A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-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.

Ryan Thunderhawk crouched next to the fire building a teepee of kindling in the hot coals remaining after they had roasted marshmallows. Marshmallow bubbled on the rocks.

Melanie sat in the camp chair watching the flame come to life with her knees pulled up to her chest. Daisy scratched at the dirt, circled a couple of times, and finally laid at Melanie’s feet.

“You’ll be leaving tomorrow?” he asked waiting for the flames to get large enough to place the log.

“You don’t think the fire will wake anyone?” she asked. “I can’t tell you what I have to say if anyone else is here.”

He smiled at her. “Have you ever woken up? It’ll be alright. No one has ever stirred.”

She didn’t like her thoughts. She didn’t want to say the words, but she knew she had to protect her family. It was what her father would have wanted her to do. It was what he would have done.

It felt like she had been hit with a sledgehammer. She fought the urge to vomit. She couldn’t believe she was going to say it, but Mitchel’s rage had shown her it was a possibility.

She stared into the growing flames as they began to consume the log. “We are either being hunted by the butcher or he is with us.”

He didn’t react to her words. His police training. She was grateful for that at least.

“The first one was in Blue River. Mitchel and Seth’s father, Evan, was found butchered in the churchyard after Evan had killed their mother in a rage. I thought it was Father Chris who had done it. I even confronted him. Evan was a sinner. He was a dangerous man and everyone in Blue River knew it.”

Ryan stirred the fire not looking at her.

“The people of Blue River, our neighbors, drove us out of town because my mom took Seth and Mitchel in. She has always had a kind heart, but naïve in her belief that all people are innately good.”

“She reminds me of my mother,” Ryan said giving her a sad smile.

Melanie struggled against the desire to change subjects. Had he meant to give her the opportunity to back out of this disclosure? He had spent the last few weeks with them, maybe he had a suspect and knew it wasn’t them. She wanted to believe it so much, but here chest squeezed her heart. She had been fighting this war within her mind since they left Denver and were stopped by Homeland Security as soon as they arrived in Utah. No, she was too far into this. She needed to finish what she started. Her mom’s and Sam’s lives could depend on it.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, steeling her resolve. “More bodies showed up in Denver. Including my best friend, Holly, and her parents.” She had to stop and swallow the tears as the memories of that day crashed down upon her. Didn’t therapists always say it was good to talk about loss, to get it out and not carry the burden alone? What crap.

Ryan waited, ever patient.

“They were butchered in the same fashion. They were all within a few miles of where we were staying. I didn’t know where either Seth or Mitchel were during the time those people were killed. But Holly…”

She paused again. Lost in the dancing of the flames, she continued.

“They were staying in their fifth-wheel trailer in the driveway of the house we were staying in with my mom’s friends. There were three security guards patrolling the yard. They didn’t hear or see a thing. I hadn’t seen Holly since returning from the hospital, so I knocked on the door. There was no answer. Blood dripped down the walls. We were all questioned for a long time. My mom, her friends, and Sam were released first. But Mitchel, Seth, and I were there for much longer.”

He laid his hand over hers. She hadn’t even noticed that he had come over to her.  She looked at their hands. Her’s was much smaller than his, like her’s and Michel’s.

“And then when we reached Utah, we were stopped by Homeland Security. As if they had been following are movements the whole time. They denied that, but it was too much just to be a coincidence.”

She looked up into his brown eyes. The yellow and orange flames flickered in his pupils.

“Mitchel and Seth grew up in a violent home. Their father was an alcoholic. He beat their mother. He killed their older sister. And he abused them.” Her last words came out as if she were pleading for it not to be true.

“That’s a hard way to grow up,” he whispered.

There it was, laid out before him, all that she knew. It sat between them, a dark churning mass of destruction. She threw up then. Ryan pulled her hair up away from her face and laid his hand on her back.

They sat there watching the sun come up.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fifty-One

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

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

“The parts for the van should arrive tomorrow morning. Mitchel and I can get it put back together by early evening and you can be on your way,” Zachariah said.

Seth didn’t return until after dinner. Daisy’s barking alerted them to his arrival. He came in with grocery sacks of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.

“Who wants some s’mores?”

Sam was on her feet bouncing like thumper grabbing at the sacks. “Me, me, me!”

Zachariah started the fire, while Melanie and Mitchel set up chairs around the fire pit. Seth, Jennifer and Sam were search the ground for roasting sticks.

“Is this one good?” Sam asked Seth. Holding up a wiry stick about eighteen inches long.

“It needs to be a little thicker and longer. I don’t want you to get burned.” He mussed her hair.

Zachariah told old Navajo stories while they licked melted marshmallow and chocolate from their fingers. It was full dark when they finally shuffled sleepily into the cabin.

Melanie couldn’t sleep. She was excited to get on the move again. It would only take a few days for them to arrive at the safe zone. Three at most, by her calculation, especially with all the hamsters running in the van’s engine. She smiled at the image. She’d have to tell Sam about that one.

Daisy whined. Melanie had forgotten to let her out to potty before they had turned out the light. She carefully slipped from beneath Mitchel’s arm. He rolled over. She stood still making sure he was asleep before opening the cabin door.

The new moon and lack of city lights threw extra stars into the sky. She tried to find the constellations she could remember from school. Orion,

She smelled the cigarette and turned in a slow circle seeking its orange burn.

Ryan’s voice came out of the dark. “Daisy need to pee?”

She walked toward him. “I forgot to let her out before we went in.”

He blew smoke out of his nose and looked up at the stars. “On the reservation, before we moved here, every night looked like that. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, until it reappeared after the riots and all the power outages.”

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t.”

“Another stressful day?”

“Another body. This one was done in broad daylight. Butcher is getting bold or reckless. I’m not sure which. Never seen anything like it.”

“I have.” Melanie’s eyes fell. She kicked at the dirt and then scraped it back into a pile with the side of her foot.

He turned to her letting the smoke slowly drift out of his mouth of its own accord.

She looked back up at the stars. “In Blue River, the stars looked like that every night, before and after the Justice Law passed. But after it passed, I saw it a lot more. I was in the militia and we patrolled the streets every night. One night, I found our pastor over the body of a woman. She was dead.”

Melanie turned to face Ryan. “He said he was doing god’s work by killing sinners.” She peered into the darkness looking for Daisy. She took a few steps toward where Daisy was sniffing in the long grass.

Ryan followed her, but said nothing. He just waited for her to continue.

She ran her fingers through her long hair. “After leaving Blue River, we went to Denver and my mother was shot in the stomach. She was in the hospital for two weeks. I stayed with her day and night. One night when I was walking the halls while my mother slept, I saw a doctor speaking to a man with a terminal disease. She injected something and he died. She said she was helping them so they didn’t have to suffer as her husband had suffered during his last days.”

She took a deep breath and let it out through her nose. “How dedicated are you to serving your purpose, Detective?”

He dropped the butt of the cigarette and pressed it into the dirt with the toe of his black steel-toed boots. Daisy had wandered over to them. Wagging her nub, she scratched at his boot to get what he had dropped. He bent to pick it up. When he rose, his eyes met Melanie’s.

She cocked her head to the side.

The muscles in his jaw bulged as he pressed his teeth together.

She knew the answer. She had seen the distant gaze she had seen in the eyes of the others. The constant questioning of whether what they were doing was truly serving their ideal. Their answer was always the same, yes, because if their answer were no, their resolve would falter and their heart and soul would sink into an abyss.

He nodded and sighed. “I don’t understand what this has to do with the butcher?”

“When you find him, will you kill him?”

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