A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-One

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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.

“The parts for the van should arrive tomorrow morning. Mitchel and I can get it put back together by early evening and you can be on your way,” Zachariah said.

Seth didn’t return until after dinner. Daisy’s barking alerted them to his arrival. He came in with grocery sacks of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.

“Who wants some s’mores?”

Sam was on her feet bouncing like thumper grabbing at the sacks. “Me, me, me!”

Zachariah started the fire, while Melanie and Mitchel set up chairs around the fire pit. Seth, Jennifer and Sam were search the ground for roasting sticks.

“Is this one good?” Sam asked Seth. Holding up a wiry stick about eighteen inches long.

“It needs to be a little thicker and longer. I don’t want you to get burned.” He mussed her hair.

Zachariah told old Navajo stories while they licked melted marshmallow and chocolate from their fingers. It was full dark when they finally shuffled sleepily into the cabin.

Melanie couldn’t sleep. She was excited to get on the move again. It would only take a few days for them to arrive at the safe zone. Three at most, by her calculation, especially with all the hamsters running in the van’s engine. She smiled at the image. She’d have to tell Sam about that one.

Daisy whined. Melanie had forgotten to let her out to potty before they had turned out the light. She carefully slipped from beneath Mitchel’s arm. He rolled over. She stood still making sure he was asleep before opening the cabin door.

The new moon and lack of city lights threw extra stars into the sky. She tried to find the constellations she could remember from school. Orion,

She smelled the cigarette and turned in a slow circle seeking its orange burn.

Ryan’s voice came out of the dark. “Daisy need to pee?”

She walked toward him. “I forgot to let her out before we went in.”

He blew smoke out of his nose and looked up at the stars. “On the reservation, before we moved here, every night looked like that. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, until it reappeared after the riots and all the power outages.”

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t.”

“Another stressful day?”

“Another body. This one was done in broad daylight. Butcher is getting bold or reckless. I’m not sure which. Never seen anything like it.”

“I have.” Melanie’s eyes fell. She kicked at the dirt and then scraped it back into a pile with the side of her foot.

He turned to her letting the smoke slowly drift out of his mouth of its own accord.

She looked back up at the stars. “In Blue River, the stars looked like that every night, before and after the Justice Law passed. But after it passed, I saw it a lot more. I was in the militia and we patrolled the streets every night. One night, I found our pastor over the body of a woman. She was dead.”

Melanie turned to face Ryan. “He said he was doing god’s work by killing sinners.” She peered into the darkness looking for Daisy. She took a few steps toward where Daisy was sniffing in the long grass.

Ryan followed her, but said nothing. He just waited for her to continue.

She ran her fingers through her long hair. “After leaving Blue River, we went to Denver and my mother was shot in the stomach. She was in the hospital for two weeks. I stayed with her day and night. One night when I was walking the halls while my mother slept, I saw a doctor speaking to a man with a terminal disease. She injected something and he died. She said she was helping them so they didn’t have to suffer as her husband had suffered during his last days.”

She took a deep breath and let it out through her nose. “How dedicated are you to serving your purpose, Detective?”

He dropped the butt of the cigarette and pressed it into the dirt with the toe of his black steel-toed boots. Daisy had wandered over to them. Wagging her nub, she scratched at his boot to get what he had dropped. He bent to pick it up. When he rose, his eyes met Melanie’s.

She cocked her head to the side.

The muscles in his jaw bulged as he pressed his teeth together.

She knew the answer. She had seen the distant gaze she had seen in the eyes of the others. The constant questioning of whether what they were doing was truly serving their ideal. Their answer was always the same, yes, because if their answer were no, their resolve would falter and their heart and soul would sink into an abyss.

He nodded and sighed. “I don’t understand what this has to do with the butcher?”

“When you find him, will you kill him?”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty

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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.

She realized then how little she knew of Mitchel’s childhood. Seth talked about it more than Mitchel did. Mitchel usually walked away whenever Seth brought something up or asked Mitchel directly about it. He wanted to forget, she knew. It was why he didn’t miss Blue River. When he left Blue River, he hadn’t looked back. He was glad to never see it again. For him, it held only death, hatred, and horror.

Melanie had taken an advanced placement psychology class and she knew that being raised in a home like Seth and Mitchel had been raised did things to a child’s developing brain. It laid the foundation for them to become horrible people, but that’s not what they were. Both of them were caring and dedicated to their family.

The door to the cabin banged open behind Melanie. Sam darted out into the sun with Daisy on her tail. “Come on Beauty let’s run!”

Melanie watched her little sister run and run with Daisy chasing her. It was their favorite game.

“She’s such a great kid with a good life, Right Mitch?” Seth said leaning against the doorframe.

Mitchel looked from Seth to the laughing and skipping little girl, but said nothing.

Seth pushed himself off the doorframe. “You two need some privacy in the cabin?” He grinned and arched his eyebrows.

Melanie rolled her eyes. “You know our relationship isn’t like that,” she said emphasizing the last word and arching her own eyebrows.

“It’s a shame really, maybe Mitchel would loosen up if it were like that.” He laid a consoling hand on Mitchel’s shoulder.

Mitchel pushed his hand away. “I think you’re relaxed enough for the both of us.”

Seth laughed, not as if his twin’s words were amusing but ironic. Seth smiled. “Yeah, spending time with little Sammy adds a little brightness to the shadows that hang over my thoughts. You should give it a try if you’re not going to add in other physical activities to take the stress off.” Another smile, wider this time.

Mitchel glowered at his brother.

Seth slid his hands into his front pockets and kicked a rock across the dirt driveway.

Melanie watched him walk away.

Seth turned back to them when he was nearing his car. “You guys are boring. I’m going into town today. Do you need anything? Like a box of condoms? Oh wait—”

Seth’s eyes grew wide along with his stance and Mitchel’s shoulder slammed into him. They both went down sending up tufts of dirt as they wrestled flipping one another over.

Daisy started barking and growling protectively at Sam’s side.

And then the punches started.

“Stop it!” Melanie screamed.

Sam started crying. “Mom! Mom!”

Jennifer and Zachariah came running from the garage.

Jennifer reached them first, but not wanting to get hurt by two full-grown men fighting, she stood back. “Mitchel and Seth, you knock it off right now!”

Jennifer pulled Sam to her who buried her face into her mother.

“Do you hear me?” Jennifer yelled in her mom voice.

Zachariah had reached them. He didn’t hesitate before jumping in the thick of it. He caught an elbow to the stomach, but was able to pull the two apart.

He held each of them by the forearm. They were covered in dirt sticky with sweat. Blood ran from Seth’s nose and into his grinning mouth. He wiped it with the back of his hand, which smeared it across his lip and cheek. Mitchel hung his head, ashamed it had gotten so out of control. Blood ran from his lip. He spit the blood from his mouth.

Zachariah looked back and forth between the two boys. He released his hold on Seth who took a few steps back. Zachariah turned to face Mitchel.

Seth laughed. “See now don’t you feel better, Mitch?” Seth wiped his hands on the front of his jeans.

Melanie had never seen Mitchel so angry. She tried to go to him, but Jennifer caught her arm.

Mitchel turned to his twin. “You’re a dick, Seth,” he shouted over Zachariah’s shoulder.

This made Seth laugh even harder. He tried to respond, but could only get out a few syllables. “I….dick…use.”

Mitchel yanked his arm away from Zachariah and stalked toward the trail leading toward the lake.

“Seth you ought to let the wolf in your brother cool off. You going into town, you said?” Zachariah asked.

Seth nodded, and his eyes narrowed and the mirth drained from his features as he watched Mitchel scoop up a branch and beat the hell out of a tree as he passed. “I’m a mountain lion not a deer. I’m not afraid of the wolf.”

Jennifer released Melanie’s arm as well.

Melanie took off at a run toward Mitchel. She glanced back once. Seth was climbing into his car and Daisy was bounding after her. In a few more steps, she heard the car come to life and spit gravel as he accelerated down the road.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-Nine

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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’s stomach twisted. Ryan’s response was hesitant, delayed, too much so. She looked at Mitchel who was swirling his last bit of pancake around in the syrup. After everything that Mitchel has been through in his life you would think that he would be more suspicious of people. Maybe he was, but he hid it better.

Melanie ran her hand through her hair. Who cares if Ryan is killing people? It’s not like he would be killing innocent people, right? That has to be right. She sipped her coffee and felt him looking at her. She looked up and met Detective Ryan Thunderhawk’s eyes. She found sadness and longing in them before he turned away from her and out the window.

Dawn was clinging to the mountains in the east. The sun not wanting to witness the tragedy flourishing in the United States

The teakettle began to whistle. Ryan lifted it off the burner and poured the steaming water into the French press. Zachariah shuffled into the room rubbing the sleep from his face. Ryan poured him a cup of coffee.

“Thank you,” Zachariah said.

He took his coffee black. While he sipped at it, he looked around the room at each of them.

“I’ve got a full day,” Ryan said setting his cup in the sink and making for the door.

“You’ll be home for dinner?” Zachariah asked.

“Yes, I believe so.”

Zachariah nodded. “We’ll see you then.”

The side door squeaked as Ryan left. Melanie listened to his tires grinding on the gravel and then rose to get started on cleaning the garage, which was her mom’s project for the day.

“How much longer for the parts to come?” Melanie asked.

“Hard to know, but should be soon,” Zachariah said taking a seat at the table. “Next day or two, I expect.”

Melanie took the same path as Ryan had out of the house. She walked toward the cabin enjoying the cool early morning air and the song of the birds in the trees. She paused for a second, closed her eyes, and just listened to them. A smile spread over her face. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes.

As she neared their cabin, she could hear Seth’s voice through the open window. She peered in through the space between the drape and the window frame.

Seth was sitting on the edge of the bed next to Sam. He was reading her favorite book, “Black Beauty.”

Sam stroked Daisy’s head. “We should have named Daisy Beauty.” She sighed. Daisy laid her head on the pillow next to Sam’s and wagged her nubby tail.

Seth smiled. “Yes, you should have. Did you suggest that to Mel?”

Sam shook her head causing her sandy blond hair to shutter.

Melanie had never seen Seth interact with Sammy, but it was obvious they had been reading together for awhile. When had he found the time to read with her? He was always gone “hunting.”

Melanie felt pressure on her back and started.

“What ya looking at?” Mitchel whispered in her ear and peered into the cabin.

“Well, she can be Beauty to you and I,” Seth said.

Sam beamed and nodded. “Why do they call him Beauty instead of handsome, he’s a boy after all?”

Seth pursed his lips. “Sometimes the names people give don’t fit very well do they?”

Again the shake of the head. “He is beautiful though, isn’t he?”

Seth stroked Sam’s head. “He is.” He resumed reading.

Melanie turned to Mitchel. “Have you ever seen them read together?”

“A couple of times.” Mitchel smiled at her. “I think Sam reminds him that we had a sister once. She died when she was Sam’s age. Seth and I were only two.”

“What was her name?”

“Mary.”

“You’ve never talked to me about her. What happened? Did she get sick?”

Mitchel looked away from her. His eyes stared off at the aspen trees. “She fell down the stairs and never woke up. My father was the only one home at the time.”

“I’m sorry Mitchel.” He took them both from him, she realized. His father had killed both his mother and his sister. She laid her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around him. He rested his chin on her head and held her tight.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-Eight

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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 and Mitchel sat at the white pine breakfast table across from Detective Ryan Thunderhawk. Melanie watched him move his eggs around on his plate, dipping his toast into the yoke and setting it back on his plate. He pushed it away and took a deep breath. Dark circles hung below his blood shot eyes. He hadn’t slept last night she realized. She wondered if nightmares kept him awake at night too.

“Do you want more coffee, Ryan?” She asked reaching for his cup. She hesitated when he didn’t answer. She cast a sidelong look at Mitchel, who frowned and shrugged his shoulders.

“Ryan?” she said again holding his cup a few inches off the table.

He looked up at her.

“More coffee”

“Yes please.” He reached for his cup. Melanie wiggled it and smiled at him. She scooped up her breakfast plate as well. She stepped around her chair and moved to the counter. After rinsing her plate, she poured the nearly black coffee.

It was decent coffee, Melanie thought, as she lifted her cup to her nose. Not something she would get used to drinking, but it didn’t make her gag either.

“Long night?” Mitchel asked Ryan as Melanie returned to the table.

Ryan’s head was in his hands with his fingers laced through his short black hair. “Very long and I have to be back at the department in an hour,” Ryan said and rubbed his eyes with his fingers.

“Big case?” Melanie asked and slid the creamer and sugar toward him.

“Yeah, a double homicide. At least we think it was a homicide, with this new Justice Law, you don’t know until the system check comes back.”

“How does that work, the system check, I mean?” Melanie asked. Death was everywhere. She felt like it was more common now than it had been when she was younger, but that probably wasn’t true. It was just more visible, more in your face.

Ryan poured in some cream stirred his coffee and then added sugar. “Well, my understanding of it, is that when a both the heart and neurological activity stop the SAFE chip sends out a communication signal. It logs the identification of any chip within such and such a range of the body. It also logs the location, date, and time of death. The chip’s final communication signal goes to the local police department. The police then find these people who were identified by the deceased’s SAFE chip and investigate.”

“That sounds like a pain,” Mitchel said looking up from his pancakes, which were swimming in maple syrup and butter.

“It’s not usually too bad. If there is only one other person present, it is typically a Justice Kill. Then we just verify that they don’t have more than three. If they do, we take them in and charge them with murder and then sort out the details.”

“But what if there are a ton of people there?” Melanie asked. “Do you have to check into each one?”

“It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The date, time, and location tell us if it was in a hospital or something like that. We can usually skip those.”

Melanie thought back to Dr. Binkard in Denver. No wonder she would never be caught. The police just pass those deaths over since it happens in a hospital.

“…Witnesses of the death generally all tell the same story, reducing the investigation time for us. It’s the scrubs who cause problems— ”

“What if someone were killing people in the hospital?” Melanie asked.

Ryan stopped and raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips.

“Like a mercy killing or something?” Melanie said waving her hand and looking away. Mitchel was looking at her.

Ryan nodded his head. “That would be difficult to identify using the SAFE System.”

“Can’t you just investigate like you used to do?” Melanie asked.

Ryan sipped his coffee. “Not enough man power I’m afraid.”

“What about police?” Mitchel asked. “How do you track their Justice Kills?” He put air quotes around Justice Kills.

Ryan stared at his coffee. He swirled the last drops in the bottom and stood to refill his cup, but the French press was empty. He popped the silver cap on the teakettle and filled it with water from the tap.

Mitchel rubbed Melanie’s back and ran his fingers through her hair. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Ryan turned back to face them. “Police kills are also very difficult for the system to track because their job requires them to use deadly force, which at this time is not an uncommon occurrence.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-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.

The next morning brought more heat. Growing up in the mountain valley of Blue River hadn’t prepared them for working in the heat. The only person it didn’t seem to effect was Sam.

Melanie smiled as she ran around the cabin with a stick in her hand with Daisy chasing her barking.

“Be careful running with that stick,” Melanie called and sunk the shovel into the dirt. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.

Her mom had decided this morning that since Zachariah was providing them with room and board, they would dig out his garden and flowerbeds, which were overgrown with weeds like sardines in a can.

Melanie had tried to explain to her mother that it was near on autumn and harvest season not planting season. But Jennifer had insisted they do something and since Zachariah was getting on in years he shouldn’t be digging out all these weeds.

“Cleaning out his garage and house seems more sensible and useful,” Mitchell had offered.

“That’s for tomorrow,” Jennifer smiled and handed him a shovel.

Somehow, Melanie had ended up with the shovel and Mitchel had snuck off to help in the garage. Jennifer stood up from sitting in the dirt throwing weeds out of the garden and into a pile. She brushed her hands off onto her pants.

“I’m going inside for some water. Do you want some?”

Melanie dropped the shovel. “I need to get out of this heat for a few minutes, mom.” She could feel the sweat running down her back and her legs.

“Come get some water Daisy and Sam,” Melanie called and followed her mom into the house.

Melanie flopped into a chair in the kitchen and Jennifer set a glass of ice water in front of her. She drank the whole thing and got up for more.

“Where is Seth?” she asked.

“He got up early and said he was going fishing in the river. I thought it was a good idea, so we don’t eat Zachariah out of house and home.”

Melanie rolled her eyes.

“What? I thought it was a great idea. Anyways, there has been some tension between you and he.”

Melanie raised her eyebrows. “Tension?”

It was Jennifer’s turn to roll her eyes. “It’s pretty obvious Mel. You can’t look at him without disgust or hatred in your eyes. You want to talk about it?”

“No.” Melanie stood up and went back outside. That’s probably why Mitchel has been acting a little off center. Melanie took a deep breath. No more, I’ve got to let it go. Seth is Mitchel’s brother. If we are going to stay together, I need to let my suspicions go. I can’t deal with a wedge between Mitchel and me.

Melanie continued to dig. It felt good actually. It was progress right before her eyes. She could see the results of her hard work. It was empowering in a sense, that she could make a difference, even if it was only turning dirt and eradicating invasive weeds.

When the sun began to dip below the horizon, Melanie stood at the sink washing the dirt from beneath her nails. Mitchel’s hands moved around her waist and he kissed her neck. She smiled. She missed being close to him as much as they had been, before her mom was always hovering.

“Come with me on a walk to the river?”

She turned in his arms and kissed him on the lips. He brought his hands up her back and tangled his fingers in her hair.

When they broke off from one another, she took his hand and smiled her crooked grin. “Let me tell my mom where we’re going so she doesn’t freak out.”

His smile grew and he squeezed her hand. “I’ll be out front.”

After telling her mom where she and  Mitchel were going, Melanie rounded the corner of the house and found Mitchel and Seth speaking in hushed angry voices. Mitchel was gesturing with his hands. His back was to her. Seth saw her first and stopped talking. He nodded to Melanie and walked away toward the back of the house.

“What was that about?” She asked watching Seth disappear.

“Nothing, let’s forget about all this,” he waived at the house and all around it, “and think only of you and me while we frolic in the woods.” He smiled and brushed a strand of her hair out of her face.

She stole a quick kiss and ran down the trail laughing. He chased after her.

Melanie hadn’t run for a long time. The wind pulled at her hair and her body fell into its rhythm. Yes, it seemed to say, we remember this. She pushed harder pulling away from Mitchel.

He laughed. “You’re not getting away from me that easily.”

Not wanting to slip on a rock, she slowed down when she reached the river there was a rock bridge and only a few inches of water flowed over it. She risked a quick glance back before stepping into the water. He grinned at her like a wolf closing on its prey. Mitchel didn’t slow at all. He was always more reckless than she. It was one of the things she loved about him; his willingness to take risks to get what he wanted. And that’s when he caught her, and they both fell into the pool created by the rock bridge.

She let out a gasp as they hit the cold water. She got a mouth full of river water for her girlish sound as their heads plunged below the water. Mitchel pulled her to the surface with him. Her hair was plastered to her face and he began laughing, a full and deep laugh, that waved through his entire body.

Melanie splashed water at him. He grabbed a hold of her and pulled her to him. She hadn’t realized how much she missed this or even that it had been gone from their relationship.

She looked up into Mitchel’s eyes.

He wrapped his hands around her face cupping her chin where the base of his palms met. “I love you so much.”

Never again would she allow the retched chaos of this world steal the precious happiness she felt in his arms. It was that feeling that made all of this, each day, worth struggling through no matter how nightmarish it was.