Chapter 27

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Art considered himself good at reading people. He had to cultivate empathy to be successful as a detective and to understand what motivated people, what made them tick. He sensed the warming friendship between himself and Natalya, yet he harbored a healthy doubt.

Against his better judgment, he had grown to like her. A lot. Maybe too much. For the first time since Ellen, he allowed himself to have feelings for another woman. If he wasn't misinterpreting, he sensed she liked him too.

It kept him up that night, pondering the contradictions in their relationship. Natalya was a client, but a non-paying client. Did that change the ethical dynamic? She was married, but her husband had either abandoned her or was now dead. Did that mean she was available? She said she could no longer love Vince if he was still alive. Would she change her mind if they found him?

Overriding these other issues was the age difference, the absurdity of a much-younger, good-looking woman falling for him, a man still fit and full of vitality, but teetering on the edge of old age.

Neither of them had been to San Antonio before. Art thought up a plan where the two of them could spend some time together, as a couple, not as detective and client. Their return flight to Pennsylvania was scheduled for four in the afternoon leaving them idle most of the day. He decided to float his proposal by her at breakfast.

"We learned a lot by coming here."

She looked at him over the rim of her coffee cup. "We learned a lot, but there are still so many unanswered questions. We're no closer to finding Vince. We now know Vince was connected to Carlos Santos, and we now Santos is connected to Werner Gunther who was connected to whatever happened in North Dakota. How does my husband fit into all of it?"

"Natty, please stop talking."

She set down her coffee cup. "What is it?"

"We've been at this non-stop. It's my experience a detective needs to step away for a time to recharge. We can come back to this later with fresh sets of eyes and clearer minds."

She cocked her head. "Recharge? If we don't work on the case, how are we going to pass the time all day before our flight leaves?"

"Let's tour the Alamo. Would you like to do that?"

"I've never been."

"Neither have I. Who knows if we'll ever be back to San Antonio again. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity."

She gave him a shy smile. "Might as well. Let's do it!"

A short walk later they stood in line for the guided tour of the historic site. They both found the visit to be fascinating, but by midafternoon Art had enough of the hot sun. They retreated to a nearby pub and sat at the bar.

Art ordered Lone Star beers for both of them and savored the cool beverage. "We still have a couple of hours before we have to call a cab to take us to the airport."

Natalya took a long drink and set down her beer. Art laughed at the mustache the foam left behind on her upper lip. He picked up a paper napkin. "May I?"

She nodded.

Art patted the napkin against her skin, blotting up the foam.

"Thanks," she said. "I would've just wiped it against my sleeve."

"Now, now, that wouldn't set a good example for Joey if he were to see you do that."

She giggled. "Good thing Joey isn't here." Her smile faded. "I miss him."

"Yeah, I get that. He's a cool little boy. Everything he does he tackles with gusto and enthusiasm. I wish I had half his energy."

Natalya went quiet for a few moments and eyed the tabletop.

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