Unwinding with a friend…


Fearghus Fall observes the liquid in his glass. Sun from the window beside him catches the crystal and replicates amber warmth across its angular cut – tiny triangles of a more elusive whisky hover like mirages before his eyes. He passes it under his nose, breathes in its promise and lets the anticipation speed his heart, calm his soul.

After a long working day a man needs something familiar into which he can relax. Switch off. Unwind. Some have a special place – a room, an armchair by the fire perhaps, a favourite book. Others favour home-cooking, or the soft grip of a woman’s thighs. For Fearghus, it’s a drink. His companion of choice.

The whisky smiles at him. He smiles back.

Yet it is not the end of his working day. The point at which he needs his friend moves ever forwards. Not a problem, of course, he just has a stressful job. His responsibilities grow daily. Especially since Bertie’s taken to hiding out in his castle – or, more accurately of late, the private chapel. What’s wrong with the man? To where have centuries of inbred stoicism fled? It now falls solely on Fearghus’s shoulders to keep things stable.

It’s ten o’clock in the morning. Even by his own ever-creeping standards it’s a little early for unwinding with a friend, but he slugs down the whisky and pushes the empty glass to one side. Its triangles now pick out the dark oak of his desk, a slight shine of grey filing cabinet to one side, a flash of white from the morning post which sits, unopened, in a neat pile to his right.

With the murderer caught, life should now return to normal. Work here on the estate should now return to normal. That is, if someone can rouse Bertie back into the cycle of things. But Fearghus does not yet believe the estate is heading to even keel. The murderer was employed by them – indirectly, of course, but hired to work on the estate nevertheless – and that bitch of a journalist won’t let go. Now she’s suggesting Lizzy, the earl and her murderer were in some sort of sordid love triangle.

It never ends.

A cloud crosses the sun, stealing its rays and casting a gloom over his office. It’s a mess. The whole sorry situation, it’s a terrible mess. He slides the glass back across the desk, opens the whisky and pours another shot. A man needs his friends at times like this.

It’s the small things…

Vincent McDervish emerges from the Anchor’s cellar, counting his upward progress in silent superstition. There are twelve stone steps, each deeply indented towards its centre where hundreds before him have laboured between barrel and bar.
“Try it now,” he says to Lizzy who is waiting with half-filled glass of foam in one hand, her other curled loosely around the wooden shaft of the pump. She stands, slumped onto one leg like a bored teenager.
Lizzy tips the froth into the sink, places the glass back beneath the nozzle, tightens her grip and pulls slowly on the pump’s handle. Her bottom juts out pleasingly in Vincent’s direction though he knows the view from the other side of the bar is equally satisfying. She’s what might once have been termed a homely lass – all curves and softness. It’s why he hired her.
 The beer splutters and spurts in foamy strands. Vincent is waiting until the handle is halfway down, at which point Lizzy – who’s quite short and finds this particular pump difficult – will be almost bent double in her efforts to draw the liquid. It’s the narrowest section of bar and if he gets the timing just right he can squeeze past at that moment and press against her delicious round buttocks with the usual jocular and disingenuous apology. It’s the small things that make a day perfect.
“Bloody useless,” Lizzy says, breaking off the pull before the job’s finished. She stands upright and turns to show him another glass of foam, deliciously framed by two mounds of perfect pale breast. “You’ll have to flush out the pipe.”
The Anchor is seven hundred years old and has doubtless seen its fair share of groping on both sides of the bar. It has remained a locals’ pub in a town where most have inevitably deferred to the tourist trade. Along with a small hotel, a restaurant and a half-share in the funeral parlour, it’s owned by Vincent. Were he a gambling man he’d be the sort to place his faith in the each way stake. More hungry dog than fox, he doesn’t take undue risks and this spread of interests prevents him from being completely at the mercy of the season’s tides. This, he finds, is a truth to calm the muse that sometimes whispers of less caution. 
Vincent inherited three of his businesses from his mother. She opened the hotel in the early 1950s. A high risk move for an unmarried woman with a child, though society was perhaps stunned into silence by her furious will. She ran a quality establishment. Took no nonsense from anyone. Later, when she started the restaurant – seafood, of varying culinary skill – anyone of any importance had long since forgotten the promiscuity of her youth. Towards the end of her life (though none realised this at the time) and without consulting her now-grown son and heir, she invested in the funeral parlour. An almost fated shrewdness for a woman who’d always been in control. The only business not to have been a hand-me-down was the pub. A good enough reason for Vincent to spend most of his time there, leaving the others in the daily care of managers whose methods resounded like the spectre of his mother, quite spoiling any pleasure he’d anticipated from this long-awaited inheritance.
But his main excuse for favouring The Anchor as a base is Lizzy. She fascinates and lures him like a modern-day siren. He hired her – she was his choice – and he did so without even checking references. A rare occasion when he heeded the voice of his niggling muse. His mother must have spun in her grave. He laughs quietly to himself because this is an image which never fails to lighten his step. Yes, it’s the small things that make a day perfect.