Chapter 20

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Natalya didn't want to speak over the phone, so Art jumped into his washed and waxed Mustang and motored over to her apartment. While driving, he thought about how irrational she had sounded, saying how she had killed Rosa Fuentes. What had that been all about?

When he knocked on her apartment door, nobody answered. He tried again. Nothing. Art tried the door and found it to be unlocked. He eased it open. "Natalya, are you here?"

From somewhere deep inside the apartment, he heard her say, "Come in. I'll be out in a moment."

She sounded more composed now than when she had spoken with him over the phone. He decided when she appeared, the first thing he would do is scold her for leaving the door unlocked in this sketchy neighborhood.

He called out, "Where's Joey?"

"Anya has him today. She doesn't have to teach. It's a spring holiday."

Darn kids had off more days every year. He wondered how they learned anything at all.

He heard her coming from the back, but she stopped short before entering the living room. "Art, don't be alarmed when you see me. I can explain."

He wondered why all the drama?

When Natalya walked into the living room, she was wearing a turtle neck sweater despite the warm temperature. She hung her head as if ashamed.

"What's going on, Nattie?"

She said nothing.

Art approached and rolled the collar down of her sweater, saw the black and blue bruises to her throat and neck. "Who did this to you?"

She said nothing.

Art had a difficult time containing his anger, thinking some thug had mugged her. He laid his hands on her shoulders and stared her in the eye. "Who?"

She wouldn't hold his gaze. "Werner Gunther."

Werner Gunther? How could that even be possible? He wondered if she was in shock or somehow hallucinating. He gave her a single shake to snap her out of whatever funk she was in.

Natalya raised her eyes to meet his. "I'm sorry, Art. I did a bad thing."

Tears leaked from both eyes. Art worried she would go to pieces on him before she could explain. He took her hand and led her to the sofa, sat her down, and took a seat beside her.

Natalya told him her story, how she imposed on Anya to watch Joey on her day off from teaching, how she had earlier performed a computer search on Werner Gunther, the reverse Google image search, her spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Baltimore to confront the man, and the outcome of the meeting.

Flabbergasted about what she told him and exasperated over the lunacy of her actions, Art responded with, "Why would you do such a dangerous thing?"

"I didn't know it would be dangerous. You've done so much for me. You've been carrying the full load. I thought this was one thing I could handle on my own." She cleared her throat. "I suppose I did it to impress you."

That much she accomplished. She had impressed him with her stupidity. Maybe he shouldered some of the blame, though. He had held back information he learned from Veronica Hall about Gunther's criminal activities. If he had told her, maybe she would've used better judgment.

Natalya wiped her nose with a tissue. "Anya is going to be home any minute with Joey. What am I going to tell them?"

Art was concerned with the more pressing matter. "You told Gunther about Rosa Fuentes?"

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