- A Serialized Novel -

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

Author’s Note: Yes, actually, my grandfather does have a picture from the newspaper with Jack Benny standing in his 1911 Maxwell.

Costumes and Other Awkward Ideas

“Glad you bought the t-shirt?” Mackenna asked, leaning over to make sure that Carson could hear her, trying to keep her hair from going in her mouth as she spoke. The wind was mild today, but the open seat of the car made it seem ten times worse, and she should have braided it to keep it out of the way, but she’d been in such a rush that she’d forgotten.

Carson rolled his eyes. “I thought you were the navigator. What are you doing back here with me, making your grandfather act like a chauffeur?”

She laughed. “I’d almost go around calling him Rochester, but that would be wrong. Oh, wait, you don’t know that reference, either, do you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Jack Benny. On his show, he was notorious for being cheap, so he drove a Maxwell. Well, he didn’t. He had a chauffeur named Rochester who drove him around in it. Bob has a picture—Jack Benny sat in his 1911. It made the local newspaper.”


“I like your shirt.”

“You’re a bit obsessed with it, from what I can see.”

“No, that was a hint. Show me your socks,” she said, pointing to his feet. He laughed, shaking his head as he did, revealing them, and she had to grin. “Handlebar mustaches. Great. Almost… fitting.”

“Yeah. I’m saving the bow ties for the parade.”


“I thought so.”

She caught herself thinking thoughts she never wanted to think, so she forced her mind away from them, leaning forward to check the route. She wanted to make sure they were on track, but she also wanted to know how much longer they would be in the car. She couldn’t justify moving up to the front seat, and she wasn’t that big of a coward, either. She didn’t have to run from sitting next to Carson just because of that last exchange.

“You should have dressed up, though, if you were going to make Mac act like your chauffeur. We’re not fancy enough back here.”

She laughed, settling back against the seat. She fingered his shirt sleeve, tugging on it. She liked the look of this year’s design, but more than that, she also liked the way that it made him a part of things. “Does that mean that you’re going to dress up with me for the run? Or just the parade?”

He sighed. “You won’t let that go, will you?”

“No.” She let her head fall on his shoulder, intending to blame it on the wind if she had to. “I have been trying to talk Mac into doing it for years. So now you’re stuck with me doing it to you. I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry.”

“I know you’re not.”

“Can I bribe you into it or do I just have to keep wearing you down until you agree?”

“I… You have this look on your face right now that I’m not sure I trust, and so I guess maybe I should just say yes so that I don’t have to worry about what that look means.”

She nodded. Yeah, that had to be for the best because she’d make a real fool of herself if she pushed things any further than she was already. “You can try the outfits on later today, and if they don’t fit, you’ll get out of it.”

“Ooh, a way out. I hope I can use it,” he said. She shoved him. He laughed. “Does this mean that I get to see your outfits, too, or am I the only one that will be tortured?”

“Seeing me in my dress is a privilege.”

“I didn’t mean that was the torture. I want to see how you look. I just… don’t want to dress up myself. If that’s the trade-off, though, I’m willing to make it.”

“Are you now?”

He started to say something and stopped, hesitating. “Um… I have this feeling I should do something right now, something that will…”

“That will what?”

“Do you think that the people who are interested in Phantom are people we should trust or do you think they’d have some kind of… motive that we should be worried about?”

She frowned, knowing that wasn’t what he’d been about to say, but he’d asked an important question nevertheless. “When we get back from this run, we can see what kind of interest we get. If anyone gives you a vibe you don’t like, maybe we can get some more information on them. And we didn’t talk to the other Messenger owner that Bob told us about. So we’ll do all of that later.”


“That doesn’t mean you get out of trying on the costumes.”


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