Author’s Note: And here we have the appearance of the other new character. He’s kind of essential to this mystery, but he’s also fun to write and see interacting with the others.
She smiled, reaching up to touch his cheek. The sound of a car driving over the gravel made them turn, though she had to admit it made her uneasy. She had expected the Airstream. This was very much not an Airstream, though she could appreciate it for what it was.
After all, it wasn’t like a Pontiac Catalina was something to sniff at, not from the sound of that V8 engine. She thought it was a sixty-four, and damned if the convertible didn’t make her drool a little. Now she was jealous, but for an entirely different reason.
The car stopped short of them, and a man got out, frowning as he did. His dark jacket caught the breeze, and he looked almost like he belonged in an advertisement for a Bond movie or something, he just had that air of don’t mess with me, from the clothes to the sunglasses hiding his eyes and his glower. She didn’t recognize him, and someone with a car like that would be known to most car club members, at least around here.
“Oh, hell,” Carson said, and she frowned as she turned to him. He knew this guy? This… had nothing to do with his bad job interview, right?
“Is Mrs. Brendt here?”
Mackenna nodded. “She is. Somewhere. She wandered off to make a phone call, and I haven’t seen her for a bit. Can I help you?”
He shook his head. “Unlikely.”
“You so haven’t changed, have you?” Carson asked, and the man looked over at him. “I… Okay, maybe your glare is even more intimidating than it was in high school. You haven’t lost that, that’s for sure. Still the same you idiots are not worth my time look you used to give all us farm boys.”
“Am I supposed to know you?”
“Unless I’ve mistaken you for someone else and you’re not Sennet Landry, but you were kind of hard to forget. Maybe I am, though. Of course, you were actually in Nick’s grade, I think, but you were kind of memorable. A genius lost in a bunch of hicks… you hated it there, and we all knew it. Um… That is… Hi. I’m Carson Koslow. This is my wife, Mackenna. You’re on her family’s land.”
Carson held out his hand, but the other man made no move to shake it.
“Koslow. The one who had the cadaver dogs. Yes. That should have been more memorable.”
Mackenna blinked. Wow. This guy was something. Everything Smith had implied and a bit more. She hadn’t expected Carson to know him, but that just made it worse, didn’t it?
“Sennie, there you are!” Dorie called out as she came back into sight, rushing over with Smith having stopped as soon as she got near. “Oh, I knew today was a good day to call.”
Dorie seemed to ignore that, though it wasn’t the only thing she was ignoring. Mackenna could tell her face was red and puffy, like she’d been crying, which would explain why the other two women had disappeared for as long as they had.
She clapped her hands together, still keeping up her excited act. “We really do need your expertise, Sennie, as usual.”
“How many times must I ask you not to call me that, Mrs. Brendt?”
“At least as many times as I have to ask you not to call me ‘Mrs. Brendt.’ I’ve told you it’s Dorie. Or Dorinda if you must be formal. And I swear, if I never hear the name Brendt again, it will be too soon. Stupid cradle robbing bastard. I… Where did I put that box now? Oh, goodness. I think I left it over in the field. Excuse me.”
“Wait, isn’t this it?” Carson asked, reaching for what Smith was holding. She pulled it back out of reach, and he frowned at her. “It is, so why is—”
“Her ex-husband’s new girlfriend is pregnant, so he’s trying to get out of paying Dorie alimony. She… didn’t take that news very well, and I wouldn’t say anything except… well, she is acting weird, so I… Some explanation was necessary.” Smith took a breath and walked over to the Catalina. “Here. This is what she thinks we need your help with, though I don’t think we actually do.”
He took it, holding it up and turning it around in his hand. “I can see why you have your doubts. This seems like an ordinary trinket box to me. I’d estimate it’s at least fifty years old, but beyond that, why is it of any interest?”
“We found it in a car no one can explain. Or, rather… Mackenna and her husband did. Dorie brought the car here to assess for restoration while I’m still trying to track down who owned it. And you know Dorie. She gets excited about any small find. It really didn’t need you.”
“Likely not,” he agreed. “Still, I can run the usual tests.”
“You’re not going to open it?” Mackenna asked, and he turned to her. She found that look unsettling, especially with the glasses. “Okay, so we were all kind of curious about it. I think it may even have been hidden in the door panel before the soft part was eaten away by mice, which does make it more interesting than you think. If we weren’t afraid we’d damage whatever was in there when we opened it, we would probably have already done it.”
“Dorie did say you might want samples from where they found it.”
He nodded. “That would be best, and any further assessment of the vehicle would contaminate any findings, so it would be better to get them now if it proves necessary. Here, Strawberry. Hold this.”
Smith flushed as red as the name he just gave her, looking like she wanted to curl up and die on the spot. He didn’t even see it as he went around to his trunk and opened it up, taking out a metal case that looked almost like a tacklebox.
He carried it over to the front of his car. “Which door?”