Author’s Note: Mackenna is still very good with theories. Of course, this time Larry and Mac help.
“Are you feeling any better?”
Carson nodded, and Mackenna let go of the Maxwell’s steering wheel for a moment, taking his hand and giving it a good squeeze. She didn’t understand why he kept feeling like someone was watching him, and she wanted to blame it on paranoia or the costumes and what they were doing, but the more it happened, the more she was worried that someone was watching him. She wasn’t sure how his father’s killer could have known that they were here, but then again, if it had been someone in Carson’s family, they had to know.
Someone would have told them, if only because his brothers had come down, too.
Still, if it had been someone in Carson’s family, why had they waited to do anything to him until now? Sure, it was only recently that he’d gotten enough of his memories back to be a real threat, but they could have made sure he wasn’t one at any time. They were close enough, they’d be aware of what was going on in his life, and that apartment of his was a joke. It would have been easy for someone to break in and end it there.
“Watch the road,” Mac ordered from the backseat, and she nodded. She’d been trying to make sure she gave him a break, but it might not have been such a good idea, not with the way she was worrying about Carson.
She shook her head, trying to clear it a bit. “Sorry. That was a leap of logic, even for me. It’s just that I was trying to figure out why the killer might not have come back sooner—when you were a child and more vulnerable—or if it was someone in your family why they didn’t make sure you didn’t remember anything when it tried to come back in high school… So then my brain went to what we talked about before, about the possibility of your father having gone to prison during those eight years he was missing, and I thought… what if the man who killed him was in prison for part of the time in between then and now?”
Carson blinked. “Well… Aside from the fact that I’m almost certain that I did it, I guess it would almost make sense. He might have stayed away just so that he could make sure that I never told anyone when I was a kid—though I did tell people I did it, so that’s not an issue—and then he might have been in prison so that he didn’t have a chance to stop me when I was in high school, but by the time he got out, the shrink had me convinced that it was just a nightmare and I was leveled out after medication and moved on with my life.”
“Exactly. Other than my disagreement with the way the shrink treated you and claiming you were all right after the meds,” she told him. “If the guy was smart about it, he’d be looking for the car to resurface. That would mean tracking events—car runs, swap meets, car shows, anywhere they sell them, even ebay.”
“And junkyards?” Carson shook his head. “There would be no reason to think my family would have held onto the car after Dad died.”
“Well, if he thought they’d ditched it in a junkyard, that’s probably the first thing he checked,” Larry said, leaning forward. “Think about it, baby brother. There’s not that many around. He’d have known that it wasn’t there. If he paid any attention to our family—and you gotta assume he did so that he’d know if you told anyone about him—he knew we weren’t using it. He’d know Grandpa had tied it to you and Dad’s death, and he’d be waiting for someone to do something with it.”
“So by bringing Phantom out, you think we lured him out somehow?”
“It’s possible. Not like everyone has one of these things,” Mac said. He grunted. “Most of them were passed on through families or gathered up by collectors or museums. It’s a small group. Lots of them know each other. Some even keep lists of other owners. If the man you’re talking about had one of those lists, he’d know yours wasn’t on it.”
Carson frowned. “So we just assume that the guy is following the run? He’s following me? All I got back was me saying that I killed Dad before my mom put me in a bath, and this whole sensation of being watched… It’s just… me, I guess.”
“No. I don’t think so. I’m not kidding, Carson, this is starting to worry me. I think that you’re paranoid for a reason. Remember, all those times when people told you that you were overreacting or imaging your father’s death… They were wrong. We have to act like this thing is real. You might not be safe.”
“Does that mean you want me to go with Nick and Carrie at the next stop?”
“Wouldn’t be smart if you did,” Mac said, and Carson looked back at him. He shrugged. “This run is no secret. The route is published every year. He knows where you’ll be. So you think you should avoid him, and maybe you’re right. Maybe you should go. Then again… If you never see him, you might not get the rest of it back, and you’ll miss your opportunity to catch him.”
“We are not turning into vigilantes.”
“No, but your grandfather’s got a point,” Larry said. “The only way we’d catch this guy is if he doesn’t know that Carson remembers him. As soon as he knows that Carson knows, he’d run. Or hide. He’d have to know he’d get tracked down eventually. That means that the best chance of us—and by us I mean us and the cops—getting this guy is if Carson gets that feeling again at the stop or at the end of the run and can point the guy out. Or if he remembers more before that happens.”
Carson sighed, slumping down in his seat. “I think we’re all getting ahead of ourselves now. The best suspect isn’t going anywhere. He’s right here in the car.”