A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-five

Flag

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.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 33

Flag

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 spent the day pushing Sam in the swing in the back yard and watching her go down the slide splashing down in the pool. She couldn’t help but laugh when Daisy jumped into the pool with Sam, bucking like a bronco with glee. Just for a moment, Melanie was able to forget that the world was coming down around their ears.

That evening she returned to the hospital and her vigil at her mother’s bedside. Jennifer was still awake when she arrived. “How is Sam?”

Melanie smiled. “She is doing good. It amazes me how everything that is going on out in the world does not affect her.”

Jennifer smiled. “That is a blessing and a gift. It also says you are doing a good job protecting her from all of this.”

Melanie looked out the window. The sun had gone down, but a few rays still clutched at the sky. She disagreed with her mom. If she had be doing a good job protecting any of them they wouldn’t be in Denver in the first place or at least this long, they would have been to the safe zone already.

Jennifer rested her cool hand on top of Melanie’s. Melanie turned back to her mom whose face was grave.

“You’re not responsible for all this Mel.”

Melanie nodded. “I know mom, but I can’t help feel like I am, somehow, or that I should have done more.”

“You’ve always been that way, too grown up for your own good.”

It had been a while since they had talked like this, open and honest with one another. Over the last year, they had clashed as Melanie had torn away from the shelter of her mother’s arms and Jennifer had grasped with desperation at her little girl. Melanie wondered what had disarmed them now, was it that they gave up the silly struggle for something bigger, or just the clarity that the looming specter of death can leave behind when he decides it’s not quiet time for them to leave this world.

Melanie and Jennifer played a few card games, and then the nurse came in to check Jennifer’s vitals and help her take a shower.

Melanie went for a walk around the hospital. She stopped in the hospital chapel and lit a candle for her mother and another one for Dr. Brinkard. She continued down the white washed hallway glancing into rooms as she passed.

She saw Dr. Brinkard in one and stopped. Melanie leaned against the wall waiting for her to come out. She was bent over a young man, maybe, thirty years old. He didn’t look well. No one else was in the room with them.

“It won’t hurt a bit. You’ll just go to sleep,” Dr. Brinkard whispered and brushed the man’s hair back as if he were a child.

“No more suffering, I can’t stand the way they look at me. Not wanting me to die, but not wanting the bills to continue to roll in. I’m dying. I can feel it.”

Melanie leaned wanting to hear better, but not wanting to be seen.

“I know. It’s okay. I understand. You’re doing the right thing.” Alyson cooed.

Melanie stomach sank. She didn’t want to believe what she was hearing. Euthanasia was illegal. It was considered murder, which was ironic given that a person could legally kill three people in cold blood.

She shuffled back away from the door, and hurried down the hall back the way she had come. After ten steps, she heard footsteps behind her.

“Melanie?”

Melanie stopped, she breathed in and out, and then she turned toward Alyson who was walking toward her.

Alyson greeted her with a smile. “How was your sister?”

The all too familiar tone of a flat line followed Dr. Alyson Brinkard down the hall.

Melanie raised her hand pointing toward the sound, but not uttering a word.

Alyson waved her hand. “Not much I can do for him now. Coffee?”

Nurses rushed into the room where Melanie had seen Alyson hovering over the man. Alyson glanced down the hall, made the sign of the cross over her body, and then wrapped her arm around Melanie’s shoulders leading her down the hall.

Melanie let her lead her around the corner. She didn’t know what to say or do. Words tumbled from her mouth as she stepped away from Alyson.

“I have to get back to my mom. She should be out of the shower now.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Sure,” Melanie said and turned to go down another hallway.

She glanced over her shoulder. Alyson was still in the hall watching as they wheeled the man’s body out of the room covered with a white sheet. Alyson bowed her head.

Melanie turned a corner. She didn’t know how to feel about what had just happened. She knew that Alyson, sweet little grandma, Alyson had just killed a man. He was dead and it was her fault, but he said he was dying anyway. So had Alyson really killed him? Aren’t we all dying was her mind’s comeback. Of course, we are, but this had to be different then killing out of cold blood. It was different then the justice law. Melanie’s heart told her it was different, but her mind continued to ask hard questions, questions she wasn’t sure she could answer.

Was the man really going to die? Was there nothing more they could do for him? Was it right to end his life earlier than when his body would have shut down on its own? Melanie didn’t know. No one knew.

Melanie did know that she wouldn’t tell anyone, she didn’t tell on Father Christopher after all, and what he was doing was worse than what Alyson had done. Was there a just reason to take a life?

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-Two

Flag

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

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

Melanie’s dreams were haunted with massive holes brimming with the bodies of nameless women and children. Their grey faces with dark circles around their eyes. Hair matted with blood and dirt. She stood at the edge of the pit, watching dirt fall like rain slowly covering the little faces.

She jerked awake startling Sam, who was curled up beside her. She stroked her sister’s honey hair. “It’s okay, go back to sleep,” she whispered.

This was the first time she had returned to Karalynn’s since her mother had be shot. Alyson had convinced her to go home and get a good night’s sleep. Alyson said she would stay the night with Jennifer, and make sure she was comfortable and had everything she needed. Jennifer had encouraged Melanie to go home too, saying, Sam and Mitchel needed her. So, she had called Mitchel to come and pick her up.

The three of them spent the night wrapped in blankets watching movies and eating popcorn just as they had done so many nights back in Blue River. For one evening, Melanie forgot the rest of the world. Now, the nightmares and collided with the memories from the night before. She felt sick and hollow. She ached with the knowledge that the children and mothers in the mass graves would never hold one another again.

There was no going back to sleep for her. She didn’t want to return to those grey faces with all the life drained out of them. Melanie wrapped the blanket around Sam and snuck out of the room. Daisy followed her, nudging a toy into her hand. Melanie rubbed the broad black head. “In a minute girl.”

She went into the kitchen and started the coffee. The newspaper from yesterday was spread out on the counter. She scanned the headlines.

“Thousands Fleeing to Safe Zones and Turned Away”

President *** reminds citizens that you must be free of any felony conviction and free from any Justice Kills to enter the Safe Zones. No weapons are allowed inside the walled cities…

Melanie skipped down the page.

“Death Toll Climbs: What was Washington Thinking”

Lobbyist, Melissa Sanchez, presented numbers of dead from the major cities across the United States to Washington asking, “What did you think would happen by sanctifying murder?” Washington has made rich men out of security guards and morticians…

Melanie’s fingers turned the page over.

“Killer Scrub Hunting in Denver”

Governor Marcus Tibbets of Colorado announced that his office will be cooperating fully with Homeland Security to locate the killer lurking in Denver. A second body in the last five days, was found mutilated and gutted in a rundown hotel in the slums of Denver.

“It reminded me of when my husband hangs a deer after the hunt and guts it in the garage,” said the hotel maid who found the body. “I am lucky I didn’t eat breakfast or I would have vomited on the floor.”

The first body was found two days before at another hotel in the same neighborhood. The condition of the corpse was similar. Both victims are middle aged males.

“Because there is no registered justice kill and nothing on the the SAFE chip of the victim, we believe that the killer is a scrub himself,” reported Lieutenant James Murphy from Homeland Security.

Governor Tibbets is asking for information from the community to be called into the local Denver Police who are putting nearly entire force on this case.

“Our streets are dangerous enough. The people need to know that despite the legalization of killing, murder is still a crime in the State of Colorado,” said Governor Tibbets.

Melanie jumped at the sound of steps behind her. She turned around with her hand on her gun, which wasn’t there. She had not worn it for a few days since she couldn’t have it on at the hospital.

She let out a breath. It was Mitchel. He handed her forgotten gun and she slipped it into the back of her jeans.

“You haven’t missed much while at the hospital,” he said. He walked over to the cupboard and poured them both a cup of coffee.

They went out onto the back porch and sat on the swing watching the sun begin to color the sky. Daisy followed them the tags on her collar clinking together.

“How much longer until your mom’s released?”

“A few more days.” Daisy rested her chin on Melanie’s knee a yellow knobby ball clutched between her teeth. Melanie took the ball and tossed it across the yard.

“Richard wants to leave today. I told him to go and we would meet up with him later if we could,” Mitchel said. “He thinks you should check your mom out of the hospital and get out of town with this killer roaming the streets.”

Melanie watched birds flutter from one tree to another.

She turned to look at him. “I will talk with Dr. Brinkard tomorrow about moving her.”

Daisy pushed the wet ball into Melanie’s hand. She threw it again and Daisy romped after it, ears flapping and nubby tail wagging.

“We can wait Mel. It’s not worth risking your mom’s life.”

Melanie put the mug to her lips. There was that question again. What was a life worth? How much of a risk did this killer actually pose to her and her family?

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-One

Flag

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 across the round table in the hospital dining hall from Alyson, who had come into Jennifer’s room this morning while making her rounds. Alyson intended to make good on her offer of coffee from the day before. Jennifer was still sleeping, so Melanie agreed to join her.

Melanie wrapped her chilled hands around the mug and relished the warmth. The hospital coffee was surprisingly good. She breathed in the rich scent of fresh ground beans and freshly brewed coffee. It made her miss working at the coffee shop in Blue River. Blue River seemed like forever ago.

“I demanded that they stop serving two day old coffee, since I essentially live here at the hospital after my husband passed away,” Alyson said as she smiled a twinkle in her chestnut eyes.

“There really is no sense in leaving,” Alyson continued. “Especially since the Justice Law passed. Bodies, alive and dead, continually stream in through the ER doors.”

“You don’t ever leave?” Melanie asked.

“I’m sixty-five and have no interest in learning to be a sharp shooter and caring a gun strapped to my body. In here, I have everything I need.”

“Is that why there are three and four people to a room?” Melanie asked.

Alyson nodded. “It wasn’t like that before. We are constantly overwhelmed now. There are so many Jane and John Doe’s in here that you’d think the Doe’s were rabbits.”

“No one comes in to claim their relatives?”

“Everyone is afraid, child. Mostly it’s strangers, who bring in people they find shot or stabbed on the streets. Families would rather live in ignorance about the fate of their members than risk their own lives checking the hospitals for anyone who has gone missing for a few days.”

“They can’t just call in?” Melanie asked.

“Goodness, no! We don’t have time to sort that out. Sometimes the victims who do wake up or come in conscious, don’t want to give their names out of fear they will be found by whoever tried to kill them in the first place.”

Melanie silently contemplated her cream swilling in the dark coffee. She hadn’t really considered the impact the Justice Law would have on the health care system. The government cannot pay enough police, how were the hospitals going to be staffed and supplied? The more Melanie found out about the Justice Law the more she was convinced that those in charge were either idiots or this whole thing was some corrupt population control mechanism.

Alyson sipped from her mug. “You’re mom is doing well. She’s a fighter, much like you I expect.”

“We are very different,” Melanie said. “Don’t you have children?” She asked wanting to change the subject from her and her mom’s bumpy relationship.

Alyson shook her head. “The hospital and patients are my children. I dedicated my entire life to my career and caring for other people. Alfred, my husband, wanted children, but I thought it would hinder my ability to become a doctor and remain objective in making difficult decisions. He loved me anyway, such a good man. I’m glad he didn’t have to see the world come to this.” She waved her hand.

“How did he die?”

“Leukemia. He was a fighter too, all the way to the end.”

Melanie hung her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sometimes, I think that the dead are the lucky ones. They don’t have to watch this horror show. No more suffering.”

“People can be so cruel. They forget that they are more similar to one another than different,” Melanie said looking out the window at the jagged mountains in the distance and the grey clouds caught upon the peaks.

“Do you want a refill?” Alyson asked.

“Yes, please. With cream.”

Alyson took Melanie’s mug and went back to the counter.

Pieces of conversations from other tables drifted to Melanie.

“The morgue is full again,” said a man to her right.

“I should have become a mortician or a grief counselor,” a woman to her left said.

Everyone’s life has become focused on death, Melanie realized. Who to kill, who could kill you, how you can prevent your loved ones from being killed; the business of death was growing. It had become an everyday conversation. In less than a month, the Justice Law and transformed the way people view life.

Compassion and kindness had been replaced by fear and placing a value on your neighbor’s life. Every person decides what to do and not do based upon if it is worth dying for, rather than is it the right choice.

Alyson returned sliding a plate of pancakes and eggs in front of Melanie and setting a full mug of coffee before her as well. “You need to stay healthy for your mom, even when she gets out of here, she will need your help with everyday things until she regains her strength.” Alyson slid into the chair again and sipped her black coffee.

Melanie squeezed the ketchup onto her eggs and smeared the pancakes with butter and syrup.

“What happens to the bodies without names or families?” She asked and shoveled eggs into her mouth.

Alyson looked away from her. “There is a mass grave dug, once a week, in the cemetery down the street.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Seven

Flag

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.

Karalynn and a man dressed in black cargo pants got into the van with Jennifer after a brief reunion. They drove two blocks and then stopped again. Karalynn jumped out and ran to a key pad on a massive iron gate that spanned the road. Melanie looked at Mitchel and raised her eyebrows as the gate opened. Mitchel gave her a tight-lipped smile. He drove down the long driveway behind Jennifer’s van. A large farmhouse with a wraparound porch at the end was blacked out, no lights. A white picket fence surrounded the home and property. Two horses stood silent in the pasture to the south.

When they came to a stop, three men in black cargo pants stepped out of the shadows. The man who had gotten in the van with Jennifer jumped out and approached the three. One of them came toward Mitchel’s window the other two made their way toward the two vehicles following them.

Mitchel rolled the window down.

“Welcome to the Christopoulos home. One second while we check the perimeter.”

Mitchel nodded. His expression serious.

Five minutes later, they all sat around the heavy oak kitchen table at Karalynn’s spare folding chairs had been brought in from the garage. The tile floor was a mosaic of lime green and lemon yellow. Sky blue curtains framed the windows, which had fitted boards in them blocking anyone from peering inside.

“Are the security guards really necessary?” Jennifer asked, cocking her head to the side and raising her eyebrows.

Karalynn pressed her thin lips tightly between her teeth and nodded her head. She was a small athletic looking woman of forty. Her husband, Galen, brushed a stray strand of her shoulder-length black hair from her face and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“Unfortunately, they became necessary shortly after J-day. We didn’t want to believe it either, but when an AK47 became as prevalent as a woman’s handbag, there was no way I was sending my children to school or my wife to the store without a trained entourage,” Galen said.

Galen and Karalynn met when Jennifer and Karalynn had gone to Greece for spring break in their freshman year of college. They returned every year after that and on their last trip, Galen proposed to Karalynn. They have been inseparable since then.

Karalynn leaned against Galen’s sturdy form. “The neighborhood pooled money to have the iron gate installed and all the men take turns on the night guard.”

“People are shot in the streets daily, women, children, and elderly. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think the local officers can even keep track of who is shooting who, even with the SAFE chips and Homeland Security chasing down the Scrubs,” Galen said.

“There are Scrubs here?” Seth asked. Melanie had forgotten he was here until then. He had been standing behind her and Mitchel, but stepped forward now.

Galen nodded. “They come in two types here. Most are just what remains of the hippy movement they just want to live off the grid and then there are the hunters.”

“The hunters?” Seth asked.

“The ones who are out there killing just to kill. They psychologist on the news the other night said they get some thrill out of killing in broad daylight, the shock and horror of spectators feeds their sickness,” Galen said.

“How does Homeland know the difference?” Mitchel asked.

Galen shrugged. “They don’t.”

“Why do you stay here?” Melanie asked. “If it’s so dangerous?”

“We will be moving to Greece permanently as soon as our passports are renewed. As you can imagine, they are taking longer than usual now,” Galen said.

“Oh, I’ll bet,” Richard said. “Especially when folks began to realize that vigilante justice was not all it’s cracked up to be.” He shook his head and drained the rest of his beer.

Melanie looked down at the hot chocolate in her violet mug. A couple of crunchy marshmallows remained afloat. She poked at them with her finger.

Melanie’s eyes pled with her mother. “How long are we going to be here?” she asked, not wanting to sound rude, but growing anxious with the amount of daylight violence in the bigger city. She had known it was going to be worse here. The violence has increased ever since the war and it was actually the inciting reason that the Justice Law was passed. This whole time somewhere inside her childish mind she had made herself believe that it wasn’t as bad as the television reports had made it seem. But it was.

Jennifer’s expression softened. “Not long, a few days perhaps. We need to plan our route, gather supplies, and probably less a vehicle or two?”

She looked back and forth between Mitchel and Seth, neither of who would look at her. Mitchel stared into his own hot chocolate. Seth cleaned his the grime from under his fingernails.

Melanie, Jennifer, and Sam shared the guest room with a king size bed. Melanie watched as her mother got Sam ready for bed as if nothing had changed. Jennifer put Sam in the bath and sang while she washed her hair, just like at home. Then she brushed out Sam’s long hair, read her chapter from Black Beauty, and tucked her into the bed they were all sharing. Sam was in the middle and Daisy turned in circles at their feet until she found just the right position and collapsed.

Seth and Mitchel were in the second guest room. Holly and her family decided to stay in their trailer, despite there being plenty of space for them in the house. Richard had mumbled something about liking to know where all the exits and entrances were.

Melanie stared at the white ceiling. Her eyes followed the ridges that resembled the parched earth of a desert.

To My Writing Followers

self pub

This is an exceptional resource for self-publishing authors. The internet is overloaded with information about self-publishing. As a first time author, it’s difficult to know where to turn to figure out this once “secretive” business of publishing. Joel and Betty’s book, The Self Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, is exactly what its title proclaims it to be. You will find hundreds of options to assist you from concept all the way to self-published book. The resources are listed as you would need them in the creation process, beginning with developing and editing your manuscript and concluding with promotion of your finished novel. Each resource includes a brief description of the types of manuscripts they have experience with or their area of expertise, thus making it easier to find what you are looking for as an author.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Six

Flag

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.

“I’m going to get your mom and Seth,” Mitchel said.

Melanie nodded her head, but didn’t turn to face him as she climbed the three steps into the fifth-wheel. Holly’s arms flew around Melanie. She returned the strangle hold. Her eyes drifted around the space, they were now calling home. Pale peach counter tops and walnut colored cupboards. Matching pillows sat in the corner of the square navy couch cushions.

“Why…” Melanie began.

“Let’s wait for everyone,” Richard said, sitting down next to his wife on the couch.

Finally, Holly released her, and Melanie nearly fell over with the sudden freedom. She took a few more steps into the room and sat in the recliner. She couldn’t believe they were leaving Blue River to come with her. They had everything they needed in Blue River. Mr. Stein had the militia all organized and patrolling the streets. What did he think was going to happen there? Who had he left in charge? Melanie realized she must look crazy staring off into space. She shook her head.

A knock came at the door.

Jennifer, Sam, Seth, and Mitchel came into the trailer.

Having eight people in the trailer was making Melanie feel just a little crowded. She combed her fingers through her hair. Jennifer slid into the horseshoe shaped booth. Sam and Seth slid in beside her.

Holly’s mom, Pauline, pulled out a package of Oreos and a bowl of fruit.

“Drinks?” she asked reaching into another cupboard for red plastic cups and small paper bowls.

“Scotch,” Melanie said and smiled as she rocked in the recliner.

“Ooo, me too,” said Holly, bouncing on the balls of her feet and grinning ear to ear.

Richard rolled his eyes and passed each of them a cup of ice water.

Sam tickled the fringe of the Oreo package and Jennifer nodded her head.

“Do you have any milk?” asked Sam.

“Yes I do,” said Pauline, opening the full size refrigerator. She poured the milk and set the cup in front of Sam.

Seth grabbed a few Oreos.

Sam pushed her milk over toward him. “We can share if you want.”

“I double dip,” he said cracking a smile and popping an entire cookie into his mouth.

Sam scrunched up her face. “Gross.” She slid her milk out of his reach and scooted closer to Jennifer.

Richard set his hat on his knee. “I’m sure you are wondering why we decided to leave.” He brushed the brim of the hat. “After the little demonstration on your front lawn, I realized that no matter what I did, I can’t talk reason into a bunch of frightened people. Living surrounded by frightened people who have guns, is not a risk I am willing to take with my family.”

Everyone was quiet for a full minute. Melanie had seen the fear on many people’s faces in Blue River. Of course they were all afraid, and it wouldn’t be different anywhere else, he had to understand that, which meant the Stein’s were going to the safe zone too.

“Jennifer—”  he began again, his eyes meeting Melanie’s mom’s.

Jennifer held up her hand. “We’re in this together Richard. Holly and Melanie have been best friends for years. I would be glad to have your family along for this trip.”

He smiled and put his hat back on his full head of dark close-cropped hair. “In that case, let’s get this pony show on the road.”

Melanie didn’t understand her mom’s quick judgment of others. Two weeks ago, her mother wouldn’t be caught dead holding a civil conversation with Richard Stein and now, he is bringing up the rear of their caravan. His willingness to let go of everything Jennifer had done to make his life a living hell over the last month didn’t surprise Melanie at all. He had always been quick to forgive Holly for her silly impulsive behavior.

“Know when to hold ‘em and when to let ‘em go.” He had told her once when she was pouting about something Holly had done. She didn’t even remember what she was angry at Holly about anymore, but she remembered that.

They all piled out of the fifth-wheel and into their own cars. Richard pulled out in front to set the pace, since he was the slowest pulling the trailer full of water. Jennifer was right behind him, then Seth, and then Melanie and Mitchel.

Melanie stroked Daisy’s silky black head. “Do you think we will ever be able to look at others without wondering if they have what it takes to kill us or those we love?”

When Mitchel didn’t answer, she moved her eyes to his face. Wrinkles creased his brow, as if he were deep in thought.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Don’t do that, don’t shut me out. What were you thinking about?”

He threw her a glance. “I’ve spent my entire life wondering when my father would kill me, Seth, or my mom. I’ve always looked at people through those eyes.”

It was dark when they reached Denver, around ten. Men clad in black from head to foot and carrying automatic rifles across their backs and in their hands strolled along the streets. They turned their piercing gaze to the line of vehicles rolling down the street. Daisy’s chest rumbled with a deep growl. The glass of ground floor windows in many of the buildings had been shattered. The headlights of their caravan caused the pieces of glass littering the ground to twinkle like fallen stars. Round and lumpy black and white garbage bags stood watch along the streets.

Jennifer had taken the lead position since she was the only one who knew where to go. Melanie pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed her mom’s number. Mitchel glanced over at her. Yellow light washed through the truck as they drove under the street lamps that were still working. She pressed the phone to her head.

“Mom, don’t slow down in the city. You know where you are going, right?”

“It’s been awhile, but I remember.” Jennifer’s voice vibrated.

“O.K. just go straight there. If the intersections are clear, I want you to go straight through don’t stop for red lights or stop signs.”

Jennifer was quiet.

They should have loaded everything into the trailer and made Sam and Jennifer ride with Richard. Melanie ground her teeth together.  They were coming to an intersection with a traffic light. Melanie watched the brake lights flicker on and off on her mom’s van as she began to slow. The intersection was empty.

“Mom. Don’t stop.”

The van began to sped back up and Jennifer went through the red light. Mitchel, Seth, and Richard all followed in the same fashion.

They went through a few more intersections and then pulled off the main road and began winding through the neighborhoods. Melanie relaxed and hung up the phone with her mom.

“We’re almost there she said. Karalynn’s house is about ten more minutes and it’s all neighborhoods,” Melanie said. Mitchel patted her thigh and pressed his lips into a thin smile. “It’ll be better during the day.”

The red glow of brake lights caused Mitchel to turn his attention back forward.

A group of people stood in the middle of the street, mostly men with rifles. Two cars parked on opposite sides of the road had floodlights illuminating the group. A tall man held up his hand and stepped forward.

Jennifer slowed down. Melanie’s stomach clenched. There was no way her mom would plow through a whole group of people.

Melanie pulled her 9 mm out of the holster under her arm. “Roll down the window, so we can hear.”

“Where are you headed?” the man called out. He had lowered the rifle and came to a stop about ten feet from the front of the van.

Mitchel brought the truck to a stop at a slight angle to the van. He reached under his seat, pulled out his gun, and checked that the magazine was in place. He slid a spare between his legs. Daisy sat up and looked around yawning.
“We are staying with friends who live down the street, Karalynn Hanson,” Jennifer called out the window.

The man lowered his rifle. “Jennifer Craig?” a woman’s voice came from the group. They moved aside and a small woman in sweats came jogging forward.

Jennifer opened the door of the van and got out running into the arms of her longtime friend.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 22

Flag

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 awoke the next morning, early. She and Mitchel had fallen asleep on the couch around 7:00 the night before. Her mother had gotten her into her bedroom around midnight when she came in with Seth. He had been harder to find than they had thought he would be.

She shuffled down the hall and peeked into the guestroom. Mitchel and Seth were both asleep. She pulled the door closed and continued down the hall toward the kitchen. A light was on in the living room. Melanie stepped down each stair trying to not make any of them squeak.

Jennifer was curled up in the corner of the couch with a white fleece blanket wrapped around her and Austen nestled in the crook of her knees. She set her book down and looked up at Melanie.

“You’re up early.”

“Well I went to bed early.” Melanie sat on the couch next to her mother.

Austin stretched his long lean grey legs out and arched his back tossing his tail in the air. After his stretch, Melanie held up her finger to him. He sniffed it and rubbed his face on it purring. Melanie smiled at him and plopped him in her lap.

“Where’d you find Seth?”

“Asleep in his truck outside of a bar in Breck. His truck is still there. We’ll have to go get it today.”

“How is he?”

“Angry.”

Melanie ran her hand over Austen’s soft fur. He tilted his head turning his pale blue eyes on her. “Did he find their dad?”

Jennifer shook her head no. “Probably a good thing too.”

Melanie nodded and looked out the front window. Slivers of yellow and pink split the sky over the mountains. Dawn was breaking, Melanie hoped it wouldn’t bring more bodies. The Justice Law went into effect six days ago, and four bodies had turned up so far. It must be a slaughter in the bigger cities and towns throughout the United States. Things had been so busy Melanie hadn’t had time to watch the news or read the paper.

“Have they found Evan?”

“Not yet,” Jennifer said. “They had deputies at the house all night, and Richard’s militia has been looking for him. Sheriff Tom says that Anna’s death is murder not a justice killing and when they find Evan he will be charged.”

Melanie yawned. “How’s the rest of the world fairing?”

Jennifer pointed to the paper on the table. “Not well. There have been shootings at hospitals. President Vick has declared hospitals and medical facilities, where research and medical procedures are conducted, safe zones.”  Jennifer shook her head and took a sip of her tea.

“You want me to warm that up for you?” Melanie asked.

“Please.”

Melanie took her mother’s cup into the kitchen and stuck it in the microwave. Melanie walked back into the living room with it and a cup of coffee for herself.

Jennifer’s cell phone vibrated on the table. She jumped up to grab it.

“Hello.” Jennifer mouthed thank you and took the tea from Melanie.

Melanie could hear that the caller was a male, but she couldn’t make out the words.

“Where?”  Jennifer set her tea on the table and covered her mouth with her hand.

“Oh my god.” She made the sign of the cross on herself.

“Thank you, Sheriff. Yes, both Seth and Mitchel are here. They are welcome as long as they want to be here.”

Jennifer set the phone on the table.

“They found him.” It wasn’t a question, Melanie asked. She knew. There was no other reason for Sheriff Tom to be calling at this hour.

Jennifer nodded.

“Dead?”

Jennifer nodded.

 

Sheriff Tom found Evan’s body in the church’s gated courtyard around two in the morning. He had been dead a few hours. He was butchered, slit open from groin to Adam’s apple. His internal organs spilt upon the slate stones.  His SAFE chip had been crushed inside his arm while he was alive.  There was no information on the National Cybersecurity Protection System about who had killed Mitchel and Seth’s father.

Evan had at least had the foresight to pay for their burials in advance.  Seth and Mitchel stood side by side at the head of the open graves watching as the caskets containing their mother and father were lowered into the ground.

They were orphans now, with no family to care for them. Their father had run all the family off a long time ago, both his own family and their mother’s.

Melanie walked through the courtyard after the funeral. Blood still stained the stones. She was waiting for Mitchel and Seth. They wanted to be alone for a while, Melanie understood all too well. She glanced up and Father Chris stood in the archway leading into the Cathedral.  She took a step back.

He ran toward her. His black cassock thwacked tight against his legs with each stride.  “Melanie, this wasn’t me. I swear it.”

She could feel the heat of his body next to hers. His hands rested on her shoulders. She drew her gun and pushed it between them and into his soft belly. He flinched and released her shoulders.

“I don’t know what to think Father.”  She pressed the barrel hard into him, and he stepped back.

He closed his eyes and his head sank until his chin was on his collarbone.

“If this is your doing Father, prayers won’t help you.”

“Why would I desecrate the house of God?”

Melanie didn’t have an answer for that, but it didn’t matter. She knew he was a killer. She knew Evan had deserved what he got, regardless of who had done it.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 21

Flag

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.

Father Chris a killer, Melanie didn’t want to believe it. He was a servant of God. The commandments said thou shalt not kill or some such thing. Melanie paced back and forth in her bedroom. She ran her fingers through her hair. She hadn’t been able to sleep when she got home from her shift with the militia. Daisy laid on Melanie’s bed and watched her stalk back and forth. Melanie put her hands in her back pockets and then took them out. Images of Father Chris standing at the pulpit flashed through her mind.  His even tone and conviction in his voice as he read the words of God to everyone gathered before him.

She ran her hands through her hair again and stopped pacing. Child abuse was definitely wrong, and if what he said was true, that woman was a danger to her children, but why not just turn her in. Father Chris could have gone to Sheriff Tom.  She let out a long breath. No, he couldn’t. There was that priest confidentiality thing. He was stuck. Oh, god, Melanie groaned. From where Father Chris stood, he really didn’t have a choice, if he wanted to save those kids.

Melanie knew how destructive child abuse was, not firsthand, her parents had never laid a hand on her or Sam. But Mitchel and Seth knew, and she had seen the wounds and scars on them. Mitchel’s hands and forearms would always bear the pink and white modeled scars from when his father had shoved his hands into scalding water when he was three. Seth bore the marks too, the sleek white line on his shoulder where his father threw a steak knife at him. And Anna, their mother, suffered more than either of boys at Evan’s hands. Bruises on her arms and face were a constant reminder to everyone in the community that Evan was a monster.

Maybe Evan was on Father Chris’s list. Should she keep that from Mitchel, would Mitchel try to stop Father Chris from killing his father, Melanie didn’t know the answers. She wasn’t going to tell Mitchel. She didn’t know what Father Chris was planning, maybe nothing. She ran her hands through her hair again, and massaged her scalp. She didn’t sign up for all this. She needed to clear her head. She walked over to her closet and pulled out her running shoes.

Mitchel was sitting on her front porch, his head in his hands, when she ran up the road finishing her six miles. She slowed to a walk as she came into the driveway.

He looked up. His eyes rimmed in red and his face flushed. He stood. “I’ve been calling you.”

She pulled her phone out. She hadn’t heard it ring. Five missed calls. All Mitchel. “What’s wrong?”

He wrapped his arms around her. His generally sturdy stable body slumped against hers.

“Mitch,” she whispered and rubbed her hands up and down his back.

He buried his face in her neck. “He killed her last night, while I was out with the militia. He beat her to death. Seth found her this morning.” Mitchel’s body shuddered and he began to cry.

Melanie held him tighter. “I’m sorry.”

“They’re looking for him. He’s probably long gone.”

Melanie heard the front door of the house close. Jennifer came and wrapped both of them in her arms. “Sheriff Tom called and wanted to make sure you were with friends.” Tears ran down Jennifer’s cheeks and she rubbed Mitchel’s back. “Come inside. I’ll make you something to eat.”

Mitch stepped back, and nodded wiping his nose down his sleeve. Melanie’s arm pulled him against her as they headed toward the house. “Where’s Seth?”

“I don’t know he took off,” Mitchel said.

“I’ll make up the guest room. I want you and Seth to stay with us,” Jennifer said as Mitchel slipped into a chair at the kitchen table. Melanie poured two cups of coffee setting one before Mitchel.

He stared into the black liquid not blinking. “Thank you.” His voice was quiet and distant.

Melanie looked at her mom.  Her ribs squeezed her heart until it felt like her chest was going to collapse. Images of her mother collapsing to the floor at the front door when Sheriff Tom came to tell them Melanie’s father had been killed in the avalanche waved through her. Her throat closed. She took a slow breath and tried to calm herself down. She had to be here for Mitchel now. He needed her.

Jennifer slid two plates with pancakes, bacon, and eggs onto the table. “Mitchel where would Seth have gone? I’m going to go look for him. He shouldn’t be out there alone.”

Mitchel lifted his head and wiped his nose again. “He’ll be looking for our dad at the bars.”

Jennifer’s eyes grew wide. She grabbed her keys off the counter and stripped her jacket from the chair. “Mel, watch Sam.”

Melanie nodded. The front door slammed and the van started up. The tires squealed as Jennifer took off down the street.

“I shouldn’t have left her alone with him. He was so angry and drunk before I went out last night. I knew he would hurt. I told Seth. I told her to stay away from him and to do whatever he asked.” Mitchel covered his face with his hands and wept. His entire body shook with it. Daisy whimpered at his feet.

Melanie pulled his hands away from his face. She held his face between her hands and looked him in the eyes. “Mitchel, this is not your fault. Your father did this not you. If you had been there, he would have killed you too. You couldn’t have stopped him.”

Not without killing him yourself, Melanie thought. She knew Mitchel thought it too, but either one of the was willing to say it aloud. Neither one of them wanted Mitchel to be a killer.

Mitchel pushed the food around on his plate. He watched the syrup drip from his fork as he held it several inches in the air. Melanie stayed by his side. She didn’t question him. She didn’t try to fill the silence. She knew how it felt when people tried to make it okay, when it wasn’t okay at all.

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty

Flag

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

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

Melanie’s militia team consisted of three men in their late fifties and two women in their early twenties. Richard Stein had not been joking when he said he didn’t have anyone with Melanie’s training and skill. Four of the five, couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds soaking wet. The fifth, he would have to be her second in command, was short and stalky. He looked like he could hold his own in a bar fight. She had met the women and one of the scrawny men last night at Richard’s.

Melanie took a deep breath. “I’m Melanie Craig. I’ll be your team leader.” She handed each one of them a radio. “Do you all have a gun in addition to the tazer?”

Five heads bobbed up and down.

“Good. Do you all know how to use them?”

Three heads bobbed up and down, all the men.

“For those of you who do not, I expect you to spend time at the gun range twice a week until you do know how to use them. I don’t want one of us to catch a stray bullet in the unlikely chance that you have to fire your weapon.”

The two women looked at each other and then at Melanie. Both of them had their brown hair pulled back into tight ponytails, and wore t-shirts and jeans.

“Will you come with us?” said the one with ripped up jeans.

“What are your names?”

“I’m Kara and she’s Amber,” said ripped up jeans.

“Kara, I’d be happy to come with you. We’re going to split up into twos and walk the streets, buddy up. I want radio checks with one another every ten minutes. If you see something, radio me and with your location. I’ll call checks to that team every few minutes until it’s clear. If I’m out, Arnold will call checks to my team.”

Everyone turned to face short stalky Arnold, who nodded once. “Gotcha.”

Melanie headed down the street with Kara. The amber glow of street lamps lit sections of the road while plunging other areas into deepening shadows that seemed to crawl alongside the two women. The few cars that had passed them earlier in the night had vanished leaving silence in their wake.

Melanie scanned the shadows as they walked the shoulder of the road. “What made you decide to join the Watch Dogs?”

Kara shrugged her shoulders. “My boyfriend is and he said that I could never do it.”

Melanie raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips. Not the answer she was looking for. “What makes him think that?”

Kara shrugged again. “What about you?”

Melanie slowed and peered down a pitch-black alley. “I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. I have the training to do more.” Her voice dwindled to a whisper, and she held up her hand for Kara to be quiet.

There was something or someone in the alley. Melanie took a few steps passed the alley. “Call out to Arnold, and stay here, I’m going to go check it out.” Melanie drew her 9 mm from its holster under her arm.  She crouched at the corner of the alley, listening.

Kara stepped a few paces away and radioed to Arnold with their location. Kara held up her hand with all her fingers spread. Arnold was five minutes away.

Melanie snapped a glance around the corner. Black shapes moved near the ground at the other end of the alley in front of the dumpster. Melanie took two deep breaths and crept around the corner, gun pointed at the ground. She hugged the wall as she made her way toward whatever was there. Each of her steps where deliberate. Her heart thumped in her ribcage. Sweat dripped down the side of her face. She wouldn’t let go of the gun to wipe it away.

As she neared the black mass, she knew it wasn’t an animal. It was a person. She couldn’t see the face, but it was a male, and he was standing over a body.

Melanie raised her gun to shoulder height. “Don’t move.”

The man turned to her, startled.

“Father Chris?” Melanie sputtered.

He took a step toward her. Both of his empty hands were in front of him palms up. “Ms. Craig. Please.” His voice shook.

Her arms vibrated. “What, what are you doing?”

He took a few more steps toward her.

“Stop Father Chris.”

“Melanie. I don’t harm the innocent.” Another few steps toward her.

Melanie cocked the gun’s hammer back.

He stopped.

“This woman.” He turned back and pointed at the crumpled body on the ground. “She’s a sinner of the worst kind. She beats her children. I’ve seen the bruises on their little bodies. The black marks on their backs and across their faces.” He closes his eyes. Tears roll down his face. “I’m doing God’s work. Melanie.”

Melanie lowered the gun an inch. He took another step toward her. She shook her head, trying to clear it. The muscles of her stomach gripped her ribs, and she brought the gun level. “But Father Chris—”

“Please Melanie don’t tell anyone. Let me leave. Those babies are safe now. The abuse would never have stopped. She would have killed them. I tried to help her. I counseled her. I took the children to give her a break, but always the marks returned.”

“And the others?”

“Not me. I swear it. This is the only one. If there had been another way.” He began to sob into his hands. His shoulders convulsed.

She knew she didn’t have much time before Arnold arrived. She had to make a decision. Father Chris had never lied to her. He was a good man. He kneeled before her and began to pray.

She risked a glance back to the opening of the alley. She couldn’t see anyone. “Go.” Her voice was barely audible, but it was enough.

His eyes bore into hers as he got to his feet. “You are truly one of God’s chosen soldiers Melanie Craig. St. Michael be at your side, always.” He turned and ran disappearing into the darkness.

Bile rose in Melanie’s throat. She fought it back down.

“Melanie?” It was Arnold calling out.

She coughed before answering. “I’m here.” She knelt at the side of the woman and checked for a pulse she knew she wouldn’t find. “Call Sheriff Tom. We’ve got a body.” She stood as Arnold approached.

“Did you see who did it?” he asked.

Melanie shook her head back and forth.

“You cleared the back of the alley?”

“Of course. There is no one.”

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries