him feel a bit sad to know that they had never really understood that it was just because he cared so damn much.
He had sold the coffee house and he'd made a pretty penny. They had new jobs that they seemed happy with, and perhaps it wasn't so bad that CSU closed down. It had added a lot of stress to his life, he could easily admit that. He had had less time to enjoy coffee on a personal level, and even though he'd enjoyed enjoying coffee on a business level, he was ready to return to just being a coffee aficionado. As a hobby. Purely as a passion. And with his debt to Dave and Kate paid, he had done the last thing he had to do for CSU. Settle the debt. Close the books.
Perhaps all of this was for the better.
"Jerry? One Himalayan?" Kate shouted through the room.
He raised his hand and walked forward. When he reached the counter, the back door opened up and Rebecca stepped out. It was just a night full of grins, Jerry thought, as she was also sporting one. And there was a hint of both loathing and pride in that grin.
Jerry suddenly had goosebumps all over. Something bad was about to happen.
"Long time no see, Jerry," she said outwardly pleasant.
"Rebecca," Jerry said through teeth clenched so hard he could hear them crunch together inside his head.
"Did I hear right? Did you sell Coffee Snobs Unanymous?"
Jerry's nostrils flared as he mumbled a 'yes'.
"And to whom, exactly?"
Now Jerry smiled. "Well, actually, you'll enjoy this. I sold it to a pretty big national chain of coffee houses. You'll be seeing them pop up very soon."
"Oh, really? There's a new coffee house in town?"
"Yes, there is. And though this new Java House is really quite... Adequate, I fear you might feel the competition rather soon."
"Ah, yes, of course. It'll be challenging, I'm sure," Rebecca said.
Jerry noticed her grin had not gotten any less. His goosebumps grew goosebumps.
"So you'd better get ready for that, because as soon as they've made some small changes to my near-perfect formula, they'll be opening up," Jerry continued, pushing through no matter what.
"Oh, I wouldn't call them small," she said, lowering her eyes a little and widening her grin significantly.
Jerry's eyes opened wide and his mouth a little as his goosebumps' goosebumps grew even more goosebumps.
"No no no."
"Oh yes, Jerry. Yes."
"Oh, but I did."
"It was Java House before. It'll be again."
"But you've got this place!"
"Not the same. Also smaller."
A vein in Jerry's forehead had started throbbing visibly, something both Dave and Kate looked at before laughing. Rebecca shot them a look, which shut them up, even though they couldn't stop giggling at least a little more.
"But, since I'm not the worst person around, Jerry, you'll always be welcome to come grab a cup of coffee at Java House," Rebecca said to a Jerry that was not ready to speak again.
She put her hand in her pocket and took out a little booklet. She held it out to him.
"There's discounts in there," she said, nodding to emphasize that it was a good thing. "Just for you. As token of our appreciation of your business."
It was not a good thing to Jerry. His thoughts were racing -- how flammable was this place, could he hide their bodies somewhere the police would never look, could he back out of the contract, just how flammable was this place -- but he couldn't reach a single conclusion.
As such, he meekly took the discount booklet, mumbled 'thanks', stuffed it in his pocket and turned to walk away.
When he reached the door, Rebecca shouted out "Jerry!" and he turned his head as if in a daze.
"You forgot your Himalayan," Rebecca said, still grinning.
Jerry turned his head again and walked out.
Rebecca. She had ruined everything.
Author's note: This is part 5 of the Jerry Saga. Is it the last? Sure sounds like it. But is it? Find out next year!
Part 1: Coffee
Part 2: Something about Coffee
Part 3: There he goes again
Part 4: Coffee Snobs Unanimous
Part 5: Corporate Coffee