Chapter 36

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Husband and wife stood on the beach looking at each other saying nothing. The waves breaking against the shore was all Art heard save for the screeching of gulls fighting over a dead fish.

Art kept his distance. This needed to play out between the two of them, but he would be nearby if things got weird.

Natalya broke their silence. "You look good, Vince, other than that hideous beard."

Vince shook his head as if clearing cobwebs. "Natalya, you found me."

She pointed at Vince. "No, he did." She introduced Art.

"You shouldn't be here," Vince told her.

Natalya pointed a finger at her chest. "I shouldn't be here. Is that what you have to say to me?"

"You don't understand. You shouldn't be here. It's dangerous." He laid his hands on her forearms. "Look, you need to leave. Go away and forget you ever saw me."

She shook away from his grasp, anger filling her voice. "I'm not going anywhere until you explain why you abandoned me and your son. You knew he had special needs and that I wouldn't be able to work in order to care for him. You left us unsupported to the point where I'm now penniless."

"There are programs for children like Joey. You could've turned him over to someone else's care. You could've continued to teach at the university."

Natalya unleashed a primal scream, all her frustrations bursting forth. She slapped her husband hard, his glasses flying off his face. "Goddamn you, Vince. Goddamn you for what you've done to us."

Art winced. He hoped he'd never be on the receiving end of Natalya's wrath.

Vince held a hand to his cheek and took a step back. He cast his gaze to the ground and picked up his glasses but didn't make a move to retaliate. "Maybe I deserved that."

"You deserve so much worse," she shouted.

For what seemed like a full minute, nobody spoke. He watched as Natalya lowered her arms to her side, uncoiling, relaxing. In a normal tone of voice, she asked, "Did you ever love me?"

"Of course, I did. I always loved you. I still love you."

"Then, why? Why did you disappear?"

"To protect you and Joey." He waved an arm. "Look, it's complicated."

"Oh? Try your complicated explanation on me. I'm a smart enough woman to figure out what's complicated and what's just plain bullshit."

Art cleared his throat. "Maybe we should take this out of the sun. Mr. Henson, will you invite us into your house?"

He looked at Art as if seeing him for the first time. "Yes, of course."

Vince led the way, leaving his fishing tackle on the beach. He led them into his house to a screened-in porch overlooking the ocean. They sat in wicker furniture. The man didn't bother to ask if they needed anything. He was fidgety and nervous.

"How did you know I was alive?" he asked.

Natalya couldn't seem to find her voice, so Art answered his question. "During the Baltimore riots, you were captured on video in the company of Werner Gunther."

Vince's entire body went rigid. "How do you know that man?"

"I told you. We saw a video and identified him."

"He's a murderer. He's the reason I'm in hiding."

"Let's take things one step at a time. You can start by telling us what you were doing in Baltimore during the riots."

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