Ten years ago, Roland Burke took a life. He ended that life with the ease of taking a breath. In that instant he became an unrepentant judge, jury and executioner. He surrendered cognitive thinking. He had forsaken everything he had ever believed in or stood for and the blood on his hands he felt, was justified.
Two months later, Burke left the sleepy little Southern town. He was leaving his past and his past memories behind, or so he thought.
He relocated to Chicago where living was fast and dying was even faster. It wasn’t like the small town where nothing more than a convenience store robbery or an unexpected fatal heart attack was the only justification for leaving the office.
Of course, there had been the The Ice Pick Killer case along with a “random” shooting, neither of which had ever been solved but things in the small town had gone back to the boring humdrum it was before.
Not long after Burke got settled, he wandered into a supermarket and met a woman named Carol, who was twenty years his junior. It didn’t take long for the unlikely pair to begin a relationship. They married three years later and had twin boys they affectionately called “Mutt and Jeff.”
Carol would tease Burke about his “Southern drawl” and he would counter-attack by calling her “a Damn Yankee.” He would look at her and with seriousness in his voice say “did you know that I was nigh onto five years old before I saw in the dictionary that damn and Yankee were two separate words?” Carol would giggle and say in her best imitation of what she said he sounded like, “I didn’t thaink you Suthen boys could read.”
He treated Carol well but she sometimes felt that she didn’t have all of him. There was a distance in his eyes and she often wondered where he was because she knew he wasn’t with her.
He had been vague when discussing his past and never disclosed anything about previous relationships. Carol thought that being a detective explained much of his closed-off-ness. She knew he couldn’t share information about cases and she understood but occasionally, she cautiously mentioned that she felt left out. He told her that she knew him better than anybody but she wondered if she really knew him at all.
He had always to her, seemed to be a tortured soul. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and find him staring out the bedroom window. “Couldn’t sleep,” was always his explanation.
He had frequent nightmares and would wake up screaming what sounded like to her like “slaughter.” Carol would try to calm him down and tell him that nobody was being “slaughtered.” She could only think that he had seen something dreadfully brutal in his past and she felt helpless as she tried to soothe him while he wept.
When Carol asked him about his dreams, he brushed her off and said he didn’t remember.
One morning Burke was called to investigate what seemed to be a gang related massacre but since the officers had reported the victims as “dead on scene,” he decided there was no rush and made a quick stop to grab a bite to eat. The lack of urgency wasn’t necessarily due to nonchalance but rather the familiarity of what had become routine.
As fate would have it, sureality smacked Burke right between the eyes when he literally ran into Powell. After a moment of disbelief, he said “what in the hell are you doing here, kiddo?”
They shook hands and Powell said “you haven’t changed much. Maybe a little more grey hair and a few extra pounds and I do I believe you may have shrunk a few inches.”
“Bullshit, I look better than you,” said Burke. “How are things down in your neck of the woods? How’s Captain Meade?”
“Didn’t you hear? Powell asked. “Captain Meade died two years ago.”
“How?” Burke asked.
“He walked into his office one day, picked up his Bible and collapsed. He died before the paramedics got there. They tried to get him back but couldn’t. They said COD was a myocardial infarction. That poor son-of-a-bitch quit smoking, trying to get healthier and then he dropped dead. Isn’t that some shit?”
“I’ll say,” said Burke. “Who replaced him?”
“Some joker who was a real asshole and out to make a name for himself. He believed in totalitarianism when it came to who wore the proverbial crown and he ruled with an iron fist. There was no room for anybody he thought wasn’t “on board” with his plan of action and he eventually ran everybody off, including me.”
“Where are you now?” asked Burke.
“I hung up my gold shield and started my own Private Investigation Agency in Atlanta,” Powell said.
“No shit,” Burke said. “What are you doing in Chicago?” Powell said, “I’m on a case.”
Burke said. “Well, you need to come by the house and meet the wife and kids.”
Powell let out a Southern holler and said “kids? I heard you had gotten married but I didn’t know you had kids. I didn’t think there was anybody out there who would have you. How the hell did you con her into marrying you?”
“I used my irresistible charm,” Burke said with a grin.
To be continued____________