Author’s Note: So he had to remember something after that starting gun. Another piece of the puzzle. Carson’s getting closer to the answers. That’s not always easy.
The shot echoed around the barn, and still Carson didn’t realize that it had hit him until a full minute had passed. He couldn’t think. He didn’t know what to do. He knew that he’d heard a gun—no, it wasn’t the same as Grandpa’s hunting rifles or Larry’s BB gun—but he did know the sound of a shot, and in that instant, he’d frozen.
The pain made him come back to himself, and he stared at his side and the blood and didn’t understand that, either. A gunshot. He’d been gunshot. No. He’d be dead if he got shot. He remembered Grandpa and Uncle Tim lecturing his brothers and him, too. They had to be very careful with the guns and never play with them. Hunting was not playing. They had to know that they could kill every time they took a shot, and they had to respect what the gun was.
He always hated those lectures, but then he didn’t much like the guns, either. He didn’t like seeing what his family brought home when they hunted. He’d lock himself in his room and cry later after everyone else was busy cleaning up the game.
Wait. Was he game? That couldn’t be right.
“You bastard,” his father said, and Carson heard another shot, louder than the first, so loud that he couldn’t hear anything else. He felt dizzy. Sick. Where was the gun?
“Carson, please, open up your eyes and look at me. That’s it now; that’s better,” Mackenna said, her hand in his hair and on his cheek. His vision cleared, letting him see her. She was watching him, frowning, and he thought she was scared, scared for him. “You feel okay? I think that’s the worst I’ve ever seen you.”
“Worst I’ve seen,” Larry said, and Carson didn’t need to look at him to know that his brother was worried. He sat up, looking around. Mac had stopped the Maxwell for him—he was ruining everything for everyone again. “What happened?”
“I think I was doing a bit more than just… remembering. I had… When the shot went off, I went into shock, I guess, and I didn’t realize I’d been shot right away, and then when I saw I was bleeding, I didn’t understand. Then Dad spoke, and there was another shot.”
“You think you fired it?” Larry asked, leaning over the back of the seat. “Carson, I don’t believe that. You didn’t kill Dad. I can’t believe he would have tried to hurt you, and I can’t see you using the gun. Remember how much you hated when you had to come hunting with us? You’d stand there with your eyes closed, biting your lip, trying not to see them die or cry when they did. No way you did that to Dad. No.”
“That is what I’ve been trying to tell him all morning, but last night he got back a part where he said he did it, and I don’t think he’s going to believe us until he gets it all back.”
“Probably not. He is stubborn that way.”
“He can hear you.”
“I know. Look, let’s—Nick and Carrie were going to meet us at the first stop, so why don’t we get this car back on the road, and then you two can finish your run? Carson can come with us.”
“No,” Mackenna said, the word coming out like a bullet. “I know you’re his family, but Carson needs to be with me. He copes with the flashbacks better when I’m around. True, I’m being selfish. I want him with me so I that I don’t have to worry about him when he’s out of my sight. This could be the end of anything he gets back today—I figured that starting gun would set him off, and it did—but that’s not going to happen again.”
Carson lowered his head onto her shoulder. He didn’t know what to do anymore, but he didn’t want to ruin everyone’s day, either. “I’d like to stay with Mackenna, but I refuse to be the reason that Mac doesn’t finish the run.”
She ran her fingers through his hair, and he thought it was helping relax him, but at this point he wasn’t sure. “The idea was to have the others rotate through, switching out at a given stop, so that means they’ll be close by if need be. It also means that we have plenty of prearranged places where we can stop and Carson can leave if he’s having more flashbacks. That’s if he wants and if it’s an issue. If this is the point where he finally gets all the pieces, I think it’ll be better in the long run, even if it’s hard right now.”
“I hate not knowing,” Carson said, though he didn’t look forward to having all his memories, either. He didn’t know how to deal with that.
“We go to Grove City,” Mac said, nudging Larry out so that he could get down. He went to the front of the car, cranking it back to life. Carson let out a breath. That man had to hate him by now after all the trouble he’d caused. “You see how you feel by the time we’re there.”
Mackenna took his hand. “I think you’re really close to the end now.”
“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of.”