A Vigil for Justice: Episode Nine

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie sat at the kitchen table drinking chai tea and eating a bagel, while she flipped through the Denver Post. May, 14, 2021 Friday, more riots, robberies, rapes, and murders pages of it reported from sea to shining sea. The announcement of the Justice Law had not stifled the flow of violence on the streets anywhere, what made them think its institution would.

Jennifer shuffled into the kitchen in her floral print bathrobe and white slippers. She pressed start on the coffee machine. “Will you be home after school today?”

“I’m going to the firing range with Holly and have something I have to pick up. I should be home around seven. Do you need me to do something?” Melanie sipped her tea, but didn’t look up at her mother. The percolator bubbled to life and Austen jumped onto the table bumping his grey head against Melanie’s hand.

“I was hoping you could make dinner.” Jennifer took down a mug and set it on the kitchen table across from Melanie.

“I can grab a pizza if you want?” Melanie looked up from the newspaper and rubbed her hand along Austen’s slender form, which was now sprawled across the newspaper.

Jennifer nodded toward the paper. “Anything new in there?”

The aroma of coffee filled the kitchen. Austen meowed and bumped Melanie again. “Same stuff.”

“Could you take your sister with you after school? But not to the firing range, I don’t want her there.”

“Sure. We were planning on the firing range first anyway.” Melanie took Austen’s head in both of her hands and rubbed his ears. His purrs rumbled like a distant dirt bike motor. Melanie flipped the fur off her fingers and it drifted to the moss green tiles.

“What do you have going on tonight?” Melanie asked and bit into her bagel.

Jennifer poured a package of strawberries and cream oatmeal into a pink Hello Kitty bowl, poured some milk in, and set it into the microwave. “There is a city council meeting tonight and I want to get more signatures on the no kill petition.”

Melanie nodded and pressed her lips together. “So, you’ll be late?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Around ten, you don’t mind putting Sam to bed do you?” The microwave peeped and Jennifer set Sam’s breakfast on the table.

“Nope, we’ll paint our finger and toenails while we watch one of her shows.”

Jennifer smiled and patted Melanie’s hand.

“Samantha, your oatmeal is ready.”

Melanie pulled up in front of Sam’s elementary school ten minutes before the bell rang releasing the children. She and Holly were going through two boxes of ammunition more quickly now that they both had guns and Melanie was more confident with hers. She could load, unload, and clean her gun as well as Holly and her marksmanship was improving. She needed to thank Holly’s dad for paying for their ammunition. There was no way that Melanie could afford to practice as much as they had been, and without the practice, the gun would be more of a danger than security for her family.

The bell rang, and a swarm of children exited the building running, laughing, and shouting at one another. Melanie smiled and filed the image away with all the others she was saving for when everything changed.

Sam charged at Melanie’s car, eyes full of childhood sparkle. She wrenched the door open and climbed in, backpack still attached, breathing hard, as she clicked her seatbelt into place.

“Hi Mel.” Sam smiled.

“How was your day Sam?”

“Loads of fun.” Sam rattled off everything she had done during class and at recess while Melanie drove out to a large house on a secluded mountain road. She pulled onto the long dirt drive way.

“Where we going?”

“You’ll see?”

“Oh a surprise? Will I like it?”

“I can guarantee you will love it.”

Melanie stopped the car in the horseshoe shaped driveway and turned it off. She and Sam climbed out of the car. Pine trees towered over the house on all sides. They were so dense you couldn’t see the road where they had just come from.

Low barking came from behind the door as they stepped up onto the white weatherworn porch that wrapped all the way around the house. A porch swing, small table, and two wicker chairs sat before the windows hung with white lace curtains.

Melanie knocked on the gray door. Sam looked up at her and slid her small hand into Melanie’s. A woman’s voice came from inside of the house.

“Gideon, Iris, sit. Stay.” The door swung open and a petite woman with silvering black hair stood before them with a smile that tugged at the corners of her eyes.

“You must be Melanie Craig?”

“Yes, and this is my sister Samantha.” Melanie reached out her hand and the woman shook it and invited them in.

“I’m Amber.”

Samantha eyed the two ninety-pound Rottweiler’s and inched in behind Melanie.

“Don’t worry about them sweetie. They’re the reason you’re here aren’t they?”

Sam cocked her head to the right and glanced up at Melanie.

“I didn’t tell her why we were coming here. Surprise.”

The woman beamed.

“Well then Ms. Samantha, let me show you to the backroom, she said with a wry smile and quick glance to Melanie.

Samantha followed Amber, dragging Melanie along by the hand. Gideon and Iris pushed passed them. They went through the kitchen and stopped at a dark doorway. Gideon and Iris disappeared into the dark. Melanie could hear whining.

Sam looked up at her. “Puppies?”

Melanie nodded and smiled. “Will you help me pick out a girl?”

“Mom’s going to kill you,” Sam said, but the board smile never faded from her lips.

Amber turned on the light and waved for them to come in. Iris was laying inside the huge kennel with eight or nine puppies surrounding her and clamoring over one another trying to find a nipple.

“Are they ready to be separated from their mom?” Sam asked.

Amber nodded. “They are three months old. Let me take Iris and Gideon out, so that you can look at the puppies.”

Once the adults were out of the room, Sam got down on her hands and knees to see the pups. Melanie sat next to her legs folded.

“A girl?” Sam asked.

“Yes, and her name will be Daisy.”

Sam picked up one puppy after another checking to see if they were girls. Amber slipped back into the room.

“I can’t find a girl,” Sam said as she put her hands on her hips and scanned the wiggling mass of fur.

“Let me help you. There are only two girls left.” Amber kneeled down next to Sam. “Here you are.” Amber placed a black ball of fur into Sam’s lap and then another one into Melanie’s. The one Sam had was playful with bright eyes and larger than the one Melanie had.

“What do you think?” Melanie asked.

“I like this one.”

“We’ll take that one,” Melanie said getting to her feet. They stopped at the pet store on the way home for a collar, harness, leash, and food.

Daisy slept in Sam’s lap for the ride home filling the car with the sweet smell of puppy.

“You’re going to help me potty train her right?” Melanie ruffled the fur on the puppy and gripped the extra skin she would soon grow into.

“I don’t know how.”

“Guess we’ll learn together then.”

It was raining when they pulled up to the house, Melanie put the red collar and leash on Daisy, and then handed it to Sam. Daisy bounded through the front door and peed on the kitchen floor.

Melanie frowned and Sam laughed. Melanie pulled a bunch of paper towels off the roll hanging beneath the counter and began wiping up the mess.

Austen growled and arched his back when Daisy toddled toward him. She was not afraid and licked his face. He bolted for the stairs causing another fit of laughter from Sam.

“Is Daisy going to protect us from bad people who want to hurt us?” Sam asked.

“When she is big like Gideon and Iris she will.”

“How long will that take?”

“Not long.”

Melanie and Sam spent the evening painting their finger and toenails yellow, purple, and green while eating pizza and taking turns letting Daisy outside to use the bathroom.

Sam was right, Jennifer was not happy about the dog.

“A gun, boxing, and now a dog,” she yelled at Melanie the next morning. Melanie pushed passed her mother, and walked to her car.

“Don’t you walk away from me Melanie Craig.”

Melanie turned to face her mom. “I’m doing everything I can to make sure this family is safe when that stupid law goes into effect. What have you done?”

Sam stood in the doorway with Daisy dangling from her arms. Jennifer stalked toward Melanie, but she got into her car, slammed the door, and drove away squealing her tires on the wet roads.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 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.

“Pleep, pleep, pleep.” Melanie’s alarm clock went off. She swung her limp arm over and pressed the button to turn it off. Cracking her eyes open just a little, she looked at the blue glowing numbers, 5:00 a.m., May 5, 2021. She rolled out of bed. She needed to go for a run. Shaking the sleep from her mind, she pulled on running shorts, a sports bra, a shirt, and her running shoes. She stepped out the front door. The morning air was chilly and crisp with the scent of fresh rain. Goose bumps rose on her arms and legs. She knew she would warm up once she was moving. She checked the door to make sure it was locked and set off at a warm up pace.

Cross-country summer training would be starting at the end of the month, and she wanted to have a strong base of miles before then. But cross-country wasn’t the only reason Melanie was running this morning. Running was her time to think and really process the world around her. She felt free and her mind could work through any challenge with little exertion on her part. It just happened, she didn’t know how, but it did.

By the end of her five miles, Melanie was sure she would know what her next steps should be regarding the Justice Law. For the first mile, her mind spun around the nightmares that the Justice Law could bring into their small town. What if others came here seeking solace from the law or to hide from someone hunting them? What if some lunatic who had a horrible vacation in Breckenridge decided to open fire in the bar her mother worked in? What about all the secrets that small town are famous for? So many horror novels begin in small towns, it’s like they breed serial killers.

Melanie made a conscious effort to relax her tightening shoulders and released her fists. What if’s won’t help, she needed to answer the question what now? Melanie knew she had to protect her family. Especially since her mom refused to accept that things could get bad, really bad. How was she going to protect them all? Mitchel, Holly, Seth, Sam, her mom, and herself. She had to focus. She turned a corner and the familiar pounding of her feet along the ground brought her back from the paranoid fantasies. She had to get a gun. She had to learn to use it. And she had to learn to fight. Her arms swished past her waist and she picked up her pace.

She had twenty-six days to prepare, and she couldn’t waste any of them. She bounded up the bleachers at the high school. The sound of her footsteps echoed in the empty stadium. She took it slow going back down and then pushed herself on the way back up. She did it again and again until her breath was coming in heaves and she wanted to vomit.

She cooled down on the way home, and now she had a plan. The kitchen light was on and she knocked on the door. Her mom opened it.

“How was your run? You’re starting early this year.”

Melanie smiled. Sweat was streaming down her face, and she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “It was a good run.”

“There are eggs, bacon, and toast for you on the table.” Her mom must have the day off work. She only made breakfast when she had the day off.

“Thanks mom.”

Melanie shoveled the food into her mouth, showered, and got ready for school.

“I’ll be home late, mom,” Melanie said as she pulled the door to the house closed.

Jennifer opened the door again. “Are you working tonight?”

“Yeah,” Melanie called from the curb. Not in the coffee shop, but she would be working none the less.

“Your curfew is nine.”

After school, Melanie drove to Breck. The blue snowcapped mountains peaked over all the buildings in the small vacation town. The resorts brought in people from all over the world, year round. Locals and visitors walked along the streets going in and out of the stores that line the main street through town. Most of the buildings looked more like homes than business with peaked roofs cottage windows and doors. The light blues, greens, and browns of the buildings ambled by as Melanie slowed down to twenty miles an hour.

She pulled into the empty parking lot of a two story light brown building with ivory trim. It was one of the few that actually looked like a business rather than a house. A bell jangled as she went through the glass door.

A well-muscled man with a maroon tank top, tight jeans, and a white cowboy hat strode out from the back. He wiped his taped hands on a towel from the counter. The place smelled like sweat and leather.

His smile was kind.

“Morning, how can I help you?” he said, setting the white towel back on the counter.

Behind him was a line of black punching bags hanging from the ceiling by chains as thick as her wrist. Her eyes moved around the room. The American flag hung on the wall. Blue and grey mats laid across the floor and a weight bench sat in a corner with rows of free weights and dumb bells. Jump ropes and gloves hung from hooks next to a drinking fountain.

Three yellow and black speed bags jutted out from a wall. Tires were leaned against the wall below them. Swiss balls and medicine balls sat in another corner. A bay door stood open to the back alley and a cool breeze brought in the mountain air.

“I want to learn to fight.”

His smile widened, but he tried to hide it by tucking his chin and scratching the back of his neck. “When did you want to start?”

“Today.” She dropped her gym bag on the floor and reached out her hand. “I’m Melanie Craig.”

“Go change, let’s see what you got, Melanie Craig.” He was still smiling as he turned and walked back into the gym. He had an eagle tattooed on his left shoulder. The wings were up as it came in talons extended for a landing or the capture its prey.

She came out of the bathroom in a pair of running shorts and a sports bra. He tossed her a pair of white gloves and climbed into the ring. She followed him in pulling on the gloves. He hadn’t changed and didn’t have gloves on either.

“Don’t you want gloves?” she asked.

“I’m not going to hit you.” He adjusted his hat on his head and took a fighting stance, his left side toward her.

“You want to start with your weaker side toward your opponent.”

She turned so her right side was toward him. She looked up and down at him memorizing his stance and adjusted hers to match.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, raising his own.

She raised her hands close to her face. The smell of leather and sweat strong. He couldn’t be more than five years older than her. His steel grey eyes watched her with a ferocious intensity she had never seen. They looked more through her than at her. She could see the fringes of his honey colored hair just below his hat.

“Most people are out buying guns and spending their time at the firing range, why are you here?” he asked, moving around her left side.

“Because,” she said, as she jabbed her right fist at him. He slapped it away without even looking directly at it.

She stopped. “You see what you did there?” she asked.

He raised his eyebrows, and continued to bounce around her on the balls of his feet with his hands up protecting his face. She dropped her own hands to her sides.

“I need to be able to do that. I need to be able to see what’s coming from all angles without having to look directly at it. I need to be able to assess the risk someone poses to my family and me by looking at them. I want to look a person in the eye and know if they can kill.”

He stopped and looked squarely at her. He nodded his head once. “I’m Jake Simpson, and I can teach you that.”