- A Serialized Novel -

Sorting out Carson's legacy only leads to more questions.

Author’s Note: Just a few old timers gathered around a table swapping stories… Well, and a bit more.

Sunday Night at the Legion

“Thought you were some big shot with a degree now, Koslow. What you doing back here? You were always too good for the rest of us so—”

“So I don’t get the drinks that Mac’s friends ordered? Because I think even you should know better than to piss off your regulars,” Carson said, trying to keep his temper in check. He should have known that a loser and bully like Chambers would end up stuck in town, sponging off his former glory days, and what surprised him was not that the guy had a job as a bartender, but that he had a job at all.

If not for Larry and Nick, that kid would have beat the hell out of Carson every day.

He’d do it now if there weren’t so many witnesses, and Carson didn’t have his brothers to bail him out this time. Maybe if Mackenna got involved… He figured she had a mean right hook, she could do some damage—all that work fixing cars made her a lot stronger than Chambers would think.

“You know, if you’re hanging out with the geezer patrol to get with the girl, I should warn you—she plays for the other side.”

“I am going to hit you if you don’t shut up.”

“Gonna start saying I’m dead like you did your daddy?”

Carson smiled, a grim thing that had no kindness behind it. “You know, in recent years, I’ve come to suspect that I killed my father, and you might remember that they never did find his body, so… The drinks, now, and if you so much as look at one of the glasses funny…”

“You don’t scare me. You were never a threat. Only your brothers were.”

That was true, but Carson wasn’t about to back down. He heard something smack the table and looked over at Mackenna’s hand. “I think you lost out on any tip you might have gotten already, but what the hell? All the guys want is beer, and it’s not that hard to open them. You could have sent them to the table with the caps still on, and they’d deal with them. It shouldn’t take ten minutes to get the drinks.”

“Just discussing old times with your boy Koslow here. He ever tell you about that time we decided to make him the school mascot?”

“Did I ever tell you about the time I broke a guy’s arm for refusing to pay me for the work I did on his truck?” Mackenna asked, pointing to the bill on the bar. “That’s for the night, and you know it. We’ve already paid for several rounds. Just give us the drinks.”

Chambers muttered under his breath as he turned away. Carson gave her a slight smile. He’d been rescued, again, from the bully. “Larry and Nick used to hurt him on a daily basis.”


“He picked on me.”

“Brotherly code. I understand. They were looking out for you.”

“I told him about my dad, about our latest theory, and the guy still thinks I’m the little kid I was when he bullied me.”

“Did you tell him we think you were probably eight when you dad died?”

“I forgot. I should have.”

She laughed, shaking her head. “I’m not sure that we should be joking about it, though I have to say, it’s been harder and harder to get our drinks around here since someone started working. It’s always a fight if anyone besides old Granger comes up to get them, and that’s because Granger’s a nasty old marine.”

“Gathered that much already.” Carson shrugged, reaching for the beers that Chambers had started to stack on the bar. Mackenna grabbed the rest of the other bottles, loading up both hands as she walked back to the table. He followed her, distributing the ones he’d picked up and finding that they had one more than necessary.

Mackenna took it from him, opening it. “I wouldn’t hate Chambers so much if he didn’t hit on me every time I was in here.”

“Oh. That explains it.”


“He told me I didn’t have a chance with you because you’re a lesbian.”

She rolled her eyes. “Cute. Just because someone’s not attracted to him, they’re automatically gay. He is an idiot. I’m sure that he won’t last much longer here. He never seems to work anywhere for more than a month or two. I preferred him as a bartender over the guy at the gas station, though. Saw him way too much there because I have so many cars to deal with.”

Carson nodded. “I don’t blame you for that.”

“Should kick his ass for saying that, though.”

“You could, or you could grab one of these gentlemen here who would gladly help you prove otherwise. Think about it—he’s not your type, but they are, and wow, what an insult that would be, right?”

She giggled. “You’re devious. I like it. Only I can’t take advantage of the guys like that.”

“Take advantage! Take all the advantage you want,” the man beside her said, leaning over and puckering his lips as she laughed. That was Brady, Carson thought, but he’d lost track of all the names over the course of the night. He hadn’t had much to drink, a lot less than the rest of them, but they were all old friends, and their conversation was hard to follow for an outsider. “Please?”

“I volunteer, too,” George said, lifting his beer. “Been a long time since I’ve had a kiss from a pretty lady.”

“Not true. She gave us all kisses last week when she said goodbye.”

Mackenna grinned. “I did. You behave, and you might get another one tonight.”

“There something wrong with you that you didn’t volunteer yourself?” Granger asked, and Carson looked at him. “You’re her friend, right? Why not you? Why us old guys?”

“I suppose that came out wrong, the part about the old guys…”

“Lay off him, Granger,” Mac said, reaching for his beer. “The boy’s trying to sort out his issues with that missing father of his. You remember that, don’t you?”

“Damn shame, that. He had a beautiful wife and three fine boys. No reason to walk away from that. No good one, anyway. You know my boy Tom was in love with her, but she only had eyes for that one. Then he left her. Never came back. Never so much as a word.”

Fidgeting, Carson gave the old man a look. He wasn’t sure his father was a great man or anything, but he knew he hadn’t abandoned them completely. He’d come back. “I’m pretty sure he’s dead.”

“Nightmares again, kid?”

Carson took a sip, closing his eyes for a moment. “Memories. I don’t remember it all yet, but I know I talked to him at least once before he died.”

Brady shook his head. “Henry swore he never saw him again. None of them did.”

“Dad made me promise not to tell. I was a kid. I guess I didn’t.”

“Did he hurt you?”

Carson shrugged, feeling helpless again. “I don’t know. I don’t remember anything, but there was one dream where I saw blood on my arm, so he could have or he could just have been dead… The one clear part I have doesn’t deal with him hurting me, but I can’t help worrying that he did.”

“Sounds a lot like James.”


Mackenna winced. “Don’t go into that. Not now. Not here.”

“Oh,” Carson said, understanding what she was trying to avoid. She’d told him before, but he hadn’t connected that to this. “Your uncle?”

“Yeah. He—his unit was under review—someone had accused them of hurting civilians. I’m not sure if it was a war crime sort of thing or just an accident or what, but he couldn’t remember the incident well enough, and the idea that he’d been a part of that… It destroyed him.”

“He wasn’t,” Mac said, his voice cold. “Investigation cleared the whole unit. Too little, too late, though. My boy was already gone.”

“We need another round. Need to get those dark looks off some faces and get that one tipsy enough to kiss all the old men again.”

Mackenna forced a smile. “I don’t have to drink to do that, Brady.”

She leaned over to kiss his forehead, and then rose, doing a sort of duck, duck, goose thing as she circled the table. Carson smiled as she did, knowing that they all needed the distraction. He didn’t know that they’d learned anything here they hadn’t known before, but both Mac and Mackenna needed the old men—their friends—to keep going. This was a part of who they were, not just a casual outing. Their friends mattered to them.

Carson jerked when he felt her lips on his forehead, not expecting that, and the whole table burst out laughing. She grinned at him, sitting down and looking smug. “Gotcha.”

“Yeah, you did.”

George snorted. “That was nothing. Should have seen my Rosie back in the day. Now, she was quite a lady, but boy, she could kiss…”

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