Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(13)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(13)
Author: Marie Force

“I have no idea how...” Her voice broke, and she gave herself a minute to find her composure, determined to get through this without making a spectacle of herself.

Nick’s hand on her back reminded her he was, like always, there if she needed him.

She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. “I have no idea how I’ll do the job without him on my team, but I’m confident that his deep, distinctive voice will always be with me, showing me the way. He would say, ‘You’ve got this, baby girl. You’ve got this.’

“My dad loved the Old Irish Blessing and quoted it often. It is now my wish for him. ‘May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.’

“Until we meet again, Dad, I will carry you with me everywhere I go, for you are as much a part of me as the nose on my face, the hair on my head, the smile on my lips and the fire in my belly to get justice for those who need it most.

“On behalf of myself and my sisters, I extend my heartfelt love and appreciation to my stepmother, Celia Holland, without whom none of us would’ve survived the last four years. Celia, your tender, loving care of Dad before, during and after his injury gave him years he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Your love gave him a reason to get up each day and keep persevering through the best and worst of times. We will never have the words to properly thank you for all you did for him and for us. We are so lucky to have you in our family, where you shall remain forever a Holland.”

Celia acknowledged her words with a tearful smile, full of the love she normally directed Sam’s way.

Sam fixed her gaze on the honey-colored wood coffin. “To you, Dad, I say rest in peace and dance like a fool in the arms of your heavenly Father.” She saluted him. “Deputy Chief Holland, thank you for your dedicated service to the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia and its citizens. We’ve got the watch from here, sir.”

She held the salute for a full thirty seconds, during which she vowed to devote every ounce of energy, heart and soul she had to finding the person who’d put him in that box.

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE MPD AND Secret Service did a masterful job of getting the family and their closest friends into the cemetery with a minimal amount of fuss. Skip was officially laid to rest in a spot he had chosen himself. When the time came, Celia would be buried alongside him. Sam appreciated that his final resting spot was only a short distance from Ninth Street. She took comfort in knowing he would continue to be close by as he had been all her life.

At the conclusion of the service, Reverend Swain hugged each of them and told Celia he’d be by to see her in the next few days.

Sam hugged each member of her squad and thanked them for being Skip’s honor guard.

“It was an honor, Lieutenant,” Detective Jeannie McBride said tearfully. “Thank you for asking us.”

The others walked away to give the family a few final minutes with Skip.

Flanked by her sisters, Celia stepped forward to place a red rose on his casket. Then she stepped back so his daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren could place their flowers. Watching her nephew Jack, in his father’s arms, place that rose on his grandfather’s casket was almost more than Sam could bear. She had to look away.

She’d had a lifelong aversion to cemeteries, and now was no different. After she, Scotty and Nick had placed their flowers, she took Nick’s hand and let him lead her back to the car, relieved to get the hell out of there even if it was painful to leave her father behind.

The motorcade left the cemetery and conveyed them to the Hay-Adams.

“I remember this place.” Scotty smiled at them when the iconic hotel came into view.

Nick’s eyes twinkled as he glanced at Sam. “We had a little party here once.”

She appreciated their attempt to bring some levity to a difficult day. “You were brilliant today, Scotty. Your words about Gramps meant so much to all of us.”

“Thanks, Mom. I hope he would’ve liked it.”

“He would’ve loved it. I have no doubt.”

“Yours was really good too,” Scotty said.

“I’m glad you thought so.”

“It’s crazy how many police officers came from all over for him.”

“More than ten thousand.”

“Wow. That’s amazing.”

“Anytime an officer is killed in the line of duty, the rest of the thin blue line shows up in force.”

“What does that mean?” Scotty asked. “Thin blue line?”

“Law enforcement is known as the symbolic thin blue line that stands between order and chaos in our society.”

He appeared to give that concept serious thought. “You said Grandpa Skip was killed in the line of duty, but he was retired.”

“He was definitely killed in the line of duty. It just took four years for him to die from his injuries.”

“I see. Are you going after the person who shot him?”

“You know it. With the case elevated to homicide status, that puts it under my purview. We’ll be taking a fresh look starting tomorrow.”

“Don’t you think you should take a few days before you go back to work, babe?”

“No.”

Nick raised a brow. “Just no?”

“Just no.”

“Ruh-roh,” Scotty said.

“I’ve heard from Freddie and Malone that the tip line has received some new information. No time like the present to seize the day while his death is still fresh in the minds of people who know what happened to him.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Nick said.

“Nothing to talk about. I’m going back to work tomorrow.”

They pulled up to the Hay-Adams a minute later, ending the conversation for now. Sam had full confidence that she and Nick would go-around about it again later, but she was not relenting. She fairly burned with the need for justice on her father’s behalf, like she had at the beginning, when it first happened. Then, she’d been driven almost to madness tracking down every lead and clue that had led nowhere.

A busy life and the unrelenting pace of murder in the city had pushed her father’s case to the back burner, where it had remained on simmer. Now it was time to turn up the heat again and bring it to a boil once and for all.

The Secret Service asked them to wait until they could clear the lobby to bring them in, so they sat in the car and watched one familiar face after another go by.

“It’s weird that this is our party and we’re the only ones who can’t go in,” Scotty said.

“You should’ve seen how it was in Europe,” Nick said. “I had to wait everywhere we went. Once for an hour until they were satisfied.”

“We haven’t had a chance to even talk about the trip,” Sam said.

“Eh, it was fine. The highlights were meeting the queen and the pope. Otherwise, it was meetings, dinners, photos, glad-handing. A lot of it was boring because my two favorite people weren’t there with me.”

“Maybe we can do something this summer when I’m on vacation,” Scotty said.

“I’ll let them know we’d be up for that if Mom can get the time off.”

“I’ll get the time off.” She’d been encouraged to see Gonzo looking and sounding more like his old self than he had in months after one week in rehab. Maybe by the summer, he’d be ready to be left in charge for a few weeks so she could get away with the guys.

“We have to go back to the beach again too,” Scotty said.

“That’s a given,” Sam said.

“Best vacation ever,” Nick said.

“One of the best.” She winked to remind him of Bora-Bora and the times they’d had there for their honeymoon and first anniversary.

“One of the best.”

They were escorted into the hotel a short time later. As they walked through the lobby, everything seemed to stop and all eyes turned to them.

“Goldfish,” Nick muttered, referring to his frequent comment that being vice president was like being a goldfish in a glass bowl. Everyone was always looking at him and them when his family was with him. Always the politician, he gave a little wave to the people who stared at them but didn’t stop moving so they wouldn’t be encouraged to approach.

Today wasn’t for the public. Today was for the family and friends gathered in the rooftop ballroom who awaited their arrival. For the first time in days, Sam was ravenously hungry and sat with her sisters to eat delicious roast beef, chicken, potatoes and steamed vegetables.

“I feel like I could eat the entire buffet,” Sam said.

“Me too,” Tracy said. “I haven’t eaten more than a few bites in days, but now I want everything in sight.”

In contrast, Angela pushed the food around on her plate with a decided lack of enthusiasm.

“You okay, Ang?” Sam asked.

“I feel kind of sick inside.”

“Heartsick or physically sick?” Tracy asked.

“Some of both, maybe.” She glanced up at them with watery eyes. “I was going to tell you guys, but then everything with Dad happened.”

“Tell us what?” Sam asked, stricken with fear of another looming disaster.

“I think I might be pregnant again.” Angela winced as she said the words, which made Sam feel awful.

“Ang... Don’t do that. It’s fine. I swear. I have Scotty and the twins now and baby Noah underfoot every day. I’m okay, and I’m thrilled for you and Spence.”

“I’m glad you are.” Angela dabbed at her eyes. “This one was definitely not planned.”

“But it’s still a blessing,” Tracy said. “And we’re all in bad need of some good news right now.”

“It breaks my heart that this baby will never get to know Dad,” Angela said.

“He or she will know him through us,” Sam said.

   
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