A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-One

Flag

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 sat across the round table in the hospital dining hall from Alyson, who had come into Jennifer’s room this morning while making her rounds. Alyson intended to make good on her offer of coffee from the day before. Jennifer was still sleeping, so Melanie agreed to join her.

Melanie wrapped her chilled hands around the mug and relished the warmth. The hospital coffee was surprisingly good. She breathed in the rich scent of fresh ground beans and freshly brewed coffee. It made her miss working at the coffee shop in Blue River. Blue River seemed like forever ago.

“I demanded that they stop serving two day old coffee, since I essentially live here at the hospital after my husband passed away,” Alyson said as she smiled a twinkle in her chestnut eyes.

“There really is no sense in leaving,” Alyson continued. “Especially since the Justice Law passed. Bodies, alive and dead, continually stream in through the ER doors.”

“You don’t ever leave?” Melanie asked.

“I’m sixty-five and have no interest in learning to be a sharp shooter and caring a gun strapped to my body. In here, I have everything I need.”

“Is that why there are three and four people to a room?” Melanie asked.

Alyson nodded. “It wasn’t like that before. We are constantly overwhelmed now. There are so many Jane and John Doe’s in here that you’d think the Doe’s were rabbits.”

“No one comes in to claim their relatives?”

“Everyone is afraid, child. Mostly it’s strangers, who bring in people they find shot or stabbed on the streets. Families would rather live in ignorance about the fate of their members than risk their own lives checking the hospitals for anyone who has gone missing for a few days.”

“They can’t just call in?” Melanie asked.

“Goodness, no! We don’t have time to sort that out. Sometimes the victims who do wake up or come in conscious, don’t want to give their names out of fear they will be found by whoever tried to kill them in the first place.”

Melanie silently contemplated her cream swilling in the dark coffee. She hadn’t really considered the impact the Justice Law would have on the health care system. The government cannot pay enough police, how were the hospitals going to be staffed and supplied? The more Melanie found out about the Justice Law the more she was convinced that those in charge were either idiots or this whole thing was some corrupt population control mechanism.

Alyson sipped from her mug. “You’re mom is doing well. She’s a fighter, much like you I expect.”

“We are very different,” Melanie said. “Don’t you have children?” She asked wanting to change the subject from her and her mom’s bumpy relationship.

Alyson shook her head. “The hospital and patients are my children. I dedicated my entire life to my career and caring for other people. Alfred, my husband, wanted children, but I thought it would hinder my ability to become a doctor and remain objective in making difficult decisions. He loved me anyway, such a good man. I’m glad he didn’t have to see the world come to this.” She waved her hand.

“How did he die?”

“Leukemia. He was a fighter too, all the way to the end.”

Melanie hung her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sometimes, I think that the dead are the lucky ones. They don’t have to watch this horror show. No more suffering.”

“People can be so cruel. They forget that they are more similar to one another than different,” Melanie said looking out the window at the jagged mountains in the distance and the grey clouds caught upon the peaks.

“Do you want a refill?” Alyson asked.

“Yes, please. With cream.”

Alyson took Melanie’s mug and went back to the counter.

Pieces of conversations from other tables drifted to Melanie.

“The morgue is full again,” said a man to her right.

“I should have become a mortician or a grief counselor,” a woman to her left said.

Everyone’s life has become focused on death, Melanie realized. Who to kill, who could kill you, how you can prevent your loved ones from being killed; the business of death was growing. It had become an everyday conversation. In less than a month, the Justice Law and transformed the way people view life.

Compassion and kindness had been replaced by fear and placing a value on your neighbor’s life. Every person decides what to do and not do based upon if it is worth dying for, rather than is it the right choice.

Alyson returned sliding a plate of pancakes and eggs in front of Melanie and setting a full mug of coffee before her as well. “You need to stay healthy for your mom, even when she gets out of here, she will need your help with everyday things until she regains her strength.” Alyson slid into the chair again and sipped her black coffee.

Melanie squeezed the ketchup onto her eggs and smeared the pancakes with butter and syrup.

“What happens to the bodies without names or families?” She asked and shoveled eggs into her mouth.

Alyson looked away from her. “There is a mass grave dug, once a week, in the cemetery down the street.”

Advertisements

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty

Flag

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 had never been religious, yet, she found herself drawn to the small chapel in the hospital and not in mere passing. She had sought it out, asking a nurse where she could find it. She stopped at the threshold of the dimly lit room. White pine benches straddled a narrow isle leading to an altar made of the same pine and draped with a green cloth. No one was in the room. Melanie shuffled along the navy blue runner paving the way to the front, her mind was drawn into itself.

The idea of a god never sat right with her, but every time she found herself lost and clutching at the strings of hope, she sought god out.  Maybe this was some menial proof that there was a god or maybe she was willing to do anything to comfort herself through a belief that somewhere there was a sort of unconditional love and peace, that her existence was more than this life.

Believing that there was nothing after death did not sit well with her either, but nothing in life provided her with any assurance that there was more than darkness after the last breath. Melanie clung to this world and the life that it offered her, even though, it was not as she had imagined it.

She struck the match along the small cardboard box. Breathing in the sulfur, she touched the flame to the small white candle.  She sank to her knees. The cold tile pressed into her kneecaps. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.

She wasn’t asking for much, only that they all reach the safe zone alive.  She knew that if there was a god, she had to keep her request straightforward and reasonable. Alive.  Was that too much to ask? She didn’t mind so much if they were hungry, naked, injured, or sick. Just alive. She filled her lungs with the soft scent of incense, which she had not noticed before then.  It sent a jolt through her. It had not been there when she first entered.

Her eyes popped open and she lifted her head swinging it around to see behind her. It was the older woman she had seen in the hallway, when she had sat waiting to be taken to see her mom after surgery.  The woman sat on the bench on the second row. Her violet eyeglasses peeked out of the pocket on her white coat. Her caramel skin glowed in the flickering candlelight. Her head was tilted back and her eyes were closed.

Melanie watched the rise and fall of her chest. A calm tranquil expression softened the lines of age at the corners of the woman’s eyes and mouth.  Melanie got to her feet and the woman opened her brown eyes. Flecks of gold caught the light as a smile spread across the woman’s face.

“I’m Alyson Binkard,” she said and patted the spot next to her.

Melanie sat.

“Your mom’s here right?”

Melanie nodded.

“I’m a doctor in the trauma unit, not a stocker.”

Melanie didn’t need to look at her to see the smile. She heard it along with the suppressed laugh in Alyson’s voice.

“I think god has been watching over your mamma. A bullet in the belly is generally fatal.”

Melanie turned to her this time.

“What’s your name?”

“Melanie Craig.”

Alyson mouthed her name as if tasting it, and nodded her head a few times. “Well Melanie, I expect we will be seeing a bit of one another over the next week or two, while your mamma is here healing up. Perhaps we will get coffee sometime.”

Melanie smiled. “I’d like that.”

Melanie got to her feet and turned to go.

“Melanie, next time you’re in here, will you light a candle for me too?”

Melanie paused. “Of course, Dr. Binkard.”

“Alyson, please,” she said a gazed up at Melanie a sadness pulled at her face.

Melanie walked slowly back to her mom’s room. She looked in each of the rooms she passed. There were patients in each, sometimes three or four. Even in her mother’s room, there was another woman, who had been found at the bottom of a staircase, shattered and bleeding. She would hear the flat-line tone and rushing feet multiple times throughout the day and night, and she would hold onto her mom even tighter.

Melanie has been wandering the halls for three days now. Sometimes she watched her mom sleep, and sometimes she went for a walk. If her mom was awake, she was at her side.

Karalynn sent flowers, cookies, and books for Jennifer.  She visited when she could.

Mitchel brought Sam in each morning and they had breakfast together, and then he would take her back to Karalynn’s where she could play and be a child. She knew she was lucky to have Mitchel to look after Sam and Daisy while she stayed with her mom. She didn’t even have to ask him.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Nine

Flag

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.

Eric drove like a madman, squealing tires at every corner and blowing through traffic lights hammering on the horn.

Melanie held firm pressure on her mother’s stomach. The blood was seeping between her fingers. “Hold on mom.”

Eric threw a glance back at her. He was hard to read, his expression stoic. She didn’t know if she should be saying goodbye to her mom or if it was going to be all right. She didn’t want to ask.

They bumped over something.

“What was that?” Melanie asked her heart racing.

“We’re almost there,” he said as he turned his face forward.

He pulled the hummer up to the ambulance entrance hitting the horn twice and then jumping out. Three men in blue and red scrubs came dashing out with a gurney as Eric pulled open the backdoor. “She’s been shot in the stomach.”

The men pulled while Melanie pushed her mom out of the back seat. Jennifer groaned and her eyes fluttered as she slid onto the white sheet on the gurney. Melanie followed them inside with Eric a few steps behind her on the phone. She only caught a few words he was saying, “Jennifer…. shot….I don’t know…. Doctors took her.” Melanie stopped listening to him and focused on her mom’s now pale features.

They pushed the gurney down the hallway. Hospitals all smell the same. Everyone in the hall stepped aside to let them through. A doctor in a flapping white smock jogged to catch up to them.

“O.R. four,” he said.

They pushed through heavy metal doors and the man in red scrubs turned and stopped Melanie from entering.

“You have to wait out here. Your mom?” he paused bending down to look directly into her down cast eyes.

Melanie nodded her head.

He continued, “She is in good hands. Dr. Johns is our best surgeon. We’ll come talk with you as soon as she is out of surgery.”

Melanie didn’t move. She stared at the pale grey doors. He touched her arm and she jerked, and turned to look at him.

“My name’s James. How about you come back out to the lobby with me? You can get some hot chocolate and sit down. Are you hungry? I’m sure I can find something for you to eat.”

Melanie nodded slowly. She barely registered his gentle hand on her back as he led her back down the hall and planted her in a chair. A few minutes later, he brought her some crackers and hot chocolate. She wrapped her hands around the warm Styrofoam cup.

Memories of her father’s funeral drifted through her mind, his pale grey visage lying there in the ivory casket. Her mom had told her not to go in during the viewing, but she had to see him one last time. All the warmth of his skin had been left on the frozen mountain where the rescuers had found his body.

After a while, James left her and she was alone in the small lobby outside the operating rooms floating between the past and the present. She couldn’t lose her mom. Not now, how would she take care of Sam and where would they go?

She didn’t know how long she sat there. When she came out of the fog of memories, Eric was sitting next to her reading a Men’s Health Magazine. He flipped a page.

“What’s taking so long?” she whispered.

He closed the magazine and set it on the chair next on him.

The metal doors open and Melanie sprang to her feet, dropping the Ritz crackers that were in her lap onto the linoleum floor. She looked down at them.

“I’m Dr. Johns,” a man held out his hand to her.

She looked up at him. His walnut hair was peppered with grey. He gave her a small smile and then dropped his hand to his side. He was dressed in black slacks and a dress shirt. She could smell his spicy aftershave. “Melanie Craig right?”

She nodded.

“Your mom asked for you.”

Melanie grabbed his hand. “She’s Ok?”

He nodded. “She will be, but we are going to need to keep her here for a few weeks.”

“Can I see her?”

“We are moving her into a room. Once we have her set up, I’ll send a nurse out to take you to see her.”

“Thank you.”

The doctor eyed Eric before leaving them.

Melanie sank into the chair. She laughed a little and exhaled audibly.

“Is Karalynn coming?” Melanie asked and then remembering the crackers on the floor picked them up and opened them. She shoved three into her mouth. She held the package out to Eric.

He shook his head. “She doesn’t want to bring your sister until she knows your mom’s condition. She thought it would be better to not tell Sam until we had some idea about what would happen.”

Melanie shoved more crackers into her mouth.

Eric handed her a bottle of water. She grinned at him. He smiled and got to his feet. “I’ll go call Mrs. Christopoulos and let them know the good news.”

Melanie unscrewed the cap on the water. Dried blood was caked in the creases of her knuckles.

Melanie sat picking the darkened blood from beneath her nails. She glanced up. An older woman with a slight hunch in her back and a long white doctor’s smock met her eyes. She pushed her violet glasses up on the bridge of her nose. Melanie stood, but then the woman turned down another hallway.

Melanie paced from one end of the lobby to the other.

James reappeared after Melanie had made two laps across the room.

“Your mom is waiting for you,” he said.

A hanging lantern lamp in the corner of the room provided a dim glow in the room. She approached the edge of the bed. The head of the bed was slightly elevated. The color still had not returned to her mother’s face. A light green blanket covered her mom. Melanie sat in the chair next to the bed, and Jennifer pulled her hand from beneath the covers and rested it on her daughter’s.

Her mom’s hand was cold. Melanie wrapped it in her own.

“I love you mom.”

“I love you too Mel.”

She held her mother’s hand while she drifted off to sleep.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-eight

Flag

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.

The next morning Melanie spent an hour trying to convince her mother to stay at Karalynn’s and let her, Mitchel, and Seth go get new shoes for Sam.

“Everything will be fine Melanie. Your sister’s toes are pressing through her shoes. She needs new ones.” Jennifer said smiling and shaking her head. “Your dad and I lived in Denver before Blue River, I know my way around. I’ll be there and back in a few hours.”

Melanie paced the length of their shared bedroom. “I’m coming with you.”

“You don’t need to, Karalynn said that one of her body guards would go with me.”

Melanie stopped and put her hands on her hips. “I’m going.”

Jennifer shrugged.

Mitchel stuck his head in the room, eyebrows raised, and lips pursed.

“Um, Seth and I are going into the city for extra ammunition for the shot guns. Do you need anything Mel?”

Melanie took a deep breath. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Why did they all insist on going out on the streets? Was she being paranoid or unreasonable? She recalled the men with guns walking the streets last night, the gate that had been installed, and the boarded up windows of the house. No, she was not being overly cautious. They were being reckless.

She tried to smile at Mitchel. “Yes, a couple of boxes of shot gun ammo would be great and an extra magazine for my nine.”

“No problem, we’ll be back in a bit,” Mitchel said and ducked quickly out of the room.

Her mother looked at her with a smirk. “See they can’t go with you to get shoes.”

“Shoes, that’s all we’re getting?”

“I don’t know Melanie,” Jennifer rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

The bodyguard, Eric, lead Melanie and Jennifer into the garage. He pulled a black bulletproof vest over his head and fastened the Velcro around his broad chest. He slid a revolver into the holster on his hip and two knives into the pockets of his cargo pants. A spare magazine went into the other pocket. The three of them climbed into the silver hummer. Eric turned the key and the hummer rumbled to life.

Melanie adjusted her holster and checked her spare magazine.

They backed out of the driveway. Melanie squinted as the sun shot through the tinted windows surrounding the back seats.

Melanie could almost convince herself that nothing had changed and the suburbs were a safe and welcoming place. She could envision children running in the street playing hiding go seek and Frisbee. She blinked and it was all gone. They had reached the outskirts of the city.

It started with broken windows and the deeper they went into the city the more rubble lined the streets. Wooden fences laid flat upon the ground or at odd angles splintered and jagged.

Buildings were crumbling as if a bomb had gone off inside. Stone and lumber was piled up in heap Scrawny, dirty children, climbed and dug through the debris occasionally shoving objects into the pockets and bags slung over their shoulders.

Melanie leaned forward between the front seats. “What are they digging for?”

Eric glanced out the window. “Anything they think has any value, metal, medication, jewelry. When people flee they don’t take much more than what they have on. Most of this had been picked through a few times. I doubt they are finding much.”

Eric pulled into a strip mall with various types of clothing stores. He parked. “Stay in the hummer.” He slipped out of the door. Melanie watched him stalk around the hummer and survey the parking lot and the people milling about. They all had hollow looks. The adults had dark circles under their eyes and flicked their eyes from place to place.

Eric pulled open the door next to Jennifer and she got out. Melanie climbed over the seat and jumped to the ground.

Eric looked directly at every person they passed most would not meet his gaze. Melanie watched him keeping a list of questions for him once they returned to the safety of the hummer.

They entered a shoe store.

“Good Morning,” said a short plump man behind the counter.

“Good morning, I’m looking for Hello Kitty sneakers,” Jennifer said smiling.

“Isle three, toward the back,” he said pointing with stubby fingers.

Jennifer walked in the direction the man had indicated.

They found the shoes. Jennifer picked up a box with Sam’s size. She opened the box, made sure there was a right and left shoe, and that the sizes matched.

“Anything else?” Eric asked.

“I’d like to get a desert for after dinner tonight,” Jennifer said.

“I know a bakery that is nearby. Mrs. Christopoulos goes there sometimes,” Eric said.

Jennifer brightened. “Perfect.” She waved her wrist over the SAFE scanner to pay for the shoes and they walked back to the hummer.

Eric pulled open their door. Melanie put her foot on the step.

Shots rang out behind them. Melanie hit the ground and scrambled under the hummer. She turned around to grab her mom.

Jennifer was on the ground. Eric hovered over her. He was scanning their surroundings. His gun was gripped in his hand moving with his eyes. His other hand was on her mother’s stomach.

“Mom,” Melanie screeched, crawling from beneath the hummer. Rocks dug into her hands and knees.

“Mom!”

Eric grabbed Melanie’s chin. His grey eyes bore into her. “Stop the blood.”

He grabbed her hand and pressed it against Jennifer’s stomach. Eric stood, gun at the ready.

Jennifer grimaced. “Melanie?”

“I’m right here mom. You’re fine.” Melanie’s eyes filled with tears. Jennifer’s eyes closed and her head lulled to the side.

Eric scooped Jennifer up and slid her into the back seat. Melanie climbed in with her.

“Keep pressure on it.”

“How close is the hospital?” Melanie asked.

“Not far.” Eric slammed the door of the hummer and ran around to the driver’s door.

Melanie looked down at her mom. She brushed her mom’s hair back from her face. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered open. She smiled at Melanie.

“It’s okay mom. We’re taking you to the hospital. You’ll be okay. I’m here. I won’t leave.” Melanie clenched her jaw. She fought back tears. She couldn’t lose her mom too.