A/N: And thus begins the rewrite, hopefully with no typos or spelling mistakes, seeing as this is why I'm rewriting it :S
Someone released a high-pitched shriek. Someone else let out a ground shaking belch. Tony Christie demanded the way to Amarillo while two intoxicated middle aged women danced around waving the handbags and their wine glasses and laughed like drugged hyenas. A glass smashed on the floor somewhere and sixty percent of the pub celebrated with a brief cheer.
Ashley Chambers glanced up with one raised eyebrow and sighed. Stretching along the whole of the bar there were cackling, slurring creatures fighting to be the next person in line. It was bull bait. An overweight man with unfocused eyes and a putrid smell hovering around him eyed Ashley's chest unsubtly. She took one hand from the beer pump and pulled her top up while glaring at him. He blinked and looked away. She carried the pint to the end of the bar, sliding past Rodger – the other barman, and set it down. White foam spilled over the edge and slid down the glass, pooling on the bar.
'Two fifty.' She droned automatically, holding her hand out.
An elderly man with half moon glasses perched on his nose reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change. She watched as he counted two fifty in ten pence pieces, despite the fact he was holding a five-pound note in between the thumb and forefinger of his other hand. She said nothing and waited. When he finally finished, she took the shrapnel to the till and rung it up, having to count it out again as she put the coins in the correct places.
'Oi, Ashes!' a hoarse voice called to her. 'The Fosters needs changing.'
Ashley glanced around miserably to the husky voiced owner of the pub. She was about a decade older than she looked and had the dress sense of a brick. She puffed away on her cigarette, perched on a stool at the end of the bar, and swirled her glass of wine. She could easily go and change the stupid barrel herself.
Because it was her job, Ashley nodded and fought her way through the drunken rabble to the cellar door. She unlocked it, having to jimmy her keys the way she always had to, pushed it open and went inside. She leaned on the closed door for a moment, happy to be away from the letching old men and shrill women. Even the mouldy smell of the cellar was a welcome change.
As she descended the rickety staircase, she reflected on her shift. She had been on for six hours already. She had supposed to be leaving at nine o'clock, but apparently there were too little staff and too many customers to leave at her regular time. Eleven was her finishing time now – still an hour away. She was exhausted and hungry, but she didn't even have five minutes to grab a packet of crisps or anything.
She got on with the task at hand of changing the barrel, almost snapping her index finger in the process, and then trudged back upstairs to be once again amongst the drunken rabble. She went back behind the bar and moved to the first person she saw.
'What can I get you?'
'Just a coke please. No ice.'
The man was tall and quite handsome; with a slim face, well-styled hair and an all around friendly look about him. He was a far cry from the surrounding drunken morons shouting rowdily around him. He smiled at her – no, he wasn't smiling, he was beaming. She couldn't help but smile in return as she grabbed a glass and picked up the soft drinks tap.
'Diet or regular?' she asked automatically.
'Just regular.' He replied, still beaming at her. 'Unless you think I need the diet.'
Ashley glanced up to him again and smiled, pushing the button on the tap. This guy really did look out of place. He was clean-shaven, well groomed and well dressed in a dark pinstripe suit; good looking even if he was a bit skinny. Over the suit he wore a light brown trench coat, which she had to admit ruined the suit a little, but it had a strange charm about it. It wasn't often that polite, well-dressed and handsome men came in. She placed the glass of coke in front of him.
'One twenty please.'
The man reached into his pocket and pulled out the exact change, without even looking at it. Strange that he would know the price. There were no lists up and she had never seen him in here before. She supposed it was a lucky guess and took the money.
'Been working long?' he asked her with a smile that wasn't quite so bright, but bright enough.
'Few hours,' she replied, moving along the bar to the till. He followed her with his large brown eyes. 'Finishing soon though, thank God.'
He nodded, casting a quick glanced around the pub. It seemed easily for him, as he was at least a head above everyone else. 'You must have a lot of patience to work in a place like this,' he half sighed. 'I tell you I've seen some sights, but nothing compares to a pub on a Friday night.' He turned and smiled at her again.
Ashley smiled just to be polite and went to another customer, who ordered a pint of Carling. She moved to the pump, which happened to be right in front of the man in the pinstripe suit, and she pulled the handle. 'You get used to it.' She replied.
'You would have to.'
She smiled again and took the pint to the customer. The man was being polite enough and if the bar hadn't been so full she would have happily chatted with him, but she was practically working on her own and she was exhausted. Mindless niceties were not on her to do list tonight. She wanted to turn away these idiots with their drinks, and then go home and pass out on her bed. She wanted to end the conversation before it started, and more importantly before she was rude.
'Got to say I love your hair.'
It was harder to smile this time as she pushed a hand through her bright red hair. She and her housemate, Manny, had decided to bleach it last night. But then she decided she didn't suit blonde and so after two bottles of cheap red wine they put on a luminous red hair dye that had almost cost Ashley her job.
'Let me guess, spur of the moment?'
'Is it that bad?'
'No. Not really.' He smiled broadly at her, and leaned his forearms on the bar. 'You suit it.'
Ashley eyed him with an amused smirk and moved further down the bar. It wasn't exactly rare for any of the patrons to try it on with her – normally by the end of the night she had about ten pieces of scrap paper with phone numbers scrawled on them to throw in the bin. Most of them would probably try to pull a drainpipe if the opportunity arose, but the way that man had admired her hair with such sincerity it made her wonder if he was in fact playing for the other team. Which would be a shame, seeing as he was the only decent man in the place. She glanced back over to him as she pulled a pint for another customer. He was still smiling at her. He saluted her with one finger when he caught her eye. She smiled shyly and looked away, wondering what it was he wanted from her.
Never in a million years would she guess what that was.
An hour or so had passed and Ashley's legs felt numb. The bar was empty apart from an elderly couple, a lonely drunken man rambling incoherently to the new bar stag and the man in the pinstripe suit, who was trying to fathom out the fruit machine. Finally seeing her chance to eat, Ashley snatched a packet of crisps and dropped fifty pence into the till. She perched on one of the stools at the end of the bar and ripped the bag open impatiently.
Halfway through the packet, while her boss was calling for everyone to 'get out and go home, if you've got one,' Ashley felt someone brush past her – actually sending a chill up her spine. She shuddered, and then flinched at the sound of something hitting the floor. At first she thought it was only a coin, but when she looked down she saw a silver key. It was only small, no bigger than a padlock key. She leaned over and scooped it up. When she looked around to see who it was who had brushed by her, she saw the man in the pinstripe suit leaving. She hopped down off the stool and hurried after him.
'Hey, you dropped your…'
Ashley looked both ways up the street, but it was deserted. She frowned. Unless he had the walking speed of a roadrunner, he should have still been on the street. She guessed he must have taken a shortcut up one of the alleys or something – obviously not familiar with the amount of muggers in this area. With a shrug, she turned to go back inside, but she heard something that made her stop. She paused and listened. A strange sound filled the air, something she had never heard before. It was distant. Sounded mechanical but at the same time unreal. She listened until the sound faded away to silence. She put it down to someone's bad taste in rave music, and went back inside.