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.
Church always seemed unnecessary to Melanie, even when her dad was alive, but since his death it was more senseless. Regardless of how she felt about it, she pulled on a full knee length blue skirt and white button down shirt and prepared to go with her mother and sister.
She bent down to tie her converse, and Daisy licked her on the mouth.
“Yuck. Ya little sneak.” Melanie reached for the puppy and rolled her over on her back rubbing her belly. Daisy bounced onto her feet and danced around Melanie barking. Daisy noticed her yellow squeaky toy in the corner and darted across the room for it.
Melanie played tug-a-war for a few seconds and then tossed the toy down the hall and followed Daisy. They all climbed into the van and drove over to the church. Melanie glanced around at the vacant stares of the people seated in the wooden pews lining the room. She wondered if any of them believed in god after all the atrocities of World War Three and now the Justice Law. Her mother believed as did Sam, but Sam is just a child. Mom’s eternal optimism fuelled her beliefs.
The arched painted glass windows fill the room with a rainbow of sunlight. Sam walks up the isle to the space behind the altar where the children’s choir is seated whispering to one another. Melanie follows her mother gliding along the hardwood floors. Melanie turns in the pew and searches the rows of people. She knows all of them by sight. She knows the names of most and what they do for a living. A few smile as her eyes meets theirs.
Mitchel opened the double doors at the back of the chapel, looked around, and backed out. The doors opened again, Mitchel held the door open wide and pointed to an empty pew near the back of the room. Seth came in with their mother, Anna, leaning on him as if she didn’t have quite enough strength to get there herself. They slid into the pew, one twin on each side of Anna. Anna had dark circles around her eyes, like she hadn’t slept in days. Her face was cast down at her feet. Mitchel found Melanie. His mouth smiled, but his eyes didn’t.
Jennifer nudged Melanie with her elbow. Melanie turned forward and then flicked a quick glace back at Mitchel. Jennifer turned to see and a frown formed on her face before she turned back. She let out a long breath and patted Melanie on the hand.
Father Chris approached in his green vestments. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nations shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilence, and earthquakes, in diverse places. Matthew 24 verses six and seven.”
The Father’s words offered no comfort to Melanie during what she considered a national crisis. Her thoughts returned to Mitchel’s family at the rear of the chapel. She threw another glance back at them. Anna was kneeling Mitchel’s hand rested on her shoulder and his eyes didn’t move from the altar.
The parishioners stood and kneeled and Melanie followed along as one drone among the masses. When the service was over Melanie stood and began pushing past people trying to reach Mitchel. Jennifer caught ahold of her arm. Melanie turned and glared at her mother.
Jennifer shook her head. “This probably isn’t the best time Mel. Let’s wait for Sammy. You can take soup over afterward.”
Melanie wrinkled her brow. Her mother was right. Anna probably wanted to get away from the prying eyes as quickly as possible before the questions started. Everyone knew about what went on behind those doors, and everyone had tried to help at one time or another, but Anna would never leave Evan. She had tried once when the twins were small and she almost died.
Jennifer stopped at the grocery store on their way home.
“How come we’re here mom?” Sam asked from the back seat.
“Because we need to make some things for Mitchel’s mommy who is sick.” Jennifer pulled open the sliding door to let Sam out.
“What does she have?”
Sam scrunched up her face. She had the flu last year and it was not pretty. “She will need lots of chicken soup.”
“Yes and a casserole for the boys.” Jennifer smiled and grabbed a cart from the curb next to the van.
Sam’s eyes got big. “Boys eat a lot.”
Melanie rolled her eyes.
Melanie drove to Mitchel’s home. It was on the other side of town. She passed a few house on the outskirts of Blue River. A few had backhoes in their yards and mountains of dirt. Mitchel had mentioned that people were building bunkers, and she assumed that was what was happening here.
Mitchel’s was the only house down a two-mile dirt road. Nothing was around, besides fields no one farmed anymore. The lawn had died long ago and was now where Mitchel and Seth parked their cars. Mitchel’s truck was there. Seth’s car was not. Evan’s royal blue old Chevrolet with rusted out wheel wells was still hitched to the caged flatbed trailer he used to haul the lawn care equipment around for his business.
Melanie turned off her car and just sat there staring at Mitchel’s home. The moss green paint on the door was peeling, as was the pale yellow of the greying wood siding. Was it a home? Mitchel called it home, but what else did he know. She had hoped that Mitchel’s dad would not be home. There’s that word again. She prayed to a god she didn’t believe in that Evan did not answer the door.
She took a deep breath and got out of her car. She walked around to the other side and stacked the casserole on top of the large container of chicken noodle soup, and added rolls to the top. Jennifer knew that Anna wasn’t sick, but sending food for other reasons may get Anna hurt.
Melanie walked up to the door. Her hands were full. She kicked at the screen door causing it to bang against the frame.
“Get your fat ass to the door.”
Melanie winced. Evan was home and awake.
“I got it mom.”
Melanie knew that voice too.
Mitchel peered around the curtains, eyes opening with surprise and then disappearing. The deadbolt knocked back.
The door made a grating sound as he pulled it open. It was dark in the house.
“What are you doing here?” Mitchel asked glancing into the house and then at Melanie. They never hung out here. They had only stopped by to pick things up that he had forgotten. Over the year they had been dating, she had never seen inside.
“You’re mom said she was sick at church. So my mom thought we should send some dinner over.”
He arched an eyebrow.
“Who’s at the door Mitchel?” Anna’s voice was soft.
Melanie could see her small frail form below Mitchel’s arm. Anna held onto the wall. The sun’s fading light from the kitchen window surrounded her in a white glow.
“It’s Melanie mom, she’s brought over some soup for you.”
Melanie stepped past Mitchel and into the house. Mitchel lifted his hand and started to say something, but she handed him the food she was carrying.
“This is heavy. There’s a casserole for you boys too.”
Her foot ground into something and she shifted her foot. Smiling faces lay on the floor, their wooden frames broken. Shards of glass were scattered. The coffee table was turned on its side jagged broken legs protruding from its belly. The brown rocking recliner was turned on its face.
“Don’t trip Mitch.” Anna clicked on the light. “That smells delicious Melanie.”
A family picture, without the frame and curled on its ends, was thumbtacked to the wall. It was old, the twins could only be three and there was a young girl of about five, who looked just like Anna. A thinner more muscular version of Evan stood with his hand wrapped around Anna’s bicep.
Melanie smiled and tried not to look around the room any more than was necessary to cross without falling.
A metal screen door slammed at the back of the house. Anna cringed. Melanie’s shoulders and stomach gripped her bones. She wiped her hands on her jeans.
Anna was still dressed in her church clothes and shuffled into the kitchen her arms wrapped around her as if it were the dead of winter. “Bring it into the kitchen.”
A truck started outside. Melanie turned toward the noise and her shoulders let go of her spine. Evan was leaving.
Mitchel slid the glass bowl up onto the counter and turned to face Melanie. No one uttered a word. There was enough awkwardness to coat every wall with a fresh layer of it.
Melanie looked down at her hands and feet. “Well, I had better get back home before the sun goes down.” She brushed her hands on her jeans again.
Mitchel pushed himself away from the counter. “I’ll walk you out.”
“Thank you again Melanie. Tell your mother she’s a wise friend.”
Melanie turned around to say goodbye when she reached her car door. Mitchel slid his fingers into her hair holding the back of her head while his other hand rested on her lower back and pulled her into him.
“Thank you.” He whispered. His lips brushed against her earlobe.
Her eyes filled with tears as they met his. “I’m sorry.”
He put his finger over her lips. “It’s not your fault. You and your mom have done what you can.”
Melanie nestled into him.
“Where did he go?”