Author’s Note: So, this is a very long part. It’s part of wrapping things up, and those scenes usually get long. This is not an exception. There’s only one bit more after this.


A Few More Answers

“No money.”

“I know. There isn’t any money.”

“Mackenna?” Carson opened his eyes to frown at the room, not sure how he’d managed to end up here. The white and the clean said hospital, but that had to be wrong. Last thing he remembered was being with the cars… and his father’s killer. The gun had gone off, and he should be dead. He didn’t understand. “Um… Where am I?”

“Hospital. You were so out of it when you got shot that they figured the wound was a lot worse than it was. Once they got that all taken care of, they knew it was the trauma, so they decided to monitor you overnight just in case.”

“He… They… I didn’t kill him.”

“I know.”

“I thought I did. He put my hand on the trigger, and he forced it back, and he told me I had. He made me think I’d killed him so that I wouldn’t tell anyone, and it worked. It all worked.”

She frowned, taking his hand and wrapping hers around it. He had to figure she’d been there all night—she was still wearing the dress from the run, and it had gotten rumpled in addition to stained. Was that his blood, then? He supposed he owed her a new costume. “What all worked?”

“After… after he shot Dad the second time, he… he ripped off my clothes so that when my family found me, they’d assume that my father had…”

“Oh, hell.”

“That’s why Grandpa covered it up, why he hid the Maxwell and Dad’s body. It looked like our worst case scenario, and even though I knew that man had been there, I couldn’t—I was so screwed up by it that I wanted to do what they kept telling me to do—forget. He said it, Grandpa said it… Mom, I think she couldn’t handle it, couldn’t accept that Dad had done that, but then she couldn’t accept that I had done it, either, and that’s why she was a wreck for the rest of her life. She couldn’t believe it, but she knew what she saw, and it messed her up good, too.”

Mackenna nodded. “I bet it would. That’s not something anyone would want to believe. We certainly didn’t. We tried to prepare you for it if that was what happened, but neither of us wanted it to be that. Your mom… Well, she was stuck trying to believe the man she loved had done a terrible thing to her child, and that… That’s not something many people can accept. It happens all the time in child abuse cases. The other parent just can’t accept what’s being done.”

“Like your aunt not believing you about what was happening to you?”

“Well, my situation was probably more exaggeration than anything, but she didn’t want to believe that the guy had been in our apartment, that was for sure. She said I had to have imagined him walking around there hunting me, that I was giving myself nightmares and huddling in the closet for no reason. To a point, maybe, I was, but if I hadn’t been hiding, I don’t know what he would have done to me.”

“He won’t ever get you now.”

Mackenna smiled. “I’m not sure how we got stuck talking about me again. You’re the one that got shot and who had all those memories locked away in his head, not me.”

Carson grunted. He didn’t want to think about that. If he’d been stronger, he wouldn’t have buried those memories, and it wouldn’t have destroyed his mom or let that bastard get away with his father’s murder. He didn’t like knowing how many lives got ruined because he couldn’t face what had happened. His brothers deserved to know the truth, too, and what his grandpa had done for him… That should never have happened.

“Hey, don’t start down that road now. You didn’t kill your father, so don’t start looking like that.”

“I knew someone else did. I should have said something.”

“Carson, that man made you shoot your father. Even if you weren’t afraid of him killing you, too, you were probably still afraid of him doing more after he took your clothes. You might not have known what that meant, but that just made it that much worse for you. Plus you had people telling you to forget. You were a kid. You were desperate. You did. That’s not a crime.”

He closed his eyes. “I just feel like… I think I should have been able to tell them the truth. That I should have said something rather than let that man get away with murder. I still don’t even know who he is, and that’s after he shot me.”

“Again.”

Carson shook his head. He didn’t want to admit this, but he didn’t have a choice. He cleared his throat, looking at her. “Um… Actually, the first time was my dad’s fault. He was trying to stop the guy from getting me, but he had me and used me as a shield. Then he shot my dad while I was still trying to understand what had just happened to me.”

Mackenna winced. She reached up and brushed back his hair. “I am not surprised at all that you had to block that out. How well could you have understood your father shooting you by accident and all the rest of it when you were eight?”

He sighed. “I don’t know. It’s just that—”

“Mr. Koslow?”

Mackenna glared back at the doorway as the cop entered. At least, Carson assumed he was a cop. He couldn’t see the badge in the suit, but he thought part of the way that awful gray plaid hung on the guy was because of a gun. “Does he really have to give his statement now? He just woke up.”

“I’m fine, Mackenna. Or as close to that as I’ll ever be now,” Carson told her. He took a deep breath. “I can give a statement, even though I don’t know much. I mean… He did kill my father. I know that. He… He thought my dad had money, and I guess he still thought that when he came after me because he thought I’d gotten it somehow.”

“The money was a part of a bank robbery that took place about thirty years ago. The man we arrested today was involved—by all accounts, he is the one that killed the security guard and one of the tellers as well.”

Carson felt sick. “My father was a part of that? The guy said he was the driver, and Dad said he served his time—”

“Your father was indeed the man who drove the getaway car. He turned himself in after the reports, swore he had no idea that there would be any killing, and in exchange for his cooperation, he got a reduced sentence and was allowed to serve his time under another name. Apparently, that was his stipulation—he didn’t want any of this getting back to his family and hurting his kids.”

Mackenna snorted. Carson almost smiled. That sounded like the father his mother had always told them they had. Except, of course, that he was a criminal. She’d never said that part.

“The agent I talked to about it said he figured that the guy was in over his head—three kids, one of them just born, he’d wanted a way to make a quick buck and didn’t figure anyone would get hurt. When they did, he faced up to what he’d done and never expected them to let him go free. He accepted his sentence and served it without complaints.”

Carson let out a breath. “Well, it’s good to know he wasn’t all bad. Mom would have been proud of him. Grandpa and Uncle Tim would still have hated him, but maybe my brothers can forgive him, right? I never really knew him until just before he died, and I didn’t trust him, but it’s… It’s not the same for me. He was never my father in the way he was theirs or her husband or anything.”

The cop grunted, pulling over the other chair. “The trouble is, they never found the money after the bank robbery.”

“That’s why the guy came after me today, but I swear Dad never told me where it was. He died insisting that he didn’t have it. If he had known where it was… I don’t think that he would have risked coming back to us. He said he wanted to start over. He said he’d worked a bunch of odd jobs trying to get some money before he came back to us, and I guess… That’s the part I want to believe. That he meant it when he said he was trying to make it right with us.”

Mackenna looked at the cop. “I suppose you know that Carson inherited what was in the barn from his grandfather and that the car was a part of that.”

“Dad swore he bought that free and clear, and if there was anything hidden in it, you would have found it when you went through and took all those pictures.”

She nodded. “I know. That was my point. The car will be worth something when it’s working. It’s worth a bit now, but we are not talking bank robbery sums here. Maybe when she was first purchased, but not now.”

“Dad said he got a good deal because it needed an overhaul.”

“Maybe we can find the person who sold it to your father and confirm the price. That is, though, all Carson got that was of value, and it’s not that much.”

“Did your father give you any hint as to where the money was?”

Carson shook his head. “No. He never mentioned the money. The other guy was the only one that did. None of what my father said suggested anything about him having a lot of money to spend. Once he told me he was getting me something very special—it was a toy car. A Ford Model T. It was not like he was buying me the earth and the moon. If he had the money, he didn’t spend like he did, and he never said anything about it to me.”

“All right. We’ll get someone over to take your official statement.”

Mackenna drew in a breath. “Are you going to be able to put the guy away for the murder? I suppose you have him for the ones in the bank, but if you don’t, then he’d just be going down for assault or attempted murder and could get out again, couldn’t he? He could come after Carson again.”

“I think he’d know better than to mess with a woman who can hurl suitcases like you can.”

She blushed. “Um, well, I have a lot more upper arm strength than people realize, but even still, that’s not necessarily going to be an option every time. Can we get this guy for Carson’s dad’s murder or not? Is it enough that Carson remembers him killing him?”

“We need a bit more than that.”

“We have a car with a bullet hole in it.”

“That probably came from when Dad’s shot went wide,” Carson said, shaking his head. “Although… My mom and my grandfather are both dead now, and they know the most about what was done after they found me and Dad and thought I’d killed him, but… My uncle might know more of it. He might know where Grandpa buried the body. Or it’s in Mom’s journals. I’m assuming that would be a big help, wouldn’t it?”

“I’ll see what I can get from your uncle, then. We’ll be in touch.”

The cop rose, and Carson winced, closing his eyes again. Mackenna’s lips brushed his forehead. “It’s almost over. We survived, and you have your memories back. You can finally move on with your life. This is a good thing, Carson. It is. Your dad will have justice after all these years, and you can stop being tormented by nightmares.”

He nodded. “I hope so.”

Author’s Note: So I’ve always liked those suitcase racks on the old cars. I had to use that detail somewhere in the story.


A Handy Suitcase

“Where’s Carson?”

“He was just here,” Nate said, frowning, taking a look behind him. Mackenna grimaced, not liking the way her stomach was twisting up. She’d felt this way before, when Carson wandered off before the parade, and maybe that meant that it was nothing, but maybe not. He had supposedly been watched, and he did think he was a killer—to her, that might even be more dangerous than him being watched. She knew what feeling that way had done to her uncle, and the last thing she wanted was history repeating itself.

“I have to find him.”

“Why don’t you calm down and think about—”

“Shut up,” she snapped, stepping away from Nate and trying to think. She had to remember what she knew of Carson and make that work for her. She could find him. She knew enough of the way he thought that so long as he’d wandered off on his own, she could at least narrow down where he went. She had to figure he’d just taken the opportunity to slip away when Nate distracted her with that whole marriage thing—she wished people weren’t pressuring Carson about it when he was like this. She didn’t need a ring. Well, she’d kind of like one, but she could have gone on being his friend forever, and that was all she really wanted out of marriage anyway. She figured the rest of it was bonus—or disadvantage, depending on the circumstances.

The other cars. Mackenna’s eyes went to the side lot where the locals would park their classics, sure some of the Model A club would be here again this year, and that was a good place for Carson to go if he thought he needed space. He could wander around there, look at the other cars, not talk to anyone unless he had to, and that was what he’d needed.

She started toward the grass, wishing she knew for sure that something was wrong. The crowds were out in full force for Stockyard Days, and it was hard to tell anyone from the other, even with Carson being in costume. She should have made him wear the hat. Then he would have been easier to spot.

She almost missed seeing the two men by the Nash, but the blue shirt made her stop and look back, and when she did, she cursed. She didn’t know who that other man was, but he couldn’t be a friend. Not with the way Carson’s body was all tensed up like that.

He was in trouble. The other man had to have a weapon.

Damn.

If the guy had a knife, that was one thing. She’d learned a few tricks from Granger that could help with that any day, but if it was a gun, there was a good chance that anything she did would end up getting Carson shot. The other man was standing way too close to him for her to risk it.

She let out a breath. She knew she’d seen cops around on their way into the park, but that was back over by the bridge, and she didn’t think that she’d make it back there before something happened to Carson. They were bound to have others down by the entrance, maybe even a booth up in among the others, but both of those locations left her with the same problem. They were all too far away.

“I see you found him.”

“Nate, go get the cops. Now.”

“What?”

“That man killed Carson’s father. Go get the cops, now.”

“Mackenna, you can’t—what are you going to do?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m trying to think of something, but I know that me going for the cops will take too long. You’re pissing me off by asking questions. If you don’t go now, I’ll hurt you myself, and so help me, if anything happens to Carson, I won’t forgive you.”

She turned back to the car, wondering if there was something on one of these classics that she could get her hands on. She didn’t care how much she’d have to pay the owner when this was all over. She’d make it right, but she couldn’t let anything happen to Carson. Not now.

Not ever. She was in love with him, after all, and for her to have reached that point… Well, that had always seemed impossible in the past, but now that she knew it wasn’t, she couldn’t lose the man who’d managed to make her feel that in spite of all her issues.

She rounded the Model A, almost smiling when she saw the suitcase resting in the rack. She doubted that there was anything in there if she could get it open, but with enough leverage, that thing could work like a vase going over the killer’s head, right?

Okay, so it was a terrible plan. She could accept that. She didn’t care if it was perfect, only if she managed to make it work. She lifted it up off the running board and tested its weight. She could do this. She had hoisted greater weights than this when working on the cars. She just needed to make it count.

“…You can spare her that if you cooperate.”

Mackenna frowned, wondering if that bastard was talking about her. Carson shook his head. “Honestly, if I knew, I’d tell you, but I don’t think there is any money.”

“Liar.”

She thought that the guy might have shot Carson just then, and she wasn’t sure if she’d known that when she raised the suitcase, but she followed through with it anyway, hearing the wood crack as it impacted with the man’s head. The gun went off, and she dropped the remains of the suitcase, rushing toward Carson, glancing back to see that the killer had at least stumbled forward. He might get back up in a minute, she might not have knocked him cold, but if she got Carson away from him, that was what mattered.

“Mackenna?”

“I owe someone a new suitcase. Are you okay?”

“Um… no… I…”

She cursed, kneeling down next to him. She could see the stain starting to soak his shirt, and she didn’t know how to react to that. She had to keep herself calm. “You’re bleeding. Tell me that is just a graze and not something worse. Please.”

“I think so. I don’t…” He looked down, his eyes bulging a little, and she thought he might be dizzy, too, since he wavered a little before he spoke again. “Oh, hell. He’s moving.”

She should have gone for the gun. She’d been too focused on Carson and made a stupid, stupid mistake. She knew it was the heat of the moment, but she didn’t feel like that was much of an excuse. “Come on. We have to get you moving, get you to safety.”

“He threatened you. You’re not safe, either.”

“I sent Nate for the cops. They’re here. He won’t get away, and people will have heard that shot even if it was muffled and there’s so many around right now—”

“He killed my father.” Carson leaned against her, and she didn’t like how weak he was. “He… I thought I did, but he… He killed my father.”

She shifted her position, trying to drag him back with her. Getting hit by that old suitcase had at least slowed the bastard down, and he wasn’t able to scramble up and threaten them again, which was good, because she was pretty sure that Carson was in shock, and it wouldn’t be easy to get him away in this state. “I know, Carson. I know. It’ll be all right. We’ll get through this.”

“There never was any money.”

“Shh.”

“He made me pull the trigger. He said I did it.”

She closed her eyes. Damn it. That had to be why he couldn’t remember it. He’d been too young to know that it wasn’t really him, and his mind had forced him to forget until now. Poor Carson. She wished she’d done more than whack that bastard with the suitcase. She should have grabbed the gun and shot him. Of course, she didn’t know that she could have, no matter what he’d done to the man she loved.

“It’s going to be okay. I promise.”

Author’s Note: Now that the past has been clarified, time to go back to the present.


Always About the Money

“You’re not going to shoot me here. There’s too many people. You won’t get away with it,” Carson said, swallowing. He wished he felt more confident about that. Having the last if his memories come back had distracted him, allowing the other man to get close, and now the gun was jammed up under his ribs. He didn’t know if there was a silencer or not—what little he knew about guns was because of hunting—but he didn’t know that it made any difference.

“Don’t push your luck, kid. I’ve had plenty of time to think over what I did back then and plenty of time to reconsider leaving you alive. Sure, if I’d killed you, too, they might have hunted me down, but then again, I wasted a lot of time chasing down your father’s lies. He had to have taken the money. There’s no one else left, and believe me, when I got done with them, they were talking.”

Carson didn’t doubt that. He had a feeling that he was in for the same kind of torture. “Look, I don’t know anything about the money. Dad never said he had any. He… The only thing I can think of is the car, and he swore he bought that outright.”

“He was lying. Should have known better than to think the driver would ever tell the truth. He was pretty smart, getting himself caught and serving his time. He made sure the cops never thought he was the one with the money. He even turned on the rest of us, the rat.”

Carson shook his head. He was glad his father had cooperated with the police. He didn’t want to think of the man as some hardened criminal. He just wanted to believe there had been some good in the man. “I don’t think my dad was that smart. None of us are. We’re plain, simple people. You certainly fooled my grandpa, and he was the one that should have known better.”

“He was an idiot.”

His grandfather had been a good man. Misguided, maybe, but still a good man. He’d fallen for the ruse that the killer set up, he’d been willing to believe that Carson had killed his father and that his father had done terrible things to him, but that didn’t mean that the man was an idiot. He’d jumped to a conclusion, the wrong one, and Carson had kind of paid for it, but Grandpa had done what he thought was best, had tried to help and protect Carson the only way he could—by helping him forget.

“So was my father. Face it, there is no money. Or if there was, but it got spent a long time ago. The car is all I’ve got, and it’s a wreck.”

“Liar,” the man snarled, and the gun jammed deeper into Carson’s side. He didn’t look down, though he doubted that he could see anything if he did. “I should kill you right now.”

“There are too many people around, and it still won’t get you that money.” Carson wished he was braver, that his words were true. He didn’t think there was any money, not now and not then. That didn’t mean that he would live, though.

“Take me to the car. Maybe that bastard hid something in there.”

If he thought he’d survive the trip to the Woodsman, he would have tried taking the killer there, but he knew better than to walk away from the crowd—and, more importantly, he didn’t know where the truck and the trailer were. “Mackenna went through and documented it for the restoration. She didn’t find anything. There’s nothing to find.”

“Ah, yes. The girlfriend. She doesn’t leave you alone much. Me, I can’t stand them clingy types. Then again, that rack of hers almost makes it worth it. Who’d have thought those mechanic overalls hid a body like that?”

“Shut up.” Carson would kill the bastard just for talking about her. He was not getting anywhere near her. That would not happen. She could handle herself, probably better than he could, and she’d be fine without him trying to protect her, but he still wouldn’t encourage that idea. If they left the crowd, he’d try and lead the killer in the other direction, but he was still hoping to use the fact that they weren’t alone to save himself.

“Sensitive, are you?” The other man laughed. “If you don’t tell me what I want to know, then she might be worth using, but you can spare her that if you cooperate.”

“Honestly, if I knew, I’d tell you, but I don’t think there is any money.”

“Liar.”

Carson winced as the gun poked him, convinced he was going to get shot again.

Author’s Note: For me, it wasn’t enough to have Carson remember what happened when his father died. He needed to remember what happened afterward as well.


Rushed Assumptions

“Carson? Carson, where are you—No! No!” His mother stopped, dropping down next to his father’s body, tears pouring down her cheeks as she touched his face, pushed open his shirt, trying desperately to convince herself that he was alive. She shook her head, pleading and begging through them, not wanting to accept what she was seeing even as she confirmed that her husband was dead.

Her father touched her shoulder. “Leave him.”

“Dad—”

“Your son needs you now. Don’t waste your tears on him.”

She bit her lip, looking back at Carson, cursing. “Oh, baby, what happened to you?”

“What do you think happened, Nancy? Take a good look at him and tell me what you really think happened.”

Her head shook, fast enough to where she should be dizzy. “No. Absolutely not. He wouldn’t. I know you hate him because he left, but you’re wrong. He would never do that to Carson. Not to any of the boys. He’s not like that. You know he’s not.”

“He’s been gone for years. You don’t know him anymore.”

“I don’t care how long he’s been gone. I don’t care where he went. I don’t care what he did. I know him. I know what he was like. He wouldn’t do that. Not to his son, not to any little boy.”

Grandpa shook his head. He pointed to Carson. “Stop defending that bastard. Focus on what you should be doing. Your son is crying. He’s covered in blood. You need to take care of him. I will take care of the rest of it.”

His mother blinked. “The rest of what?”

“The body and the car.”

“What? Dad, no—”

“Your son had to kill his father. His father hurt him, he… Damn it, Nancy, look. Look at what he did to your boy. We’re going to get rid of this body and everything that goes with it. No reminders. No memories. We’ll hope that he forgets about all of this.”

“That’s not a solution. He can’t forget—”

“He’s eight. Eight. He needs to be able to live a normal life. He’s too young to cope with what his father did. What he did. When he’s older, when he’s ready to remember, when he can handle it, then we can tell him, but do you honestly want him going through life with the guilt? The shame? You know better than that. Think of what’s best for him. Right now, we can only hope and pray that he’s able to forget.”

She bit her lip, looking at his father’s body before stepping close to Carson. “Baby, can you hear me? You going to let me get you cleaned up?”

He looked at her. They wanted him to forget. Everyone wanted him to forget. He lifted his hands, and they shook, but he didn’t have any words. She lifted him up into her arms. “Oh, honey, I am so sorry. So sorry that you were hurt and scared and… It’ll be okay now.”

Carson shook his head. She turned back to his grandpa. “Can you carry him inside for me? I’ll start a bath as soon as we’re inside.”

“I’m going to need time. Larry and Nick don’t need to see this. We’re going to need to keep them out of the barn for a while.”

“I suppose you’d better tell Tim. He can keep the boys busy while we… while we take care of the rest of this.” His mother combed her fingers through Carson’s hair. She sighed. “I don’t understand. This shouldn’t be possible. He wasn’t that kind of man.”

“He became one, then. Stop trying to deny it and think about your little boy. He’s the one that matters. Take care of Carson. Don’t worry about the rest. I’ll handle that.”

His mother sighed before she kissed Carson’s forehead. “I still think you’re wrong.”

“Don’t you dare go pushing him to tell you. He’s in no state for that. Let him forget. Just let them all forget. They’re better off without him.”

Carson heard her crying as she carried him into the house. “I don’t ever want to know, Carson. I don’t. I won’t believe it. I won’t listen. Your father… I don’t believe he did that. I never will. I don’t know… You couldn’t… I don’t believe it.”

He closed his eyes, hoping his grandpa was right and that he could forget all of it.

Author’s Note: Carson finally has all the pieces.


What Really Happened

“Where’s the money? You spend it on this piece of junk?”

Carson looked behind him, not sure who the other man was, but the way he was talking made him feel like he should try and hide inside the car. He didn’t know what else to do. He was scared. He didn’t want to be scared, not a little crybaby like Nick called him, but something was wrong. His dad shouldn’t be here, the car shouldn’t be here, and the man shouldn’t be here.

“I never had any of the money,” he heard his father say. “All I did was drive the car, and I paid for that mistake. I served my time. I’m done.”

“Oh, yeah? And where’s the money, then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you don’t. These things aren’t cheap. You didn’t get it for free. Where’s the rest of it? I might just let you keep this junk pile of yours, but I want the rest of it.”

“You’re not listening. I don’t have any of it, and I never did. I got this by putting all the money that I earned since I left prison together and traded my other car for this. It’s not in the best of shape—guy says it needs a complete overhaul, that’s why I got it so cheap.”

“Shut up. I know you’re lying. All I want to hear is where the rest of the money is. You’re going to tell me. Now.”

Carson swallowed. “Dad, he’s got a gun.”

“Smart kid you’ve got there,” the man said, and Carson drew back as the gun faced him for a moment. He was gonna get shot. He was scared. He wished his dad hadn’t ever come back. He didn’t want to die. “So what you’re going to do, unless you want this smart kid of yours dead, is give me the money.”

“Stay away from him,” his dad said, moving toward the man with the gun, and Carson thought maybe his dad had a gun, too. He ducked down in the seat, hoping that he wouldn’t get hurt. The man grabbed him, though, and Carson squealed when he did, but it was too late.

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? Why was he in the air? He kicked, trying to get down, but he couldn’t get away from the arm holding onto him.

The man walked forward, laughing as he leaned over Carson’s dad. “I told you you’d get your son hurt if you didn’t tell me. Now you’ve gone and shot him, and you’re shot, too. You got about a minute before I put another bullet in the kid. Where’s the damn money?”

“I told you—I don’t have it. You’re a fool. Even if they’re way out in the fields, they’ll have heard that shot. They’ll be coming. My wife’s father is an expert marksman. He can bulls-eye a buck like no one’s business. You won’t get away.”

“Oh, they won’t be looking for me. And if you’re telling the truth about the money, well, I’ve got no use for you now,” the man said, and Carson tried to get free even as he forced the gun into his hand. “Daddy shot you, so you can shoot Daddy, okay?”

“No!” Carson screamed, but the man pushed down on his finger and the gun went off. His father’s body jerked, but then it was so still that even Carson knew he was dead. “No…”

“Don’t cry now. It’s not like he didn’t shoot you first.” The man started to set him down, and then he stopped. “I wonder if that’s enough. You think they’ll understand why you did it? Why you killed him?”

Carson tried to shake his head. He hadn’t killed him. Only… He had, hadn’t he? The gun was in his hand, and he’d fired it at his dad, and he knew what that did. It killed.

“Huh. I think we’d better make it look a bit more convincing.”

“Don’t,” Carson said, but the man didn’t listen. He yanked at the tear in Carson’s shirt, ripping it wide and then right off. Carson shivered, not liking the way the man kept touching him. He heard himself muttering that word over and over again as the man tore away his pants.

“There you go,” the man said, ruffling his hair. “No one’s going to think anything of you shooting him when he did that to you, huh? Sick bastard. Poor little boy…”

“Don’t.”

The man laughed again, reaching for him, and Carson bumped into the car, whimpering as he huddled against it. He shouldn’t be cold, but that man made him feel all sick and wrong, and his father was dead, and he’d killed him, and he couldn’t think.

“You know where the money is, kid?”

“Don’t.”

“Yeah, you’re really screwed up now, aren’t you? Well, I tell you what, kid. Just forget it all. Forget what Daddy did to you, forget he shot you, forget you shot him, and most importantly, forget all about me,” the man said, grinning. He gave Carson’s cheek a pat, and Carson backed against the car, shuddering.


Author’s Note: I wanted to have this moment happen after they crossed the finish line. There were other things that almost got delayed to this point, and this almost happened after their lunch, but it felt better to have it here, at the end of the run.


At the Finish Line

“Congratulations on another successful run,” the man at the finish line said, grinning as he shook Mac’s hand. “Your car’s looking a little full this year, Mac. Care to tell us about that?”

Mac grunted, looking back at the others in the back seat. Carrie seemed uncomfortable, but Larry and Nick at least smiled for him before he turned to face the man with the microphone. “Guess you’re looking at family.”

“Family?”
Mac pointed to Carson and Mackenna. “You remember my granddaughter. That’s her future husband. Those are his brothers in the back. Family.”

Carson stiffened, not liking this very much. Why had Mac said that? He swore the man didn’t like him, so why would he do that? Why bother? It wasn’t happening. Shouldn’t they all know that by now?

“Well, that’s exciting news. When’s the wedding?”

“Never,” Carson muttered, and Mackenna elbowed him. He sighed. He thought they’d been over this already, but now he was going to seem like a jerk in front of everyone because he didn’t want to do it. He didn’t understand. They knew he was a killer. Why would they be pushing this idea? It was ridiculous.

“They haven’t set a date yet,” Mac said, giving Carson a warning look. He slumped down, not sure how he could fix this. This marriage idea was the worst possible thing right now. He’d killed his father. He shouldn’t get married. He couldn’t get married.

The man with the microphone grinned. “Well, we’re glad to hear the good news. Let us know when they do.”
Mac nodded, putting the car in gear again and driving forward into the lot. He parked the Maxwell in one of the open spaces, letting the engine die. Carson bumped Mackenna as he climbed out, needing to get away from all of this—all of them.

“Carson?”

“I need air.”

“We’ll go get us some turkey legs,” Larry said, exchanging a look with Nick. Carrie grimaced, but she didn’t object. “Come on, Mac, let us treat you. Least we can do after all you’ve done for us.”

Mac gave them a slight smile. He turned to Mackenna, giving her a pointed look, but she waved him off. He grunted, walking away with the others toward the building. Mackenna watched them for a moment before touching Carson’s arm.

“You okay?”

“Not really. I know that I—that we—we’re in this awkward state because of how we feel and what we’ve started, but… I can’t marry you. I just can’t.”

“Carson—”

“No. I can’t do this. I like you a lot. Maybe even love you, but no. I don’t… You can’t—shouldn’t—want someone who killed his father—”

“You know I don’t believe you really did that.”

“I did.”

She shook her head. “No. When the rest of your memory comes back, you’ll know you didn’t do it. You’ll understand why you thought you did, but you didn’t. Stop trying to force me to believe something I know isn’t true. You didn’t do it. I know that. I know you.”

“Mackenna—”

“Marriage, huh?”

Mackenna winced as she turned around to face Nate. Carson shook his head. They didn’t need this, either. “It’s complicated, Nate, and a few people have jumped the gun on that just a little. We’re still figuring things out right now.”

“Uh huh.”

Carson figured Mackenna would have her hands full dealing with her “friend,” and he took advantage of the opportunity to slip away, not wanting to hear any of it. He just needed some space. He didn’t want to think about marriage, didn’t need the pressure of everyone’s expectations. They hadn’t even started dating yet, not really, and with his past… The whole thing was just a bad idea, and he should never have kissed her. He had ruined everything.

He walked out of the lot and over to the cars parked on the grass. This run did seem to bring out all the other collectable cars, with everything from a thirty-eight Ford to something called a Nash that he’d never heard of before, either.

“Koslow.”

Carson jerked, looking up from the Nash’s trunk. He figured that Mackenna and Nate could have caught up to him by now, but the man standing there was not the nosy would-be shrink. Carson swallowed, feeling sick.

“Damn. You do look a lot like your father. Almost thought you were his ghost there for a second.”

“I… How did you know my father?”

“Oh, come on. I know you remember,” the man said, stepping closer. Sunlight reflected off the bit of metal in his hand, and Carson realized he had a gun. “Tell me where the money is, kid, and maybe I’ll let you live. Again.”

Author’s Note: As much as I keep saying that I should help out with the driving on the run, I have trouble stopping at stop signs and lights, and I do not like driving in the Twin Cities in a regular car. In an antique… Well, it’s kind of neat to ride in one, but I don’t know that I’ll get brave enough to drive one in the cities. Ever. 🙁


Over the River and into the City

“We’re crossing the Mississippi now,” Mackenna said, trying to draw Carson’s attention away from his thoughts and back with her. She wouldn’t have thought it was that hard—she was sitting almost completely on top of him thanks to her “brilliant” idea of sharing the front seat with him. They didn’t have a lot of space, but she figured that they could all be there for the finish line and she wanted to stay close to him, so this was the best way of having both in her opinion.

Not so much in his, at least not that she could see. He’d been distant ever since they left Crystal.

“This is great,” Larry said, sounding like a big kid. Mackenna smiled at him, wishing that she could get that same kind of enthusiasm from Carson. His brothers had pushed too far when everyone started in on the wedding talk, and she’d made the mistake of going along with it. She should have known he wouldn’t be okay with it, not even in teasing. She had to get him past this idea that he’d killed his father. None of them believed that he had done it, and even if he had, he didn’t do it without a reason. She knew that. He wasn’t that sort. He didn’t like hurting anyone. Why was it so easy for him to think that he’d killed his father?

“You don’t think that it’s great?” Larry asked, shaking his brother’s shoulder after the silence from Carson. Mackenna got bumped, trying not to hit her grandfather, knowing he was already annoyed by her crowding in on him. When she’d suggested letting all the others take the back, Mac had looked at her like he thought she was nuts, but that was not that unusual. He’d let her have her way, like always.

He wouldn’t agree to this again. This was the hardest part of the trip, the end of a long day and in the middle of the Twin Cities. She shouldn’t be distracting him.

“Larry, please, let’s just… You enjoy it, but don’t try and force me to do it. I’m not… I’m here, but don’t expect crazy enthusiasm from me. I’m not really up to that right now.”

“You didn’t have another flashback, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. I haven’t gotten anything else back. I’m just tired, overwhelmed, and even a bit smothered at the moment.”

“I do not weigh that much.”

“Next time we won’t all be in the car. This is just because it’s the first time any of us have come along,” Nick said. “I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be along next year anyway. Someone’s had about as much of us as he can stand—and I don’t mean Carson.”

Mackenna rolled her eyes. “Even if Mac seems a bit gruff, next year it won’t be an issue. We can bring a second car to have plenty of space for everyone.”

“Phantom only has two seats.”

“True, but even then—”

“Mac won’t want us in the car with him, and you two will take the other, so we’re still out a ride.”

“I won’t get to keep Phantom anyway. Dad probably stole it, so I will have to give her back when we figure out where he got it,” Carson said, shaking his head. “Honestly, am I really the only one nervous about driving by these highways? That was the interstate back there, wasn’t it?”

“We’re not on it; we’re on the back roads and side streets,” Mackenna said, putting a hand on his cheek.

He frowned at her, and she smiled back. “Look, that hill back there was the worst of it. All the rest of this is pretty tame. We will be to the end very soon, and then we can wander around the fair a bit. Larry, Nick, and Mac can have their turkey legs, and Carrie can go shopping in the booths if she wants.”

“I’m surprised that you didn’t offer to take him back to the hotel,” Larry said, and Mackenna frowned as she turned back to him. He held up his hands. “Not like that. I am not saying you two are going off to… um…”

“Damn, that’s something I don’t want to think about my baby brother doing.”

Carson rolled his eyes. “Like I haven’t had to see you do that in the past. When you and Carrie first got married, nowhere was safe.”

“And Larry—”

“No discussion of Lynda. Ever.”

“We need to stay around for the driver’s meeting, which they wait to have until as many of the drivers in as possible, so probably about six thirty. You three can take off a bit earlier. We’ll be at the same hotel tonight, and we can possibly go for dinner or drinks or something after the meeting if everyone isn’t asleep before then.”

Larry nodded. “Sounds good.”

Nick leaned forward. “Are you two going to kiss when we get to the finish line?”

Carson groaned and slumped down in his seat. Mackenna shrugged, snuggling in next to him. She didn’t care if they did, just so long as he stuck with her. That was all that mattered right now.

Author’s Note: Mac’s complaint is a familiar one. We usually hit Crystal long after all the cookies are gone. Sometimes when the lemonade is, too.


Cookies and Assumptions

“You gave your cookie to Mac.”

Carson nodded. Even though the signs above the refreshments said they were for the car run, he had a feeling that they’d been swiped by people who were not part of the run at all. Maybe even Nick, since he and Carrie had been here when Mackenna drove in. Then again, his brother was a passenger part of the time, so he could be allowed a cookie and some of the lemonade.

Really, though, they should have had bigger vats for the drinks and more goodies like the earlier stops had if they wanted to be sure that the drivers got some. Mac had been disappointed to see the box was empty, and Carson had passed him the cookie Carrie’d given him. He didn’t much care if he had a cookie or not.

“Thank you,” Mackenna said before she kissing his cheek. “That was sweet of you, and you have no idea how much that means to Mac. He’s always missing out on the cookies.”

“I wasn’t hungry.”

She put a hand on his cheek. “If I could, I would shake those memories right back into your head, make it so that you had them all and so that you knew for sure that you didn’t do it. I know you didn’t. Your brothers know you didn’t. You’re the only one that thinks you did.”

“I think I love you.”

“I think you do, too.”

He frowned. “That’s not a joke. I didn’t actually intend to say that. It’s not like I should feel this way about anyone, and not now, not when I might be a killer. It’s not like this is good timing or I even know that I feel the way I think I feel. I am so messed up right now, and I hate the confusion and the guilt and the rest of it. I may have put too much on you because you’re one of few things that seems clear, even when this thing is complicated as hell.”

“All right, make it simple. You want to kiss me?”

“Are you suggesting that every time I have any kind of doubts, I just kiss you and forget about them?”

“It would work, wouldn’t it?”

“For a little while. Not forever.” He leaned his head against hers. “It would be nice if I could just forget everything else and be with you, but we both know life doesn’t work that way. We can’t avoid our problems. I mean, most of mine are in my head, so where am I going to go to run away from that?”

She wrapped her arms around him. “You don’t have to run anywhere. You’ve got me. We’re going to get you remembering things, and after you have your memories back… Well, then we’ll fix Phantom, I guess, assuming that we don’t have to give her up because of how your father got her, and we can live on the farm… You can get a new job that you don’t hate—or at least don’t hate as much—and we’ll just… be us, I suppose. That sound good to you?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re just leaving out having the period wedding.”

“Damn it, Larry. No one asked you,” Carson said, trying not to groan. How much of that had his brothers heard, anyway? He didn’t want to know, not really. All that would do was humiliate him, and he thought he’d had enough of that already.

“It sounds like a good idea to me,” Carrie said, leaning against her husband. Nick smiled, nodding. Great. Carson was outnumbered, and if they didn’t elope, it would be a period wedding, the kind of horror that only his brothers could create. Them as wedding planners… Now that was a nightmare.

“I’d have to make a new dress.”

“Mackenna, do not give in to them. Please.”

“You could help me pick what to make.”

“I don’t actually remember either of us asking that question. Not officially. We never said we were doing that.”

“Someone’s got cold feet.”

“Larry, don’t make me kill you, too,” Carson snapped, walking away from all of them. He didn’t want to joke about it. It wasn’t funny, and while he did want to hold onto Mackenna and the hope that he hadn’t done anything to his father, he didn’t believe that. He couldn’t think about marriage right now. She’d been distracting him, and it worked, but Larry had gone and ruined all of that, and Carson just needed to get away from them.

“Carson—”

“I need a minute alone.”

“Only a minute,” Mackenna said, biting her lip. “You take any longer than that, and I’ll get worried. Don’t make me worry, okay? I don’t want anything to happen to you. Don’t even worry about the whole wedding thing. That—It’s not important right now. You staying safe. That is. That’s what matters. So you come back, all right?”

“All right.”

More Leaps of Logic

Author’s Note: Mackenna is still very good with theories. Of course, this time Larry and Mac help.


More Leaps of Logic

“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.

“Prison.”

“What?”

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?”

“No.”

“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.”

Author’s Note: So Carson is a bit paranoid. He’s also a leg guy. Go figure.


A Few Minor Repairs

Carson would have been relieved not to feel like someone was watching him—since that seemed to have happened every time that he was out in a crowd—if he didn’t think that they were all watching Mackenna instead. He knew he kept staring, and he didn’t think he was the only one who was. How could they not? Everyone could see her legs out from underneath the car, and they were a much finer set of legs than he’d realized when she wore pants.

Trouble was, she wasn’t wearing pants right now. He’d thought that her fixing the car in a dress would be something to see, but now he wished she’d stopped to change into her overalls. She hadn’t been joking about protecting her dignity. He didn’t think he’d managed it, not when there were so many people around. He could try and block their view, but he wasn’t enough. He didn’t even manage to cover her with his shadow.

It didn’t help that he kept looking at her legs.

He was pretty damn jealous, too. He should have known that he would be after the way he’d reacted to Larry flirting with her, but it was at least ten times worse knowing that everyone was getting such a good look at her legs.

He knew why she had to take off the longer part of her skirt—at least, he did intellectually; she needed to be able to crawl under and move around underneath the car—but he wished she hadn’t done it. He wanted her legs covered so they’d stop distracting him and anyone else that might walk by.

“Are you almost done?”

“This is sensitive work, you know. You could try and be more patient.”

“There’s patient, and there’s I’m going insane because your legs are very visible underneath there and it’s driving me crazy in more ways than one.”

She laughed. “I didn’t know you were a leg man.”

“Frankly, I didn’t know I was, either, not until you did this. Then again… Everything seems to be changing now that you’re in my life. That sounds so corny, but I’m getting my memories back, I’m joining clubs and driving historic cars, and then there’s… us. That’s got to be the biggest change.”

“I would imagine it would be.”

He knelt down next to her. “You’re done, aren’t you? Now you’re just milking this. You heard me start babbling like an idiot, and you decided to let me go on like an even bigger moron. Admit it.”

She crawled out, a smirk on her face. “You do know me well.”

“I’d hope so since you’ve been hinting around about marriage.”

She frowned. “I never said—well, I did, but you don’t need to act like I suddenly turned into one of those clingy, commitment demanding girls that no man wants to date. I was just—I wanted you to know I wasn’t leaving you. That’s all.”

“So now, if I did ask, you’d say no?”

“I didn’t say that, either.”

He forced a smile. He still wasn’t asking, not until he was sure that he hadn’t killed his father, but if the idea of someone else looking at her legs bothered him this much, he didn’t think he’d have much choice. No one else was going to be touching them. “Ready to get up?”

“Yeah,” she said, accepting his hand and pulling herself up to her feet. She started dusting herself off, and his eyes went right to that torturous hemline of hers.

“I swear, I have to be drooling, and I know I wasn’t the only one,” he told her, and she laughed.

“I know, not the most ladylike look ever, and if not for what I had to do under the car, you’d never be seeing me in such a scandalous way,” she said, continuing to dust off the shorter part of her skirt as she walked around to the back of the car, taking the longer skirt off the side. She slipped it on again, putting herself back in order. The legs were covered. He should be relieved. “You gonna kiss me now or what? I honestly didn’t think I’d manage to get away without one, not with the way you were drooling.”

He rolled his eyes, about to catch her against the car and make her regret egging him on, but then he felt it again. He stopped, turning around, frowning as he tried to find the source of that damned feeling. He didn’t understand—had she just distracted him that well, so much so that he didn’t even notice it before, or was he really going crazy? Why had that feeling come back the moment he was going to kiss her? He’d blame it on a fear of intimacy, but he had been able to kiss her without the paranoia doing this to him, so it wasn’t that. Or not just that. Something else was going on.

“Carson?”

“I’m sorry. I feel like someone’s watching me again.”

She cursed. “Come on. We’ll go get the others and get back on the road.”