Roland Burke was a broken man. Not because of a failed marriage or a relationship that had soured. Not even because he had lost his job.
He had never really returned to work. Captain Meade and Powell had tried to engage him but the Burke they had known didn’t exist anymore. He was sullen and defiant.
Even though Captain Meade told Burke that Pittman had been cleared, Burke was obsessed with the idea that he had something to do with Slaughter’s death.
He seemed to have taken on parts of Pittman’s personality. When he did come to work, he came when he felt like it and he started treating people like they were less than human…and people started complaining.
Captain Meade finally had to let him go but with the promise of a revisit of his decision, should Burke get himself together. Although their friendship had basically ended, Powell had tried to reach out to him but his efforts were futile. He stopped by Burke’s apartment with frequency and although he knew Burke was there, his knock was never answered.
Burke had allowed himself to become too attached to Slaughter. She was not the love of his life nor was she likely to have ever been but she had left an indelible mark. It was almost as if she had been seared to his very soul but now she was dead and her death had left him devastated.
He felt responsible somehow and his guilt was overwhelming. He had never disclosed the extent of their relationship to anybody but from his actions, it was clear that it had progressed far beyond friendship.
For three months, he had been lost in a world of self-destruction and self-loathing. Booze had become his best friend and seemed to be the only comfort he could find. He gradually retreated into a life of a self-imposed solitary confinement.
His nights were spent fitfully sleeping for a scant few hours and his days were spent in a hungover, hazy fog. During the few hours he was sober, he cursed himself.
Untouched mail had piled up in front of the door and his power had been turned off two weeks earlier but he didn’t seem to care. Darkness was his friend and made it easy to hide from the outside world.
Powell made the decision to stop by once more and in an uncharacteristic gesture, Burke opened the door. The sickening smell of stale booze permeated the air. Powell could tell that Burke was inebriated. In an unapologetic voice, Burke said “I’m having breakfast. Want some?”
Powell politely declined. He was taken aback when he saw that Burke was as unkempt as his apartment. Burke was holding a piece of paper in his hand and sat down in his favorite chair. He showed it to Powell and said “isn’t this some kind of shit?”
Powell looked at the “final eviction notice” and asked Burke what he was going to do about it.
“Nothing,” said Burke.
Powell looked around, as if assessing a crime scene and just shook his head. There were half-eaten pieces of pizza and empty fast food bags and boxes scattered all over the room. Beer and liquor bottles decorated the table tops, counters and even the floor.
Dishes were piled up in the sink and Powell recoiled as he watched a roach scurry by. He said “Jesus, Burke. You’ve got bugs crawling around.”
Burke said “that’s Charlie. He’s my buddy.”
Burke was in his pajamas and when Powell asked him how long it had been since he bathed and got dressed, he smiled, popped open another beer and said “I don’t even remember.”
This 6′ 4″ man who had been such an imposing character was now just a shell of his former self. He was rumpled and slovenly. His face was puffy from all the booze, his hair looked like it had been coiffed by Albert Einstein and his once well-groomed mustache looked like he was ready to audition for Duck Dynasty.
Powell asked Burke if he realized what was happening to him. “You’re obviously not paying your bills. Your apartment’s a wreck. You’re a wreck. What are you going to do, just sit around here until you die?”
His questions were answered with “my life is none of your fucking business.”
Powell clearly made a mistake when he asked Burke what he thought Slaughter would think if she knew what he was doing. Burke unsteadily stood up but still towered over Powell. He snarled when he said “she isn’t thinking anything because she’s dead! Now get the fuck out of here.”
Powell begged Burke to let him help but his offer was met with hostility. Burke, in an almost scream said, “I don’t need your help. I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need anything from anybody.”
He sat back down, opened a pint of Vodka, raised the bottle and said “cheers.”
To be continued________________