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.

Run a Marathon?

“Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

—Anais Nin

Anyone can finish a marathon, if you want to do it. You may not be fast, but you will finish.  The biggest hurdle for completing an endurance event is time. The solution to the time problem is organization and recruiting support.

Marathon training programs are sixteen weeks long or about four months. If you do not have a running background, don’t try to weasel your way into a shorter program. You will get hurt.

There are numerous programs out there, including one on my page above. For your first marathon, the goal should be to finish. You can set a time goal as a “it would be nice to do it in …” but the primary goal should be to finish.

The way that you start your training and your race day strategy is going to depend upon your fitness level going into the marathon. If you are coming from the couch, having never run a race in your life, you should plan to use a run/walk strategy to reduce the likelihood of injury and increase the chances of success and enjoyment of the race. On all long runs, implement your run/walk ratio. Eight minutes running and two walking is a great one. Another successful ratio is nine minutes walking one minute running.

If you are relatively fit or have completed a few 10k’s or even a half marathon, you can also use the run/walk strategy to reduce the risk of injury if you are injury prone or coming back from an injury.  You can also just run the entire distance.

But finding a program or even a running partner is not the biggest challenge you will face on your journey. You have to make your running a priority and everyone in your life needs to understand and support you in your goal. This is especially true if you have children who rely on you for their daily care.

Before you register and commit to a specific race, talk with your support system about helping watch the kids for your long runs. If your children are in their later elementary years talk with them about the race and see what they can do to help. It’s important to include those around you as you chase your goals and dreams. Sometimes partners and spouse become resentful or jealous about the time you spend training. This is less likely to happen if you discuss it in realistic ways, including your energy levels, how they can help, and the time commitment.

Supports are also excellent motivators. If you have done your upfront work and they are invested in you accomplishing your goal, they will not let you fail. They will eliminate all the excuses you come up with when your motivation to get up at 4 am is waning.

Who said a marathon was not a team sport?

Recovery takes too long!

The knee is healing slower than I would like, which would be instantly. Removing my ability to run long distance last weekend has impacted other area’s of my world. Most significantly, my sleep. I can’t sleep a lick when I don’t run distance. I’m just not tired. My body is used to putting out enough energy to keep me going for 70 miles a week, six hours on the bike, and two hours in the pool.

I’ve had to reduce that to almost zero other than the swimming. And now, the pool is closed this week so they can put the top back on!

I’m going to have to swim at the pool near my office over lunch just to keep the energy levels down so I can get some type of sleep.

I took four days off running. The swelling was nearly gone by Wednesday and I checked with a orthopedic doctor about running. He told me as long as there is no pain while running, I should be fine. So, on Wednesday evening, I ran just a little to see how it would feel. I walked three miles and ran another 1.5 miles. No pain. Excellent.

On Thursday morning, I ran with Spongebunny and J$, we did nine miles easy. There was no additional swelling later that day or on Friday.

I decided that I would take it easy over the weekend. Saturday I went out for 23 miles. My knee didn’t hurt during the run. I did notice that when going down even a mild incline there was pressure on the outside bottom of my knee. I tried to avoid downhill not wanting to aggravate anything that was still inflamed.

On Sunday I went out for an easy ten miles and kept it very flat. There was no pain during the run. I did notice that there was some pressure in the same spot as yesterday. I’ll will continue to take it easy until things feel normal once again.

Red Rock Relay is next Friday (September 12) and Saturday. I’m running 36 miles of the race and have significant downhill. If my knee is not totally better by then I may have to switch out some runs with my other runners. I’m sure they will be terribly upset about not running uphill! Ha, Ha, Ha.


A Vigil for Justice: Episode Six


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

“You have a shower I can use?” Melanie asked Jake.

He hesitated. “My apartment is above the gym. You can use the one there, if you’d like.”

She bit her lower lip.

“I’m the last guy you have to worry about in Breck, Ms. Craig. Here are my keys. Lock the door if you’d like. I don’t have another set so bring them back to me.”

Or she could go to the coffee shop smelling like a horse. She hesitated another second and then took the keys from his and.

“Go up the stairs around back.” He shook his head. There was a fine line between cautious and stupid. She walked out the raised bay door and went up the stairs. She pushed the key in the lock and turned the handle.

“Hello?” she called. There was no answer. She went in and locked the door behind her. No reason for her to be stupid, when she had an option. The apartment was much more stylish than she expected for a cowboy. She had expected it to be dirty, but every inch of the place was tidy and clean. The kitchen, dining, and living room were all one area. Black leather couches lined the wall. Plain red and grey pillows adorned the corners. Black and white skylines hung in silver frames on the walls. A bookshelf stood in the corner stretching toward the high ceilings. A dark solid oak table, with red placemats, and four chairs sat on a black and white ceramic-tiled floor. Long stem wine glasses hung from beneath the oak cabinets.

She had to go through his bedroom to find the bathroom. The bedspread was a pattern of various shades of blue. Dark curtains blocked all but a dim light from the window.  The bureau was black and a flat screen TV hung above it. The nightstand matched the bureau and a book laid atop it. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, she read aloud. She flipped the book over to read the back, “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse. Learn how to tell the difference.” She placed the book back on the nightstand and looked around the room. There were no pictures of family or friends anywhere in the apartment.

She showered quickly. The towels were white and soft. She locked the door as she left.

“See you tomorrow?” Jake asked as she tossed him his keys.

“Yes. How much is a membership?”

“Let’s see how you do, alright?”

She slid into her car and drove the short distance to the coffee shop. She slipped her black apron over her head as she walked through the front door.

“Cutting it close Mel?” her boss Suzanne asked arching an eyebrow.


“You and Sarah are closing tonight. Your schedule for next week is in the back. I’ll see you later.” Suzanne left. Sarah wouldn’t be in for a few hours. Melanie sat on the tall stool behind the counter and breathed in the deep scent of the coffee house. She loved that smell.

She poured herself a cup of the house blend the aroma rose enveloping her. She inhaled a lung full and smiled. She poured in some cream and sprinkled chocolate on top. She wrapped her hands around the warm mug and sat back on the stool relishing the experience. She never wanted to forget how life was before the Justice Law passed. She filed this piece away in her memory for later use.

Sarah came in just as Melanie’s stomach began to growl from hunger. As soon as Sarah put her apron on and was ready to take over for Melanie at the counter, Melanie slipped out the door to find something to eat.

She grabbed a turkey cranberry sandwich from a little café and crossed the street to the bookstore. She could get any book on her ipad, but she like the feel of physical books in her hands. It reminded her of the nights she spent reading with her dad. He had read and she turned the pages.

She knew which book she wanted, so she wouldn’t be long in the bookstore. She ran her finger over the rows and slid two books off the shelves. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker and a survival guide by some longhaired hippy guy.

She walked back to the coffee shop and read The Gift of Fear between customers for the rest of her shift.

On the following Monday, Richard Stein pulled is huge black Dodge truck into the Craig’s long drive way. Headlights shined into the kitchen and living room windows. Melanie stepped out of the house to greet Holly who was climbing out of her dad’s truck.

“Bye dad. Thanks for the ride.” Holly waved and the truck began to backup.

Jennifer pushed past Melanie and ran out to the truck, trying to catch Richard before he was gone. Holly and Melanie looked at each other, neither one of them knew what the big rush was. They walked out to the truck.

Jennifer was handing some papers through the truck window on tiptoe. Richard let out a long sigh and scanned the pages.

“Jennifer, I know you mean well, but I’m not signing your petition.” His Texas accent was thick. “It’s not that I’m going go out there shooting folks up or anything, but people need to know I’ve got no qualms about defending my own.”  He handed the papers back to her and she tried to push them back into the truck.

“But Richard if you sign—“

“I’m not and I’m not arguing with you either.”

Jennifer took the papers scowling.

“You girls have a good day. Melanie you’ll drop Holly off tonight?”

Melanie stretched up on her tiptoe to look at him more levelly. “Yes sir.”

Richard tipped his black cowboy hat at Jennifer. “You too Jennifer.”

Without a word, Jennifer turned and went back into the house. Holly and Melanie followed her.

The metal detectors arrived at Summit High School that morning along with the crews to install them. Things had calmed down at the school, as the administration dealt with threats and aggressive behavior in a consistent and quick manner regardless of who was making the threat.

Seth, Holly, Mitchel, and Melanie decided to stay at the school for lunch. The four of them sat at the end of one of the long orange picnic like tables that lined the lunchroom.

“Your mom starting that petition tonight?” Mitchel asked Melanie.

She took a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and nodded her head.

Seth looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “What petition?”

Melanie held up her finger while she took a sip of her chocolate milk to wash down the sandwich. “It’s a no kill petition. She is asking everyone in Blue River to sign it. Basically it is an agreement not to use your Justice Deaths. She is going to take it to the City Council meeting. ”

“Are you guys signing it?” Holly asked Seth and Mitchel.

Seth snorted. “Are you?”

“We already did,” Holly said, smiling.

Seth shook his head. “What if some jackass comes and puts a gun to your mom’s head, are you telling me you are not going to shoot if you have the chance because you signed a petition?”

“No, Seth. It allows for killing in defense of another whose life is in jeopardy,” Melanie said.

“How long is your car going to be in the shop, Holly?” asked Melanie taking another bite of her sandwich.

“Wait. What? Why is your car in the shop?” asked Seth.

Holly laughed. “Where have you been Seth?” It was true, Seth seemed to be out of the loop on things that had been happening over the weekend.

“A freshman backed into it last Friday. I dropped it off at the shop this morning it will be there for until Wednesday, so they said. Maybe I’ll get it tomorrow. Until then I’m hitching along with Melanie.”

Melanie glanced sidelong at Seth. She looked up and smiled at Holly. “We still going to the firing range after school?”

Seth inhaled his soda. Mitchel patted him on the back shaking his head.

“Yeah, but I have homework to do too.” Holly stood up to go dump her garbage.

Mitchel reached across the table and took Melanie’s hand in his. “I’ll sign the petition, Mel.”

Zone training

track run

Zone training has been a big thing over the past few years especially when it comes to heart rate monitors. But what does training in the zone really mean?

Here is the theory: Training too hard or not hard enough gets you the same results, nothing. There are essentially four zones of training. In order to train efficiently you need to stay in zone two most of the time and reserve zone four for those sprints to the finish or pushes to crest a hill.

Zone two is the aerobic zone where you are using body fat and oxygen as your primary sources of energy. Zone four is anaerobic and primarily uses stored sugars. Zone three training doesn’t help you run faster or longer.

If you want to train in the Zone you have to know you max heart rate and then calculate where your heart rate should be in each zone. In order to calculate your heart rate zones you have to estimate your maximum heart rate. To get an estimate of your max heart rate you subtract your age from 220. So for example, I am 33, 220-33= 187. My maximum heart rate is 187.

With your maximum heart rate, you can calculate each zone. In zone four, your heart rate is between 90-95% of your maximum heart rate. For example, to get my zone for I take the 187 and multiply it by 0.9 which gets me 168, next I multiply the 187 by 0.95 which gets me 176. So for me, zone four is between 168-176 beats per minute.

You can do this to get all of the heart rate zones. Zone three is 86-89%. Zone two is 75-85%. Zone one is 65-74%.  Heart rate monitors are not expensive and are easy to use.

But is this the best way to think about training? Probably not. Any training program or theory that breaks down into training specific areas or systems creates limitations. The body’s systems do not work outside of one another. They work together. Training them separately is most helpful to beginning runners, who see the biggest gains. Experienced runners don’t see as many gains. Here is an article all about this if you are interested.

Running is a full mind and body experience. Training different systems or muscle groups is good, but remember that in the end you have to put it all together in one smooth synchronized motion.


And she’s down for the count.

down for the count

Yep, I asked for it. Fell again. I believe this week is cursed. One year ago, I stepped off an edge in the newly paved road and rolled my right ankle. It was sprained pretty badly and I didn’t take time off because I was training for Pony Express 100 and had the Red Rock Relay with my team the week after rolling it.

I’m not sure taking time off last year would have allowed me to complete Pony Express 100, because of the type of injury, high ankle sprain, which takes three months or so to heal. I made the conscious decision to continue to run on it because I was assigned to run 55 miles of the Red Rock and no one could pick up my miles one week before the race.

Admitting to being injured is difficult for me. Ask my team. I’m an over achiever and to not be able to do what I say I’m going to do is soul crushing.

I went out for my Saturday long run, 27 miles. At mile one, along the paved trail there is a road crossing and the trail does not line up well on the other side. My right foot came down just off the paved edge and I fell to the right, but during the fall I brought my left knee down and it hit the edge of the pavement. Some not so lady like words flew from my mouth.

I sat there in the dirt picking the gravel out of my knee in the dim light. I decided to finish the loop I was on and see how it felt. I knew I had hit it right on the kneecap. I didn’t think it was fractured, but that thought was definitely in the back of my mind.

I finished seven miles and decided that it was best to call it a day. I iced it at home. It’s a little swollen. If it turns awesome purples and blues I post pictures. I was able to run on the mini tramp without pain later that afternoon (it’s a sickness okay).

J$ came over to check on me at Swiss Miss’s request. See they know how I am about these injuries. I’m sure it’s not enjoyable to watch your friend run 55 miles in pain and they don’t want to repeat that experience.

J$ and I rode our bikes on the trainers, which gave me the option of stopping any time it hurt and to reduce the pressure to my knee by lowering the resistance on my tire.

Sunday was supposed to be a 20 mile run. The knee felt tons better, but was still swollen a little so I decided a rest day was in order. Monday is a swim/bike day. My next run is Tuesday, 9 miles of speed work. I may cut the speed out, but I will give the run ago.

Falling, as I said before, is a part of running and cycling. But to fall twice in one week is really irksome. Especially, because the fall has now forced me to take time off. I will listen to my body and let it heal using the RICE method, but I’m not at all happy about it.