Guy at the Bar
Copyright © 2009 Sandra Thompson
The Pubs used to close at 10:30 in England so you made sure you got a drink at 10:29, just before the ‘last orders’ bell rang, and you made it last for a half hour, or until they chucked you out. It was warm and cozy inside my local pub, lots of people I knew, lots of people I liked, and lots of people that paired off at the end of the night and left me on my own. Always a loner, I pretended I liked it, but really I didn’t, it made me feel odd. I suppose I was odd! I never had a close friend, never trusted anyone enough to share my secrets, ambitions or fears with. Friends were good for a while, but after a while, they either thought they owned you and wanted too much commitment. I never saw how two females could be good friends, or close, unless they were sisters and as I never had a sister, that didn’t matter. That Friday night in May was the same as any other, the pub started emptying, soon there weren’t many people left, a few old locals, the folks behind the bar, who also owned the pub, myself and some strange guy who had found the bar stool next to mine. He seemed friendly enough, and we chatted as the landlady collected glasses and wiped tables. The chap at the bar, who was called Guy, so he could have been the ‘Guy at the bar’…..OK so I thought it was funny, started coming on to me which made me a little nervous about leaving. I was sure I could out-run him if he followed me home, or maybe not so sure, he had long legs, must be over six foot. Great, everyone I knew had already left apart from a couple of old timers who were sitting in the corner, not much use to me.
I slid off my stool and went to the cloakroom, Liz, the landlady followed me, told me to forget the toilet and unlocked the back door to let me out, she told me to run all the way home and she would talk to the ‘Guy at the bar’ to distract him. I took her advice, didn’t run though, too many brandy and cokes, running wasn’t an option. I was half way home when I heard breathing behind me, shit, dare I look round? I did start to run then, I heard the breathing following me, I knew he was going to catch up so I thought it might be better to stop and face him, so I did. I turned round and sure enough, the pervert from the pub was standing there. “Hey, I said I would walk you home” he shouted. I told him I was OK and just lived across the road. He kind of lurched and made a grab at me, but I moved to one side and he fell flat on his face. This time I did run, straight across the road, down between two houses and down the back alley behind the church. I heard him curse and as I looked over my shoulder, I saw he followed me across the road.
Now you might think that someone would see this and help me, but this was in a small country village in England at about 11:30 at night. No one was out on the streets after closing time; they were either at home emptying their cocktail cabinets, or at one of the local Barn Dances or Beat Dances. Yes both were popular in the seventies, and believe me, they were both fun. Just don’t be on the roads when they ended because everyone thought it was OK to jump in their car and drive home after drinking all night. I have to say there weren’t too many accidents, as there weren’t many cars on the road in the country at that time of night.
So there I was a little worse for wear after six or seven brandy and cokes, in the dark, in platform shoes, legging it down a dirt track at the back of the church, with a randy version of the incredible hulk following me. What a way to end a Friday night! In my head I was saying over and over again, please fall over, please stop following me, and then desperately I thought ‘JUST DROP DEAD’. A funny thing happened; there was a thump and then silence. Wow, maybe he had fallen over, and banged his head or something; I sure as hell didn’t wait to find out. I gave up on the running, which was impossible in six inch platforms; I just walked briskly and was glad when I came out on the tarmac because it made my walking easier. I was nearly home! I was ever so pleased to see the street light outside my house, and the lights on inside because it meant my mum and dad were home, and they were still up. I opened the gates and sighed with relief as I walked up the driveway. The light was on over the back door, and the kitchen light was on, my mum was making a cup of tea, having just got back from one of their old time dances, and I gladly joined them, and made myself a sandwich too, all that running had made me hungry.
Luckily the ‘guy at the bar’ had given up on me when he fell over. The street lights lit our small street up quite brightly so there were no shadows for anyone to lurk in. The end of the road, sorry drive (we lived in the posh area) was dark with trees, but if anyone was lurking there I would see them before they got to my house. The doors were firmly locked, of course anyone could get in if they chose to break a window, but I would hear them. He was just a drunk at a bar so he would have given up by now. I did get myself in some scrapes! All I wanted was a quiet night at the local pub, with my friends and neighbors. I sat and chatted to my mum and dad while I ate my sandwich, then I went and got ready for bed. I slipped between the sheets of my comfortable little bed, and put my stereo on quietly so as not to disturb my parents. I played both sides of Ziggy Stardust before sleep got the better of me. Wish CD’s had been out back then. The whole getting the needle on the groove in the dark was a real pain!!!
I drifted off to sleep, the bed was swinging a little, too much brandy does that to you, but it wasn’t too bad. Drifted off, drifted off……..wham. I woke up with a start! Did I hear something? I didn’t breathe for a minute. I thought I could smell stale beer. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, the bright bathroom light made me squint. I put it off and stayed in there for a minute to get my eyes to adjust. I thought I saw a shadow in the hallway, by the front door. That house was tiny so nothing or no one could be hiding. I walked into the living room, nothing there, nor in the kitchen. I walked back into my bedroom. Nothing! I opened my curtains a little and peered outside. The light from the back door lit up most of the back garden. All clear! I laughed at myself. The drunken idiot didn’t know where I lived so why was I being paranoid? I turned round to get back into bed. Bang, I walked straight into him, sour beer breath and all!
I woke up the next morning in bed, sheets and blankets all messed up! I could smell that wonderful Sunday morning smell of roast beef, and I knew it would come with roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, and the best dripping gravy too. It also smelled like it would be ready soon. I stretched and yawned, I pressed the button to put my stereo back on. ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’. I loved David Bowie. I lay there for a moment enjoying the smells and the music. Then ding dong, someone rang the front door bell. I knew it was the front because the back door only went ‘ding’. Who the heck would come to the front door on a Sunday when dinner was cooking? Friends and family always came to the back door. Maybe it was Jehovah’s witnesses. Those people drove you crazy. I heard my dad talking to someone at the front door for a couple of minutes and then the door closed. There was a tap on my bedroom door, and my dad poked his face in. He had one of those ‘something has happened’ looks on his face, he loved a good gossip.”That was the Richmond Bobbies, someone was found dead in the back alley by the church this morning. Old Mrs. Townsend, who lives in the Church Houses, came out of her front door to go to church early on, and almost fell over some big bloke who was keeled over in a heap near her front door. Oh and your mum says dinner will be ready in about quarter of an hour.” He shut the door and left.
I was motionless. I just lay there! Someone dead by the church, the way I ran home, in the same place I heard the thud. Could it be? Nah! Then I remembered getting up in the night, and ‘bumping in to someone’ in my bedroom. That must have been a dream. Was it all a dream? I felt a little uneasy as I got out of bed. Dinner did smell good though, and my mind focused on that instead. Good old traditional Sunday dinner at one o clock on the dot. I washed, brushed my teeth and threw some comfy clothes on, my tummy rumbling and my mouth watering. As I opened the door to the kitchen, my mum was putting the vegetables on the table and my dad was carving the meat. Don’t know why she let him do it. He did a pretty bad job, thick wedges instead of thin slices. That was OK by me, but didn’t leave much for sandwiches. Nothing gets rid of a hangover better than a Sunday dinner. Mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast beef with mint and onion sauce, Yorkshire puddings, tinned peas and lashings of thick (ahhhh Bisto) gravy. Excellent! I had just filled the very last space in my tummy with the very last Yorkshire pudding, when the front doorbell rang again. I was closest so I got up and answered the door. Two coppers stood there, I knew one of them as he was my friend’s dad from a neighboring village, the other one I did not know.
Sgt Bell, the one I did know spoke. “Sheila, can we come in and talk to you? Some bloke you were talking to in the pub last night was found dead outside of Mrs. Townsend’s front door this morning. We need to ask you if he said anything that might give us a clue as to what happened to him. Was he depressed, was he fighting with anyone? Right now we just don’t know anything, other than he’s dead.”
Let me know when you are ready for chapter two!