A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-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 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

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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’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.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 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 just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

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 just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

Melanie’s second class was history, and her teacher had the television tuned into the president’s news conference on the Justice Law. After the assassination of President Faust last year, Vice President Ammon Vick assumed the office.  President Vick was a military man with a clean-shaven sharp angled face and long nose. He had piercing blue eyes and short obsidian hair. President was a title Vick had held at the NRA as well, but that was during the war. He held himself straight and bold, shoulders back and his expression even the American flag rippling in the wind at his back. His hands rested lightly on the podium

“—the NCPS will be synced with the SAFE system allowing the tracking of justice deaths. The security codes emitted from the RFID’s in designated safe zones will disable all firearms reducing the possibility of justice deaths in the vicinity of schools and churches. Metal detectors will be installed at the entrance of all schools and churches, which do not already have them. The safety of our citizens while at an educational facility is paramount. If we are to overcome this crisis the education of our children is essential.”

Melanie’s dad had helped develop the SAFE system. It was never meant to be connected with the National Cybersecurity Protection System.  The NCPS had the ability to monitor any cyber activity of U.S. citizens. Homeland Security has always said that they only monitor for terroristic threats and acts of violence, but Melanie knew it was more. Ever since the Homeland Security Act was passed in 2002, the government has inched its way into private homes. It had become such a ubiquitous presence that when the SAFE system was proposed, it was accepted by the people with minor opposition.

Her father had been so proud of SAFE.

“It will change everything Melbelle,” he said. The flecks of green in his hazel eyes caught the rays of the sun as he danced her around in a circle holding her small hands in his larger ones.

“Five years, that’s my prediction. It will take five years to really get going, but then it will fix everything.”

It has been four years, and she still believed in her father’s dream. Just a little more time and things would get better, she thought. SAFE revolutionized the social services system of the United States. The economy was going down before World War 3 broke out in 2016, but the war finished the job. In 2017, SAFE, Social Alliance Freedom Emission, was implemented. Her father had appeared on television with the flag waiving behind him to announce SAFE to the public.

“The Social Alliance Freedom Emission system will create thousands of jobs through manufacturing, installation, debugging, and monitoring. Every American is entitled to food, shelter, and medical care despite their income, race, religion, or sexual preferences. SAFE will replace the current social security and public welfare systems that are bleeding our depleted economy dry. Meeting the basic needs of the starving will eliminate much of the crime.” Her father’s words had convinced sixty-three percent of the American population to vote for SAFE.

“The SAFE system was supposed to fix many of the problems you are now saying will be solved by the Justice Law,” commented an off screen female reporter.

“The SAFE system has failed to do what Robert Craig promised it would,” said President Vick.

Melanie clenched her jaw. Several of the other students who were listening turned their eyes toward her at the mention of her father’s name, but just as quickly refocused on the television.

“We have seen some decline in the street violence, but it is just taking too long. Our cities are war zones and something more has to be done. The Justice Law—“

The bell rang, and the teacher clicked the television off.

“This is history in the making Mr. Johnson, why’d you turn it off?” asked a boy named Harrison.

“It will be your children’s history Harrison, not yours.” Mr. Johnson pushed his black wide framed glasses up on his nose. His brown plaid button down shirt was tucked into a pair of light blue jeans. People in Blue River held onto the past. That’s one of the reasons Melanie’s family had moved there. Her father had been a technological genius of Steve Jobs proportions, but he also held onto relics of the bygone age of the hippies. He was a contradiction in many ways.

In Blue River, you could forget that the war and resulting economic crash had happened, at least on most days. The only reminders that the US economy had fallen into the abyss were the newscasts of the violence in other cities and of course SAFE. And although these were a constant backdrop to daily life, people had a way of not noticing them.

As Melanie walked out to the parking lot to meet up with Mitchel, Holly, and Seth for lunch, she sent a tweet to a couple of her dad’s geek friends she had remained in contact with after her dad’s death. People in Blue River may be happy going with the flow of a simplistic life, but she needed information.

Seth was leaning against Mitchel’s truck clicking through messages or something on his phone.

“Hey Melbelle,” he said, glancing up at her for a flash. She hated it when he called her that. Only her father called her by that name.

“I’ve asked you not to call me that Seth.” She frowned at him.

“Sorry. Did you catch any of the president’s press conference?” He shoved his phone in his pocket.

“Bits and pieces, Mr. Johnson turned it off. You?”

“Not much. June first is the big day.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s when the Justice Law takes effect. Guess they wanted to give everyone time to prepare, so they announced it early,” Seth said.

Twenty-eight days, Melanie thought.

Mitchel and Holly strode up. Mitchel fist bumped Seth, and kissed Melanie. His eyes were soft as they met hers. They piled into Melanie’s car.

“Where to for lunch?” Holly asked, leaning forward between the two front seats.

“TacoTime,” Mitchel suggested.

Seth groaned, and Melanie started the car. None of them wanted to talk about the Justice Law, but everyone’s thoughts were consumed by it. Melanie knew they would eventually have to talk about it. Something like this couldn’t be ignored by friends. The ride to TacoTime was quiet other than the pine filled air blowing through the windows of the car at freeway speeds. TacoTime was in Frisco, which was only a few miles away. Melanie slowed down as they reach the town. Still no one spoke.

They stood staring at the menu inside the brightly colored dining room. Melanie looked at each of them. She would trust anyone of them with her life. They were her best friends. She had trusted them with her life many times already camping, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.

None of the others were ready, so Melanie stepped forward and ordered. She waived her left wrist over the SAFE scanner. It beeped indicating it had received the signal. Her credit union information appeared on the screen below her order and the total. She tapped her finger on the touch screen to pay and then stepped out of the way to wait.

Melanie checked her phone, pushed her earbud into her ear, and listened to the video @geekedout had sent her. The others ordered and paid just as she had. They slid into a yellow and orange booth in the corner of the dining area.

“Do you think it is really possible Mel?” Holly asked.

Melanie’s mouth was full. Holly had never had much interest in technology. She relied on Melanie for all of her information on the latest innovations whether it was a device or a program. Unlike Melanie, Holly never wanted to leave Blue River. Holly had no reason to leave. Everything she could ever want was right here.

All of them waited for her to finish chewing even though both Mitchel and Seth had an idea of what Melanie was going to say. Especially Seth, sometimes he had information that not even Melanie, with all her dad’s connections, had heard about yet. She thought he was a hacker, but Mitchel didn’t think his twin was that smart.

Melanie swallowed and took a pull off her soda. She assumed Holly was asking about tracking what the president had called justice deaths. She disagreed with the terminology, but answered Holly question.

“Yes, it’s possible to track justice deaths. Most of the early technology has been in place since 2012. It just wasn’t rolled out to the public. In 2012, a guy named Ron Conway started the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation, which offered millions of dollars to innovators to come up with new idea to stop the school shootings. They developed the Radio Frequency Identification Device or RFID to track firearms and to disable them. I’m sure they have continued and with the combination of the NCPS and SAFE, anything is possible.”

She loved twitter, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.

, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.