The Forgotten: Ch. 6

Standing in the place the famous Tomas couple had called home for the past three years, I was reminded of the differences between my sister and I. 

The Hollywood Hills mansion looked like something out of a Star Trek movie with sleek surfaces, illuminating lights, and oddly shaped furniture. 

At the same time, it was decorated to represent the palace of an Indian princess, complete with a domesticated tiger lounging in a floor-to-ceiling glass display in the middle of the entryway.

“Don’t worry, honey. She’s not real. She’s a beaut, though, isn’t she?” Roger said, noticing the fear on my face. “Tay brought her back from The Stripes of Glory set about a year ago. Had the whole house redesigned to make her the centerpiece.”

It was difficult to imagine a team of construction workers being able to accomplish any sort of renovation task with the giant media circus outside the house gates. Of course, the squad of gossipers might not have been quite as extreme before Taylor’s murder, but judging from the metal shutters on all the windows, it’s safe to assume the paparazzi had always been a problem. 

“Sounds a bit excessive,” I said.

“Oh, honey. This is Hollywood. Everything’s a bit excessive.”

I glanced at Roger’s bubble-gum pink shirt with a provocatively plunging neckline that he had paired with shorts that would make Daisy Duke cringe with envy. Dark curls protruded from the neckline of his shirt, and though I couldn’t be sure, it looked like he had gelled them to match the pile of curls on his head. 

Compared to my simple jeans and the Longhorn sweatshirt I’ve had since high school, he had a point.

The high-pitched bell chime of an incoming text message rang from the bedazzled phone in Roger’s back pocket. 

“Oop, that’s me!” he said as he retrieved his phone from his pocket. His perfectly plucked brows furrowed a little as he read the message. “Well, honey. It appears this is where I leave you. I was hoping we’d have time for the grand tour. Oh well. I must retrieve your darling sister from her dungeon, at last. Pick a room, any room. This house is full of them. Just don’t get lost!”

He blew a kiss, and waggled his fingers at me as he sashayed back toward the door we just came from. I took another long look around the house, feeling it’s vastness as I heard the door click shut upon Roger’s exit. 

The emptiness was practically palpable immediately. Knowing my sister’s husband had been murdered in this very house only increased the eeriness of the silence.

My footsteps echoed throughout the house as I walked past the tiger display toward the grand staircase I assumed would lead me to a bedroom. I noticed the white tiles glittering in the light coming from the sunroof as they peeked out from the edges of the gold-trimmed red carpet lining the stairs like a runway. 

I felt like I was touring the inside of a royal palace, and any moment I was going to be waking up in my far less luxurious house halfway across the country. 

But then I noticed the yellow tape.

It was visible immediately as I reached the top of the stairs. It stretched across two double oak doors that had been left open at the end of the long hallway to the left. The large blood stain on the white carpet beside the California-King sized bed was evident even from here. 

I set my backpack down at the top of the stairs, and carefully stepped past the yellow tape into the master bedroom to get a better look at the crime scene. 

The body was gone (and—I assumed—most of the evidence), and the blood stain appeared to have been scrubbed with bleach, though clearly the attempt to erase it was futile. 

Had the killer tried to clean up after himself? Or someone else? It was hard to tell.

There wasn’t a single sign of struggle or conflict anywhere. Besides the giant blood stain, the room held no evidence of a crime. 

If the crime scene investigators hadn’t left traces of their presence in plain sight—the yellow tape circling the areas of obvious crime; half-hazard placement of ordinary objects moved during the search; the lingering scent of the Luminol used to extract invisible evidence—the place would have been completely spotless. 

And other than removal of the body and any potential evidence, investigators rarely left a scene in such immaculate condition. 

I wished Roger hadn’t left so I could ask him if he had anything to do with the room’s unusual cleanliness. 

I glanced around the room some more, smiling slightly at Kateyln’s obvious minimalism. She’d always hated clutter, and refused to buy anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Her side of the room had always made me look like a packrat, and it was evident her preferences hadn’t changed much.

However, Taylor’s materialism managed to manifest in various places: the left side of the bed topped with three different pillows and two different blankets; the second closet and two wardrobes nearly bursting with the fullness of men’s designer clothing; and the bathroom sink stacked with enough overpriced toiletries to last a few lifetimes. His clutter was overwhelming next to my sister’s nearly bare and spotless spaces, and I wondered if the two ever squabbled about their obvious difference in preferences.

“I see you found where it happened.” 

The sudden sound of Katelyn’s voice startled me. I jumped, my heart hammering, as I turned to see her standing in the doorway. She brushed the yellow tape out of her way, and stepped into the room. 

“The police said they found a bag with some clothes and stuff on the bed. They think I killed him while he was packing his bags to leave me. Their theory is that he told me about the affair, and I tried to convince him not to go, and when that didn’t work, I bashed his skull with my AMA trophy until he was unconscious and then got his gun from the safe downstairs and shot him in the chest.”

“I’m sorry, Katy.”

She sighed. “What I don’t understand is how they think I managed to clean all traces of blood off of me and drive the half hour to the airport during rush hour traffic to make my flight to New York that was scheduled to leave only five minutes after their calculated time of death. Their motive would make sense if Taylor and I had that kind of marriage, but when would I have had the time?”

As much as I hated to admit it, I could see how the cops suspected Katelyn. Calculating the time of death wasn’t an exact science, and though it was a stretch, it was possible Katelyn would have had the time. 

Plus, with all the perks of her fame, it wouldn’t be crazy to suspect she’d had some strings pulled to cover her tracks. And based on my brief interaction with Detective Wood, I could bet that was exactly their current theory.

“What are you doing back so soon?” I asked. “I swear, Roger just left a few minutes ago to pick you up.”

“Yeah, he misread my text. My lawyer gave me a ride home so we could talk strategy. But since he was already out, I sent Roger to pick us up some food. I’m starving! Are you?”

“You know me. I can always eat.” I flashed her a quick grin. “On another note, have you cleaned any since…you know the incident?”

Katelyn’s shoulders drooped. “No, I haven’t had the time. Everything happened so fast. I haven’t even been home since it all happened.”

“Would Roger have cleaned?”

“I don’t think so. I’d have to ask. Why?”

I shrugged. “It looks like it’s been cleaned recently. I was just wondering.”

“I’ll ask Roger when he gets here.” She looked around the room, her eyes stopping at the sight of the messily scrubbed blood stain. She inhaled sharply, and quickly raised her fingertips to her eyes, turning away to face the door. “I’m sorry. I can’t…I can’t be in here.”

She ripped the tape out of her way as she fled the room. I followed after her. She slumped to a seat at the top of the stairs, resting her back against my backpack, and tilting her face up toward the skylight. 

I hesitantly sat down beside her, noticing the dark roots growing in at the top of her dyed-blonde head and the raw, unmade up face. In that moment, I saw how sad and scared and vulnerable she was, and a tremendous wave of guilt flooded over me.

“I’m so sorry, Katy,” I said.

“For what?” she asked, giving me a confused look.

Saturday, October 6, 1990

I can’t stop staring at my father’s dead body. He’s lying in a shiny black casket with clean, white cushioning, dressed in his finest navy blue suit. The skin on his face and neck is lighter than it’s supposed to be, but otherwise he just looks like he’s sleeping. I can’t see the bullet wounds, but I know they are there. I saw the bloodstain on the shirt he was wearing when he died. I saw the circular hole where the bullet went right through his shirt. Our mother hasn't let go of that shirt since it was given to her in a plastic baggie with all his other belongings he had when he died.

“Carrie, come on,” Katy says, taking my hand and gently tugging me away from the casket. “It’s time to sit down now.”

Numbly, I let her lead me to a seat in the front row. My eyes don’t leave the casket. In the shiny black, I can see the reflection of all the rows of chairs filled with our family members and men and women in uniform. 

Our mother isn’t in one of the chairs. Nobody could get her out of bed.

“Thank you for being here,” Katy reads from a piece of paper at the podium next to the casket. The microphone is over her head, and the podium is almost taller than her. “My dad was a very special person…”

“Kary?” Katelyn’s confusion has turned to concern.

“You were right,” I said, blinking. “You were too young. When dad died. You shouldn’t…we should’ve been stronger. I should’ve been there for you too. I’m sorry.”

She took my hand in hers and squeezed it. “You’re here now. That’s what matters.”

I squeezed her hand back, and for a moment in the silence we were sisters again, and it was like time had never passed.

But it had.

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