Author’s Note: So this part was… a bit hard to pin down because I just wanted to do the two lines and I’d already written these sections and I didn’t want to repeat them, so I ended up deciding to use this instead.
The song for this one was My Rainbow Race, originally by Pete Seeger and covered by Melanie on this album.
I took these two lines as inspiration:
And because I love you
I’ll give it one more try
And really, it doesn’t fit but this part is a start of the mystery, so… that’s something, right?
Mackenna stepped back, studying the car again. She needed to get it off the trailer and assess the parts she couldn’t see without better access, but she at least had pictures of the entire thing. She’d have to get them off the camera and view them on the computer to see just how much damage she was looking at, and she would probably need Mac’s input on a lot of them since she had never done this much work to any one car before, not when she helped rebuild Scarlett or even now that Phantom was hers to restore completely.
She looked back at Carson, who was running a hand over the fender, not paying any attention to her. She wasn’t sure where he was, but he was almost smiling, so she didn’t try and pull him out yet. She wanted him to have good memories of restorations, too, not just the trauma that came with the car his father had brought into his life just before his death.
She would have to talk to Larry and Nick again, make sure neither of them had any regrets about letting Carson keep Phantom. He had been willed it by his grandfather, sort of, but the car wasn’t actually his grandfather’s and so he didn’t have the right to will it to Carson.
If his uncle made a fuss about it, things could get ugly, but so far he’d been quiet, probably a bit shamed by his part in the aftermath of everything, but she didn’t know. The man hadn’t had anything to say to them, and if she was honest, she was still angry about him, knowing as much as he had and never saying a damned word. That was low no matter who he’d promised to keep silent for, and since he supposedly never liked Carson, it wasn’t for his sake.
Still, that would have to wait. She wanted to be prompt but thorough with this assessment, and the light would be gone soon. “You want to brave the inside?”
Carson looked up at her. “I don’t know. Do I?”
“It will likely be a bit musty,” she said, thinking of the smells that always seemed to creep into the cars that were stored closed up, not so much either of the Maxwells. The Airstream managed to avoid it because Mac drove it often and kept the air circulating a bit instead of trapped inside constantly with the humidity around them.”
“How is it the glass isn’t in worse shape given the state of the car?” Carson asked, peering at the intact windshield. It was bent at an odd angle with the damage to the roof, but it wasn’t gone.
“Not sure, but it’ll be fun trying to figure it out, that and half a dozen other things,” she said, gesturing to the door. “Open that for me, would you?”
“I’m a bit worried now.”
She snorted. “Oh, please. It’s not like something is going to jump out and bite you. You can see in there. No live animals in sight, not even a spider web. Nothing is lurking to get you. I just figure being a man and all—”
“Now I know I don’t want to do this,” he muttered. “You’re always so determined to prove you can do anything a man can do, so this is going to be bad. Or humiliating. Or both.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes, I set up an elaborate prank just to show you up when we are the only ones here. Mac’s at the Legion, and your brothers are at their homes. What purpose could that serve?”
“You have a camera.”
She laughed. “Okay, I do, I admit that, but that is for work. I’m taking pictures of the car prior to doing any work. It helps me know where I started but also what needs to be done, and I can use them to show what I’m talking about when I tell them prices and so on.”
“Easy,” Carson told her. “You don’t have to justify all that to me. Not sure why you’d have to justify it to anyone.”
“There was a man who didn’t want to pay Mac what it actually cost to do the repairs on his car, not one penny over the quoted amount, and it pissed me off because things don’t always go according to plan, especially with rarer cars like this. Parts can get expensive, have to be custom made in many cases. After that, I took pictures of everything. Mac wasn’t a fan of it at first. He didn’t mind a few pictures, but I took hundreds from all angles… spent days getting them he felt were better spent getting to work.”
“As long as you’d taken the pictures of the area, I’m not sure why it would matter if he got started, so why not do it in order of what needed to be done first?”
“I hadn’t learned that lesson yet,” she admitted. “I’m still not very good at it. You’ve seen all the ones with Phantom, how disorganized they are.”
Carson shrugged. “You were pretty focused this time, all the ones from the outside first, now the ones inside. It’s fine.”
“You don’t always have to agree with me.”
“I don’t.” He gave the car another look and frowned. “Are you sure I’m not going to break anything?”
“If you do, we’ll add it to the assessment.”
“And charge them for something I broke?”
“If the door breaks when you open it, they have worse problems than they knew, and it might be something that can’t be fixed. We need to know,” she said. “If you’re really not going to open the door, then you should—”
“Fine,” he said, reaching for the handle and pulling on it. The door didn’t budge. “It’s locked, isn’t it? You let me try to open a locked door.”
Mackenna leaned over to peer in the window. “It doesn’t look locked.”
“You should so have a video camera for this.”
She laughed, “I should. Give it another try, and then if that doesn’t work, we’ll break in.”
“Didn’t that lady tell you if they had keys or tried to open it before?”
“No keys,” Mackenna said. “They can’t explain where this car came from, and they didn’t find any records of it. She didn’t mention trying to open it. I would have if I found it, but I didn’t find it. So here we are, with a door that may be stuck or may be locked, and we’ll have to prove that one way or another.”
Carson sighed. “Okay, fine. One more time, and then you call a locksmith.”
Mackenna had no intention of using one, especially not after what the local one had called her in the past, so she hoped he got it open or even loosened. She didn’t want to discuss that, though it was easier to get into older cars than it was new ones.
“One more time.”
He gave the car door a good yank this time. The metal screeched a bit as it opened, and he stumbled back with it, tripping over his own foot and landing under the door with a groan. Something fell and hit him in the stomach, and she had no choice but to snap a picture of that.
“I hate you.”
“No, you love me. You married me, remember?”
Carson grunted, rolling over and forcing himself up to his hands and knees, well aware that she’d taken several pictures while he recovered from having the wind knocked out of him. Whatever it was that fell out of the car hit hard, and he was not sure he wanted to know what it was. He did know he had to destroy that camera. He could not let her show that to his brothers. They’d use that story against him for years, just like all the others, and they needed no help from her.
He looked down at the object now in between his hands and frowned. Yes, he knew nothing about cars, but he didn’t think that was any part of the car, not in its original state. He picked it up and turned it over, trying to make out what the hell this metal box was.
“What is that?”
“You’re the car expert. The history expert. You tell me,” he said, rocking back and holding it out to her. She took it, and he forced himself up to his feet. He started to lean against the car and stopped, thinking better of it.
“I have no idea,” she said, lifting it up above her head. “I don’t… It seems too small for a jewelry box… for much of any kind of box, but it has hinges here and might even open.”
“You probably shouldn’t,” Carson told her, and she frowned at him. “It might need special treatment to be opened… some kind of historical artifact that will be ruined if it isn’t opened in the right conditions.”
She sighed. “I’m curious now. I want to know what’s in it.”
“Me, too, but if it is significant, we don’t want it ruined, either.”
Mackenna nodded, pushing around him to look at the door. “Where was it? Right by the door?”
Carson stood next to her, eying the space between the remains of the seat and the frame. “I don’t think so. It would have fallen out before I fell, landing on my feet, not my stomach.”
She twisted her lip as she looked around, lifting up the camera and starting on her pictures of the inside. She grimaced when the small box got in the way, passing it back to him. He took it, trying not to think too much about what might be inside and instead focus on her and what she was doing.
“Huh,” he said, looking at the side of the door. She turned back from the camera. He pointed to the door. “Could it have been behind that panel there?”
She took a picture of the space, still frowning. “Maybe, but why would anyone put it there?”
Carson shook his head. “No clue. It just… It might make sense that it fell from there after I got the door open. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have thought to open that panel, but I think some mice did.”
“Yes, someone’s been at the interior,” Mackenna agreed. “And I kind of agree about the panel. It seems like it must have been there even if it makes no sense that it was. Unless… the driver or owner of the car wanted it hidden. Damn, that just makes me more curious about what’s inside.”
“Call the lady who wanted the estimate and ask her what to do about the stuff we find.”
“You might have to wait until after we go get the Woodsman.”
Mackenna swore. “Why didn’t you remind me? We have to get it going before Mac gets back. He’ll be pissed if we don’t. Come on.”