Robert took in every detail of Pam's observations. She had a child's curiosity that brought the outside world to life. They talked about how the ocean washed the sand away along a nearby beach, and great white logs of driftwood emerged like petrified whales. Or about a radio program describing how caterpillars turn to liquid in the cocoon -- and come out as butterflies with the impulses they learned as caterpillars.
She worried about him. She saw the stress in his face. He had done everything possible, in her view, to show his redemption.
He had not been written up for a rule violation for seven years. He had requested to have his gang tattoos removed. He put an ad in the local newspaper denouncing prison gangs and crime. He completed a correspondence course to become a paralegal.
None of it seemed to matter. His only way out was to become an informant .
Pam never questioned Robert's motives for refusing to debrief, she would later say: She never wondered if he secretly held sway in the gang, relaying messages, ordering hits. She never worried if she was being manipulated for her legal help. She never questioned whether he was navigating a gray zone, doing just enough to keep his position of power and safety in the only place he had known for more than 20 years.
She saw the whole policy of rewarding inmates for information as inherently corrupt. Robert was still fighting allegations by informants in his murder case, 10 years after Steven "T-Bone" Gibson's throat was slashed while he played pinochle in the yard in Chino. Robert was initially convicted of murder, but the jury found he did not wield the knife. The conviction was reversed on appeal for this reason.
At the retrial, an informant testified that Robert boasted after the murder about the correct way to slice open a man's jugular vein, without the neck muscles interfering. He was convicted again, had it reversed again. The case was then dismissed by the court. Now prosecutors were appealing that decision.
Robert's adversaries would never give up. Pam knew this.
She had every reason to ask what she had gotten herself into. She had made partner at the law firm. She had become an expert at navigating the regulatory labyrinth for banks that wanted to buy failed savings and loans.
She bought a quaint old brick home in the shady hills of mid-town Omaha, with a swoop roof, blond hardwood floors, two big ash trees.
But Pam and Robert were as intertwined in each other's lives as any couple.
"The squirrels were certainly frisky this morning," she wrote. "Sometimes they get to chasing one another around a tree trunk and it begins to look like a barbershop pole out of control. This morning I saw four squirrels going around like that at once. Enough to make you seasick, it is. . . . How are you this morning? I can't believe it was last weekend I saw you -- I want more. It was really good though . . . . it really lifted the fog."
"My Beautiful Angel," Robert wrote, "I love you Pamela, and while we are getting started a bit late we could never allow the night to slip away without our conversation."
Robert used the royal "we."
"We picked up 'Angela's Ashes' this morning, thinking we'd read a few pages before we worked out. We didn't put it down until three thirty when our door was opened for yard. . . . This is one of the best memoirs we've read. . . . You can't help but feel this great sadness, yet at times you'll laugh out loud through your tears."
Pam slowly, guardedly brought the people close to her into the know about Robert. Her parents were stoic but accepting. Her friends were delighted to have a priceless bit of gossip to discuss over jigsaw puzzles. Gerry Griffin was infuriated at first, but eventually made amends with the two of them.
Pam felt liberated as the tension of self-censorship dissolved.
She soon took a job as senior regulatory counsel at the Omaha branch of First Data Resources, the world's largest processor of ATM and credit card transactions. In her off hours, she pushed ahead with their habeas petition, taking it to federal court.