Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Paul Goring

Last-In Len

The bar staff all knew to wait for him. He would walk through the pub door every night at quarter-to-eleven, at last orders, fifteen minutes after finishing his evening shift at the factory.
Even on a quiet night, like tonight, when there had been no customers at all for the last hour, the pub would not shut until ‘Last-In Len’ had had his two pints of bitter.
Tonight, as he walked into the empty pub, Suzie, the Monday night barmaid, greeted him with a bigger smile than usual.
“I’m so glad to see you,” she said, as she poured, without needing to be asked, his first pint, “I was getting freaked out here on my own.”
“Why’s that?” asked Len.
“I heard a noise in the cellar,” she replied, “so I went down to have a look but there was nothing there and it just felt, well, really . . . creepy. And I’m sure something touched me.”
“That’s the pub ghost,” said Len.
“Don’t!” said Suzie, shivering, “Vicky,” – (Vicky was the Landlady) – “Vicky says there’s some old landlord or something that haunts the place.”
“All pubs are haunted,” said Len. “All old pubs, anyway. It’s just the nature of things.”
“Don’t!” repeated Suzie, “My boyfriend saw a ghost once . . .”
. . . And so the conversation turned towards hauntings and to the general telling of ghost stories. Len finished his first pint, plonked his empty glass down on the counter and ordered a second.
“If you’re into ghost stories,” he said, “I can tell you a true one. It’ll send shivers down your spine.”
“Don’t!” said Suzie, but she listened anyway.
“Pub I used to drink in,” (said Len, sipping his second pint), “there was a bloke used to come in last thing every night, regular as clockwork. He’d have a couple of pints, just before the pub shut, then toddle off home, quite happy.”
“Bit like you,” joked Suzie.
“Anyhow,” Len continued, loudly, “one night, he came in as usual and he was the only customer. He ordered a pint, drank it, ordered a second, chatting away to the barmaid ‘as per’, when suddenly the phone rang. The barmaid answered it, and it was a message saying that the bloke wouldn’t be in ‘cos he’d been killed in an accident that evening.”
“Don’t!” said Suzy, shivering.
“Anyhow,” said Len, “The barmaid dropped the phone, turned round, and the bloke had vanished – but there were two completely untouched pints of beer sitting on the bar.”
“Don’t!” said Suzie, with genuine conviction, but Len continued anyway.
“At that moment . . . all the lights went out. No-one knows what happened next, but when the Landlady came down next morning she found the barmaid a gibbering wreck, curled up on the floor. She never fully recovered her sanity.”
“Stop it!” said Suzie, “That’s just – it’s horrible! You’ve got me all a-shiver.”
“It’s true, though,” said Len, halfway through his second beer.
At that moment the intercom linking the bar to the upstairs flat buzzed. Grateful for the enforced change in mood, Suzie turned away and answered it. Vicky, the landlady, was on the other end.
“You might as well close,” she said, “Last-In Len won’t be in. His wife’s just phoned – it’s awful – there was a horrible accident at the factory this evening – he’s dead.”
Suzie dropped the phone and spun round. The pub was empty. On the bar were two, untouched, pints of bitter.
And then all the lights went out . . .

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