Chicago, Illinois, Friday, 18 October 1996
The volley of shots was ragged, five going off at the same time, the other two rifles sounding like a car backfiring shortly thereafter. Riley had expected the sharp crack of the blanks so he wasn't startled, as were some of the other people surrounding the grave.
His black army raincoat was unbuttoned and the stiff wind was blowing it about, but he didn't notice. The battered green beret scrunched down on his head was soaked from the freezing drizzle that had been falling for the past half hour, but Riley seemed unaware of it.
The second volley was slightly better—only one shot a split second behind.
To Riley's left, Col. Mike Pike, U.S. Army Retired, was very aware of both the weather and Riley's condition, and he didn't like either. In thirty years in the military, Pike had attended more than his share of funerals, but this one was different. He'd never been to the funeral of a woman killed in the line of duty, and he'd never had to comfort the man she'd left behind. It had always been the other way around.
Not that Pike thought any words could comfort Dave Riley at the moment. Riley's slight frame was ramrod straight, and his dark eyes were focused on the plain wood coffin suspended over the yawning hole in the ground. The short black hair under his beret was matted and poked out at strange angles around the dark skin of his face, the complexion an inheritance from his Puerto Rican mother, as his name was his inheritance from a father he never knew.
The salute was done, and a police bugler began playing taps. Pike had spent so many years isolated in the military that he had never really considered the fact that the police community was very similar to that of the army—close knit and banding together when one of their own went down. The last notes of the bugle were ripped away by the wind, and then it was over. The coffin was slowly lowered. Riley stepped forward, grabbed a handful of mud, and opened his fingers to let it fall on the coffin, not even noticing that most of the mud stuck to his skin.
The commissioner was the first to walk by, shaking Riley's hand and saying something that was swirled away by the wind. The line of mourners continued, and Riley greeted each mechanically until there was no one left.
Pike waited. He didn't mind the freezing rain splashing against his leathery face and rolling down inside his collar. There'd be plenty of time to get warm later. As he'd been told thirty-three years ago as a young buck going through Ranger school, "The human body is waterproof." He knew that Riley was just as hard, so it wasn't physical stress that Pike worried about now. It was emotional stress: that was a minefield few warriors felt comfortable traversing.
"Do you want to be alone?" Pike asked.
At first he thought Riley hadn't heard, but then the other man turned his head slightly, as if considering the question, before speaking. "No. She's dead. Standing here isn't going to change that. It's just making her death seem real—standing here, seeing this. I didn't believe it when they called me. I didn't begin to believe it until I saw her body in the funeral home."
Pike remembered the phone call from Riley three days ago. It had been succinct and to the point: "Donna's dead, sir. They just called me from Chicago. She walked into the middle of some punks ripping off a deli and got shot."
That had been it. Pike had driven the five hundred miles from Atlanta to Fort Bragg that evening, making it in time to fly up to Chicago with Riley. They'd learned more about the incident, as the police referred to it, from the detective handling the case. Donna Giannini had been going to lunch at her old neighborhood deli as she had done almost every day at work. There were two teenagers in the store holding a pistol and a shotgun on the owner in the back room, trying to get him to open a small safe. When she called out from the counter to her old friend the owner, her answer was a blast of buckshot to the chest.
It hadn't killed her outright. She drew her gun, stood back up, and shot the kid with the shotgun three times, killing him. Then she collapsed and died. The second kid ran out the back of the store.
"We'll get the other one," the detective had told Riley and Pike. He looked at them and glanced around; then, in the manner of one professional to another, he continued in a lower voice: "He won't be brought in alive. Everyone on the street knows it, he knows it, we know it, and I just want you to know it. Donna was good people and a damn good cop. We don't let cop killers walk here or go cry in the courtroom."
Donna Giannini had been good people, Pike reflected. The best. He had gotten to know her well when she and Riley had come to him for help the previous year after running into trouble with rogue elements of the Witness Protection Program. He had known Dave Riley from his time in the Special Forces; years earlier, under Pike's command, Riley had run direct action missions into Colombia to destroy cocaine factories. The two had kept in touch over the years.
Pike had been happy about the two of them being together. He knew they'd had plans: Riley was going to finish out his twenty years next spring, then retire, move up to Chicago, and go back to school. That was something Pike had heartily approved of. It was as if Riley had come out of his shell and become alive, ready to start a new life after the trials and darkness of his life in the Special Forces. But now—now, Pike didn't know what was going to happen to his friend.
Pike had been relieved when the detective assured them that the second man wouldn't be brought in alive. He'd feared that Riley would stay in Chicago and exact his own vengeance. At least now he could get Riley out of town without tripping over bodies.
Riley turned from the grave and looked out over the cemetery. He seemed reluctant to leave, but the inevitable was sinking in. "All right," he finally said. "Let's go."
They walked slowly over to the rental car, each lost in his own thoughts. As Pike got behind the wheel, Riley slumped down in the passenger seat and looked out the window, keeping the fresh mound of dirt in sight until they turned a corner. Then he faced front. "I put in my papers," he said, as flatly as if he were announcing the sun coming up.
"You what?" Pike said, surprised.
"I'm on terminal leave. I've got enough days of leave saved up to run me through my retirement day next year. I was going to stay on active duty and cash in my leave when I retired—to pay for my first year of school—but that no longer is neces . . ." Riley paused, and Pike kept his eyes straight ahead on the rain-soaked road, not wanting to see the tears.
"What are you going to do?" Pike finally asked. 'Take some time to—"
"I don't want time and I don't want to think," Riley snapped. He turned to his old friend. "Sorry, sir. I know it might be too much to ask, but do you have any jobs I might be able to do?"
Pike ran a security consulting firm, with clients all over the United States and overseas. He was glad that Dave was turning to him for help. "Hell, yeah. I'd love to have you come work for me."
"Just keep me busy," Riley said. He looked over his shoulder one last time. "Just keep me busy."
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