It was something only seen in horror movies. Sheree had seen something she had wished she hadn’t, and it was right under her nose all this time.
What would this mean for the job she loved so much? She had only just begun her journey. But she would find out the journey was paved with nightmares.
A Dream Job
It was always something Sheree Johnson strived for. She came from a poor family, and all she ever wanted was to succeed.
Sheree was the eldest of five children who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.
She worked hard to make a success of her life and having this job as a fast food restaurant manager was her pride. Or so she thought.
Sheree had first worked as a dishwasher and then moved up to assistant cook.
She finally then worked in front-end customer service taking people’s food orders.
She later became a staff supervisor and then earned the role of general manager. It was something she was proud of. The staff watched her grow, and she earned their respect. However, Sheree would soon see how her restaurant would begin to crumble.
For all her years working at the restaurant, Sheree would see her fair share of problems, whether it was within the restaurant itself or just the people who came in to get some food.
Sheree knew that the restaurant was very popular. The menu had a variety of good food.
She took it upon herself to try everything on the menu to better understand what the customers wanted and what she could recommend to them. The menu would prove to be a huge problem for Sheree and her team.
Sheree had always noticed certain people who were at the restaurant, come rain or shine. She called them her regulars and knew them all by name.
Her favorite was Uncle Henry, who would come in daily at 12 pm sharp for his lunch special. He only ever had one meal, a chicken sandwich with coffee.
She decided to give him a special pensioners discount to thank him for his patronage. But this kind gesture would later come back to haunt her.
Sheree was always happy to serve the various families from the community that visited most Saturdays. She would see how the families grew over time.
They always ordered special family meals, and Sheree made sure the kids would get their free toys and ice cream.
But Sheree would soon notice a decline in the families visiting the restaurant.
Rowdy Friday Night
Fridays were always busy. This was when couples and teenagers would visit for a late-night fast food fix.
Some of them would get rowdy, but Sheree knew how to keep her restaurant in check.
On one particular Friday night, Sheree would come face to face with her biggest nightmare. An unhappy customer. This made her particularly worried.
What made it worse was that they complained of feeling sick after eating the food from the restaurant.
He said they were probably using old oil. Sheree couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
This would be the first complaint about feeling sick after eating at this restaurant. For as long as she had been there, there was never a complaint like this. Sheree needed to find out what was going on.
Sheree decided to do a little investigation within the restaurant to see if there was anything that she could see that was causing the problem.
The customer said that they were using old oil to cook.
Sheree thought this was unbelievable. The cooks could not get away with something like this – not on her watch.
A Private Talk
Sheree spoke to the cook who had been there the longest, Gerald. He was a good friend of hers, and she knew she could get the truth out of him.
She called Gerald to her office so that they could talk in private.
She told him about the complaints and that customers said that they were using old oil. Gerald’s response was not what Sheree was expecting.
Gerald, The Cook
Gerald became angry. He was hurt that his good friend Sheree would think he would jeopardize her in any way. He saw her as his daughter.
He knew how hard she worked to get this position, and he would not be using any expired products in his kitchen.
Sheree apologized and decided to keep investigating other parts of the restaurant.
After talking to Gerald, Sheree decided to go to the walk-in refrigerator. There must be something in there causing the trouble.
She looked at everything from meats to salads, but everything was fresh.
Gerald was meticulous in making sure everything was stored at the right temperature. Nothing smelled off. It had to be something else.
An Unwanted Discovery
Then Sheree did something she didn’t want to but had to do. She was the manager, and it was her job to make sure that everything was running smoothly.
She moved a cabinet to see what was behind. They always made sure the kitchen was in tip-top shape.
Then Sheree’s heart sank. She saw something behind the cabinet that made her want to scream.
Behind the cabinet was a small infestation of ants. This was bad. Sheree had to get pest control in as soon as possible.
She dialed the pest control company they always used. In the meantime, she closed the restaurant until the problem was solved.
Gerald said she was being dramatic, but Sheree wanted to be extra careful.
Mr. Davis of the pest control company was a friendly guy. He often saw them four times a year to fumigate the restaurant.
Sheree just wanted the ants removed and not killed. Hopefully, Mr. Davis could find a way to seal off the passages they were using.
She was not going to have a repeat of this. But then she received more bad news from Mr. Davis.
Closed Until Further Notice
According to Mr. Davis, the restaurant would have to be closed for a week in order for him to do a thorough job.
This meant no business. Sheree wasn’t pleased, but it had to be done. Plus, she was happy to give Gerald some time off.
She had an idea to make a special “re-opening sandwich” for her beloved customers. But the infestation had to be dealt with.
Open For Business
It was the grand re-opening of the restaurant, and Sheree and her team couldn’t have been happier.
They had needed the break from the restaurant, but being back was great.
Sheree and Gerald made up a special chicken sandwich that would be selling for 99c on that day only. The place was packed, and customers were happy. But Sheree’s happiness would soon fade.
The 99c Special
It was another Friday night, and Sheree and Gerald decided to continue the 99c chicken special to keep the customers coming for more.
Sheree spotted the four teens who were regulars on Friday nights. They, too, enjoyed the 99c special.
They were there a long time, and after they decided to leave, one of the girls came up to Sheree to tell her something she could never have expected.
The girl told her that she, too, had been sick. Sheree would not let them ruin her night.
She told them that the place had just been fumigated, and they used only the freshest produce.
She then told them that if they weren’t happy with the food, they shouldn’t come back at all. They left, and Sheree was sure that they were out to sabotage the restaurant. But it was much worse.
The following week, Sheree had lots of admin to do, so she decided to bring her work and sit down at one of the tables for a different atmosphere.
And that’s when she noticed something strange. It was already 12:15 pm, and there was no sign of Uncle Henry.
He usually was here at 12 pm on the dot to have his lunch. Where could he be?
The next day, there was still no sign of Uncle Henry, and Sheree began to worry. She didn’t have his phone number to call to find out where he was.
But then, a lady approached the counter looking for her.
It was Uncle Henry’s daughter, Heather. She had brought the message to Sheree, saying that her dad had been sick for a few days, and he wanted Sheree to know where he was. Sheree was grateful for the message, but she came to a sad realization.
Sheree realized that Uncle Henry was sick because he had been at the grand opening, and he must’ve gotten sick from something in the restaurant.
He had his usual lunch plus the 99c special.
This was bad. What if he didn’t recover? Sheree needed to do something drastic to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all.
Sheree purchased some cameras. She was going to secretly set them all around the restaurant to see what was going on with the staff and the customers.
It was not an easy job, and she was risking her staff’s privacy, but she had to do this. It was the only way to get to the bottom of it.
What Sheree would see on the cameras would leave her regretting her actions.
Sheree watched all the footage. There was nothing to make her suspicious of anyone on her team or any of the customers.
There was nothing going on. The staff was hygienic, and there were no signs of sabotage.
But Sheree knew that there was a person she dreaded coming into the restaurant the next day.
The Health Inspector
Mr. Simmons, the health inspector, came in to make his inspection of the restaurant.
He came every six months, and Sheree made sure to give him a complimentary meal for his trouble.
He was a kind man, but she could see he was also a no-nonsense kind of guy. As he walked around, he made notes on his clipboard. Sheree always wondered what he wrote.
Sheree was nervous as Mr. Simmons made his way behind the counter and into the kitchen.
She had checked everything and found nothing unsanitary. Everything was spotless, and the fridges were well stocked.
Luckily Gerald and Mr. Simmons were good friends. They would always crack a joke together while Simmons was inspecting. Hopefully, it could distract him for a while.
A Nightmare Come True
After he was done chatting with Gerald and checking the kitchen, Simmons made his way to the office and bathrooms.
Sheree was confident about her office. She cleaned and sanitized it herself. But the bathrooms were always a worry.
Although they were clean, something could always pop up. To Sheree’s dismay, that’s exactly what happened.
Simmons was in the bathroom for a while, and when he eventually came out, he had a look of concern on his face. Sheree braced herself.
She was not ready for what Simmons would tell her.
He discreetly informed Sheree that he had found something in the bathrooms and it was best to close down the restaurant for good. Or, he suggested, that it be burned and rebuilt. Sheree’s heart nearly stopped.
Simmons showed Sheree what he had found. The walls behind the basins and toilets were all covered in black mold. How could she not have seen this?
It must be the reason why her patrons were getting sick. The mold was toxic, and it would explain why people were having stomach problems.
Sheree explained to Simmons that there was no way she was burning down the place. She had a solution.
Sheree called Mr. Davis. She knew he was also a mold removal professional. It would take a few days, but she was glad to have found the problem, and thankfully, it was not the food.
After a few days, the restaurant opened to spectacular fanfare. All the regulars were there, including the teens from Friday night and Uncle Henry. This time, Sheree made sure all of his future meals would be for free.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.