I placed two steaming hot plates of tapas in front of my customers and gave them my best smile.
“Enjoy,” I said.
It was my first day at a new job, waitressing at a Spanish restaurant called Don Diego.
So far, it was going well.
The owner, Ahmet, seemed really friendly and I’d already shared a few laughs with the head chef, Carlos.
I’m going to like it here, I thought.
And I was right. Carlos and I became firm friends.
He made delicious food for me on my breaks and always entertained me with his silly jokes.
As Christmas approached, I asked Ahmet if I could have some time off to go on holiday.
“Of course,” he agreed. “You work so hard for me.”
I booked my flights and was really looking forward to having a break.
But a few weeks before I was due to fly, I realised I hadn’t received my pay for the previous month.
Ahmet had been late paying me a few times before, but I’d never received nothing at all!
“I haven’t been paid, either!” Carlos groaned when I told him.
We went to see Ahmet to ask him what was going on.
“I’ve got no money,” he said.
“But we’ve had heaps of customers!” I protested.
We continued to press him but he still wouldn’t give us our wages.
All we could do was hope that he came up with the money soon.
That night, I was cashing up the till at the end of my shift when I realised there was $1600 was missing.
All transactions made on the tills were monitored and you could only access it using your unique code.
Looking at the records, I saw that a number of transactions had been deleted using the code belonging to Ahmet’s wife.
I decided to keep my findings to myself until my suspicions had been confirmed.
When I got back from my holiday, I still hadn’t been paid, and neither had Carlos.
I spoke to Ahmet again.
“I can’t afford to work for free!” I told him.
“The money’s coming,” he insisted.
I wasn’t sure I believed him.
“I’m going to have to start looking for another job,” I said to Carlos.
By now I was owed more than two months worth of wages – around $5000.
I was behind on my rent and had to borrow from my parents.
Later that week, I was doing the accounts at the end of my shift and noticed some strange transactions.
Someone was deleting sales and taking money out of the till – $15,000 was missing!
I printed off the evidence and put it on Ahmet’s desk.
I now realised the business was in serious trouble.
Carlos and I decided to leave, along with four other waitresses.
Ahmet turned nasty.
“Leave the keys in the office, and leave my restaurant,” he said bluntly.
I did as I was told.
Thank God I never have to set foot in that place again.
Luckily, I managed to find another job soon after.
Then a month later, I got a call from Carlos.
“Ahmet says he’s going to pay us the money he owes us,” he said.
“Why does he suddenly want to pay us now?” I asked.
It seemed odd, but I agreed to meet Carlos the next morning and we went to the restaurant together.
When we got there, the windows were closed and the blinds were still shut.
Staff would normally be setting up by this time.
Ahmet came to the door.
“Hola, amigos!” he said.
I glanced at Carlos. Why was he being so friendly?
We started walking towards the office but suddenly, Ahmet grabbed Carlos and pushed him into the stockroom.
Next thing I knew, he’d grabbed a baseball bat and brought it crashing down on Carlos’s head.
Ahmet hit Carlos so hard the bat broke.
Then, to my horror, he pulled a BB gun from his coat pocket and pointed it straight at me.
Terrified, I froze.
Suddenly, Carlos jumped on Ahmet, trying to get the gun off him.
“Monica, grab a bottle of wine,” Carlos cried.
Spinning around, I grabbed a bottle and put it in Carlos’s hand.
He smashed it over Ahmet’s head then pushed a wine rack on top of him.
Just as we were about to make our escape, I spotted a glint of something silver under Ahmet’s belt.
I lunged forward, snatching the weapon off him.
Then, while Ahmet lay on the floor, we fled the building and ran for our lives.
“Call the police,” Carlos shouted at two strangers walking past. “Our boss just tried to kill us.”
A nearby Italian restaurant was just opening up.
As we sprinted over, I spotted Ahmet leaving Don Diego.
The waitress from the restaurant ushered Carlos inside but then slammed the door in my face.
I was confused for a moment, until I realised I was still holding the knife!
“Let her in, she’s safe,” I heard Carlos say.
I threw the knife into nearby bushes as the door opened.
Carlos was lying on the floor, blood seeping from his ears and head.
“You’re going to be okay,” I soothed. “You saved my life.”
Within minutes, paramedics arrived and we were rushed to hospital so doctors could check us over.I’d escaped with no injuries thanks to Carlos’s actions, but he had nasty head wounds.
Police arrived at the hospital to take our statements.
Thankfully, Ahmet was quickly caught and arrested.
At court, jurors heard Ahmet’s wife admit to stealing money from the business, and how Ahmet had blamed me and Carlos for the restaurant’s failings.
Ahmet admitted he wanted revenge, but claimed he had only wanted to scare us.
Chilling CCTV footage showed him practising swinging the bat before we arrived at the restaurant.
It also showed him splashing petrol around the office and kitchen before we arrived, and trying to light it after we left.
The prosecution argued that Ahmet had intended to beat us unconscious, then burn the restaurant with us inside it.
Ahmet was convicted of two counts of attempting to wound with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, two counts of attempted arson and one count of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear or violence.
The jury found him not guilty of two counts of attempted murder and two counts of attempted arson with intent to endanger life.
Post continues after video: George Calombaris shoves man at the footy
Our evil boss was jailed for 12 years.
I was so relieved.
I still struggle with flashbacks of the attack.
I’m terrified that Ahmet will track me down once he’s released from prison.
But I’ve had counselling and my friends and family have been so supportive.
Now I understand just how priceless life is.