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Regression

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REGRESSION

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Duke kept a carefully casual eye on the crowd as he polished glasses behind the bar. Some of these guys were known to get rowdy on the best of days, but the early onset of winter weather had kept the fishing boats grounded for several weeks and most of them were strung tight with the stress of no income, the holidays, and nothing productive to do. The Patriots were kicking the Bills' asses to clinch the AFC title, and the excitement of their team winning might be all the excuse the crowd needed to turn into a mob ready to turn cars over and set fires. He was keeping his baseball bat handy just in case.

A thin, pale guy that Duke didn't recognize sidled up to the counter and ordered a burger and soda. Duke passed the food order along to the kitchen, and set the soda in front of the guy. The day after Christmas wasn't exactly tourist season, and most tourists didn't like to be out after dark when the temperatures would really start to drop.

"First time in Haven?"

The man glanced up and then stared at Duke in surprise. "Not entirely." The crowd around the television shouted over Tom Brady throwing another touchdown pass, nearly drowning the words out.

Something about this guy was unsettling, although Duke couldn't pin down what exactly. He waited for the noise to settle before he spoke again. "Oh yeah, so you've sort of been here before, then?"

The guy hadn't stopped staring at Duke. "I know you."

"Excuse me?"

"Is your name… Duke?"

"Depends on who's asking."

The crowd shouted again, inserting a pause in their conversation.

"My name is Marshall Morrison. I think we went to Kindergarten together. Well, first and most of second grade as well. You're Duke Crocker, right?"

The intense staring was definitely into the creepy zone by now. "Yeah, sorry, but I don't remember you."

"We moved away just after Christmas in second grade."

"So what's brought you back to Haven, Marshall?" Duke crossed his arms and leaned against the back wall of the bar. Thinking about Christmas of second grade pissed him off, and Marshall still scrutinizing his every detail was beginning to make his skin crawl.

"I've always wondered if the things I remembered about Haven were true or not." Marshall's gaze made one more up and down sweep over Duke. "I guess some of it was real."

The server brought the burger out and set it in front of Marshall just then. He finally turned away from watching Duke and began eating. Duke shuddered, but went back to managing the drinks and tried to ignore the guy. Creepy he might be, but it wasn't his fault for bringing up those memories. Hell, it was the day after Christmas, those memories had been trying to surface for a week.

The Patriots were slaughtering the Bills, and the crowd kept getting rowdier. Marshall drifted off and joined in watching the game after he finished eating, and Duke breathed a little easier. It wasn't until one of the Bills, ironically also named Duke, shoved one of the Patriots in a clearly illegal move, that Duke realized just how much trouble Marshall Morrison was going to be.

Cheering for the wrong team? Bad enough. Cheering for the wrong team when they've just cost the right one a touchdown catch? The entire group of rowdy, drunk locals was on its feet looming over Marshall before the announcers had finished saying 'flag on the play'. Duke grabbed the bat and hoped this didn't end with too much shit broken.

Marshall wasn't exactly helpful. He shoved the nearest man in the chest. "Back off! Fuck the Patriots!"

It was futile, but Duke tried anyway as the first chair was kicked aside. "Hey! Knock it off!" He grabbed Marshall by the collar and yanked him back. He opened his mouth to say Marshall was leaving, but he picked up movement from the corner of his eye just in time to throw his arm up. The bottle hit his arm instead of his head. He was pretty sure he felt the bone snap. The bat dropped to the floor, Marshall swung at the nearest guy, and all hell broke loose.

Even though they should have all been on the same side against Marshall, in a matter of seconds it was a frenzy. A chair crashed over Duke's back, knocking him to the floor, someone stepped on him, lost their balance and fell, then started kicking him like it was his fault. He tried to stay low and back out far enough that he could call the cavalry. He almost made it when a big beefy hand hauled him up and he got just enough look at the face behind the fist to recognize John Coolidge before stars exploded in his vision and his back slammed into the bar.

He slid down the front of the bar, trying to catch his breath. Marshall Morrison's face swam into focus in front of him. Marshall was offering him a hand up, so he took it.