Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fourteen

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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 sunk her hands into the warm soapy water in the kitchen sink. She fished around until she found another dish. The bubbles clung to her forearms and hands as she pulled a plate out, scrubbed it, and held it under the running water. She set it in the dish drainer.

She grabbed the frying pan off the stovetop and it disappears below the surface of the water like a boat going down.

The news was on in the living room. The Justice Law goes into effect tomorrow. J-Day, they were calling it. It was a far off hope that it would be repealed at the last moment, but if it happened, she wanted to know.

“This just in, Safe Zones, on the eve of J-Day.” The male news broadcaster said. “Congress has been in special session for a week on this one piece of legislation titled, Safe Zones, which was proposed shortly after the announcement that the Justice Law had been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

“Mom, you want to see this,” Melanie called up the stairs. She stood in the doorway to living room with a dishtowel in one hand and the frying pan in the other. Soap bubbles dripped to the floor. Melanie looked down at the soapy pan.

“I’m busy Melanie what is it?” Jennifer said.

“Safe Zones. You want to see this.” She held the pan beneath the running water.

Hurried footsteps come down the stairs.

The screen switched to an image of the Whitehouse.

“Turn it up,” Jennifer said. She ducked passed Melanie and sat on the coffee table in front of the flat screen television mounted in the wall.

With the towel and pan in one hand, Melanie turned and pushed the volume button on the wall next to the couch.

President Vick stood at the chestnut podium with the American flag fluttering behind him. He adjusted the microphone attached to the lapel of his sharp black suit. “The states of Oregon and Maine will be safe zones. No guns will be allowed within their perimeter. Anyone who is seeking admission into a safe zone will go through a screening process. In order to be admitted you must not have any Justice kills, no felony convictions, and no illegal drugs in your system.” He looks out across the crowd of reporters. The camera scans over them and then returns to the president.

“The Safe zones will be secured by Homeland Security. All boarders will be patrolled. Anyone who kills within the safe zone will be put to death by lethal injection after a trial.”

Jennifer clapped her hands like a child who sees a pile of birthday presents labeled with her name in bright pink.

“All residents now occupy the safe zones who do not qualify for admission within the safe zone must vacate the safe zone. You will be provided with similar accommodations outside the safe zone, including housing and employment.”

Jennifer jumped up and grabbed Melanie by the shoulders. “Can you believe it? Someone has sense. This is just the beginning. The whole law will be abolished soon. The safe zones will spread.”

“Shhhh mom.” Melanie knitted her brows and waved her mother away.

“Visitation areas will be set up for immediate family members who are expelled from the safe zone. It will take time for the safe zones to be established and cleared of anyone who is not eligible for residency.”

Melanie rubbed the dishtowel around the rim of the pan. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Her mother’s mind always went the rainbow and roses route.

Jennifer didn’t say anything to her, just continued to watch the screen without blinking.

Melanie finished drying the pan and walked into the kitchen to put it away. Safe zone. I’m not sure safety is what they will find there, at least not within the first year. We can’t go to the safe zones. I’ll have to convince her of that. Melanie looks through the doorway at her mother perched on the edge of the coffee table.

It will be a blood bath at the border, everyone fighting to get inside. There is only so much space for people to live. Medical treatment, food, and other necessary items will have to be brought in. Melanie shook her head and hung the towel over the handle on the oven. Those inside will be trying to hide their ineligible loved ones. A modern day witch-hunt.

Tomorrow will be different, even if everything looks the same. It will feel different like waking up and not knowing where you are or that out of body sensation where you see the world, but you are so emotionally distant from it that you almost don’t exist within it.

She doesn’t want it to be that way, but how else do you deal with every person being a possible threat to you or someone you love. Behind each set of eyes, lies the ability to decide whether you take your next breath, or caress the one you love one last time.

Melanie took a deep breath, expanding her chest. She closed her eyes and held it until it burned. She let it out slow like breathing through a coffee straw.

The last rays of the setting sun fell over Melanie’s face. She opened her eyes. The mountains like black teeth were devouring every morsel of the remaining day. It was impossible to know whether being swallowed by this valley would be better than running in the open streets anywhere else.

Looking Forward

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Pony Express 100 was my last race for 2014. I took three full days of rest and then started back with swimming and cycling. Even when I started back up, I watched that my heart rate was not higher than it should be (which would indicate I was not recovered) and that I didn’t feel worn out afterward.

I returned to running on Friday a week after Pony Express. It felt amazing to get out on the trails with the autumn leaves carpeting the single track and the cool air tugging at my hair.

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So what’s next you ask. Of course, I have been planning 2015 for about a month. I am always looking for that next challenge. Finding new races and encouraging my friends to join in gives me something to look forward to on those mornings when I’d rather say in bed especially through the dark cold winter months.

As usual, I have big plans. Finding races and training for them is the easy part. Paying for them all is the hard part. In March, there is an event in Moab, Utah, that has something for everyone. They have a 6 hour night run (do as much as you can in six hours), a 24 hour run, a 50k, a 50 mile, a 100 mile, and a relay option. I love these types of events because it means I can pull in all my friends who are at different levels of fitness.

Next on the schedule is the St. George half Ironman at the beginning of May, which will give me a good read on how my bike training is working out.

In the end of May is Ogden Marathon, which I am running to support two of my friends who will be completing it as their first marathon. My only goal is to get them across that finish line with a smile.

The end of June is the Coeur d’ Alene Ironman, which will be the first goal race of the year.

I can’t leave Red Rock Relay out of the plans, it is such a great time every year and getting away with my team is always interesting and a ton of fun.

The second one will be the Bear 100 in late September. If I recover well from that, I may go for a sub 24 at Pony Express.

Have you started thinking about next year?

Mueller canyon 10.24.14

Despite the Barriers

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J$ and I planned to cycle on Saturday morning at 9:00 am. He had bowed out of swimming Friday morning at 5:30 am and trail running at 1:00 Friday due to unforeseeable family circumstances. I enjoy training with J$, but him not showing up is not enough to stop me from training. So, I swam and ran Friday and had a wonderful time.

But the Saturday ride was another adventure all together, oh I still rode don’t worry about that, it just took a lot more oomph to put rubber to the road.

J$ showed up at my house at 9:00. We were going to the island to ride since there was construction along our usual route. Neither one of us has our bike rack’s on our car. We tried to put mine on, which required resizing it to the new car. After a half hour of messing with it, we opted for just trying to fit both bikes into my car. It’s a four door Honda Civic. I lowered the back seat and slid my bike right in. We tried to put J$’s bike in the same way. We wiggled it, forced a little, pushed on the seat, it was not going in. The handlebars were about three inches too far outside the trunk. Getting it out was just as much fun.

We decided to try to slide it into the back seat of my car. It fit and we were off to the island. It was 10:20 a.m. when we reached the parking lot outside the gatehouse to the causeway. We got the bikes unloaded, but then I couldn’t find my bike shoes. I can’t ride without them because they clip into my peddles. I remembered shaking them out making sure there were no spiders in them and setting them on the kitchen table (J$ had watched a news feature about the increase in the black widow population so we were on high spidy alert).

We decided he would wait with the bikes while I drove back to the house and got my shoes. I took a different route back to the house with a faster speed limit so J$ wasn’t standing in the sun forever waiting. When I got to the house, I couldn’t find my shoes.

I searched the garage, the kitchen, living room, and my bedroom. I looked all around my yard and even went downstairs although I hadn’t gone down there that morning and knew they could be there. I searched my car. I had both boys helping me search. After I went through the whole house, I text J$ and his phone went off in his bag sitting on my kitchen table. I searched again, and again. Nothing. Where in the world could they have gone? Seriously.

Jazz (17) asked, “Did you look in J$’s car?”

I looked at him all-cockeyed. “No. Why would they be in there?”

He shrugged. “You’ve looked everywhere else three or four times.”

I was willing to do anything at this point because J$ was waiting. I peered through the window of J$’s car. There they were on the front passenger seat. I ran back into the house and dumped J$’s bag out on my bed, if he didn’t take the phone (really who doesn’t take their phone!), he probably didn’t have his keys with him.

There it was all shiny staring back up at me, I squealed with glee (no not really, but that’s how I felt) and grabbed the key running back to his car. I got my shoes jumped in my car and drove back to the island on the faster roads.

When I got there, J$ was no where to be seen. I walked over to the picnic tables and restrooms thinking he probably wanted out of the sun. Nope. I walked back over to my car. That’s when I saw it, the J$ trail marker.

jeff trail marker

I found my bike hidden behind a trailer.

There were only two places J$ could have gone, back to my house or onto the island. I called Jazz tell him the situation and told him to have J$ call me if he showed up there, but that I was going out onto the island.

It’s like 11:30 by the time I get on my bike and start peddling along the causeway. Three miles in the wind picks up, cross wind not a head wind, (appreciate the little things). The bugs got bad a mile after that to the point where I had to ride with my mouth closed or be ok with eating bugs.

At the end of the causeway my phone rang (because I carry my phone!). It’s J$, he went back to my house because he thought something happened to me or my boys. He apologized profusely for the shoes being in his car. We usually take his car, so I think he just put them in there without thinking about it much.

I finished the short loop around the island and then back through the wind and bugs along the causeway. Twenty miles in an hour and ten minutes, not too bad.

Some days it’s just hard to get out the door. Everything and everyone throws up barriers. You have a ton of things to get done and the first thing on the list becomes more complicated at each turn. This is mental training in disguise. You are going to have barriers during your races and you have to push through them without letting them slow you down.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 13

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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 drove into the gas station around the corner from her high school. She pulled three five-gallon gas cans from her trunk and began to fill them. She was going to miss her friends who were leaving for colleges and Universities. The last day of the school year had never been as difficult as todays. Her chest ached. Friends always moved away or they drifted apart over the summer, but now some would be dead. She wiped the tears from her eyes before they ran down her cheeks.

A black Dodge truck rumbled into the gas station and parked up on the other side of the pump. Richard Stein dropped to the ground.

He stepped around the end of the pumps and put his thumbs in his pocket. “Hello Mel, how’s your mamma?”

“She’s doing all right.”

“She still working on that petition of hers?”

“Yep.”

“You sign it?”

She looked up at him. “Yep.”

He nodded his head and took a deep breath. “Holly too, I assume.”

Melanie nodded.

He walked over to her car and lifted the two full gas cans into her trunk. “I’ve got something for you.” He waved her over to his truck.

Melanie finished filling the gas can and hung up the pump. She lifted the last can into her trunk and closed it before following Mr. Stein over to his truck.

“You’re a smart girl, Mel. And the best friend my daughter could have.” He opened the back door of his truck and pulled a long gun off the back seat.

“This is a sawed off shotgun. You carry this and not many are going to mess with you. You fire it within five yards and you aren’t going to miss. It sprays small pellets.” He broke the barrel and showed her how to load it.

“I’ll get you a holster for it. I want it on your back every time you walk out your front door. You can tell your mamma it’s prevention.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” She wrapped her hand around the chilled metal barrel.

He turned and pulled another gun off the back seat. “This one is a .22 long rifle. Won’t kill unless it’s real close, but even Sam could shoot it without much practice. Good for hunting and scaring off people.”

“Mr. Stein—“

“Melanie, I love you like my own. You and Holly have been friends for a long time. I know your mamma isn’t going to do much to protect the three of you and that means the responsibility of all this is falling on your shoulders. Let me help.” His grey eyes and decision were set in stone.

Melanie nodded. She wrapped her hand around the second gun. Its barrel was smaller. He took four boxes of ammunition off the floor of the truck and walked over to Melanie’s car.

“Probably shouldn’t put these in the trunk with the gas.” He smiled at her and set the bullets on the roof of her car. He opened the backdoor and set the ammo on the floor. He took the guns from Melanie and set them on the back seat.

“Probably shouldn’t tell your mamma about this either.”

Melanie nodded. “You think it’s going to get bad here too, don’t you? Once the law goes into effect.”

He rested his hand on her shoulder and fixed his eyes to hers. “Yep, I certainly do. Folks are as dumb as cattle with these sorts of things.”

“I think so too.”

“You’re a fighter Melanie Craig. Makes you different from most folks. Let me know if you girls need anything.”

“Thank you Mr. Stein.”

On Saturday morning, Melanie sat on the kitchen counter drinking coffee and reading the Denver Post. Jennifer stood in the doorway between the kitchen and living room squinting at the bright kitchen lights. The soft sounds of jazz drifted into the kitchen from the dimly lit living room where Jennifer had been drinking her chamomile tea.

“Can you believe that man! He’s doing this just to thwart my efforts on the No Kill Petition.” Jennifer stalked back and forth between the kitchen and living room.

Melanie rolled her eyes. “I really don’t think so mom. It’s two days before the Justice Law goes into effect. You are both doing what you think is best to protect others. His approach is just different, that’s all.”

“He is promoting vigilantism by forming a militia.”

Melanie thought the militia was the best idea yet and wanted to join, but now was definitely not the time to discuss it with her mom. She probably wouldn’t discuss it at all. Another one of those forgiveness over permission situations.

“This says the Pope and other Christian leaders are denouncing the Justice Law. It says, Thou Shalt not kill is a commandment and man cannot change God’s laws. Maybe more people will sign your petition if you take it to the churches?”

Jennifer put her hands on both sides of Melanie’s face and squished her lips with her own. “That is a wonderful idea my girl.” Jennifer turned and walked up the stairs with a bounce in her step.

Melanie pressed her lips together between her teeth. Guess she’ll be watching Sam today.

Jennifer bounded back down the stairs dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. “Can you watch Sam awhile?”

“I can this morning, but I have things I need to do this afternoon.”

“Sam can’t go?”

“I don’t think you want Sam at the gym mom.” Melanie sipped her coffee.

“I don’t want either of you there. I’ll pick her up and take her with me this afternoon if you can watch her this morning.”

“Sure, we can watch cartoons.” Then Melanie would be able to go talk with Mr. Stein about the Watch Dog militia when he got off work. “A bunch of us are going to dinner tonight in Breck, so I’ll be home around midnight.”

Her mom made a face.

“It’s the last weekend before the curfew goes into effect mom.”

 

What makes a runner?

Runner

I’m not a runner, I just jog a little here and there.

I run sometimes, but I’m not a runner.

I’m too slow to be a runner.

I don’t go far enough to be considered a runner.

I’m not a runner, I only run a few days a week.

I run, but I’m not a runner.

Being a runner is a state of mind, not running a certain pace or distance. If you put one foot in front of another, faster than you walk, on a regular basis, when you are not being chased, are not chasing, or late for something, you are a runner.

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Pace doesn’t have much to do with running. I’ve seen runners who do a 18 minute mile and I’ve seen runners who do a 5 minute mile. It’s not the pace that makes them a runner. It’s their mind.

Distance doesn’t have much to do with running either. I’ve seen runners who do 400 meters and I’ve seen runners who do 100 miles. It’s not the distance that makes them a runner. It’s their mind.

Diet definitely does not make a runner.

Any runner, is doing more than the person sitting on the couch. About 10% of the United States population considers themselves runners. It is difficult to measure because people define “being a runner” in different ways.

Once you say you’re a runner, other people expect you to run. They invite you to do events, to run with them, or ask about your races and, god forbid, your times! It’s hard at first, I get it, when you first start running with others it’s intimidating. It can be intimidating for experienced runners when they run with others who they know are faster than them.

You don’t have to run with other people, if you choose to, you will meet accepting and supportive people. They want to help, share their experiences, and information. It’s best to pick another runner who is a little faster than you to challenge yourself.

You don’t have to participate in events to be a runner. But events can be fun. You don’t have to win or set any goal other than to finish. The goal of finish is the best goal to start with. Who cares what your times are, you’re not competing with anyone, but yourself, which makes you a winner every time.

Why call yourself a runner? Because once you do, you are more likely to keep doing it. You’re committed. And that’s when the benefits become a reality.

Embrace the label. Say it aloud. I am a runner. Announce it to the world, I AM A RUNNER!

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Pony Express 100-mile Endurance Run 2014

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Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.

The Pony Express Trail in total is 1890 miles long starting in St. Joseph, Missouri, and ending in Sacramento, California. Riders ran the route, relay style, in ten days. It only operated for 18 months, April 1860 until October 1861, before telegraphs replaced it.

There were 157 pony stations along the route and each horse ran approximately 10 miles before the rider swapped out horses. There were 500 horses. The horses were not actually ponies. They averaged 14 hands and 200 lbs. There were 80 riders. Each rider rode between 70-100 miles of the route and could not weigh more than 125 lbs.

William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, was the most famous rider. He helped build some of the stations, and then was hired as a rider at age 15. He made one of the longest runs when his replacement rider was killed by Indians. He rode 322 miles nonstop over 21 hours 40 minutes.

Robert Haslam was also a well-known rider. He ran 120 miles in 8 hours and 20 minutes, while wounded, carrying President Lincoln’s inaugural address. He also made the return trip after nine hours of rest. When he arrived back where he started, Indians had killed the stationmaster, so he continued and rode 380 miles.

It took a lot of grit to be a Pony Express rider, and the ultrarunners who run the Pony Express 100 capture the same spirit.

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The sun light fell on the earth like opening the blinds on the first morning of spring. A dust cloud moved across the flat open land planted with anthills and sagebrush. White and chestnut wild horses emerge from the dust. They toss their mains and their nostrils flare as they come to a stop before cantering across the rocky road to take up the run on the side among the splotches of red, brown, and yellow across the plain and toward the peaks jutting from the ground.

The Pony Express 100 is an amazing experience because of the history and the unique setup of the race. Knowing the stories of the riders and stationmaster of each of the stations you run through brings the sagebrush and anthill strewn land alive.

Part of the Pony experience is bringing your own crew to act as your stationmasters. They help you change out your gear and keep hydrated in the desert sun. Pony Express is the most family and friend involved 100-mile event out there. They can see you at any time, your crew can reach you whenever you need, and you can have a pacer at any point by bike or on foot. The race is held over fall break, so kids are out of school and can participate or not as much as their age and demeanor allow.

There is only one aid station along the 100-mile route. It’s at mile 50. There you will find Davey Crockett, the race director, handing out metals to the fifty-mile finishers. Argentine barbeque is dished up for all the runners and their crew and each bite alone is worth the 50-mile trek.

Davey makes the race better every year. This year he added “nearly” real time tracking on the internet. That may not seem like a huge deal in this day and age, but if you know where the Pony Express is held you begin to appreciate the difficulty of doing that. Cellular service dwindles to one or two providers at Lookout Pass. Once you reach Dugway Pass, it’s a dead zone. There is nothing, but ham radios and (in my experience) spotty satellite phone reception.

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My dad and I woke up at 3:30 a.m., and snuck out of the camp trailer leaving my mom and my thirteen-year-old son, Sky, asleep. We dodged cottontails on the dirt road as we drove the 16 miles from camp to the starting line at Lookout Pass. I began my 100-mile journey along the Pony Express route at 5:00 am. It was about forty degrees Fahrenheit. Starting times are staggered at 5, 6, 7, and 8 a.m.

My dad met me at mile five. He filed my handheld with water and took my jacket. I ran the first ten miles or so with the race director of Salt Flats 100, Vince, and a few other guys. We talked about the epic storm at Salt Flats 100. Vince said he talked to the Bureau of Land Management who said that it was one of those storms that only happens every one hundred years. He went out to pick up the port-o-potties on Wednesday after the race and the wind had pushed them 2.5 miles.

While I ran, my dad went back to the trailer to get some breakfast. He met me just outside our camp at Simpson Springs (mile 16.5) by then I was the second runner. Ahead of me was the Jester, who I would get to know as we played leapfrog over the next 50 miles. I remained first or second runner until about mile 92 when Sherrie Shaw (First place 20:15) passed me. She had started at 8 a.m.

The Jester, Ed, has run eighty-three 100-mile races. He is attempting to break the world record for most 100s in a year. Pony Express was his 30th 100 of the year breaking the men’s world record of 29. He had to finish Pony in 22 hours to make his flight to California to run another 100 Sunday! The women’s world record is 36, which Ed intended to beat by four races. He finished in 21 hours and 42 minutes.Pony Express 100 2014 005 one marathon finished, three to go.

We saw the wild horses along the course between the Riverbed Station and Topaz Well. They were off in the distance, but still such an inspiration.

My dad met me every five miles, making sure I had everything I needed. We reached Blackrock Station, mile 48 at 2:30 p.m. From there we went ten miles out to Fish Springs (the turnaround) and then back to Blackrock (68 miles), which we reached at 7:30.

Pony Express 100 2014 007two marathons finished, two to go.

We met up with my night crew, Swiss Miss and Larry, around mile 62. Miss’s cousin, Jon, was a surprise crewmember along with his charge, the puppy Constantine. I was so grateful to see them, because I was struggling at that point in the race. I had given a lot up to that point and I knew I would have to slow down to be able to finish. Miss paced me for the next 15 miles alternating between walking and running. Jon and Constantine paced on their bike on and off with Miss. She was wonderful. She told me all the things I had missed since I had come out to the starting line: Friends getting engaged and busting sneaking domestic violence perpetrators in closets.

Melissa and Larry were supposed to take over crewing for the night shift, so my dad could sleep, but my dad wanted to stay on and see me through to the end. I marvel at how much my relationship with my dad has changed over the years. When I was a teen, we could barely stand the sight of one another and now he is my crew chief for the Pony Express 100 catering to my needs every few miles.

three marathonsThree marathons finished, one to go.

We were way ahead of schedule. I called J$ on the satellite phone to find out where he was. We spoke for a minute before the phone cut off. He met us at mile 78 at about 11:00 p.m. and took over pacing duty from Swiss Miss.

We had our crew meeting us every three miles. It was very dark. The moon was hidden behind the surrounding mountains. My calves were tight causing pain on the inside of my left knee. J$ rubbed them out every three miles. At each stop, they had a chair out waiting for me and something warm to drink as the temperatures dropped. My dad and Larry made broth and coffee through the night.

J$ and I would see our crew stopped on the side of the road ahead of us. Each time, we would think, “Oh, they’re only a quarter mile away.” And each time, they would get farther and farther away, the closer we got. They swore they were not moving. I’m not convinced.

By the time we got to 95 miles, I was ready to be finished. I was seeing three moons in the sky and the stars were clusters of dots rather than one single star. I saw signs on the side of the road that disappeared by the time we reached them.

After 24 hours and 15 minutes, I crossed the finish line of the Pony Express 100.

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A Vigil for Justice: Episode 12

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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 on the table in the courtyard of her high school eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She watched as Holly moved in a box formation blocking, punching and kicking. Holly extended her limbs with concentrated deliberation expelling a hard breath with each imagined impact. Melanie knew Holly wouldn’t last three seconds in the boxing ring even after a month of Taekwondo classes.

“What belt are you now?” Melanie asked combing her hand through her long hair.

“High white. My teacher said I moved up faster than anyone he has taught.”

“That’s good, right?” Melanie watched a few other students drift in and out of the courtyard. She handed Holly her hoodie and picked up her backpack to go back inside.

The brightness of the sun made you believe it should be warmer outside than it actually was. The distance the heat waves had to travel was still too great to warm the earth. High wisps of white were strung through the pale blue sky.  Red and white tulips stood beneath the branches of the maple tree grove in the center of the courtyard.

The locker-lined hallways of Summit High were easy to navigate given the reduction in bodies flowing through them. A severe decline in attendance is typical during the last week of school, especially for the seniors who have been dying get out into the world for nine months.

“We are going to be the only students on campus by Friday.” Holly opened their locker and exchanged books.

“Mitchel said he would be here too.” Melanie gave Holly a wry smile. “This could be our last week of normal. I’m not going to miss it.”

“Normal? Is not being here.”

A quarter of the population of Blue River had decided to go back to Mexico. The cartel was a more appealing type of vigilante government than whatever was going to spring up in the United States. Familiarity, regardless of its awfulness, is sometimes better than the unknown.

“We don’t have to come Friday, I guess.”

Holly raised her eyebrows and laughed. “We’ll be here. Are we going to the firing range again today?”

Melanie nodded. “My mom is going to the council meeting, and I’m picking Sam up from dance. So I have to go right after school.”

 

Melanie held her 9 mm out, emptied the magazine, and reloaded in less than a minute. She was getting faster and more accurate. She didn’t flinch at the now familiar sound of the shot and impact of the recoil. The smell and weight had become comforting. The gun was an extension of her hands. The sight of his little angel with a death stick attached to her hands would have made her father sick. She pressed the button bringing the man shaped target to her. If her father were still alive maybe, none of this would have happened. He would have convinced them the Justice Law was a bad idea and to give the SAFE chip more time. Two clusters of holes pierced the heavy paper in the chest and head area. She pulled it down smiling.

It was 10:00 p.m. when Jennifer slammed the front door of their house. Melanie raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips.

“Bad night?”

“I just don’t understand why they won’t sign the No Kill petition.” Jennifer tossed a stack of stapled papers toward the coffee table. The pages flipped and pulled at one another.

Jennifer stalked into the kitchen and slapped some cold turkey and cheese on two slices of bread. She rips into the sandwich.

“I just don’t get it. It gives everyone more security.”

Melanie had heard why people didn’t want to sign the petition at work. People talk of everything at coffee shops. Most, didn’t think a signature on a page meant anything and it was a farce they didn’t want to promote.

“We should work on our food storage this weekend Mom.”

Jennifer stared at Melanie she looked confused by what Melanie had said. Jennifer burst into tears and covered her face with her hands.

Melanie scrambled to her feet and ran over to her mom.

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything. This is not the life I wanted for you and Sammy.” Jennifer choked on her words.

“It’s not your fault mom. We’ll be alright.” Melanie rubs her mom’s back.

Jennifer wiped her face. Her crying had stopped as suddenly as it started. She nodded her head.

“We’ll go get food storage tomorrow afternoon.”

Her mom dumped the half-eaten sandwich into the garbage. “Good night Mel. I wish things were different.”

“I know mom.” Melanie watched her mom climb the stairs. Melanie picked up her book on surviving in the wild, turned out the light, and followed her mom up the stairs.

The morning sun warmed Melanie’s back through her bedroom window as she sat on the edge of her bed. She pulled the laces tight on her running shoes and rubbed the mound that was Daisy under the blankets.

She walked to the calendar she hung on the wall. She put a big red X through May 23rd. One week and one day.

“Let’s go Daisy.”

She unstrung the leash from her doorknob as Daisy snuffled her way out and plopped onto the floor. Daisy shook off the remainder of her dreams from head to tail, and her big brown eyes settled on Melanie tail wagging.

They ran around the neighborhood. Melanie didn’t want to take Daisy too far. She had to build up Daisy’s miles the same as she would her own. They didn’t need to be able to do a marathon, ten miles would be enough.

When they got back to the house, Melanie loaded Daisy into the car and drove to the boxing gym.

Daisy bounded through the doors of the gym and clobbered Jake who had crouched to greet her.

“She’s getting huge.” Jake laughed and picked up his cowboy hat from the floor. He dusted it off before setting it back on his head.

Melanie walked up to the SAFE scanner, but Jake just waved her into the back.

“Someday Jake, I will have to pay.”

“We’ll see.” Jake handed Daisy a chew toy. She took it and darted to a pillow in the corner.

Jake had her warmup on the punching bag. Melanie and Jake ducked and jabbed at one another in the ring. She didn’t cringe each time his fist came flying at her face. If she couldn’t move, she would throw up an arm to block bracing for the impact. He got her once with an uppercut to the ribs, but she had returned the favor.

She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her glove. She pulled her glove off and pulled out her mouth guard. She blinked a few times to get the burning sweat from her eyes.

“Are you staying to lift today?”

“Yes, of course. Have you seen these guns?” She pointed to her biceps.

He laughed.

“Come on then, we’re increasing weight today.”