A Vigil For Justice: Episode Fifty-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 caught Mitchel looking at her and smiling as they drove down the empty highway toward Oregon. Northern Idaho was vastly different from the desert south, which she was glad for. She missed the mountain valley she had spent most of her life in the pine and earth scents in the air, the gentle crashing of the rivers, and the sentinel pines and aspens. She closed her eyes and was there once again hand in hand with Mitchel as they hiked their favorite trail up to a bald rocky peak. They’d look down on the valley trying to find the small buildings scattered among the trees.

The truck swerved hard to the left yanking Melanie out of her daydream.

“Sorry,” Mitchel said, “Porcupine.”

She laughed. “You should keep your eyes on the road.”

He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and she snuggled into him. She didn’t usually sit in the “girlfriend” seat, preferring to rest her arm out the window to feel the rush of wind through her fingers. But ever since she had told Mitchel about the baby, he kept her closer. The baby was untimely, but it would be cherished and loved by both of them nonetheless.

They had talked about children, of course, as they had made their future plans with one another during the last year. Mitchel was going to wait for her to finish her senior year of high school and they would both go to the University of Denver. She was going to study veterinary medicine and he was going to study English and writing, so he could teach and write novels. At first she had laughed because his broad muscular shoulders and rough hands just didn’t seem to fit with such things, but it’s what he wanted so she supported him.

After school, they were going to return to Blue River and buy a home where they would raise their family among the forests and rivers of the high mountain valley.

She squeezed her teeth and eyes shut. That was all gone. Now they lived in a world of suspicion and death. And now they were going to raise a child in among that instead of the rivers and forest.

She nuzzled in closer to him and wrapped her arm around herself. “Do you think we should tell my mom?”

“I’ve been thinking about that too. What do you want to do?”

She pulled a long breath in through her nose filling her lungs. The air here was filled with wet leaves and earth. “I don’t know.”

He kissed her on her head. “What about waiting until we reach the safe zone? Then she wouldn’t be as concerned about having a doctor around or you being safe. I think I worry about that enough for everyone.”

“I like that idea.”

Sam would be excited she knew, especially when she would be able to lay her hand on Melanie’s swollen belly and feel the baby move. Melanie was excited and anxious for that day too.

She wondered how Daisy would respond to the baby. She hoped she would be as protective over the baby as she was with Sam.

The thought of Seth twisted her stomach into a tangled slinky. Would he cradle the baby in his arms and read children’s stories as he did with Sam? Would she allow him to do it? She took another deep breath. Her stomach growled audibly.

“Time for lunch?” Mitchel laughed.

“I guess so.” She sat up and turned to look out the back window at her mother’s van following. Although she couldn’t see Seth’s car behind the van, she knew it was there. Everyday she wished he would pull off on a side road and disappear from their lives, but each time they pulled off the road, he was there.

“There’s a picnic table, I’m going to pull over,” Mitchel said.

Melanie turned back around with the grinding and pinging of the tires on a dirt road. She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and twisted the hair tie from her wrist around it. Once the truck stopped and the dust from Seth cleared, she slid to the ground.

The edge of her right foot landed on a rock and rolled outward. Her hands went out to stop her crashing into the ground. “Ouch, god damn it.”

Seth caught her under her arm and was pulling her to her feet as Mitchel rounded the front of the truck at a run.

“What happened?”

Melanie looked up at Seth. “Thanks.” Seth just grinned. She tried to back away from him, but her ankle wouldn’t hold her weight and she began to crumble to the ground. This time, it was Mitchel who caught her.

“Are you all right?” Mitchel asked, pulling her up and toward him. His face was etched with concern.

“I just rolled my ankle. Do we have some ice and something to wrap it in? It will be fine.”

“You should probably get her off her feet,” Seth said.

Melanie looked over her shoulder at him. He was still smiling. Does he know that I know, she wondered. She turned away as Mitchel bent and scooped her up into his arms. He turned walking to the grey picnic table.

“Everything okay?” Jennifer called peering around the back of the van.

“I’m fine, mom. Can you bring me some ice and an ace wrap or something?” Melanie said. Mitchel set her on the hard plastic table.

Jennifer waddled toward them with one of their coolers. Seth jogged over and took it from her setting it on the table’s bench.

“Oh, Melanie, how did you do that?”

Melanie clenched her teeth. It wasn’t like I did it on purpose. “I landed on a rock when I got out of the truck.

Her mom dumped the cheese from a sandwich bag, filled it with ice, and handed it to Melanie. Jennifer hurried back to the van sending puffs of dirt into the air with each step.

“Let me see it,” Mitchel said gently pulling off her shoe.

It was starting to swell and bruise. Melanie sighed; just freaking great, now Mitchel and her mom would make her go into the nearest town.

Sam and Daisy ambled over. “Are you hurt Mel?”

Daisy licked Melanie’s toes, which hung over the edge of the table. Her mom trotted back over rolling the ace wrap back up.

She gasped at the sight of Melanie’s foot and ankle. “You’re going to see a doctor.”

Melanie snatched the flesh colored wrap from her mom and began wrapping the ice to her ankle. “The safe zone is only one day away. We can wait until we get there. I won’t be doing much walking anyway.”

“I don’t know Mel. It looks pretty bad,” Seth said.

Poison darts flew from her narrowed eyes. “It’s safer for everyone to avoid the cities.”

Mitchel and Jennifer glanced at each other. “She’s right,” Mitchel said. “We should be there before nightfall. It’s just twenty miles northeast of Portland.”

Melanie’s mom pressed her lips together turning them a pale pink. “You’re right, but let’s get there as fast as we can. Maybe she can see a doctor tonight.”

Melanie had rolled her ankle many times running. She wanted to tell her mom they couldn’t do anything but, ice and wrap it. She decided not to aggravate the situation.

They ate a quick lunch of ham sandwiches and chips and then got underway again.

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A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-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.

The knotty rock pressed into Melanie’s bones as she wrapped her arms around herself trying to warm the chill from her body. Sam bounced and twirled around the fire singing, “There’s a blue bird on my shoulder.”

Mitchel laid his aviator jacket on her shoulders.

“Thanks, babe.” She sighed as she slipped her arms through the warm sleeves.

“I warmed it up for you.” He kissed the top of her head.

“Melanie, it’s not that cold out here, are you sure you’re not getting sick?” her mom asked.

“I’m just slow to adjust to the change in season’s mom. You know that.”

Her mom knitted her brows and lips.

“I’m fine mom.”

She breathed her surroundings in, tasting each one that passed her tongue.

The leaves were showing the signs of autumn, Melanie’s favorite time of year. The few trees they saw in the straw tinged hills of southern Idaho were touched with the red and gold of the season. The air held the deep earthy scent of falling leaves and the tinge of winter as it approached. Thankfully, they would be settled in the safe zone well before the snow fell. Mitchel told her snow didn’t have a scent, but she disagreed.

Her mom handed her two slices of pizza stacked on a paper towel.

Melanie held the pizza to her nose, honey chicken. When had her mom had time to make it? She smiled and shook her head. Her mouth filled with saliva. She took a bite and let it sit on her tongue. The sweetness of the honey coupled with the delicate creamy mozzarella. The cheese stretched as she pulled it away from her mouth. It had been months since she had pizza.

“How is it?” her mom asked.

“Sooo good,” Melanie said.

Her mom laughed and mussed up her hair.

Sam giggled as she scarfed down her piece with Daisy sitting hopeful at her feet.

Melanie was content with her completely stuffed belly after her third piece.

“Are you ready for more Black Beauty?” Seth asked Sam.

She boinged on the balls of her feet, eyes wide.

It was the only book Sam had brought. They had read it a million times already. Sam took Seth by the hand and bounced all the way to the van.

“Are you two on watch tonight?” Jennifer asked glancing back and forth between Melanie and Mitchel.

“Yep,” Mitchel said.

“Oh to be young again and be able to stay up all night and still function the next day.”

Jennifer set a bowl of food and another of water on the ground next to the van and whistled for Daisy. Nub wiggling, she ambled over and devoured it in a few seconds. She lapped up half the bowl of water and bounded barking over to the van.

Daisy had taken to sleeping snuggled up under blankets in the van with Sam and Jennifer, which Melanie was glad about.

Melanie and Mitchel laid in the bed of the truck looking up at the stars and the moon. They were totally spent. The night breeze was cool across Melanie’s sweaty bare skin. The shiver that ran through her wasn’t from the cold. She rolled toward Michel resting her head on his chest. He pulled her close.

She didn’t know where to begin. Should she just dump it on him or work her way up to it? She ran her finger down his sternum and watched the pounding of his chest settle to a smooth rhythm.

Mitchel looked at his watch and smiled. “It’s 12:04, happy birthday my love.” He stroked her hair. It was nearly to her butt now. “I wish I had something more to give you.”

She didn’t need any more than him by her side. It was what she wanted above all else. She nuzzled into him. She wondered if now was the right time to tell him. Their whole world would change once again, but she didn’t want to have secrets from him. They had never had secrets from one another. Even the terrible things from Mitchel’s childhood had been shared. She had cried when he told her about everything his father had done to terrorize them the beatings, burnings, and when he put a knife through Seth’s arm.

“Mitchel?” she said.

The tone of her voice made him lift his head to see her better, she dipped her head and continued to trace the muscles of his chest. He pulled her closer. “What is it?”

This was harder than she anticipated. This is not what she had imagined it would be like, but the world had taken a horrible turn and was nothing like she had imagined too. Her voice, usually strong and confident, dwindle to a whisper.

“I’m pregnant.”

He rolled onto his side facing her, wrapping both of his arms around her, and resting his chin on her head.

He was quiet. What was he thinking? I shouldn’t have told him, but he would have noticed eventually. I should have waited to tell him. She could hear her heart in her head. She clenched her eyes against tears and took a deep steady breath. And then another. What were they going to do? What if the baby came while they were still out there? She pressed her teeth together. This world was toxic to a child. No, they would make it to the safe zone. Things would be fine. Her breath left her. Her eyes sprang open. Seth. Oh god, he could never know. Cold ran threw her and she began to tremble.

Mitchel pulled the sleeping bag around her. “I love you, Melanie. And I love our baby.”

She looked up at him. He smiled, as he blinked away the tears he didn’t want to come.

“What are we going to do?” she asked.

“We are going to have a beautiful strong baby with your eyes and lips and let’s hope only my hair.”

A Vigil for Justice; Episode Fifty-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.

How long had it been, Melanie thought. She had been so preoccupied with figuring out who the butcher was that she had scarcely thought of herself. Now that she and Ryan had figured it out, it was another life filling her thoughts. Was it in Denver that she last had her period? She rolls the memories around in her head. No, it was in Blue River. It had been two and a half months.

The yellow hills nearly empty of green surrounded them as she and Mitchel sat on the tailgate of his truck. She took bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She yawned and Mitchel rubbed her back. She thought the tiredness was from staying up late around the fire with Ryan, but it had begun before that. Maybe, it was the stress they were all under. It wasn’t as if life had been easy these past few months. She took another bite of her sandwich.

How long had it been since she and Mitchel had been together? Their frolic in the river. That was just two weeks ago. It must have happened before then. She loved Mitchel. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. And now that she knew for certain it was not him who cut up her best friend and her family, she loved him even more.

She bumped him with her shoulder. His full lips curved into a smile. “Are you feeling better today?”

She nodded. “I slept better last night too.” That was true, since she didn’t get up to talk with Ryan. Ryan was miles and miles behind them now. Two days had quelled her anger with him. She didn’t count on him choosing his father over so many other lives. She had judged him wrong. In the past he had probably been the knight of justice slaying the evil doers of the land to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, but the meaning of the word Justice was corrupted.

“I noticed that.” Mitchel held out the open bag of Cheetos to her. “You were there every time I woke up to roll over.”

Ryan gave them a small tent to sleep in and some warm sleeping bags. The van was too packed with their belongings for all of them to sleep in there. Melanie had seen to it that only her mom and Sam would fit forcing Seth to sleep in his car or in Mitchel’s truck. Melanie was hoping the door of the truck or car closing would let them know Seth was up.

She hadn’t decided whether or not she should tell Mitchel, at least about Seth. She knew she had to tell him about the baby. She just didn’t want to do that anywhere near anyone else. She wanted it to be their secret. She wanted to have something for only them.

She kicks her dangling feet. “You going to keep watch with me tonight?”

He kissed the top of her head. “Of course.”

She couldn’t be certain she was pregnant. There could be any number of reasons for her period to have stopped, but she thought those less likely.

A few more hours down the road, they found a grove of trees where they could pull off the road and set up for the night. Seth and Mitchel built a fire pit while Melanie and Sam gathered firewood.

“Dinner is almost ready,” Jennifer said as Melanie dumped an armload of branches to the ground.

Mitchel wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Seth will you chop the wood tonight?”

“No problem.” Seth climbed into the back of the truck and dug out the axe.

Melanie pulled the sliding door open on the opposite side of the van just as her mother closed up her side. Melanie couldn’t watch without images of chopped up friends. Her whole body clenched with each thwak of the blade into the wood. Some morbid part of her demanded she look at him. It wanted to know if he enjoyed the swinging of the steel. She pulled out the camp chairs and then began riffling through the duffle bags full of clothing to find sleeping bags. She shook her head, how did they manage to get buried under everything.

She jumped as Mitchel grabbed her from behind. He brushed her hair aside and kissed her on the back of her neck. She relaxed in his arms. “I miss you,” he whispered.

She turned in his arms. “I know.”

She missed being with him too, but now that she knew what Seth was, she couldn’t sneak off into the woods with him.

He kissed her. “Tonight?”

She smiled. “Maybe.” She kissed him and pulled from his arms smiling and laughing.

“Don’t tease me now, it’s just not nice.” He swiped and darted for her as she twisted out of his reach, but he caught ahold of her anyway. He knew all her tricks. She pulled just a little as he reeled her in kissing her much deeper than before.

“Mitchel,” Seth said.

Mitchel and Melanie turned. He was standing at the rear of the van, a foxes grin on his face. Melanie tensed and wondered how long he had been there. Mitchel ran his hands up and down her arms.

“What’s up?” Mitchel asked.

“Can you help me start the fire?”

Mitchel patted Melanie on both shoulders, gave her a quick kiss, and wen to help his twin.

When they were out of sight, Melanie placed both her hands on her lower belly.

“You coming to eat?”

Melanie spun around. Her mom was standing behind her. “I made your favorite, well, warmed it up anyway. Pizza is really hard to cook over a fire.”

Melanie nodded, following her mom.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-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.

Melanie’s sleep was fitful to the point where neither she nor Mitchel slept much. He spent much of the night stroking her hair while she listened to the gentle da-doom of his heart.

Mitchel laced his charcoal 9 mm onto his well-worn leather belt securing it to his left hip and buried an eight-inch serrated hunting knife into the top of his right boot. As he stood, Melanie combed his coarse, near black hair with her fingers.

“You ready to get back out there?” He stroked her cheek with his thumb.

“Yes.” As the words left her lips, she knew she wasn’t. In some ways she agreed with Seth at least about planting themselves here at the wooded edge of Ogden, Utah. “No, No, I’m really not.”

His lips smiled, but his eyes said something very different. Not fear, but uncertainty. Not now Mitchel, she thought, I need you to be strong. I need you to be certain we are trundling in the right direction.

“The safe zone is the right thing to do,” he said. They slipped out of the door for their last breakfast with Zachariah and Ryan. She fluttered her eyes against the intensity of the early rising sun.

Despite the sun dots in her vision, she found her mother fussing with the final packing of the van.

“You coming to get breakfast?” Melanie asked.

The sun singled out the silver woven into her mother’s hair. “After I get this all to fit in some reasonable way,” Jennifer called over her shoulder.

Sam was pulling a slobber soaked tennis ball out of Daisy’s jaws with two fingers.

“That’s just gross, Beauty.” Sam crumpled her whole face.

Sam had been calling her Beauty for the past few days and it always brought the image of her little sister snuggled up against Seth rippling through her head and raising chicken flesh over her arms.

Mitchel rubbed her arms and then cupped her hands in his and blew heat into them.

Melanie pulled her hoodie over her head. Her arms wandered until they found their tunnels. Mitchel took her hand as the gravel pressed into the soles of their feet. She needed new shoes again, but there was no way they were all going to play Old Maid with their lives.

Sizzling potatoes greeted them as they pushed open the solid wood door. Zachariah sat at the table turning the catchup bottle a quarter turn, around and around. His eyes fixed, but his thoughts in another land. He didn’t look up when they slumped into their chairs.

“Thought you could use some good food before you began your journey,” Ryan said. “Scrambled or poached eggs?”

“Scrambled,” Melanie and Mitchel, said in unison.

Zachariah’s walnut eyes rise. “I have something for each of you.”

He returns from a back room and holds out both of his closed hands one toward each of them. He presses a cool stone into Melanie’s hand as his right hand does the same with Mitchel.

His eyes hold hers. “For inner strength.”

She opens her hand finding a quarter sized orange-red stone carved with a bear paw resting in the center of her hand.

“Leadership,” Zachariah said to Mitchel.

Melanie leaned over. A deep blue stone with a bear sat in the center of Mitchel’s rough hand.

“Thank you,” Melanie said.

It was finally warm enough for Melanie to tug off her hoodie.

Ryan mussed Sam’s hair and stroked Daisy’s head. “You two heathens be good for your mamas.”

Sam tiger bounced over to the van.

Melanie hugged Zachariah, thanking him once again for the gift.

She sidestepped and wrapped her arms around Ryan. “Will you follow?” Her voice was barely audible.

He let out a deep breath, which brushed across her neck. “I cannot abandon my father. I am sorry.”

Her stomach capsized. How could he abandon them? She clenched the lids of her eyes together. She let go of him and nodded her head. She would have made the same decision were it her on his side of the gate.

Jennifer slid open the side door of the van. Sam and Daisy sprang in. “Bye. See you later,” Sam little hand waved side to side like the pendulum of a tolling grandfather clock.

She pulled herself into Mitchel’s pickup truck and leaned her elbow out the window. Mitchel was already waiting inside. He turned the key over and part of her wished it wouldn’t start, but it did.

Seth honked his horn from behind the van that was tucked between him and them.

Taking the truck out of park, Mitchel began guiding them down the long dirt driveway.

Ryan cupped his hands around his mouth. “Protect one another.”

Melanie watched their temporary home diminish in the rearview mirror.

“Pull over Mitchel, I’m going to be sick.”

Rocks thunked inside the wheel well as he put on the breaks and pulled to the side of the road.

She threw the door open and dropped to the ground bent double. Mitchel was at her side his hand resting on her back. She spit the remains of egg and hash browns from her mouth and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand.

Her mom was just behind Mitchel when she lifted her head.

Mitchel raised his eyebrows.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“You’ve looked so tired the last few days, Melanie. Are you sick?” asked Jennifer.

“No, mom, I’m not sick.”