Chapter 6

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Art took his seat again on the sofa beside the mysterious woman who had begged him to help her. Why did she insist her husband was alive when all indications pointed to him having been killed in the bus crash? He worried about her emotional state.

Wait. Why should he give a damn whether the woman was a mental case? She meant nothing to him. Worse, she was the reason he had been arrested. Yet, he couldn't deny feeling...what? Sympathy for her?

Why did he even entertain the notion of listening to whatever wild explanation she was going to spin? Was it because she opened herself up to him, trusted him enough to expose her vulnerabilities? That she was in a financial crisis? That with no shame, she had imposed upon him to come out of retirement and help her for free? Could it just be she had a pretty face and the firm body of a woman much younger than her fifty-five years?

He tested himself to figure it out.

If she wasn't so good-looking, would he still be here? That was possible. It was difficult for him to turn down any woman asking for his help, no matter her age or what she looked like.

If this were a man, would he still be here? He didn't think so.

If Ellen were still alive, would he still be here? No way.

What could he conclude from the self-analysis? Confusion threatened to make his head explode.

Before he could puzzle it out any further, Natalya said, "I should give you some background. Anya and Joey have different fathers. My first husband and I are divorced. We got married too young." She shrugged and provided no further explanation.

She went on. "I met Vince when I joined the Shippensburg University faculty as an associate professor of economics. He was chairperson of the department. Fraternization among staff was, of course, discouraged but when two people are attracted to each other..." She stopped talking and held both palms up, a gesture indicating she didn't have to explain further.

"When did you marry him?"

"Eight years ago. A few years later I became pregnant, a shocker to us both given my age. I was forty-eight at the time and gave birth at forty-nine. The doctors told me Joey was a miracle baby; because, at that age, a woman has less than a one-percent chance of getting pregnant and successfully carrying a child to term."

"Did you have the test to find out if your baby would have Down Syndrome?"

"Yes, we knew, but it didn't matter to me. I figured if I didn't miscarry, it would be like a sign to give the child a chance. I'm happy I didn't abort. Like I said earlier, Joey is a blessing."

Art's opinion of her rose a few notches. She had courage. He told her so.

"Don't get me wrong. It wasn't a walk in the park. I had a c-section, and I suffered from gestational diabetes, so now I need to be careful. I shouldn't have had that Frappuccino." She grimaced. "Anyway, I don't want to go through it again. Well, it can't happen now."

He wondered why. Did she have her tubes tied? Did she go through the change between now and then? He scrubbed a hand across his cheek. Why should he care?

She went on. "As I told you, when Vince went missing, with Joey being a special needs child, I had to quit my job to take care of him, and that's why I'm in such a financial mess."

Art wanted to move things along. He looked at the TV screen. "You said you had a video?"

Natalya's long, slender fingers danced across the laptop's keyboard. The video started, an urban street scene showing a crowd of people appearing agitated.

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