Chapter 30

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Two Years Ago – Part 3

Vince Henson sat in the Williston, North Dakota bus terminal fighting sleep. The flights from Harrisburg to Williston had been long and tedious. He managed to sleep most of the way, but air travel always left him groggy.

After discovering the crime his client had been perpetrating, he had agonized over what to do about it. Back then, it had cost him many a sleepless night. His wife blamed it on late-night eating. His appetite hadn't been as robust as usual, and he often snacked around on junk into the evening rather than eating the full meals Natalya prepared for him.

It got worse after he had come to a decision and made his deal with Santos. He spent his entire life as a man of integrity. He would never compromise his principles.

But the money. So much money! It had been easy to rationalize. He could provide lifelong security for his wife and son. They could leave Pennsylvania and move someplace where it was warm year-round. Or they could live in their current home in the summer and spend their winters elsewhere.

Of course, he could never tell Natalya what he had done. It would be a challenge to keep it from her if he started spending a lot of money. How could he explain where it all came from? He wouldn't think about it now; better to leave that problem for another day.

After the deed was done and Vince received his first deposit, a change came over him. He quit worrying. His normal sleep pattern returned. He could eat well again. Everything was going to work out.

How easy it had been to slide down the slippery slope of greed.

He allowed himself a momentary pang of conscience, a brief moment before moving on to other thoughts.

Vince felt proud over his creative accounting, how he had improvised bookkeeping, making it more difficult anyone would ever discover Kingston Pipe and Casing was not a real company. He had buried it beneath a chain of shell corporations.

He experienced another pang. First, he had been greedy. Now he was proud. Where in the good book was it written that pride cometh before a fall? Is that what was in store for him?

He wasn't able to relax because other passengers milled about the station, talking, scraping their chairs against the cheap tile floor. The town of Roja couldn't be that big, could it? Why would so many people want to take the bus to that place?

A custodian rolled her cart through the terminal emptying trash and brooming litter from the floor. For a brief moment, their gazes met. He wondered about the kind of man she saw while looking at him.

An overhead speaker crackled to life announcing the boarding of the Roja bus. Vince gathered his briefcase and bag and headed for the door. The lady custodian followed behind with her cart. He held the double door open for her so she could fit the cart through.

She smiled and said, "Gracias."

"De nada."

He went left toward the bus. She went right toward the nearest trash can.

The bus wasn't special looking. It appeared to be just an upgrade from a school bus, nowhere near as fancy as a motorcoach. It didn't even look like it had an onboard bathroom. He queued up in line as the driver stood at the door taking tickets and helping passengers with their luggage.

As he neared the bus driver, someone called his name.

He turned.

Three men ambled toward him, all of them ominous looking. One was bald and wearing an eyepatch, the other, a large monster with his hand buried in a potato chip bag. He was dainty about pulling the chips one at a time and sticking them in his mouth. Trailing behind, a skinny dark-haired guy wearing mirrored sunglasses.

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