It was a late October morning and still dark outside as the rain battered the windows and thunder rumbled overhead but Lucy was happy. She had risen early, it was her first day in charge of Nottingham's historic pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. She still could not get over the idea that she was the youngest landlady, or landlord for that matter, the pub had ever had, at least in modern times. The hard work and self-discipline had paid off.
Lucy pottered around her new domain while she waited for the cleaner to arrive. As she headed back upstairs to her flat she thought she saw someone going into the Rock Lounge but when she turned round there was no one there. "Don't be silly" she thought to herself "no one could get in, the doors are still locked".
She was just on the stairs when she heard a crash as something fell in the Rock Lounge. She rushed back into the bar to find a cloud of dust in the air. The galleon that usually hung from the ceiling and its smashed display case lay on the floor. "Damn" she exclaimed "I don't need this today of all days". She picked up the model of the galleon and put it on a table. Fortunately it had suffered little damage, the case must have broken its fall. But it had lost a lot of its dust. She collected the bigger pieces of the case and took the remains down to the bin and returned with the vacuum cleaner.
Lucy cleaned up the small shards from the floor along with the dust. Without thinking she turned the vacuum cleaner on the model galleon and removed most of a century's dust. "Oops" she thought "that dust was part of its history. Never mind, it looks better without it".
As she was putting the cleaner away there was a knock at the door. It was Laura, the cleaner and Lucy took to show her what had happened. The colour drained from Laura's face when she saw the galleon, she looked frightened: "Let's get out of here. This is not good, in fact it could be very serious."
Lucy saw the panic in Laura's eyes. "Let's go and have a cuppa tea and you can explain." Despite her sixty years Laura was out of the Rock Lounge and down the stairs like a shot.
In the kitchen Lucy put the kettle on and Laura started to explain:
"The galleon is cursed. The last three who cleaned it died mysteriously in a year. My nana knew last one who died so my old mam warned me when I started cleaning here. It wor fifty or more years ago, it's why there wor so much dust and cobwebs.
"When they last did a major refurbishment o' the pub they were ever so careful, it is why they put it in a sealed glass case, so no one could mess wi'it.
"I refuse to touch it. Didn't nobody tell you about all the hauntings in this pub? I wouldn't want to live here. Or be here on my own when its dark, I allus leave while people are here, before last orders.
"What have you done?" Laura shook her head and wrung her hands "I'm ever so worried for you".
Lucy laughed "Superstitious nonsense! Thanks for the warning. But I won't lose sleep over it. I grew up loving science, I don't believe in the supernatural. It was mentioned when I was interviewed but I didn't consider it important". She gave Laura a reassuring hug.
"I will be fine just you see. I intend to make something of this job, I might just be here 'til I retire; and that's a long time away".
As they chatted over a cup of tea some colour came back to Laura's cheeks. As she bustled around everywhere, while carefully avoiding the Rock Lounge, she kept giving Lucy concerned glances, and shakes of the head.
Lucy let Laura go early as the older woman was still distraught and then went upstairs to deal with the galleon before the pub opened. She took it through to her sitting room for safety until she could get it rehung - visitors would expect to see it. Lucy thought no more about it as she was just too busy.
When the bar staff came in Lucy explained that the galleon support had come loose and she had moved the galleon to keep it safe. As they were mostly young they did not seem concerned but they joked about the curse.
Over a game of "Baiting the Bull", as it is sometimes called and it may be the oldest original pub game in England, Lucy got to know some of the regulars. As hard as she tried she could not swing the ring on its wire and land it over the bull's horn that was fastened to the wall. The regulars made it look so easy as they teased over her many failed attempts, but then their skill had cost many a tourist a drink when they fell into the trap of accepting a regular's challenge.
Later when Lucy was in the Rock Lounge she noticed the hook the galleon had hung from was securely fastened in the sandstone ceiling. She frowned.
That first day was busy and Lucy had no time—or in her mind, reason—to worry about what had happened; she had so much to learn about her new role. So it was late when she finally locked up and went upstairs to her flat. She was not surprised she felt tired, had a bit of a headache, it had been a long and intense day as she had expected for her first full day. What she had not expected was the stomach pains but she put them down to a bit of stress, and having not eaten properly.
Lucy got ready for bed and then decided she would get herself a small gin to settle her stomach. It was a trick she had learned working in hotels and restaurants in France where a medicinal genièvre was a favoured treatment for an upset stomach. She put on her dressing gown and went back down to the bar.
As she poured the gin she thought she saw movement out of the corner of her eye: "Who's that?" she shouted as she spun round. She saw the back of a dark-haired woman dressed in a coarse grey woollen coat or dress with a heavy leather belt disappear into the Rock Lounge. Lucy jumped up and took the steps two at a time. There was no one in the small bar, and there were no other doors as the room was carved into the solid sandstone of the Castle Rock.
She gasped with surprise and then pain. Lucy suddenly felt dizzy, and cold. She slumped into a chair, doubled up with stomach pains…
The following morning Laura was surprised to find the pub closed and dark when she arrived for work. She tried to ring Lucy first and then tried the pub telephone, which just went to answerphone. She called the brewery and it was an hour later when the area manager arrived but he could not get in with his keys; the doors were bolted on the inside. So it was sometime before a door was forced so that the area manager and a policeman could get inside but everything looked in place. Everything was tidy except for a glass of gin on the bar.
They went straight up to the manager's flat and knocked on the door but there was no answer. The door was ajar but no sign of Lucy. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the sitting room. In the bedroom Lucy's clothes were neatly folded on a chair and the manager recognised them as the ones she had been wearing the previous day when he had called in to wish her well. The bedclothes had been turned back ready for someone to get in but the bed had not been slept in.
Baffled they went back downstairs. It was then that they noticed the dressing gown hanging on the horn of the Ring and Horn game in the main bar; and, now clean, the galleon hung from the ring. For the first in more than two centuries the ship's name could be read. In bright gilded letters: The Lady Lucy.
© 2016 Martin P Wilson. All rights reserved.