Chapter 8

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The FBI special agent in charge of the bus crash incident was Gil Paterson. Natalya had given Art the man's business card along with a reminder the agent didn't want to hear from her again. Taking that into consideration, Art knew he had to be brief and to the point with his phone call.

The man answered on the first ring. "Patterson here."

Art introduced himself. "I'm working for Mrs. Natalya Henson concerning her husband."

"He's dead," Paterson said in a businesslike tone.

Art knew the approach he would use with the agent. When trying to pry information from someone, antagonism never worked. He would convince Paterson he was on his side. "I know. I also know she's been pressing you with the video of the man from the riots in Baltimore. The guy in the video may look like her husband, birthmark and all, but it's far from conclusive."

"That's what I told her, yet she persists in hounding me and has even gone over my head to my boss. She's a nutcase."

Art felt an overwhelming desire to defend her but kept his cool. "As a PI, I have to remain objective. For example, when a husband cheats on his wife I have to deliver the proof, even if it's not what the wife wants to find out. Same goes for Mrs. Henson. She doesn't want to believe her husband is dead, but if I can prove it to her, she'll find closure and stop bugging you."

"Good luck with that."

"There's one thing I'd like to know. You might be able to help me out."

"Shoot."

"Were you able to ID with certainty all the victims of the bus crash."

A pause at the other end of the line. "Not all of them. The explosion and fire consumed everything and everyone on that bus. Local authorities were able to locate some personal effects among the charred debris such as IDs and luggage tags. The number of skeletal remains matched the passenger manifest."

"Twenty-two souls plus the driver," Art said, just to hear the man confirm what he already knew.

"That's right. Twenty-two."

"Were you able to confirm identities using DNA or dental records?"

"Negative. Relatives of the deceased pressed for that, but testing is time-consuming and expensive. Twenty-two boarded the bus and twenty-two remains were found. We have no reason to suspect anything weird occurred like body switching or any other conspiracy, so it's pretty cut and dry as to the identity of the victims based on the manifest." Agent Paterson paused. "Look, I already told all of this to Mrs. Henson. I suppose she already relayed this same information to you?"

"Yes, she did. I'm just verifying what she said."

With his questions answered and information confirmed, Art ended the call. He had another person in mind to contact, a colleague whom he had worked with during his time with the Harrisburg police department. She had moved on to a higher-paying job with the Baltimore PD. Big problem, though, he hadn't seen the lady in twenty years. How could he find her, and would she remember him?

Art pulled up the webpage for the Baltimore City Police and dialed the main number listed there. He cursed when an automated answering system picked up. The complicated maze of choices that often led into a black hole or circled back to the main greeting was the bane of his existence. Hells bells, in his day a desk sergeant always answered and within seconds he would be transferred to the correct party. As far as Art was concerned, organizations employing automated answering attendants represented the epitome of arrogance. They might as well start their greeting with, "Hello, we don't give a shit and don't want to talk with you anyway. Goodbye."

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