- A Serialized Novel -

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

Author’s Note: Okay, yes, I’m doing two posts for this serial today. That’s because I wrote the last section last night and then saw the words for Three Word Wednesday. They almost went with what I was doing, all but ponder. It was harder to slip in than the others and still feels a bit forced.

Today’s words: heave, ponder, and valid.

Strained Brotherly Affection

“You’re back late.”

“Had to wait for the guy to get back from his trip into town, and then it took a while to figure out what to do with the car,” Carson said, not wanting to go into detail about what the woman had found when she looked at it. He’d hoped her grandfather wouldn’t have confirmed it, but he agreed. A bullet hole. Every time he thought about it, his stomach started to heave, and he didn’t want to vomit. He’d disgraced himself enough today, in front of strangers—well, he must have met Mac before, since he was one of Grandpa’s friends, but Carson didn’t remember that.

He had enough holes in his memory to drive a truck through, he thought, passing Larry back his keys. “Here. It needs gas. I didn’t realize that until I gave the Steadmans back the trailer.”

Larry frowned. “You okay? You look… If you’re going to puke, do it somewhere else, not on me. If I’d have known it would have been so hard for you to deal with that wreck, I’d have come with you. Or done it for you.”

“I’m fine. I’m not a child. I can handle this kind of stuff on my own. I don’t need big brother to do it for me.”

“Easy, Carson,” Nick said as he came up to join them. “You left early this morning, and it took you the better part of the day. Considering what you went through in the past, Larry has a valid reason for being concerned. Even without the past, you look like the heat got you or worse.”

Carson cursed himself for being so transparent. He couldn’t help feeling sick, had before he got back to the farm. He’d hoped to be able to give Larry the keys and go, needed to get as far away from his family as he could manage, but he’d already taken too long to get out of here.

“Was there a problem with the car?”

“No. It’s—they’re going to deal with it. I don’t have to worry about it,” he said, though he did. He couldn’t help it. He shouldn’t have left the car with Mackenna or her grandfather, but she seemed to want to restore it, and he thought that was better than turning it into scrap metal. He didn’t know, though. He couldn’t be sure of anything right now. He didn’t know who to trust or what to do.

“That’s something, at least.”

Carson nodded. “I’m just going to grab my bag. I have to work in the morning.”

“Drive in early. You shouldn’t be on the road like this.”

That was not an option. He was not going to stay here one minute longer. He couldn’t trust anyone in his family, not now, and all this concern coming from his brothers just made him feel worse. If he managed to get out of the driveway without throwing up, he’d be doing good. “I got rid of the car, the scrap metal’s set aside to be dealt with, and that’s it. I just want it all done and behind me. I’m going back to town, back to work.”

“You know… burying this thing doesn’t seem to have helped you any. Sure, you can act like you’re in control and pretend you’re okay, but if it’s that easy to get you back the way you were in high school, you need to do more than run away.”

Carson shook his head. “Just stop, Nick. I… I appreciate the concern, but I’m the one with the delusions about murder, not you. I’m the one that has to sort out what I know and what I don’t. I’m not going to do that here. I’ve never seen things clearly here, and you know it. All this place does is confuse the issue.”

“That why you really stopped coming out on the weekends to visit Grandpa? You said that you were busy, but you were avoiding the farm, weren’t you?”

“Maybe. I don’t—I always thought it was just work. I had a lot on plate. I still do. I…”

“Ease off, Nick. You’re making it worse,” Larry said, putting a hand on Carson’s shoulder. His stomach rolled, and he tried to remind himself that it was unlikely that his brothers had anything to do with the murder, if there had been one. Their father had as good as disappeared when Carson was still a baby, and they were just kids. Neither of them would have been old enough back then. Of course, if the nightmares had surfaced in high school because that was when he’d seen something, then both of his brothers would have been old enough to be part of it.

“All right, Carson, go on. Call us when you get back so we know you made it there safe. Don’t worry about how late it is.”

“Uh, sure,” he said, wishing Larry would stop touching him. “I need to go.”

Nick nodded. “Here’s hoping once you get home you can sort it all out. Do all the thinking and pondering you need until you’re satisfied with your answers.”

“What answers? I still don’t have any.”

His brother shrugged. “Maybe that’s because there was nothing to question in the first place.”

I hate you. Carson shook his head. “I’m not crazy. There has to be some reason for what I think I saw. I’m just… gonna have to accept that I may never know what that is.”

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