FIFTY-SEVEN

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Captain Beal shoved his SUV into park and turned to the woman beside him. It had been over a year since Jack's funeral, but the look on Virginia's face took him right back to that day. "Are you sure you're up for this?" he asked.

Red-rimmed eyes met his, a lifeless nod the only answer offered. She had insisted on coming, probably the first time she had left her house in five days. The captain had gone to pick her up, noticing immediately the dark circles and listless movement. All vibrancy was gone, as if someone had dimmed the lights to a very low setting, functional but not illuminating.

Looking over at the church, he watched a few people dressed in black make their way up the steps and through the double doors. Not a single reporter in sight. That was both gratifying and chilling at the same time. True, the Chilvatis liked to keep their private business to themselves, but an opportunity like this to rile up some anti-cop sentiment had to be hard to pass up. Things had been eerily quiet on the streets for the last few days. A calm-before-the-storm kind of quiet.

And the woman accompanying him was caught in the center of it all.

Adrian, the rookie who had pulled the trigger, was on paid leave while his case was being reviewed. He had talked about quitting. Virginia had been the one to convince him to take some time, let the independent investigation finish before making any rash decisions.

Dominique stood waiting for them by the door. As soon as he laid eyes on her, he eyeballed the captain with a look of concern.

But there were no reassurances to give.

Caps were removed as they entered the church. They were welcomed by an attendant and directed to a back room where visitation was being held before the service began. A crowd of mourners had spilled out into the chapel, gathered together in small groups in the aisle, some sitting in the pews. Stares and murmurs followed them as they walked by in their uniforms. Captain Beal offered Virginia his arm and she reached up and clung on to it.

When the casket came into view, she stopped. Fingers dug into his skin and he had to resist the urge to peel her hand away. A sweet aroma filled the room, a blending of scents drifting from the multitude of floral arrangements surrounding the raised platform Simon had been placed on.

Captain Beal took a quick look around. Spinelli was standing by the far wall, his arm also being used to support the hand of a woman. Covered head to toe in black, it had to be the sister. She wore a suit that emphasized the curves of the feminine form beneath it, with dark stockings that led down to patent leather heels. Almost-black hair fell in loose waves past her shoulders, partially hidden under a small hat that sat atop her head at a precarious tilt. A dotted veil hung down in front, ending just above ruby red lips.

As far as first impressions go, she looked like a classic femme fatale out of a 1940s movie.

Virginia didn't notice any of them, consumed by the sight in front of her. Taking a deep breath, she dropped her grip and moved forward of her own volition, Dominique and the captain following close behind.

They stood there, the three of them, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Such a young face. Another unfair twist of fate. Another life cut too short. Simon looked as though he were sleeping and there seemed a need to keep silent so as not to awaken him. Virginia reached in, placing what she had brought below the pillow his head rested on. "I'm so sorry," she whispered before a deep sob cut her off, her shoulders rolling inward to support the sudden compression to her chest.

Captain Beal sensed his presence before he saw him. He turned to Spinelli, alerting Virginia through his movement that there was someone there. He felt the shake in her hand when it latched onto his arm again.

Spinelli didn't acknowledge her, his rigid features fixed on the captain's face. "My sister would like you all to leave."

"We came here to pay our respect, that's all," the captain said.

"You've done that, now you need to leave. I can't have my sister any more upset than she already is."

Captain Beal looked across the room. The sister was still standing by the wall, her eyes burning up the distance between them. She wasn't so upset that she couldn't manage to put on all of her makeup, he wanted to say. But he kept his grumbling to himself. Everyone dealt with grief differently. Who was he to judge?

"Fine," he said dryly. He patted Virginia's hand, and she pulled her eyes from Spinelli's face to his. "You ready to go?" He wanted it to be her decision and hers alone.

She took one more look at the casket and nodded.

He led her out of there, away from all that pain.

) l (

Mark turned to confront Dominique who had hung back and was throwing off a challenging stare. "You got something to say to me, Dom—"

"Do you know how much she is hurting? She loved that kid. This is not the time to be turning your back on her."

"So self-righteous, Dominique," Mark drawled. "Tell me, where was that when you came to me looking for money?" He couldn't resist the urge to do damage, striking at the most vulnerable point. He wanted someone else to feel the pain that he did.

Funny though, it only made him feel worse.

A glare, the likes of which would have been an asset in the ring, darkened the boxer's features. "Asshole," Dominique muttered as he turned away to follow the other two out of the church.

Mark stepped over to the casket and felt around under satin to retrieve what he had seen her put there. His fingers touched something small and hard. He pulled it out, feeling the weight of the metal in his hand as he took in the carved representation of a woman, blindfolded, holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other—a small statue of Lady Justice.

His hand curled around it as Virginia's words repeated in his head: He wants to be a lawyer. Pain ripped through him with the thought of lost opportunities—a future Simon would no longer have.

Tears blurred his vision as he gazed down at the peaceful, young face . . . and tucked the statue back under the pillow.

END OF CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

Do you think it was appropriate for them to make an appearance?

I don't know what else to say except please vote, even if it is sad. You can complain in the comments. I won't mind :(

Dedicated to @Holly-60s , author of Louis Dimucci (Grease 2), for all her support on this story, and for taking me back in time with her own.

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