CHAPTER 1: 04/22/18
Suspect Name: Campos, Lucas (LC)
Officer Dorian Moreno (DM)
Transcript of Interview with Lucas Campos on the events that occured between the days of March 20, 2018-April 20, 2018. Said events include the disappearance of Melody Lee, Lucas Campos, and Lila Foster on the night of March 19, 2018.
DM: Please state and spell your full name as it appears on records.
LC: Lucas Alexander Campos Sosa; L-U-C-A-S A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R C-A-M-P-O-S S-O-S-A
DM: Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to remain silent, but do understand the possible consequences of this. Do you understand?
DM: Alright then. We will proceed with the questions.
LC: Why am I being questioned, officer?
DM: You are being questioned on the disappearance of Lila Foster, Melody Lee, and yourself.
LC: It wasn’t a “disappearance,” officer.
DM: What was it then?
LC: Nevermind. You don’t know, do you?
DM: Know what?
LC: Just ask whatever questions you have to so I can leave.
DM: Your departure can only-
LC: Can only occur after 8 hours or after you’ve cleared me, correct?
LC: Okay. I understand everything. Ask.
DM: Where were you on the night of March 19, 2018?
DM: We’re going to need you to speak up.
LC: At what time?
DM: Around 10.
DM: And that night, did you have any contact with Lila Foster?
LC: What’s going to happen?
DM: What’s going to happen? To whom?
LC: To me. To Lila. To… to Mel?
DM: Is “Mel” Melody Lee?
DM: Please answer the previous questions. Did you have any contact with Ms. Foster on the night of March 19, 2018?
LC: I don’t remember.
DM: Did you call Ms. Foster that night?
LC: I. Don’t. Know.
DM: Did Ms.Foster call you? Text you maybe?
LC: I don’t (inaudible) remember!
(crash of chair)
LC: (yelling, unintelligible)
This round of questioning was chosen to conclude by Officer Moreno. Will continue at a later time.
I sit back in the chair. They said they would send me to the hospital if I didn’t calm down. I calmed down, but refused to answer any more questions. I won’t answer until they tell me if Lila and Mel are okay. Or is she Melody today? I can’t remember. I pull on my eyebrow, something I haven’t done since I was 12, when I couldn’t remember the Nitrogen Cycle for a test. I usually only do it when I’m thinking really hard.
Like right now.
God, why can’t I remember anything about today? After yesterday, everything becomes hazy. I really don’t remember if Lila called that night. Did she? Did she text me? I pull harder.
Legally, they could only hold me for eight hours. I don’t know how long I’ve been here already. One hour? Two?
I stare ahead at the one-way glass. Might as well have put me in a prison cell. Same concept really. Just you and your thoughts. The burning questions no one had answered. I needed to talk to Lila and Mel.
My head pounded. Too many blanks that I was trying to fill. I rubbed my forehead, stopping at a spot above my left eyebrow. I felt stitches. What the hell? Why did I have stitches? What really happened today? What time was it? I started tugging my eyebrow again.
After a few minutes an officer—not the one who’d questioned me—came in offering water.
“What time is it sir?” I ask, hoping I sound desperate. Desperate means pity. Pity means help. Or at least I hope it does.
He looks likes he’s debating on answering. “It’s 3.”
“In the morning?!”
He hands me a cup of water and nods. “Do you need anything else?”
“To remember,” I mumble.
He tilts his head, questioning.
“Why do I have stitches? I blurt out.
“Do you really not remember?”
I shake my head, and he sighs. “I can’t tell you. It might taint your memories if they come back.”
I say thanks anyways, even though his answer frustrates me. Why am I forgetting anyway? I read online once that your mind blocks out bad memories on purpose. To keep you from suffering. Is that what’s happening to me?
What am I keeping from myself?
What happened to Lila and Mel?
Is Mel Mel or Melody today?
Where is everyone?
How far are we from Hollywood?
Why were we even running?
I tug on my eyebrow again. Remember. Remember. Godammit, Lucas, remember! Did Lila call you that night?
I close my eyes, leaning against the back of the chair. Maybe if I sleep a while…
But I can’t. The thought of the police watching me gave me chills. I couldn’t sleep while thinking about it. Maybe if I thought about Lila?
I remember the day I met her. I was standing in the quad, watching her look around, obviously lost. She was clutching a schedule and a binder in one hand, and her phone in the other. I was kind of staring because I thought she looked so adorable standing there. She had her brown hair tied up in a high ponytail, except the ends were braided. She had glasses on, and they framed her brown eyes perfectly. She was so cute.
My sister had somehow popped up next to me. Little sister, I might add. By ten whole minutes. She followed my gaze and socked me in the arm, laughing.
“Dude! No fucking way!” She was laughing loudly.
“Shut up Ash!”
“You like her?”
“No,” I said, but my damn cheeks said something different. I was blushing and smiling like crazy.
Ashley put her hand on my shoulder, which was a reach for her. She’s been the same size since she was like 10. “Look, as your premium girl consultant, I wouldn’t try with her.”
“She’s your stereotypical cute girl. She seems innocent, but will fuck you over in more ways than one. And people who look that adorable usually have some dirt going on.”
“And why are you such an expert, again?”
Ash grinned and flipped her hair, hitting me in the face. “Because I’m cute. Duh.”
I playfully punched her. “Fine. Keep lying to yourself.”
“Keep treating me like that and I won’t tell you her name, hermanito.”
“Hey! I’m older, hermanita!” I said, and looked back to where Lila was still standing. “And I don’t need you.”
I walked over to where she was standing. She looked up when I reached her.
She had a voice that was kind of deep, not the squeaky one every other girl had. “Are you my knight in shining armor?”
I was momentarily stunned, before I started laughing. “You looked like you needed one.”
She scoffed. “Is it that obvious?”
“Oh, well. Can you help me find the Creative Writing?”
I smiled. “As a matter of fact, that’s my next class.” I held my arm out in mock chivalry. “Shall we, my lady?”
She surprised my by hooking her small arm through mine. “Yes, my knight. We shall.”
We walked to the classroom. At the door she stopped and turned to me. “My name is Lila, by the way.”
I held my hand out for a handshake. “Lucas.”
She mock gasped. “No bow?”
I made an over the top bow, and then walked in. At some point that period, we exchanged phone numbers. I immediately put her contact in as Lila with a crown next to it.
The crown... the crown... bzzzz bzzzz. My eyes jerked open. She did call. That night that the cop was asking about… she did call.
No. Wait. She texted. I remember now. She- she texted me. She wanted to talk but I- I didn’t want Ash to hear. So… we texted. I struggled to remember more.
Suddenly it all crashed back to me. Not the memories of this night, but the ones from before. From that day. I remembered why we’d run.
My phone was buzzing from the nightstand. I grabbed it, checking the time. Midnight. I was lying in bed, because I had had an intense practice. I was sore all over. I remember seeing that it was Lila. Lila with the crown. By then, we’d been dating for four months. We were getting serious. I read her text.
Can we talk?
Sorry, Lils. I’m rly tired. Tomorrow?
Plz? I rly rly need to.
Lila, I can’t…
Ok then. Just stay up and txt?
I need to go.
Anywhere but here.
Hollywood maybe. To see my mom.
Lila is your dad…?
Drunk and crazy? Yeah.
Sh*t, Lila! I’m calling 911!
No, don't you dare! Just help me leave!
If you rly love me, you’ll help me go!
Jesus Lila you can’t just expect me to get up and agree to help you run away. I need to call the cops.
If you call the cops, I’ll get hurt more. I'm getting a bag ready. If you don't get here in ten minutes, I'm hitchhiking.
Don't do that!
I’ll… I’ll be there
And I remember sitting back in my bed, and then getting up. I didn’t get any clothes or money because I was supposed to come back. But I didn’t.
I stopped by Lila’s house to find her outside, sitting on her porch, crying. I ran over and saw she was holding her wrist. It was bent an odd angle.
“Lila?” I’d said softly. She looked at me and kissed me so hard on the lips, I almost fell back.
She grabbed her backpack and started walking towards my car. “Let's go!”
I turned towards her house. It looked like any old house. But it wasn't. Inside was a drug-addicted, abusive guy who nurtured a vodka bottle like it was oxygen. He abuses Lila. Not physically. Verbally. He used to hit her mom. But she left. But I think her dad hits her older brother. I always told her that if he laid a hand on her, I'd call the cops. Or handle him myself. Or both.
I looked back at Lila’s wrist. I felt my jaw clench. “Lila. Did he hurt you?”
She didn't stop, but her voice was hard when she answered. “Does it matter? He's too drunk to notice if I leave, so can we go?”
I remember… getting mad. Going inside the house. I think I broke plates. I think I destroyed some stuff. Her dad was too high and drunk to hear me. At least I think he was. I think I heard yelling but I all I could think in that moment was how pissed I was because of Lila and her wrist. Then my shirt was being grabbed and my head was being slapped and I think I was punched and I think I punched someone back and everything started running together and I heard Lila’s voice. And I don't really remember what was happening then because all I could hear was Lila shouting at me to get the fuck in the car and go. But I’m still there... yelling, punching, yelling, punching, and Lila’s yelling again and...
I’m snapped out of my memory by more yelling. Except this time it’s a man, but not Lila’s dad. No, it’s the cops again, but I can’t hear because someone is yelling. Screaming.
It takes me a full minute to realize I’m screaming. And that I’m pounding the desk. And somewhere between my screams big and pounding, I get to the point where I realize that I think I’m being taken to a hospital because next thing I know I’m on a stretcher. I can feel blood running down my temple. I’m being strapped down to the stretcher with leather straps. I feel like I’m watching from above, watching some guy yelling with blood running down from a cut on his forehead.
The paramedic is asking me questions, basic ones, I think. But I can’t hear her. All I can see are her brown eyes and brown hair. She looks so much like Lila.
“Lila?” I scream out. “I’ll kill him, I swear. I’ll kill him for ever touching you!”
The paramedic starts saying something to her partner, medical crap I can’t understand. I jerk around in the stretcher, trying to see if there’s anyway to get out. I have to go find Lila’s dad. I remember now. I remember why we ran.
But I don’t want to run. I want to go finish what I started.
People—both cops and paramedics—start to hold down my legs. The straps they’d put aren’t really doing a great job. I try to move around more because I want to touch Lila so bad. I tell them I’ll stop yelling if they let me see her. But I don’t think they can understand me. Or maybe they stopped listening a while ago.
A crowd of officers has gathered. More for speculation, I think, than protection. I open my mouth to start yelling some more when I feel a sharp prick in my thigh. And then everything fades to black.
CHAPTER 2: 04/24/18
I wake up in a hospital. I think. I’m pretty sure, based on all the machines whirring and beeping. And the smell. That god awful smell.
I briefly remember what happened last night. I know I was yelling because of Lila. And that night. And then I was in an ambulance where they sedated me. Yeah. That’s what happened. I think.
I try to lift up my arm where I notice A.) there’s an IV in one; and B.) the leather straps are back, making my skin raw and red.
“Good morning, Lucas.”
I jolt at the sound of a man’s voice.
“Why am I strapped down?” I demand.
“For your safety and that of the staff here,” the man answers. I study his face. He’s a cop, but not one I’ve seen before. Then again, I can’t really trust my thoughts. Who knows where all those blanks went?
“I’m a safety issue to myself?”
“You were pulling at your eyebrows. You pulled out the stitches that were in that cut on your forehead.”
My hands instinctively tried to fly up and feel for it. I rolled my eyes and gestured towards the straps. “Look, I’m as fine as sunshine now. Can’t we take these off? They’re rubbing my skin raw.”
He considers it, then shakes his head. “That’s for the psychiatric department to decide.” He gets up to leave and pauses at the door. “Your family should be getting here anytime now.”
The man turns. “Are the eight hours up?”
“You can legally only hold me for questioning for eight hours before you have to come up with a charge. So once I’m cleared here, can I go home?”
The officer gave me a pitiful smile. “Lucas, you’ve already been charged.” And then he left, as if what he’d just said wasn’t going to make me start screaming again.
I thought about doing that. Screaming until they had to sedate me again. Or place me in a mental hospital. Because if they keep asking questions, I’ll keep remembering.
And I think there are things I want to forget.
For psychology class, we had to read up on different mental issues. For example, schizophrenia. I had overheard the nurses outside my door saying “dissociative amnesia.” I remember Mr. Cratz saying that it was one of the dissociative disorders. It means that a “traumatic event” is making me forget things. And triggers will most likely help me remember.
Like Lila’s contact in my phone.
Great. Now the police were going to keep asking things to trigger me. And if each time I was going to end up like this, I think I’d rather kill myself.
I pushed the nurse call button. Tenth time in the last hour. When she came in, I didn’t even have to say anything. I just looked at her, raised my eyebrow, and pulled at the straps.
She sighed and walked over. I was sure she was going to tell me more medical mumbo jumbo. But instead she started to undo the straps.
She had a really heavy Latina accent. “If you can be this big a pain in the ass, I don’t think you’re so loco anymore.”
I smiled and massaged my wrist. “Muchas gracias!”
She didn’t say anything back, but she did smile at me. And that was something at least. No one else had smiled at me. How bad were my charges that I didn’t even get a smile?
I heard some yelling and running and more sets of feet. Wow. Two crazies in one day? Then I realized that the feet were headed towards me. I started panicking. Were they going to sedate me or something? Had I done something wrong?
The curtain burst open and I saw Ash, followed by two nurses who were breathing heavily. Ashley’s track meets come in handy sometimes.
“Hermanito!” Ash yells, jumping on top of me, and landing square on the wrist that’s raw.
“Ouch! Jesus, Ash!” I start rubbing my wrist again.
Her eyes widen. “I’m so sorry!”
“Whatever. It’s fine. My fault it’s like that anyway.”
She tilts her head and leans in, whispering. “What happened yesterday? You were sedated all day, and they wouldn’t tell me why. Do you know why?”
I gave her a small half smile. “I went crazy.”
“I had a memory and it freaked me out. I started yelling and punching things. I wouldn’t stop yelling and moving so they sedated me. And used some straps. But I’m all good now, you see?” I grinned.
Ashley furrowed her brows. “What do you mean you had a memory? Did you lose them? Do you remember... that night?”
I sighed and leaned my head back, closing my eyes. “Which night? The night we left, the night something terrible happened and I woke up in the station, or something else?”
Ash opened her eyes wide. “You really don’t remember, then?”
“When you do, don’t tell them about me. Okay? I don’t want to be in this mess.”
“Luc, please. Just don’t mention anything, okay? Promise?”
She placed her hand on top of mine and I felt my head start pounding again.
Oh no. Not again. I closed my eyes, clenching my jaw to try not let any noise come out. My heart feels like it’s about to beat out of my chest. What am I trying to remember? What does Ashley think I should forget?
I focus on Ash. Not the one right now, but the one from a month ago. I squeeze my eyes trying to make the memory appear. It was right there. I could feel it.
“Lucas?” Ashley started shaking me and I could hear the panic in her voice. “Hey, Luc. Talk to me!”
Ash is standing on the porch, holding a backpack. I stop the car and pull my hood up. Lila is sitting next to me, her wrist still bent. But at least she’s not crying anymore.
I quickly get out and run up to where Ash is standing. She gives me a smile. “I thought I was supposed to be the one running from the cops. You’re the nerdy one!”
“Not this time. You can run from the cops next time.”
“Lucas, can’t you just stay here? Face the police?” She begged me with her eyes, her eyes that are a carbon copy of mine.
“No, Ash. I can’t. I have to help Lila. And besides, Dad will never bail me out.”
“Yeah, he will!”
I gave her a sad smile. “You know he hates me. He’ll be happy I’m gone.”
“But I won’t be! What about me?” Ash reached over and put her hand on my shoulder before giving me a hug.
I hugged her back, tightly. “I’m sorry, Ashley. I gotta go.”
She blew out through her nose. “Fine. Go. But if you don’t call me within 24 hours, I’m calling the cops. And I’ll file a missing report. Okay?”
“Lila’s dad is probably gonna call the cops anyways. But thank you.” I grabbed the backpack and gave Ash a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t know when I’ll see you again, considering I’m about to become a missing kid. But anyways. I love you, hermanita. See you in the near future.”
“Love you, too. Don’t do anything more stupid than this. Don’t fuck any homeless girls, and don’t do drugs. Especially heroin. Or weed. Or coke. Or any of them. And don’t blow all the money I’m giving you on alcohol. Or Lila’s cigarettes. Okay? Use this money on hotels and change the ones into quarters for pay phones.”
I gave her one last hug. “Okay. I promise no homeless girls.”
Lila honked the horn. I glanced over and saw her pointing towards the street. My dad’s car was coming. I quickly said bye to Ash and jumped in the car, speeding out like there was no tomorrow.
“Shit! Dad’s coming, Ash! I have to go! He hates me!” I gasp out, my heart beating wildly and my quick coming breaths gasping out of my mouth.
I grab Ashley’s hand. “Ash, I’m sorry. I didn’t fuck any homeless girls. I didn’t do heroin either. But I did waste money on cigs. I’m sorry!”
Ash pulls her hand back. “Lucas... you’re scaring me. What are you talking about?”
I grab her hand again. “I’m talking about that day. The day we left. You gave me money in a backpack. Except you don’t want me to tell them that.”
“Yeah, so shut up!”
“Shit! I have to go! I have to find Lila. Do you know where she is?”
“I, uh, I don’t know. Didn’t they tell you?” She looks around nervously.
“No. I guess I’ll have to look for her myself.” I start to get up.
“No! You can’t! Jesus, Lucas!”
“Why can’t I leave? Tell me, Ash, because no one here is!” I’m yelling again. The nurses will probably come in here any second.
Ash swallows. “Because… you’re being held for an account of murder.”
“What?” I start to get up again. I look at Ash. “Who... who died?PleasenotLilapleasenotlilapleasegodisitMelitcantbeherwither.
“That Asian girl? Melody, I think.”
No. Not Mel. It can’t be Mel. I grab her hand. “Ash, I swear to god I didn’t kill her. You have to believe me.”
“I believe you. But you have to convince them.”
I sigh loudly, my eyes frantically searching Ash’s face. “I would! But I can’t remember anything!”
The officer came back in and waved Ashley out.
“Going somewhere, Campos?”
“Yeah. I’m going to fucking Disneyland,” I say, rolling my eyes. This is so stupid. Who asks that to a potential murderer?
The officer walks over and takes out a pair of handcuffs. He quickly places one on the bed rail and one on me.
“There you go. Is that comfortable?”
“As comfortable as handcuffs can be,” I say, sarcasm oozing out of every word.
Once he leaves, I drop the sarcasm. I feel tears sting behind my eyes, and I’m done playing like everything’s alright. I killed Mel? No, I didn’t. I wouldn’t. But everyone thinks I did. Did I?
Tears turn into sobs. Sobs that shake my shoulders and make everything blurry, until all I can hear is I killed Mel. Is that what they want me to remember? Is that the only way to arrest me? No, but they already arrested me. That means they have evidence. Right?
My thoughts swirled around in my head. I wish they would just stop. I wish I could remember. I wish I could tell them I didn’t do it.
Ashley said she believed me. That’s a start. Now I just have to try and remember.
Did Ms. Foster call you that night? Text you? There. That was a start. I could answer their questions about that night. Maybe then I would be able to remember more.
I looked around for a way to get the officer to come back, but I didn’t have to look too far. There was one posted right by my door.
“Hey! Hey, excuse me!” He acted like he couldn’t hear me.
“Hey! I need to talk to an officer. I remember the night we left!”
You could almost see him physically peak his ears up. He said something that I couldn’t hear into his radio and a few minutes later there was Officer Moreno in all his glory, with his notebook and pen ready.
He took a seat next to the bed and looked at me expectantly. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Everything about the cops made me feel anxious.
Maybe I had been running from them for too long.
Maybe I would never feel safe again.
CHAPTER 3: 04/24/18
Officer Dorian Moreno’s Notes from conversation with Lucas Campos. Campos has been charged with the murder of Melody Lee and for vandalizing property. He has been diagnosed with dissociative amnesia. He has now remembered the events of March 19, 2018. This conversation was held in Angeles Hospital with Officer Andrews as witness.
Officer, just let me talk, okay? Don’t ask questions until I’m done. The more questions you ask, the more I forget.
And why is that?
I think I’ve been running from cops for so long I forgot how to relax around them. I want to tell you everything, but my brain’s put it under lock and key. And you asking so many questions isn’t helping.
Okay, then. Just talk, Lucas. Take a deep breath. Okay, now tell me what you remember.
It was late that night. I had had a really intense practice and was sore all over. I didn’t want to answer Lila, but I was a bad boyfriend if I didn’t. We’ve been dating for more than five months, I think.
So she texts me and says she wants to talk. I tell her I can’t, but she begs me to at least text her. So I do. And she tells me that her dad is drunk again. And I don’t know if you know this, but her dad is dangerous. He used to hit her brother. Until he was smart enough to get the hell out. He never hit Lila, not until that night. And that’s why she ran that night.
She begged me to drive her to Hollywood. I said I would, since it’s only an hour away. I would do anything to get her out of the house.
But when I showed up, I could see her crying. It tore me up inside, to see her so weak and hurt. Her wrist was bent at an awkward angle. She told me to just go, but I couldn’t. I wanted to beat up her dad, but that was a fight I’d never win. So instead I went inside and started to break things. It goes fuzzy there, but next thing I remember he grabbed me. He grabbed me and started hitting me. He punched and slapped me for a long time before I started hitting back. At some point, Lila came in and was yelling. I don’t remember what she was yelling. But I do remember her dad calling her ugly, awful names no father should ever call his daughter. He said that she was just like her mother. Selfish. And I think that’s what hurt Lila the most.
I hit him one last time before Lila literally dragged me out. Mr. Foster swore he was going to call the police. I thought he was bluffing. At least I did, before we heard sirens and I remembered seeing her drunken dad holding the house phone up to his ear.
I floored it then, not caring if anyone saw. We just needed to leave. We thought about driving straight to Hollywood, only stopping for gas. But then I told her that I needed clothes. And that we need money. So we made a detour to my house. (pause)
I need to be 100 percent honest, right?
Yes. that way we know the whole story.
Who else are you asking questions?
That information can’t be disclosed.
At my house, I grabbed my life savings. I don’t have a bank account, so I had an envelope with $900 just laying around. I went in and out quickly, only getting a backpack with some clothes. A blanket. That was it.
We drove in silence, but it filled up the car. Made it hard to breathe in there. I was mad for getting myself into this, yet I was thanking God that Lila finally got out of her house. Lila looked like she wanted to say thank you, cry, and yell all at the same time. So we didn’t say anything that whole hour. We stopped once for gas.
Eventually we made it to Hollywood. The bright lights blazed, and the city looked alive. I’d only been once, and Lila never. We didn’t know what we were doing. I was so scared.
We slept in the car that night with our phones off. We knew they would eventually start tracking them. Or at least that’s what we heard in the movies. I don’t know if that’s true. Is it?
Okay then. So the next morning I was ready to, I don’t know, do something. But instead I woke up to Lila grabbing her wrist and wincing. It was still bent at a weird angle. I didn’t know what to do. We obviously couldn’t go to the ER, since we’d seen that an Amber Alert had been put out for us and our car. And… and after that I don’t… I don’t remember. Sorry. That’s all I’ve got.
It’s okay. Can I try asking a few questions, see if it jogs your memory?
Okay. But so far, they come back when I’m thinking about someone or looking at them. Maybe if I see Lila-
Sorry. You can’t see her right now.
Fine. Just try your thing.
Okay. Let’s talk about Melody. Here’s a picture of her. Do you recognize her?
Yes, of course I do. She was like a little sister. She reminds me of Ash.
Okay. Why did she feel like a little sister?
She was so sarcastic and bratty... like my sister. And she was with us the whole time. Ever since we met her at... at... the liquor store! Yeah! Lila has an addiction to cigarettes, and we saw a small liquor store. We decided to stop and buy some because Lila swore she needed them to keep her mind off things. It had been... two days since we left. March... 21st. And we knew by then that the news was running the story of the teenage runaways, one of which was wanted for destruction of property. That was me. We had ditched our phones by then. We followed the story by listening to the radio.
Good, Lucas. Go on.
Umm... we stopped a block away from the store. There was a group of kids smoking and shooting up in an alley of sorts. But there was this one girl that caught Lila’s attention. She was small and Asian, skinny with thin black hair. Yet she somehow looked cool. She was holding a small skateboard that was covered with graffiti. Lila laid eyes on her and immediately wanted to talk to her.
But I was worried I think. Because... I thought that we couldn’t trust other people. I wasn’t sure that she was really just going to agree.
Lila thought Mel would run away if a guy walked up to her. Not that she looked like she could be scared. As small as she was, I felt as if she could kill you in a fight real fast.
So Lila walked up to her. She didn’t tell me the whole conversation, but it ended with Mel nodding and heading into the store. She came back out with the cigs and a bottle of coke. I thought she was going to leave. But she stayed leaning against the car, smoking as if she were on her back porch, not chilling with two runaways.
Did she say anything to you?
That day? Yeah. When she finished her cigarette she rubbed it into the ground and looked at me, not Lila. She said, "You thought you were going to get rid of me, eh? Most people in my life do. But, lucky for you and Lila, you’re stuck with me.” And she smiled and slid into the backseat of my car. Like it was completely normal. And I think that’s why she felt like a little sister. Because she acted like one.
That’s what I don’t understand! How could I kill Mel? I loved her! She’s the one who was keeping us together, you know?
Do you remember killing her?
No. God, no. Maybe... I blocked it out? I know that happens when you have dissociative amnesia. And that’s why things are coming back with triggers.
How do you know about your condition?
Figured it out. I’m not stupid just because I ran away.
Right. Can you remember anything else?
Umm... I mean there are a few things here or there. It’s like everything’s there. I just can’t reach it. And whenever I try to grab for it, it disappears further into my mind.
Can you try to tell me small details? Even if they seem small, they might help you remember bigger things.
Okay. There’s this one thing I keep remembering. A white t-shirt soaked with blood. Does that mean anything?
Well... I’m not sure I should tell you this until you tell me everything else.
Mel, Lila, and I were doing good. That money lasted the whole month and we got to stay in decent motels. We ditched the car in... um, a place called um, um, um, I can’t remember. That’s such a stupid thing to forget! Ummmmm, I think it was... Mel’s Diner! That’s it! Mel thought it would be ironic.
Oh, I just remembered something else! Mel’s bipolar. She only has two moods. Mel, the happy normal sarcastic and funny “little sister” and Melody, the angry one. She would be so mad on some days. She threatened to kill people. But when she was Melody we got to learn a lot about her family. That’s when she would talk about her family. They left her. Her drug addicted mom took her and left her at a safe haven in San Francisco. She hitchhiked her way here, in Hollywood. She hates being in the foster care system because none of them knew how to deal with her and her bipolar disorder. It sucks.
Mel got us food. She knew places and people. Mel knew what she was doing.
Melody did not. When Melody was around, she was a mess. Uncontrollable. We’d leave Melody alone.
I don’t remember much about Lila and me for that month. Everything we said wasn’t important. It’s almost like instead of this whole running away bringing us closer, it drove us apart. We talked out of necessity. It wasn’t high school anymore. Out there... out there was life. Life’s horrible.
That’s as much as I remember about that month. There’s not dirty secrets. We didn’t do drugs. We smoked, we ate, we drank cheap booze once in a while. That’s it, okay? Are we done now?
We still need your official statement of what happened on April 19- April 20.
Can my statement be I don’t know?
I’m afraid not.
Well, I still don’t remember.
Is there anything that would help you remember?
You tell me. I’m sure you’ve questioned Lila. What would make me remember that night?
I wish I knew, Lucas. I wish I knew.
Are you 100 percent sure I can’t see Lila?
As of right now, no.
But, officer, if I could see her it might help me-
Sorry. We can’t.
But why not?
It’s for safety issues.
My safety or hers?
Oh. I think I need to sleep. I’m really tired.
This was the end of the conversation. I personally believe that Lucas may no longer be a threat to himself nor Ms. Foster. I believe that it is possible he may remember if he sees photos of the scene of the crime or some of the evidence. Need to ask for medical opinion.
I woke up at random spots throughout the rest of the day and then the next day. When I slept I kept seeing the same things. White shirt covered with blood. Screaming. Knife. I don’t even know where the knife came from.
I wanted to ask someone so badly. But of course they wouldn’t answer. They haven’t answered any of my questions.
So here I was now. April 25, getting discharged from the psych ward. I wasn’t going home, though. In fact, I’ll probably never go home again. They’re holding me at the station until the case goes to trial. I’ll be tried as an adult. The prosecution is going to win the case for sure. They don’t really need my statement. But both sides want it. Because they think it will help their case. Even though it’s pretty useless.
It’s kind of ironic. Whatever I say will be used to throw me in jail and reduce my sentence. Lots of pressure on me here. Yay me.
The days after the discharge fly by, and I don’t even know what day it is when they come by my cell.
“Come on, Campos. Get up.”
I sit up slowly, stretching my aching muscles. I wasn’t even in jail yet and I was already tired of being here. Just three walls and one full of bars.
I stood up, rubbing my eyes. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
I rolled my eyes. They were probably going to question me again. I didn’t even care anymore if they needed it to help me. I don’t care if I go to juvie. I just. Don’t. Care. Anymore.
Is that what jail does to you? Is everyone in jail just not caring?
Ugh. These were too deep questions for so early in the morning.
I shuffled into the room that the cop was pointing towards. My heart leaped when I saw who was sitting in the chair opposite of mine.
It was Lila. Lila freaking Foster. Sitting right there. Her brown hair was as silky and shiny as always. Her glasses were sliding down her nose as she stared into the table.
“Lila?” My voice sounds amazed. I am amazed. Is this for real?
“The one and only.” Her voice sounds scratchy and weird.
The officer goes into the other room where he’ll be able to see and hear everything. I don’t care if he does.
“I’m so happy to see you! I wanted to see you right after but they wouldn’t let me!”I exclaim. I so wish I could give her a hug.
When she looked up, her eyes were bloodshot and watery. She’d been crying.
“Lila? What’s wrong?”
“You still don’t remember, right?”
I swallow. I didn’t want to have this conversation. I wanted for her to be normal. For us to be normal.
“No Lila. I don’t.”
She leaned in closer, a frantic look in her eye. I haven’t seen her look that worried since That Night.
“Well, you're probably going to remember soon.”
Lila took in a deep breath. “It was April 20. That day, it was you, me and Melody that day. Not Mel. It was late at night when Melody stumbled into the room. She was flat out drunk. It was a miracle she could stand up. She told us to go out into the alley. You asked her what was wrong. She started crying like crazy. And she took out a gun. And she pointed it at me. She said, 'walk, or she dies.' So we did. We walked out into the alley next to a Motel 6. Melody said you killed her parents. That you murdered them.”
“No!” I yell.
“She was just talking crazy. But she wanted you to confess. She wanted you to say it. But you wouldn’t. You tried calming her down. You were wearing a white t-shirt.”
White T-shirt covered in blood. Blood blood blood. My breath came in gasps. I can’t breathe.
“Melody was screaming at you for a confession. But you wouldn’t budge. You wouldn’t say anything, Lucas. And then she pushed the gun closer to my head. But you thought she was bluffing. Until she put her arm around my neck and started to choke me. That’s when you moved. You lunged towards her, making her fall. She couldn’t get off the floor, but she’d dropped the gun. And you grabbed it. And you shot her. You shot her, Lucas. She wasn’t dead on the scene, but her wounds were so bad not even the ER could fix them. And that’s how you killed Mel. The only reason someone showed up in time was because the liquor store owner heard the gunshot.”
No. No, that can’t be. I didn’t kill Mel. Or Melody. I didn’t kill either.
But I remembered everything Lila described. Except…
Melody’s holding the gun in one hand and she’s choking Lila with the other. I start to move, but every step feels like walking through syrup. Oh good god. I have to go. I have to help Lila!
But Lila moved before me. She elbowed Melody in the gut, making her stumble backwards. Once she loosened her grip, Lila kicked her so hard she fell, making her gun skirt away.
I stood there, motionless. Who do I help?
Lila grabbed the gun. I remember yelling, “NO! Lila!”
But she was already aiming it at Melody.
Melody smiled and laughed. God, she was so drunk.
“You slutty bitch. Just kill me! I’m better off dead!”
Lila didn’t say anything.
“I think I know why your mom left you! And your dad hates you. Because you’re such a goddamn disappointment. You’re going to be one of those girls who sleeps around just to have a bed at night.”
Melody’s eyes are wild as she looks at me. “Oh, wait. You’re already doing that, aren’t you?”
“Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up!” Lila yells. “Don’t you dare bring my family into this!”
Mel laughs again. “Your daddy hits you, right? He’s probably called you a slut a thousand times. And you hate how much it hurts. Because the truth always hurts, doesn’t it?”
“Lila! Don’t listen to her! She’s drunk!”
“And you, Lucas. Your family hates you, too. They hate how you’ve been staying with this white trash of a girl. They-"
“For god's sake! Stop talking, Melody!”
She smirks. “Or what? You’ll shoot me? See if I ca-"
She never finishes her sentence. Because a dark spot appears on her shirt. Lila shot her. Dear god. Lila was the one who shot her.
But there’s no sound from either of them. I run over to Lila and take the gun. She hands it to me wordlessly. I quickly drop it on the ground as I kneel next to melody. She’s bleeding. There’s so much blood. So, so much blood.
I strip my shirt off and start pressing it into her side. Maybe she’ll make it. If I just keep pressing.
The next thing I remember is sirens. Then officers. Then handcuffs.
I’m in the squad car.
In my head, I’m yelling that it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me!
But on the outside I say nothing.
I gasp. “You’re lying! I didn’t shoot Melody! You did, Lila! It was self defense!”
She shakes her head. “No, Lucas. You killed her.”
“Stop lying! I remembered!”
At this, Lila stops. She looks at me dead in the eye, grabbing my hands.
“Please, Luc. If anything that ever went on between us was real, confess. Say it was you.”
“But it wasn’t!”
“They’ll never believe you. It’s my word against yours. And you have an altered mental status. You killed Mel.”
My breaths are shallow. Lila’s scaring me. I can’t take the fall for her.
“Say it, Lucas,” she’s whispering, so low the officers probably can’t hear.
What if I did do it? What if I’m crazy? I can’t trust my memories. Did I kill her?
“No.” My voice comes out as sob, racked with emotion.
“Say it!” She’s squeezing my hands. The room spins. I feel like I have no air. I can’t breathe. The room is sinking into itself.
I killed Melody Lee. I killed Mel. I killed her. I killed her. I killed her. I killed her. It was me all along. Lila’s right.
As tears stream down my cheeks, I look at Lila. “I killed Melody Lee. On the night of April 20, 2018, I killed Melody Lee. Oh, my god. I killed her.”
I hear the door open, but it’s all background noise. All I can hear is Lila.
She says it so quietly I can barely hear her.
“I’m so sorry, Lucas. I’m so sorry.” Lila was crying too.
My eyes widen. Why is she sorry? I’m the one who’s sorry.
But I never get the chance to ask her because they’re dragging me out of the room. I let them. I can’t feel anything anymore.
Voices float through my head. I can’t tell if they’re mine or someone else’s.
You’re a murderer.
But you just confessed.
Why did I confess? It wasn’t me, I swear!
Son, you just told us that you killed Melody Lee.
I didn’t, officer! I swear to god! I’m not guilty!
No one ever is.
But it was Lila! I remember! I remember everything!
And then everything goes black.
CHAPTER 4: 05/28/19
I open my eyes slowly, as if somehow the slower I open them will change where I wake up.
Nope. Same place. Each day. For the past year. And for the next 24 years.
Because around this time last year, I confessed to second degree murder. I confessed because that was what I believed. I honestly thought I had killed Mel.
Lila had gotten into my head. She convinced me that I was the murderer. She made me believe that my memory was wrong.
So I confessed. I went to court. Confessed yet again. I accepted my fate as a murder countless times.
Until they sentenced me to 25 years of prison. Second degree murder. That means I didn’t plan it. Of course I didn’t. I didn’t even do it.
But once you confess, there’s no going back. Unless new evidence comes up proving Lila did it. But my prints were all over the gun. I’m the protective boyfriend. Even me asking for Lila as soon as they started questions proves I killed her for Lila.
One year in here gave me a lot of time to think. I get a cell to myself. I think I’m too much of a hazard to other people. Most of the homicide kids get their own cell.
Juvie isn’t too bad. I can see why some people commit crimes just to come here.
Every day it’s the exact same thing. Get up, food. Then your hygiene stuff or whatever. Then class. Sometime outside. Food. Class. Food. Sleep in a warm bed. Some of the guys I’ve talked to say that this is the first time they've had a warm bed. The days fly by. The only reason I know what day it is is because of tally marks on walls. I didn’t know people actually did that in real life until I came here.
Today is different than normal, though. There’s a guard asking specifically for me to get up and come with him.
I shuffle up slowly. Every step feels horrible. But I try to enjoy some of the luxuries of this place. In a couple of months, I’ll be thrown out into a big boy prison.
The guard slips in handcuffs and I walk in front of the guy slowly.
“Where are we going?”
“Someone’s got a visitor today.”
He says it with absolutely no emotion. None. It still shocks me that people choose to have this job.
A visitor? Huh. No ones come to see me since Ash. And she hasn’t been here in about a month. I call her sometimes and she tells me all the stuff going on at school. I don’t tell her about the stuff that goes on here.
My dad has never come to see me. Or asked me to call. And my mom just follows his example. Ash calling is a miracle in itself.
But it can’t be Ash. It’s school right. Who else would come see me?
I don’t have to think about it long.
It was a sense of deja vu. There was Lila, in all her glory, biting her fingers. I walk slowly forward the chair and sink down. I’m allowed to hug her and touch her. But I don’t want to.
She’s a murderer, after all.
She gives me a half smile. “Hey, my prince.”
“Don’t,” I say it under my breath, but loud enough so she could hear.
Her nice facade cracks a bit, but she smiles brightly again. “How’s life?”
I scoff and cross my arms. “Oh, just dandy. I just love the fact that my ex-girlfriend basically manipulated me into spending 25 years in jail. With no parole.”
Lila flinches slightly at the tone of my voice. What, did she think I’d let her fall in my arms? Not this time.
She lowers her voice and leans in. “Look Lucas, I’m sorry. I really am. But you have to understand why I did it!”
“Why you killed her or why you made me and the cops think I did it?”
“Look. It was self defense. Second of all, I had to. It was either you or me.”
“You or me? Really? That’s your excuse? You did it! Why should I have to rot in jail for 25 years because of something you did?”
“Look, I have a future!”
I lean in closer. God, I can’t believe her right now! How were we ever dating? “Jesus, Lila. I had one too. Had. Now I don’t. When I get out, if I get out alive, it’ll be too late for me to have a future. No one hires ex cons. Not even the ones who do petty crimes. You think a murderer has a future?”
“I’m sorry. I’ll say it a million times if I have to. But if I confessed... if I went to juvie and then jail... it would prove everyone right. Mom, Dad, Hunter. Mel…”
I freeze up in the chair. I only knew Mel for a month, but she was like a little sister. “You don’t deserve to say her name,” I spit out.
“It would have shown everyone that I’m what they think I am. I disappointment. A disgrace. I couldn’t have that.”
I’m glaring so intensely at her that if looks could kill, she'd be ashes. “God forbid. You deserve that. Because that is what you are. You should be sitting in a cell, marking days. You should be the one with ten trips to the infirmary. You should be the one who wishes someone anyone would pick up when you call.”
“Lucas. Please tell me you understand why I did all this.”
“I understand that you're a self-centered girl who didn’t care about all that time we’d been dating. Everything’s always to your benefit, isn’t it?
She closed her eyes. “Lucas, are we still dating? Are we okay?”
I burst out laughing. I can’t help myself. Is she serious right now? “You don’t get it, do you? This isn’t just detention or getting grounded. This is my life. You took that away from me. You might as well have killed me.”
She opens her eyes, and I see the soft brown that reeled me in the first time. I see the sweetness in her face. The way her hair made her seem like the girl next door. I remember all those times we spent together, texting, talking, kissing. Our first date to Panda Express. Our second date to see some Disney movie. She was always there for me, and I tried to be there for her. We leaned on each other for a long time.
But when I look at her now, all I can think of is last year, That Month. Her hair was always greasy and smelled like cigarettes. Her nails were bit to stubs. I remember the first time a memory came back and I screamed so loud because it physically hurt. I remember looking down at my strapped hands and pulling and pulling until my wrist were rubbed raw. I remember drinking cheap booze so that we could blackout in the motel and not the care about how gross it was. I remember her wearing the same three shirts and jeans. Day after day. Night after night.
When I see Lila now, I don’t think of the girl I fell in love with. I don’t think of those Rom-Coms anymore. I think of Mel/Melody sitting at the edge of the bed, braiding her hair, always wearing a shirt that said, “Say that to my face, you limp noodle!” Apparently from some Disney movie. I think of her sarcasm and sense of humor. And about how snarky she was.
I think of seeing Lila’s hand on the trigger. And me doing nothing.
I think of Mel and her crazed self who just needed time to calm down and get the alcohol out of her system.
I’ll never forget pressing that white T-shirt unit her bullet wound. The one Lila caused. Not me.
Lila’s looking at me. She slowly puts her hand on top of mine. “Lucas?” She whispers it, almost like she’s scared for me to answer.
I pull my hand away and start to get up.
“No, Lila. We’re not okay. And we probably never will be.”
I’m taken back to the cell, where I place another tally in the wall.
Just 24 more years to go.