Four old ladies walk into a pub – Part Two

“Expecting someone?” Sally handed out plates of food from the trolley. “Chicken drumsticks?”

“That’s for me, dear,” said Babs. “We’re not expecting anyone, no.”

“Meat pie?”

“Me please,” said Constance.

“Here you are. That gentleman by the bar’s been watching you all. Don’t you think he looks dapper? Or maybe it’s his Halloween get-up. Fiery wings?”

“Me.” Sheila held out her hands. “I’ve been looking forward to this all year.”

“That leaves the sugar-plum pudding for you.” Sally left the custard-swathed dessert in front of Gwen. She handed them their cutlery, carefully reversed her trolley out of the tight space, and nodded to a figure by the bar.

“Blimey,” said Babs. “I didn’t expect to see him tonight.”

“Really?” said Sheila with a chicken wing in her hand. “Seems like the perfect night for him to be out and about.”

The man at the bar smoothed down his thinning white hair as he laid his black top hat on the bar. He was parchment pale and smartly dressed in an old-fashioned suit that was so dark it almost seemed to be a hole, or an absence, or at the very least, disconcerting. He wore a ruby red waistcoat and matching cravat that only accentuated how pale he was. Small-framed, round, silver spectacles perfectly perched on his nose with no arms to support them. His eyes were an icy blue, his face gaunt and angular, and his nose long and hooked. His lips were thin and grey.

He bowed his head to them, picking up his hat and pressing it to his chest as he walked across the pub in a stiff, unnatural fashion.

“Ladies,” he said as he drew up a chair and sat. “This is a pleasure.” As he spoke, a goblet of deep red wine appeared in front of him on the table. His voice was dry and raspy, as if he couldn’t quite catch his breath. “I’ve been looking for you. All of you,” he said.

“How lovely,” said Gwen as she plunged a spoon into her pudding.

“You’ve given me quite the chase,” he said, lifting the glass to his lips for the smallest of sips. “I do hope you won’t give me any trouble,” he finished as he returned the glass to the table.

“Trouble? Us?” said Constance. “We are nothing if not ladies.”

“Debatable,” he said. “No offence intended.”

“Tough. I’m offended,” said Sheila. Hot sauce coated her chin, giving the impression of congealing blood.

“Now, now,” said Babs. “Mr Mortimer is only doing his job.”

“I’m so glad that you understand. Shall we?” He looked towards the door leading to the street.

“You know, Mr Mortimer. I appreciate you’re busy, but could we finish our food first? It is the last meal that we’ll ever eat after all.”

“Except for me,” said Constance. “I haven’t eaten in centuries, but I do enjoy the smell and look of a decent meat pie.”

“And this is very good pudding,” said Gwen. “Dreamy, in fact.” She smiled the sweetest of smiles.

“Well.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a fob watch, which he considered with a raised, pale eyebrow. “I suppose there’s no rush. My next appointment isn’t for a while.”

“Chicken drumstick?” said Babs, holding one up.

“I don’t usually…” He stared at the chicken piece as if it was something both alarming and alluring. “I don’t have the constitution, you see.”

“Oh, go on,” said Gwen. “Our treat.”

“Well, if you insist.” He took the chicken drumstick between thumb and forefinger. “Bones, meat, and bread crumbs.” He gave it a sniff. “Can I eat it all?”

“Absolutely,” said Babs. “The bones are the best bit.”

“But-” Constance began, halting only when Gwen kicked her under the table.

“Thank you.” He bit into the chicken drumstick, teeth passing through flesh and bones alike. “I didn’t expect it to be crunchy,” he said, raising a hand to his mouth. “Is this normal?”

Most people who are choking on a chicken bone go red in the face to begin with, but Mr Mortimer wasn’t most people. Instead, his face changed from white to grey to a rather attractive shade of lilac. His eyes flicked from side to side as his hands wavered in the air.

“Not to your taste, Mr Mortimer?” said Babs. “Have a sip of your drink.”

Mr Mortimer shook his head and pointed to his throat. He weakly slapped his other hand on the tabletop as his eyes began to bulge.

“Don’t worry, ladies. I’ve got this.” One bright spark who had dropped into the Graveyard Tap for a swift pint on the way to a Halloween party hauled Mr Mortimer to his feet. “We’ll have you sorted in no time,” he reassured as he wrapped his arms around the choking man’s torso.

By now, every head in the pub was turned towards the incident. The bright spark’s friends had crowded round for support, cheering each attempted Heimlich thrust. No one noticed the four old ladies as they sidled around the edge of the bar, coats in hand, and left the Graveyard Tap.

To be continued…