Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(6)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(6)
Author: Marie Force

She kissed his forehead. “Don’t be sorry. We can come back for our anniversary.”

“Maybe by our tenth we’ll be able to afford it again.”

“It’ll be something to look forward to. And you know what the good news is?”

“There’s good news?” He felt terribly sad over the loss of a great man and a tiny bit selfish at the same time.

“Uh-huh. The honeymoon doesn’t have to end just because we’re going home.”

“That’s very good news indeed.”

“I’m so sorry you lost your friend and that Sam lost her dad.”

He hugged her tightly, grateful for her strength and support. “Thank you.”

“Let me up, and I’ll see about getting us home.”

* * *

AS A LIFELONG devout Catholic, Joe Farnsworth never missed Sunday mass with his wife, Marti, who sang in the choir. He used the quiet hour of contemplation to reflect on the past week and to pray for the four thousand men and women who served under him in the Metropolitan Police Department. They had no idea he prayed for them, their safety and their families, who also sacrificed so much. They didn’t need to know that in addition to the obvious requests for their safety, he also asked the good Lord to keep his officers honest in all their dealings and to serve their city and its citizens with honor and distinction.

His prayers weren’t always answered, but he offered them anyway. In the last year, his department had suffered the tragic loss of Detective Arnold, a young officer who’d shown tremendous promise, and had seen several in their ranks cross lines that could never be uncrossed. He mourned for the losses of life and grieved over those who’d disappointed them all by stepping out of bounds. And mostly he prayed for the patience and fortitude to lead his department through turbulent times for law enforcement officers.

After mass, he waited in the back for Marti to join him for the walk home. She’d put a roast in the oven for their midday meal before they left. He enjoyed their routines and appreciated the weekends that passed without a crisis that brought him back to work.

As his lovely wife made her way toward him, surrounded by friends from the choir, he said a little prayer of thanks for her. Thirty-five years after they said “I do,” he was still crazy about her. She smiled brightly at the sight of him and damned if his heart didn’t give a little jolt of appreciation for the way she still looked at him.

Marti slipped her arm through his. “See you all at rehearsal on Tuesday.”

Cathy, another woman from the choir, gave him a good once-over, as she always did. It annoyed the hell out of Marti but only amused him. He had eyes only for the woman he’d had the good fortune to marry. There would never be anyone else for him. “Ladies.” Joe nodded to the others. “Have a good week.”

“Bye, Joe.” Cathy’s suggestive, breathy voice did nothing for him.

They said their goodbyes and began the five-block walk home, still arm in arm, as the brisk autumn air swirled around them, scattering fallen leaves on the sidewalk.

“If I stab her eyes out, will you have to arrest me?” Marti’s question, asked when they were two blocks from the church, made Joe laugh—hard.

“No one is above the law, my dear, not even the police chief’s wife.”

“I should have some advantages after all the nonsense I have to put up with as the police chief’s wife. Late-night phone calls and messed-up dinners and vacations, as well as interruptions to private activities.”

As chief of police, he never ignored a phone call. Ever. And that had led to some rather unfortunate interruptions in his married life. Luckily, his wife mostly rolled with the demands of his job. But some things, she said, should never be interrupted. He agreed and looked forward to the day, hopefully a few short years from now, when he would retire and give her all his time. In the meantime, he took the calls. “Your sacrifices have been significant, my love, but you still can’t stab her eyes out. If you were, however, to accidentally stick your foot out when she was walking by... Well, those things happen to the best of us.”

She snorted out an inelegant laugh. “That’s a very good idea. She’s in church, for heaven’s sake, and lusting after someone else’s husband. What is wrong with her?”

“She is only human after all, and your husband is a rather handsome sort of guy.”

“My husband is a stud, and she can eat her heart out. He’s all mine.”

“And he wouldn’t have it any other way.” Putting his arm around her, he kissed her temple. “You know you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“Of course I do, but it still annoys me when she looks at you like you’re an all-you-can-eat buffet and she’s starving.”

Joe laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes, recovering himself to notice someone waiting for them on their front porch. Immediately on guard, he reached for the concealed weapon he wore at all times on his hip.

“What?” Marti asked after he released her somewhat abruptly.

“Visitor on the porch.”

She took a closer look. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Joe. That’s Jake!”

Her vision was better than his, but now that she mentioned it, he could see the distinctive build of his close friend and colleague Jake Malone. At six feet four inches, Jake was a rather imposing sort of guy, and he should’ve recognized him more easily. Might be time for an eye exam. He tucked the weapon into the waistband of his pants.

Jake came down the stairs to meet them.

“You need to stay out of the shadows, my friend.” Marti raised her cheek to accept Jake’s kiss. “Blind-as-a-bat here nearly took a shot at you.”

“That’s not true.” Joe shook the hand of his friend and detective captain. “I never came close to shooting. What brings you by?” When he took a closer look at Jake and noticed distress, Joe’s stomach dropped in anticipation of bad news. “What is it?”

“Skip Holland passed away this morning.”

“Ah, no.” Marti sagged against him.

Shock hit Joe like a punch to the gut. He put his arm around Marti as much to comfort her as to be comforted. Images from decades of friendship cycled through his mind, one right after the other, beginning with his and Skip’s first days at the academy. And then he thought of the young, brash lieutenant who headed up his Homicide division, the woman who was like a niece to him, who’d called him Uncle Joe until she joined the force and he became her deputy chief and, later, her chief. “Sam...”

“Is holding up okay.”

“We need to go to them.” Marti took charge in his moment of shock. “Give me a minute to gather up the dinner I made. We’ll take it to them.”

She always made extra so they got a couple of days without having to cook. Why was he thinking of such things at a time like this? Skip was dead. He repeated the words to himself, hoping that would make them easier to process.

Marti gave his arm a squeeze and went up the stairs, moving quickly because she knew he’d want to see Celia and the family.

“You okay?” Jake asked when the two men stood alone on the sidewalk.

“I don’t know.” Jake Malone was one of three people in the world Joe Farnsworth completely trusted. The other two were Marti and Skip. Now one of them was gone. “You?”

“Even though we knew this could happen at any time in the last four years, I’m still completely stunned.”

“Me too.” He glanced up at Jake. “You’re sure Sam is okay?”

“I only talked to her for a minute, but she sounded better than I would’ve expected.”

Hands on hips, Joe tried to wrap his head around this latest development. “We’ll need the biggest damned police funeral this city has ever seen.”

“Absolutely. I’ve already put the word out to notify all the other departments once we have a plan.”

“We’ll get tens of thousands for this one.” Not just because of who Skip had been, but because of who his daughter and son-in-law were to the city and the country.

“No doubt about it. And we’ve upgraded the charges in his case from attempted murder of a police officer to murder. That was the first thing I did when I heard the news. I’ve also arranged for an honor escort from Ninth Street to the funeral home.”

Joe nodded in agreement. “Thank you for taking care of that.”

“Sam included mention of the tip line in the announcement that went public fifteen minutes ago. Let’s hope we get some new leads. It would give me great pleasure to lock up the son of a bitch who did this to him.”

“You and me both.”

They exchanged a fierce look that told Joe they were on the same page, as they usually were. Getting justice for Skip Holland would now become their top priority.

CHAPTER FIVE

BY LATE AFTERNOON, Skip’s house was overrun with family, friends, fellow police officers and neighbors who’d come to offer comfort and consolation to the grieving family. They’d brought food and booze and baked goods and love—lots and lots of love. While Sam appreciated the outpouring of support, the only love she wanted was from Nick, who was still several hours from home.

The clock seemed to move in reverse during that long, difficult day. She’d received a voice mail message from her partner, Freddie, that had touched her deeply. It pained her to think of him receiving this news when he was so far from home and supposed to be enjoying his new wife and their honeymoon.

Timing, as they said, was everything. She’d texted him to thank him for the concern and told him to carry on with his trip and that she was okay.

The undertakers had removed Skip’s body from the house several hours ago. Sam had stood with her family on the sidewalk to watch the Metro PD escort Skip to the funeral home with lights and sirens befitting a fallen hero. She had kept a distance from the proceedings to avoid the throng of reporters that had gathered outside the Secret Service checkpoint.

   
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