Author’s Note: I did my best to research the bullet hole and what that meant as far as the gun that fired it, but I fully admit that I’m not an expert. Only guns I’ve ever fired were water guns, and even then, I didn’t get to play with them much.
Wide, sightless eyes, almost the same as his own, staring up at the sky—was it the sky or the ceiling?—he didn’t know. He could see the body, that face, the eyes, but he never got close to it. He thought he could move, but he didn’t try. Fear, maybe. The man was a stranger, so fearing him made sense, and staying back from the dead man was smart, so he should be right where he was.
He heard something move nearby, the hay scratching against the dirt as it was ground underneath a shoe, and he looked back to find the same sightless eyes. Shuddering, he looked forward again, but the body hadn’t moved.
No. The body couldn’t be in more than one place. He knew that. Next he’d start seeing it get up and come for him, a zombie out to eat him. He forced himself forward, stopping when he saw blood on his hand. Blood. His?
The body’s? Which body? What did this mean? There was never any blood before, never.
He jerked, sitting up in his bed, wrapping his arms around his legs, trying to calm himself down again. He didn’t understand. What was that? He didn’t know the voice, had never heard one before, and he had never seen blood on himself. He couldn’t remember there being any blood near the body, either. If his father had been shot, then why wasn’t there blood? Why was the blood on him?
Because he was terrified of ending up like his father, of course. He knew that. He couldn’t help thinking that he was going to die the same way, but he didn’t even know that his father was dead. Sure, he’d walked out on them, and no one had heard from him, but did that plus Carson’s dreams mean that he was dead? It was no guarantee, even with the bullet hole in the car.
No one said the car had anything to do with his father’s death, either. That could be a weird coincidence, something that happened before his grandfather got the car.
Damn it, why hadn’t they just told him? If his grandfather knew who killed his father, then why didn’t he just say so? If his grandfather did it, if his uncle did… Hell, if Carson had somehow done it, then why didn’t he know? Why did they leave him with so many questions, tormented by partial truths and nightmares and memories that didn’t make sense? Why make him feel like he was losing his mind? Was it really so terrible, the truth?
He winced. He’d forgotten to call his brothers, and he didn’t want to do it now, even though he hated feeling so alone and confused. He put his head down on his knees.
His hand was much smaller in the dream, not teenage, but not so small as to be a toddler, he didn’t think, and if he’d been that young, there was no way he’d remember any of it, right? Still, having his hand show up in the dream—bloody or not—might help him pin down when he saw what he did.
Only he had no idea if he could trust that, either.
He lifted his head, looking toward the window. He didn’t know how to sort out the rest of it, but he knew that he wasn’t going back to sleep tonight. This morning. Whatever. He stood, walking over to the window and looking out at the dawn, frowning.
He heard the phone and jumped, hating himself for his overreaction to everything. He shook it off, going to pick it up. Larry or Nick, calling to lecture him about calling, had to be. He hit the button to take the call without looking at the caller ID. “Koslow.”
“I see I didn’t wake you.”
He lowered the phone, checking the screen. “Mackenna?”
“You can call me Mac if you want,” she said, and he blinked, still trying to figure out why she was calling him. “I had a couple of things to run by you.”
“Let me start by saying I’m not an expert and I don’t know how much of an expert these people are, but from a quick internet search, I stumbled on a forum question about bullet holes in a metal sign, and since they look roughly similar to the one in Phantom’s fender, I thought I’d go ahead and pass on what I did learn. If I knew a cop or someone with forensics training, I’d ask them, but anyway, the point is, the bullet probably came from a large caliber handgun. I’m going to measure it again to be sure, but if you know who in your family owns handguns, then you might be able to narrow down the weapon.”
“Um… I thought the only guns we owned were rifles. Hunting rifles. Pheasants. Grandpa liked to do that. I can’t stand the taste of them. Or of venison.”
“Me, either.” She laughed, then sobered up again. “Well, a rifle shot should have a different look to it, with a deeper punch, but that’s not a guarantee as there are rifles that fire pistol rounds. Still, from what I could tell and what everyone said, it’s most likely a handgun.”
“I… I don’t know that I have any—What was that about Phantom?”
“Oh. That. I named the car. I always do that. This one said Phantom to me, since it’s dark and like a skeleton in the closet type deal… It fit.”
He put a hand to his head. “Okay…”
“I shouldn’t have called. I can let you go—”
“No, don’t. I…” He let out a breath. He didn’t want to let her off the phone, as much as he was ashamed to admit it. Hearing her voice made him feel a lot less alone, and he shouldn’t be reaching out to a stranger, but he had no one else right now. “I was awake, and I’m not… I was just… Don’t you sleep?”
“Not much. Why?”
“No particular reason.”
“You had a nightmare, didn’t you?” She shouldn’t know that. He didn’t want her knowing that. He almost hung up on her, but she went on. “Look, if you need to talk, you can call. I’m an insomniac myself.”
He sat down on the bed. “I’m not sure I should. I already put you in a bad position by giving you the car, and I don’t even know… What if it was me? What if that’s why I can’t get anything more out of the nightmares than I have before? I can’t handle that I killed someone.”
The silence he got said plenty. He hung up, putting the phone back where it was. He might as well shower, start getting ready for work, go back to the routine that had sustained him for the past few years. He’d always done this on his own before, and he could do it now.