Chapter 2

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Art sat at his breakfast bar and finished his egg sandwich, wiping his fingers on a paper napkin. Hauled away by the police the previous evening hadn't given him a chance to complete his yogurt purchase. His son, Steven, sat across from him, studying him as if he were some exotic bird. Steven had his mother's blue eyes. God, how he missed Ellen.

"You don't have to look at me with such intensity," Art said. "I'm not loony."

Steven raised an eyebrow. "Says a sixty-eight-year-old man who gets into fights at the supermarket."

"It was not a fight."

"With a woman no less."

"A woman who acted out of control in punishing her defenseless child."

Steven drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "You could've handled the situation better, Dad. You could've tried talking her down instead of assaulting her."

"I did not assault her. I just grabbed her arm."

"That constitutes assault and unlawful restraint."

"Hells bells, what's this world coming to? The woman should've felt guilty over having marked her child's face. At the very least, embarrassed. Fifty years ago, she would've apologized, and everyone would've went on their merry way. Case closed. The incident would have been over. No such luck in this day and age where everyone becomes offended at the slightest minor provocation and loath to assume personal responsibility."

Steven leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. "Get off your soapbox, Dad. You need to get serious. You could go to jail."

Art wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the notion. He realized, though, his son was right. These were different times, and he considered himself fortunate Steven talked the district magistrate into releasing him with no bail at the preliminary arraignment. He sighed. "Okay, Steven, your mother and I paid a lot of money to put you through law school. What do I need to do?"

"I waived your preliminary hearing. That'll speed things along. Before your formal arraignment, I'll try to make a deal with the district attorney to see if I can reduce the charges to a summary offense. I'm hoping to get you off with probation or community service. Then we need to hope the woman doesn't sue you in civil court."

Art didn't want things to move too fast. "Hold on. Don't cut any deals just yet. I may be retired, but I haven't forgotten my trade. Give me a few days to check into this Natalya Henson person." He had learned her name from the preliminary arraignment. "My detective's instinct tells me she may have a history of abuse. If I can prove that, I'll plead not guilty."

Steven cut him off. "Don't. If you harass the woman, it'll make your situation worse. Don't go anywhere near her. Do not interview her neighbors or coworkers or do anything that might get back to her."

"Give me some credit. I may be old, but I'm not stupid. I'll limit myself to just online research. I maintained my database subscriptions."

Steven listened with pursed lips before speaking. "I know you, Dad. If you find a thread to pull on, you're going to pull it. It's not in your nature to limit yourself to just online research."

His son knew him too well. "Look, I'll compromise. If I find any so-called threads. I won't act on anything until I consult with you first."

"I still don't like it, but I'm not going to be able to stop you, am I?"

True. He was going to investigate Natalya Henson regardless of what his son advised. Sensing they had reached an impasse, Art decided to change the subject. "How long has it been since you spoke with your sister?"

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