Chapter 1

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Art Presley possessed a life-long aversion to minding his own business. That particular character trait served him well back in the day when he had been a private detective. Sticking his nose into the affairs of others allowed him to uncover dark secrets, leading him to solve many tough cases for his clients. As a result, he enjoyed a long, lucrative, successful career.

At the age of sixty-eight and retired for six years, Art had mellowed and adopted a live and let live attitude. Abusive behavior, though, still triggered him. Despite his age, he wouldn't abide nastiness.

Walking through the refrigerated section of the supermarket, Art inspected the expiration date on a container of yogurt. He wasn't fond of the stuff but needed to change his diet. During his annual physical, the doctor told him he was in great shape for his age, but his cholesterol levels were inching higher. Other than a mild case of hypertension and a bothersome overactive bladder, he felt fit as a forty-year-old.

Instead of the usual bacon and egg sandwich on English muffin he almost always fixed himself for breakfast, he decided to make an effort to try eating healthier.

Satisfied the yogurt was fresh enough, he set the container into his shopping basket.

From the next aisle over, he heard a child erupt into a tantrum. He sighed. Young parents these days had no clue how to control their little ones. His two adult children, Jen and Steven, knew better than to act out when they had been kids. He and Ellen taught them discipline and respect from the time they could walk.

Rounding the corner into the cereal aisle, he spied the misbehaving child and a woman he assumed was the mother. The kid, a boy of about kindergarten age, had the facial features of a child with Down Syndrome. He screeched while reaching his little arm toward a box of sugary cereal his mother proceeded to return to the shelf.

"It's not good for you. Besides, it's too expensive. We can't afford it," she explained to the child.

The woman shouldn't bother with an explanation. She should just say no to the kid and move on. Art pulled a box of granola from the shelf with the intent of mixing in a few teaspoons of the cereal with his yogurt. He figured it would make the bland-tasting goo a little more palatable.

The shelf started shaking. What now, an earthquake?

Art turned and found the boy kicking the cereal display. He appeared angry over not getting his way.

"Hells bells," Art mumbled.

"Stop it," the kid's mother said, her voice raised. She grabbed the boy by the shoulder and knelt down to get at his eye level. "You're embarrassing me, Joey."

It took every ounce of Art's will power to stay out of it. Didn't this woman know you couldn't reason with a young child? Did she think the kid cared one wit he was embarrassing his mother? If it were his son, he would turn the boy over his knee and give him a quick smack on the behind. It wouldn't hurt the child but would serve to get his attention.

A few shoppers rolled their carts down the same aisle, smiling with sympathy at the woman but otherwise making an effort to ignore the confrontation.

By now, the disruptive boy was climbing up the shelves, reaching out for the cereal box his mother had just put back. She grabbed his arm and pulled the boy down from the shelf, using what Art thought was excessive force. The boy stumbled and fell.

"I said, no," she shouted.

The little boy began screaming.

Art shook his head and started to pass them by when the kid's mother snaked out an arm and slapped the child across the face.

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