A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-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.

Melanie didn’t wake once during the night. She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept so well. She relished the heat from Mitchel’s body and moved in closer to him. He wrapped his arm around her middle and pulled her up against him. He kissed her ear.

“Sleep well,” he asked.

“Better than I have in a long time.”

“Me too.”

“I think we were exhausted,” she said.

A knock came at the door.

Melanie groaned as Mitchel rolled away. She pulled the blanket up around her as he crossed the room toward the door. He stopped and then walked over to the side table. He pulled the drawer open and took out his gun.

Melanie rolled to her side of the bed and took her gun out of the side table there. Mitchel stood to the side of the door.

“Who is it?”

“Seth. It’s time to go. Meet you at the cars in ten minutes.” His tone was expressionless.

Melanie laid her gun on the bed as sat up pulling the blanket around her shoulders. “Is he serious?”

“Sounded serious.”

“Do you think they will let him in the safe zone?”

He looked at the gun limp in his hand and then up at her. “I don’t know.”

Melanie lowered her eyes. She couldn’t imagine how he felt. She was ninety-five percent sure he knew Seth was the Butcher, but she wasn’t going to ask him if he knew. She thought it was cruel to make him say it out loud. Mitchel had lost so much in the last six months. He had lost everything, everything but her. And now they had the baby to think about.

She looked up at him. He was far away in his mind. His eyes saw her, but he didn’t.

She couldn’t make it better for him. Things were a mess and were not going to get any better of the next few hours.

“Are we going?” Melanie asked.

He didn’t respond. He didn’t move. His arms hung lifeless at his sides.

Melanie drew the blanket back and slipped to the floor. The air conditioner was blowing cold air into the room causing Melanie’s flesh to prickle. As she reached him, he shook his head. He jumped a little, startled. He hadn’t seen her move over here, she realized.

She brushed her hand through his hair. “Are you alright?”

He pulled her into his arms. “As much as I can be right now. Let’s get our stuff and go out to meet the others. Seth is waiting and soon Sam and your mom will be too.”

His words struck a chord in Melanie, the thought of Seth waiting with her mom and Sam warmed her body into action. She grabbed her jeans and hoodie off the floor and pulled them on.

She slung her holster over her shoulders, slid her gun inside, and then laced her leather belt through the loops. Her pants were tight around her middle. The belt was on its last notch. She would be needing new clothing soon.

Melanie pursed her lips. Mitchel stifled a laugh. She looked up and he was watching her. She smiled and heat filled her face.

She needed him to tell her things would be alright and they would be safe in the walls of the safe zone by night fall, but she knew he wouldn’t say those things because he wouldn’t tell her things he wasn’t sure about.

There was something in his eyes she didn’t see often. She had seen it maybe three or four times during their two years together. Uncertainty.

He picked up her bag and his own and hung them from his broad shoulders. His gun was tucked tightly at the small of his back. He took her hand as he made his way toward the door.

Jennifer and Sam were standing in the hallway with their bags at their feet and Daisy on her leash.

Daisy pulled to the end making Sam trip over the bag in front of her. Jennifer made a grab for Sam, but missed.

“Daisy,” Sam cried.

Daisy bounded down the hall toward Mitchel and Melanie having pulled her leash from Sam’s small hands.

Melanie bent down and took ahold of the leash and rubbed Daisy’s head.

“Are you ready?” Melanie asked.

“We’ve been ready for a few minutes, but…” Jennifer trailed off and glanced toward the elevator.

The ding of it reaching their floor had drawn all of their attention. The silver doors opened and Captain Jackson stepped out clad in black.

“Good morning, I suppose you are headed to the safe zone?”

Mitchel nodded.

“I’ve arranged an escort to get you to the gate house where Sargent McCall is waiting for you,” Jackson said.

“That was very kind of you, Captain,” Jennifer said. She picked up her and Sam’s bags and headed for the elevator.

Melanie handed Sam the end of the leash. “Hold tight so she doesn’t get away when there are a bunch of people around in the lobby.”

“I will.” Sam and Daisy took off down the hall at a run, catching Jennifer waiting as the light of the elevator made its way to them.

When it arrived, they got on.

“Are you two coming?” Jennifer called.

Melanie looked at Mitchel. He nodded.

Jennifer held the door with her arm and it began to beep and tell her to step away from the door in an electronic voice.

Melanie, Mitchel, and Captain Jackson squeezed in. The ride down was quiet other than the beep each time they passed another floor.

Seth was sitting in a cushioned chair near the fireplace when they managed to get off with all their stuff and look around for him.

He crossed the room with a calculating smile growing across his face. He took Jennifer and Sam’s bags. “Ready?”

Sam bounced on the balls of her feet. “I’m ready. And Daisy is ready. And mommy is ready.”

Melanie mussed her sister’s honey colored hair. “We’re all ready.”

Jennifer and Sam followed behind Seth. Mitchel followed them.

Melanie turned around. Captain Jackson was watching them go. He nodded and patted the gun on his hip.

Melanie turned following her family.

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 Forty-Two

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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 van began over heating in the afternoon the day they left Denver. They had to pull over half a hundred times and wait for an hour for it to cool down enough for them to continue toward the safe zone.

“How far is the next place where we could stop and have the van looked at?” Jennifer asked.

Melanie stood up from a park bench and walked into the shade. Rivulets of sweat ran down her back. They were sitting in a park in Price, Utah, a small town with few people on the streets and many boarded up windows. At least no one was patrolling the street with semi-automatic firearms.

They were stopping every hour now to let the car cool down.  “Four or five hours, but if we have to keep stopping like this, we won’t get to Ogden, Utah, before tomorrow night.”

Jennifer rubbed her fingers on her temples. “We have to get this fixed, but I don’t want to do it in a small town where we will have to pay double and wait for parts.”

“Agreed,” said Mitchel and Seth at the same time.

Melanie smiled and shook her head. Twins.

The talking stopped and everyone watched Sam.

She was throwing a dirty tennis ball for Daisy on the grass next to the playground. They had tried a Frisbee, but Daisy was much better with the ball. “Go Daisy, go,” called Sam as the huge Rottweiler lumbered after the ball.

Sam stretched out her arms and spun in a circle, faster and faster, until Daisy was barking at her. She tumbled to the ground and laughing. Daisy bounded over to her and began licking her face.

“Stop Daisy,” Sam said laughing and pushing Daisy’s square head away from her.

Jennifer smiled. “Well, it can’t be helped. Why don’t you three go find lunch and pick up some antifreeze and water?”

Melanie made pursed her lips and looked around.

“I’ll stay with you,” said Seth. “I didn’t sleep well and should take a nap while we’re waiting.” Seth kicked off his shoes next to the blanket laid out under a big maple tree.

Mitchel slipped his hand into Melanie’s and they turned to go to the truck. Melanie touched Seth’s arm and mouthed, “Thanks.” He just nodded his head.

She wouldn’t leave her mom and Sammy here by themselves, small town her not, automatic weapons or not. The world just wasn’t safe any longer.

She and Mitchel climbed into his truck and backed out of the parking lot and onto the road. There was an Arby’s on the other end of town. Melanie had seen it when they came through.

“Arby’s?” she asked.

“Mmmm. A Jamocha shake and curly fries.”

It didn’t take them long to get food, stop at the Walmart, and get back to the park.

Jennifer and Sam were throwing the Frisbee with Daisy barking and running back and forth between them.

Melanie slid out of the truck and pushed the door closed with her shoulder. Shifting both bags of food to one hand, she laid her hand on the hood of the van. It was cool. Good they could leave after they ate.

“Come and get it,” she called.

On their way out of town, they filled up both gas tanks. It was a ways before they would reach another city and being stranded in the middle of the mountains was not anyone’s idea of a good time. Melanie shuddered at the thought of having to hitchhike. Who would pick them up with shotguns strapped across their backs anyways?

They didn’t make it very far before they had to pull over again to let the van cool off. There had been a huge climb getting out of the valley were Price was.

They stopped several more times as they made their way through the mountains. It was the middle of the night when they could finally see city lights in front of them, but instead of the lights being a relief the sight of them made Melanie’s stomach twist into knots.

“Here we go,” she said to Mitchel.

“It’ll be okay, we’re not stopping in the city.”

The words had barely left his lips when the blinker on the van began to flash.

“Damn it. What is she doing? She can’t be over heating already,” Melanie said.

Mitchel flipped on his blinker and followed the van into the parking lot of a brightly lit gas station.

Melanie took a deep breath and let it out slow as she closed her eyes. She clenched her jaw and opened her eyes again.

Jennifer was at Mitchel’s window. “Sam needs to use the bathroom.”

“Wait, I’m going with you.” Melanie reached under her seat, wrapped her hand around her nine, and pulled the black handgun out. She slid it into the holster and opened her door.

Melanie wore the gun out in the open where everyone who approached them could see it. The bell over the glass door jangled as they pulled it open.

“Good evening, ladies,” said a man from behind the counter. His body engulfed the stool he was sitting on. He looked like a baseball on a golf tee in his white polo shirt stretched to capacity.

“Restrooms?” Jennifer asked.

“In the back on your right.”

Melanie quickened her pace opening the door before her mom with her gun drawn at her side. She flipped the light on. It was a one seater. She held the door for her mom and sister.

“I’ll be right outside.”

She walked down the hall making sure there wasn’t a back door. She checked the men’s restroom and then walked toward the front.

“Is your coffee fresh?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Melanie filled two of their largest cups with coffee and cream. She stuffed a handful of sugar packets and two red straws into her jacket pocket. Leaving the coffee on the counter, she went to the refrigerated section and pulled out chocolate milk and some fancy tea. She set them next to the coffee and waited at the end of the hall until her mom and Sam came out.

“Ready?” Jennifer asked.

Sam bounced up and down trying to grab the chocolate milk from Melanie.

“Just give it to her. You can’t carry all of that.” Jennifer picked up the tea and one coffee.

Melanie walked to the register and waved her wrist in front of the scanner paying for the drinks.

“You all have a safe drive.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-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.

Melanie stood at the edge of the ten by ten foot hole watching as the granules of dirt cascaded toward the bodies twisted and laced together in the dirt. There were seven, including Holly and her parents. The image of them would be forever burned into Melanie’s memory. She stretched out her hand over the gaping hole and the red and white roses fell from her grasp. The priest said some words that Melanie did not process beyond the murmur of his deep voice.

A torch tumbled from the hands of a bent woman clad in black standing next to the priest. Melanie’s eyes followed the trail smoke and flame for a second before she wrenched her eyes away.  She couldn’t watch them burn. Seeing them in the trailer mutilated was an image she could never forget. She didn’t want another one to disfigure her memories of her beautiful Holly with her fiery hair and emerald eyes.

Melanie wove through the maze of mass graves dimly aware of her mother, Mitchel, and Seth hovering near her. There were so many dead in Denver that they had to burn the bodies or risk the spread of disease.

“There’s no time and no money to bury them properly,” the wrinkled old man at the mortuary had told Melanie and her mother as he pushed wire rimmed glasses up the bridge of his hooked nose.  He brushed off the sleeve of his blue pin striped suit, “at least not for that amount.” He peered at them over his glasses. Mitchel had to drag Melanie from the room after she had tried to shove the beady eyed man into an ornately carved chestnut casket.

She heard Holly’s laugh inside her head and tears welled up blurring her vision. She wiped them away with the back of her hand. Her breath caught in her throat as she fought the sobs that threatened to break forth.  She knew the sound of Holly’s laughter would fade away, just as her father’s laughter had, and losing that was as painful as losing the person.

She pulled her hood up over her head as a late summer rain began to fall. She wanted to crawl into the hoodie and disappear. She wanted to scream. She wanted to sleep until all this was over. She wanted to punch someone in the face.

Mitchel slid his damp fingers into her own and squeezed them tight. Part of her wanted to push him away before the world could take him from her. The other part wanted to hold him so tight he would probably suffocate. She wiped the mud from her shoes before she climbed into the back seat of the black hummer. Mitchel climbed in behind her.

Melanie woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Mitchel wrapped her in his arms and two seconds later Jennifer burst through the door flipped on the lights and clutched at her stomach. Daisy was on her heels and Seth was right behind her shotgun in hand.

“A nightmare,” Mitchel said. He stroked Melanie’s hair.

Galen came through the door gun in hand along with one of the security guards. Karalynn was there a moment later.

Melanie wiped her face. “I’m all right. Everything is fine.”

Galen, Seth, and the security guard left the room.

“Let me make you some tea, Mel, it always helps me sleep,” Jennifer said. She grimaced as she turned to go.

“Jen, you need to get back to bed. You’re going to hurt something,” Karalynn said.

Jennifer waived her friend away. “The doctor said I’m fine to move around.”

“I’m really okay mom. Go back to bed.”

Karalynn helped Jennifer out of the room.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t get their faces and the blood out of my head,” Melanie whispered.

Mitchel brushed her hair away from her face. “There’s nothing to be sorry about.”

“I don’t understand why it’s so hard to forget. I’ve seen…I’ve seen dead bodies before. The black bag, the river, and the woman at Father Chris’s feet…”  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath letting it out slow and controlled.

He put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her back a little to look into her eyes. “Holly was your best friend, Melanie. It’s different.”

She could see the concern on his face. She looked down at the rumpled blankets and picked at the fuzz. “I know.” She knew why it was different, but she didn’t want it to be. She wanted to forget.

Karalynn poked her head back into the room. “Do you want some Tylenol PM?”

“Yes, thanks,” Melanie said.

Karalynn stepped into the room, placed the dark blue pills in Melanie’s hand and set a glass of water on the nightstand.  She swallowed the pills with a sip of water. Karalynn turned out the light as she left. Daisy sprang up onto the bed and licked Melanie’s foot. Melanie reached for her and rubbed her head and ears.

Melanie knew Jennifer wasn’t pleased with finding Mitchel in Melanie’s bed, but she didn’t make him leave either, which Melanie was grateful for. Sleep was hard enough with him here, without him it would be impossible.

It was another ten days before Homeland Security allowed them to leave Denver. Melanie wanted desperately to get out of Denver, but a part of her ached at the thought of leaving Holly behind. She watched the city grow smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror disappearing behind the cloud of dirt and ash that had blown in from a forest fire.

She twisted a silver bracelet around and around on her wrist. Melanie had found it in her suitcase. Holly thought it had been left in Blue River. She had been so disappointed since it was a gift from her mom on her sixteenth birthday. Melanie didn’t know how it had ended up in her stuff. She didn’t care. She was just glad she had some piece of Holly.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty

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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 laid awake staring at the white ceiling of her bedroom thinking of the piles of bodies in the mass graves Dr. Alyson Binkard had told her about. She fought sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see Holly’s ashen face and empty, sunken green eyes looking up at her from the pile. The bright red line across her throat. Her flame red hair matted and crusted with dried blood. Melanie’s stomach seized, but there was nothing in it. She was trembling, she realized.

Mitchel pulled her closer to him and mumbled something in his sleep. She couldn’t be alone in her room, not tonight, maybe not ever. It had been two days since Holly’s death. Mitchel had snuck into her room after the house was quiet and dark. Sam was in with her mother and Daisy was curled up at the end of Melanie’s bed. She didn’t know if Daisy would do anything to someone breaking into the house to slit throats and disembowel Seth and Mitchel. She hadn’t even barked when Holly had been killed.

That was why Homeland Security had made them all suspects, that and the fact that the security guards hadn’t been alerted. Melanie couldn’t believe that it was one of her family or her mother’s best friend’s, which only left the security guards, Josh, Braxton, and Erik. But why would they do it. They weren’t scrubs and from the questions she got, she knew they thought whoever did this had removed the SAFE chip from their wrist.

The butcher, that’s what the media was calling him, only mutilated male victims. Homeland security believed the killer was a male. They thought Holly and her mother were just killed to prevent them from talking and that Richard had been the target. They had taken Melanie and everyone else down to the station, shoved them into separate rooms and interviewed them for hours. Her mom and Sam had been the first to be cleared and released since Jennifer had recently been in the hospital and was in no physical condition to murder people and Sam was just a child. Karalynn, Galen, and their two boys had been released next.

They had questioned Seth, Mitchel and her until midnight. She had cried and yelled at the officers. How could they think she had done that to Holly. Holly was like a sister to her. And then they had accused her of breaking her sister’s arm on purpose and said it was understandable how she could get angry at her sisters. She shuddered. It made her feel dirty. It was then that she figured out the game they were playing. They refused to give her food or coffee, but had brought her water. The whole time, her head was aching horribly from the crying and lack of caffeine. They had made her wait a long time to use the bathroom.

The three security guards were still down at the police station being questioned. The security agency had sent over half a dozen new guards. Homeland security had officers guarding the fifth-wheel trailer as well. They didn’t want it moved before they completed every test they had available on it.

Jennifer had waited up for them. Melanie had been surprised she was still awake when they were dropped off. She had dished up dinner for them, but Melanie wasn’t hungry. Once they were settled in and had the option of eating, Jennifer had said goodnight. Melanie checked on her before going to bed herself, Jennifer fell asleep quickly with her pain medication.

Melanie was empty of every emotion. She felt hollow even while she was tucked safely against Mitchel. His breathing was deep and even. If she listened to it, it would lull her to sleep she knew, but then she would jerk awake and wake him up too. She would sleep eventually, but not now. Not with Holly’s face imprinted on the inside of her eyelids.

She tried not to hate them, the men in the grey suits, Homeland Security. They were doing their best to figure out who had done this to Holly and her parents. Melanie wanted to know who the killer was too. She wanted him to suffer. He would be one of her justice kills if she could get ahold of him before the grey suits did.

She rolled over and buried her face into Mitchel’s chest trying to forget about everything. Her entire world was all falling apart.

They would never get out of Denver.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-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.

Mitchel looked back at her. She could see the question in his eyes, and the fear. There were only a few reasons Richard and Pauline wouldn’t answer the door. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. They could have left in the night. No then, Erik would have known. They could be asleep or they could be, no not with the security.

Erik laid a black gloved hand on Mitchel’s shoulder and she and Mitchel stepped back from the door. This couldn’t be happening. Everything was fine. Holly was fine. There was security. Melanie couldn’t breath. Her throat had become a little red coffee straw. The world narrowed and blurred.

Mitchel was shaking her by the shoulders. “Melanie. Melanie. Breath. It’s okay. They are okay. Breath.”

She took a ragged breath.

“Maybe you should take her in the house?” Erik said.

“She’s all right.” Mitchel said pulling her into his arms. She took a slow deep breath and nodded her head. “I’m okay. Everything is fine.” The words echoed in her head. I’m okay. Everything is fine.

Erik was talking on his radio. “Josh, Braxton, clear your area and come around to the Stein trailer.”

“Ten-Four.” Came the first response.

Everything is fine. I’m okay. Melanie breathed.

“Ten-four.” Came the second.

I’m okay. Everything is fine. Melanie took as step  back from Mitchel.

The other two security guards clad in black fatigues came around opposite corners of the house.

They held up their thumbs, all clear.

“You two will have to step back or go in the house, I’d prefer you go into the house,” Erik said.

“I’m not going anywhere until I know that Holly is safe,” Melanie said.

Erik turned toward the other security guards. “Josh you open the door. Braxton at my back.”

Both men nodded and drew their guns. One of them, Josh, stepped over to the door. He placed his black gloved hand on the doorknob and waited for the signal from Erik.

Erik gave him a nod.

Josh pulled the door open. Erik and Braxton moved silent and swift up the two steps and into the dark trailer.

Josh locked the door back against the exterior wall and stood at the door waiting for Erik’s command.

The smell hit Melanie in the face like a wrecking ball.

Sweet rotting meat.

She crumbled to the ground. Mitchel turned to catch her, but it was too late. The world swam in front of her. Mitchel was trying to get her into the house. He was talking but he sounded so far away. He grabbed her face with his hands. They were cool against her skin.

She saw the black boots of Erik and Josh as they came back out alone. Erik scooped her up and took her into the house.

Mitchel wrapped her in a blanket. He wrapped his arm around her.

I’m okay. Everything is fine.

He brushed her hair back out of her face. “Melanie.”

She was dreaming. This had to be a dream.

“I need everyone to stay in the house,” Erik called out.

“What’s going on?” Karalynn said as she bounded down the stairs.

Melanie turned her head toward Erik who was standing blocking the front door. Braxton had gone into the kitchen. Melanie could hear his muffled voice through the wall. He was on the phone. Josh stood in the doorway to the kitchen.

Erik looked at Melanie and then turned back to Karalynn. “We have a situation.” His voice was low, but Melanie heard the words anyway.

Melanie stood. Her head spun. She grabbed onto Mitchel’s shoulder, and he clasped her hip in one strong hand.

“A situation?” Melanie yelled. “My best friend and her family have been butchered in the driveway.”

“What?” Karalynn asked, “What’s happened Erik?”

“Yes Erik, What happened?” Melanie asked. “Why didn’t you guys stop that from happening?” Melanie took three stumbling steps toward him. Mitchel stood and stepped in front of her. She tried to push him aside, but he didn’t budge. She tried to step around him, but he placed his other hand on her other hip.

“Where were you when they were screaming!”

Tears ran down Melanie’s face now.

“Where were you when they were bleeding to death!”

She wiped her face.

“I’m so sorry, Melbelle,” Jennifer said in whisper from the bottom of the stairs.

Melanie looked at her mom. “Not Holly, mom. Not Holly.”

Jennifer shuffled over to her daughter and took her in her arms.

Homeland security arrived in their black SUV within twenty minutes.

There hadn’t been any screaming said the man in the grey three piece suit. Their throats had been slit starting with Richard and Pauline who were nearest the door. Holly had died last. She had choked on her own blood. The butcher then opened up Richard from Adam’s apple to groin hauling out his innards.

Melanie had thrown up more times than she could count before the man in the grey suit had finished speaking.

They don’t know who did it, but everyone in the house is a suspect along with the security guards. No one will be leaving until they are cleared by Homeland Security.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty Six

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Melanie pushed Jennifer down the hallway in a wheel chair. Dr. Wester had cleared her to go home. Her movement was still limited. She had bandages, which needed changing daily along with a few medications she had to take to prevent infection and for pain.

Sam bounced along the hallway in front of them singing and spinning like a ballerina. She had arrived with Mitchel and street clothes for Jennifer.

As soon as Melanie had gotten the verbal release from the doctor, she began packing the few things Jennifer had at the hospital.

“Are we in a rush?” Jennifer had asked.

“Mom there is a lot of bad stuff going on in Denver. It’s not safe to stay here any longer than we have to. I didn’t want to say anything before because there was nothing we could do until the doctor gave the okay to leave.”

Jennifer pressed her lips together and nodded.

They stopped inside the sliding glass doors.

“Let me get the van,” Mitchel said and jogged out the door.

“Can I ride with you mom?” Sam asked.

“No Sam. You can’t climb on mom,” Melanie said. The van pulled up next to the curb, and Melanie pushed her mom out into the warm summer breeze.

Mitchel gave Jennifer his arm and shoulder to lean on as she got to her feet. It took her a moment to stabilize her footing. Melanie stood protectively around her mother as she took the few steps to get into the sliding door of the van.

“Sit with me mommy,” Sam had called from the other middle seat.

“I will sweetie,” Jennifer said through gritted teeth.

Seeing how much pain her mom was in even with this little bit of movement made Melanie glad they had waited until now to leave rather than rushing things last week.

Melanie folded the wheelchair and put it into the back of the van. “Sam will you buckle mom and yourself?”

Sam giggled. “Yes.”

Melanie slid the side door shut and climbed into the passenger seat. Mitchel smiled at her, turned the key, and laid his hand on hers.

As they pulled into the driveway, two men in black stepped off the porch. Each held a semi-automatic machine gun. Once the all clear signal was given, everyone else dashed out the front door to welcome Jennifer home.

Seth and Holly held Daisy back from jumping up on Jennifer in greeting. Daisy barked and wagged her tail trying to get away from them.

“Stay down Daisy,” Melanie said.

Sam bounced over to Daisy and looked into her golden brown eyes. “Daisy mom is hurt. You can’t jump or climb on her.”

Richard and Mitchel made a makeshift chair with their arms linked together and carried Jennifer into the house. Karalynn had set up a bed in family room on the main floor. Karalynn turned on the light. The boards in the windows blocked all the sunlight. Melanie had asked her to keep the boards in the windows while her mom used the room. She wasn’t going to take any more chances on someone shooting her mom.

“Please not on the bed, I’m sick of beds. Can’t I sit in a chair?” Jennifer said.

They set her on the recliner next to the bed. Melanie led Daisy over to Jennifer so she would calm down. Jennifer stroked the silky black fur of Daisy’s head and rubbed her velvety ear, that done, Daisy went out back to romp in the yard with the kids.

Now that Karalynn was fussing over her mom, Melanie took Mitchel by the hand and tugged him down the hall with her.

He turned and smiled at her as she shoved him into her and Sam’s bedroom.

He took her in his arms. She breathed in the smell of him and listened to his heart beating in his chest. “I’ve missed you so much. I’m sorry you had to—,”

He took her chin in his fingers and lifted her face to meet his eyes. “Shhh.” And he kissed her. His lips were warm and soft against hers. His hands caressed her back and shoulders. She wove her fingers through his hair. He brushed his thumb across her cheek. I could stay right here forever, she thought, and let the rest of the world fall apart as long as I have him.

“I’ve missed you too,” he whispered.

She laid her head against his chest and he stroked her hair.

“I’m sick of feeling like we are running away. I want it to be like it was.” She closed her eyes.

“The safe zone is not all that far. It should only take us a week to get there at the most. I’ve plotted a route. Once we’re there, it will be like it was. We won’t have to worry about all of this.” He waved his hand.

He scooped her up into his arms and carried her over to the bed and set her on the edge. He bent down and tied her shoes. “You should rest before dinner. After, we will talk to your mom about the plan.” He pulled her shoes off and rubbed her feet. She was exhausted. She had only slept a few hours at a time while her mom was in the hospital.

“Stay with me?” She scooted back on the bed and he laid down next to her wrapping his arm around her. She laid her head on his chest and found his heartbeat again.

“I don’t know what I would do if I lost you.” She propped herself up on her elbow. His eyes were more green than brown today with touches of gold woven in.

He brushed her hair back from her face. “You’re not going to lose me. I’m right here.”

She laid back down. She was so tired. She rested her hand on his chest. The rhythm of his heart and breath lulled her to sleep.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-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.

“Planning to leave soon?”

Melanie looked up from the book she was reading. A cool breeze fluttered through the open window at her back. Blue birds twittered in the tree outside the window. She hadn’t wanted anyone to know that she was considering checking her mother out against medical advice, but she might have known that Alyson would find out.

“Dr. Wester told me you were asking if your mother could be moved yet.” Alyson strode into the small hospital room. Dark shadows clung to the flesh around her eyes.

“I know you are anxious to get away from this dreadful place, but at what cost? You’re mother needs at least another few days.”

“And why should I listen to your advice?” Melanie asked not breaking her eyes away from the old woman.

Alyson nodded. “Come walk with me for a moment. Let your mother sleep and heal.” Alyson turned her back to Melanie and stepped into the hallway.

Melanie stood and tucked the soft fleece blanket in around her mom. The oxygen tube adorned her face and an IV dripped medicine into her veins.

Melanie gently shut the door.

“She’s still on the antibiotic. She will finish it in another day or two. If she were to get an infection…”

“Dr. Wester explained this to me. As you know, I’m sure.” Melanie rested her shoulder against the doorway and folded her arms.

“Come.”

Melanie followed a few steps behind Alyson. They stopped in front of the elevator. Alyson pressed the button to go up. They road up two floors in silence. When the door opened, Alyson held the door for Melanie.

Melanie let out an irritated sigh and stepped off the elevator. She continued to follow Alyson down the hall. Alyson stopped in front of a room. Knocked lightly and then entered. Melanie followed her in.

A young woman lay in a bed with a ventilator tube taped to her mouth. Machines beeped and breathed for the woman. She had long dark hair spread around her. A romance novel sat on the table next to her. A thin white scar ran down the right side of her face from the corner of her eye to her jaw. Melanie thought she couldn’t be much older than herself.

“This is Kimber. She’s been here for a year in a coma. She knows nothing of the Justice Law. She was out partying with some friends one night. She was beaten and raped repeatedly before being left for dead.”

Melanie stared at the girl. “Does her family visit?”

“They use to, until the Justice Law was passed. Now I sit at her bedside reading to her, holding her hand, and brushing out her hair each day. I spoke to them about letting her go and taking her off the life support, but they said no. She is unlikely to wake up and if she does, she will awaken to memories of being beaten and raped, brain damage, and a totally new and deadly world.”

Alyson brushed the girl’s cheek with the back of her fingers. “Would you want to awaken to all that Ms. Craig? Would you want your mother or sister too?”

Melanie’s chest tightened. Her throat constricted and she had to focus on breathing. She shook her head unable to speak.

“I sat with the family for hours while they told stories about how Kimber loved to dance and run. She had a boyfriend who loved her dearly and they were going to marry after high school. She was a smart girl and would have graduated early. In a way, I feel like I know her.”

“Why haven’t you put an end to it?” Melanie’s voice was a whisper.

“Because they said no and she can’t decide for herself.”

Melanie looked at Alyson, but Alyson continued to watch the girl. “Sometimes I imagine her dancing at prom cradled in the arms of her beau.”

She looked up at Melanie then. “You may disagree with what I have done Melanie, but you have made the same decision after only moments of having considered the two options. You are not so different from me.”

*             *             *

Melanie heard voices in her mother’s room. She didn’t remember getting on the elevator or walking down the hall, but she must have done so since she was here. She peered through the slats of blinds hanging in the hallway window to her mother’s room. Sam sat next to Jennifer coloring in a book laid out on the table. Jennifer reached up to stop the crayons from rolling over the edge. Sam’s sweet voice reached Melanie through the glass. “See mom, I’m much better about staying in the lines.”

“Yes, I see that.” Her mother brushed stray strands of light brown hair laced with the light of the sun from Sam’s face. “Your hair is getting so long.”

“Mitchel helps me brush it and braid it every day before bed. He said his mother did her’s that way and his sister. Did you know Mitchel had a sister who is an angel now?”

He was there too, Mitchel, sitting in the recliner in the corner. His head was laid back and his eyes were closed. She knew he wasn’t sleeping well with her here at the hospital all the time and all her responsibilities, caring for Sam, had fallen to him.

Melanie stepped into the room.

“Melanie!” her sister called out.

Melanie put her finger to her lips. “Shhh.” But it was too late. Mitchel was awake. He got to his feet and before he could say hello she was in his arms. Safe. Whole.

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