After the onslaught of screams subsides, the interrogation starts.
“What the hell is going on?” my father shrieks as my mum rushes over to Fred, now collapsed against the stone drenched with red.
I pull at her clothes, begging her to leave him alone. Neighbours stand alarmed near their doorways, unable to turn themselves away from the drama unfolding before them. Some manage to rush back into their homes, probably to call for the police.
My trainers drag along the floor as I yell, “Stop, please, mum, listen to me! He was going to kill me!”
At this, she finally heels. Her wide, glossy eyes shift from Fred to me and then back again.
“What do you mean?”
“I was in Fred’s house and – ”
“Why were you in his house, Lucas?” my father snaps.
As I stand floundering for words, a way to explain all of this without sounding crazy, sirens ricochet from afar. Neighbours now encircle us, asking if everything is alright. If they can help. I watch as my mum presses against Fred’s neck, leaving me to shake in the shadows.
The sirens call, now ear-splittingly loud, couples with the flashing of blue lights. An assault on the senses. A cop car tails behind the ambulance which brakes next to the scene. Out disperse medics that hurry to the causality. The police loiter more measured in the background, taking in the picture.
“What happened?” a paramedic asks while the other presses a bandage firmly against Fred’s injury. Blood seeps through almost instantaneously. His face now drained of colour.
Fred’s trembling finger rises in the air. Everyone turns to follow its direction. He is pointing at me. I back away into the road repeating, “He hurt her, he hurt her.”
My body connects with something, and I spin round to see the two officers, solemn and serious.
“Who hurt her? Why not sit down and tell us all about it.”
My parents, privy to the moment, scurry towards my side. The second officer, a female, taller than the male officer, takes me by the arm towards the curb. She asks after my name and proceeds to make a note of it in her pad. She enquires over my age, and I inform her that I am fifteen years old, and they glance at one another.
“What happened tonight?” the male officer asks cautiously.
I wipe my quivering hands over my face, forgetting that they are dried with blood. As I look up, I see how frightened my mum is. Tears burn in my throat, aching to be set free. I swallow hard and find my voice.
“Fred raped Sophia.”
My mum immediately clasps her mouth with both hands.
“Who is Sophia?” an officer raises, not yet aware of the sickening circumstance.
My father clarifies before I can, “His daughter.”
They were not expecting this by the shuffle in their stance. The atmosphere tenses and my parent’s rigid exterior seems to melt, just a little. Shock morphing into fury. My mum tells them that Fred and his family only moved in across the road a few weeks ago. One of the officer’s leave, likely to check the premises for any further causalities or to interview further witnesses.
“When did this happen?” the remaining officer questions.
I cannot quell the images as they surface. His feet. The shrill of the mattress. Her pyjamas abandoned on the floor. Her rasping cries.
“A couple of nights ago.”
“How did Fred become hurt, Lucas?”
My tears bubble over, unable to remain contained. Finally, my father’s arm hugs against me as I respond, “I did it. I hurt him, okay? I was afraid for my life.”
“Why were you afraid?”
“Because… because he found out that I knew what he’d been doing, and I was trying to stop him.”
“You’ve done a great job of cooperating, Lucas. We are going to need to take you down to the station now. Do you understand?”
I nod, the severity of the situation weighing heavily on my shoulders. As my mum and dad start to cry, the officer arrests me and declares my rights. The crowds look on, and I am taken into the back of the police car. To them, I am the bad guy here. Silence suffuses as the door shuts behind me. Brief relief from the carnage. For the entire ride, all I can do is stifle my emotions and push back against the hope that lingers at the back of my mind. The hope that Fred dies.
The station smells of sweat and shoe polish. The female officer speaks with her colleagues and returns to my side. She tells me that the following procedure is to photograph my body for any potential evidence. I am led into a small, dense room where I am told to stand still against the white wall. Another officer, this time burly with muscle, takes over the commands.
“Spread your hands.”
The camera in his hand fixates on my own. The familiar snap of the lens proceeds. He asks me to turn them over, palms up. I follow his instructions without comment.
“Look straight ahead for me.”
Flashes blur out my vision as he takes photographs of my face. Next, are my clothes and shoes. My eyes follow his gaze, as he zooms in on any stray speckles of blood. Afterwards, he passes me a clear, plastic bag. Unsure of the reason, I scowl at the officer.
“Strip. The bag is for your clothing.”
Timidly, I peel off my top and jeans, placing each one into the bag provided. I stand, cold and afraid, facing the glaring interior.
“Socks and underwear too.”
Our eyes meet and he simply nods. I abide grudgingly, trying my best to hide what is left of my modesty. They search my skin for any marks or blood to photograph. With that, the female officer provides me with a change of clothes and leads me to a custody cell.
“Where are my parents?” I panic.
“They are on their way. As a minor, they will be present during our questioning later. Until then, you will wait in here.”
Her hand gestures to the inside of the confinement. I step inside and scan my surroundings. The windowless room is absent of colour or furniture. Jutting out from the back wall is some kind of bed, topped with a thin cushion. A grey toilet and basin are the only remaining features in the space. As the door slams shut, I realise how bright the fluorescent lights gleam. Yet there is nowhere to take shelter. Nowhere to hide. With nothing to do but wait, my body gravitates towards the bed. As I rock back and forth, unsure of my future and the story I will tell, I spot a security camera watching me from the ceiling. How the tables have turned.