A Vigil for Justice: Episode 38

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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.

They couldn’t still be asleep could they. Melanie thought. She stood in the kitchen looking out the window at the Stein’s fifth-wheel parked in the driveway.

She smelled Mitchel’s cologne before his strong hands began kneading her shoulders.

“Is it strange for them to not have come in?” She had spent so much time at the hospital with her mother since they arrived that she had hardly seen her best friend or her family over the past month.

“Only because you are here and I would have thought Holly would want to see you, and Pauline and Thomas would want to talk with Jennifer,” Mitchel said. He pulled open the fridge and set the strawberry jam on the counter.

“Apricot too, Mom likes it.”

She set the loaf of bread, she’d been holding, on the counter and slid the drawer open. Her fingers found a butter knife as her eyes held onto her best friend in the trailer outside.

They had come out and met them when they first arrived home so it wasn’t like Holly didn’t know she was there. Nor was it like Holly to stay inside such a cramped space. Her personality alone would cause the thing to burst.

“I’m going to go out there after lunch and see what they’re up to.”

Mitchel shrugged and began spreading peanut butter on half of the bread she had laid out on the counter.

Sam usually helped her make lunch, but she was sleeping. The pain medication the hospital had given her, made her sleep quite a bit, which was good since her arm hurt so much. The doctor put Sam’s arm in a splint and said that they would have to wait until the swelling went down before they could put her arm in a cast.

They were stuck here for a few more days.

Mitchel pulled BBQ and cheddar cheese chips out of the cupboard.

“I’m starving,” Seth said as he came into the kitchen rubbing and flexing his left hand covered in burn scars. He had the wrist wrapped with gauze. The scars made Melanie think of Mitchel’s father who had burned both Mitchel and Seth when they were children to teach them a lesson. He had deserved to die, but not in the way he had. Melanie shuddered.

Melanie handed him a sandwich.

“Thanks Melbelle,” he said.

Was he trying to piss her off? She took a deep breath. Melbelle was her dad’s name for her. She had asked Seth so many times not to use it, now he did it just to bother her. He wasn’t stupid enough to use it for any other reason.

Mitchel rested his hand on her lower back and bent kissing her on the cheek. He knew too. “I love you,” he whispered in her ear.

She smiled and took another deep breath. She was glad to be back home with him even if the situation wasn’t ideal. Together they could handle anything.

“What’d you do to your wrist?” Mitchel asked his brother.

“I just haven’t taken care of it, so the skin cracked again,” Seth said while chewing.

Melanie slid a sandwich into a ziplock bag and some chips into another one for Sam when she woke up. She took a plate of chips and peanut butter and jelly to her mom.

“How’s Sammy?”

“Sleeping.”

Her mom nodded. “Can you help me to the bathroom?”

“Of course mom.”

Melanie put one hand under her mom’s elbow and wrapped the other one around her waist. “I suppose it is good we are here for a few more days,” Jennifer said through gritted teeth as she pushed and Melanie pulled her up.

“That’s one way of looking at it. Hopefully, the swelling goes down quickly and we can leave soon.”

Melanie stayed close to her mom while she shuffled to the bathroom. Jennifer was getting stronger, but climbing up and down stairs and getting up were still painful.

“I’ll help you change your bandages after you eat,” Melanie said as she waited outside the bathroom door.

Jennifer called to Melanie to come help her off the toilet. “I am glad to be out of the hospital. I’ve slept so much better since leaving.”

Melanie thought that was interesting since the hospital was a safe zone and all firearms were disabled by the RFID’s when you were within one hundred feet of the building. Then again, there were always people like Dr. Alyson Binkard. Melanie shook the thoughts from her head. They needed to get to the safe zone.

Karalynn came into the room and Melanie left allowing them to visit and do needlework. Her mother had taken to it at the hospital at Karalynn’s suggestion. Jennifer and Karalynn had been best friends since college and even though they didn’t see each other often, it always seemed like they had.

She’d change her mother’s bandages later.

She bounced down the stairs and plopped into a chair across from Mitchel at the kitchen table. She dumped some of the BBQ chips out on her plate.

“How’s mom?” he asked.

“Cross stitching and girl talk.”

He smiled.

“Do you think Holly is mad at me?”

He cocked his head to one side. “Why would she be mad at you? You haven’t been here to do anything to make her mad.”

Melanie raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips.

“Oh, you think she’s mad because you haven’t been around? That’s ridiculous”

“It is Holly.” She took another bite of her PB&J. Holly had messaged her and tried to facetime with her on the ipad while she was at the hospital with her mom, but Melanie hadn’t felt much like talking to her bubbly best friend. Yeah, Holly was probably mad at her.

“Nothing a little girl talk and nail polish can’t fix,” Mitchel said. “I’ll go out there with you after we eat.”

Melanie and Mitchel pulled on their holsters and made sure their guns were loaded before opening the front door. Mitchel waved to the guards in the front yard who gave him the all clear signal. Still Mitchel kept Melanie behind him as they walked over to the Stein’s fifth-wheel trailer.

He knocked on the door.

“I haven’t seen them since Melanie and Jennifer came home,” called Erik, the lead security guard.

Mitchel knocked again.

Nothing.

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Book Release August 31st

book cover

I’m so very excited. After four and a half years of work, my book, Never Let Me Go: a memoir, is being published. You will be able to order a paperback or ebook on Amazon on August 31, 2016!

Here is an overview:

Nikki’s story is terrifying and heart wrenching, but most of all it’s full of hope.  Readers will move between Nikki’s life on the streets and her life in the courtroom representing the state in a trial to terminate the parental rights of a mother stuck in a cyclone of drug use, violence, and life on the street so similar to her own.

Nikki’s trials began at the age of thirteen when she decided drinking alcohol, sloughing school and having sex were her new path in life. She attempted suicide and began running away from home soon after. By fourteen, she had created a new identity within an alternate reality full of vampires, werewolves, elves and magic. She joined a vampire coven running the streets in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah.

She was raped shortly after her fourteenth birthday by a rival coven member and in order to gain a sense of security and protection Nikki began a relationship with a man who was ten years her senior. He became controlling, intimidating and violent.

She latched on to hippy boy who freed her from the violent relationship by stealing a car and fleeing to California. They hitchhiked up the western coast selling drugs, using acid, and following the Grateful Dead. Sometime after her 15th birthday, she returned to Utah only to run again within two weeks taking her older brother along. She continued using, selling, and believing she was destined to change the world in some remarkable way.

Shortly after her seventeenth birthday, she realized she was pregnant. The tiny fingers and blue eyes of her son brought her back to reality and propelled her on the journey to becoming an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah, author, and ultrarunner.

A Vigil for Justice: Final Episode

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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 began to shake, it was slight at first, but it grew until she sunk to the ground on her knees. She couldn’t turn her eyes away as the Sergeant locked the handcuffs on Mitchel’s wrists. Sounds were sucked out of the world revolving around her, but one, and her breath caught with every click of the metal as the handcuffs locked tighter.

Mitchel turned his face toward her. His eyes rimmed in red, his face streaked with tears, and his soft lips mouthed the words, “I love you.”

Melanie nodded her head unable to find the breath to make a sound or the strength to form the words.

Seth’s antler handled knife had flown from Mitchel’s light grip straight to its mark. Only three people could have made it, and now two of them were dead. Melanie buried her fingers in the loose dirt around her, feeling the granules.

Sound returned to her in the form of foot falls that approached from behind, she turned and closed her hands around a couple smooth stones she had found.

Jennifer was running toward Mitchel. She didn’t slow down when the guns were raised and aimed at her.

“You know who and what he was.”  Tears streamed down her red cheeks as she pointed to Seth’s body on the ground.

Reaching Mitchel, she grabbed the Sargent’s hands, thrusted them away, and stepped between Mitchel and him. “He gets three. It’s the law. You saw it. I saw it. They saw it.” She flung her arms out toward the Sargent’s men. “No investigation is needed. It will be marked on his chip. Let him go.”

It wasn’t a question or a request. It was a command. Her mother’s voice held more authority than Melanie had ever heard. It was her lobbyist voice, Melanie realized. Her mom must have used it to fight the very legislation she was now promoting.

Melanie never thought she would hear her mother use the Justice Law to help someone, but there she was screaming at the soldiers to put down their guns and let Mitchel go.

Another sound entered. Sam was wailing to Melanie’s right. Melanie pushed herself to her feet, let the rocks slip from her fingers, and went to her sister. She pulled Sam into her arms and held her tight. Melanie turned around, so Sam couldn’t see what was happening. She stroked her sisters long golden hair.

Melanie glanced over her shoulder. Daisy was howling inside the van and clawing at the window that was open a few inches.

Melanie watched the standoff between her mom and the sergeant. Neither had said a word. Melanie shifted her weight to her left foot. There was still a dull ache deep inside from when she rolled it. The soldiers held their guns at the ready. Melanie couldn’t see Mitchel’s face. His shoulders had fallen along with his head.

The sergeant raised his hand, and the soldiers relaxed lowering the black barrels toward the ground. He took the little keys from his pocket and Jennifer stepped aside. The sergeant’s gaze never left Jennifer’s even as he unlocked the cuffs around Mitchel’s. Melanie wondered if he thought Jennifer was more of a threat at that point than even Mitchel.

Sergeant McCall slid the cuffs into their fitted pocket on his belt. He turned on his heel and strode toward his men. As he reached the first, he waived the others back toward the gatehouse, but then he stopped and turned to face them.

“You have until nightfall to decide who goes in and who doesn’t. Mitchel, no longer qualifies.”

Melanie had already made up her mind. It was the first thought she had after Seth had fallen.

She held onto her sister until her mom reached them and lifted Sam into her arms.

Melanie ran to Mitchel. She clung to him like a squirrel falling from a branch. Slowly, he took her into his arms.

“I want you to go into the safe zone,” he said.

She hesitated. Of course that’s what he would want. He wanted her and the baby safe. “No. I choose you. We choose you.”

“Please, Melanie.”

“I won’t.”

“I—“

“I don’t care,” Melanie said. “It’s my choice.”

He held her tighter.

 

 

Saying goodbye to her mom and Sam was the hardest thing Melanie had ever done. She watched them until they were behind the fence. Then she watched them until they reached the wall. Please go inside she had begged her mother. Please keep Sam safe.

Mitchel’s hand slid into hers. “You can still go.”

Melanie turned and looked up into his grey eyes. He brushed his thumb across her cheek.

Daisy whined and pushed her damp nose against Melanie’s other hand. “Come on girl, it’s time to go.”

As she climbed into the truck, she said, “Back to the hotel?”

Mitchel turned the key and then engine came to life. “Where else?”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-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.

Mitchel threw their bags into the back of his old pickup truck as he walked to Melanie’s door. They landed with a hollow thud. He pulled open her door and gave her a hand to get in.

She pushed his hand away and laughed. “I’m not that big yet.”

Mitchel shrugged and went around the front of the truck. He climbed in the Driver’s side and slid the key into the hole. He turned the key.

The truck didn’t start.

Mitchel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He turned the key again. This time the truck rumbled to life. Mitchel took the steering wheel in a white knuckled grip and turned toward his right to back the truck out of the parking spot.

Once they were out on the road, Melanie laid her hand over his and squeezed.

“I love you,” she said. “No matter what happens when we get to the safe zone, know that I love you.”

He pressed his lips into a thin line and nodded.

They drove down the city streets for ten minutes before turning onto the dirt road. The tires crunched and flung rocks pinging into the wheel well. The interior of the truck remained silent as they continued to kick up a cloud of dust behind them. Melanie watched the trees fall away, replaced by the black stumps of whatever had been around the safe zone.

Melanie’s eyes fixed on the grey stone wall before the angular lines of the fifteen foot barbed wire fence standing before it. Her heart shuttered against her chest and made her breath catch in her lungs. She coughed.

The tires of the truck ground to a halt. The crunch of two more sets of tires soon followed. Melanie took a deep breath and opened her door. She slid to the ground and was glad her ankle continued to heal and no longer shot searing pain up her leg when she put her full weight on it.

The dust cloud was settling. Seth walked toward them with Sam and Jennifer close behind. Sam had left Daisy in the car. Probably best Melanie thought. They didn’t need an eighty pound angry Rottweiler getting into the middle of things if there were any problems with their entry into the safe zone.

There was no way Seth would pass. Melanie chanted these words in her head.

Mitchel’s hand took ahold of hers. “Let’s get this over with.”

Not the encouraging words Melanie wanted to hear, so she just nodded.

The six of them walked forward together.

Sargent McCall stood relaxed with two soldiers at attention to both sides. They were all armed, but no one had their guns drawn. Melanie took that as a good sign.

She knew there wouldn’t be a problem with Sam, her mom, Mitchel or herself. Seth was the only one who could screw this up. What would happen if he did get in? She hadn’t thought of that before now. He would continue his killing spree she was sure.

Even if he did pass and they were going to let him in, could she remain silent and let him walk through those gates? She didn’t think for one second any one of them would be safe when they knew who and what Seth was.

Sargent McCall stepped forward. “All of your weapons must be relinquished before entering the safe zone. Please place them on the ground and back up ten steps.”

Seth had never used a gun to kill his victims. They could take all his weapons, it wouldn’t stop him. Sharpe objects are not hard to find.

Melanie was the last to respond to the command to disarm themselves. Her fingers moved over the leather holster feeling every worn patch of the now soft and pliant leather. She felt naked without it as she opened its buckles.

Mitchel lowered his gun and holster to the ground in front of her. Her mom set the butt of the rifle against the gravel and then bent to allow the barrel to settle onto the rocks.

Seth shrugged out of his holster and it slipped down his arms and into his hands at his back. He was only a few feet in front of her. She could have almost brushed her finger tips across his broad back.

Melanie paused. They had to know. She looked into the eyes of each of the five men staring back at them. Captain Jackson had to have told them. He knew everything. If he passed all their checks would they still let him in with all the evidence against him?

She pulled her right arm through the holster. The gun dropped to her left hip. Melanie reached around and closed her hand over the grip of her 9 mm. The rough grip was cool as she raised the barrel and took sight at the center of Seth’s back.

It took less than a tenth of a second for the soldiers to respond. Four mat black AK47 rifles stared back at Melanie.

“Melanie put the gun down. We have everything under control.”

Red sprayed from the side of Seth’s neck splattering Melanie’s face, hands, and shirt with a sticky warm blood.

Seth turned toward his twin and then his knees buckled. His body crumbled to the ground.

Sam was screaming to Melanie’s right. The men in black fatigues crouched and three moved in toward Seth. The other two had their guns pointed toward Melanie’s left.

She turned.

Mitchel stood there. His hands were raised. Tears ran down his face mingling with the blood, which speckled those angular features Melanie knew so well.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-Two

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial post-apocalyptic 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 awoke piece by piece. First, she could feel herself laying in a bed and a blanket pulled over her. Something was pressed up against her leg. Second, was the smell of the hotel room, a hint of her mother’s soap and Mitchel.

The something began to move toward her head as if it were crawling.

“No Daisy, let Melanie sleep.” It was her mom’s voice that broke the fog.

Melanie took a deep breath and fluttered her eyes against dim yellow hotel light. Once they were open, it was Daisy’s brown eyes she looked into. Daisy used her head to bump Melanie’s and then licked her on the cheek.

Melanie’s hand felt foreign as she lifted it to stroke the broad black head.

“Melanie?” Her mom’s face popped into her line of sight.

Melanie nodded and smiled, as if she would be someone else. “Good Morning, mom.”

Melanie pushed herself up, moved the pillow against the headboard, grabbed the other one, and stuffed it behind her back too.

Her mom was handing her a glass of water.

“Thanks, where is Mitchel?” Melanie asked.

“He and Seth went to get dinner.”

The glass slipped from her fingers, water splashed her face, and soaked into the comforter.

“Sam, can you bring a towel from the bathroom?” Jennifer called. She brushed Melanie’s hair back from her eyes. “Are you alright? The doctor said your blood sugar was low and with the stress, you just fainted. Mitchel wanted to have food here when you woke up. He and Seth have gone to get food all day, so you would have something warm to eat.”

Melanie stared without recognition at her sister who came into the room. Her mother’s stroked her hair again. “Melanie?”

Melanie shook the thoughts of Mitchel alone with Seth the Butcher from her head. She could do nothing right now, but hope he came back.

“Hi Mel,” Sam said bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Can we go now mom? We’ve been here forever.” She stopped bouncing and lulled her head all the way back as she drew out the last word.

“How long was I asleep?” Melanie asked, turning to her mom.

“All day, it’s eight now.”

Melanie’s eyes grew wide. “The safe zone. We need to be there at sun set.” Melanie swung her legs around the side of the bed and dashed to the window. She threw open the blinds. Too late. They were too late. Never safe. Melanie laid her hand on her lower abdomen and closed her eyes.

The beep of a card sliding to unlock the door caused her to turn. Seth’s eyes met hers as he came through the door. They had changed, no longer did she see Mitchel’s eyes there. Seth’s were darker, not the color, but the thing that looked out from them.

He smiled. One look at Seth, and she knew he knew she had fit the pieces together that he had left in his wake. Did he see her as prey or as a member of his pack? She wasn’t even sure which was a better position to be in.

Seth stepped farther into the room. “Glad to see you’re awake.”

The smell of Chinese food filled the room. Mitchel pushed passed Seth, set the bag of white cartons on the bed, and went to Melanie.

He looked her over and then pulled her into his arms.

She squeezed his shirt in her fists. He was safe.

His lips brushed her ear. His warm breath caressed her neck.

“I couldn’t leave him with you.” His words were barely audible.

She tilted her head back, looking into him. He knew. He and Captain Jackson must have put it together after she fainted. But why would Seth still be here if they had?

Mitchel kissed her for a long time. “How’s your ankle?” The doctor gave you some pain medication for it.”

Melanie looked down at her foot. She hadn’t even noticed it. She held it up and rotated it a few times. “It’s fine.”

Mitchel smiled. “Good.”

Sam came running into the room. “Food.” She sprang onto the bed right next to Daisy, who barked and wagged her nub.

Melanie’s stomach grumbled. Mitchel glanced over at her. He tried to squeeze his smile in to a line while stifling a laugh. Melanie shoved his shoulder and snatched a plate from her mom. She loaded it up with ham-fried rice, orange chicken, lo mien, and egg rolls.

The others hovered, waiting for her to take what she wanted before the moved in for their share.

It was silent while everyone began to eat. As Melanie swallowed one bite and another was already on its way toward her mouth. She moved systematically from one food choice to the next, one bite at a time. Her gaze flicked to the last egg roll in the carton. Seth’s white plastic fork prodded the carton toward Melanie with two lingering pokes. She didn’t move her eyes from the red sweeping lines of the pagoda etched on the side of the carton. When she didn’t reach for it, he extended his fork again moving it within a few inches of her.

“Go ahead, Melbelle.”

The muscles in her jaw ceased their chewing and mashed the remaining lo mien from between her teeth. Seth withdrew his fork. Heat flooded through Melanie’s body. She locked her eyes on Seth’s. He was threatening her.

Mitchel picked up the carton and tilted it toward Melanie. She took the egg roll. Mitchel crushed the little pagoda and tossed it into the black trashcan across the room.

Sam bounced on the bed between her mom and Melanie. “Good shot.”

 

“Seth and I stopped at the gatehouse for the safe zone on our way to get food,” Mitchel said. He took a bite of orange chicken.

Each pair of eyes moved from one to the other as they chewed.

When Mitchel had finished he continued. “Sargent McCall said for us to come back at first light. He has a few more things to check into before we could be interviewed for entry.”

Melanie covered her half-full mouth with her fingertips. “Interviewed?”

Mitchel held up a finger and continued to chew the food he had just shoveled into his mouth.

Seth nodded. “He said it was standard procedure and not to worry about it.”

Melanie’s thoughts circled. Another night. Out here. Never safe. She clenched her eyelids together. She felt a hand on her thigh and opened her eyes. Mitchel. It would be alright, she told herself, it’s just one more night. Everything will be fine.

“I’ve booked our rooms for another night and spoke with Capitan Jackson. He said there will be extra guards patrolling the hallways all night and they’re activating the door alarms on all the rooms. The alarm will sound if someone opens a door after ten. All the guests have been notified of the curfew.”

Jennifer placed her hand over her heart. “Thank god.”

Seth stood and walked his plate to the garbage. “No wonder, Sargent McCall believes this place is the safest to stay while waiting for him to do his job.” It slipped from his fingers and he stepped toward the door. Without turning around, he said, “Sleep well and I’ll see you all in the morning.” The door clicked shut behind him.

Jennifer did the same with her plate. “Finish up, Sam. We need to get back to our room, get you bathed and to bed.”

Sam continued to bounce as she took her last bite. “And a story.”

 

Melanie’s stomach was heavy and happy. Mitchel took her plate. He stretched his neck to toward each shoulder and let the plates fall into the garbage.

“Come here,” Melanie said and wiggled up onto her knees.

He sat with his back to her and she began to kneed his shoulders.

“I was so worried when you passed out. They called for you mom to come into the room. The medical guys asked if you had any other medical condition other than being pregnant.”

Melanie’s hands came to a stop.

“What I’m trying to say is your mom knows.”

She began working his tense muscles again. “Did she say anything?”

“Not a word. Just told them you were allergic to penicillin. She hasn’t said anything about it at all, even after they all left.”

“Does Seth know?”

She didn’t think his muscles could get any tighter, but they contracted in her hands.

“No.”

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.

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-Three

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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 snuck back into the cabin before anyone awoke. She wouldn’t sleep, but she wanted to be there so no one would ask where she had been. She laid on the bottom bunk next to Mitchel. She watched him sleep, the slow rise and fall of his chest. He scrunched up his face and shook his head, dreaming. She laid her hand on his chest and he rolled to his side encircled her waist with his arm and pulled her into him.

Oh god, what had she done. She didn’t want it to be him. It couldn’t be him. She loved him too much for it to be him. She took a deep breath and willed the tears not to fall. She knew him. They had been together for so long. He wouldn’t do it. She squeezed her eyes closed tight. The memory of Holly and her parents sprung into her head. Her eyes flew open as she gasped.

Mitchel leaned up on his elbow and kissed the back of her neck. “Are you alright, you’re trembling?”

She nodded not trusting her voice. He kissed her again just below her ear. It wasn’t him. No one who could be so kind and loving could do that to Holly or anyone else. It wasn’t him.

The sun began to heat the cabin to an uncomfortable temperature stirring all of them from their beds.

Jennifer stretched her arms over her head. Sam hugged her from behind. “Are we leaving today, mommy?”

“Early tomorrow morning, my sweet girl, but we’ll get all ready today.”

“But I don’t want to go. I like it here. Zachariah is so nice and he tells me stories.”

Melanie’s eyes fluttered open. She had managed to get an hour of sleep riddled with ghastly scenes from the last six months of her life. How could the legislature have thought the Justice Law was the right and best choice?

Swinging her legs over the edge, she sat up Mitchel’s arm sliding off her causing him to wake too. He rolled onto his back yawned and rubbed his face with both hands.

“We need to gather up all our things and get the van packed up as soon as Zachariah gets that part into the van,” Jennifer said.

“I can help you in here,” Melanie said not wanting to watch Ryan watch Mitchel and Seth attempting to decide which one was the butcher. He didn’t have another suspect. He had told her that much last night around the fire while she threw little twigs into the flames.

“I’ll right I’m up, and I’ll go help Zachariah with the van,” Mitchel said untangling his legs from the blanket. He pushed up on the top bunk causing it to rise then he dropped it. “Seth, what are you going to do to help get ready to go?”

Seth hung his head over the bed looking like he had been awake awhile. “I thought I’d go hunting and get some food for the trip.”

Melanie stiffened. Mitchel cast her a questioning glance with a raised eyebrow. She yawned and rubbed her eyes trying to hide her response, but she knew he wasn’t fooled. He rubbed her back, and she bowed it out enjoying every stroke of his hand. She closed her eyes and tilted her head to the side. It can’t be him. His hand moved to massaging her tense muscles at her neck and shoulders.

When they all emerge from the cabin, Ryan was talking with Zachariah just outside the garage. Was he going to have his dad help him watch them? Melanie wondered. It made sense since he couldn’t be in two places at the same time.

“Good morning sleepy heads,” Ryan said grinning. “How can I help today?”

“You taking a day off?” Mitchel asked fist bumping him.

“I thought I’d help out around here,” he said.

“You hunting and fishing today, Seth?”

Seth nodded perching his rifle on his shoulder. “Going to be my last chance for awhile.”

“Mind if I join you?”

Seth’s jaw muscles bunched, and he shrugged his shoulders running his hand through his hair. “Not in the least. I’d be great to have some company.”

Ryan nodded and went into the house. Melanie followed him in so she could use the bathroom. She quickened her pace once she was inside and touched him on the shoulder.

He turned. She glanced over her shoulder. “You sure you should go alone with him?” she whispered.

He smiled and stroked her cheek. “The butcher, kills his victims in their sleep. I’ll be fine.”

She pressed her lips together between her teeth and nodded. “I’ll make you some sandwiches.” After using the bathroom, she went into the kitchen. She packed each of them a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, and some pretzels.

With all her being, she wanted it to be Seth. Did that make her a horrible person? No, she decided because it was one of them and it couldn’t be Mitchel. She would die if it was Mitchel. Has she become a killer too, conspiring with Ryan to have Seth or Mitchel shot down? Maybe she has finally found who could be one of her three. She shoved their lunch into a small cooler along with some water bottles.

All that mattered was getting mom and Sammy to safety. If she had to kill one of them herself, she would. She ran her hand through her hair and walked out the front door the screen banging against the frame behind her.

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