Chapter 3

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The next morning, Art started digging into the life of Natalya Henson. Using public records databases, the sex offender registry, and consumer insurance history files along with the standard social media platforms, he was able to build a profile of the woman.

None of those sources indicated she had a criminal record. No history of child abuse. It torpedoed his notion of painting her as being cruel to her son. Of course, as his experience taught him, not every crime was reported, and child abuse could be hidden under clothing.

He was able to trace her residence history. She had lived in a large house in an upscale neighborhood until a year ago when she had moved into an apartment in a sketchy part of Harrisburg. Why? He also found her date-of-birth and worked out her age to be fifty-five. He again wondered about the boy whom he guessed was around five or six. How could she have a child at such a late age?

He checked himself. What did that matter? She was nothing to him.

From a simple Google search, Art learned how two years ago Mrs. Henson's husband died in a freak accident. He had been a passenger on a bus that for an unknown reason plummeted over an embankment, crashed, and caught fire. Everyone on board including the driver perished.

"Tough way to leave this world," he mumbled. Could that be why she gave up her beautiful home? Was she having financial problems?

He remembered her wearing a wedding band and an engagement ring in the supermarket. She hadn't taken off those symbols of her marriage which led him to believe she still grieved.

A sudden pang of sympathy for her flooded Art. He knew all about grieving. He didn't want to ponder that subject and pushed all thoughts of Ellen back into the darkest recesses of his mind.

Mrs. Henson had a Facebook page, but all posts stopped after the death of her husband. It reminded Art of someone withdrawing into herself, cutting all ties to the outside world. He had been there. Losing Ellen had motivated him to divorce himself from humankind, his world shrinking down to the walls of his house.

He got better, but it had been a long, painful process. He would never get over the loss. And his guilt.

Art checked his watch, almost lunchtime. He looked out the window. Scattered puffy clouds drifted against the backdrop of a robin egg blue sky. The top branches of the pine tree in his backyard swayed in a gentle breeze. The thermometer on his porch read seventy-two degrees. A perfect spring day in central Pennsylvania.

On impulse, he decided to abandon his research into Natalya Henson. The day was too perfect to pass up. He would surprise his daughter by visiting her. She had been so distraught over the loss of her unborn baby. Today, being her birthday, he hoped a visit would help in some small way to cheer her up.

Art grabbed his wallet and keys from the dresser and headed for his garage. He owned two vehicles. He passed by the four-door sedan he puttered around in and chose instead his pride and joy, a brand new Ford Mustang. He smiled as he ran his hand over the bright red fender and took a moment to admire the car's sleek body. All his life he had wanted a sports car, but his work as a PI demanded he drive drab, nondescript sedans. It wouldn't do to perform undercover surveillance in a flashy car bound to draw attention. Done with that life, he could now realize one of his dreams. He loved his Mustang.

Settling in behind the wheel, he powered up the powerful engine, relishing the burbling sound made by the custom exhaust. Depressing the clutch, he moved the shift lever into reverse and backed from the garage. On the driveway, Art stopped and powered down the convertible top. The sun's delicious warmth refreshed his face. The view of the distant mountain appeared crystal clear, unencumbered of humidity. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Lilacs in full bloom scented the air with their sweet fragrance reminding him of Ellen. Lilacs had been her favorite flower.

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