Author’s Note: I didn’t really feel like I should post anything today, but I figure I probably owe people the end of the story. So, here it is. The end.

Well, I did leave it so that I could write a sequel. I even started that. I just don’t know if I’ll ever finish it.

An End that Is a Beginning of Sorts

“You are a celebrity now,” Larry said, passing Mackenna the newspaper, and she grimaced, shoving it under her plate. She was tired of seeing herself hailed as some kind of hero. Her plan had been stupid, and it had almost cost Carson his life, but all anyone wanted to hear was how the “strong” woman had “saved” her man and taken down a bad guy that the police and feds had been hunting for thirty years. She was now some kind of urban legend of her own—a female mechanic turned Wonder Woman and doing it in period dress so that made her something out of a steampunk comic, did it? She was now her own myth, at least in a few of the local papers. She wanted it to all die down and be forgotten. She didn’t like all the fuss or the exaggeration. She didn’t deserve it.

“I’m actually glad that it’s not me,” Carson said, grunting as he reached for his fork. His side was bothering him again, but any time one of them suggested he take a pain pill, he got annoyed and refused. He was way too stubborn sometimes. “I don’t want the attention. It’ll be bad enough when they start the trial.”

Nick gave him a look of pity. “Maybe he’ll confess, and you won’t have to deal with it.”

Carson snorted. “He’s going to try and pin Dad’s death on me again, and if he does it this time, he really will get away with it.”

“He won’t.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mackenna.”

She shook her head. “We’ll find some way of making sure he gets what’s coming to him. What he did to your father, to you, to your whole family… He deserves to pay for that. It’s not like he didn’t hurt others, either. Between the robbery and your dad, he should end up behind bars for the rest of his life. That is, if budget cuts don’t get in the way.”


She shrugged. “So I’m never going to be Miss Optimist. It’s not who I am. Who cares?”

“None of us,” Larry told her with a grin. “We’re glad to have you joining the family just the way you are.”

“Larry, the wedding talk is still forbidden,” Carrie told him, and Mackenna thought Carson was doing his best to pretend he hadn’t heard either of them. “Leave it alone.”

“Why should I? His big objection was because he thought he killed Dad, and now he knows what we all did—that he didn’t. He was used by the guy to confuse the issue, but he didn’t kill Dad. Dad wasn’t a monster. Now we have the truth. We should celebrate. Carson no longer has to be stuck in the past because he can’t remember. He does. He can move on. Right next to him is his reason to move on.”

Mackenna felt herself blushing. Carson groaned. “If we get married, I’m going to make sure we elope so that none of you are there. I swear.”

She laughed, leaning over to kiss his cheek. “If we can survive a killer, we can survive a wedding, if and when we have it.”

“I guess.”

“I love you,” she told him. He frowned, blinking at her, and she nodded. “I know. I never officially said it before, but I think it got forced into perspective when the guy had you at gunpoint and I had to do something because I couldn’t lose you. I kind of figured I’d gotten broken enough not to trust enough to love anyone, but then you snuck in there, and it happened when I didn’t mean for it to, so… yeah. I love you.”

“See? Now you have to marry her.”

“Go to hell, Larry.”


From the way the boys looked at Carrie, she was the one who usually made the comments like that, but this time it had come from Mac, and the rest of them were too stunned to react right away. He grunted. “That’s better. Tell him about the car, Mackenna.”

“What about the car?”

“Oh, while you were in the hospital and the story was kind of a big deal… the guy we never managed to make time to talk to—the owner of the other Maxwell Messenger on the run—he told Mac about the guy he’d consulted about his car, and when Mac spoke to him, he found out that there was a bit of what the guy’s son called a ‘swindle’ when that car got sold to your father.”


“The son’s convinced it was worth a lot more than your father paid for it, and his father’s a bit too senile these days to remember properly, but he supposedly didn’t want the burden of overhauling Phantom, so he sold her to your dad for less than half what she was worth.”

“You’re kidding.”

Mackenna shook her head. “No. We’re not. She’s really yours, Carson. Well, I suppose you’d have to talk that over with your brothers because your grandfather technically didn’t have the right to will her to you when your father’s estate would have been split between the four of you—you three and your mother—but she’s not stolen. She didn’t get bought with money from the robbery. She’s yours to keep.”

“You mean she’s ours.”

“Yeah,” Mackenna said, smiling. Then she frowned. “Wait, is that a proposal?”


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.”

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.


“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.”


“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.”


“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.


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.

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.



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.”

Author’s Note: The boys really are too fun to mess with. Mackenna’s not the only one who thinks so.

Plenty of Sibling Rivalry

“Do you have any spare outfits? Maybe I can talk Carrie into dressing up.”

Mackenna frowned, looking back at Nick. She didn’t know what to think of him suggesting that. He’d been doing a bit of staring since she joined them back by the Legion, and Larry’d been worse, what with his asking for a kiss and all. She’d never gotten this much attention for her clothes before, at least no one had been quite as persistent as Carson’s brothers. Nick turning it into something he’d like to see his wife do was almost endearing, but Larry might be taking it too far.

She couldn’t help wondering why, of all of them, Carson had the least reaction to it. He spent the most time with her, was used to seeing her covered in grease and who knows what else, and her overalls were not the most flattering look ever, so why was it that he only managed to say it looked nice, and only the once? He didn’t stare, either. She might as well have been wearing her jeans and a t-shirt.

Not that she wore the dresses for attention. She did it to be a real part of the run, to give the whole thing a bit of added fun and authenticity—even if her outfits cheated a little.

“Nick, I know you love Carrie, but she’s nowhere near as thin as Mackenna is. She’d never fit in that corset thing that Mackenna’s got on now,” Larry said, and Nick shoved him. Carson gave both of them a look, shaking his head.

“Can you two just… drop it for the rest of the drive? Look at the water, wave to the people, and stop picking fights with each other,” Carson said, tugging on his sleeve. She winced. They’d forgotten the cufflinks. She’d have to remember to get them for him before the parade.

“You are such a mutant.”


“You and your watch the water crap. Who’d pay attention to the water when there’s better scenery in the front seat?”

“I already told her she looked nice. I don’t have to make her uncomfortable about it—which is what I’m sure you’re doing. Either you’re going to make Mac pull over and kick us all out, or I’m going to shove you out if you don’t stop, but leave it alone.”

Mackenna smiled, amused by the way Carson had come to her defense, as it were. “He’s got a point. If you fight too much, Mac will make you walk back. He did that to me and Nate once. Just stopped the car and told us to get out.”

“Nate? Who is this… Nate?”

“Oh, Larry, don’t be jealous. Nate’s nothing to me,” Mackenna said, pouring saccharine into her voice as she did. Carson laughed, and his brother shot him a dirty look. She giggled, and Mac gave her a look. She shrugged. The boys were almost too easy to mess with most of the time, and she had fun doing it. She couldn’t help it.

“It’s not like she said she had a boyfriend,” Nick reminded him. “If she had, she’d have said that back when we first assumed she was dating Carson.”

“So there’s hope.”

Mac grunted. Mackenna laughed. “Okay, really, this is a bit much. You don’t have to take it that far, Larry. I know I don’t look much like my usual self, but I’m not the world’s most beautiful woman all of a sudden.”

“You’re prettier than Lynda.”

“Shut up, Nick.”

“Why don’t you just ask him when he and Carrie are going to have kids?” Carson smiled at Nick’s horrified look, and Larry chuckled. Mackenna shook her head—since they’d picked on him by them all his life, Carson had learned a thing or two about manipulating both of them. That one was good. Too good. At least the focus was off of her and her dress for a while, but she had a feeling that these little fights between the brothers had only just begun.

It could end up being a very long weekend, and there might just be blood by the end of it.

Author’s Note: Touching a bit more on why Mackenna is the way she is… and just enjoying a moment with her and her grandfather.

Mac and Mackenna Have a Moment

“We’re going to have a full car.”

“Is that a problem? I figured a bit of extra company might be nice,” Mackenna said, braiding up her hair. With the driver’s brunch starting at ten, she had time to dress up for a change, and she was going to do it today. She felt a bit self-conscious doing it in front of all of Carson’s family, but she didn’t want to let the boys intimidate her. That wasn’t how it worked. She had to intimidate them.

Mac leaned against the doorway. “You gonna be as close to the rest of his family as you are to him? Is that it?”

She frowned. “Are you trying to tell me who I should be friends with now?”

He shook his head. “No. Just trying to see where you stand.”

She sighed. “Is another one of those—”

“You have to decide if he’s a project or not. If this is about fixing him or the car, that’s one thing. If it’s not… You need to be sure you make it clear. If it’s what you want, then you need to say so.”

“So you think I don’t know what I want?” She shook her head. She didn’t know that she’d say that. She knew enough about Carson to know she wanted to keep him around, and that was all she needed to know. Everyone else seemed to have a problem with that, but she was not in the mood to argue about it. She was still a bit hungover, and when she thought about how much she’d drank, all she could do was wince. She didn’t want to drink that much. Ever. That put her in a bad place that she had told herself she wouldn’t go. “I do. I think Carson should move in with us. At least until he has another job. We’re going to fix the car and then we’ll see.”

Mac nodded. He didn’t say anything, and she got the feeling that he didn’t approve, but she didn’t know what he expected her to say, either. “Is him staying with us a problem?”


“Then why are you looking at me like that?”

“You’ll have to get them to agree to a schedule on who rides when. There’s one too many with me around.”

She almost smiled. “It’s your car. That means you call the shots. Not us. We’re all along for the ride. Well, I help fix it and navigate, so I’m a bit more essential, but still, you know you’re the man in charge.”

Mac grunted. “I haven’t been the man in charge in years. Never was with you.”

That was true. She let out a breath, leaning over the sink. “You know I wish you were. It’s not that she didn’t try, I guess, but the things I saw, the things I did… The way her parents treated me… I suppose I was self-medicating when I decided to keep drinking, but what I did… That could have ruined me for life, and I just… If she couldn’t do it, if I was such a burden, why didn’t she just give me to you and Grandma instead?”

“Some people are stubborn.”

“True, but she had to know that it wasn’t working. That I was getting more and more screwed up, and I hate how when I close my eyes I can still hear the floorboards creak the way they did when that neighbor of ours was in our place. If I hadn’t been so good at hiding by then… Not that he needed to find me to terrify me. He did. Every time he looked at me…”

Mac touched her arm. “You are a long way from there, and whoever he is, he’s not here.”

She cursed, hating herself for talking about it again. That bastard had given her so many sleepless nights, forcing her to stay up trying to make sure nothing happened until the days stretched on too many times and she couldn’t tell what was up or down and swore he had gotten to her even if he hadn’t. She hated that part the most. She didn’t know if she’d made it real or if it was real, and every time she started to convince herself that it wasn’t, the doubts started in again.

“If you’re going to get your friend into a costume, you probably need to do it now. Likely won’t be time between now and the parade, not with the lake tour and the root beer floats.”

She nodded, wondering if Mac was just giving her an excuse to go bother Carson, since he seemed to help her in a way her grandfather had never quite learned to do as standoffish as he was. She didn’t really care. She wanted to see Carson.

Author’s Note: It’s amazing how many times having the same conversation can go completely wrong.

Saying the Wrong Thing Again

“Maybe for the next one, you should be Mac’s chauffeur. You can be Rochester.”

Mackenna laughed, and Carson smiled at her, but he had a feeling part of her job when she wasn’t fixing the cars was to be Mac’s navigator, helper, and even his relief. He should have time off to enjoy the drive, too, and having her here with Carson all the time was not going to make the older man like him. He had a feeling he was slipping lower and lower in Mac’s estimation, and the impression he made on their friends here wasn’t much better. He had to figure they all thought he was crazy at best and at worst…

He grimaced.

“What’s that look for?”

“I… It’s just that I feel like I’m taking you away from what you’re supposed to be doing here, and we haven’t managed to do anything with Phantom or tracking down who might have sold her to my father—if anyone did and he didn’t just… steal her or something—so I’m feeling a bit guilty.”

She shook her head. “Don’t. I’ve done most of what I need to, and this is only our third day here. I keep telling you that a lot of the drivers don’t even show up for the pretours. The ones you met at the car club won’t be down until this afternoon anyway. There’s still time to find someone who knows about Phantom, and she has been generating plenty of interest just by being here. Plus you got that memory back about your father and the toy Model T. That’s something.”

He nodded. It was, but he didn’t feel like it was much of anything. He knew he should, that he should be better about this, but he was not good at being optimistic. Mackenna somehow managed it with all her crazy theories and from what she’d said about her paranoia in the past… He didn’t see how she could. He didn’t understand that. She wasn’t lying, no, he didn’t think that, but she was a lot further in healing than he was—in some ways, but not in others.

“So while you were in the shower, I called your brothers.”

“You did what? How did you even get their numbers?”

She grinned. “I borrowed your phone. I know—they have even more of a wrong idea about us now—but I like telling people about the car runs and the things they can see, and maybe they’ll join us for a bit, but it can’t be that bad. Besides, Nick said his wife had the photo albums you wanted and that he’d bring them down if they decided to come.”

“I’m not sure that matters if Dad bought the car when I was a kid.”

“You’re not as upset as I thought you’d be.”

Carson shrugged. “Well, I guess it’s still possible that either of them was involved, but I don’t think that they were. If I was eight, then they were eleven and thirteen, and it’s not… not the same as it happening when I was in high school, when the dreams came up. That’s different. I mean… I still think that Grandpa must have covered it up for some reason or other, and I don’t know why, but that answer’s probably in my head, not anywhere else.”

She nodded. “Unfortunately, that’s true. Still, we have managed to prompt you a few times, haven’t we? The little Model T is something. Oh, on Saturday, you’ll see a lot of them. They always park their cars at Kingston. Maybe that will get you something.”

“I don’t know.”

“Would you like to be hypnotized? Or maybe you could talk to Nate. You know he’s studying to be a shrink.”

“Oh. Maybe that’s why I don’t like him much.”

She laughed. “It’s a part of why I don’t, that’s for sure. I don’t like being analyzed all the time. He felt that he had to call me on why most if not all of my friends are guys.”

“Your aunt.”

“Yeah. I think he would have pushed for all the gory details there, but I wouldn’t let him. He doesn’t need to know.”

“You told me.”

“I… A part of it, and I didn’t mean to, but yeah, I suppose I did,” she said, leaning her head against his shoulder. He frowned, not sure where this was coming from, but he wasn’t going to push her away. She’d been in such a hurry to finish the repairs he’d kept her from yesterday that she didn’t get much of a chance to do anything before this tour started, and he knew she’d wanted to do more than clean the grease off her hands. She should be all dressed up and enjoying herself, but she was babysitting him instead. “You didn’t get any new flashes last night, did you?”

“I fell asleep thinking about the puzzle.”

She grinned. “That’s what working on a car is like for me.”

“Bet you can’t wait to start on Phantom then.”

She frowned, looking down at her hands. “I’d like to, but at the same time, I don’t want to. It’s…”

“Too much work?”

“I’m not afraid of work. It’s not how much I’d have to do that’s bothering me. I can handle doing one from the ground up—I’ve been looking forward to doing a project like this for a while now, actually. It’s just that if I do it…”

“You’ll get attached and not be able to keep it? I thought I told you that I thought the car belonged with you and—”

“And you’ll go when I’m done with it, leaving it with me.”

“Well, it’s—”

“Don’t bother.” She sat back, shaking her head. He frowned, but before he could say anything, she had climbed up into the front seat with her grandfather, leaving Carson alone in the back, cursing himself for screwing that conversation up again.

Author’s Note: It’s kind of hard to balance the suspense and the fun of the antique car run and the relationship between Carson and Mackenna, and I’m sure I’m not doing it right, but they’re just so interesting to be around that every little moment between them wants to go in, and that probably distracts from the suspense of this being a mystery…

Not Quite Left Alone

“I think taking her up by the Legion would be better,” Mackenna said, studying Phantom with a gleam in her eye that worried Carson a little. He didn’t know for sure how to react to her right now. They seemed to have crossed some kind of line last night, and both of them knew it, but they didn’t want to acknowledge it, either. He wanted to say that was just her doing more to heal, and that was a good thing, not a bad one, but at the same time, he felt like something was off, and he couldn’t explain what that was.

“That’s where they park the cars that run,” Carson said, and she glared at him. He knew she couldn’t argue his point, though. Phantom only moved because they’d replaced the tires, and she did it with a bit of a lurch that was worrisome to him at least. He didn’t know what Mackenna thought of it, and he was trying to respect her opinion as an expert, but that did not seem like a good idea.

“Plenty of people will get a look at her here,” Mac said. “Gonna need to do work on the eight. Engine’s not right.”

Mackenna grimaced. “I thought it wasn’t when we were driving, but I wasn’t sure. You want me to take a look at her? We’ll stay here, you head up to the Legion and take a break. You had to do all that driving, and you deserve it.”

Mac gave her a look, and Carson knew he wasn’t alone in thinking she was up to something again. He would never want to try and guess what was on her mind, but he could tell that much. She had some kind of scheme in mind.

“You sure?”

“If you run into Natalie and the others, ask them if they want to do dinner at the Legion or at the diner. Oh, crap. I forgot the card. Do you want to get them one to thank them for letting us stay with them or should I do that after we’re done here?”

“We’ll see.”

She rolled her eyes, going over to Shadow and flipping open the brackets that kept the hood in place. After she did that, she lifted off one side and then set the piece on the ground near the wheel, giving the engine a long look. “Hmm.”

“It’s not going to explode, is it?”

She laughed, shaking her head at Carson’s suggestion. “No. It’s not. I think I know what’s wrong, but it might take me a while.”

“That’s fine. It’s not like we were planning on going anywhere,” he said, shrugging. They didn’t have any events to attend, and the idea was to stick close to Phantom and see what interest people had in her so that they could go from there. They didn’t have a great plan, but they did have one. Of course, a part of him figured she was trying to force him to keep her company while she worked, but he didn’t mind. He was more comfortable with her than he would be with anyone else, as nice as everyone he’d met had been.

She smiled at him. “Would you get the toolbox out of the trailer for me?”


“I’ll leave you to it,” Mac said, walking away, and Mackenna watched him go before letting out a breath of relief. Carson frowned at her, but she grinned when she turned to him.

“You have no idea what kind of an opportunity this is. Even after as many years as I’ve been coming to these things, everyone likes to assume that Mac’s the only one that does any of the work on the cars. I still get people thinking I can’t drive them and if I say that I work on them, they look at me like I’ve grown another head.”

“You want me to go, too, so that they don’t think I’m the one working on the car?”


Her quick refusal made him smile, and he swore he did see some red on her cheeks before she ducked underneath the hood. “I need an assistant, anyway.”

“Sure you do.”

“Where’s my toolbox? I seem to remember asking you for it a while ago.”

He rolled his eyes as he walked back toward the trailer, running a hand along Phantom’s fender and then her hood as he did. He didn’t think she’d ever be what Shadow was, but she’d look better someday. Maybe. He went up the ramp and picked up the toolbox with a wince. He was so not suited to this kind of work, and she’d mock him without mercy if she saw him struggling with it.

He felt eyes on him when he started down the ramp again, but when he glanced toward Mackenna’s direction, she was underneath the car, and so it couldn’t be her. He frowned, looking around. Plenty of people were driving by and a few of them were walking around, but none of them seemed to have any interest in him.

He tried to shake it off. He was just being paranoid, that was all. This place and situation made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t know what he’d find in his memories or someone else’s, so of course he was on edge. It didn’t have to be anything more than that.

Still, he couldn’t help looking around again as he walked back to Mackenna’s side, not wanting to be alone.

Author’s Note: Yes, actually, my grandfather does have a picture from the newspaper with Jack Benny standing in his 1911 Maxwell.

Costumes and Other Awkward Ideas

“Glad you bought the t-shirt?” Mackenna asked, leaning over to make sure that Carson could hear her, trying to keep her hair from going in her mouth as she spoke. The wind was mild today, but the open seat of the car made it seem ten times worse, and she should have braided it to keep it out of the way, but she’d been in such a rush that she’d forgotten.

Carson rolled his eyes. “I thought you were the navigator. What are you doing back here with me, making your grandfather act like a chauffeur?”

She laughed. “I’d almost go around calling him Rochester, but that would be wrong. Oh, wait, you don’t know that reference, either, do you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Jack Benny. On his show, he was notorious for being cheap, so he drove a Maxwell. Well, he didn’t. He had a chauffeur named Rochester who drove him around in it. Bob has a picture—Jack Benny sat in his 1911. It made the local newspaper.”


“I like your shirt.”

“You’re a bit obsessed with it, from what I can see.”

“No, that was a hint. Show me your socks,” she said, pointing to his feet. He laughed, shaking his head as he did, revealing them, and she had to grin. “Handlebar mustaches. Great. Almost… fitting.”

“Yeah. I’m saving the bow ties for the parade.”


“I thought so.”

She caught herself thinking thoughts she never wanted to think, so she forced her mind away from them, leaning forward to check the route. She wanted to make sure they were on track, but she also wanted to know how much longer they would be in the car. She couldn’t justify moving up to the front seat, and she wasn’t that big of a coward, either. She didn’t have to run from sitting next to Carson just because of that last exchange.

“You should have dressed up, though, if you were going to make Mac act like your chauffeur. We’re not fancy enough back here.”

She laughed, settling back against the seat. She fingered his shirt sleeve, tugging on it. She liked the look of this year’s design, but more than that, she also liked the way that it made him a part of things. “Does that mean that you’re going to dress up with me for the run? Or just the parade?”

He sighed. “You won’t let that go, will you?”

“No.” She let her head fall on his shoulder, intending to blame it on the wind if she had to. “I have been trying to talk Mac into doing it for years. So now you’re stuck with me doing it to you. I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry.”

“I know you’re not.”

“Can I bribe you into it or do I just have to keep wearing you down until you agree?”

“I… You have this look on your face right now that I’m not sure I trust, and so I guess maybe I should just say yes so that I don’t have to worry about what that look means.”

She nodded. Yeah, that had to be for the best because she’d make a real fool of herself if she pushed things any further than she was already. “You can try the outfits on later today, and if they don’t fit, you’ll get out of it.”

“Ooh, a way out. I hope I can use it,” he said. She shoved him. He laughed. “Does this mean that I get to see your outfits, too, or am I the only one that will be tortured?”

“Seeing me in my dress is a privilege.”

“I didn’t mean that was the torture. I want to see how you look. I just… don’t want to dress up myself. If that’s the trade-off, though, I’m willing to make it.”

“Are you now?”

He started to say something and stopped, hesitating. “Um… I have this feeling I should do something right now, something that will…”

“That will what?”

“Do you think that the people who are interested in Phantom are people we should trust or do you think they’d have some kind of… motive that we should be worried about?”

She frowned, knowing that wasn’t what he’d been about to say, but he’d asked an important question nevertheless. “When we get back from this run, we can see what kind of interest we get. If anyone gives you a vibe you don’t like, maybe we can get some more information on them. And we didn’t talk to the other Messenger owner that Bob told us about. So we’ll do all of that later.”


“That doesn’t mean you get out of trying on the costumes.”


Author’s Note: My grandpa has a ritual for driving down to New London, always stopping at the same restaurant. I didn’t have Mac do that, though.

Things You Never Win

“That was a long five and a half hours, wasn’t it?”

“Just a little. It would have been nicer if the Woodsman had an extended cab,” Carson said, rubbing at the back of his neck. He and Mackenna had traded out being in the middle of the truck—and she’d ended up there for much longer than he did—but it had still felt like a much longer drive than it had been because of the cramped quarters. Mac was one of those who tried to make the trip shorter by stopping as little as possible, and it might have helped in the overall duration of it, but it still felt like forever after the night he and Mackenna had spent on the couch.

“You’d rather have been in one of those crappy fold down chairs?”

“Maybe. I could have stretched out across the back, maybe, or you could have, rather than be stuck all cramped in one spot. I know I elbowed you at least twice, and then somehow you fell asleep on me toward the middle of it…”

She looked away, and he wondered if he’d seen her blush or not. He thought there was a bit of red, but she’d turned so fast he could have been wrong about it.

“Does it matter that you’re parked in this empty lot?”

“Oh, we could park up in the school’s lot, but this is closer to the registration, and we’re not the only one who settles in here. Both lots will fill up if there’s enough cars, and there’s been eighty registered in the past. When we get Phantom going, we’ll drive two cars. One for Mac, one for you.”

Carson winced. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I couldn’t drive either of the ones you have. I’d break something, and I am not wrecking a family legacy.”

“Don’t be silly, Carson. Phantom belongs to you. If you break her, we’ll fix her, and the same would go for the others, but you don’t have to worry about it driving yet. We’ll get you trained eventually.”
He nodded, but he had to admit, her talking like that bothered him. He didn’t know that he could stick around, as much as he needed her and liked being with her and feeling like he belonged, like he was a part of their family, but he knew Mac didn’t see him that way. He also knew that this was an expensive hobby that he couldn’t afford. He wouldn’t have the money they needed to repair Phantom in the first place.

He would look for a new job after this trip, and giving up his apartment would cut back on some of his expenses, but he still didn’t know how he’d be able to keep going now. His degree didn’t exactly make him in demand, and there were still a few lingering debts that he had yet to repay from college. He didn’t have the resources to be doing this, and he had his own mind to worry about as well.

“Carson? Something wrong?”

“No. I just… I was thinking. Nothing terrible, I promise. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life after this week.”

“I thought we were turning you into a car nut,” she said, reaching for his hand. “Come on. They’ll have this year’s t-shirt inside, and you need a name tag, too. We’ll get you all the ‘official’ things you need. Maybe even a ticket for the raffle. There’s been some really nice quilts in the past, but we never win, so don’t be surprised if you don’t.”

“I never win. I figure raffles are more like donating to a cause—or a rip off. I guess it depends on who’s running it and why. I’m not a gambler, though. I never try the lottery, never play bingo, never go to casinos…”

“I should tease you about that, but I don’t do any of those things, either. We’re still getting you the t-shirts. Ooh, I wonder if those ladies that make the quilts would make you some socks…”

He stared at her, and she laughed before she tugged on his hand, dragging him forward. He should have known better than to try and resist. He never won with her, either.