The moon appeared and then disappeared behind the grey clouds that wrapped around the sky on a wet and windy evening. The rain hadn’t stopped for more than a week now. The small town was under a dark cloud, leaving the streets deserted as most people stayed inside to avoid a lashing. The streets were paved with a darkness that made them seem unhabitable. Hardly a soul stirred in the whole street. Every window was blackened as people daren’t face the storm. There were a few sporadic lights shining at the bottom of the road, they were very dim though. It was The Rover Inn. The pub stood firm amongst the onslaught of rain and wind which battered the structure relentlessly. Upon passing the wooden decrepit doors was the bar. It was shiny, you could almost see your reflection in it. Mainly attributed to the liquid it was coated in than its cleanliness. It was sparsely populated, a mere three men keeping the barman company that night. The pub had the smell of unwashed leather and was seemingly dowsed in beer. It was like someone had come and sprayed hard liquor from side to side, front to back. To the right of the bar, there was one man sitting alone at a table; to the left was the same. Sitting on a stool at the bar itself was another man, occasionally passing conversation between himself and the barman. He seemed to enjoy the company the barman gave him. Often, he’d be seen sitting there cheerfully harassing anyone who dared come close enough.
The time was nearing eleven on a Wednesday night, when a dreary, haggard and awfully wet middle-aged man staggered in. He looked like he hadn’t washed for days with his unkempt hair and beard. He had a strong looking face from what could be seen of it and his clothes were clearly a few years out of date. He walked in as if he’d just been to war with a thousand drops of rain. Every footstep sounded heavy; the water had clearly settled in the heels of his boot. He seemed to be carrying a handful of paper which had visibly succumbed to the rain. They seemed barely able to stay together, some pages clinging on to the binding for dear life. He pulled up a stool next to the bar and ordered a double scotch. He clearly wanted something heavy. The man sitting next to him gave him a glancing stare, one of disdain one might add.
“Tough day?” inquired the man. Observing him move the glass in a circular motion, causing the liquid to gather momentum around the walls of the glass.
The soaked man looked over the man reservedly, “you can tell then”. He said it as he glared into the glass.
“Bit of a heavy drink for a Wednesday night”.
The wet man didn’t reply. He didn’t seem to want to talk. The other man waited a couple more minutes before trying again.
The dank smell of beer-soaked carpet filled the room and clung to the clothing of anyone who entered. The man put what was in his hand on the bar in order to take his sodden coat off. The coat clung to him like slime. The other man looked over at what he placed down with a puzzled look, as it wasn’t something you’d usually bring to a pub. This man was a talkative one, he couldn’t help but introduce himself, especially after the barman stopped conversing with him.
“I’m Marty by the way”.
The drenched man shot a look at Marty, he clearly had reservations about making conversation. However, after careful consideration and an awkward silence, he decided to mutter “you can call me Billy”.
“Well what brings you here then Billy?” Marty asked with great curiosity.
“Nothing really, just stopping for a drink” Billy replied with a sullen look on his face.
Marty nodded and gave an awkward smile as he went back to his drink. Billy stared at the wet bunch of papers he had laid on top of the bar. He ran his finger along the binding, making a clicking noise every time he did so. Click clack click clack. He seemed paralysed the whole time he looked at the papers as if they had lobotomised him with their contents. Marty couldn’t help but take note of this strange behaviour. He hadn’t seen such an interesting character in this pub for ages. Usually people stayed as far away from the outside world as they could when they were sitting in there. It would just be them and the alcohol. He queried, “those papers wouldn’t happen to be the cause of that helluva strong drink in your hand, would they?”.
Billy sighed and said “Yep” in a tone as if he didn’t want the papers to be mentioned.
Marty sat up in his barstool and said, “you’ve clearly got something on your mind”.
“It’s a biography I’m writing, struggling to get it published at the moment. Driving me crazy really”
“Who’s it about?”
Billy took another large gulp of his drink in response to this remark and ignored Marty completely. Marty sensed there was no point pursuing the conversation any longer and went back to drunkenly harassing the barman again about anything that popped into his head. Billy had a strange atmosphere of isolation around him, but also one where he wanted to talk. It looked like he was battling himself against two evils.
This wasn’t the friendliest of pubs that’s for sure. There was hardly anything on the walls and no slot machines or pool tables inhabited the place. Half the lights didn’t work and the ones that did barely gave enough light to illuminate a single table. It was dark and gloomy. Twenty minutes passed and after a couple more scotches Billy went to the toilet. He staggered off towards the left side of the bar. Marty noticed the papers were still on the side and his curiosity piqued. He set his glass down on the bar top and glanced at the papers lying on the bar. He couldn’t help but have a look. He lifted the top page up with the tip of his finger and saw the name Mr Walsh. The ink had run quite a bit, but he still managed to make out the name. This roused Marty into wanting to read more but Billy came back before he could pursue his desires. Billy was none the wiser to Marty’s indiscretion.
Another ten minutes passed by as the rain hammered down on the roof and laid siege to the windows. The name Mr Walsh ravaged Marty’s mind like a wildfire during these ten minutes as he knew he’d heard that name before. After the painful ten minutes were up, curiosity overcame him and Marty spat out, “who’s Mr Walsh then?”
Clearly offended by this invasion of privacy Billy stood up and confronted Marty. He grabbed him by the collar on his shirt and hissed, “what do you think you’re doing looking at my stuff?”.
Visibly shaken by this confrontation, Marty reacted sensing the anger in Billy’s eyes, “take it easy man, y-y-you just left it there and after a f-f-few too many it’s hard not to be nosy”.
After a couple minutes of visible tension and livening up the rest of the room, Billy calmed down, mainly due to the vast amount of alcohol he’d consumed since sitting at the bar. His head spun so he thought it best to sit down. He wasn’t in the mood for a fight, he just wanted to drink and drink and drink. He wanted the misery inside his head to stop; he always felt like alcohol could arrest it. The pair resumed their positions at the bar and carried on drinking. After a short consideration on whether to serve these two, the barman knew custom was in short supply and inevitably served them another. Billy was staring at the oak bar top flipping the damp beer mat through his fingers, clearly ruminating. A couple more minutes passed, and Marty gathered his things to leave when Billy, with a sudden stir of emotion, choked out, “the man who had it all”.
Not really hearing what Billy said because he wasn’t in the mood to talk anymore, Marty replied with a confused “what?”.
Billy looked back at Marty. “Mr Walsh, the great man, lived on top of that hill once”.
The haze of alcohol cleared from Marty’s mind and he remembered exactly who Billy was talking about. Excitedly he replied, “yes, yes the rich bugger who owned half the town. God what happened to him? He disappeared a few years back didn’t he?”. The memories came flooding back to Marty suddenly, “I remember he was all the rage back then, had it all, the girls, the looks, the charm and most importantly he had all the money”. Marty went on for a minute or two reminding the whole five members of the pub about Mr Walsh and his life. He turned to Billy and inquired, “how do you know him then?”
“I caught up with him a few years back, one of the few people who’s seen him since he disappeared, I think. Met him in a bar just like this back west. Something about his story really hit me, makes me miserable I can’t get this damned biography published. He deserves to have his story told”.
“Did you write about what he told you in those papers then?”. Marty still wasn’t overly coherent.
Billy leant on the bar and picked up the sodden papers which were resting on the side and said, “Yeah I did. He was an interesting man he had a lot to say to me that night.” Billy wrote about him because he thought he could make some money by selling his story to anyone interested enough to read it. He also felt a responsibility to.
Marty pulled his barstool back in and sat down extremely interested to hear what else Billy had to say. Billy mentioned how he got to know Mr Walsh quite well that night and bumped into him a couple of times thereafter. He had decided to write about him in his times of unemployment.
“What exactly did you write about?” Marty asked. Upon the finishing of that sentence Billy took another large, harsh gulp of his drink and began to talk about one of the most notorious men who ever lived in Hampton Borough.