Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(12)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(12)
Author: Marie Force

Her squad—Cruz, Gonzales, McBride, Green, Dominguez and Carlucci—each of them in full dress uniform, white gloves and badges shrouded by black bands of mourning, served as personal escorts to the Holland family. Sam was also in uniform in honor of her father. The last time she’d worn her uniform had been for Arnold’s funeral.

On this day, she suspended all her usual rules against public displays of affection while in uniform and was thankful for the arm Nick kept firmly around her shoulders as they walked into the church. Celia was escorted by Scotty. Tracy, Mike, Angela, Spencer and their families followed with Sam and Nick bringing up the rear of the family procession. As each guest came into the church, they received a printed program from Tracy’s children Abby and Ethan. On the cover of the program was one of Sam’s favorite photos of Skip smiling in his deputy chief’s uniform. He’d been so damned proud of that last promotion.

Halfway up the long aisle, Celia stopped to embrace Sam’s mother, Brenda.

Sam watched as the two women who’d loved Skip Holland exchanged a few words and dabbed at tears before Celia continued to the front of the church. As she went by her mother, Sam reached out a hand to her.

Brenda squeezed Sam’s hand. “Love you.”

The church was completely packed, with overflow crowds outside, who would listen to the service on speakers. At the request of the family, the service would not be televised, even though the MPD and White House had received numerous requests from the media wanting to broadcast it.

After the family was seated in the front rows, Sam’s squad rolled Skip’s casket down the center aisle, followed by Chief Farnsworth, Deputy Chief Conklin, Captain Malone and a cadre of retired officers who had served with Skip, each of them in dress uniform.

The Reverend Canon William Swain, a childhood friend of Skip’s, presided over the service along with an archbishop and another clergy member. Her father hadn’t been particularly religious, but he’d maintained a close friendship with Reverend Swain, who’d been a frequent visitor during the last few difficult years.

The reverend began with a prayer of thanksgiving for Skip’s life and his service to the city he loved. “Skip Holland was of the District, for the District. Having lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood his entire life, from Brent Elementary School to the highest ranks of the Metropolitan Police Department, this city was his home. And we will lay him to rest today in the neighborhood where he lived a life of honor, service, family, faith and community.”

Sam’s eldest niece, Brooke, gave the first reading, Freddie did the second reading, Ethan and Jack presented the Offertory gifts and Joe Farnsworth gave the first of three eulogies.

“Part of me still can’t believe this has really happened.” Joe propped his arms on the lectern as if he needed the support of the wooden structure. “Even as he lived on borrowed time for four long years, Skip rose above the daily challenges to continue providing love, friendship, wisdom, humor, grace and guidance to those of us who’d relied on him for those things long before his injury.

“Only a giant like Skip could’ve continued to be such a huge presence in our lives with only half his face and one finger to work with. In the last few days, I’ve found myself wanting to turn to him for advice about how to handle the loss of my closest friend, my brother in arms, my moral center and my true north. Since I can’t do that, I’ve taken comfort in asking myself ‘What would Skip do?’ By answering that question, I have found my way through the difficult hours and days since we lost him. As we go forward without his daily presence in our lives, we should regularly ask ourselves what Skip would do. If we follow his example, we’ll do the right thing, the honorable thing, the noble thing.”

When Scotty sniffled, Nick raised his arm and put it around his son.

“I will remember his humor, the eyebrow that conveyed so much with only the subtlest of lifts, the parties... The epic parties. No one could throw a party like Skip Holland. I’ll never forget the time Patrol responded to a report of a wild party on Ninth Street only to realize their deputy chief was the host and their chief was a guest.” Laughter rippled through the church. “I’ll remember the dancing...”

Those who’d known him before his injury lost it laughing. Skip had been a horrible dancer, and everyone knew it except him.

“The enthusiasm with which he did everything was a hallmark of his remarkable life and distinguished career. Celia, Tracy, Mike, Angela, Spencer, Sam, Nick, Brooke, Abby, Ethan, Jack, Ella and Scotty... You were his heart and his soul. His love for you was the most important thing in his life, his pride in his family boundless. I was never with him that he didn’t tell me something about one of you that made him glow with happiness. I honestly believe he survived an injury that should’ve killed him because he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all of you. He wanted to be here to marry his love, Celia, and to meet Nick, Scotty and Ella. His work here wasn’t finished yet, but it is now, and he can go to his final reward knowing his three beloved girls and precious grandchildren will be well cared for by sons-in-law he deeply loved and respected. Marti and I hope you will take comfort, each of you, in knowing you were well and truly loved by the greatest man I’ve ever known.”

As he came down from the altar, Joe stopped to hug and kiss Celia, Tracy, Angela and Sam.

“And now,” Reverend Swain said, “we’ll hear from Skip’s grandson, Scott Cappuano.”

Wearing the blue blazer, light blue dress shirt, khaki pants and red-and-blue-striped tie that Scotty referred to as his “work clothes,” he made his way to the altar and placed a piece of paper on the lectern before adjusting the microphone to his height. He looked so grown-up and composed that Sam’s heart swelled to overflowing with love for him.

Nick gave her hand a squeeze.

She held on tight to him, hoping she could get through this without losing it. They’d asked the other grandchildren if any of them wanted to speak, but they’d demurred, agreeing to allow Scotty to speak for all of them.

“I was five years old when my first grandpa died. I don’t remember much about him, except for the smell of cigars and that he loved baseball. I’ve only had my grandpa Skip in my life for a little over a year, but I’m really thankful that I’m older now and will remember every minute I ever spent with him. When I first came to live with my mom and dad, my grandpa Skip made me feel like I was his real grandson, which always meant a lot to me.

“He wanted to hear anything I had to tell him, and we had long conversations about politics and why none of Washington’s sports teams could seem to win a championship until the Caps finally did it this year. I talked to him about kids at school, and if he were here right now, he could tell you the names of the bullies, because he remembered the details. ‘Boyo,’ he would say, ‘the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to police work.’

“He said I should always take the high road and never stoop to the level of the bullies. He had no patience for mean people or powerful people who did what they wanted because they could. Whenever I was annoyed by the constant presence of Secret Service agents, he would remind me that they feed their families by providing safety and security for mine, and that I was to respect them and do what they tell me even if I didn’t like it. Their only job, he would say, was to keep me safe.

“I know that my cousins Brooke, Abby, Ethan, Jack and Ella would agree that we were lucky to have Skip as our gramps. I loved him, and I’ll miss him for the rest of my life. Oh, and, Celia, I’ll still be over to visit every day after school, so keep buying those cookies I like.”

Nick handed Sam a tissue that she used to dry her suddenly damp eyes as she watched Scotty hug and kiss Celia on his way back to them.

“Sam?” Reverend Swain said.

Sam and Nick stood to hug Scotty when he returned to their pew and then walked hand in hand to the altar. She had asked Nick to come with her in case she couldn’t get through her eulogy. He would finish for her if it came to that.

As she took a moment to gather her thoughts, she looked out at a sea of faces, realizing everyone she loved was there along with countless friends and acquaintances. President and Mrs. Nelson were seated next to Graham, Laine and Terry O’Connor, Lindsey McNamara and Byron Tomlinson. Sam saw her friend Roberto Castro and his girlfriend, Angel. They had also attended the candlelight vigil. Her gaze took in Shelby, Avery, Elin, Christina, Harry, Lilia, Archie, Marti, Leo, Stacy, Will Tyrone, Erica Lucas, A. J. Arnold’s parents, Jeannie McBride’s husband, Michael Wilkinson, and Dr. Trulo. Nick’s friends Derek Kavanaugh and Andy Simone and his wife were there along with Freddie’s parents, Darren Tabor and Scotty’s former guardian, Mrs. Littlefield.

Sam noted the teary-eyed gaze of Alice Coyne Fitzgerald, widow of Skip’s first partner, Steven Coyne, who had been killed decades ago in an unsolved drive-by shooting. Skip’s faithful devotion to Alice after Steven’s death had caused strain in Skip’s marriage to Sam’s mother.

“On behalf of the Holland family, I want to thank you for being here and for the tremendous outpouring of love and support over the last few days. To my brothers and sisters in the Metropolitan Police Department, I thank you for your presence here today, as well as the unwavering respect you afforded my father in the years since his devastating injury. It meant the world to him to feel as if he still belonged among the ranks of the department he served so faithfully for thirty-two of the best years of his life—and those are his words, not mine. He loved everything about being a cop, the job he was born to do, and he did it with honor and love for this city and its citizens.

“He was a fiercely proud Washingtonian who took lifelong delight in seeing the monuments lit up at night and the cherry blossoms blooming in the spring. He loved the parades, the protests, the politics, the madness and the energy of his hometown, referring to anyone born on the ‘wrong’ side of the 14th Street Bridge as a carpetbagger.

“You’ve already heard from Reverend Swain, Chief Farnsworth and my son, Scotty, about my father’s well-calibrated moral compass, so I won’t belabor that point except to say that my sisters and I are the people we are today in large part because of Skip and that strong inner compass that guided him throughout his life. Whenever the job gets to be too much for me, as it often does, I would turn to my dad to talk me through the latest challenge with words of wisdom and experience that only someone who has done the job would have. He liked to say that we will never know what we prevented simply by getting up and going to work every day. He would remind me, like no one else ever could, of why we do this job and why it matters so much. And whenever my ego got the best of me, he knew just how to keep me humble with a well-placed but loving barb that would bring me right back to reality.” As the others laughed, Sam took a moment to breathe. “At times, it hasn’t been easy being Skip Holland’s daughter in the Metropolitan Police Department. The high standard he set for himself and the people who worked with and for him is one that I aim to emulate every day I spend on the job.

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