A face to die for, p.34
A Face to Die For, p.34Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
As she neared the gazebo, her heart leapt. Her father was lying on the floor, a pool of blood oozing from his head. And Neil was straightening to his feet, a gun clutched in his hand.
Lina broke into a run. “Dad!” she screamed, oblivious to the fact that she was placing herself in danger. “Oh my God, Dad.”
She raced past Neil, kneeling down to check her father’s pulse, to see if he was alive.
Thank God she felt the steady thud beneath her fingers.
“You did this.” She twisted around to look up at Neil, her eyes glazed with non-comprehension. “Why? Why?” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her father’s phone. She crawled over to snatch it up. “I’m calling an ambulance.”
“The hell you are.” Neil kicked the phone away, simultaneously grabbing Lina’s arm and yanking her to her feet. He turned her around, locking her back against his chest and pressing the barrel of the gun to her temple.
“He’ll bleed to death,” she said on a sob. “Please…”
“Calm down, Lina.” Neil locked an arm around her waist. “I didn’t shoot him. I just knocked him out. The problem is, he called 9-1-1. Which means the police are on their way. So you’re going to help me get out of here.”
“Or what? You’ll kill me?” Lina’s chest was pounding as she desperately tried to sort this out. Why was Neil doing this? What was his part in this nightmare? “I’ve known you all my life. You’re like family. Why would you do this?”
“No time for a Q and A,” Neil replied, dragging her across the gazebo and down the steps. “We’re getting out of here. I’ve got a plane to catch.”
“Sorry, but we’ll be canceling your reservations.” Patrick’s voice came from behind them, and Neil whipped around, clutching Lina tightly against him as he watched Patrick step out from a thicket of trees. Patrick’s pistol was aimed at Neil, despite the fact that he didn’t have a clean shot. “The only place you’re going is to prison… Jimmy.”
“Jimmy?” Lina lurched against him in shock. “You’re Jimmy Colone?”
Neil stared at Patrick, his silence answering Lina’s question.
Quickly, he turned his gun on Patrick, gesturing at Patrick’s pistol. “I’d drop that if I were you. Or I’ll blow your head off. And you won’t touch me—not with Lina as my human shield.”
Patrick hesitated for effect. Then he nodded. “Fine. Just take it easy.” He bent, dropping his weapon to the grass and straightening to a standing position.
Neil’s eyes narrowed. “Now that was a little too simple.” He waved the pistol at Patrick’s suit jacket. “Open that. Slowly and completely. We’ll get to your pockets next. I want to see if you have any surprise weapons hidden.”
Patrick complied, pulling open the sides of his jacket and spreading them wide.
Neil’s concentration was on Patrick, which was just enough of a distraction for Lina to act.
She lifted her foot and slammed the heel of her Jimmy Choo into the arch of Neil’s foot.
“Shit!” he howled, his grip on her going slack as he doubled over.
Lina wrenched herself free just as a shot rang out, piercing Patrick’s jacket and striking Neil in the shoulder.
Neil cried out and jerked backwards, dropping his pistol and clutching his arm, as Marc stepped out from behind Patrick, where he’d been crouched low, waiting to strike.
Lina acted instantly. She picked up the gun before Neil could recover and raced over to hand it to Patrick. “My father…” she managed as Marc pushed Neil down, pinning him to the ground.
Sirens sounded in the distance, growing closer to the manor.
“Stay put.” Patrick ran up the steps and over to Joseph’s limp body. He checked his vitals and, without touching it, studied the head wound. The bleeding had already slowed down and the wound looked to be shallow.
“He’ll be fine, Lina. I called for an ambulance the minute I saw him go down. The paramedics will be showing up any minute. Both they and the police know where we are on the property. I made sure of that.” He returned to Lina’s side and placed a paternal hand on her quaking shoulder. “It’s over, honey.”
“I love him,” she whispered. “No matter what, he’s my father. He’s a good man. He’s flawed, but…” She covered her face with her hands, sobbing as the emotional tidal wave finally struck.
“He is a good man,” Patrick replied as the police cars raced around to the back of the house. “He’s also a good father. Good parents will do anything to protect their children. And that’s what he was trying to do—protect you. And now you’ve returned the favor, Lina. You protected him. You’re a wonderful daughter. He’ll tell you so himself the minute he wakes up.”
“That might be sooner than you think,” Marc said, tipping his head in Joseph’s direction. The assemblyman was shifting around, groaning as he tried to pick up his head.
“Dad!” Lina blew by everyone to reach her father, taking his hand and gripping it in hers.
Joseph blinked, his unfocused gaze finding his daughter. “Lina,” he murmured. “Thank God. He didn’t hurt you.” A pained pause. “So… sorry. So much… to explain.”
“Later, Dad. We’ll get through this. It’s time for us to heal.”
Offices of Forensic Instincts
Three days later
Casey glanced at her watch. The girls would be here any minute.
Gia had called from the train, telling Emma that she and Lina were taking Dani to the airport to fly home to a veterinary practice that was straining at the seams without her. The head partners had been more than understanding—but enough was enough. So Dani was Minneapolis bound, and her sisters were seeing her off. The three of them wanted to stop by and see the FI team first.
Glancing at the notes she’d typed into her iPad during the team’s last debriefing session, Casey felt a deep sense of satisfaction.
The wheels of justice were already turning.
Jimmy Colone had had the bullet removed from his shoulder and was now in custody. The charges were extensive: a double homicide, three kidnappings, and a slew of ancillary crimes—not to mention what he’d done at the Brandos’ gazebo the other day. As a result, he wouldn’t be seeing the light of day for years, if ever. Al Carp—real name Alberto Costa—was in custody, as well. Ryan had easily found his contact information in Jimmy’s phone, Gabe had identified him for the police, and the guy was talking a mile a minute to save his own ass by describing what Jimmy had hired him to do.
As for Gabe, it looked like he’d be facing a minimum sentence—most of which would be converted into community service—along with some intensive counseling.
Joseph Brando had been lucky. His injuries had been only a concussion and a nasty head wound that the hospital staff had stitched up in no time. He’d been released the next day and was home healing with Donna.
After a long, hard discussion, the entire Forensic Instincts team had agreed that Joseph Brando was primarily a victim. There was no reason to reveal details that might destroy his political career. He’d have his hands full anyway, between the reopening of the Pontis’ murder case and t
The country’s sympathy would be immediately evoked, especially after hearing how the Brandos had suffered and prayed for the miracle of a child, and their abounding joy in finally adopting one.
Consequently, the FI team would let things play out on their own and reveal nothing about the pieces of truth that would be omitted, that being Joseph’s knowing Neil’s real identity and watching out for him because Angelo had asked him to. The press would, of course, have a field day speculating, based on Joseph’s lifetime friendship with Angelo, but there was only smoke with no discernable fire. And Casey and the team knew that, even though that fire did exist, the fact was that Joseph had been protecting Angelo’s little brother from a life in the mob, not harboring a killer.
In her gut, Casey believed that this story would die down and Joseph’s congressional goals would be fulfilled. But that was in the hands of the voters.
All in all, the total outcome of this investigation was positive.
Casey’s thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the front doorbell.
“Gia Russo, Danielle Murano, and Angelina Brando have arrived,” Yoda announced.
“Thanks, Yoda. I’ll show them in.”
She opened the door to see three smiling, if exhausted, young women, juggling Dani’s luggage and already planning their next get-together, this time in Dani’s home city of Minneapolis. Lina was urging Dani to rethink her decision about pursuing that coveted veterinary position in New York. Dani wasn’t flat-out dismissing the idea. And Gia was carrying a huge pastry box, which she immediately thrust at Casey.
“This came from my best dessert vendor,” she said. “They bake a blackout cake—as Lina would say—to die for. Brides give up the idea of a white wedding cake the minute they taste this. In this case, I had them make it as a sheet cake so the whole team could enjoy it.”
“There’s no real way we can ever thank you all for what you’ve done for us,” Dani added.
“But chocolate is always a good start.” Lina grinned.
“Wow, thank you so much—and come on in.” Casey was delighted to see the transition that was already occurring. All three girls were coming back to themselves—right down to Lina’s natural exuberance. And they were already bonding as sisters.
It was truly a pleasure to behold.
Upstairs in the conference room, the entire team awaited, all of them greeting Gia, Dani, and Lina as the friends they’d become. Emma didn’t lose a minute before getting plates, napkins, and utensils and then taking it upon herself to slice and serve the cake.
There were choruses of oohs and aahs as everyone tasted pieces of chocolate heaven.
“If I ever get married, I want this baker,” Emma said, savoring the bite she’d just taken.
“I’ll make a note of that,” Gia assured her. “Blackout cake it will be. I’m planning a birthday party for my uncle. This is his cake of choice, too.”
“Speaking of which, how are your parents?” Patrick asked. “All three sets.”
“Mine are weak with relief that the danger’s been eliminated,” Dani replied. “They’re meeting me at LaGuardia, and we’re flying back to Minneapolis together. There’s an enormous sense of relief that this whole thing is over, on every level.”
“Same with my parents,” Gia said. “All they want is for things to go back to normal and to not have to worry about my life being in jeopardy.”
Lina stared down at her cake. “It’s a little more complicated at my end, as you would expect. The process is slow.”
“How’s your father doing?” Claire asked gently.
“Physically, he’s much better. Emotionally, he’s still pretty shaken. Neil’s—Jimmy’s—betrayal hit him like a ton of bricks.” Lina paused and looked up. “It’s no secret to anyone in this room that my father knew who Neil was. But Angelo was his best friend. He took him at his word when he said he was making Jimmy disappear to protect him from being affiliated with the mob. He had no idea about the murders or the kidnappings.” She sighed. “Between that and making peace with me about lying all these years… it’s been tough.”
“But down deep, you know your parents love you,” Casey said. “And that will get you through this.”
Lina nodded. “The Russos and the Muranos have been awesome. They’re not only treating me like family, they’re completely sympathetic to my parents’ situation. They feel that, just as they are victims, so are my parents. There are no bad feelings at all.”
“That’s as it should be,” Dani said. “Given how close your family was to Neil Donato, this is even harder for them than it is for our parents.” She looped an arm around Lina’s shoulders. “It’s all going to work out.”
“Without question,” Gia agreed. “We’re one big extended family now.” She glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. “And now we’d better run, or Dani will be chasing the plane down the runway. I’m sorry to cut this short.”
“No problem.” Casey put down her plate and went to hug each of the girls in turn. “But you’d better include us in your plans the next time Dani’s in town.”
The girls hugged every member of the FI team, said their goodbyes, and followed Casey to the door. With additional promises to keep in touch, they gathered up Dani’s luggage and headed out.
Casey retraced her steps, returning to the conference room to see Marc, Ryan, and Patrick wolfing down their second huge chunks of cake with no signs of slowing down.
“We’re saving a piece for Hutch,” Marc said between mouthfuls. “He’s coming over right after work to celebrate with us. That should polish this baby off.””
Emma and Claire rolled their eyes.
“It’s a guy thing,” Emma said wisely. “I might rethink that future wedding. I’ll forget the husband and just opt for the blackout cake.”
“Heaven forbid, what if one of us wanted a second piece of cake?” Claire asked.
“You’d be SOL,” Ryan stated flatly. “When it comes to food, men rule.”
“Wrong.” Casey marched over, sliced off half the cake, and transferred it to a serving plate, which she brought over and stored in the mini-fridge. “When it comes to Forensic Instincts, I rule. And that half a cake has FI women written all over it.”
Marc’s brows rose in amusement. “In other words, case closed.”
My thanks to the following people who were instrumental in my creating A Face to Die For:
Retired FBI Supervisor Konrad Motyka
Angela Bell, FBI Office of Public Affairs
Paul Sedlacek, DVM
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Andrea Kane, A Face to Die For
(Series: Forensic Instincts # 6)
A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes