Meanwhile in the bar, Doris and Sylvester busied themselves counting each and every bottle, and having to recount each bottle because Sylvester, as he had predicted, lost count. Presently, he plucked up the courage to ask Doris something that had been on his mind for sometime.
“Do you think those kids will discover what’s down there?”
“I thought the same with that first one, but no, everything will be fine. Arthur will come tonight and do his thing, and then we just sit back and wait for our spoils to come.”
Sylvester was still apprehensive.
“I still think the whole situation is a bit messed up.”
“Well, would you rather be working in the mansion all hours of the night? Cutting your fingers but not bothering to feel any pain?” she edged closer to him. “You know what he does to make them work all night don’t you?” Sylvester shook his head. “He actually gives them some of the stuff from the garden, it works wonders apparently! So unless you want to end up the same way, you keep your thoughts to yourself!” she paused. “And anyway, it’ll all turn out okay in the end! Just think of what he’s promised us! A new restaurant in a new village, think how wonderful that’ll be!”
“I guess.” said Sylvester, still not convinced of the greatness of the plan, and carried on with the counting, and recounting.
Down below however, Leddy picked himself up, stunned.
“What are you doing down there?” Sandy asked, completely gobsmacked at seeing her faithful friend lying at her feet.
“I’m getting up, aren’t I?” Leddy retorted, gathering himself up yet again and, yet again, dusting himself down.
“God, you look awful!” Sandy noticed, as Leddy stood directly beneath the gaslight and in the light, Sandy could make out the bleeding nose from the deceptive wall that turned a corner, various cobwebs draped lovingly on Leddy’s head, and his whole person seemed as though it had spent many weeks deep within some long-forgotten mine.
“Do I?” Leddy asked, innocently, “well, I feel dandy anyhow.”
Sandy tore away a nearby paper towel and dabbed his nose with it, trying to avoid any awkward eye contact.
“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here,” she said worryingly, “if Doris or Sylvester catch you…”
“Fear not,” Leddy assured, placing his hands on Sandy’s shoulders, “I’m the new cleaner.”
Sandy’s mouth dropped open in amazement.
“But… but…” she stammered, “But, why?”
“I just fancied seeing where you worked.” Leddy replied, with even more innocence than before. “And I can see why you don’t like coming to work here, that dastardly duo up there seems to have it in for everyone!”
“But, this is just ridiculous! Ridiculously thoughtful, but even so!” she spluttered.
“Ridiculously great, I think you mean!” added Leddy.
“Did they do that to you?” she pointed at Leddy’s still bleeding nose.
“Do what to me?”
“Punch you in the nose, it’s still bleeding.”
“No, it wasn’t them; I just walked into a wall, that’s all. What makes you think they would do it? Angry and mean, yes, but surely they wouldn’t be violent towards their own…” His voice trailed off as it dawned on him the full extent of Sandy’s dislike for working at the Traveller’s Rest. “Oh, Sandy!”
“It’s never a constant thing.” she said, meekly.
“So what? You can’t work here!” He gazed round the cramped area and came to a conclusion. “So when you get here, they shove you down this labyrinth, beat you till the job’s done,’ He ran his hands along the walls, “and they make you work in these crappy, wet conditions!”
Sandy was suddenly alarmed.
“Be careful with them walls,” she said, “there’s a reason they’re damp!”
“Well, you know how the river runs along the path we come down to get here?”
“What?! You mean all that’s protecting us from that massive river is this shoddy wall? Bloody hell! Why do you still work here?”
“Because it’s all I’ve got isn’t it” Sandy flung the towel that she’d been using to dry the dishes with onto the floor and sat down on a nearby stool, letting her voice become choked up and tearful “when Dad was laid off from the factory and Mum lost the post office, we did our best to get any work we could. Mum can hardly find a job at all, and Dad can never hold a job down for more than a few weeks. I’m the most stable one out of the three! I can’t throw this away; I’m the only one who’s bringing in constant money to the table and the pay isn’t that bad at all, you know it isn’t.”
“No, I guess not,” Leddy agreed. He crouched down besides her, gently rubbing her back caringly, “all you have to do is put up with being abused and put in danger haven’t you?” he ended sarcastically.
“But I’m screwed either way, if I stay here I get a few kicks and punches, and if I leave, my parents will go spare!”
“Not if you tell them what’s going on!”
“You don’t think I’ve already tried that? On the first week Sylvester gave me a black eye and when I got back home I told Dad all about it. We both went back to him, but Sylvester and Doris wouldn’t admit to it, they totally lied! Doris changed into, like, this shrivelled up old pensioner, and Sylvester was acting like he was constantly clueless hardly said a word, except for that even if he did want to punch me, he wouldn’t know how to!”
Sandy buried her head into her hands while Leddy looked down on him. Leddy couldn’t stand seeing her in distress. He then knelt before his friend and dug her head from her hands.
“Listen, you don’t have to worry about this anymore. I have a plan.”
Up in the bar, Doris and Sylvester were almost finished taking stock of the alcohol, which had taken much longer than they thought, much longer. On threatening Sylvester with working in the mansion if he didn’t get on with his work in the restaurant, she had escaped to her own little world in which she ran the best and largest restaurant in the world, with many customers and many kitchens to cater for them.
She had gradually left Sylvester to his own devices, which resulted in the worst possible situation. Whenever Sylvester felt pressured or worried, and in this case, he felt both, he liked to erase these feelings with a sip of brandy, and he had done just that. One bottle later, he propped himself up on the bar, constantly slipping and sliding along the floor. Doris merely sat at a table, her head in the clouds and her back in cobwebs from the chair she was sitting on.
Suddenly, the door gave a thunderous knock and Sylvester sat up with a jerk. He waddled over to the door and when he did at last reach it, he just had to collapse onto it. He opened the door and was greeted by two shabby suited people. They both wore thick, black rimmed glasses and each carried a suitcase.
“Hello there,” said one of them, in a deep yet feminine voice, “we’re here for the inspection.”
“Blagh-blurgh-gag!” said Sylvester.
“Pardon?” said the first one again.
“Hello!” said the other one, thrusting his hand forward to catch Sylvester’s. “I’m Gary and this is Fiona!”
Fiona immediately kicked him in the knee.
“Inshpekshun?” spluttered Sylvester. “Oh, well, right thish way then!”
He flung himself aside, waving one arm loftily into the restaurant. Fiona and Gary walked in, noticing Sylvester’s inebriated state.
“This might be easier than Leddy said!” Fiona giggled.
“Dorish, impek-inshpoc-input-“ he raised a hand to his head, gathering himself, “inshpectorsh for you and for reshterunt!”
Doris turned slowly, a lazy smile on her lips.
“Hmm?” she said, dreamily.
“Hi there!” said Gary happily, thrusting his arm out once again, this time towards Doris. “We’re here to inspect your place!”
At this, Doris’s eyes widened. She fell from her dreamy cloud, high in the sky, and landed with a crash back into reality. She got up and instantly noticed the intoxicated Sylvester. Jumping into the air and slapping him in the face, she then shoved him into the kitchen, slamming the door after him.
“Oh my, what a time to come!” she said, whimpering and shaking hands with both ‘inspectors’. “I thought you folks weren’t due for another two weeks.” She eagerly sat them down at the bar. “Not that it’s a bad time for you to come or anything! It’s always such a pleasure to have people of true class and distinction, and to choose my restaurant to inspect! What an honour! I suppose you must think of this place pretty highly if you choose to come here on such short notice!
“I hope you haven’t been to that dump, The Bull and Sheet, utter crap it is! Did you know that one time, a customer complained about a dirty fork and within five minutes, the whole restaurant had turned into a battleground! It was chefs and cleaners vs. the waiters and manager, ended in a bloody mess, I can tell you.
The staff came out of it alright though; it was the customers who bit the dust. Well, they shouldn’t have been in the way anyway! One of them tried to stop the fight, but he ended up having his head cut off! The chef then used it as a cannonball shot from a flowerpot; it flew high into the air, bounced off the wall, dived into the kitchen, crashed into the oven, and blew it up!
In the end, the entire top floor was brought down on top of everyone in the restaurant, killing everyone.”
“Everyone?” asked Gary.
“Well, not nearly everyone, one person did manage to survive.”
“Who was it?”
“Me, I was the one with the dirty fork!” Doris raised her shrill voice high, hoping for a raucous response of laughter.
She got none. Fiona sat not amused by Doris’ joke, while Gary simply sat not understanding the joke.
“Go on then,” he said, keenly.
“Go on what?” asked Doris.
“The punch line, go on!”
Fiona drew closer to him, whispering in his ear.
“That was the punch line, Gary.”
“Oh.” said Gary, flatly and disappointed.
Doris quickly changed the subject.
“Well, how about a drink?” she spun round to gaze at the now rather empty bottles of alcohol. She spun back with a strained smile on her lips.
“No thank you,” Fiona resumed her natural voice, believing the whole situation to be beyond sanity, “you just let us get on with our job. We’ll start in here first, we needn’t keep you.”
Doris bowed graciously and retired towards the kitchen, not so graciously. Walking backwards and still smiling, almost idiotically by this time, she fell down the small flight of steps that led into the kitchen, sending her plummeting to the floor once more. Picking herself up in a flush, she tried to laugh off the event and slammed the door behind her.
And here the old Doris returned once more, as she stared angrily at the drunken Sylvester and the carefree Leddy, who had sneaked back from the washroom sometime ago. Doris clutched her head in her hands, while Leddy held Sylvester’s head over the sink.
“Is there anyone special out there?” Leddy asked innocently.
“Never mind them, what’s going in here?”
“Oh, he had a bit too much to drink.” A sudden rough, groaning sound came from Sylvester, and his stomach, as he let the brandy from earlier come back out of his mouth and down the sink. “So who’s out there?”
“Bloody inspectors, completely out of the blue!” Leddy let slip a sly grin. “Here, you leave him to me and you carry on with the kitchen!”
She snatched Sylvester’s head from his hand.
“Carry on with what in the kitchen?” Leddy asked, bemused.
“Cleaning it! Have you even started doing what you’re here to do? I bet I could fire you now and it wouldn’t make any difference to this place!”
“Well I was busy tending to Sylvester! You ought to keep an eye on that temper of yours, if this is what the rest of your staff get up to,” he looked on sadly at Sylvester’s bent body, “you’ve no-one to blame but yourself.”
“You cheeky little-“
But before she could finish her insult, the door opened and Fiona popped her head round it.
“Excuse me; may we inspect your staff?”
“My staff?!” Doris shouted, and then simmered down abruptly. “Oh, err, yes of course, my staff!”
She gave one look at Sylvester, and then shoved Leddy towards the door. Leddy grinned at Fiona whilst Fiona attempted to keep a straight face. Shutting the door behind him, Leddy, Fiona and Gary each burst into a fit of giggling.
“You got my text then?” asked Leddy once the giggles had died away. “It took ages to get a signal down there, good thing them two stayed in here for God knows how long!”
“How’s Sandy?” Fiona asked.
“Not good, she needs to get away from this place, even if it means not getting another job for how ever long.”
“So what do we do now?” asked Gary.
“Well, you hang about here for a while longer, and then you come back in the kitchen, all angry and everything, and tell her this restaurant isn’t safe and needs to be shut down immediately, got it?”
“Indeed I have!” erupted Doris from behind.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Tune in next week for the next thrilling installment!