A Vigil for Justice: Episode 19

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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.

Four men were hauling the six-foot long black body bag up from the riverbed, when Melanie arrived with Mitchel. The men’s biceps flexed and the two in the back slid back down the steep moist slope on to their knees.

“Dead is heavy boys, careful.” Sheriff Tom stood at the lip of the slope.

Mitchel jogged over. “You need some extra help.”

Sheriff Tom turned toward them. “What are you two doing out here?”

“We come out here every Saturday, Sheriff, for a hike,” Melanie said.

Mitchel put his arm around Melanie’s shoulders. “Is it a justice killing?”

Sheriff Tom nodded. “Probably. Won’t know until I get the body back to the station and scan the SAFE chip.” Sheriff Tom put the tailgate down on his truck, and the men slid the body into the bed. They wiped their hands on their jeans.

Melanie recognized the men from the church. The tallest was Peter McGraff her co-team commander. His team had been on patrol last night. He tipped his hat. “Melanie. Mitchel.”

Peter turned toward Tom. “Sheriff, if there’s nothing else, I’m going to take my team home.”

“Thanks for your help Peter. Get some rest.”

“My mom’s going to freak out if she hears there is another body,” Melanie said.

“I’d rather she didn’t find out,” Sheriff Tom said. “No offense Melanie, but your mom, she causes a fuss.”

Melanie laughed. “No offense taken.”

“She know you’re a militia leader yet?”

Melanie shook her head.

“Well, you two enjoy the morning.” Sheriff Tom climbed into the driver’s seat and started the truck.

Mitchel took Melanie’s hand and headed down the trail.

It was early afternoon when they drove down Main Street in search of some lunch.

“What are all those cars doing at City Hall?” Mitchel asked.

“Oh no, my mom must have found out about the body and called some type of town gathering. Stop the truck.”

“What?”

“Stop the truck.”

Mitchel slowed down. Before the truck was even totally stopped, Melanie opened the door and dropped to the ground. She ran toward the door and pushed it open. She was met with a wall of people.

Sheriff Tom was standing at the front of the packed room. “Jennifer, I know you’re concerned, but we just don’t know yet.”

“People don’t just die in the woods in Blue River,” Jennifer said.

Melanie cringed at her mother’s condescending tone.

“I am aware how people in Blue River die, Mrs. Craig. And as you know I am not allowed to provide you any information about who killed anyone, if in fact it was a justice killing. My deputies and I will be conducting an investigation or I would be if I was not here with all of you.”

“We all know you have access to the National Cybersecurity Protection System Tom. And we all want to know who the killer is in our town.”

Sheriff Tom’s eyes met Melanie’s for a millisecond, and she felt someone’s hand slip into hers. She spun her head around and found Mitchel smiling at her. She gave him a limp smile. She moved her other hand off her gun. She hadn’t even noticed she’d reached for it.

“I cannot give you the information you want Jennifer. I must uphold the law.”

“The Justice Law is not worth upholding,” Jennifer said.

Sheriff Tom clenched his jaw and took a step toward Jennifer. “It is the law whether you like it or not Mrs. Craig.” He shouldered through the crowd. “Clear out of this building and go home, all of you.”

Melanie remained where she was as the crowd drifted by Mitchel and her. Most of them had big round eyes that flickered from person to person around them. They are scared she realized. Scared of each other and scared of her. Only a few met her gaze without flinching and turning away, mostly men. They were the ones who were carrying guns on their hips.  She didn’t turn away from them. She wanted them to know she was not afraid like the rest.

Her mother smiled when she saw them. “Hi guys. How was your hike.”

Melanie hated the two roles she had to play, Melanie Jennifer’s daughter and Melanie the militia team leader. She felt the worst in the daughter role, it was the most false of the two.

“It was great mom.” Melanie said, as Jennifer reached for Mitchel and gave him a hug.

“Oh good.”

“Mitchel and I are going to be out late tonight mom, so don’t wait up for me.”

Jennifer nodded her head. “How’s your mom Mitchel?” She laid a hand on Mitchel’s shoulder.

“Um, she’s doing all right.”

“Let me know if she needs anything ok?”

Mitchel nodded and Jennifer left with the rest of the crowd.

All the militia team leaders met at the Sheriff’s office before sundown to go over anything that happened the night before.

Melanie stood between Mitchel and Richard. She looked around trying to find Jake, but he wasn’t there yet. She hadn’t been to the boxing gym for a few days. She needed to go and work out some of this frustration and tension.

“Peter McGraph will be leading Jake’s team tonight. He’s had a family emergency come up,” Richard said.

Sheriff Tom came out of his office. He was dressed in civilian clothes for his shift with the militia.

“Can you give us any information on the body you found this morning Tom?” Richard asked.

“I can tell you that it is not a justice killing. Not really anyway. The young man killed himself.”

Melanie looked at Mitchel who shrugged his shoulders.

“His SAFE chip recorded one kill and it is his own life.”

“As unfortunate as suicide is, I am glad that we still only have one person in town who has decided to use their kills,” Richard said.

A rumble of agreement moved around the room. As Melanie’s eyes scanned the crowd, she realized she was the only female in the room. She recognized some of the faces from those at the City Hall earlier in the day, the ones who had not turned away from her. Tonight they carried more than just the one gun on their hip. Most had a shotgun across their back, same as her, and then the militia issued tazer. Whatever else they had hidden on their person, she could only imagine.

Peter asked, “Do you know anything more about the body found under the flagpole?”

Sheriff Tom shook his head. “I’m not sure what information you are looking for. There is some information I can give you, and other information that the law does not allow me to disclose. Can you be more specific with your question?”

“Is it a local?” The question came from the back of the group. Melanie couldn’t see the man.

“I can’t answer that one.”

“Was there motive?” Melanie asked.

Everyone turned to face her. She wanted to know what type of killer they had in Blue River, a sociopath or someone who had a reason.

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