Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(3)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(3)
Author: Marie Force


“What’s up?”

Jake Malone had been one of Skip Holland’s best friends. “My dad...”


“He’s gone.”

His anguished cry took her breath away. “What? What happened?”

“He died in his sleep.”

“Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I don’t even know what to say.”

“Will you notify Uncle Joe and the others?” Sam couldn’t recall the last time she’d called her chief by the name she’d used for him as a child. “I just can’t...”

“Yes, of course. I’ll take care of it. What else can I do?”

“Nothing for now.”

“There’ll be an inspector’s funeral with full honors.”

“Yes.” The term, adopted from the New York Police Department, was used to describe a funeral to honor an officer killed in the line of duty.

“I don’t have to tell you this, but Skip Holland was the finest man I ever knew.”

Sam closed her eyes against the rush of emotion. “That means a lot to me, and it will to my family too. Your friendship meant the world to him and us.”

“He meant the world to us. Call me if I can do anything. I mean it.”

“I know, and I will. I guess I’ll be out for a while longer.”

“Take whatever time you need.”

“Will you notify my squad? Make sure everyone keeps it off-line until we’re ready to release the news.”

“I’ll take care of everything. Don’t worry about a thing.”

“Thanks again.” Sam ended the call and went into the living room, where her sisters were comforting Celia. She sat across from them. “Captain Malone is notifying the department.”

Celia wiped the tears from her face. “You should go home to your family, Sam.”

Sam realized her stepmother was pissed. “I’m sorry if you didn’t agree with me in there, but you know it’s better for him.”

“How can you say that?” Celia’s voice caught on a sob. “He wanted to be here with us!”

“Not like that.” Sam hoped that the nurse in Celia would eventually see that Sam was right. For now, Celia was thinking like a heartbroken wife and not as a medical professional.

“This hurts like hell for all of us.” Tracy’s face was swollen from crying. “But Sam is right. He couldn’t go on that way indefinitely.”

“Earlier, I had this vision of him standing up from the chair and walking through the gates of heaven, whole and strong and full of the power he used to have.” Sam forced a smile. “I liked that vision.”

Angela sniffled. “I like that too.”

The front door opened and Angela’s husband, Spencer, came rushing in, fresh from the gym.

Angela stood and flew into his outstretched arms, both of them sobbing.

Mike came out of the kitchen, where he’d been on the phone and sat with Tracy, his arm around her.

Sam wanted Nick more than she ever had before, but he wouldn’t be home for hours yet. In the meantime, her stomach ached at the thought of her beloved stepmother being angry with her. That only made a horrible situation worse.

“We need to make a statement.” Sam hoped the others would agree with her. Under normal circumstances, seeking out the press was the last thing she ever wanted to do, but in this case, they needed to take control of the story. “Before it gets taken out of our hands.” She didn’t need to tell her family that this would be a huge story, not only because of who Skip had been to the department and the city but because of his son-in-law, the vice president.

“What do you suggest?” Tracy asked.

“I’d like to call Darren Tabor from the Star. He’s a friend. He’ll do right by us and Dad.”

Tracy looked to Celia. “Would that be all right, Celia?”

Celia nodded but still didn’t look at Sam. “Whatever you all think is right is fine with me.”

“There’ll be a police funeral with full honors,” Sam said.

Celia looked up at her with fierce determination in her gaze. “As there should be.”

“I’ll call Darren.” Sam had developed a rapport with the reporter and could trust him to properly handle the important news of her father’s passing. She got up, grabbed a fleece jacket of Celia’s and went outside to the front porch, appreciating the blast of cold fresh air. Finding the number for the Washington Star’s Darren Tabor in her contacts, she put through the call.

“Don’t you ever take a day off?” His voice was gravelly with sleep.

“I need a favor.”

“Will this favor result in you owing me one?”

“Yeah. Maybe a couple.”

“Everything okay?”

“Nope.” She nearly laughed so she wouldn’t cry. “My dad passed away this morning, and we need to release a statement. I thought you might be able to help me with that.”

“Are you at home?” Darren sounded wide-awake now.

“I’m at his house, three doors down from mine. It’s the other one on the street with a ramp. Tell the Secret Service I said to let you in. They’ll call me to confirm.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes—and you won’t owe me any favors for this one.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m really sorry, Sam. I know how close you were to him.”

“Yeah, thanks. It’s a tough one, but I’m finding comfort in knowing he’s free from the difficult reality of his life over the last four years.”

“That’s a good way to look at it. I’m on my way.”

Sam closed the phone and stood for a long time on the front porch, memories of growing up on Ninth Street filling her heart and mind. Right in the middle of all those memories was the larger-than-life man who’d raised her with high expectations. He’d made her want to be a cop. He’d made her into the cop she was today. He’d made her into the human being she was today. Before Nick, Skip had been the most important person in her life. Everything she’d ever done had been with the goal of making him proud.

That doesn’t have to change, she told herself in the first hour without him.

She glanced down the street and saw Shelby rushing up the ramp to their house, a flash of pink with blond hair. Fifteen minutes later, at the Secret Service checkpoint, she watched Darren jump from a cab, and took the call from one of the agents.

“We have a Darren Tabor for you, Mrs. Cappuano.”

“Please send him in.”

“Right away, ma’am. And may I express my condolences for your loss?”

“Thank you.” From her father’s front porch, she waved to Darren so he’d know where to go. As he came up the ramp, Sam realized they didn’t need the ramp anymore. Not here or at her house. The thought hit her like a punch, rendering her temporarily breathless.

Darren came to a stop a foot from her. “Am I allowed to hug you?”

She forced herself to breathe, to keep pressing forward, to do what needed to be done. “I suppose I could tolerate that for a second or two.”

He gave her an awkward hug and patted her on the back. “I’m really sorry, Sam.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded. “That’s enough.”

Darren stepped back and took an assessing look at her, his brown eyes sharp and warm at the same time. His light brown hair was a mess, as if he hadn’t taken the time to brush it before running out the door. “How’re you holding up?”

“I’m surprisingly okay, for now anyway. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

“Had he been ill?”

“Nothing more than the obvious complications of life as a quad. But in the last few months, he’d gotten very frail. Four years in his condition is actually a long time.”

“Do you mind if I take notes?”

“Not at all.” She gestured for him to have a seat and lowered herself into a chair across from him, only realizing when she was seated that her legs were trembling. It never came naturally for her to unload on a reporter, but Darren had earned her trust and respect over the years, and she was counting on him to do right by her dad. Not to mention his death was an opportunity to remind the public that his shooting remained unsolved.

“How old was he?”

“Sixty-four. Make sure you refer to him by his title, deputy chief, and that he was egregiously injured in the line of duty three months prior to retirement.” She recited the date of the shooting, which was a date that had divided her life into “before” and “after.”

“And the case remains open, correct?”

“Yes, and I firmly believe someone out there knows what happened to my father. I would hope that anyone with information pertaining to his shooting on G Street would come forward to ensure that justice is done on behalf of a decorated police officer who devoted his entire adult life to ensuring the safety of our city and its citizens.” She gave him the number for the Metro PD tip line. “This is now a homicide investigation, and no piece of information is too small. If you know something, report it.”

“Talk to me about what he meant to you personally.”

Sam huffed out an ironic laugh. “What did he mean to me... Well, he was the best father anyone could ever hope to have. And he was an outstanding police officer, respected by everyone who ever worked with or for him. He was a frequent contributor to cases investigated by my squad. He recently consulted on the Beauclair case, offering wisdom and insight. His mind was as sharp as ever, and he frequently homed in on things the rest of us had missed. In many ways, he was my best friend.”

“Was Skip his real name?”

“It was Charles, but he never went by that.”

Darren took detailed notes. “Talk to me about the family members who should be listed.”

Sam recited the names of her stepmother, sisters, brothers-in-law, son, nieces and nephews, as well as a devoted cadre of friends, many of them fellow MPD officers. “He would also want his former wife, Brenda Ross, to be mentioned.” Despite the acrimonious end to their marriage, Skip never forgot that Brenda had given him three beautiful daughters and afforded her the respect she deserved as the mother of his children.

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