Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Greek Tragedy (Guest Story by Megan Somerville)

I could already feel the numbing effect that the marijuana never failed to deliver as I slowly exhaled lazy rings of smoke and sank deeper into the decaying foam of my ten-dollar EZ chair. My lips seemed to become separate entities altogether and I knew they were expressing a grin of deep satisfaction. I idly changed TV channels for no apparent reason since I could barely make out the pixilated images through the heavy cloud that had settled in my living room. Life was so much simpler as a college dropout. Or as a “student on temporary leave” as I so cunningly phrased it to my mother when she feigned concern. I’d arrived at Cal State Fullerton as an idealistic freshman four years ago as a double Criminal Law and Psychology major, intent on becoming a state prosecutor and saving the world one sleazy crook at a time. Unfortunately for the dream, my degree required real-life experience and after only 100 hours in the field, I was convinced that my justice crusade could never be accomplished under the powerful influence of the Man. Now a college senior and only 12 units away from my bachelor’s, I quit the game. Fuck it. Fuck them.
My roommate didn’t exactly support my new agenda. Melanie Summers was a straight-A student from right here in Fullerton, California. She was blonde, bubbly and a goddamn neat-freak. We were basically polar opposites. Mel was always scurrying around our two-bedroom apartment cleaning, decorating or adding artistic trinkets that she had ingeniously crafted. It had taken a hell of a lot of convincing and a bottle of Beringer’s White Zinfandel to even get her to agree to the ratty EZ chair I brought home from the thrift store last week as a celebration of my new found freedom. I knew the wine would do the trick-alcohol was our common thread. Our love of liquor and our revulsion of sororities were, in fact, two of the only things we had in common, but they made for a well-matched friendship. Mel was very clever, however, and had even tried using our sacred booze bond against me when I told her I was dropping out.
“Jackie DeLyn,” she’d said in a more condemning tone than my own mother, “you are going to regret this after just one week of being a couch potato.”
Mel had poured herself a glass of the white zin and handed me an extra strong mix of rum and coke while she continued to chastise me. I noticed she had even pulled out two shot glasses and a handle of Popov for later.
I quietly laughed to myself now as I recalled my über-domestic roommate attempting to get me drunk enough that night to re-enroll. That sneaky bitch. Too bad her own tolerance is so low that she was the one who ended up with the murderous hangover the following morning.
A hazy image on the TV followed by a morbidly disturbing announcement shocked me out of my muddled thoughts. The newscaster was solemnly describing the live video footage being broadcast onto my 20-inch screen from a building I recognized as being just down the street. In front of the Sigma Alpha Omega house on the corner of State College and Yorba Linda Boulevard were swarms of news vans trying to capture the best angle of the naked male corpse sprawled over the railing of the upstairs balcony. I was lucky enough to be watching the future Pulitzer Prize winning cameraman as he somehow broke through the crowd and secured a close up from right beneath the body. The first sickening shot was of the poor schmuck’s dick. It had been branded with very small, hard to decipher Greek letters: ΠΕΛ. This sight was all the more gruesome due to the fact that the branding had obviously been recently executed since the letters were surrounded by tiny red inflammations and the whole penis itself had gotten so swollen and deformed that it appeared more like an elephant’s dick than a human’s. I continued to watch the screen, grotesquely mesmerized, as the camera changed its focus from the groin to the face. Holy fucking Jesus, I knew this guy. His name was Joey Dillow (nicknamed Dildo by his oh-so clever fraternity brothers) and he happened to be my roommate’s “casually seeing each other” boyfriend. But nothing was ever just casual with Mel and if she knew about this, she was probably on the verge of an ultimate emotional breakdown. I had to find her.
I grabbed my keys and headed out to the car to start my city-wide search, but I didn’t have to look any further than the parking lot. Mel was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, just staring at the blinking red light that threatened an alarm if anyone attempted to harm the shabby 1991 Honda Civic. I tapped the window and realized how unusual her demeanor was. No tears, no hyperventilating. Just completely quiet stoicism, as if she had simply accepted the situation and had decided to move on.
“I’m guessing you already know?” I said through the single-paned glass window. “Are you okay?”
She got out of the car, gave me a tight hug and attempted a sad smile. I don’t think I had ever seen Mel so tranquil. She was one of those people that tears up at Hallmark commercials and Lifetime movies.
“Yeah. I’m okay. Have you heard what the police are saying?” she asked.
“No, I’ve only seen a short live clip. Do they know how it happened?”
She let out an exasperated sigh and shook her head disapprovingly. “The cops think it could have been a hazing prank gone wrong. Joey had an extremely high blood alcohol level and the letters burned onto his…well, his member, were apparently made with branding irons from the iron mill out behind the frat house. They are taking his body to the lab right now for testing but the investigators believe it to be alcohol poisoning.”
She had reiterated all this information as if it were an oral report on some random current news clipping. How could she be so withdrawn? Even I was upset from this situation and I never even liked Joey. He was a crude, cocky, dim-witted jackass and I told him so on several occasions. In fact, I never understood Mel’s attraction to him at all. But he sure didn’t deserve this repulsive death.
“Seriously, Mel, are you all right?” I asked her with genuine concern. “You don’t seem too shaken up about all this.”
“That’s because I’m trying to figure out what really happened.” She suddenly had a determined look in her eyes that I didn’t recognize. “I don’t believe this hazing theory. Joey wasn’t even pledging anymore. It’s ridiculous. The police are just trying to sweep the whole thing under the rug.”
She may have had a point there. The Fullerton Police Department would do anything to protect their precious reputation amongst the other stellar towns that made up the infamous Orange County. This is the same Orange County that had become a symbol in the past few years of excessive money and frivolous, yet dramatic issues. From Newport Beach to Brea to its outer exterior in Oceanside, the real “OC” displayed all the stereotypes its television counterpart exploited. Multi-level shopping centers were as commonplace as the monstrous SUVs that maneuvered between them. Girls paraded through the CSUF campus in pink velour sweat suits advertising “Juicy” on their ass to imply that they had spent hundreds of dollars to be that comfortable as they chattered endlessly with their matching pink Razorphone companions. These expensively strategic displays were not exclusive to college age females either, since even the elementary students across the street could be seen prancing to school in skirts short enough to buy them a drink at the local sports bar. The upper crust society that I was surrounded by discouraged most high crime and prided itself in its reputation for safety, cleanliness and close proximity to perfection. I had no doubt the police were eager to show their capabilities by quickly solving Joey’s death and encouraging citizens to move on.
“Ok, so it wasn’t hazing. What was it then? Suicide?”
“Oh please, Jackie.” Mel rolled her eyes at my apparently ridiculous suggestion. “Joey was an officer on the fraternity board and was well on his way to graduating in only five years. He was murdered. No doubt about it.”
“Why the fuck would anyone want to murder Joey Dillow? He may have been a moron but he never hurt anybody that I know of.”
Mel was silent for just a moment before responding. “I don’t know why, I just have a feeling okay? And that’s where you come in, Roomie!”
“I don’t follow.” I said dryly.
“You have serious background in law, criminal procedure and the workings of the human brain. You would have had even more know-how had you not recently given it all up on some ‘psychological breakthrough.’” Damn. Even in crisis mode she could still find a way to speak her mind.
“Nonetheless,” she continued, “now you have endless amounts of spare time and I have decided to take advantage of that.”
“So you want me to investigate the supposed murder of your dead boyfriend even though the case is already being solved by professional detectives?” The girl had finally gone off the deep end.
“First of all, he was not my boyfriend. We were casually seeing each other.” Jesus. My bad. “And second, why not? I really believe that something is not right about Joey’s death and all I want is justice for him. He deserves it.” Mel really emphasized this last part before continuing. “Please help, Jackie. You could check things out super-subtly because no one would imagine a college student trying to investigate a real murder mystery. Maybe it would even motivate you to continue your studies!”
“No. Wait, scratch that. Fuck no.”
“Pleeeeeeease?” She pleaded and then cunningly added, “I’ll make you cookies and buy you a handle of Captain Mo’!” Mel smiled and hugged me enthusiastically. She knew she had won.

“Son of a bitch.” I thought to myself.
I was standing in front of the “Farm Frat,” so aptly named by CSUF students due to the barn-like exterior of the Sigma Alpha Omega house. The newspaper article covering Joey’s death had been miniscule and only elaborated on the cause being “a fatal combination of pain pills, alcohol overdose and traces of the ammonia found in most household cleaning products.” This last part apparently baffled investigators because no explanation followed. I then had to resort to reading the write-up in the campus Daily Triton to even get a press photo of Joey’s body. Since the cops had done such an effective job of thoroughly concealing all traces of the inconvenient death, most Fullerton citizens had been easily persuaded to move on. True to form, the ΣΑΩ brothers were throwing a massive bash in memory of their deceased member. Although it truly killed me a little to be attending this superficial celebration, I had decided that the best way to find out more about Joey’s death was to go to the source. Mel had helped me dress for the occasion-a makeover that she was positively giddy about performing. I had been adorned in a black halter top, featuring a thick band of shiny gold sequins that lined the plummeting V-neck. My jewelry and makeup all shimmered and coordinated with Mel’s inherent fashion sense. Why did girls go through all that planning everyday? I would much rather have been in my tattered jeans, flip flops and Budweiser t-shirt. The answer came to me in the form of a tall, tan and muscular frat brother whose name was of no importance in comparison to his body which was what I can only describe as one hundred percent of hot hot hunk. His image was implanted in the imagination of every girl spending that extra 45 minutes perfecting her glistening eyeliner. Unfortunately for Mr. Gorgeous, his opening line instantly confirmed my lingering suspicion that those were a hopelessly wasted 45 minutes.
“Hey there girl.” He said with a sly grin. “I’ve never seen you before. But I’d like to see you in my arms.”
He must have been joking. That wasn’t even a real line! There were hundreds of cheesy pickups to choose from and he delivered that disaster? I hoped this was not an indication of how my entire night would turn out. Nevertheless, I had to start somewhere, so I smiled with as much flirtatious enthusiasm as I could and began my investigation.
“Well, you just might get what you want. Only if you give me something first though.” God this was lame. This guy better at least get me some beer out of that keg I spotted in the corner.
“And what might that be?” Mr. Gorgeous was hoping for a kinky response but I was tired of this game.
“I want to know about Joey Dillow. I assume you know him?”
“Well I KNEW him,” he corrected me, “and he was the shit! Dildo was my brand brother, you know, so we were pretty tight.”
“What the hell is a brand brother?” I asked. This guy might be a good source of information after all.
Mr. Gorgeous looked at me like I was a crazy person for not knowing this apparently sacred term. “It’s the guy you get matched up with at Rush to get branded together. There’s that iron mill out behind the barn and you have to get the Sigma Alpha Omega letters branded on your thigh to show your, you know, allegiance.”
“Branded!? You’re shitting me right?” These frat guys were so much more fucked up than I had ever imagined. It was all so animalistic. The name Farm Frat suddenly had so much more meaning and seemed extremely appropriate. At least that explained where Joey’s gruesomely placed brand had come from.
“Shitting you? No way!” Mr. Gorgeous was offended at my judgmental naiveté. “You’ve got to prove you’re a Sigma brother for life!”
“Well, yeah, I guess I can understand that.” I lied to calm him down. I needed more information from him. “But doesn’t that hurt like hell?”
“Well we’ve perfected it so it’s not so bad. First you take some pain medication with a ton of booze so you’re basically numb. Then you apply massive amounts of ointments and make sure the brand is done in one quick jab.” He demonstrated the jab with a point of his finger. “It’s the cost of being in the tightest brotherhood ever!” Mr. Gorgeous said this last part loud enough to incite an approving wave of deep, rowdy barks from all the guys packed into the filthy living room. “The brands are actually even easier than getting a tattoo.” Mr. Gorgeous showed me the purple viper tattoo on his rippling bicep to prove that he had backup for his claim.
I also had a tattoo-a small “J” on my lower belly-that I had gotten as an act of youthful rebellion in high school. The blistering flesh surrounding Joey’s most recent branding looked much more painful than the experience I remembered. When I expressed this thought to my attractive informant, he said it was because whoever was branding him from the Pi Epsilon Lambda sorority probably didn’t apply enough ointment or had left the iron on his skin for too long.
“Wait, wait, wait. What does Pi Epsilon Lambda have to do with Joey? If the branding is a frat unity thing, why would a sorority girl be doing it?” I asked.
“Beats me. I just figured it was one of them since the brand was their Greek letters.” Handsome shrugged and I could tell he was tiring of this conversation since he kept glancing around the room for a new possible target of his hunt to score. I decided to let him loose and make my way toward the Lambda house. But first I made a beeline to that keg.

There was no way the Pi Epsilon Lambda sisters would have given me the time of day unless I offered them bribery or was somehow connected to their beloved sorority. Being low on cash as always, I lied and said I was a visiting Lambda from the UCSB campus and wanted to make acquaintance with some fellow sisters. They welcomed me with open arms and ushered me into the kitchen where they were having an intimate cocktail party. After gladly partaking in some classy cocktail party shots of tequila, I asked to see the rest of the house. When the tour reached the living room, I was glancing over the wall of photos displaying only partially clothed 18-20 year olds in various stages of drunkenness when one picture specifically caught my attention. Joey Dillow was smiling back at me, arms wrapped tightly around a slender blonde knockout who was staring at him with deep affection. My chatterbox tour guide informed me that the blonde babe was Jessica Conrad, current president of the sorority.
“Joey Dillow went to my high school!” I lied, trying to succeed in my role as a foreigner to Fullerton. “How does she know him?”
The tour guide suddenly looked overcome with grief. “Oh you must not have heard then. Joey died last week from some sort of poisoning. And he was Jessica’s boyfriend. She has been awfully depressed.”
Fortunately my complete shock came across as a reaction to the sad news of Joey’s death as opposed to the real reason being the fact that my tour guide thought Joey was dating her sorority leader. A few other sisters had accompanied us on our tour and now produced scrap books so that I could see for myself what a cute couple they had been. The photos all showed the same Joey Dillow that had claimed his affection for my roommate but was here displaying quit a bit of physical affection for a stranger named Jessica Conrad. That cheating son of a bitch! Thank God Mel hadn’t known he was seeing another girl behind her back. And a sorority girl too! It would have crushed her.

I wandered home feeling pissed partly about Joey’s infidelity but mostly because the shock had killed the great buzz Jose Cuervo had so generously given me. On my way I passed by a Starbucks full of chatty sophisticates satisfying their seventh caffeine fix of the day and almost failed to notice the familiar head of long, wavy blonde hair sitting at the corner table. Mel was cautiously sipping from a steaming Grande Styrofoam cup and was listening intently to another familiar blonde across the table. Her companion was none other than Jessica Conrad, the Lambda president whose existence I had just recently become aware of. Judging from her puffy eyes and trembling hands that she repeatedly pressed against her flushed cheeks, Jessica was quite upset. I, of course, was just plain confused. Mel couldn’t stand sorority chicks and here she was socializing with the leader of their pack? Could it really be only a coincidence that this particular sorority sister was the target of Joey’s disloyal affections? And even if this meeting was purely circumstantial, what could these two possibly have in common that would cause such an emotional conversation? I hurried home to wait for Mel, get some answers and blaze my puzzled thoughts away.
When Mel finally returned, I casually mentioned I had seen her in the coffee shop with someone I knew to be in a sorority and asked how they knew each other. Interestingly, Mel reacted with pleasant surprise at my discovery and even seemed to welcome my little interrogation. She informed me that Jessica volunteered in the same organization that Mel was a member of and they had to meet that night to discuss an upcoming event.
“She’s your typical sorority bimbo,” Mel said. “When we got paired together for this event she told me she knew Joey and she wanted to meet tonight to express her sympathy. She was so emotional, though. It almost seemed like she was over-compensating for something else. Or maybe she’s just a sensitive sorority suzie.”
Mel tried shrugging nonchalantly but I could tell the meeting had sparked some curiosity. What if Mel had been just the sort of threatening incentive Jessica needed to commit murder? I couldn’t voice my suspicion yet without telling Mel about Joey’s affair and I didn’t think she was ready for that kind of news. It was time I spoke with Jessica myself.
Lucky for me the first place I looked was the right one. Jessica was in the meeting room of Mel’s volunteer organization, looking over the plans for their event. I made my presence known by slamming the door closed and taking over the chair beside her.
“Jessica, my name is Jackie DeLyn and I think I know what the fuck you did to Joey Dillow.”
It was the easiest confession ever obtained from a suspect in the history of investigations. Jessica began to sob and did not seem to care that she had no idea who I was.
“I didn’t mean to kill him!” She exclaimed. “I was just going to brand his arm, just to teach him a lesson and get back at him for cheating on me. But I must have mixed up the bottles and put something besides pain pills in his beer. Before I knew it, he wasn’t breathing anymore. I freaked out and left him on the bed. I know I should have told somebody but I was really afraid! It was an accident, I swear!”
She seemed so genuinely distressed that I almost felt a little sorry for her. Almost. She had still killed Joey and not told anyone. Jessica was a murderer, a liar and a criminal and I was going to put her away. But suddenly a detail of her confession struck me as odd.
“Jessica, you said you freaked out and left him on the bed?” I asked. “Then how did Joey get the brand on his dick and who put him out on the balcony?” This just didn’t add up.
Jessica seemed baffled, as if she had never even considered this enigma. Dumb sorority girl. “I guess I just assumed his brothers did it as a prank. Didn’t they?”
Before I could respond to her almost comically ignorant question, a handful of cops came storming through the doorway, shouting that they had heard the confession and she was under arrest. How had they known to be here? I had not planned on such an instant confession and had therefore not alerted anyone of my actions. I asked the deputy but all he was willing to say as he dismissed me with a wave of his gun was that they had received an anonymous phone call. His refusal to unleash any pertinent information to a public individual did not surprise me. Before they could take Jessica away though, a thought occurred to me and I shouted one more question at her.
“Did you say Joey cheated on YOU?” I thought Jessica was the supposed
“He was my boyfriend for three years!” She shouted back.
“How did you find out?” The cops were pushing her into the back seat of a patrol car so I could barely make out the response. In fact, I must have gotten it wrong. Did she just say “My friend Melanie”?
I decided to conceal this bit of information until I had talked with Mel. She owed me some rum in exchange for solving her mystery and I definitely wanted to cash in on that. I told her we should celebrate right away because a good solid night of endless alcoholic glory was just what we both needed. By the time 3 AM rolled around, we were both too hammered to even make it to our beds and decided to pass out in the living room. I had failed to remember what exactly I was supposed to be questioning Mel about but as we staggered to the couches Mel gave me a sloppy hug and made a slurred exclamation that became incredibly significant after my hangover had subsided the following morning.

The repeated ticks of the second hand in the living room clock were vibrating through my skull with deafening precision. I slowly shuffled to the kitchen for some orange juice and Advil and collapsed into a hard wooden chair. As I sipped on my dependable hangover remedy, I glanced through the pile of old papers strewn across the table. Amongst the grocery store coupons and credit card company pleas to register for yet another piece of valuable plastic lay the old Triton article describing Joey’s gruesome death. I re-read the report again and glanced at the grainy photo. There was something unfamiliar about those branded Greek letters. I had never looked closely, but had assumed the police report was correct in deciphering them. How could I have been so naïve? The letters were not ΠΕΛ, as I had originally presumed, but ΜΕΛ. Translation: MEL.
As soon as I was functional enough to brave the glare and noise of the outside world, I made my way back to the Pi Epsilon Lambda house.
“Hi again! You’re still in town! You should have stayed here at the house!” My bubbly tour guide greeted me at the door with far too many exclamation points punctuating her speech. My hangover had not fully subsided and her squeal made my head feel like the inside of the campus bell at every ten-minutes-to-the-hour warning.
“Yeah, hi there.” I tried, but just could not match her bouncy disposition. “I was actually wondering if I could talk to anyone from Jessica Conrad’s rushing class. You know, for moral support in this difficult time.”
“Oh, well that’s really sweet but Jess was actually the only sister to be pledged by the Lambdas at the time that she rushed.”
“Why is that? Don’t you usually pledge a group together?” I was sure this was a ridiculous question for a supposed sister to be asking.
“Well yes, as I’m sure you know,” my tour guide responded somewhat quizzically. “But during Jess’ freshman fall semester our house was having some financial trouble and could not afford all the events that go along with rushing. We decided to only pledge one girl and Jess just happened to be the one!”
The truth was slowly revealing itself but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know it. My feet were apparently more determined to pursue my suspicions than my head, though, and they increased their pace toward home.

“They finally got what they deserved, those sorority phonies. I bet they’re sorry they chose Jessica now!”
I was too drunk the night before to pay Mel’s comment any notice, but as I hurried back to the apartment I realized she had mistakenly revealed everything to me in her drunken stupor. Lucky for me the newspaper photo had miraculously sparked the almost forgotten memory of her comment. My sorority tour guide’s description of Rush during Mel’s freshman year seemed to tie it all together, but I was still secretly hoping Mel would have a sensible explanation to ease my troubling feeling that she was much more involved than I had ever imagined.

Mel had already awakened, rid herself of a hangover and was busily Windexing the glass door of the oven when I returned. The accusatory look on my face immediately worried her.
“Where have you been JD? You okay?” She tried acting innocent but I could already tell that my verdict was right by the way she was obviously prepping for the defensive.
“I’ve actually made another breakthrough in Joey’s case.” I started.
“Oh really?” She asked. Her voice had become more high pitched with anxiety. “But the case has been solved. You found his murderer Ms. Detective!”
“Well it is true that Jessica administered the deadly poison but you can be damn sure there was another mastermind behind it all.” I said this in my calmest tone, as if I did not suspect her to be the mastermind at all. “Tell me, Mel, why exactly is it you hate sororities so much? I was always in agreement with you so I never asked, but come to think of it, you actually fit the sorority profile to a T. I’m sure if you had rushed you would have been pledged instantly!”
“Yeah if it wasn’t for the bribery of Jessica’s filthy rich family.” As soon as the words escaped her mouth, Mel dropped the Windex bottle and slapped both hands to her lips. She had so much repressed embitterment that she could not even hold back her vengeful feelings to protect her own lie. She had no choice but to own up.
“All right,” she said, lowering her hands and taking a deep breath. “My freshman year I did rush and was the first choice of the Pi Epsilon Lambda sisters. I rejected all other house offers because I was sure they were going to pledge me. But then Jessica Conrad’s parents come swooping in with their bundles of cash and a promise to fund the sorority on a yearly basis, thus ending the Lambda’s financial trouble for good. Of course they chose Jessica’s money over my qualifications, and I’ve hated the entire Greek system ever since.”
“So you flirted with Jessica’s boyfriend to get back at her for taking your place as a sister,” I said. “But I saw the way you talked about Joey. You were seriously into him. So when he wouldn’t give up his sorority girlfriend for you, I guess revenge on them both became necessary. I’m just not sure how you got Jessica to agree to your crazy scheme.”
Mel had turned somewhat ashen as she listened to my accurate theory, but she still nodded in confirmation and slowly clapped several times.
“Very good Jackie. Let me complete your little recap for you. All I had to do was tell Jessica her boyfriend was cheating on her with another girl and she quickly became convinced that payback was necessary. So I suggested a simple branding to prove he was hers. Joey had told me about the brothers’ pain pill and alcohol concoction so I supplied some meds to Jessica. Only I added my own personal touch of toxic kitchen cleaner beforehand.
“How very Martha Stewart of you,” I interjected sarcastically.
Mel smirked. “I knew Jessica wouldn’t finish when she realized she had killed him. That left the gratifying part to me. Joey had hurt my heart so I decided to hurt him where he was the most sensitive. Understand my placement of the brand now?” Mel seemed to be immensely satisfied with her symbolic act. “I even left my own name behind, but the letters are so similar to the Lambdas and the police were so eager to close the case that my little hint was completely overlooked. Displaying him on the balcony was only a last-minute stroke of genius so every stuck up Orange County citizen could see the consequences of their posh standards. Personally, I would have thought you’d be a bit more understanding Jackie. I mean, we both can’t stand all those Greek morons.”
“Understanding!?” I couldn’t believe how wrong I had been about Mel for the past three years. “You are fucking crazy. I might not approve of the Greek system, but none of them deserve what you have done.”
She just shrugged and picked up the Windex.
“You realize I’m going to the cops right?” I asked her.
“Go ahead. Jessica still thinks she was the one who made the fatal pill mistake and I was merely a caring friend who wanted her to know about Joey’s infidelity.” She said this with a pretend pout and batted her eyelashes as if she really was that sincere pal she had feigned to Jessica.
“Jessica won’t say a thing since she is so clueless and the cops certainly aren’t going to believe the accusation of a pothead dropout over a stellar student on her way to early graduation!” She had it all figured out didn’t she? She had even been able to convince me that Joey was her boyfriend and Jessica was the tramp because she knew I never socialized with those sorority girls and would never know the difference. How had I been so blind to her manipulation? At least I could be slightly satisfied in knowing how much she had underestimated me. By recruiting me to investigate Joey’s murder, she was able to frame Jessica and appear innocent and disconnected herself. Mel just never assumed I would solve the entire mystery.
“Fuck you Mel. I’m moving out tomorrow. If I can’t get justice by turning you in, then I’ll at least try to be content by pretending I never knew you.”
“Fine,” she said with indifference. “And don’t you fret, Jackie dear. Justice has indeed been served. Joey won’t break any more hearts, Jessica will have to survive in a prison cell not at all adorned with the expensive amenities she is accustomed to and my excellent reputation remains intact.”
It was just this type of “justice” that convinced me to stay out of school and leave Orange County’s legal system alone. No one could be saved from this Hell hole, especially when it appeared to the disillusioned masses as the glorious Garden of Eden.

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