A Vigil for Justice is a serial thriller novel. Updates of 1000-1500 words are posted every Friday.
Recap: Melanie has returned home from school on the first day after the Justice Law was passed. She is angry and confused about the law. She is afraid of how it will change the lives of her and her friends. She gets into a fight with her mom and retreated to her bedroom.
A stabbing pain in her hip woke Melanie. She had fallen asleep on the hardwood floor at the foot of her door. Her shoulder hurt on the same side of her body and her neck. The moon shone through the window. It was nearly full and threw its glow about the room. Melanie pushed herself up off the floor and powered on her ipad. Her stomach rumbled and she realized she didn’t finish much of her dinner. She opened her bedroom door. The house was pitch black. She headed downstairs for some milk. A blue glow was coming from under her mother’s door. She stopped and leaned toward the door listening. The president’s muffled voice reached out to her. Her mom was watching the press conference from earlier in the day.
Melanie poured a glass of milk and looked in the pantry. She grabbed a package of graham crackers. Back in her room, Melanie typed “Justice Law” into google. It was a broad search term, but she wanted to be able to decide what to read. The first few hits were the language of the law and how they would be tracking justice deaths, but that’s not what she wanted to know. She scrolled down until she found it.
It wasn’t the language of the law or the technology which had Melanie confused and struggling for understanding. It was the reasons and justification behind it passing.
Melanie looked up at her door. Austen’s gray paw flicked beneath the door. Smiling, Melanie let him into her room. He sprung up onto her windowsill and stretched his long lean body. She rubbed his ears and then went back to the ipad.
Lobbyists had made two vastly different proposals to the Crime Prevention Committee. The committee designed a separate bill and fiscal note for each proposal and sent them to the House of Representatives for a vote.
The first option, which was the most popular among the Democratic Party, was called INDECT. It’s an intelligent information system that uses observation, searching, and detection for security of citizens in urban environments, at least that’s how the scientists and research teams who developed INDECT described it. Basically, it would be the ultimate big brother nightmare of the conspiracy theorists come true. It included video cameras with heat sensitivity being set up on just about every street corner throughout the nation. Walls would be virtually invisible to the cameras.
INDECT would record, code, and rank everything everyone did for the possibility of violence or any criminal activity. Something similar, but less extensive, was used experimentally in New York City in the early 2000s, and there were major reductions in crime rates. The major issues with INDECT, and the reason the House ultimately voted against it, was the amount of money it would cost and the high level of invasion into the private lives of citizens.
The remaining option was the Justice Law, which was much less expensive because it was set up for the NCPS to piggyback on the SAFE system, and mass production of RFIDs would create jobs and cost pennies to produce.
A transcript from the legislative session had Representative Hartford statement about the reasons the Republican Party felt the law was necessary. There were not enough police officers in the United States to investigate, control, or prevent the massive amounts of crime occurring in all but the smallest cities across the country. Every city was in bankruptcy, due to its attempts to hire more officers to protect the citizens. There was no conceivable way for the federal government to fund police agencies. Alternatives to officers patrolling the streets had to be found.
The transcription of Representative Hartford’s statement continued, with the passing of the Justice Law the government is giving control of personal safety back to the people. The hope is that the criminally minded will stop committing criminal acts against others when their potential victims have the ability to immediately exact justice.
The next morning, Melanie said little to her mom, and her mom gave her the space she needed. Melanie and Mitchel walked into the school to find it in pandemonium. Students were crying, posturing up to one another, and a few fights had broken out. Teachers were trying to get control over the students, but it wasn’t going well.
Mitchel took ahold of a passing sophomore. “What’s going on?” The kid shrank back like a turtle and pointed toward the lockers. Black and red targets had been painted on some of the light yellow lockers.
“Holy shit,” Mitchel said. Melanie ran to her locker. Mitchel was on her heels pushing past the students who filled in the space behind her as she went. She was like a boat cutting through the waves in a lake. No target. She then went to Mitchel’s locker. No target. Thank god at least her friends had not been targeted.
The loudspeaker blared over the din of crying and yelling teenagers. “Clear the halls immediately. All students must report to their first period classroom.” Melanie didn’t recognize the voice.
“I’ll walk you to class,” Mitchel said. Melanie looked into his eyes and saw that there was no arguing the point.
“You still think it will be safe in Blue River?” she asked as they made their way through the sea of bodies.
He looked down at her. Nothing was certain anymore.
“We’ve still got 27 days to prepare,” he said. They stopped just outside the doorway to her classroom. Holly waved at them from inside and took a desk at the back.
“I’ll see you at lunch?”
“Of course.” She gave him a kiss and watched him melt into the sea.
Once the hallways were cleared, Mrs. Christensen closed the door to the classroom and sat quietly at her desk. Dark circles hung below her eyes and she wrung at her scarf.
The loudspeaker crackled. “All Sophomores are to report to the gym immediately. All juniors are to report to the theater in ten minutes. All seniors are to report to the dining hall in twenty minutes. Teachers do not release your classes until the appointed time.”
Holly held Melanie’s hand as they walked toward the theater with the rest of their class. Melanie wondered if the principal had contacted the parents of students with targets on their lockers. She was relieved that there were not targets on her friend’s lockers or hers, but she felt awful that there were targets at all. She and Holly took a seat near the front, but on the edge of the row.
Mayor Brady stood on the stage.
“Good morning, class of 2022,” he said smiling down at them.
“I know that things have been a bit chaotic this morning, but I want to talk to all of you about the Justice Law.” He was reading from a card.
“I’ve been instructed,” he held up the cards, “to provide you all with a copy of the Justice Law and to briefly go over the basics. Please save your questions until the end. Some of this information many of you already know, but bear with me.”
“The Justice Law goes into effect on June 1, 2021. All citizens over the age of 16 will have the ability to purchase firearms and to issue three justice deaths. Justice deaths will be tracked by the local and federal police agencies. No other agency or individual will have access to that information. Local police officers will conduct an investigation as appropriate into each death within their jurisdiction and determine if it is a justice death, suicide, or a murder. Torture is considered murder and will be punished as such. Justice deaths must be issued by firearm. All firearms over a .22 caliber must be registered and chipped. Schools and churches are safe zones. Firearms will be remotely disabled using the RFIDs. Metal detectors will be installed at schools and churches as another level of protection. In addition to these precautions, Blue River is instituting a curfew of 10:00 p.m. for all citizens.”
The room was silent. Mayor Brady took a drink from a water bottle at his feet and pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe his face. Sweat was seeping through his light green shirt under his arms.
“I’ll take questions now.”
Hands shot up.
“But know that I don’t understand all the technology behind this new law. So I can’t answer those questions,” he said.
Everyone’s hand sank down like a sinking ship in the ocean. He glanced around the room and shuffled through his cards. Stopping at the last one, he held it up and stared at it for a while.
“One last thing I need to mention. If you scrub, Homeland Security will hunt you down and shoot you on site.”
Whispers began and the students all looked at one another. A small girl in the front raised her hand.
“Yes, sweetheart?” asked the mayor.
“What do you mean scrub?” she asked.
“If you remove your SAFE chip from your arm.”