Chapter 11

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A divine aroma filled Art's nostrils when he returned home from his Baltimore trip. Roast beef and vegetables simmered in a crockpot. A note from Jen lay on the kitchen counter explaining how she would be working late at the Dancing Bear that afternoon and to go ahead and help himself. Just make sure to leave some for her.

"I could get used to this," he mumbled, feeling grateful to have his daughter back home. Greg's loss was his gain.

After chowing down he checked the time. North Dakota was located two time zones away, making it two hours earlier there. Art needed to contact the journalist who had written all the articles about the bus crash. He checked his notes. Chester Amundsen had been the man's name. A quick internet search returned the main phone number for The Williston Star, the newspaper Amundsen worked for.

Art made the call and unleashed a torrid string of curse words when the automated attendant asked him to punch in the first four letters of the last name of the person he was trying to reach. He hated using the letters on a phone's numeric keypad and always got it wrong on the first attempt. Damned automated attendants should be outlawed.

A minute later he got through, and the extension started ringing. Someone picked up and said, "Amundsen here."

Art considered it a stroke of luck the man was at his desk. "Is this Chester Amundsen?"

"Speaking."

Businesslike. Art liked that and decided to get to the point. He introduced himself. "I'm a private investigator in Pennsylvania looking into the bus crash. I read your articles and have a few questions. Can you help me?"

"What's a PI from back east have to do with a bus crash out here in Dakota territory?"

"My client is the spouse of one of the crash victims."

A pause from the other end of the line. "Does this concern some sort of an insurance claim or a lawsuit?"

Art didn't appreciate how the journalist was the one asking the questions. He needed to regain control of the conversation and figured the quickest way to do so would be to pique the man's interest. "My client has reason to believe that her husband survived the crash."

"What? Hold on a minute." Art heard the receiver being laid on a hard surface like a desk, and the sound of a door being closed. Amundsen returned to the phone. "Who are you again?"

"Art Presley"

"Do you spell that like the singer?"

Art felt his irritation rise. "Look, Mr. Amundsen, I need to know if during the course of your research you discovered any irregularities about the accident. Is it possible the authorities got anything wrong, maybe concerning the body count?"

"Have you already asked the authorities to confirm?"

Art cupped his forehead in his hand. Amundsen acted like a bulldog journalist who sensed he might be onto something, but damn it, he hated how his questions were answered with other questions. "I have a story for you, but I'm not giving it to you until you give me some straight answers first."

"Right," Amundsen said. "You want to know about irregularities. Yeah, there were irregularities between what the authorities released and what happened."

The admission stunned Art. "But by your newspaper account, all the stories you wrote backed up what the authorities told me."

"There's a reason for that."

"Like what?"

"Quid pro quo, Mr. Presley. Now you have to answer one of my questions. Who have you talked to?"

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