Dill pushed open the door, flakes of paint soughing off the old wood as his hand trailed across it. it groaned as it swung, the sound of haunted houses and his Auntie Rene's outside privy. Sam was right behind him in the lobby, the blast of sunlight from the open doorway fading with the closing screech, leaving them in near darkness.
Dill fumbled for his cigarette lighter and read hand-lettered signs on the two doors. . "Bar or Lounge?"
"The right hand one." Sam couldn't see around his flatmate to determine which was which.
"The lounge? Why?"
"Social flow economics." Sam pushed him forward enough to free his face from the confines of Dill's coat. "In any shopping precinct the majority of people who have just come to shop will turn left so that's where they place the everyday shops like newsagents and supermarkets. Browsers generally turn right, so that's where they put the high-end shops like fashion outlets and jewellers. Turning right gives us the appearance of quality and affluence."
"Which we don't have."
"But they don't know that. Besides, the lounge is where the ladies go."
"At a quarter to nine in the morning?"
"Maybe not but still... ladies." Sam was, if anything, a triumph of hope over circumstance. Dill nodded and pushed open the door.
It led into a small area with a round table encompassed for half its circumference by a vinyl-covered bench under a street-facing bay window. Dill tried to picture the outside, but where the bay window was there stood a small charity shop he'd never dared enter thanks to the smell of moth balls and unwashed feet that rolled out like a fog whenever the door was opened.
Two chairs faced the empty table, taking up what was left of the area. A door directly ahead led to a toilet, to judge by the smell of urinal cakes, and the entire fourth wall was missing, leading across a wooden floor to a bar.
The barman was watching them, his hand in a perpetual sweep of the polished wooden surface. He shook his head. "Sorry girls." He leaned forward. "We don't serve your sort in here."