Leddy meanwhile was still doing his best with Sandy; the two of them were walking along an abandoned country lane, which ran along the outskirts of the village. On one side was the village, lying as still as ever, and on the other was a huge, darkly swirling river, which sped through the countryside as if it had burst free from a great dam. But it seemed in too much of a hurry to make any discernible sound, other than a soft trickling that could only be heard if you knelt on the grassy verge beside it and placed your ear directly above the gushing water.
After much pointless banter on Leddy’s part to try and lighten the mood, the slow walk subsided into a silence. After a while, he spoke.
“Y’know, if you need a couple of helping hands at work, I’d be happy to oblige.”
“That’s sweet,” retorted Sandy, “but right now it looks as though work is the one place I can go without you popping up,” she gave him a smile to show she was only being humorous, “even if it is a dump.”
“Well, dump or not they must be paying you well, or else you would’ve left by now. You can be wonderfully firm when you want to be,” Leddy began to sound distant, as if he had mentally left the situation and gone off into a world of his own, “makes me wonder what kind of mother you would be to our kids.” But this was said with such mumbled dreaminess that Sandy barely heard him, wrapped in her own thoughts.
“I don’t have much of a choice, I was lucky enough to get a job in the first place, you know what today’s world is like. I can’t just chuck it in because I don’t like it; my family needs the money, what with our house falling apart. And I need some of that money as well to help me through Uni.”
“Everybody’s house round here is like that.” said Leddy, helpfully.
“Oh thanks, that’s a great help.” Sandy said sarcastically. “And anyway, what about you getting a new job, your place is just as bad as mine!”
“I’m still recovering from leaving my last job! It gave me a shock, I can tell you.”
“Why did you leave? That post office job was a damn sight better than mine.”
“I had to, it was the only way! My manager made some decisions that didn’t agree with my work routine.”
“I heard you got fired.”
“That was one of his decisions.”
Sandy couldn’t help but let a high-pitched laugh escape from here, and Leddy quickly joined in. When the laughter simmered down they gave each other a coy look, but when Sandy realised this she quickly turned away, turning a slight pink. Leddy edged closer to her.
“You look cute when you go all pink like that,” he said, “actually, you look cute whatever colour you turn.”
Before she could respond however, they came upon a tall, decaying building, adrift in the middle of the quiet country lane. It towered high into the sky and looked horribly out of place within the dull, pale colours of the surrounding countryside. Both Leddy and Sandy stopped walking and gazed at the murky looking structure.
Towards the top of the building, Leddy and Sandy could just make out that much of the top was missing, with only several poorly laid out wooden structures supporting the roof. Looking back down, the windows either showed that the interior was pitch-black or the windows were merely another portion of the building that no-one had bothered to wash or take any care of for years.
A small wooden door stood snugly in the middle of the ground level, surrounded by moss-covered bricks, and a sign hung above the door reading;
“The Rider’s Rest”
Some time ago, that was what the sign had actually said, but after many years without any care, the sign read;
“ he R der’s est”
“Well, I best be off,” said Sandy, leaving his side and moving towards the door, “listen, don’t worry about me. Once the four of us get out of here, things will be great.”
“Yeah, they really will!” He then felt his hands being taken by Sandy’s as she moved closer to him.
“Leddy,” she began, “I’m relieved we can still be friends.”
“Yeah, erm, me too” said Leddy, “I’ll see you later then?”
As Sandy opened the door, she let a grin slide across her face, shook her head amusingly, and left Leddy alone on the dusty path. He began to walk back the way he had come, his head lowered in deep thought. He then looked back at the building. It seemed to snarl back at him, its towering figure looming over him. Leddy didn’t like the thought of Sandy having to pay her way in a place like this. As far as he knew, all she did was wash the dishes, but what if there was something more to that? Something she might not be telling him?
He then turned on his heel and marched back towards the building. On closer inspection of the sign, it read beneath its fallen name;
“Restaurant and Bar”
Nothing more. Leddy attempted to peer in through on of the windows, but it was so murky and grubby that hardly anything could be made out at all. He could see no sign of any movement at all from inside. But as he pressed his ear hard up against the window, he could hear sounds of a shuffling and mumbling kind. He heard plates and cutlery being moved and a variety of people’s voices. He then made his way all round the pub looking in at all the other windows, but each window was as bad as the other. He went round to the back, where he almost fell into the river.
He had forgotten about the surging force of nature that ran behind the building, he hadn’t heard it at all and was too fixated on staring through the windows. As he hung onto the walls to stop him from falling in, one of the bricks crumbled to dust in his hands. The years of neglect meant that some walls weren’t as thick as others. The hole was barely big enough to fit a mouse through, but it was large enough for someone to place an ear next to it and listen in on the other side. This Leddy did and he began to listen in on what seemed like banter between two people.
One was a woman, with a high-pitched and elderly sounding voice, whilst the other was a man, or at least that’s what Leddy thought. His voice boomed like a foghorn and was just as slow. The conversation continued;
“Did she put the plates back in the cupboard?” the deep, booming voice rang out through the building. It was long and drawn out, almost as if the voice was part of a Shakespeare play.
“I told that little monkey to get on with it. She probably hasn’t done it though, lazy little tow-rag. I don’ know why we keep her on!”
“It won’t be for much longer,” boomed the ape, “Once the deal with Arthur comes through, we can get rid of her and not have to worry about a thing in the world.”
Howling laughs came after this and Leddy turned and bent his neck forward painfully to try and see who these voices may belong to, but the hole was much too small to receive a clear picture. However, as Leddy scrutinised all he could of the interior, he saw a small, round, plump figure that shuffled to and fro, clattering around pots and pans, and a tall, stiff, bulky figure that seemed to sway to and fro.
Leddy then rose upward from the bent position he was in. He’d heard and seen enough. It was obvious they were talking about Sandy and it was now clear why she didn’t like working here. He began to take a step backward, almost slipping off the verge and into the river.
Leddy started to walk away from the pub and back toward the village despondently. He took it upon himself to think of a way of sorting this situation out, even though Sandy would most probably be more grateful if he’d stay away for once.
Cutting his journey short, he sat down a plethora of slate and stones that jutted out from the river and rested within the neighbouring grass. For a while, he kept his head in his hands, thinking. He gazed at the pub in the near distance, the side view not being any more pleasant than the front view. The layout was a multitude of grey, green and brown, and where there wasn’t any structure at all, Leddy could see into the building where chairs and tables and other rotting or broken furniture lay in silence.
The right side of the building also had only one window to look through. It was larger than the rest, but even blacker. But here Leddy shot up from the rocks with purpose and began to run back towards the pub. Looking at the window, he had seen a small piece of, what looked like from the rocks, grimy white paper with thinly written words on it. Coming up to the window, Leddy was not mistaken.
Not noticing it before, Leddy looked upon with a sternly focused brow. On it were the two simple words that would be the cataclysm of a night of pure exhilaration: ‘Cleaner Wanted’.