Then next morning, Powell went to visit Carol. He was going to have to take a gingerly approach with her and try not to say anything that would make her suspicious.
Around ten o’clock, he knocked on the door and Carol greeted him with a smile. She offered coffee and snacks as they walked into the kitchen. “I am so glad to meet somebody who knew Roland before I met him. He doesn’t reveal very much about his past and I don’t want you to think for a minute that I expect you to betray any confidences, but I would just like to know a little more about him.”
Powell said “well, he was a dichotomy. He could be intense and singularly focused but he could also be playful. He had a strict code of ethics and always tried to do the right thing but under certain circumstances, he would look the other way.”
Carol wasn’t beating around any proverbial bushes. She bluntly asked, “did something terrible happen to him?”
Taken somewhat aback, Powell was hoping she couldn’t hear his pulse quicken. He was also curious why she didn’t ask him about any previous involvements. He said “I’m not exactly sure what you mean.”
She said “sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and he’s standing there, just staring out the window. When I ask him what’s wrong, he just says he couldn’t sleep. When he is able to sleep, he wakes up screaming something about us being slaughtered. He never screams anything about us being murdered…it’s always about us being slaughtered. I have always thought that he must have seen something horrible.” She looked down and said “or maybe he thinks he did something horrible. Maybe he took a life and has never come to terms with it.”
Powell swallowed hard and tried to deflect her disguised question. He said “if you allow it, that job can take everything from you. You can’t see the kind of things he sees and not be affected in some way. Even the most hardened detectives have their dreams invaded. It’s a coping mechanism, I think. Your conscious mind blocks things out and they emerge in other ways, such as in your dreams. I know I had them before I turned in my shield.”
“Have you tried to talk to him?” Powell innocently asked. “He won’t talk about anything,” she said. “He says there’s not very much to tell but I can see a distance in his eyes and right after we moved here, he did something really strange that was completely out of character.”
“What do you mean?” Powell asked.
“Come with me.” She led Powell out into the back yard and showed him a bird bath.
“See this? Two days after we moved in, I was unpacking things and suddenly he told me that he needed to pick something up. He came back with that bird bath and worked all afternoon finding just the right place to put it. He wouldn’t allow any of us to come outside while he worked. Then he called the boys out and told them that they must never touch it. He said it was because he didn’t want them to scare the birds away.” She nervously laughed and said “I remember thinking that I didn’t realize he cared so much about birds.”
“A few weeks later, the boys were playing and accidentally turned it over. Roland was almost frantic and started screaming at them, which is something he never does. After that, he put a fence put around it, complete with a gate and a padlock. He keeps a chair out there and says it’s his thinking spot but he never goes out there. He just watches it, almost like he’s guarding it.”
Carol didn’t realize it but she was volunteering the very information that Powell wanted.
To be continued_______________-