A Vigil for Justice: Episode Seven


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 pulled her car into the parking lot of the red brick building of the gun range. She parked the compact car between two trucks with tires that were level with the bottom of her windows. She and Holly stepped out of the car. Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans and shoved her keys and phone in her pockets.

Guns were not something her family had passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation. Her parents had never fired a gun let alone owned one, and her mom probably never would. That left it to her.

Holly walked to toward the glass doors. “You coming Mel?”

“I’m right behind you.”

Holly held the door open while Melanie passed into a world of new sights, sounds, and smells. Holly grew up around guns, and has been shooting them since she was eight.

The men behind the counter wave to Holly as they approach.

“Ms. Stein how can I help you today?” asked a short pudgy man with a greying beard.

“We’d like to rent a 357 Magnum George.”

“I thought we were shooting your guns?” Melanie whispered to Holly.

“We are, but you should shoot a revolver too.”

Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans again.

“You need ammo?” George asked. He set a silver barreled revolver on the counter.

“Just for the 357.” Holly set a black bag on the counter and picked up the gun. She flipped the cylinder out and spun it. “Did my dad call today?”

George set a box of ammo on the counter. “He did, just a few minutes before you ladies walked in.”

Holly handed the gun to Melanie, who took it like it was a piece of rotting meat. It was heavier than she expected it to be. She didn’t know what to do with it or how to hold it, so she held it by the black handle barrel down.

George raised his eyebrows. “First time?”

Holly smiled and picked up the ammo and her bag.

“Lane thee and four are yours.”

“Thanks,” Holly called back. Melanie followed. The smell of gunpowder accosted Melanie as she passed through the door behind Holly. They were in a concrete room. Twenty-five yards out were plain circular targets.

Holly put the bag on the floor next to their lanes. She set two other guns on the top of the concrete barriers between lanes. She dug around in the bag, pulled out two boxes of ammunition, and set them on the floor. She handed up a pair of eye and ear protection to Melanie.

“When I first started shooting my dad gave me a .22 because it doesn’t have a lot of recoil. Now I shoot a compact 9 mm semi auto.”

“Okay,” Melanie said not sure what any of that meant or if it was somehow important.

“You want to shoot both a revolver and a pistol to see which one you like more.” Holly put eye and ear protection on and Melanie did the same.

“Does it really matter? A gun is a gun. You pull the trigger and it shoots a bullet out the other end,” Melanie yelled to make sure Holly heard her.

Holly rolled her eyes. “It matters.” Holly slid bullets into the revolver. “I want you to watch me shoot it and then you will shoot it, okay?”

Melanie nodded and took a step back. Melanie had never seen Holly so confident and serious. It was strange to see her bubbly slightly ditzy best friend take control of a situation, especially one involving instruments of death.

Holly stepped up between the concrete dividers and pressed a switch bringing the target toward them. Melanie took a step forward to see what Holly was doing. Her stance was about shoulder width apart and her knees bent a bit. She held the gun out with both hands, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

Melanie jumped with the first shot and cringed at each successive one. The shots were loud.

Holly lowered the gun and turned to face Melanie.

“There are four things you have to remember whenever you are around guns. First, treat every single gun as if it were loaded. Second, always point a gun in a safe direction. Third, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Fourth, do not point a gun at anything you are not willing to totally destroy.”

Melanie nods.

“I’m going to drill you on these every time we shoot, so remember them,” Holly said.

Melanie starts to smile, but Holly is totally serious. Holly releases the cylinder on the revolver, spins it, and closes it.

She hands the gun to Melanie. “Check it first and always.”

“But I just watched you do it.”

“Do it anyway. You don’t know what I saw in there. Load it while you have it open.”

Melanie checks and loads the gun.

Holly motions for her to step up to fire the gun, and she stands behind Melanie. “Okay, now when you hold it make sure your thumbs are on top of one another, so they don’t get in the way. Hold it steady and pull the trigger slow at first. You gotta lean into it a little to catch some of the recoil.”

The gun is heavy in Melanie’s outstretched hands. She takes a deep breath and pulls the trigger as she exhales. The recoil drives the gun back into her hand, and she nearly drops it.

“Don’t drop it,” Holly cries out.

Melanie holds on. She is a shade paler and shaking. She wants to put it down and never touch the thing. She had to learn how to shoot. There wasn’t a choice.

“Okay?” Holly asks looking at her.

Melanie presses her lips together and nods.

“Give it another go. Make sure your stance is solid and don’t flinch now.” Holly made her fire off all of the rounds. The recoil made her arms and hands ache. She was going to have to get use to this and the only way to do that was to shoot many more rounds.

“All right, now I want you to shoot the 9 mm. Then you can answer your own question of whether or not the type of gun matters,” Holly said.

Holly showed Melanie how to load the magazine with cartilages and then how to slip the magazine into the well. She pulled the slide back and had Melanie watch her empty the gun into the target.

“Your turn.”

The first thing Melanie noticed was that the balance of the gun was more even. The grip was larger, but not too big for her hands. She took a few deep breaths and held her arms out. She pulled the trigger one after another until the slide locked back.

“So?” Holly asked.

“I like this one better.” Melanie said sheepishly.

Holly tilted her head and smiled crookedly. “Do you want to try a smaller one?”

“Sure.” The 9 mm didn’t feel as sinister as the revolver. It felt more natural to shoot. She knew that it carried the same potential, but it didn’t feel like a cannon at the end of her arms.

“This one is small enough to be a conceal carry, but its shoots the same caliber as the compact,” Holly explained.

They took turns firing off some rounds.

Melanie took off the ear and eye protection. “I’m going to get a compact 9 mm.”

Holly was packing everything into the bag. “It’s my favorite. We can go fill out the paper work tomorrow. They don’t sell guns here.”

Melanie looked at her best friend with fire red hair and emerald eyes. She could not imagine Holly aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger. Here at the range, it was different.

They returned the 357 to George and walked out to Melanie’s car. Melanie could smell the gun powder on her hands and wondered if her mom would be able to smell it too.

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