Author’s Note: Nick’s theory makes a certain sort of sense.
“I’ve got it figured out. I know why Grandpa left you the stuff in the barn.”
“You do, do you? Enlighten me,” Carson said, wiping a rag across his forehead. He didn’t really care why his grandfather had done it, not anymore. Nick’s presence would have been a whole more useful if he’d done something to help with the giant mess that Carson had been dealing with for the past four hours. He didn’t want to look at any longer, but he had to be back in the city tomorrow, so the more he got done now, the better.
He at least wanted to clear a path to the locked door. If all he managed to do today was get that open, that was enough for him. He wanted to make sure he saw that before anyone had a chance to mess with what might be in there.
That door could hold the key to answers he’d wanted all his life. It could be hiding his father’s remains. At this point, Carson had no way of knowing what was in there, but at the same time, he didn’t plan on quitting before he found out.
And behind door number one… nothing, he thought, but he shook it off and looked over at his brother. With his light hair and bright blue eyes, Nick had the strongest resemblance to their mother, whereas Larry looked like a younger version of Grandpa and Carson got cursed—he was a near replica of the man everyone hated.
Maybe that was why he was so obsessed with this idea of his father being dead. Otherwise, the man he kept seeing out here was… himself. He’d never believed in visions, had no intention of starting, but he did think maybe he was going to crack under the pressure again. The first time had been a few weeks before the valedictorian speech he never made, and this could be similar. He was up for promotion, after all, and that meant more hours, more responsibility, more room for failure.
“We should just have named you after someone who went into space. That’s all you ever do.”
“Hey, I told you to enlighten me. It’s not my fault you overplayed the dramatic pause and ruined everything. I got bored. So sue me.”
“That would be Larry.”
“No, that would be Larry’s ex. She was the lawyer.”
“Must you do that?”
“Bad habit, I guess. Come on, Nick. I’m tired. I don’t want to do this all day. I’ve got a bit left to go before I get to that door, and that’s where I’m quitting. I just want to get that door open.”
Carson reached for a contorted piece of metal, not sure what it had ever been a part of, pointing it at his brother. “Either tell me or go, but if you don’t spit it out soon, something like this just might connect with the side of your head because this is getting ridiculous.”
“Fine, fine. Look, Grandpa gave you everything out here so that you’d have to go through every nook and cranny of this place, so that you’d have to see everything for what it is, but more importantly, for what it isn’t. It’s not evidence. It’s junk. Even if you get that door open, you’re not going to find a body. You’re not going to find a murder. Maybe this will finally allow you to put all those old nightmares behind you so that you can move on. You’ll get to be normal—well, for you that might be too much to ask—”
Carson lifted the scrap, giving it a swing that missed his brother, not that he’d meant to hit him. He didn’t want to hurt Nick, not really. He was just tired and frustrated, and he didn’t think anyone did well being teased when they were in a mood like this.
“All right, truce, you two. I can’t believe I have to play peacemaker again,” Larry called as he walked up to them. He yanked the metal from Carson’s hand, and Carson glared at him. “Don’t. You’re too wound up to argue.”
“Nick already told you his theory, didn’t he?”
“So you think that’s why Grandpa did it, too, don’t you?”
Carson shrugged. He picked up the old lopper and carried it over to the door. He studied the old lock for a moment, not sure if a moment like this needed some kind of… ceremony. He could just put the blade on and see if it was sharp enough to do any damage. Somehow he felt like he was on the verge of some big discovery—and yet this could be one of those moments where the vault was empty and he got nothing but humiliation for the rest of his life. Since he’d done that enough already with two older brothers, he figured it wasn’t worth the risk.
“You don’t have to do that tonight.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“You sure you don’t want to sleep on it? You’ve got no idea what’s in there, after all, so…”
Carson shook his head. “No, it’s past time I do. If Nick’s right, and this is going to get me past all those old questions and nightmares and help me let go of all those images in my head, that’s what I have to do. Here goes nothing.”
He put the blade to the padlock, forcing it shut over the thinnest part of the metal, and it gave, cutting through. The old lock fell into the dirt, and Carson stared at it before setting down the shears. He pried the bar up, moving it clear and then tugged on the handle, pulling the door toward him.
After so many years of disuse, it didn’t move fast, not until an extra yank gave it a sudden momentum that knocked him on the ground. He heard his brothers laughing, but he forced himself to ignore it.
Not that it was hard to do. All he could do was stare at the gaping darkness in the doorway before him.