Author’s Note: This is a part of the introduction to one of the new characters. They’ve shown some interesting lights on Mackenna and Carson as well as helping with the mystery.
The History Expert
“Dorie said she’d be right over,” Mackenna reported, watching Carson as he frowned at her. She tried to force a smile. She’d been hoping for a bit more time to look at the box, but it seemed like Dorie might be here at any second.
“I guess I can get the box out. Do you have the pictures ready? Not that I want to show everyone the ones where I fall over like an idiot—don’t smirk at me, you knew exactly what would happen when you insisted on me opening the door—but they’ll want to see where it was and how it fell.”
Mackenna reached up to touch his cheek. “Don’t think I didn’t appreciate what you did in opening the door for me. And I think that if we hadn’t done it how we did, we might not have found that box until the interior was being restored, and since I don’t even know that I’m getting the job yet, not for sure, that could have been a long time from now. Or even… not at all considering that they might have chosen just to junk the car instead of looking into restoring it.”
Carson nodded. “Yes, and that would have been a true shame. It’s hard to see so much history abandoned because of a little difficulty.”
She tilted her head and studied him. “Is this really the same man who drove into my yard with a rare antique and thought it might be best as scrap metal?”
“That’s not fair. I had no idea what it was worth then, but I do now. And I have a much better appreciation for history than I did before, too,” Carson said, and she tried to hold back laughter at his pout. She knew it wasn’t fair to tease—he had no way of knowing how precious Phantom was when he first came, but now that he did, he treasured it and all he’d learned in the time he spent with her. She knew that—and she loved him for it.
“I know,” she told him, pulling him close for a kiss. A horn interrupted them, and she frowned. Could Dorie already be here? She’d said she wouldn’t be long, but that was no time at all.
“If that’s her, you’d better greet her,” Carson told her. “I’ll be along in a minute with the box.”
Mackenna nodded, heading to the door. She wasn’t happy about being interrupted or at losing her chance to look at the box again, but she’d live. She didn’t have to see the box—so long as she got a promise out of Dorie to tell her what was in it.
“Hello, again!” Dorie called, in a much better mood today than she’d been yesterday, though yesterday Mackenna had stumbled onto the mine-field of the other woman’s divorce, so it wasn’t that unexpected. “I’ve brought a bit of an expert with me today. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Don’t exaggerate, Dorie. That’s not what I am,” another woman said, coming around the car. Mackenna forced herself not to react too strongly. Strangers were seldom welcome, not around her at least, not after those years with her aunt, but this one seemed harmless enough, a rather dainty girl in comparison to both her and Dorie, wearing a dress that somehow mixed business with cute. Her hair shifted from light brown to a near pink red in the sunlight.
She was pretty, delicate in ways Mackenna had never been and never would be, and there was a small, irrational part of her that tensed up over it, not sure how Carson would react to seeing this woman. Would she be more attractive to him than Mackenna was?
She hated herself for thinking it, but then she’d never really been in a position to be jealous of him, whereas he’d already fretted over losing her to his older brother or someone else. She supposed it might be her turn, and better to get it out of the way quickly rather than let it drag on and fester, right?
Carson touched her arm as he joined her outside. “I’ve got the box and—Oh. We really do have company.”
“Mackenna, Carson, this is—”
“I’d rather you didn’t give them my name, thank you.”
Mackenna blinked in surprise, aware that Carson looked equally confused at the newcomer’s abruptness. She wasn’t sure what to think of this woman at all. Mackenna might not be the best with people, but somehow got the sense this woman didn’t mean to upset them and was more awkward socially than either she or Carson was. She seemed kind, and maybe being rude was unintentional.
Blushing, she winced. “I’m sorry. It’s just… my parents gave me one of those ‘cutesy’ names, and everyone goes on and on about how it is cute and how it fits me because I’m cute—that’s my younger brother, but that’s not the point—I don’t like people using it, but Dorie goes and tells everyone what it is and I can’t get any work done because people are either snickering or asking me how I got that name and I really would rather they used my last name or none at all.”
That both explained it and didn’t at the same time. “I sometimes go by ‘Mac’ instead Mackenna, but that’s not quite the same. And Carson’s not always fond of being Carson because his brothers teased him and gave him all the die cast cars, but that’s still not on your level.”
“I know. And I know saying what I did just makes you more curious about my name, but please… just call me Smith.”
Mackenna stared. Wasn’t that supposedly the most popular last name in the country? That was what she’d rather be known as? “Really?”
Dorie smiled. “I’ve been trying to get her to use Moneypenny as a nickname, but she keeps refusing.”
She might be pouting a little. “I am a records clerk, not a secretary, and there is definitely no James Bond around here.”
“Maybe a Q.”
“Don’t even start.” Smith shuddered, which made Dorie smile and left Mackenna wondering just what that in-joke was about, though neither woman offered an explanation.
“This is an odd little box,” Dorie said, accepting it from Carson’s hand. “Smith doesn’t recognize it in the research she’s done, and I haven’t seen one like it. We might need to get some analysis done on it. Did you open it?”
“No, though it was tempting,” Mackenna said. “Carson reminded me how that could damage anything inside it, so all I did was take pictures of it—I have some when it fell out on him and where we think it must have been in the car, but we’re not sure why anyone would have hidden it in the door panel.”
Dorie turned it over in her hands and finally held it out to Smith. “Any thoughts?”
Smith shook her head. “I don’t recognize it. There’s not any mention of the car or this box in anything I’ve seen, not in photographs or the documents that exist. We also didn’t find anyone that remembers, but most of the ones who would know of that time are already dead or their fate is unknown. I’ve done as much research into the car as I can, but between his dementia and the split in the family and all that was lost because of that, it’s hard to be sure.”
“Split?” Mackenna asked, not sure what Smith was talking about, though Dorie hadn’t given her much information about the car, so she was curious.
Smith nodded. “Um… It… It’s kind of complicated.”