Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(7)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(7)
Author: Marie Force

A member of the department would remain with Skip until his burial. Before she’d had a family of her own to care for, Sam would’ve wanted to be that officer. Now her responsibilities to her son took precedence. She had to believe Skip would want her to stay close to Scotty while other members of the department stood watch over him.

Around three, she went outside to speak to Debra. “What time is Air Force Two due to arrive at Andrews?”

“Shortly after five. Marine Two will be standing by to bring the vice president into the city. He should be here by six at the very latest.”

“Will you please pass along my thanks to whoever took care of all that?”

“I believe it was Mr. O’Connor, but I’ll make sure he’s told.”

“No need. I’ll tell him myself when I get the chance. Excuse me.” Sam went down the ramp to greet her father-in-law, Leo Cappuano, and stepmother-in-law, Stacy, with hugs.

“We came as soon as we heard the news.” Leo had the same brown hair, hazel eyes and olive-toned skin as Nick, the son he’d fathered while still in high school. The two had struggled over the years to form a relationship but were closer now than they’d ever been.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you myself.”

“Don’t be,” Stacy said. “We can’t begin to know what you must be going through.”

“I feel like I keep saying this, but I’m comforted to know he’s free. I keep thinking he’s running around in heaven and dancing like a fool the way he used to.”

“I love that.” Stacy swiped subtly at tears. “We admired him so much and always enjoyed the time we spent with him.”

“That means a lot. Thank you.”

“What can we do for you?” Leo asked.

“Snap your fingers and get your son home right now?” Sam said with a small grin.

“If I could, I’d do it in a second for you. He’s due home tonight, right?”

Sam nodded. “I’m told he’ll be here by six.”

“If you don’t mind, we’ll stick around until he gets here.”

“That’ll be great. Scotty will be happy to see you.”

Sam escorted them inside. Scotty was seated on the sofa next to Celia, where he’d stayed for most of the day. In between greeting guests and visiting with friends, Celia had leaned against the boy who’d become her grandson over the last few years. Brooke, Abby, Ethan, Jack and Ella were there too, but it was Scotty who never left Celia’s side, making his mother very proud during that endless afternoon of people and condolences.

Marti Farnsworth slipped an arm around Sam’s waist. “Have you eaten anything, Sam?”

She shook her head. Food had been the last thing on her mind that day. She wasn’t sure she could eat.

“Come with me.” Marti led Sam into the kitchen. Conversation among extended family and friends died off when they walked in. “Would you all mind giving us a minute?”

Sam appreciated the way Marti took charge.

The others filed out of the room, leaving Sam and Marti alone until Uncle Joe walked in.

Marti fixed them each a plate from the wide assortment of food and put it on the table in front of them. Then she discreetly left them alone, letting the kitchen door swing closed behind her.

When they were alone, Sam glanced at him. “Your wife is the best.”

“I’ve known that for more than thirty-five years.”

Sam picked at the food, forcing herself to chew and swallow a few bites so she wouldn’t do something embarrassing like pass out.

Joe pushed his own food around with the same lack of interest Sam felt. “This is a tough one, for all of us, but mostly for you.”

Sam shook her head. “He didn’t belong just to me.”

“Didn’t he?” Joe offered a small smile. “You had him so firmly wrapped around that powerful little finger of yours, the same little finger that has me and Jake and many others firmly wrapped.” He wiped his face with a paper napkin and smiled warmly at her. “I remember the day you were born. He never said so, but we all knew Skip wanted a boy.”

Sam had always known she’d been her father’s last great chance for the son he’d craved. In many ways, she’d spent her entire life trying to fill that void for him.

“You know what he said to me that day when I went to visit you in the hospital?”

Sam shook her head. They’d never talked about this before.

“He said he took one look at you and realized it didn’t matter if you were a boy or a girl. All he cared about was that you were healthy.”

“That sounds like him.”

“He also said he had a sneaking suspicion that this one, this little one, was going to turn out to be the best friend he’d ever have. It was as if he took one look at you and knew what you’d mean to him.”

Sam dabbed at the tears that flooded her eyes, refusing to give in to them out of fear that she’d never stop once she started. “Thank you for telling me that.”

“It’s nothing you didn’t already know.” He covered her hand with his much bigger one. “No question this’ll leave a huge void for you, but you are not alone, and he’ll never be truly gone, Sam. Anytime you need him, he’ll be right there to tell you what to do. He’s so deep in your DNA there’s no getting him out.”

Sam nodded in agreement. That was certainly true. It had always been true.

“If there’s anything I can do, anything at all, you tell your uncle Joe what it is—now and in the future. You hear me?”

She turned to him and accepted the tight hug he gave her, one of the few she’d gotten from him in years as they worked to maintain the fine line between family and superior officer on the job. Today, they were family.

“You’ll speak at the funeral, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Thank you for everything, particularly your devoted friendship to him these last few years.”

“I enjoyed every minute I ever spent in his presence. He was the cop we all wanted to be, and so are you. He was so incredibly proud of you.”

“Even when I’m insubordinate?” she asked, needing a moment of levity.

Joe laughed. “Especially then. He’d never say so, but he secretly admired your renegade spirit. Remember that day you came into this house during the O’Connor investigation, prepared to do battle with us because you knew we were going to try to take you off the case after your car blew up?”

“I remember. The old-boy network was trying to flex their muscles.”

“While he watched you, I watched him. He all but beamed with pride watching you mouth off to your chief, who also happened to be one of his best friends. He loved the way you do the job, even if it gives me and others heartburn at times. Skip freaking loved it. Don’t you ever think otherwise.”

Hearing that made her smile for the first time in hours. “He always seemed to lean more toward your side than mine.”

“I think he was afraid you’d completely go rogue if he let you see his approval.”

Sam laughed. “Instead of only partially rogue?”

“Exactly. He was always on your side, Sam. And he always will be.”

“I appreciate you more than you could ever know, and I’m well aware that I present a constant challenge to you and the fine line we walk between personal and professional.”

He leaned in, his voice low. “You continue to do you, and I’ll continue to tally up the successes we achieve together. And if you ever quote me on that, I’ll deny it with fire and fury as I demote you so fast your head will spin.”

Sam pretended to lock her lips and throw away the key and then leaned her head on his sturdy shoulder, grateful for his words and his support. “Love you, Uncle Joe.”

He kissed the top of her head. “Love you too, sweetheart.”

* * *

THE LAST LEG of Nick’s trip home, the chopper ride from Andrews to the White House and the motorcade from the White House to Ninth Street, seemed almost as long as the seven-hour flight that preceded it. As the motorcade finally approached the Ninth Street checkpoint, Nick felt like he was coming out of his skin while he waited for Brant to open the door. The second the door opened, Nick bolted.

Would there be hell to pay with Brant later? Ask him if he cared. The only thing he cared about was getting to his wife after an endless week and hours of heartbreak on her behalf. He ran past his own house to her father’s and up the ramp in three strides, bursting into the living room and taking everyone by surprise.

Celia’s face crumpled at the sight of him.

His son jumped up from the sofa and ran into his outstretched arms.

Scotty sobbed as he clung to his father, who held him close. “I’m here, buddy. I’m sorry it took so long. But I’m here now.” He scanned the crowded room for the one-in-a-million face of his wife but didn’t see her.

Marti Farnsworth squeezed his arm. “She’s in the kitchen with Joe.”

Nick kissed the top of Scotty’s head. “I need to see Mom.”

Scotty nodded. “Yes, you do.”

Nick brushed the tears from his son’s face, his heart breaking for him. “Are you all right?”

“I’m trying to be.”

“I’ll be right back, okay?”

“Okay.” Scotty released him and went back to Celia, who received him with outstretched arms.

As Nick moved toward the kitchen, people got out of his way to let him through, which kept him from knocking them over in his haste to get to her. He pushed through the door to the kitchen, where Sam leaned on the shoulder of her beloved chief and uncle, Joe. When Nick walked in, she gasped and lit up with pure pleasure at the sight of him. No one had ever looked at him the way she did.

“I’ll give you two a minute.” Joe released Sam, stood and shook Nick’s hand on the way out of the room.

Sam stood and launched herself into his arms.

   
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