Duke is not a morning person. He usually just avoids them by sleeping until noon, because four in the morning is a perfectly reasonable time to go to bed. So he's been asleep for a whole hour when the Haven Fire Department calls to tell him that the Grey Gull is burning. By the time Duke gets to his restaurant, the building is a charred husk. There are exactly three bystanders watching the firefighters do their job, and Audrey's not one of them.
Fire Chief Hofstetter just shakes his head when Duke asks about survivors. The fire department was automatically notified when the fire alarm went off; they'd seen no signs of a pretty blonde, but by the time they got there, the building had been too far gone to enter.
Duke calls Audrey's cell phone about fifty times, begging her to answer, but it goes straight to voice mail every time. A lone policeman, one that Duke doesn't recognize, is keeping people away from the site as firefighters comb through the wreckage. No more than one police officer will be needed unless it's determined that a crime was committed, but once the policeman finds out why the fire department is searching, it seems like half the police department shows up to help out.
It's the smoke and the soot from the fire making Duke's eyes red, because Audrey's just missing. She's fine, damn it. She just went for a run. At five in the morning. Without her phone. It occurs to Duke that Nathan doesn't know yet, because if he knew he'd be here. Someone has to tell Nathan that Audrey's missing, and that someone should probably be him. As painful as the thoughts Duke's avoiding are, he's pretty sure that this will just about kill Nathan.
Twenty minutes later, Duke's pounding on Nathan's front door.
"Nathan! Open up, man! Nathan!" He repeats the demand at two-minute intervals until the door abruptly opens, Nathan standing in the doorway wearing jeans, shirtless and looking comfortably dishevelled. Duke vaguely remembers something about it being his day off.
"What?" Nathan's eyes narrow on seeing Duke, no doubt expecting a self-made crisis of some sort.
Duke brushes past Nathan into the living room, ignoring the half-formed protest. "I need to tell you something."
"Can't this wait? I'm ... busy." Nathan crosses his arms across his chest impatiently.
"No, it can't wait." Duke pauses, drawing in a breath. He really, really doesn't want to do this. "It's about Audrey."
"What about Audrey?" The blonde in question asks from the entrance to the kitchen.
"Audrey! You're alive!" Duke tells her, striding across the room in two giant steps and sweeping her up into a bear hug. "You're really alive!"
"Yes ... did you come all the way here to tell me that?"Audrey laughs.
"No. Yes. I thought you weren't." Duke doesn't care that he's not really making sense at the moment. But a few very interesting details are filtering through to his conscious brain. Like the reason Nathan's not wearing a shirt is that Audrey seems to be wearing it instead, that and very little else.
Audrey can apparently sense the change in his focus, because she breaks away from him. "Still alive the last time I checked. Does that mean that I can go back to my day off?"
Duke just grins, looking from Audrey to Nathan, and back to Audrey again. "Sorry to interrupt. You two should go back to ... whatever you were doing." Nathan turns an interesting shade of red, but Audrey just puts her hands on her hips and glares at Duke. She has nice legs. Nathan's a lucky man.
"Duke," Audrey starts, "is there any chance you could keep this to yourself?" She gives him her best pleading look. Okay, Nathan's both lucky and doomed to never getting his way again.
"I would love to," Duke chuckles, "but it's out of my hands. By low tide, most of Haven will know that you're not dead. And if I were a betting man ... which I am ... I'd bet they'll also know why."
Duke wordlessly tips an invisible hat at his friends and exits, whistling, leaving the confused pair staring after him as he heads back to bed. He'd also be willing to bet that he's not the only one with that plan.