Early that morning, Kate’s phone rung and vibrated across her nightstand so hard it fell to the floor. It didn’t wake her up—considering there was no way she was going to get any sleep for a long time—but it did scare her. The letters were blurry but she could tell it was Michelle calling.
“Hello?” she said while running her hand through her uncombed hair.
She remained quiet for several moments, hearing all that Michelle had to say. Then she nearly dropped her phone, feeling fully awake now.
“Don’t worry, I’m not calling about those earrings you still haven’t let me try,” Michelle said in a hasty voice.
“Is that what you’re calling me for?” Kate said in a friendly way, getting out of bed. She reached for her jewelry box, trying to find the earrings. In the usual spot she found one only.
“No, it’s not,” Michelle said, this time sounding scared.
Kate looked through her box and even on the floor, but she could not find the second earring.
“What?” she said moments later in a voice that probably scared Charlie across the hall.
Clare picked up her mug of coffee and looked at the newspaper, first seeing a picture of Vivian then of Mr. Jones. She turned away once she saw a picture of Mr. Jones with the caption Husband Still Missing underneath it. She noticed Charlie walking in, his eyes looking bloodshot.
“Morning, Charlie. I’ve got some eggs started, does that sound good?”
Charlie agreed and thanked her. She asked about his eyes; he said thinking of Vivian kept him up. It wasn’t a complete lie, except what really kept him up was Mr. Jones—that wasn’t the kind of memory that was easy to forget.
Charlie set down his glass of milk and plate of eggs on the brown kitchen table before seeing Kate storm in the kitchen. She snatched some orange juice and sat down with her phone still in hand. Clare and Charlie exchanged looks.
“Someone is framing Michelle for killing Vivian!” Kate finally shouted. Charlie set down his fork and wandered if he heard right.
“What? Did they find evidence pointing to her or something?” Charlie said.
If Michelle killed Vivian, which Charlie doubted, what did the knife at Meredith’s house mean?
“Of course not. Someone lied to the cops, saying they found her putting something in Vivian’s drink.”
Saying it aloud made Kate realize how ridiculous that was. Who would come up with such a dumb story, and why would the cops believe that?
“I guess the police have nothing else to go off of,” Clare said.
Kate rolled her eyes in a that-didn’t-help-at-all manner.
“I’m sure they will figure it out.”
“They didn’t figure out what happened to dad,” Kate mumbled to herself so quietly Charlie—sitting next to her—didn’t hear.
CJ began to cry. Clare set down her plate and took one more sip of coffee before walking to the crib in the other room. Kate leaned in closer to Charlie, almost whispering.
“She said she’s been accused of killing and hiding Mr. Jones somewhere, too. I can’t let this happen to my friend, Charlie.”
They mumbled a few more sentences before deciding to visit Meredith again. Kate must have rubbed off on Charlie, because he suggested recording the conversation between them. That could be the true evidence Kate wanted from Meredith.
Then they talked about their father.
“Do you think the same person who killed Vivian also killed dad?”
“So you think he’s dead, for sure?” Kate asked.
Kate had a feeling that someday her father would walk through the front door again. Something about it just didn’t feel right—the police had shed no light on where her father was killed.
“I just figured,” Charlie said.
Kate explained her theory. “Crazy thought, I know. Forget it,” she said, looking at her glass.
The one person who knew what happened to Vivian stood by their dark brown desk, smiling at pictures of Michelle. They especially liked the one of her laughing outside of Vivian’s house the night of the party, laughing and walking with a boy. She had her phone in one hand and a red cup in the other.
They took the pictures of her and threw them in the trashcan next to the desk, which contained a red cup and a couple of white pearls. A lit match sent the contents into flames, illuminating the dark, hidden house.
“I need to see Michelle,” Kate said, dangling her car keys from her finger.
She figured it would better to see her alone, so she told Charlie no to coming with her.
She opened the garage door and found a quarter lying on the floor next to a pool of oil. If this lands on heads, I will find out who killed Vivian and become a hero. She flipped the coin; it landed on heads and she kept the coin in her palm. Clare met Charlie’s stare in the hallway. She wore two gardening gloves.
“What are you doing?” Charlie asked.
Clare explained once more how gardening took her mind off of things. Charlie shrugged but it was when she stepped outside that Charlie realized why this was so bad: Clare could not find out about Mr. Jones.
Charlie ran after her, blocking her way.
“Yes?” Clare asked with an attitude.
Charlie froze. He needed Kate. She was the good liar.
Kate sat at a red light with the music blasting. She viewed her mirror to check her lipstick. There was a black smudge in the corner covering up her eye. She swiped across the stain with her thumb, but it wouldn’t come off. She added some saliva to it, but it stayed. Her attention broke when cars behind beeping after the light had turned green for several seconds, and she pressed the gas pedal.
“Charlie what are you doing?” Clare asked, this time more firm.
Before he could answer she shoved his hand out of the way. Clare sat in the front yard, by the bushes outside of Kate’s room—they were fine, for now. Charlie dialed Kate on the home phone, not knowing what else to do.
Kate’s phone—on silent—lit up inside of her closed purse. She pulled into the driveway to a red brink house. She was forced to enter through the backdoor—several reporters occupied the front door. Michelle had given her an extra key.
“Michelle?” she said as she walked into a kitchen full of dishes in the sink. She walked up the carpeted steps to a narrow hallway with a red rug along it, saying her name once more.
“How’d you get in?” a girl said, opening a bedroom door and holding a tissue.
Kate held up the key. Michelle smiled at her, and motioned for her to enter the bedroom. Michelle told her a lot of people hated her, and it was a matter of time before someone did someone like this to her. She definitely wasn’t the nicest person in town, but she wasn’t a killer either—that’s the one thing she could remember from the party. She got pretty hammered with whatever boy she was with, she claimed.
“Chances are whoever is framing me isn’t even the killer—just someone truing to screw me.”
“Or cover up for the real killer,” Kate said.
“Framing me for Vivian’s murder is one thing, but who the hell am I supposed to know where her husband left to? I could care less, honestly.”
Kate’s throat dried. She played with the zipper on her purse.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Michelle asked, seeing her phone light up as Kate opened the zipper.
There were four missed calls from the house. That could either mean her mother was furious, or Charlie needed her—bad.
“Sorry, I need to go.”
“Everything okay?” Michelle asked.
“Yeah, I just need to get home.”
“Pray that nothing happens to me, Kate,” Michelle said, with a surprisingly straight face.
Michelle had never said anything like that before. Kate stared back at her, waiting to make some joke—but nothing. Kate squeezed her phone and patted Michelle’s hand.
“I’ll call you later,” she said, ignoring Michelle’s comment.
Outside Kate noticed something on her car. It appeared to be a black stain, but also looked like someone scratched the paint—with black nails? Charlie rejoiced when he saw Kate’s car pulling into the driveway. She saw mom making her way through the yard and closer to the patch behind the house where their horrible memory sat six feet under—or at least however deep they were able to dig. Kate gave him a we-have-to-stop-her look.
“Mom, don’t you think you could put a little more over here?”
Kate pointed towards the front door. She figured Clare would see right through her, but after a few moments Clare agreed.
“You’re right. I think I’ll add more around here then make a beautiful path around to the backyard in the next couple of days.”
Charlie was surprised there wasn’t an overwhelming smell of death around the yard. It had only been about two days, and Charlie obviously had no clue when a body started to smell. He just counting his blessings Clare didn’t smell anything. The truth would come out sooner than later, Charlie’s mind told him. He had no idea what Clare might do to them when she found out. They saw Clare looking noticeably uncomfortable with them standing and staring right at her, so Kate pulled him inside.
“Maybe we just tell her,” Charlie blurted, Kate’s fingers still pinching Charlie’s blue shirt.
Kate was silent for a moment, looking straight out of the front door. Charlie looked back, not sure what to look at.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Did you see her?”
Charlie looked back once more, seeing nothing but an empty road. He shot her a confused look.
“Meredith. I just saw her looking out of her window. She saw me then closed the curtains. What is she spying on us for?”
Charlie sat, thinking. What had the woman been so interested in them for? There was only one way to find out, Kate figured. Clare slipped back through the door, a shovel broken into two pieces in her hand.
“Ten minutes out there and this cheap thing already broke,” she said, throwing it in the trash.
Kate approached her, lying about seeing Michelle again. She told her mother she hadn’t been home last time Kate checked.
“Charlie is going, too?”
“She needs as much support as possible right now, Mom,” she answered back.
Clare agreed and told them to be careful. Kate grabbed her keys and peeked inside her purse, seeing the knife still wrapped in there. She kept it in there, just in case she needed it.