to read from the beginning click here: 001 Orders From Above: Episode 1 ‘discovery’
By 8 o’clock Friday evening, Nigel had had enough of going over the building plans for the mill and decided he’d earned himself a pint. With each step down the staircase from his room, the noise from the bar grew louder and louder. Bracing himself, he opened the door and walked into Cynthia’s first Theme Night.
Freddie Fordingbridge, in his debut as barman, was at the far end of the bar, rooting through a large ceramic bowl piled high with exotic fruits. Debbie, perched on a bar stool, watched his every move with rapt attention.
Skinny Freddie, whose skin still showed the signs of the acne that had plagued him since he entered his teens, had been dressed by Cynthia in a frilled red shirt, unbuttoned to show a white, hairless chest and an over-large gold medallion on a chain. The shirt was tucked into tight, shiny black trousers with a high waistband. Seeing this ensemble, Nigel couldn’t help thinking that Freddie’s legs resembled two strings of liquorice. He had to fight to control his facial muscles as Freddie greeted him.
“Hello Freddie! What’s with the fancy gear then?”
“Um, well, it’s cocktail night, Mr Nigel. What sort would you like?”
Nigel had asked everyone to call him by his first name, but young Freddie always addressed adults by putting the Mister, Missus or Miss in front of their names to be polite and respectful, as his parents had brought him up to be. Nigel really wanted that pint of real ale, so replied, “I don’t know anything about cocktails, Freddie.”
“Gosh, neither did I, Mr Nigel! It’s called mixology, you know, and Miss Cynthia gave me books about it and cocktail recipes, and I read them, and memorised them, and Miss Cynthia got loads of bottles of stuff, and now I can make anything.”
“You memorised them? But there must be hundreds of cocktails, surely?”
Debbie swivelled to face Nigel and gushed, “Oh yes there are simply hundreds of cocktails with all sorts of weird names and ingredients like vermouth and schnapps and sambuca and creme de cassis but Freddie only has to read things once and he remembers everything cos he’s got a photographic memory isn’t that right Freddie and he’s promised to invent one just for me.”
Nigel marvelled as he always did at Debbie’s ability to speak without punctuation. Freddie blushed and muttered that he was trying to think of a suitable name.
“How about ‘Debbie’s Delight’?” laughed Nigel, making Freddie’s blush flare to a painful crimson that could toast marshmallows. “I’ll have my usual pint, please, Freddie.”
“But you won’t try something a little different, just this once? Tell you what, I know you like gin, so how about a Singapore Sling? Or a Blue Lady? Much nicer names, I think than what Mr Nick over there is drinking.”
Feeling the skin on the back of neck crawl, Nigel turned and scanned the crowded room to locate the angels. He hadn’t known they’d be in the pub tonight, and didn’t have a particularly good feeling about it. “What is it?” he asked Freddie.
“Exorcist! Tequila, blue curacao, lime juice. Mr. Nick tried a Rob Roy and a Bloody Mary, but he says he says the Exorcist is the best so far.”
“I bet he does. And what is the other Mr De Angelo drinking, Freddie?”
“Um, well Mr Gabe, he’s got a Pina Colada now, but he’s had a mint julep, a Manhattan and a tequila sunrise, which he says he likes especially because they’re pretty. They’re my best customers so far, I must say. Everyone else just wants their usual, like you. Are you sure you won’t just try something?”
Debbie held up her large glass, half-full with something resembling custard. Sticking out of it was a small green and yellow paper umbrella. “I’ve got a Snowball it’s got lemonade in it and a squeeze of lime juice and it’s really nice and fizzy and sweet why don’t you try one?” She removed the umbrella to show Nigel the maraschino cherry skewered on it. “This is to stir it with but I like the way they taste and I keep eating them so Freddie has to keep giving me more.” The plump red cherry disappeared into her mouth and Nigel wondered if she realised how provocative it was. It seemed lost on Freddie, though, whose hopeful eyes were still fixed on Nigel, awaiting his order.
Nigel tapped the beer pump, making Freddie sigh in submission as he dutifully pulled a pint exactly to the marker on the tall glass and set it in front of Nigel. He took a welcome sip, then asked Freddie what time the De Angelos had come in.
“Oh, about 6 o’clock. Said they’d noticed the blackboard out front announcing our first Theme Night.”
“And they’ve had, what, four cocktails each in the space of two hours?”
Freddie scratched his head. “Well, Mr Gabe has had five, actually.”
Nigel shook his head, and observed that the locals, though chatting animatedly amongst themselves, kept throwing surreptitious glances at the brothers. “It’s certainly packed in here tonight, Cynthia must be delighted.”
“Well, yes, Mr Nigel, I suppose she is. It was quiet to start with, but when the Misters De Angelos arrived, Miss Cynthia said that everyone was always interested in what they did, so she put the word out that they were here, and, well, you know, enjoying the cocktails, and people came flocking in.” He leaned on the bar, looking for all the world like a seasoned barman, except for his youth and frilly shirt, and said, “Mr Gabe told me something interesting. Did you know that the older the whisky is, the more it will evaporate in the cask, and the evaporated stuff is called ‘the angels’ share’? Mr Gabe says it tastes wonderful, though I’m not sure how you taste evaporation.”
Agreeing with Freddie’s astute observation, Nigel paid for his drink, and walked over to join Gabe and Nick at their table. They were draining the last drops of their cocktails and discussing what to try next.
“Hey, Nigel, my man!” Slurring his words, Nick greeted Nigel with a hearty slap on the back, almost knocking him to the floor. “We’re just about to have another li’l ol’ drinkie. What’ll y’have?”
Nigel wouldn’t have believed it, but it seemed the evidence was before him: angels could get drunk! He indicated his glass of beer and declined Nick’s offer.
“Oh, tame, tame,” sneered Nick.
Gabe, his eyes bloodshot and unfocused, tapped Nick’s arm to get his attention, and slurred, “Never mind him, brother dear. He can have his borin’ old beer! What d’you wanna try next, eh?”
Nick furrowed his dark brows in concentration, ignoring the fact that all eyes in the bar were fixed upon him, and all ears attentively listening to hear what he would choose to drink next. Wow, these De Angelos could knock back the booze!
“I’ll have a, er, um, what d’yer call it, um…” Nick clumsily clicked his fingers, trying to remember.
“Oh, get on with it,” drawled Gabe, leaning into Nigel , rolling his eyes and tutting with a ‘he’s an idiot’ expression.
Nick’s face cleared and he rose a couple of inches of his seat as he yelled, “SATAN’S WHISKERS!”
Everyone jumped at the volume of Nick’s voice, then all eyes swivelled to Freddie.
“The man wants a Satan’s Whiskers, Freddie, can you do that one without cribbing from the book?” challenged Arnold Capsby.
Freddie raised his eyes to the ceiling and tapped his forefinger on his cheek in concentration. “Hmm, Satan’s Whiskers, well now… Oh yes, I’ve got it!”
He grabbed the cocktail shaker and called off the ingredients as he added them one by one: gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, Grand Marnier, orange juice and… three dashes of orange bitters. He added ice cubes and the silver shaker rattled as Freddie performed a manic dance, the way he imagined a professional cocktail maker would. In one deft movement, he whipped off the top of the shaker, placed the cocktail sieve in its place, whisked a cocktail glass off the shelf, and poured the mixture from a great height, like a true showman. He selected a paper umbrella but decided against it, finishing his creation instead with a thin, twirled slice of orange peel decoratively draped over the rim of the glass. He held it up, and sang ‘tah-daah’, as if expecting everyone to burst into applause.
But his effort was met with silence as the locals stared at the orange-coloured concoction before they turned back to the brothers. Gabe lurched up from the table and staggered to the bar.
“Ooh, tha’ smells nice,” he said, “Orangey-ee. Bu’ I wan’ somethin’ diff’r’nt. Wha’ d’you suggest, young Freddie?”
“How about a Bentley, Mr Gabe, sir?”
“Hmm. Car. Big thing. Posh,” said Gabe, “Too ‘xpensive for the likes of you, young Fr, Fre, Fr’ddie, m’lad!”
“I meant a Bentley cocktail, Mr Gabe, sir.”
“Ah, cockt’l, tha’s more like it. What colour is’t?”
“Um, it’s Calvados and Dubonnet, so it’s pinkish.”
“Pink!” Gabe clapped his hands in delight, and Freddie got to work again with his shaker.
The locals and Nigel, who by now had come up to the bar because he had serious doubts that Gabe could carry the two cocktails without significant spillage, once again marvelled at Freddie’s fine performance. Nigel picked up the full glasses and returned to the table, followed by a weaving, giggling, hiccupping Gabe.
Once they’d sat down, the brothers immediately picked up and clinked their glasses, and each took a delicate sip of their cocktail, eyes closed to better savour the taste. Gabe held the brew in his mouth, pursing his lips and swishing it around as if he were at a wine tasting. Nigel half expected him to spit it out, but of course he swallowed it. He pronounced it delicious and smiled a beatific smile that reached from ear to ear.
Nick gargled his drink as if it was a mouthwash before swallowing it, and it almost choked him. But he recovered, blinked his streaming eyes in ecstasy, then with them open wide, slapped the table with his free hand, and gasped, “Oh, you beauty!” before taking another, deeper drink.
The spectators were spellbound.
Reverend Hartley Cordwell chose this moment to enter The Blacksmith’s Anvil for his customary half pint of bitter. He stopped in the doorway, perplexed to see so many of his flock gathered there. Capsby was the first to sidle up to Hartley and put him in the picture.
“He’s had what cocktails?” he said incredulously.
Capsby relished telling the vicar again that Nick De Angelo had been enjoying drinks by the name of Exorcist and Satan’s Whiskers.
“Good Lord,” said Hartley, gripping more tightly the pocket Bible he always carried in his jacket.
Freddie called out “Good evening, Reverend Cordwell, sir,” and placed his half pint on the bar, not holding any hope that the vicar would be so adventurous as to order an exotic drink.
Nigel wondered if he should invite the vicar to join them, as he’d spent time with him that afternoon, but couldn’t help a little shiver at the irony – not to say risk – of inviting the parish vicar to sup with Lucifer! If only Hartley knew, thought Nigel, smiling weakly as he caught the vicar’s eye, just who he was standing a mere few feet away from.
At that point Gabe suddenly had a serious attack of hiccups, and Nigel decided it was time to sort them out. “Gentlemen,” he said quietly, “is this wise? I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you don’t seem to be used to alcohol.”
“Oh, tush,” said Gabe, “Of course we’re us’d to alco’l. Nick has the finest cellar in, in, in …”
“The cosmos!” finished Nick, sticking his chest out with pride.
“Yup, s’right, you better believe it, s’best cellar in the cosm’s.”
“And we can certainly handle these,” said Nick belligerently, “We’re angels, ain’t we?”
“Shh,” hissed Nigel, “Keep your voices down, you don’t want anyone to hear you, do you?” He indicated the other people, who fortunately were now losing interest and were conversing happily with each other over pints, half pints and only one or two strangely coloured drinks with paper umbrellas. Only the gold-flecked eyes of Stanley’s dog Digby continued to regard them with his steady, intelligent gaze.
“We don’t have to shhhhhhhh,” said Gabe, spraying spittle onto Nigel’s sleeve as he swept the expanse of the bar with his arm. “’s’no probl’m, we c’n make ’em deaf if we want to!”
“Even better,” said Nick maliciously, “We can make ’em freeze.” He snapped his fingers and the pub suddenly fell utterly silent.
Everyone but the De Angelo brothers and Nigel went still. Stock-still. Glen Perkins had a glass halfway to his lips. Freddie was in the middle of putting an olive into a martini glass. Debbie’s mouth, rimmed with pink lipstick, was open, poised to receive yet another maraschino cherry. Stanley was scratching himself where he shouldn’t and Digby resembled a poor example of taxidermy.
“What have you done?” Nigel squeaked, surveying the strange and, in some cases, embarrassing postures of all the customers.
Nick clicked his fingers again, and everyone moved as if nothing had happened. His narrowed eyes hard and graphite grey, there was no trace of a slur when he hissed, “Just to remind you, Nigel, that we are capable of doing many things if we so choose.”
Nick swallowed the rest of his cocktail in one go, went white, then pink, then white again before pitching forward, striking the dimpled, copper-topped table with a hard wallop. His arms dangled to the floor, and it was plain to see that Nick, a.k.a the Devil, was out for the count.
next episode coming soon