The Forgotten: Ch. 4

I knew how to deal with cynical cops. 

My father had once been one of them after all, and our mutual obsession for solving mysteries was largely what inspired my career path. 

And then I married one.

At the time, Todd was what his colleagues called “fresh meat” meaning that he was fresh out of the academy and just happy to be wearing the uniform. In college, while working on my undergraduate in Criminology, I worked alongside my favorite professor as a part-time police consultant, and helped solve some of the most complex of cases. Todd had been the only helpful person I’d come across at the station, and we bonded over the mutual lack of respect we received from his colleagues
Thursday. October 22, 1998

“I told them they had the wrong guy. They never listen to me,” Todd complained.

We were sitting in the coffee shop right down the street from the police station. I had helped solve yet another complex case in exchange for the month’s rent, and had run into Todd on the way out. It was the end of his shift, and he didn’t look happy. So I had offered to buy him a cup of coffee, and to my surprise, he had agreed.

“It wasn’t a popular opinion,” I said. “Perhaps if I’d been wearing a uniform. Outside sources can’t be trusted, I guess.” Todd gave me a quizzical look.

“I can’t picture you in a uniform.”

“Oh? What about out of one?”

He blushed, and took a quick sip of his coffee. “Why do you do that?"

“Consulting?” I asked, mercifully offering him a chance to change the subject.

"Sure, let's go with that."

“I guess because it’s interesting. And it pays for me to live. That helps, of course.” I grinned. “Why did you become a cop?”

“It runs in the family.” He looked down at his fingers wrapped around his coffee cup. Then he quickly met my gaze. “Have you considered being a lawyer? You're very good at making people feel uneasy.”

I chuckled. “I’m considering it. I’m not sure if I want to go through all that school though. I’m broke enough already. I’ll probably just stick with this.”

“Even though it doesn’t pay much?”

“It’s not the money I’m interested in...” I said as I reached my hand across the table and...

“Miss?” The man in uniform snapped me out of my memory. “Can I help you?”

Katelyn’s “attendant” Roger had called just as I was finishing up my lunch at a small Thai cafe down the street from the LAPD office in charge of the Taylor case. I told him to pick me up outside the police station in about an hour. 

I was hoping I could have a quick word with the lead Detective who I had already pegged as another cynical cop allowing personal opinions of the world to lazily determine justice. Why else would Katelyn be the prime suspect?  

“Yes, I have information about the Taylor Tomas murder case,” I answered. “I’d like to speak to the Detective in charge of the case.”

The man scanned me over. Right above his breast pocket was a gold name tag with the name E. Hernandez engraved on it. It looked brand new, unlike Hernandez himself. He looked like the kind of man who had spent way too long dealing with the worst kind of people, and I could tell he was definitely going to make proving the innocence of my sister more difficult than necessary.

“The Detective is very busy, but you can take a seat over there, and someone will interview you shortly,” Hernandez said, poking a thumb in the direction of a waiting area in the corner.

The waiting area was littered with gossip magazines and people half my age whose looks put Barbie to shame. I didn’t have to guess to know that these people had come here for the same reason I had: to insist on Katelyn’s innocence. 

However, I also didn’t have to guess to know that none of them had the advantage that I did. I was related to Katelyn. I didn’t just read about her life in the magazines or attend her concerts or watch her interviews on television. 

I was someone she called when she had nowhere else to turn.

“I would like to speak to someone now, Mr. Hernandez, if you don’t mind. I’m rather short on time,” I said and Hernandez scowled at me.

“You’ll speak to someone when someone becomes available, Miss. For now, take a seat and wait your turn.”

“I would, but I know how this works. I come in here, and you look me over and assume I’m just like every other starlet obsessed lady wanting to waste the time of people who frankly have much better things to do than listen to the pointless insistence of innocence of someone they’ve never even met. So you tell me to go wait with the other fame-hungry wannabes and someone will interview me later, but that someone is supposed to be you, and I think it’s safe for me to assume that you have no intention of interviewing a bunch of Barbie look-alikes, right?” 

Hernandez stared at me blankly. “I get it. If I were in your shoes, I would do the same thing. But you’re wrong about me, Officer. Take another look. I have no interest in fame, nor do I intend to waste anyone’s time. I am, however, interested in proving the innocence of my twin sister. Did you know Katelyn had a twin? Probably not. There’s a lot of things ya’ll don’t know here that I’d like to clear up as soon as possible. So, if you don’t mind…”

Hernandez sighed, but then he picked up the phone, and—after a few minutes spent verifying that I was who I claimed to be—directed me to a man with his feet propped up on his desk and his hands behind his head. 

About a week’s worth of stubble poked out of the pores of his California-tanned faced, and the cocky smile that appeared upon my arrival exposed a perfect set of professionally bleached teeth. If his short, dark hair wasn’t so obviously graying (prematurely, I assumed) and if his brown eyes were a little less haunted, I would have thought he was looking for an Oscar Award rather than real-life local justice.

“Ms. Brooks,” the man greeted without moving from his reclined position,” Or are you going by Ms. Harper now?”

“Carrie is fine,” I said. “And you are?”

“My apologies,” he said as he planted his feet on the ground, and offered a hand for me to shake. “Detective Parker.” He shook my hand, hard, and then motioned for me to take a seat in the chair across from him. “Please have a seat. Excuse the mess. It’s been a busy week.”

Despite the firm handshake, it was hard to take him seriously. I hadn’t met very many men (especially ones on the force) whose hands had obviously recently been manicured. Were the rumors true about California? Was everyone here obsessed with vanity?

“How can I help you, Ms. Brooks?” Detective Parker grinned, returning to his reclined position at his desk.

“Please, call me Carrie,” I said, gritting my teeth.

I hated the reminder of the sad pronunciation of Ms. that I was old enough to have an ex-husband, a teenage daughter, and a lack of a functional relationship with either of them, and I had a feeling he could tell. 

“Carrie, then,” he said with that same stupid grin.

“Katelyn didn’t kill her husband,” I said. “I can prove it.”

“I understand Katelyn Tomas is your sister, correct? Your twin sister?” I opened my mouth to respond but he continued before I could speak, opening up a thick manila folder and skimming through the pages. “I also understand that you have quite the history. Let’s see. You were diagnosed with a questionable mental disorder by a Dr. Herts, and in the past twenty years have been institutionalized four times for endangerment to self. You attended the University of Texas in Austin for nearly eight years before receiving your degrees in Criminology and Law that seem to be nothing except a waste of time and money because you decided to take up an essentially useless career in police consulting with sporadic employment at best, and yet this is the career you currently rely on to pay your expenses. Now, I’ve only visited Austin a few times, but I think it’s safe to assume the expenses aren’t cheap for the house in Hyde Park you and your husband claim ownership of.”

“My husband and I are separated,” I clarified, and Detective Wood merely glanced at me quickly before turning back to the file in front of him. 

“Right. You married Todd Brooks in May of 2000, gave birth to Hope Brooks on September 11 the following year. And by the look of his tax record, I assume you and Todd separated about six years later, after you and Hope were hospitalized for a car accident that totaled your car. Perhaps you spent a decade trying to work things out, of that I can only speculate. All I know for sure is that neither one of you filed for an official divorce until a few weeks ago.” He meets my gaze with raised eyebrows, and then looks back at the file. “Curious timing, don’t you think?”

“I’m sorry, but what does any of this have to do with the case?” I could feel my palms getting sweaty. Jesus. The man clearly did his homework. Perhaps I was wrong to underestimate him. He was definitely cynical, but he was far from lazy. “And for the record, we haven’t finalized anything yet. His decision to file was a mystery for me too.” 

“I’m sure. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, the LAPD tends to run things a bit differently than what you’re used to in the Lonestar State. We don’t need or want your help, advice, or whatever it was you came here to give me. We can handle the investigation, conviction, and prosecution just fine on our own, and I can assure you the right criminal will spend the remaining years of his or her life rotting in a jail cell. Whether that criminal turns out to be your sister or not, well, I suppose you’ll just have to let me do my job to find out.” I opened my mouth to protest but he cut me off again. “I am glad you came in today, though. I have some questions for you, if you don’t mind.”

I looked at my watch. “I have thirty minutes.”

“I’ll get to the point then. How do you pay for your mortgage?”

“Excuse me?”

“Katelyn has done a fine job of keeping her family out of the press. It takes far more than a Google search to figure out she has a sister, and a twin sister at that. Why do you think she’s gone through such lengths to keep her family a secret?”

I stare at him for a long moment, my jaw clenched. “I can’t speak to my sister’s motives.”

“No? But isn’t that why you came here today?”

“I came here because I have information that might help you catch the real killer. Not to dig up our family history.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that you have information that could help speed along this tricky investigation. I don’t doubt that at all.” He closes his file and leans forward on the desk toward me. “Here’s what I think: I think Katelyn’s been giving you money. To keep you quiet. Loyal. Hidden. I think she was planning to kill her husband for a long time. And I think you helped her do it.”

I snorted. “Okay, I think we’re done here. Clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about, and I’m not going to be the one to enlighten you.” I stood up to leave. “I wish you well in your investigation, Detective. I’m sure you know how to reach me if you decide you’d like my help. You’ll need it, the route you’re going. Just ask the San Francisco Police Department.”

I didn’t give him a chance to respond. I walked right out of the building without taking a single glance behind me. 

It was a stretch. If the San Francisco Police were anything like their Los Angeles colleagues, I doubted they had any more information than I did. 

Still, it was worth a shot.

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