A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Seven

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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.

Karalynn and a man dressed in black cargo pants got into the van with Jennifer after a brief reunion. They drove two blocks and then stopped again. Karalynn jumped out and ran to a key pad on a massive iron gate that spanned the road. Melanie looked at Mitchel and raised her eyebrows as the gate opened. Mitchel gave her a tight-lipped smile. He drove down the long driveway behind Jennifer’s van. A large farmhouse with a wraparound porch at the end was blacked out, no lights. A white picket fence surrounded the home and property. Two horses stood silent in the pasture to the south.

When they came to a stop, three men in black cargo pants stepped out of the shadows. The man who had gotten in the van with Jennifer jumped out and approached the three. One of them came toward Mitchel’s window the other two made their way toward the two vehicles following them.

Mitchel rolled the window down.

“Welcome to the Christopoulos home. One second while we check the perimeter.”

Mitchel nodded. His expression serious.

Five minutes later, they all sat around the heavy oak kitchen table at Karalynn’s spare folding chairs had been brought in from the garage. The tile floor was a mosaic of lime green and lemon yellow. Sky blue curtains framed the windows, which had fitted boards in them blocking anyone from peering inside.

“Are the security guards really necessary?” Jennifer asked, cocking her head to the side and raising her eyebrows.

Karalynn pressed her thin lips tightly between her teeth and nodded her head. She was a small athletic looking woman of forty. Her husband, Galen, brushed a stray strand of her shoulder-length black hair from her face and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“Unfortunately, they became necessary shortly after J-day. We didn’t want to believe it either, but when an AK47 became as prevalent as a woman’s handbag, there was no way I was sending my children to school or my wife to the store without a trained entourage,” Galen said.

Galen and Karalynn met when Jennifer and Karalynn had gone to Greece for spring break in their freshman year of college. They returned every year after that and on their last trip, Galen proposed to Karalynn. They have been inseparable since then.

Karalynn leaned against Galen’s sturdy form. “The neighborhood pooled money to have the iron gate installed and all the men take turns on the night guard.”

“People are shot in the streets daily, women, children, and elderly. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think the local officers can even keep track of who is shooting who, even with the SAFE chips and Homeland Security chasing down the Scrubs,” Galen said.

“There are Scrubs here?” Seth asked. Melanie had forgotten he was here until then. He had been standing behind her and Mitchel, but stepped forward now.

Galen nodded. “They come in two types here. Most are just what remains of the hippy movement they just want to live off the grid and then there are the hunters.”

“The hunters?” Seth asked.

“The ones who are out there killing just to kill. They psychologist on the news the other night said they get some thrill out of killing in broad daylight, the shock and horror of spectators feeds their sickness,” Galen said.

“How does Homeland know the difference?” Mitchel asked.

Galen shrugged. “They don’t.”

“Why do you stay here?” Melanie asked. “If it’s so dangerous?”

“We will be moving to Greece permanently as soon as our passports are renewed. As you can imagine, they are taking longer than usual now,” Galen said.

“Oh, I’ll bet,” Richard said. “Especially when folks began to realize that vigilante justice was not all it’s cracked up to be.” He shook his head and drained the rest of his beer.

Melanie looked down at the hot chocolate in her violet mug. A couple of crunchy marshmallows remained afloat. She poked at them with her finger.

Melanie’s eyes pled with her mother. “How long are we going to be here?” she asked, not wanting to sound rude, but growing anxious with the amount of daylight violence in the bigger city. She had known it was going to be worse here. The violence has increased ever since the war and it was actually the inciting reason that the Justice Law was passed. This whole time somewhere inside her childish mind she had made herself believe that it wasn’t as bad as the television reports had made it seem. But it was.

Jennifer’s expression softened. “Not long, a few days perhaps. We need to plan our route, gather supplies, and probably less a vehicle or two?”

She looked back and forth between Mitchel and Seth, neither of who would look at her. Mitchel stared into his own hot chocolate. Seth cleaned his the grime from under his fingernails.

Melanie, Jennifer, and Sam shared the guest room with a king size bed. Melanie watched as her mother got Sam ready for bed as if nothing had changed. Jennifer put Sam in the bath and sang while she washed her hair, just like at home. Then she brushed out Sam’s long hair, read her chapter from Black Beauty, and tucked her into the bed they were all sharing. Sam was in the middle and Daisy turned in circles at their feet until she found just the right position and collapsed.

Seth and Mitchel were in the second guest room. Holly and her family decided to stay in their trailer, despite there being plenty of space for them in the house. Richard had mumbled something about liking to know where all the exits and entrances were.

Melanie stared at the white ceiling. Her eyes followed the ridges that resembled the parched earth of a desert.

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A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Six

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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.

“I’m going to get your mom and Seth,” Mitchel said.

Melanie nodded her head, but didn’t turn to face him as she climbed the three steps into the fifth-wheel. Holly’s arms flew around Melanie. She returned the strangle hold. Her eyes drifted around the space, they were now calling home. Pale peach counter tops and walnut colored cupboards. Matching pillows sat in the corner of the square navy couch cushions.

“Why…” Melanie began.

“Let’s wait for everyone,” Richard said, sitting down next to his wife on the couch.

Finally, Holly released her, and Melanie nearly fell over with the sudden freedom. She took a few more steps into the room and sat in the recliner. She couldn’t believe they were leaving Blue River to come with her. They had everything they needed in Blue River. Mr. Stein had the militia all organized and patrolling the streets. What did he think was going to happen there? Who had he left in charge? Melanie realized she must look crazy staring off into space. She shook her head.

A knock came at the door.

Jennifer, Sam, Seth, and Mitchel came into the trailer.

Having eight people in the trailer was making Melanie feel just a little crowded. She combed her fingers through her hair. Jennifer slid into the horseshoe shaped booth. Sam and Seth slid in beside her.

Holly’s mom, Pauline, pulled out a package of Oreos and a bowl of fruit.

“Drinks?” she asked reaching into another cupboard for red plastic cups and small paper bowls.

“Scotch,” Melanie said and smiled as she rocked in the recliner.

“Ooo, me too,” said Holly, bouncing on the balls of her feet and grinning ear to ear.

Richard rolled his eyes and passed each of them a cup of ice water.

Sam tickled the fringe of the Oreo package and Jennifer nodded her head.

“Do you have any milk?” asked Sam.

“Yes I do,” said Pauline, opening the full size refrigerator. She poured the milk and set the cup in front of Sam.

Seth grabbed a few Oreos.

Sam pushed her milk over toward him. “We can share if you want.”

“I double dip,” he said cracking a smile and popping an entire cookie into his mouth.

Sam scrunched up her face. “Gross.” She slid her milk out of his reach and scooted closer to Jennifer.

Richard set his hat on his knee. “I’m sure you are wondering why we decided to leave.” He brushed the brim of the hat. “After the little demonstration on your front lawn, I realized that no matter what I did, I can’t talk reason into a bunch of frightened people. Living surrounded by frightened people who have guns, is not a risk I am willing to take with my family.”

Everyone was quiet for a full minute. Melanie had seen the fear on many people’s faces in Blue River. Of course they were all afraid, and it wouldn’t be different anywhere else, he had to understand that, which meant the Stein’s were going to the safe zone too.

“Jennifer—”  he began again, his eyes meeting Melanie’s mom’s.

Jennifer held up her hand. “We’re in this together Richard. Holly and Melanie have been best friends for years. I would be glad to have your family along for this trip.”

He smiled and put his hat back on his full head of dark close-cropped hair. “In that case, let’s get this pony show on the road.”

Melanie didn’t understand her mom’s quick judgment of others. Two weeks ago, her mother wouldn’t be caught dead holding a civil conversation with Richard Stein and now, he is bringing up the rear of their caravan. His willingness to let go of everything Jennifer had done to make his life a living hell over the last month didn’t surprise Melanie at all. He had always been quick to forgive Holly for her silly impulsive behavior.

“Know when to hold ‘em and when to let ‘em go.” He had told her once when she was pouting about something Holly had done. She didn’t even remember what she was angry at Holly about anymore, but she remembered that.

They all piled out of the fifth-wheel and into their own cars. Richard pulled out in front to set the pace, since he was the slowest pulling the trailer full of water. Jennifer was right behind him, then Seth, and then Melanie and Mitchel.

Melanie stroked Daisy’s silky black head. “Do you think we will ever be able to look at others without wondering if they have what it takes to kill us or those we love?”

When Mitchel didn’t answer, she moved her eyes to his face. Wrinkles creased his brow, as if he were deep in thought.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Don’t do that, don’t shut me out. What were you thinking about?”

He threw her a glance. “I’ve spent my entire life wondering when my father would kill me, Seth, or my mom. I’ve always looked at people through those eyes.”

It was dark when they reached Denver, around ten. Men clad in black from head to foot and carrying automatic rifles across their backs and in their hands strolled along the streets. They turned their piercing gaze to the line of vehicles rolling down the street. Daisy’s chest rumbled with a deep growl. The glass of ground floor windows in many of the buildings had been shattered. The headlights of their caravan caused the pieces of glass littering the ground to twinkle like fallen stars. Round and lumpy black and white garbage bags stood watch along the streets.

Jennifer had taken the lead position since she was the only one who knew where to go. Melanie pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed her mom’s number. Mitchel glanced over at her. Yellow light washed through the truck as they drove under the street lamps that were still working. She pressed the phone to her head.

“Mom, don’t slow down in the city. You know where you are going, right?”

“It’s been awhile, but I remember.” Jennifer’s voice vibrated.

“O.K. just go straight there. If the intersections are clear, I want you to go straight through don’t stop for red lights or stop signs.”

Jennifer was quiet.

They should have loaded everything into the trailer and made Sam and Jennifer ride with Richard. Melanie ground her teeth together.  They were coming to an intersection with a traffic light. Melanie watched the brake lights flicker on and off on her mom’s van as she began to slow. The intersection was empty.

“Mom. Don’t stop.”

The van began to sped back up and Jennifer went through the red light. Mitchel, Seth, and Richard all followed in the same fashion.

They went through a few more intersections and then pulled off the main road and began winding through the neighborhoods. Melanie relaxed and hung up the phone with her mom.

“We’re almost there she said. Karalynn’s house is about ten more minutes and it’s all neighborhoods,” Melanie said. Mitchel patted her thigh and pressed his lips into a thin smile. “It’ll be better during the day.”

The red glow of brake lights caused Mitchel to turn his attention back forward.

A group of people stood in the middle of the street, mostly men with rifles. Two cars parked on opposite sides of the road had floodlights illuminating the group. A tall man held up his hand and stepped forward.

Jennifer slowed down. Melanie’s stomach clenched. There was no way her mom would plow through a whole group of people.

Melanie pulled her 9 mm out of the holster under her arm. “Roll down the window, so we can hear.”

“Where are you headed?” the man called out. He had lowered the rifle and came to a stop about ten feet from the front of the van.

Mitchel brought the truck to a stop at a slight angle to the van. He reached under his seat, pulled out his gun, and checked that the magazine was in place. He slid a spare between his legs. Daisy sat up and looked around yawning.
“We are staying with friends who live down the street, Karalynn Hanson,” Jennifer called out the window.

The man lowered his rifle. “Jennifer Craig?” a woman’s voice came from the group. They moved aside and a small woman in sweats came jogging forward.

Jennifer opened the door of the van and got out running into the arms of her longtime friend.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty Five

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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.

“We’re going to Karalynn’s in Denver,” Jennifer said as they went over the final checklist before they left Blue River. Jennifer, Melanie, Mitchel and Seth stood in a circle in the front yard of Craig home.

A Red-naped Sap Sucker tapped its beak on the bark of a nearby tree.  Melanie glanced up searching for the woodpecker among the branches over her head.

“We’ll just follow you,” Mitchel said.

“Melanie, what am I forgetting,” Jennifer asked.

Melanie looked down at the list in her hand. “Power is off, water is off, mail has been forwarded to Denver. I think we are good, mom.”

The bird continued to tap.

The insurance money from her father’s death had paid off all their bills including the house.

Jennifer took the list and looked at it for a few seconds then looked at the three who stood before her. “I think we are ready. You’re taking Daisy with you and Mitchel in the truck?”

“Yes,” Melanie drew out the word. Her mom was just being overly cautious.  “I don’t think Austin will approve of Daisy poking at him while he’s in his kennel.”

Just then, Sam came bouncing out of the front door with the small kennel swinging at her side. Everyone turned toward her a terrified yowling came from the kennel.

Jennifer marched toward her youngest daughter. “Sam, hold that cat steady. Can’t you hear him crying?”

Melanie looked up at the house. They were leaving everything they had built. They were only taking what was necessary. Its red door, big porch, and all the memories of her father. She took a deep breath of the warm mountain air. She hoped that one day they would be able to come back. No, she would return. Someday, this would be home again. She had to believe that, the thought of leaving forever made her breath catch and her chest collapse in on her heart.

“Come on Daisy,” Melanie called out and opened the door to Mitchel’s truck.

Daisy’s huge black form came bounding around the corner of the house, tongue hanging from her smiling jowls. Her bright brown eyes excited for whatever was to come. Melanie wished she shared Daisy’s enthusiasm. Daisy jumped into the truck. Seth would follow behind them in his car. Mitchel had tried to convince him to leave the car and ride with them to save on fuel costs, but Seth insisted on having his own ride.

Their small caravan wound through the streets of the small town and out onto the highway. Both she and Mitchel were quiet as they drifted away from Blue River. Melanie picked up her phone and dialed her mom.

“Can we stop for coffee in Breck one last time?”

“Of course,” Jennifer said.

Her mother’s voice brushed the hair from Melanie’s face and lifted her chin. She hung up the phone. Mitchel patted her thigh. She laid her hand on top of his. Daisy curled into a ball between them.

They pulled into the coffee shop parking lot and Melanie ran inside with everyone’s order jostling around in her head. The familiar fresh ground coffee filled her nostrils and made them flare. The girl at the counter was new. Probably, her replacement.

Suzanne, her old boss, stepped out of the back drying her hands on her black apron. “Leaving town today?”

Melanie pursed her lips and nodded. She moved her arm over the SAFE scanner to pay for the coffee and hot chocolate. The noise from the steamer rose to a high pitch.

“You heard from Holly?” Suzanne asked.

“No, why?”

“She didn’t show for her shift this morning again.”

Holly had no showed her shift at least once a week. It was a wonder Suzanne hadn’t fired her. Holly had only started working at the coffee shop a few weeks ago, right before school let out. She wanted something to do through the summer.

“Sorry,” Melanie said picking up the drink tray. Melanie had convinced Suzanne to hire Holly and it had been Melanie who had covered the missed shifts.

Suzanne let out a long sigh and came around the counter. She stretched out her arms and Melanie set the drinks back down. She gave Suzanne a hug.

“Good luck, Melanie. You’re a hard worker. I wish you and your family the best.”

“Thanks.” Melanie tried to give her a hopeful smile. Suzanne’s smile was sad.

Melanie rushed out the door. She didn’t like goodbyes.

She took Seth his coffee. He turned down his hard rock music as she approached.

“Thanks, Mel. Great idea stopping,” he said, smiling up at her.

She stopped at the window of the van and handed her mom the two hot chocolates and then slid into the truck handing Mitchel his coffee.

“I was about to come in after you,” he smiled at her.

“Holly didn’t show up for her shift again.”

Mitchel pressed his lips between his teeth trying to hide a knowing smile. He nodded his head and they followed Jennifer’s van out of the parking lot.

She wrapped her hands around the thick cardboard cup letting the warmth sink into them. She took a sip and savored the sweet and bitterness of the mocha. She would be back, she thought.

About ten minutes out of Breckenridge, Melanie noticed a big black Dodge truck with a fifth wheel trailer parked in a rest area.

Melanie squinted her eyes. “Why…”

“What?” Mitchel asked.

“Pull over next to that trailer.” Melanie reached over and honked the horn to get her mother’s attention and Mitchell pulled into the rest area. Seth was right behind them.

The van was already past the entrance of the rest area, but pulled to the side of the road near the exit.

Melanie jumped out of the truck as soon as it stopped and ran over to the fifth wheel. She was knocking on the door when Mitchel reached her.

The door swung out forcing Melanie to step back a few paces.

Holly stood smiling in the doorway. Her fiery curls framing her face. “We’re coming with.”

Richard Stein towered behind his daughter. He tipped his black cowboy hat and smiled. “Ms. Craig. I knew you’d spot us here.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 24

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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.

Seth stalked back up the stairs toward the room he and Mitchel were sharing.

Mitchel’s hazel eyes drifted to Melanie. They remained there for a few seconds and then he followed his twin up the stairs.

Melanie looked down at her mother who was still seated against the door with her knees pulled to her chest. There was a bang and raised voices from Seth and Mitchel’s room.

Melanie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. As she opened them again, she exhaled. “I’m going to get Sam.”

Jennifer nodded pulling her lips in and pressing them between her teeth.

Melanie took the stairs two at a time on her toes. She tapped her knuckles on the stark white closet door. “Sam?” She slide the closet door open. Sam was curled up in a ball, legs tucked into her nightgown, sleeping on the floor. Her head rested on her hands, palms pressed together. Melanie smiled. She left the door open and Sam sleeping.

She walked back down the hall stopping outside the guestroom door. Mitchel and Seth were talking with low voices. She knew they would leave. The question was when.  She ran her fingers through her hair and her elbow bumped the door.

Seth pulled the door open and stared at her. “What?”

Mitchel pushed his brother aside and wrapped his arms around Melanie kissing her on the forehead.

Seth let out an exasperated snort.

Mitchel put his hands on both sides of Melanie’s face. “It’s better if we leave. Staying will only cause a division within Blue River and everyone needs to stand together.”

Melanie nodded. He released her face and embraced her.

“I’m going with you,” Melanie whispered.

“Stay here where you will be safe.”

She stepped back from him, breaking his hold on her. She shook her head, eyes narrowed and eyebrows scrunched together. “I’m not safe here. Look what’s happened over the last few days.” She waved her hand through the air.

Mitchel’s eyes move to something behind Melanie. Melanie turns. Jennifer is standing in the doorway, her hands on her slender hips. “We are all going.”

Melanie’s mouth drops open.

“Shut your mouth Mel, it’s not pretty like that.” Jennifer smiles at her daughter. Melanie rushes to her mom and throws her arms around her.

“This is crazy. It’s chaos outside of Blue River. You’ve seen the news, read the paper—”

Jennifer let go of Melanie and held up her hand. “Families stick together, Mitchel. We move as one. Plus, Melanie is right, Blue River won’t be safe for long. It’s turning into a witch-hunt.”

Mitchel looked at Seth who shrugged his shoulders. “We need to go to our house and get some things.”

“I’ll help,” Melanie said. She wasn’t going to give him a chance to leave without her. “When are we leaving, mom?”

“Two days should be enough time. We will make our way toward the closest safe zone.”

Melanie nodded. Two days, there was a lot that needed to be done.

 

Mitchel’s truck bumped down the dirt driveway to his parent’s home. “Thanks for coming,” Mitchel said. “I really didn’t want to come back here by myself and Seth doesn’t want to ever come back here.”

Melanie laid her hand on his.  “What do we need to get while we’re there?”

“Life insurance documents, ammunition, guns, clothing, and all the camping gear. Seth and I thought we’d be safer staying outside the cities unless we knew we had friends on the inside.”

Melanie looked out the side window. A doe and her fawn were standing at the side of the road with wide-eyes and forward ears. She glanced in the rear view mirror and watched them bounce across the road.

“You’re right. I’ll text mom and let her know to pull all of our stuff out too.”

Mitchel pulled the truck forward onto what would be a front lawn in most houses, but was just dirt at the Bateman house. He backed the truck up to the porch. “Let’s do this.”

The front door had yellow police tape across it. Mitchel glanced at Melanie. She shrugged and they ducked under the tape.

Kitchen chairs were toppled, broken dishes littered the floor, and pictures had been ripped from the walls and replaced with fist size holes.

Mitchel’s face took on the emotionless mask he usually wore whenever she saw him within these walls. He pointed toward a hallway closet. “Sleeping bags and rifles are in there.”

Melanie nodded and left him to sift through his childhood memories and put whatever he could back together.

Melanie pulled the closet door open. It was stuffed full of outdoors gear, much of it still had the price tags still attached. It was impossible to imagine Mitchel and his dad taking a backpacking or fishing trip together.

She began pulling everything out. There was really no point in not making a mess or putting things back they didn’t need. She carried sleeping bags outside and lowered the tailgate on the truck. Mitchel came out behind her with a duffle bag of clothes for both Seth and himself.

They worked in silence until the bed of the truck was full.

“I think that’s it,” Mitchel said.

He looked over the house, its peeling paint and broken screen door.  “I hate this place. Let’s get out of here.”

Once they were on their way, Melanie asked, “Can we stop by Holly’s?”

Mitchel nodded and turned down Holly’s street.

They didn’t stay at Holly’s long. Drawing out goodbyes was never a good idea. Richard thought they were making the right choice. He agreed that Blue River was not going to be safe much longer.

“When are you leaving?” Holly asked wiping tears from her cheeks.

“Two days, on the morning of the 9th,” Melanie said squeezing Holly’s hand and giving her another hug. “We’ll write when we reach the safe zone.”

Mitchel and Richard shook hands. “Thank you, Mr. Stein.”

“It was my pleasure, Mitchel. Take care of yourself and Melanie.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 23

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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 smiled and brushed her hair behind her ear. Mitchel lay sleeping on the couch. He had woken her up when he couldn’t sleep haunted by nightmares about the horrors his mother had suffered in her last moments of life at the hands of the man who was meant to protect her. Melanie wished should could take the hurt out of Mitchel and bury it into her own heart. He looked calm and relaxed while he slept, but his eyes shifted beneath their lids. In less than a week, their lives had descended into chaos. Even with all the preparation she had done, it hadn’t been enough for this.

The sun was just breaking through the shadows of night. The stairs creaked. Melanie looked up. Sam drug her blanket behind her as she tottered down to the main floor. She climbed into Melanie’s lap pulling her icy toes in to her Hello Kitty nightgown.

“Good morning,” Melanie whispered tucking the blanket around Sam.

Sam snuggled into her. “Are Mitchel and Seth going to live here?”

Melanie kissed her sister’s head. “For now.”

“I’m hungry.”

Melanie chuckled. “How about waffles?”

Sam shook her head up and down and slid off Melanie’s lap.

Melanie went into the kitchen and started going through cupboards getting everything out she needed. She glanced out the front window. Richard Stein’s huge black truck was parked at the curb. She leaned over the counter peering around. There were cars and trucks lining the street.

The doorbell rang.

Sam’s bare feet patted on the floor.

Melanie’s breath caught in her throat. She dashed toward the living room. A pan clanged to the linoleum floor. “Sam, don’t open that door.”

Her hand closed around Sam’s wrist just in time to stop her from opening the door. “Go get mom.”

Sam scrunched up her face.

“Hurry.”

Mitchel sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What’s going on?”

“Not sure,” Melanie said.

A few seconds later, Jennifer was coming down the stairs in her bathrobe. She cast a glance at Mitchel who was now on his feet and alert.

“What is it Melanie?”

“I don’t know. There are a bunch of people out there.”

Jennifer pursed her lips and pulled her eyebrows together. She peered out the spyhole. “Richard Stein.” Jennifer set her shoulders and straightened her spine.

“Just give me a minute before you open that door mom.”

Jennifer nodded.

Melanie ran to her room. Mitchel was right behind her.

As she came into her room, she scooped up her holster and slung it over her shoulders. Melanie sank to her knees at the edge of her bed, and began fishing under it with both arms. She pulled out her lock box. She took the key from around her neck and opened it. She slid the compact nine into the holster.

She heard Mitchel’s footsteps cross the hall to the guest room. She grabbed an extra magazine out of the lockbox and clipped it into place on the holster strap. She got to her feet and snatched up her shotgun and .22 from the closet.

Mitchel met her in the hallway armed as well. “Seth is getting his stuff together too. He’ll be down in just a second.”

Melanie nodded and bounded down the stairs.

The doorbell rang again.

Jennifer’s eyes grew wide as she saw the two of them, armed to the teeth, trot down the stairs. Melanie turned to the footsteps behind her. Seth, shirtless and rubbing sleep from his eyes, held two shotguns as he came down the stairs. He had to two shotgun slings full of shells crisscrossed over his torso.

“Good morning,” he said with a grin as his feet hit the last step.

Melanie set the .22 against the wall behind the door.

Someone pounded on the door.

“Jennifer, we just want to talk. Open the door.” It was Richard. Melanie looked at her mother and shook her head no. Richard didn’t sound angry, but that didn’t mean the people behind him were not angry.

Jennifer put her hand on the doorknob. “Sammy, go upstairs in mommy’s closet. Stay there until I come and get you.”

Melanie slid a magazine for the .22 into her mom’s back pocket. “Keep your body behind the door as much as you can mom.”

Jennifer turned the doorknob and pulled the door open about three inches.

“What can I help you with Mr. Stein?” Jennifer asked with only a slight vibration in her voice.

Melanie stood behind the wall, between the front window and the door. Her left hand wrapped around the cool barrel and her right supporting the butt. Seth was in the kitchen at the front window. Mitchel stood behind the wall at the other side of the large front window.

“We just want to talk Jennifer.”

“Well go ahead.”

Richard took a deep audible breath. “I understand the Bateman boys are staying with you?”

Jennifer said nothing.

“Look Jennifer, we don’t want any trouble, but all these people, they want the boys to leave town.”

“That’s ridiculous. They’ve nowhere to go, Richard. You know that.”

“I tried to explain to everyone they are over reacting and being irrational. I know these boys and their good boys—”

“Then why are you here?”

“To keep the peace.”

“They are giving the boys three days to be out of Blue River.”

“And if they don’t leave?”

“I don’t know how far they will go Jennifer. I can’t talk any sense into them. They think the boys will turn into their father sooner or later.”

Melanie cast a furtive glance at Mitchel.

His jaw clenched and his knuckles turned white around the black barrel of his shotgun.

“Well thanks for the information Mr. Stein,” Jennifer raised her voice, “now if you and the rest of the riffraff would be so kind as to get the hell off my property.”  Jennifer shut the door and leaned her back against it sinking to the floor.

Seth came in to the living room.

“I’m so sorry,” Jennifer said looking up at Seth and Mitchel.