Burke was at the Lounge, anxiously awaiting Slaughter. She had figured out who the killer was and he was wondering just what the “cause for celebration” would entail. He was hoping for a little more than a drink and an exchange of information.
She had certainly lived up to her reputation. She was everything he had heard she was but he had discovered a softer side…a more human side and he had acquired a tremendous respect for her. She had left her mark on him.
He smiled as he thought “never before have I met a woman who is so commanding, so intelligent, so driven and so beautiful. She is certainly one for the record books.”
He knew he had become infatuated with her and somewhere deep down, he knew it was a mistake. He also knew he had to face the reality that, just as Powell had warned, she would be going back home.
Did he dare think that she might entertain the idea of staying? She was a big city player from the town some called “the Paris of the West” and he was a small town detective, living in a city that didn’t even appear on most maps.
Daydreaming made the time pass quickly and before he realized it, an hour had gone by. Slaughter should have been there. He gave her a call but it went straight to voicemail. He didn’t give it much thought because it had happened before.
After a few minutes, his phone rang. Expecting Slaughter, he didn’t even look at the number. He was surprised when he heard Captain Meade’s voice.
“Where are you?” he asked. Burke hesitantly told him that he was at the Lounge, waiting for Slaughter and asked “what’s going on?” Captain Meade said “meet me at Slaughters’ place” and then abruptly hung up.
Burke felt sick to his stomach as he got up and headed toward the door. His mind was racing as he lit up his car and sped over to her place.
When he arrived, Captain Meade and Powell were waiting for him. He could tell by the expression on their faces, that something was wrong. Powell told him he might not want to go any further but Burke pushed by him and walked up to Slaughters’ car.
Her head resting on the steering wheel. A stream of blood was running from her left ear.
All Burke could think was “how? How had this woman, a woman who could lay you all the way down with a single fiery glance, be dead? How had a complete stranger been able to get that close to her…or had it been a stranger?”
Burke asked Captain Meade how he knew to come to Slaughters’ place. Captain Meade said “we got an anonymous tip.”
“When?” Burke asked.
“About half an hour ago.”
Burke’s thoughts immediately turned to Pittman. Slaughter had in every sense of the word, turned him into a eunuch and he wasn’t the kind of man to let somebody get away with that, particularly when that somebody was a woman.
As he considered the possibility, he couldn’t help but think that somehow, he was responsible for Slaughters’ death. If he had only gone to her instead of meeting at the Lounge, she would still be alive.
Burke could feel his rage almost reaching critical mass and it was showing. He was screaming like a caged animal and had to be physically restrained.
It didn’t take long for Captain Meade to understand that Burke’s reactions were more than just investigating another murder. He told him to back off and leave the scene and that order infuriated Burke even more.
While scouring Slaughters’ car, the crime scene was the same as all the others. Her purse was still in the car, along with her weapon. Her files were still on the front seat. The keys were still in the ignition.
The only thing they found was what looked like the burned remains of an envelope. Powell gingerly picked it up and put it in an evidence bag, although he believed the chances were slim that anything was going to be found in the ashes.
Burke stood in silence as the coroner took Slaughters’ body away.
Quietly to Powell, he wondered aloud if she had thought about him before she died. Powell put his hand on his shoulder and said “I don’t know which would make you feel worse…if I said yes or if I said no.”
It was a sleepless night for Burke, Powell and Captain Meade. As dawn broke, the three of them walked to the lab to see if they had managed to find anything in the ashes. The tech showed them the only thing he could salvage, which was a tiny sliver of paper.
On that tiny piece of paper, they were able to make out four words. “They turned their backs.” The tech asked Burke what he thought that meant. Of course, their reports reflected that the victims had been killed, while supposedly having “turned their backs” momentarily but this piece of paper hadn’t come from a report. It had been typed and Burke felt sure that it hadn’t been typed by Slaughter.
Where had Slaughter gotten this letter and more importantly, who had sent it?
Burke, in a fit of anger, threw up his hands and said “she knew who the fucking killer was. Why didn’t I make her tell me?”
Powell tried to comfort him by saying he couldn’t have known what was going to happen. Burke slammed his fist down on the desk and said “it was that goddamn Pittman! I know it was that goddamn Pittman!”
Captain Meade shook his head and said “no it wasn’t. We’ve already checked and he was out of town.”
Captain Meade patted him on the back and said “we’ve got a tough phone call to make and we can’t put if off any longer.” Burke and Powell followed him into his office and sat down. Captain Meade wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and picked up the phone.
Emotionless, Burke stared at nothing as he listened to Captain Meade. He took a deep breath and started to walk out of the room, in an almost robotic way. He paused and said “if it takes the rest of my life, I am going to find out who did this.”
The death of Slaughter changed Burke. He lost focus and became almost insanely obsessed. He started showing up late for work, if he showed up at all and was often seen sitting at the Lounge, staring into his drink.
Powell tried everything from the soft approach of offering a comforting shoulder to cry on, to the school of hard knocks prediction of becoming a homeless alcoholic. Burke resented Powell’s attempts and his response was hostile when he accused him of interfering in his personal life. It wasn’t long until their friendship basically ended.
Captain Meade eventually had to call Burke into his office and order him take an extended leave of absence. The man Captain Meade and Powell had known was no longer there. Only the shell of a broken man was left.
As Burke slowly walked out of the station, Captain Meade looked at Powell and said “kiddo. We’re going to have to keep an eye on him. The only thing more dangerous than a man who has everything to gain, is a man who has nothing to lose.”