Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(4)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(4)
Author: Marie Force

“I’d like to use the quote you gave me on the phone about taking comfort from him being free. Would that be all right?”

Sam nodded. Perhaps the thought would bring comfort to others who’d loved him.

“Here’s what I’m thinking. Tell me if you approve.

“Retired Metro Police Deputy Chief Charles ‘Skip’ Holland, 64, passed away in his sleep on Sunday, nearly four years after being shot in a traffic altercation on G Street. The incident occurred three months before he was due to retire after thirty-two years on the force. Holland, who was left a quadriplegic in the shooting, had contended with a number of health challenges in recent years, but continued to actively consult on cases led by his daughter, Metro PD Homicide Lieutenant Sam Holland. Lieutenant Holland is the wife of Vice President Nick Cappuano, who was out of the country at the time of his father-in-law’s passing. The vice president is due home Sunday evening from a weeklong diplomatic trip to Europe.

“‘We’re taking comfort in the thought of him being set free from the difficult reality of his life over the last four years,’ Lieutenant Holland said shortly after her father’s death.

“Deputy Chief Holland is also survived by Celia, his beloved wife and devoted caretaker, as well as daughters Tracy Hogan and her husband, Mike, and Angela Radcliffe and her husband, Spencer, as well as six grandchildren: Brooke, Abby and Ethan Hogan, Jack and Ella Radcliffe, and Scott Cappuano. He leaves his former wife, Brenda Ross, his brothers and sisters in blue in the Metro Police Department and many faithful friends. Deputy Chief Holland will be given a police funeral with full honors on a date to be named shortly.

“Lieutenant Holland noted that her father’s case is now considered a homicide investigation and anyone with information about the shooting should contact the MPD tip line.”

He recited the number and finished with “‘No piece of information is too small,’ Holland said.”

Darren glanced at her. “How is that?”

His unusually gentle tone had Sam taking a deep breath, determined not to break down in front of the reporter, who was often a thorn in her side. Today, he’d been a friend. “It’s good. Add something about how, in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Metro PD Memorial and Museum Fund and give them the link. It’s on our website.”

“Will do. Green light to release?”

Sam glanced at her own home, where her son still slept, oblivious to yet another huge loss in his young life. Her next order of business would be to go home and tell him the news. She dreaded that.


This would make the unimaginable official. “Green light to release.”


WITH THE STATEMENT seen to, Sam placed a call to Detective Cameron Green, who answered on the second ring.

“Lieutenant, I just heard from Captain Malone. I am so very, very sorry. Your dad was a great man, and I enjoyed getting to know him over the last couple of months.”

“Thank you. I was wondering if you could make a call to the family business on our behalf.” Cameron’s family owned the Greenlawn Funeral Homes, which were highly regarded in the region.

“Consider it done.”

“It’ll be a big deal, so you might want to warn them.”

“Understood. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll have someone at your father’s home within the hour to take care of everything.”

“I appreciate it.”

“If there’s anything else I can do, anything at all, please let me know.”

“There is one thing...”

“Name it.”

Sam debated whether it was the right thing, but in the end, she decided it wasn’t up to her to decide. “If you could track down Cruz in Italy and let him know, I’d appreciate it. Please emphasize I do not want him to come home, but I did want him to know.” Her partner, Freddie Cruz, was on his honeymoon, but he’d been close to her father.

“I’ll call him myself. What about Sergeant Gonzales?” Gonzo had recently checked into rehab to contend with an addiction to pain meds and PTSD from the shooting death of his partner, Detective A. J. Arnold, earlier in the year.

“Can one of you check with his fiancée, Christina, to see how we should handle that?”

“Will do.”

“Thanks, Cameron. If you need help, call on the others in the squad.”

“We’re on it. Don’t worry about a thing. I wish there was something I could say to you. I only knew him a short time, but I feel richer for having had him in my life.”

“That helps.”

“Call me if you need anything else.”

“I will.”

Sam closed the phone and ducked her head inside to let the others know that Darren had been given the statement, that someone from Greenlawn would be there shortly and she was going home to speak to Scotty. “I’ll be back.”

She was halfway down the ramp to the sidewalk when her sister Tracy called for her to hang on. Sam turned to face her sister.

“You don’t have to do all this yourself, you know.” Tracy smoothed Sam’s hair, tending to her the way she had for Sam’s entire life. Though Skip Holland had loved all his daughters fiercely, that he shared a special, deep bond with Sam, his youngest, was no secret to anyone.

“Yeah, I kinda do, so if you guys wouldn’t mind indulging me...”

“I don’t mind, and Ang won’t either, but you have to let us help you. We need that.”

“Fair enough. How pissed is Celia?”

“She’s shocked and grief-stricken. She won’t hold it against you.”

“As awful as it was, it was the right thing to do.”

“I agree, and he would too. I don’t know how he withstood it for as long as he did.”

“I need to go home and tell Scotty before he wakes up and sees it on his phone.”

“I called Brooke, and I have to pick up Abby and Ethan from a sleepover at Mike’s brother’s house. I’m dreading having to tell them.”

“Same. Poor Scotty has already had enough loss in his life.” After his mother and grandfather died when he was very young, Scotty had ended up in foster care before landing in a state home in Virginia, where Nick had met him on a campaign stop.

“He’ll be okay with all of us around to support him.”

Sam hugged her sister. “I’ll be back shortly. Make sure someone is with Celia, and we should call her sisters. And Mom.”

“I’ll take care of that.”

Sam nodded and left to go home. As she covered the short distance between her father’s home and her own, her phone rang incessantly. She let it ring. She couldn’t do another thing until she talked to Scotty.

Nate, the agent working the door, opened it for her. “My sincere condolences, Mrs. Cappuano. Your father was a wonderful man.”

“Thank you so much. I agree.” Sam went into the kitchen, where Shelby was making breakfast for Alden and Aubrey. The sight of their adorable little faces brought tears to Sam’s eyes. She kissed them both as Shelby looked on with concern. “How’d you guys sleep?” Sam caressed their soft blond hair.

“Okay.” Aubrey gave Sam a knowing look. After what she’d endured, she knew disaster when she saw it. “Can we go to the park later?”

“Maybe. Let’s see what happens, okay?” Sam didn’t want to add to their grief by sharing hers with them. Not yet anyway. “I need to run upstairs and shower.”

“Do what you need to, Sam.” Shelby’s big blue eyes were tearful and full of compassion. Sam expected nothing less from her. “We’re all set here.”

She gave Shelby a quick hug before leaving the kitchen to trudge upstairs, where Debra stood watch outside Scotty’s door. Giving the agent a grim smile and receiving an empathetic look in return, Sam went into her son’s room and shut the door behind her, taking a second to gather the fortitude she would need for this.

It killed her that what she was about to tell him would devastate her son, but he was too old to be treated like a baby. If she had her way, nothing would ever hurt him again, as unrealistic as that was. She went to his bed and sat on the edge of the mattress, reaching out to run her fingers through the silky dark hair that was so much like his father’s. Though they didn’t share DNA, father and son had several physical similarities that gave them the look of family. “Hey, bud.” She gave him a gentle nudge.

He groaned. “Go away. It’s Sunday. No school.”

“I need to talk to you.”

His eyes opened, immediately on alert. “Don’t tell me something happened to Dad.”

“No, not Dad.” Her throat closed, and she had to look away from his sweet, earnest face or risk losing it.

“What, then? Just say it. You’re freaking me out.”


“No.” He shook his head. “No.”

“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this. But the good news is he went peacefully in his sleep, and he’s free now.”

Tears rolled down Scotty’s handsome face as his chin quivered.

Sam held out her arms to him. “Come here.”

He sat up and fell into her outstretched arms, sobbing his heart out. “I’m not ready for this.”

“I know, sweetheart. None of us are.”

“You really believe he’s free?”

“I do.” Sam spoke the truth even as she ached on the inside. “You didn’t know him before he was shot. He was so big and brawny and brave. At his funeral, there’ll be lots of photos of him in uniform, and you’ll see what I mean.” She pulled back from him, wiped the tears from his face and smoothed the hair that stood on end after sleeping. “His great big life was so greatly reduced after he was shot, and it was hard for us to see him like that. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for him to be so trapped physically while being completely aware mentally.”

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