Chapter 17

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After Chester Amundsen drove Art and Natalya back to their hotel, Art stretched out on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He agreed to meet Natalya later for dinner and used the intervening hours to process everything he had learned. How did all the pieces fit together?

If Vince Henson was alive, why would he pull a disappearing act on a wife and child he cared for? He tried putting himself into the man's shoes. Would there be any reason in the world that would make him abandon Ellen, if she were still alive, or Jen, and Steven?

No. He couldn't imagine a life without his children.

Another thought crossed his mind. If Vince Henson was alive during the Baltimore riots and walking with Werner Gunther, would he still be alive? There always existed the possibility he was now dead.

An unwelcome, disturbing thought invaded his head. If her husband was dead, he would be free to pursue Natalya.

Art sat up and rubbed his eyes. He needed to get a grip.

He grabbed a bottle of water from the mini-bar and chugged it down. He would have to circle back to Werner Gunther and figure out the fixer's roll in this mess, but before he did that, Art decided he needed to explore the business relationship between Vince Henson and his client, LODO. Natalya revealed her husband had been a consultant on a site visit, but she seemed vague about the details. His next step would be to contact the company and find out who Vince reported to, see if there was a connection to Werner Gunther. After that, he would make his move on the fixer.

He telephoned Jen and told her he and Natalya would be returning to Pennsylvania the next day as scheduled. "How are you getting along with Joey?"

"I'm enjoying his company. I'm going to miss him when I have to give him back tomorrow. By the way, I just got off the phone with Natalya and told her the same thing."

"Any word from your husband, Greg?"

After a hesitation, she said, "We've talked."

He sensed she didn't want to say more, so he didn't press her. "Has your brother checked in?"

Jen scoffed. "Steven is jacked over what you're doing. He thinks you lost your mind helping the woman you soon will be facing in court. He's also pissed at me for going along with you and for babysitting Joey."

Art understood from Steven's point-of-view how crazy the situation must seem.

Jen giggled. "Of course, he doesn't see what I see."

"What are you talking about?"

"The fact that you're smitten with Natalya."

Not that again. "Nonsense. I'm helping the woman track down her husband. Does that sound like something a smitten man would do?"

"If you don't find him, it would."

"Hells bells, Jen, I'm a professional. Do you think I won't tell her if I find him?"

"You're retired and you're doing this for free, and at considerable expense I might add."

"I think this conversation needs to end."

"No probs, Dad. See you tomorrow. Have fun!"

After the call ended, Art groaned. He wasn't holding back, was he? He was doing everything he could to find Natalya's husband, wasn't he? The fact he even considered those questions gave him heartburn.

He visited the mini-bar for another bottle of water. He eyed the assorted selection of liquor. Not much of a drinker, he gave in anyway and screwed off the top of a miniature bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon. Just as he was about to tilt the bottle to his lips, his room phone rang.

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