A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-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.

Minutes passed while Melanie and Mitchel clung to one another. They had no idea how long. The sun was cutting through the slit between the block out curtains. They heard a light knock on the door. They didn’t move. The knock came again but loud and sharp.

Mitchel let go of Melanie. His eyes met hers. She still had his shirt clutched in her fingers. He brushed her hair back from her face and she let go. She stood with all her weight resting on her left as he walked closer to the door.

“Who’s there?” he called through the door.

“Security.” It was a deep rumbling male voice.

Melanie relaxed a little knowing it wasn’t Seth.

“Then you should have a key,” Mitchel said. He drew his gun and Melanie did the same. It was cold as always in Melanie’s hand as she raised it aiming about head height at the door. There was a beep as the person slid the key card through the slot. The door opened slowly.

“We’re armed,” Melanie called out.

“Got it,” said the man as the door opened to reveal his face. Both his facial features and his body were a chiseled boulder. His rifle was in his hands but pointed at the ground.

He held up one hand letting the gun lower even more in his other. “I’m Captain Jackson. I understand you entered the room down the hall. Mind if I come in and talk with you about that?”

Melanie lowered her gun and shook her head. Her shoulders slumped and she thought she was going to crumble to the ground again, but Mitchel was there beside her. He helped her slide up onto the bed.

“I need to get you some ice,” Mitchel said in a whisper.

Melanie nodded.

Mitchel looked back and forth between Melanie and Captain Jackson.

“I’ll be fine,” she said patting the gun laying on the bed next to her.

Mitchel turned toward the captain. “Her ankle is swollen. I need to get her some ice.”

Jackson held up his hand and then turned pulling the door fully open. “Carter, get me a bag of ice.”

“Thanks,” Melanie said, as Mitchel walked over to her and picked up the pillows. He motioned for her to turn so he could prop her foot up.

Carter came in with the ice a few minutes later and handed it to Jackson.

“All clear?” Jackson asked the young guard.

“Yes Captain.”

Jackson nodded and Carter left the room closing the door behind him.

Jackson handed the ice to Mitchel.

Mitchel gently arranged the ice around Melanie’s ankle.

“I’ve already spoken with Jennifer and Sam. I’ve got Seth holed up in his room with guards on the door. I’ll be speaking with him next. So, I want you two to tell me what’s going on here?”

Mitchel looked to Melanie eyebrows drawn together and lips pulled down. Melanie averted her eyes finding the ice more to her liking than the unasked questions in Mitchel’s face.

Mitchel turned back to Captain Jackson. “We arrived in town yesterday evening. We went to the safe zone but Sargent McCall told us we needed to wait 24 hours so he could do the background checks. He suggested we stay here because of the security provisions you have. We came here, got rooms, and went to sleep. Melanie and I awoke to screaming and ran down the hall. You know what we found there.”

Jackson paced the length of the room three times.

“How many are traveling with you?”

Melanie answered, “My mom, Jennifer, my younger sister, Samantha, and Mitchel’s twin brother, Seth.”

Jackson stared at her. “That’s it?”

Melanie nodded slowly, why would he think there was someone else with them?

“Where are you coming from?” he asked.

“Originally? Blue River, Colorado. But most recently Ogden, Utah. We’ve had problems with my mom’s van and my mom was shot in Denver so, it’s taken us a really long time to get here. I’m not even sure how long at this point,” Melanie said. She stared at her hands resting in her lap. She didn’t want to look at him. She was afraid he would see she knew or at least suspected more than what she was saying.

Mitchel stood and paced between the end of the bed and the bathroom. “I’m not sure what you’re implying here Captain Jackson. Can you just be straight with us?”

Jackson’s brown eyes studied them. Melanie could feel his eyes on her, even though she wouldn’t look up at him. His hesitation made Melanie think he was considering his words carefully. Her mom probably said something about the trail of bodies following them all along their route and the similarities in the way they were found. Her mom wasn’t stupid, but sometimes she didn’t see what was right in front of her, especially if it was bad. And this was real bad.

Captain Jackson took a deep breath through his nose. “Alright, Mitchel, let me be straight with you. Melanie’s mom, Jennifer, showed me on a map the route you have taken from Blue River to here. I’ve got a few friends here and there. One such friend called me up a few days before you arrived and told me about a mutilated body that turned up in his area. So, before coming in here to talk with you two, I made a few more calls to Homeland Security along your route. Guess what I found?”

“More bodies,” Melanie whispered. Her head still bowed.

“That’s right. Lots more bodies in the same damn condition as what we got here.”

Melanie lifted her eyes and fought back tears. He was going to contact Sargent McCall and tell him everything. They would never get into the safe zone. They would never be safe. Melanie’s chest began to contract. Her heart was crashing against the inside of her ribcage. Her thoughts continued to consider the possibilities of not getting in, of not being safe. Never safe. She couldn’t breathe.

Captain Jackson was watching her and Mitchel turned his face to her. She was trying to calm herself. Trying to breathe.

“Mel?” Mitchel asked.

She reached for him. The sides of her throat reached for each other.

Mitchel ran to her side. “Breathe, Melanie, Breathe.”

Mitchel looked at Captain Jackson and then back to Melanie. “She needs help.”

Jackson pulled the door open. “I need a medic in here, now.”

Melanie’s world began to blur and rotate. Mitchel’s hand rested on her back. He was speaking to her, but she couldn’t make out the muffled words. Then they became clear.

“She’s pregnant.” He said it over and over.

Melanie’s world faded and burned into the back of her eyelids it said. The baby. Never safe.

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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.

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-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.

Melanie pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders and nudged a log in the fire. Tendrils of smoke wove among the slender trunks of the aspens. The trees looked bare, but for the stars the blotted out. Their leaves rustled. Melanie could understand why Ryan and Zachariah stayed here, It was beautiful. It was far enough from the city that they didn’t get caught up in the warzone, but close enough for Ryan to continue his work.

The Justice Law was probably a huge blow to people like Ryan who had the desire to protect and seek justice for those who couldn’t. For those who became police officers prior to the real war it must be like shot in the heart to let people go who have killed someone over something petty.

Melanie could hardly remember the time before the war. It was hidden by all the death and destruction that has come after. She was two when “The war to end all wars,” started. That’s what they wanted it to be anyway, but things don’t always turn out as we plan. It didn’t get bad in the US until a few years later after. The economy had been in shambles before the war and the war did the same to what remained as it did to the human lives involved.

The screen to the house clicked shut. Melanie and Daisy perked up as Ryan strolled toward them with his hands stuffed in his jean pockets.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Too much swirling around in here.” He tapped the side of his head with his forefinger.

Melanie stared back at the orange and blue flame.

“I brought you some marshmallows and chocolate,” Ryan said with a sideways grin.

She shook her head.

He held them out toward her. “May not get them after tomorrow.”

Melanie glanced around for a stick. It was these little gestures and small kindnesses that made this new world survivable. Her fingers gently tugged two soft marshmallows free from the plastic bag. She shoved one in her mouth and the other on the stick.

“We may not get a lot of things after tomorrow.” She held the white puff above the embers along the side of the fire pit.

She doesn’t want to ask but can’t help it. She needs to know. “Are you leaning one way or the other?”

He leans his head all the way back looking up at the dark sky. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell which star is brighter than the others. Sometimes you have to watch them for a long time waiting for one to twinkle just a little more than the other.”

The door to the cabin creaked. Ryan and Melanie turned. Daisy stood wiggling her tail back and forth and sauntered over to Mitchel. He smiled and bent to let her lick his fingers.

“You got any more of those?” Mitchel asked lifting his eyebrows.

“For you, always,” Melanie said handing him the bag.

He glanced around, not finding a long enough stick on the ground, he twisted a low hanging branch on a trees. “Hey Ryan, you got a knife?”

Mitchel crouched by the fire holding out his marshmallow.

“Couldn’t sleep either?” Melanie asked.

“I rolled over and you were gone. I waited awhile, but when you didn’t come back I decided I’d look for you.” He waivered in the crouch and then just sat cross-legged on the ground. Daisy curled her huge form around his back and sank to the ground. He patted her butt and her little nub wagged.

Melanie clamped her golden marshmallow between two pieces of chocolate. She always thought the crackers were unnecessary.

Melanie moved to sit next to Mitchel in the dirt. She slid belt and holster off her hips and lowered herself to the ground setting the gun in her lap. Mitchel wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and tugged her closer to him. He had stopped wearing his gun since they had been staying with Zachariah. He, Jennifer, and Zachariah were the only ones who walked around without one.

“Everyone all ready to roll out tomorrow morning?” Ryan asked.

“Everyone but Seth. He is dragging his feet. He thinks we should just stay here.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“Thinks we’re just as safe here as anywhere and he likes the hunting, doesn’t think he will be able to do that in the safe zone.” Mitchel pulled the marshmallow from the end of the stick stringing melted marshmallow across his knee. “Sam will want to take the rest of those with us.” He rolled the top of the bag and set it on the chair.

The cabin door creaked again. This time it was Seth.

“Marshmallow?” Ryan asked.

“I was just going to the bathroom, but…”

After returning from the tree line, Seth pulled a marshmallow from the bag and handed it to Mitchel. Seth pulled the chair closer to the fire and stuck the marshmallow into the flames.

“You’re going to burn it like that,” Melanie said.

“I know.”

Melanie shook her head and slid down onto her side resting her head on Mitchel’s leg. The heat from the fire was making her tired.

Mitchel stroked her hair. “Why don’t you go inside? It’s softer than the ground.”

“Are you coming in with me?” She asked.

“In a minute, I will.”

Melanie stood picking up her gun and started back toward the cabin.

Ryan began whistling Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-Four

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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 kicks at the dirt and chews her bottom lip as she walks back to the cabin. Seth or Mitchel. Mitchel or Seth. It was becoming an obsession. She shook her head as if it would all just fall out and she could walk away from it all. She was nauseous again. It felt like it was all the time.

She heard one footstep before he grabbed her around the waist. She sucked in a startled breath and found herself looking up into Mitchel’s smiling face. “Where were you just now? I can’t usually sneak up on you like that.”

She dropped her gaze to his chest and he wrapped her in his arms. “We’re so close and every time we make a move closer to the safe zone something happens to slow us down. It’s like we will never get there. Sometimes I feel like were being stalked by bad luck or all our bad karma is resolving itself before the end.”

He tightened his arms around her forcing her to turn her head. She watched Ryan and Seth’s backs disappear among the trees.

“We’ll make it Mel. I promise. Sammy, your mom, and you will be safe.”

She knew he had intentionally left himself out of those who would be safe, but there were so many reasons why he would have done it. She wasn’t sure if she should ask because she knew the answer would make sense even if it wasn’t true. God! How could she think like such sickening thoughts. He surely meant that he may have to take a life before they get there and he was willing to do it to make sure they were all safe and could stay together. Of course, that’s what he had meant.

He kissed the top of her head and she took a deep shuddering breath.

“You going to stop making out and come help me?” Zachariah called from inside the garage.

Melanie had to smile. He was always giving them a hard time about “making out.” Who even used that term anymore?

Mitchel kissed her on the lips. He let it linger. It had been awhile since they could be close. He kissed her neck and her mouth again.

“Soon,” he whispered.

She nodded and turned to go find her mom.

She opened the cabin door. The small room was empty. Melanie set to making the beds. When her mom still hadn’t come back, she walked over to the house.

“You seen mom?” she asked Mitchel He poked his head out from under the hood of the van.

“In the house.”

Melanie’s heart beat hard inside her chest. Ryan’s words echo in her head, “He kills his victims when they’re asleep.”

She walked faster and then began to jog. She crashed through the door. “Mom?” she called out.

She walked farther into the house. “Mom?”

She could hear Sam laughing as she turned to go down the hallway. “Mom?” her voice was even louder and taking on that desperate tone.

The bathroom door swung open.

“What’s wrong Melanie, is someone hurt?” Jennifer asked.

“No, I just, I just couldn’t find you and I was…”

“Oh, Melanie.” Her mom closed the gap between them and hugged her. “I was just bathing Sam. It’s probably the last one any of us are going to get for a long time. You should probably take one too.”

Melanie could see Sam in the bathtub, jumping a yellow rubber duck through the mountains of white bubbles. She had pile on her head as well. A princess hat, she had told Melanie once.

“I will,” she said pulling away from her mom. She’d been anxious since she voiced the words. Saying them aloud had made it real. “I’m going to pack up all the clothes other than one pair for everyone.

“All right, and Melanie, we’re going to be fine. It’s only a few more days until we reach the safe zone.”

Melanie nodded and turned to go. She had learned over the last three months that few days could mean forever.

Ryan and Seth emerged from the forest that evening hauling a buck between them, ducks over one shoulder and rabbits the other.

“You should see this kid with a knife,” Ryan said patting Seth on the back.

Seth shrugged. “It’s not so hard. My dad taught me and Mitch when we were kids. Anyway, Mitchel’s better than me.”

Mitchel and Zachariah strolled out of the garage grease smeared on the hands and above their brows. Mitchel tried to wipe it off by rubbing his hands together. He pursed his lips and pulled them to one side and then rubbed his hands on his pants.

“Mitchel that will never come out of your pants,” Jennifer said.

Mitchel slung his arm over Seth’s shoulders. “And not just with the knife.” They both laughed. You could hardly tell them apart when they stood side by side. It was mostly their personalities that separated them from each other. Mitchel was an inch tall her and broader in the chest. And their lips were different, Seth’s were thin like their father’s and Mitchel’s were fuller like their mother’s.

She looked at Ryan. He was smiling and watching the twins. He was probably thinking the same thing as her. Melanie turned away scooping up the ducks to take them around the back and yank out all the feathers. It could be both of them. She felt the tears coming again.

“Sam can you bring the rabbits?”

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?”