When the phone call finally came at 4:18 AM on Thursday, February 6, I was fast asleep, which is unusual for me because I had been waiting for the call for more than 10 years and I’m also the world’s lightest sleeper. I woke up at about 7 and saw that I had a voice mail message from an L.A. number. It’s funny how I don’t even listen to voice mail anymore, I just read the transcription, and as I scanned a few key words—investigator, Robbie James Carlat, born January 18, 1991, reference case number—I knew.
I knew this day was coming. I didn’t know when, I didn’t know that it would be the day after we had lunch together, I didn’t know it would be like this, but I knew. I had known for a very long time.
Whenever I saw Caryn’s name come up on my phone, my heart would beat out of my chest, fearing the worst. It was the same when she saw that I was calling. And certainly we’d had more than our share of shitty phone calls through the years. In recent times, I would text Caryn before calling to ease her mind that there was nothing bad going on with Rob, to let her know in advance that I just wanted to say hi.
I went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee before I returned the call. I was strangely calm and I’m not sure exactly why. The fog of shock hadn’t yet sunk in, it was more a mixture of heartbreak and resignation.
“He’s either dead or in jail,” I said to Maura, who was immediately panic stricken. And thus the nightmare began.
I’m going to condense a bunch of information here and not get into graphic details. I have a terrible memory, so many things are already fuzzy and some stuff is better left unsaid. I called the Coroner’s Office and gave them the case number (2019-01035) and then I called the Long Beach Police Department and gave them an incident report number (19-7028). This, in essence, is what they told me:
Rob died on Wednesday night at approximately 11 o’clock. There were two other people with him in his apartment. According to these witnesses, they started off the evening playing video games and drinking heavily. There may have also been drugs involved. Then there was the part about a gun.
I’m still not sure who the gun belonged to (I’ve been waiting for a police report to arrive in the mail), but there was a gun. Unloaded. In the kitchen. Apparently Rob picked it up, put a bullet in the chamber and in some crazy version of Russian Roulette, pulled the trigger.
After I hung up with the detective, Maura held me tight and we ugly cried for what felt like forever. And then came the hard part—the two most difficult phone calls I’ve ever had to make.