A Vigil for Justice: Episode Ten

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie packed granola bars and fruit snacks into the hydration packs. She was taking Sam hiking this morning and then to a movie in the afternoon. It was their mom’s Saturday to work, which meant it was Melanie’s day with Sam.

Melanie slid the spatula under the golden brown pancake and flipped it over. She put sausage links in the microwave and pushed start. She stepped over the Rottweiler pup, Daisy, who was dancing around at her feet, tongue lolling and dripping drool.

Sam peeked around a corner into the kitchen.

“Psst. Melanie?”

Melanie smiled and then turned around. “Yes?” she whispered back to Sam. Daisy pranced over to Sam. Her wagging tail throwing off her balance causing her feet to crisscross and exaggerating the swing of her rear end.

“Mom here?” Sam bent down to let Daisy lick her face. Melanie scrunched up her mouth and nose as the dog’s pink tongue lapped at Sam repeatedly.

“Nope, you are free to eat in your PJ’s. In fact such naughty behavior is encouraged.”

Sam laughed and sprung up like a jack in the box.

Melanie set a plate of steaming pancakes on the table. “Will you get the butter out of the fridge?”

Sam set the butter on the table and pulled out a stool to get the syrup down from the cupboard. “Are we hiking today?”

“We always hike when mom works on Saturdays.” Melanie set the bowl of sausage on the table next to the pancakes.

“Can Daisy come?”

“We’ll have to carry extra water for her, but I think she would like to come.”

Sam climbed beneath the table on her hands and knees. “Did you hear that Daisy? You’re coming with.” Daisy licked Sam’s nose and wagged her tail.

_______________________

Melanie pulled up to the Indiana Creek trailhead. She pulled Daisy’s big paws through the harness and clipped on the leash before getting out of the car. Sam took ahold of the leash and got out. They were the only car in the parking lot.

“Looks like we have the trail to ourselves.” Melanie laced her belt through her holster and slipped her 9 mm into the snug leather pocket. Sam stared at the gun. It was the first time Melanie had worn it in public. She pulled the hydration packs out of the back seat and held Sam’s up so she could slip her arms through.

“Did you put sunblock on?”

“I forgot.”

Melanie reached into her backseat for her running hat and pulled Sam’s ponytail through the back and onto Sam’s head. Sam took off down the trail as fast as Daisy’s clumsy oversized paws could go.

“Don’t get too far ahead of me,” Melanie jogged down the trail after her little sister. The whisper of the leaves and sigh of the wind loosened Melanie’s shoulders like a hot shower. She pulled the fresh pine filled air into her lungs opening up her chest. Getting Daisy had created more tension between her and her mom, but Melanie knew that it was one of those ask for forgiveness rather than permission decisions.

Her mom was mad yesterday, in fact they had said little to one another in normal tones. Every word stretched with the tension of a rubber band about to spring back into place or snap from the strain. But this morning, Melanie had gotten up before her mom and made coffee. When her mom strolled out of her room hair wrapped in a towel, she ruffled Daisy’s ears and threw a squeaky toy until Daisy lost interest. Her mom probably approved of the dog more than the gun at Melanie’s hip. To Melanie, both were necessary. If her mom wouldn’t carry a gun at least she would have Daisy.

Sam collected leaves, flowers, and rocks along the trail.

“This one is pretty.” Sam handed a piece of rose quartz up to Melanie. Daisy jumped up and bounced on Melanie with her front paws.

“No Daisy!” Melanie grabbed ahold of the puppy and pushed her down. “Stay down.” She forced Daisy to sit.

Sam stuck out her lower lip. “She just wants to see.”

“I know she wants to see, but if you let her act like that when she is small, she will do it when she is big and it will knock you to the ground.”

Sam’s eyes got wide. “She’s gunna be ginormous.”

Melanie laughed. “I hope so.”

Daisy started barking and Melanie’s head popped up. Daisy was barking at the trees. Melanie looked around and rested her hand on the gun. Sam stepped behind Melanie. A squirrel began chattering and something rustled in the brush. Daisy continued to bark in a steady rhythm.

Melanie’s heart drummed against the inside of her rib cage. Another squirrel behind the girls took up the warning call. Melanie scanned the trees around them. She felt Sam bury her face in her lower back.

“Is someone there?” Her voice shook more than she wanted it too.

A rabbit darted out of the bush and streaked down the trail. Daisy took off after it.

“Daisy!” Melanie yelled. “Come on Sam.” Melanie took ahold of Sam’s hand and ran. Daisy crashed through the underbrush. The branches scratched at Melanie’s face and arms.

Sam’s breathing was heavy, and she was starting to wheeze. Melanie cast a glance back at her. They had to stop before Sam had an asthma attack.

Melanie crouched down in front of Sam. “Are you all right?”

Sam nodded.

Melanie put her hand on Sam’s chest. “Nice and deep. We’ll find her.” They could hear Daisy barking again.

Sam’s breathing was slowing. “I think you are like Daisy and I am more like that bunny rabbit.”

“Come on. We can find her if she is barking.” Melanie led Sam through the scrub oak and through a small stream. They pushed through another wall of branches and into a small clearing.

A man was crouched with a hand on Daisy’s collar.

Melanie stopped. He looked up and a smile pulled up on the corners of his lips and eyes.

“Seth, what are you doing out here?”

“This yours?”

“Yeah, we just got her.”

Sam ran up to Daisy and took the leash from Seth. “You naughty girl.”

“You better keep ahold of her. She’s a hunter and nearly had that rabbit she was chasing.”

Seth stood up and shouldered a rifle.

Melanie’s breath caught in her throat. She coughed. “So, what did you say you were doing?”

“Same thing as Daisy, hunting.” He walked to the edge of the clearing and picked up two rabbits. He brushed the dirt and leaves from their smoky fur. They hung limb swinging with Seth’s motion as he walked back over to Melanie and Sam.

“Can you give me a ride home?”

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