- A Serialized Novel -

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

Author’s Note: It’s a sad day when being crazy is the easier path, isn’t it?

Crazy Seems Simpler

“Bullet hole. Right. Bullets… That makes sense… Only it doesn’t and…” Koslow put a hand to his head, the rest of his words deteriorating into incoherent babble as he faltered, crumpling as he went down to the ground. Maybe he was more of a psycho than she’d thought at first, but that wasn’t fair. She knew better. He looked way too much like her uncle had before his PTSD made him put a gun to his own head.

She refused to be that helpless again, even if she’d only been a child when her uncle died and couldn’t have changed anything—medication and therapy hadn’t worked—so she knelt beside Koslow and put a hand on his arm. Keeping her voice gentle, she tried to coax him out of it, using the same thing she used to do with animals when this place was more of a farm and less of a relic. She didn’t know that she was doing anything right, but after a while, his breathing seemed to level out, and the babble was gone.

His eyes cleared, and he stared at her, horrified. “Oh, no, please tell me I didn’t. Damn, I haven’t had one of those in more than a decade. I’m sorry. This is… embarrassing, to say the least.”

She shrugged. “I’m not one to judge. Never have been. Might have learned that the hard way, but you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Sure I don’t,” he said, dragging himself up with the help of his truck. “I… I can’t believe I did that. I swear that hasn’t happened since I was—I don’t even know why it happened. Shouldn’t have freaked out over something like that. I don’t even know that there’s any reason to think that it’s a bullet hole or that it has anything to do with… anything.”

Mackenna studied him. “You ever manage to convince yourself with that kind of talk? It doesn’t sound like it would work for me.”

He lowered his head. “Doesn’t work for me, either, or I’d have put this all behind me years ago.”

She leaned against the truck next to him. “What’s this, anyway? Oh, don’t look at me like that. You come here with a rare car and bullet hole and have a panic attack and think I won’t be even the slightest bit curious?”

“I don’t—I know you probably are. I owe you an explanation. I just… I’m trying to find a way to do it. I don’t know how to explain it without it sounding crazy. It is. I—My father took off when I was born, and none of us have heard from him since. Then… for no reason that anyone can explain, when I was in high school, I stared having nightmares about him. Dead. I don’t know how or why. I thought it happened at my grandfather’s farm, but they never found a body. I went into therapy, they gave me medicine, and I went to college and put it all behind me. Then Grandpa dies, I inherit what’s in the barn, and it’s all back like it was…”

She shook her head. “Not like it was.”

“Um, no offense, but you don’t know me, and you didn’t know me then and so you—”

“Now you have a car with a bullet hole. I’d say that you have proof this time around—or at least a whole lot more to go on, now don’t you?”

He looked back at the car, shaking his head. “I don’t get it, though. If my grandfather knew about the bullet hole, if he knew that my father was dead, that someone shot him, doesn’t that mean that he did it? Why the hell wouldn’t he just tell me that instead of putting me through all this? He’s dead; it can’t hurt him anymore. Even if it wasn’t him… Why not tell me? He can’t have been threatened by the person who did it. They have no hold over him. He’s dead. If it’s someone in my family… shouldn’t I know that instead of having some kind of… wild goose chase?”

“Well, yeah, I’d think so. I mean, you’d have to figure that whatever you might remember would put you in danger from them, so I don’t know why he wouldn’t just come out and say it, especially if he knew he was dying. Did he?”

“Heart attack. It was sudden, but he did leave a will, so… he had some kind of plan even if he didn’t know the day or hour.”

She nodded. “How many people know you have the car?”

He winced. “Five, counting the two of us. My two brothers and my sister-in-law. I wouldn’t have thought it had anything to do with my brothers, though. He was their father, too, and they’re not that much older than me. Nick is three years older, Larry five. It’s not… I think I’d rather be crazy.”

Mackenna let out a breath. “Yeah, comparing that to mistrusting your whole family, that’s got to be the easier path.”

“Would you help me get rid of the car? Just find someone who wants the parts or something. You’d know better than I would how to find the right kind of person.”

She frowned, taking hold of his arm. “Why would you do that? The car’s all you’ve got. Your one shot at finding whoever it was that killed your father and ending your nightmares. You need it.”

He shook his head. “No. I don’t. I don’t know who to trust, and if I pursue this, if I tell anyone in my family what I’m doing… I’m as good as dead.”

“I’d say you’re more in a position of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Ignorance can’t save you forever.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t suppose I said anything in my panic attack that might have… helped or made any kind of… sense, did I?”

“No. At first you had real words, but it went to gibberish fast.”

“That’s what always happens.” He closed his eyes. “Um… The truck belongs to my brother now, so I need to get it back to him, and I have to be in the city in the morning. I…”

“We can unload the Maxwell if you want. My grandfather and I can take a look at it and see what it needs and what it’s worth. He’ll love having his hands on another one of these. He’s got two, and they’re his favorites.”

“Thank you. Not just for that, but… for all of it.” He looked at her hand and then shook his head again. “No. I can’t ask you to do that. If anyone in my family knows about the car and the bullet hole, then it’ll put you and your grandfather at risk. Even if they don’t know now, they will. Everyone will know that I found the car, that I brought it here. I’ll just drive back and tell them you couldn’t help me with it. That’s for the best.”

He was jumpy and paranoid as hell, but she couldn’t blame him for that. “Don’t you have anyone who can… help with this?”


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