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JUST ANOTHER FRIDAY NIGHT JUST ANOTHER FRIDAY NIGHT The doctor smiled warmly as Bill Collins stepped into the office. “While we wait for the other tests to be analyzed, why don't you take a seat, Mr. Collins? We can talk about why you're here.” Collins tried to return the doctor's smile without showing the ner- vousness he felt. “Sure, doc, whatever you say. What do you want to know?” “Well start with the beginning. What brought you to our doorstep this mom- ing?” Collins took a deep breath, After collecting his thoughts, he told the doctor most of the story... I wasn’t drunk. Sure, I'd knocked back a few beers, but I had a full stom- ach before | got to Murphy’s, and I’m not a little prat. So this wasn’t some drunken hallucination. I'd come for the show. There was supposed to be a band playing that night, lots of signs advertising a group called Sister Mary — supposed to be the upcoming goddesses of guitar rock. The band didn’t show, though, so the stage space had tables and chairs on it, just like a weeknight. Even with- ‘out the band to draw a crowd, Murphy’s was packed; just a couple of tables and a handful of seats at the bar were left open by the time 1 got there. 1 waved to Mike Flannery, Tom Johnson, and their boys as | took a seat at the bar. We'd all gone to school together and | saw them in town every so often. Thadn’t been there too long when a couple of blueys wandered in, caus- ing a bit of commotion. The Legions have a base in town, not too far from the bar. Still, Murphy's isn’t a Legions hangout; it's more for the local yobbos. 1 JUST ANOTHER FRIDAY NIGHT Anyway, these two, aman and a woman, were still in fatigues, complete with the usual Legions patches and insignia. Their shirts read “MARSDEN” and “ASHBY.” They were chatting pretty intently when they walked through the door, but they weren't oblivious to their surroundings. Even so, they did a good job of pretending not to notice when the rest of the room shut up. Theblueys found asmall table near the middle of the room, just ameter or sofrom where I was sitting. They kept on earbashing the whole time. Casual, but seemed like business. I could just overhear them — something about transfers in and out of Africa. “The guy, Marsden, noticed me staring and shot me a glare that could barbecue an Emperor penguin on the spot. | spent some time watching my drink. Murphy’sisn't exactly a Legions-friendly oar It's the stomping ground for the ANZDF vets in the area — and any soldier boys on leave, of course. There's always been a rivalry between the anzies and the blueys. Doesn't make for acalm night out. About the only time you'lcatch the knob crew at Murph’sis when they don't want tobe seen at the usual hangouts. That meant these two were probably on about something juicy. Isettled inand tried to eavesdrop a little more discreetly. They were both in depressingly good shape, yeh? | guess that’s what getting paid to exercise all day will do for you. Still, the woman, Ashby, wasn't all that much for the eyes. She had a couple of scars on her face, and spent too much time scowling like she’d gotten a big mug of real horse piss, not just the watered-down stuff Murphy passes off on strangers. Marsden looked like a recruiting poster — big, bulky build, shaved head, bright blue eyes. Like | said, depressing. About then somebody put a few coins in the jukebox and it got too loud to hear much of anything, | Finished another beer and was looking at moving ‘on when the guy next to me knocked me with his elbow. I'm not hot-headed, so | looked before | shoved back. He hadn't even glanced at me. The bloke had kicked his stool back and was arguing with the woman next to him. | could barely hear him over the music. The woman — his girlfriend, | guess — was glaring at him, not say- ing anything while he bellowed into the general noise. The song ended abruptly, and the woman spoke in the sudden silence. “Just stop it, David! You're acting crazy.” That just seemed to make him more pissed. “Crazy? You want to see crazy?!” He roared. Reflexively, | stepped back off the barstool as he curled his big right hand into a fist. 1 kind of wanted to do something, yeh? But this guy was pretty big, and very drunk. The classic no-hoper — he'd done his time toting a gun with the diggers, maybe had his moment of glory as a third-rate forward, and then a life of nothing much. And then | heard a third voice, another woman's voice.