At closing time Tuesday night, the cash register at Afrika Fusion came up short. The restaurant's manager, Mondi Baskin, recounted the money and checked her math again. It was stil short.
Baskin narrowed the source of the discrepancy to one of the servers, a woman who'd been working at the Far North Dallas eatery since April. She didn't think much of it. It very well could have been an honest mistake, a credit card transaction she'd recorded as cash, or something like that. She pulled the server aside to discuss the shortage, but the woman refused to talk.
Baskin didn't think much of this, either. It was late, and she was probably tired. But the same thing happened on Wednesday when the server came to pick up her check. Baskin refused to give it to her until they'd figured up why the register had come up short.
"She just rolled her eyes and wouldn't talk about anything," Baskin said. "I said 'OK, let's talk about it tomorrow.'"
The server still didn't want to talk. She wanted her check, which she demanded when she walked in around 9 p.m. Thursday and found Baskin waiting on a table.
"She came and said 'OK, are you ready to give me my check?'" Baskin recalls. "I said I'm ready to give you your check if you're ready to sit down and talk."
They went to the back office, but the server still refused to cooperate, Baskin says. She demanded her paycheck again and again, her voice rising. Then she turned, slammed the office door, and kicked over the water tray, sending glasses shattering on the floor.
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When she came back into the restaurant, she had a can of gasoline that she was pouring in a trail from the front door to the office. Baskin ran out to meet her. Some of the gas splashed on Baskin's shoes and clothes, but she remained calm and pleaded with the woman to leave.
There were 15 customers in the restaurant at the time, a dozen adults and three children, and one of them came from behind and snatched the gas can. Then, when he woman produced a packet of matches, another grabbed those while the patrons joined together to push her out the door. Meanwhile, the cook cut off the building's gas and retrieved the fire extinguisher.
It was a while before police arrived. Baskin shooed her customers away, fearing a return -- "This is America," she says. "Everyone has a gun." -- then locked the door and waited. The woman didn't come back, but a man, possibly a brother or boyfriend, came and banged on the door. Baskin refused to let him in, and he slipped away when he saw the flashing squad cars.
The would-be arsonist was long gone by the time police arrived, but they'll have plenty of evidence to make their case. Afrika Fusion has surveillance cameras that captured the whole thing.