Chapter 15

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The Williston bus terminal was a long, low brick structure that doubled as a train station, situated on the south side of town adjacent to the Missouri River. The building was about the size of a fast-food restaurant and looked deserted. Two slips existed for busses, and neither was occupied. For some reason, Art expected something larger and busier. He supposed his faulty expectation had to do with his experiences visiting the grand old terminals of big eastern cities. What the Williston terminal lacked in size and charm, however, it made up in cleanliness. Also, unlike most big-city train terminals/bus depots, this one was located in a pleasant part of town. Nobody had to be worried about getting mugged here.

The three of them, Art, Natalya, and Chester Amundsen sat huddled together in a corner of the station. Two other passengers sat nearby, one a pimply-faced teen boy busy with a handheld video game, the other a harried-looking young mother burping an infant over her shoulder.

Chester Amundsen spoke in a low tone. "As I already mentioned, Rosa Fuentes is very skittish. When she clocks in at six, I don't want all three of us to rush her. Let me approach first to reassure her. She trusts me."

"Are you worried she might run?" Natalya asked.

"She can't run. She needs this job. If we scare her, she'll just refuse to talk."

After coming all this way and spending so much money, the last thing Art wanted was for his witness to clam up. "Okay, we'll play it your way."

A few minutes later, a short, plump woman appeared from a back room pushing a cleaning cart. She looked to be in her forties with dark eyes and hair. She kept her gaze to the floor as she began her chore of emptying trash cans, as if fearful of making eye contact with anyone.

Amundsen motioned for Art and Natalya to remain seated as he approached the woman and spoke her name.

She looked up and didn't appear to be put off by seeing the journalist.

Amundsen motioned toward Art and Natalya.

The woman, Rosa Fuentes, shook her head at first, but as Amundsen continued speaking with her, she seemed to relax.

A few minutes later, the journalist returned to them. "Rosa will talk to us when she goes to empty the outside trash cans. She doesn't want to be overheard or seen. She's afraid her boss will think she's goofing off. She keeps saying she can't afford to lose her job."

The three of them exited the station. The evening air had cooled, and it started to drizzle. They stood under the roof overhang. Rosa appeared from around the corner pushing her cart. At first, she ignored them and emptied a nearby outdoor trash can. When done, she approached, halted in front of them, and looked around.

Amundsen made the introductions. Rosa didn't offer to shake hands. She eyed them with suspicion.

"My husband was supposed to be on the bus that crashed," Natalya said, breaking the tension. She touched Art's wrist. "This man is a detective who is helping me."

At the mention of the word, detective, Rosa shrank back.

Art picked up on her apprehension. "Don't be afraid. I'm not a police detective. I have no authority to detain you, nor do I have any reason to. I'm the type of detective who helps people."

Rosa looked him up and down, unsure. "Like Magnum, PI?"

Art chuckled. "Yes, like Magnum, PI except I'm not as good-looking as the actor on that show."

Natalya cleared her throat. "My husband was supposed to be a passenger on the bus, but I have reason to believe he never boarded. I'm trying to find him. Is there anything you can tell us that might help me?"

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