The Dream Twister - September 2003
Iron Age - James P. Barrett
(page 4/14)

Iron Age

James P. Barrett

The scene I would like to set takes place in a little English pub which went by the rather unlikely, and yet shockingly, actually accurate name of Murphy's Bar. Murphy's Bar was one of those themed pubs which have a tendency to spring up any time some particular ethnos or culture becomes popular and prominent in the public eye for a short while. In this case the popularity of the film Titanic had led to the creation all over the country of a string of Irish themed bars which sold Cafferies and Guinness, as well, of course as the usual variety of ciders, beers, and alcopops which were the staple beverages of the class of young, overly moneyed, trendy junior management types who were the staple clients for this sort of bar. As I have hinted Murphy's was, however, different from most of these cash-in attempts in that the landlord was, in fact, not only Irish, but also happened to be named Murphy. The current owner was the son of an Irish brick layer named Timothy Murphy who had lived in England during his youth and middle age before buying a bar, and had promptly handed it over to his son when he had decided, a couple of years later, to retire back to Ireland. After he died his son, also named Timothy, proceeded to cash in on every short lived fad he could get money from, including finally, and ironically the sudden popularity of mock-Irish pubs. Theme pubs, and other such fad-based establishments have a tendency to cash in on every season and two-bit holiday that they can lay there hands upon, and Murphy's was no exception, which accounts for the decorations that the reader will notice were extravagantly gaudy, whilst at the same time being the cheapest available on the open market, or indeed any other market which was known to Mr. Murphy or any of his close associates. Hallowe'en was a big night for the bar, partly because a few of the slightly better educated patrons realised that there was some link, although not one any of them would have been familiar with, between the night itself and Irish culture, but mostly because a holiday night is a good excuse to get drunk at a trendy bar and try to, in the vernacular of our day, "pull". Not that it was much different in the old days, of course. Readers who are at all familiar with the history of such holidays as Christmas, Easter, or that long winding and somewhat less than specific section of the summer that no one ever seams to have a specific name for, but yet still manages to be one of the focal points for drinking activity around the year, will be aware that on those days, holy or otherwise, it has been customary, for far longer than the Christian calendar records, for young men and women to feast, drink, and engage in whatever other activities young men and women can find the time to engage in, what with their full schedules packed to the brim with opportunities to eat and drink. But not Hallowe'en, of course, never on that night.

And so, gentle readers, that is the scene I set; a gaudily decorated Irish themed pub, filled with young affluent Englishmen, and indeed young affluent Englishwomen, all drinking away at their weak and inadequate booze. In fact the fullness of the pub was considerably less than it was likely to be later in the evening being that it was, as yet, only lunchtime. There were a number of persons taking advantage of the overpriced and inadequate lunch menu. The atmosphere was, as they say "light". And it was into this "light" atmosphere that there walked a group of five extremely serious looking men in suits. The one in the middle, looking about fifty-odd with greying hair and a face of the sort that is normally described in the better (or at least more complimentary) class of books as "distinguished", whilst in the less complimentary class more often taken as "severe", was clearly the leader of the group. The man to his right, by comparison, also held a very clear role in the social structuring of those men; this being exemplified by the fact that it was he who walked straight to the bar, and with a broad smile and a somewhat lecherous wink at the barmaid, asked that a table be made ready for Mr. O'Beron.

"A table with private service. I do hope this will not be a problem?" He quickly added smiling at the woman behind the bar and pushing a thin golden coloured card from his wallet across the bar.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't provide private tables, if you would care to book one of the rooms upstairs Mr. ...Goodfellow..." she began, looking down at the obviously very highly credit-limited (or rather very lowly limited, as in there wasn't much limit, and as such the limit was high...) card which he had slid across the bar top.

"Please," he replied, grinning like a cat that has not only been at the milk, but would appear to have developed a taste for milkman as well. "Call me Robin. I think if you check with Mr. Murphy, and explain that we are willing to cover whatever it costs, there won't be a problem."

The conversation probably went on slightly longer than that before she called Mr. Murphy to try and arrange a price for what Mr. Goodfellow was asking for. Possibly not, there is, I think, if the reader may forgive the indulgence, a very good chance that had my reader been in the bar maid's shoes and seen the vicious smile that Mr. Goodfellow was capable of producing, every centimetre of his mouth screaming that this is a man who always gets what he wants, he would have gained the private table for Mr. O'Beron that he so desired even quicker than he in fact did on that night.

At first Mr. Murphy himself was as pleased as one would imagine a coin obsessed landlord such as himself would be, when a group of extremely wealthy seaming men run up a huge tab ordering large amounts of wine and food of all types in his bar whilst offering to cover any price he chose to level for the special service they were being provided. It was, however, just that "too good to be true" air of the entire setup which led Mr. Murphy to conclude that in all likelihood it was, in fact, too good to be true. He had checked Mr. Goodfellow's card with the machine several times, and had been particularly startled when Mr. Goodfellow practically insisted that Mr. Murphy keep the card himself for the duration of their time in the bar. This struck him as particularly unusual, and yet the card came up with an amazingly highly valued credit-limit each time he checked it, nor did it show any sign of maxing out. The, seemingly unbounded, credit limit would not have been reached even if they were to attempt to purchase his entire stock. In fact, in the category of wine of better quality than the general mass-produced garbage that he usually sold they had already proceeded to do so. They did indeed, as far as he was able to see, appear to be enjoying themselves mightily; happily downing bottle after bottle of wine, whilst ordering every kind of food dish that his pub had on it's menu, a menu which would not normally have been available by this time, lunch having ended some time earlier. But with the proper application of Mr. Goodfellow's Gold Card the problem simply disappeared. At any rate Mr. Goodfellow and the three companions, each of whom had blond long hair and very pale faces, almost albino in colouration, were enjoying themselves drinking, making passes at the bar-maids, and laughing and joking away in a language that Mr. Murphy didn't recognise, but from the sound of it he had a certain suspicion that it might be Gaelic. The Older man, however, whom Tim could only assume was the previously mentioned Mr. O'Beron, had not spoken; instead Mr. Goodfellow had ordered him a glass of milk, and asked that it be refilled immediately whenever he emptied it. He had then proceeded to eat a modest amount from the food which had been purchased, and occasionally smile very slightly at the foolish capering of his companions, particularly that of Mr. Goodfellow himself, but he had neither drunk any alcohol, nor had he spoken a single word to any of his companions or to the waiting staff. Mr. Murphy's gladness, however, began to wear thin when the normal evening rush he would expect on a holiday such as this entirely failed to materialise as the evening wore on. More accurately the clients that he expected arrived, they just failed to stay. Something about the demeanor and attitude of Mr. O'Beron's group implied without ever stating outright that it would be a good idea to find some other place in which to drink, in the same manner that an AK-47 implies, but does not state explicitly that it might be worth handing over whatever valuables you have about your person. This had the expected effect of leaving Murphy's bar on Hallowe'en filled with gaudy and ugly decorations of the cheapest sort possible, but with the entire serving staff waiting upon a single table of five drunken carousers who laughed, swore, sang, and acted in general like an the most amiable group of vicious psychopath that you, fair reader are ever unlikely to see, and good riddance too.

As the evening wore on the waiting staff, one by one, walked out. Men and women of character, all of them, mostly there whilst they looked for some better employment, or attempting to earn extra cash whilst eking their way through college - they had not signed up for this. The remarks, whistles, advances, and various manhandlings from this strange group of patrons was intolerable, and one by one as it became too much for them to stand they walked out of the bar, telling Mr. Murphy exactly where he could put his Job...

...Until as the clock hands made their way around to eleven, the only people left in the entire pub were Mr. Murphy, Mr. O'Beron, Mr. Goodfellow, the three as yet still unnamed albino men at Mr. O'Beron's table, and Charlotte Rooney, Mr. Murphy's girlfriend, and the only remaining barmaid, who was currently locked in an argument with Timothy about staying on. He was pleading with her to stay, whilst she tried to convince him to close up and throw the group out.

He pleaded.
She insisted.
He refused.
She threatened to leave.
He pleaded.
He lost.

She stood up, grabbing her coat from the rack, she stormed towards the door, but failed to reach it, because as she was about to open it, suddenly one of the three albino companions was standing in her way and grinning like a loon.

"Oh, please don't leave." Said Robin, with that same evilly lecherous smile which he had had on when he asked for the table many hours earlier. "The party is only just getting started..." With a quick flick of his wrist Mr. Goodfellow indicated something to his companions, and whilst the remaining two stood up from the table and began to advance menacingly upon Mr. Murphy, the man by the door grabbed Miss Rooney from behind and cackling maniacally, he began to manhandle her towards an empty table.

"You leave her, the hell alone, you hear!" Screamed Mr. Murphy. But it was too late, the two men who had been approaching him grabbed him and held him down, whilst Mr. Goodfellow advance slowly upon Charlotte with a determined and vicious look upon his demonic little face.

For the sake of my readers sensibilities I shall not go into the details of exactly what he did to her. Suffice it to say that the other members of his company contributed jeers and hoots at every obscene and disgusting turn, whilst Mr. Murphy tried to turn his face and close his eyes, but the young men on either side of him, surprisingly strong for their apparent frailty, held his eyes open. Anyway, it would have made little difference, the screams and horrible wet noises were enough that they would have kept any normal man from ever sleeping soundly again in his life, although for Mr. Timothy Murphy that wasn't really an issue that was going to come up. For, you see, my reader, when Mr. Robin Goodfellow had finished with his little bit of fun, and Charlotte's lifeless body fell to the floor in a puddle of quickly drying ichor and broken glass, he turned his head towards Mr. Murphy, and with a small hand movement he indicated to the two young men on either side of Timothy to throw him down onto her body. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Murphy screamed like a little girl. Scrabbling his way across the floor he tried to get away from the slowly approaching grinning form of Robin.

"You know, Mr. Murphy," spoke a calm, clear, upper class educated voice which until this point he had not heard. "Your father used to have a such a delightful love of tradition didn't he?"

Mr. Murphy was shocked to see the form of Mr. O'Beron, who up until this point had seemed entirely more interested in the glass of milk which he still held in his left hand, than in the scene of excruciating ultra-violence which had been carried out in front of him, approaching him across the floor, his stylish black suit still untouched by a single drop of blood. It was at that point that Tim realised that not a single one of his attackers had single drop of blood upon any part of their clothing, dispute the fact that the entire bar, his clothes, and, of course, poor Charlotte, were entirely drenched in the thick red liquid.

"You are aware, I'm sure, that he used to keep a beautiful traditional iron horseshoe hanging over this door." Said Mr. O'Beron as he walked slowly towards the front door in question.

"It's quite amazing that you actually kept it as long as you did." he said reaching up and unhooking the bright shiny metallic horseshoe that hung there. "It managed to survive right up until you decided to cash in on your name and turn this place into an ‘Irish' pub didn't it? It may be shinier and look more convincing than the real thing, Mr. Murphy, but aluminium with never make an effective replacement for Iron." He said, tossing the shoe lightly to the ground. "Although, I really wish it would."

With that, Mr. O'Beron stood aside again, and Mr. Goodfellow smiled at Timothy. "Don't worry Timmy," he said, laughing. "We'll give you a ten minute head start, now how does that sound?"

Mr. Murphy screamed like a little girl once again, my readers; although in the circumstances, I think that you can perhaps forgive him that. Slipping repeatedly upon the blood drenched floor he ran to the door and out into the dark street beyond. Whilst he ran he remembered that he still had a credit card registered to an R. Goodfellow in his top pocket, if he took it to the police, then perhaps they would be able to find them, and bring them to rights, perhaps. At the corner of Broad Street and Centenary Square, certain that he was not being followed, he reached into his pocket, but found inside nothing but golden flowers.

He screamed.

They found his body next morning at the end of a short alley nearby. It took them a while to identify it, since the face was so badly mangled that they had to go by dental records. The most disturbing part of the case, so the detective in charge later testified, was the writing, in his own blood on the ground next to him:

If these Spirits have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear.