Whether she was scared or concerned I couldn’t tell, but that she came to me meant something was happening. It could be the usual bitch-spat between front bunnies. It could be the usual spat between the chefs and front bunnies. Or it could be something serious enough for her to be scared. Real scared.

I finished up the folding and headed through the dry store, back downstairs and into the kitchen. The kitchen was it’s usual acerbic self. The chefs swearing and grunting. Dirty stories and dirtier secrets. I checked my station. The dishes hadn’t piled up beyond a little tryin’ since I left, and the chefs were starting on cleaning floors, so I made my way out back to the cool store and the bins.

Thing about front bunnies is, they think they’re the heart of any good place. All because they make the coffee that keeps a kitchen bopping they think they’ve a licence to see us out. Nothing is further from the truth. The true heart of a good place is the exchange. The waiters bring us the coffee, and we don’t piss in their food. It works real good like that.

Glenis was the knower in this place. When Gary decided to take over the old premises of Il Casino on Tory it was Glenis who pulled the strings to get the lease handed over clean and simple. God knows we didn’t need a turf war on our hands. These Italians get real stroppy about anyone burning the edge of their pizza.

The Charnel House I called it. A cool store packed to the gunnels with dead… things. There’s a legend of a dishbitch in the time before I joined the crew, a “vegetarian”. Christ only knows what the hell he was thinking, coming to work here. The story goes he was a talker, so to give him a nice big cup of shut-the-fuck-up Glenis sends him out back here to the House. One look of a three day old veal and four suckling pigs dripping blood into the hand-made pasta and the asshole never walked back into the kitchen. Man never even got hisself enough time to kill something for real.

Glenis is round the side of the House, perched on an upside down bucket and looking like death, warmed-up, sprinkled with chilli, smothered with parmesan, dumped on a plate, grilled, and served as staff dinner. She’s got a half-smoked cigarette hanging out her mouth, a filthy apron, and no light on her saves the orange glow of the fag end.

“Why you coming to bug me, bitch?” She asks. She always calls me bitch. I think it’s affection, but I’ll never let myself within arms reach the way you’d have to, to know properly. “You got something broke again? Or… you need something breaking?”

“Though I’d come see how much reefer you gotta stuff in that fag to make you nice, chef…”

She laughs. “Christ boy, not sure those Kaitaia Māori could make enough to see me nice. But bless ’em for tryin’.”

I crouch back out of her way, away from the smoke fumes, closer to the rubbish.

“So… I got to know. When you giving Grant his next day off? That bastard is riding me like he thinks I’m his favourite pony.”

She laughs again, draws a long draft of her stick, staring at me through the citrous light. Her eyes have the hunger I’ve seen in a hundred chefs in a dozen shitty places. Too much caffeine, too little sleep, no food for days, blood pooled in their feet. Their faces go numb, the marks around their eyes like moats on castles of apathy.

“He leaves when he does the job we need done. Not a second before, capiche?”