Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 18

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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 pulled her black hood up around her face. She shouldered through the picketing crowd of people around her best friend’s house. Hot anger burned in her cheeks. She clenched her fists. The crowd had surrounded Holly’s house for the past forty-eight hours, night and day. This was her mother’s doing, all because Holly’s dad wouldn’t sign that stupid no kill petition.

If Melanie was choosing teams, Holly’s dad would be her first pick. Melanie shook her head, this was getting out of hand, but she had known that it would. A law like the Justice Law doesn’t pass and cause ripples among the sea of people, oh no it’s a freaking tsunami.

Melanie kept her head down as she approached the door. Her mother was home with Sam, but she didn’t want home to be a war zone too.  She pulled her phone from the back pocket of her jeans and sent a text to Holly.

“I’m at the door.” She waited five seconds and then knocked. The deadbolt hammered back and the doorknob clicked. The handle turned in Melanie’s hand and she went inside, opening the door just enough to pass through.

She pushed her hood back, and Holly hugged her.

“Is your dad here?” Melanie hugged Holly back.

“Of course, it’s hard to go anywhere with all of them on our ass everywhere we go.” Holly took Melanie by the hand and led her up the stairs and down the hall to Richard Stein’s office.

Holly squeezed Melanie’s hand before she went into the office. “I’ll be in my room when you’re done. We can have lunch. Mom’s making club sandwiches.” Holly raised her eyebrows. She knew Melanie loved club sandwiches.

Melanie smiled and knocked on the dark walnut door to the office.

“Come on in,” called Richard Stein.

Melanie placed her flat hand on the door and pushed it open.

A huge mahogany desk occupied half of the room. The glassy eyed heads of an elk, deer, and mountain lion stared at Melanie from above the gun cabinet that stood against the wall loaded with various long guns.

Melanie had been in the office before, but now it felt different. Mr. Stein sat behind his desk typing at the computer. His black Stetson hat sat on the corner of his desk.

“Miss Craig, you are the last person I thought to see in my office.” He turned to her with a broad smile that lifted the corners of his blue eyes. “How can I help ya?”

“I’m here to sign up for the Watch Dog militia.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes sir. I’m proficient with both a shotgun and a 9 mm. I’m trained in hand to hand combat including various take down methods with armed persons.”

“Melanie, I’m aware of your training. Does your mamma know you’re here?”  He held up his hand and looked down at his desk shaking his head. “Don’t answer that.” He looked back up at her.

Melanie stood straight with her hands clasped behind her. Her 9 mm was concealed beneath her hoodie, but the shotgun was strapped over the hoodie on her back. She held his gaze. She had thought about this for a long time, since he had first put the militia together. The dead boy below the flagpole had solidified that decision. She would not stand around doing nothing.

“Truth is, I could use you. Most of the members are not well trained. I’d make ya a leader of about five others. You think you can handle that?”

Melanie stifled the grin of pride. “Yes sir. I would appreciate the opportunity.”

“I can’t believe, I’m letting you do this.” He shook his head and opened the top drawer of his desk. “This here is the oath all Watch Dogs must take.” He held it up to her. “Read it over. If you can uphold those rules and regulations, sign your name.” He slid a blue fountain pen across the desk.

Melanie read the document. She picked up the pen and signed her name along the black line at the bottom. She handed him the paper, and he slid it into an olive green file folder on his desk.

Richard pulled a roll of paper from another drawer. “I’ll need you here tonight to meet your team. You patrol the mile surrounding the church every other night. You’ll meet your co-team commander tonight as well. If you ever need coverage you’ll call him first.”

“Who is my co-team commander?”

“Peter McGraph, he leads the church choir.”

Richard stood and walked over to a square extendable table. Extension pieces stood in the corner. He spread the paper on the table. It was a street map of the area around the church.

“You’ll have hand held radios to communicate with your team. These red lines are the boundaries of your area.”

Melanie nodded her head. “Who has this area here?” She pointed to the section to the west of the church.

“Jake Simpson.”

Melanie nodded. It would be good to have Jake close in case she needed back up. She could bounce ideas off him. She trusted Jake with her life.

“And here?” Melanie pointed to the south of her area.

“That’s mine. And to the east of you is Sheriff Tom, and to north is Mitchel.”

Melanie’s head popped up. He hadn’t told her he joined the militia.

“He joined about a week ago. He didn’t tell you because he didn’t want you to join up and he knew if he did you definitely would. That boy cares a lot about you.”

“I know.” Melanie closed her eyes. Her most trusted friends surrounded her, at least that would make her mother happy once she found out. Jennifer would find out. Melanie was not naïve enough to believe that her mother would not know, eventually. She would try to keep it from her as long as she could, but she wouldn’t lie once her mother asked.

Richard walked over to a closet and opened the door. Melanie stayed at the table studying the map. She knew the area well. She ran there frequently with the high school cross-country team and on her own. Maybe that’s why he gave it to her, she knew all the side streets.

Richard came back to the table and set a tazer in front of Melanie. “We use non-lethal force first.”

Melanie picked up the tazer and holster and slid it into the front pocket of her hoodie. “Seven tonight?”

Richard nodded. “Your mamma is going to kill me.”

Melanie smiled. “She can’t. She signed the no kill petition.”

Formless Running

Salt Lake Marathon Salt Flats 100 2014 018

Running form, what’s the big deal? I can put one foot in front of the other just fine, thank you very much. I’ve been doing it a long time now.

Maybe you are one of the few people who were born with perfect running form, or maybe you are happy with the low miles you run and can’t imagine running more than ten miles a week. If this is you, then read some of my archives.

If you want to improve your running efficiency and decrease the probability of injuries keep reading.

Most of us grew up wearing thick-soled shoes, which have stunted our potential when it comes to developing a solid graceful running form. There are those that heel strike, hunch their shoulders, and cross over their midline with their arms as they run and these things cause problems as you continue on your running journey and increase miles.

But fear not, there are some simple things you can do that don’t take a lot of time which will help you develop that solid graceful running form that will take you to the finish line.

Let’s start with the easiest. First, while you are running imagine a string pulling you from the center of your chest toward the moon or sun if you prefer. This will keep you tall with your shoulders back a bit, and cause you to land on your mid-foot to forefoot rather than on your heel.

The next thing is to watch the amount of cross over that happens with your arms. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle at the elbow with loose hands and relaxed shoulders. Your wrist should come back to your hip/waist on the back swing, and your elbow should come past your rib cage on the front swing. Your arms should swing back and forth in a straight line, do not cross the midline. If you are crossing over, you throw your hips off which trickles down to your, ITBand, knees, and ankles.

Hip and core strength are essential elements in staying injury free and having good form while running. Your hips are a part of your core, but I talk about them separately so you don’t leave them out. I have core/ab and hip strength workouts on my pages. Recent research on some of the most common running injuries, shin splints, ITBand syndrome, and runner’s knee, are showing that weak hips are a major contributing factor. If you think about it, it makes sense. As we run, we move our arms and legs opposite of each other and cause a twisting in the hips/core muscles. If the core is not stable it recruits other muscles to do its job, or it just tweaks muscles in ways they are not meant to be tweaked.

The other recommendation I give for developing good form is to work on proprioception. Proprioception is your minds awareness of where the body is in space.  There are two easy quick exercises, which will increase your proprioception. First, is balancing on one leg. Once you can do it for one minute without much difficulty, close your eyes. You can then change the surface to a pillow and then a balance board.  The other one is writing the ABC’s in the air with one foot while standing on the other. Again, once you are good at a flat hard surface change to a pillow and then a balance board.

A solid form is critical to finishing strong and preventing injuries, if your form is flimsy and weak, your body is forced to rely on smaller and weaker muscles at the end of a race causing them to get injured and causing you to be less efficient. Efficient running translates into maintaining energy throughout the race.

Running Illness

running is my oxygen

I awoke to three inches of snow Sunday morning, and the beginning of a head cold. By the end of the day I had lost my voice, couldn’t breathe through my nose, and felt like someone rubbed sandpaper along my tonsils.

I still went for a run.

And I still put in an hour and a half on my bike.

It’s a sickness of a different variety.

Cold temperatures bring an increase of illness around the world. Running while ill can be helpful or hurtful depending on the symptoms and the intensity of your runs.

Congestion, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Obviously running with some of these symptoms would be unpleasant to say the least, not only for you but for others around you. Running with a fever is dangerous because the fever already increases your body temperature, and running will increase it even more.

What about the other symptoms? Running can help relieve congestion, which can then help with the related cough and sore throat. Running (exercise in general) can decrease the length of illness and prevent it. Runners, on average, take in more fluids than people who don’t exercise or run. The increase in fluids flushes your system of toxins through increased urination and sweat.

Exercising also sends antibodies and white blood cells through the body more quickly allowing you to detect illness sooner and to fight it off more effectively. The increase in body temperature caused by running or exercising, so long as you don’t have a fever, slows the growth of bacteria.

Physical and emotional stress causes the body to release stress hormones. These hormones reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. Avoid intense workouts, such as speed training or hill climbs while ill. These types of workouts place stress on the body and can lengthen the duration of illness or make symptoms more severe.

Regular running or other types of aerobic exercise will improve your immune system functioning boosting your body’s ability to prevent and fights illness.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 17

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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 slid out of Sheriff Tom’s car and stepped up onto the curb in front of her house. She set the blanket he had wrapped around her on the blue grey vinyl passenger’s seat.

“You sure you’re all right?”

Melanie nodded, but said nothing. She turned to go.

“Hold up one second, Ms. Craig. These belong to you.” He held out her 9 mm. “I unloaded it, of course.” She took the gun. He picked up a Ziploc bag holding her magazine from the floor between his scuffed up black boots.

She took the bag in the other hand, and turned toward the house.

Her feet moved along the walkway worn into the lawn toward the maroon door of her home. She opened the bag and pulled the magazine out. She slammed it into the gun and slid it into the holster under her arm.

A dense fog floated inside her head as she pushed through the front door. Her mother was pacing back and forth on the living room rug.

Her mom inhaled as their eyes met and she wrapped Melanie in her arms. Melanie let her mom hold her for a few minutes without saying a word then she pushed her away.

“I’m fine mom, really.”

“What the hell happened?”

“There was a dead guy lying at the base of the flag pole in front of the courthouse.”

“He was murdered?”

“Murder, Justice killing call it what you want, he was dead.”

“Does the Sheriff know who did it?”

“I didn’t ask mom. Does it matter?”

“This is exactly why the petition needed to be signed by everyone.” Jennifer walks over to the closet next to the front door and pulls her out her satchel. She puts it over her head and turns to Melanie. “Are you okay staying here with Sam? I need to go out for a while.”

Melanie waves her hand at her mom. “Yeah.”  Melanie knows the petition does not stop anyone from using their Justice Killings. There’s really no way to find out who killed that man. The sheriff can’t disclose that information.

Melanie looks at the clock hanging on the wall. Both black hands point straight up. Melanie shuffles into the kitchen. She watches out the window as her mother pulls her phone from her pocket and slides into the front seat of the van. Melanie cocks her head to the right, and pulls her cell phone out of her pocket.

She dials Holly’s number.  The van’s engine comes to life.

“Holly, it’s Melanie.”

“I know,” Holly says on the other line. “What’s up?” Jennifer backed the van out of the drive way and turned it toward the city.

“My mom is up to something. I found a Justice Killing this morning—”

“You what?”

“Never mind that, I think she is going to do something drastic.”

“Your mom? Are you kidding?” Holly laughed.

“I’m serious. I don’t know what she is doing, but she left in a hurry and she is angry about this killing and was talking about her petition.”

“Melanie, it’s your mom. She’s a peace loving hippy.”

“I know.”

Jennifer came home as Melanie was pulling garlic bread from the oven.

“Mommy!” Sam cried and ran to Jennifer and clamped her arms around her waist.

“Hi sweetheart.”

“I wasn’t sure what you wanted for dinner, so I just made spaghetti.”

Jennifer smiled. “That’s fine.”

Sam finished setting white plates on the placemats and started with the silverware.

 

The ringing of Melanie’s phone pulled her from sleep at four in the morning.

“Holly” flashed across the screen.

Melanie rubbed her face and picked up the phone.

“Holly?”

“You were right.”

“Huh?” Melanie sat up and swung her legs off the edge of her bed.

“Your mom and about thirty other people are surrounding my house with picket signs.”

Melanie put her head in her hand. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. My dad is trying to talk to her, but she is not listening. She just yells louder.”

Fantastic, thanks mom. Melanie thought.  She hadn’t even heard her mother leave the house.

Melanie heard a bang and Richard Stein yelling in the background. As if this whole situation was not bad enough, now her mother was trying to run her best friend out of town. She didn’t want Holly out there in the chaos and destruction outside of the Blue River Valley. If Holly left, Melanie would never forgive her mother.

Getting Going and Mantaining Motivation

4 weeks

People are motivated by different desires such as to be fit, lose weight, make friends, and finish a particular distance/race. Most people’s motivation is not fueled from just one source either, it’s a combination of various desires.

Underlying these desires are the core needs of people everywhere: to survive, be accepted/loved, and accomplish goals. These basic needs are what you are tapping into to keep your fire going.

The more of these underlying needs that are wound up in your motivation, the stronger your motivation will be and the less likely you are to become burned out.

You have to be able to stick to the program long enough to feel your needs being met. This usually takes about four weeks of consistent exercising especially if the need is survival AKA weight loss and other health benefits.

People who have never exercised or stuck to an exercise program start with goals, which are too big and they get discouraged when their progress is slow. Or they become exhausted and can’t keep up the program. Goals must be achievable and measurable to help maintain motivation. Start small, starting is better than not starting, so even if your goal is to run one lap at the elementary school without stopping it is better than doing nothing. You can’t start too small.

Find a way to track your progress. There are a million apps for smart phones that will help track fitness. You can also get a notebook and track your speed, distance, and weight. Watching these numbers change is encouraging.

Let go of any slip-ups. If you miss a day, don’t just give up. If you miss two days, so what, get back on the wagon. If you have a hard day, that’s okay everyone does. Guilt is not very motivating, progress and change are, build your foundation on progress.

Don’t compete with other people, only with yourself. That way you always win. Focus on doing better than you did the week before. This is critical in the beginning. If you start looking around the gym at the people who have been exercising for years, you will get discouraged. Let it go and be ok with where you are starting because at least you are starting.

Hang out with people who are supportive of your exercise program, your cheering squad. Stay away from Debbie downers. Your internal critic is enough to deal with, you shouldn’t have to deal with external critics too.

Exercising is hard. You have to find the fun in it one way or another. There are lots of ways to add to the experience such as finding a partner in crime, listening to music, playing games with yourself, and rewarding yourself when you have completed your weekly goal. Try to not make rewards sugary treats, instead go for a nice pair of socks, new songs from iTunes, or a sweatband with a funny saying.

Make exercising as convenient as possible. Eliminate excuses of being too tired or not having time. Twenty minutes is better than zero. There are a bunch of exercise videos for free online. Youtube has a bunch as well. It’s too cold/hot outside, stay in and do around of kick boxing or yoga. Too tired, get up a little earlier and go to bed at a reasonable hour. You have to make exercising a priority.

If you can do these things and stick to the program for four weeks, you will start to see changes in your body and your attitude. Exercising will become a habit and easier to maintain. Your desires for weight loss, fitness, friends, and running a marathon get closer. Your needs for survival, acceptance/love, and success/accomplishment begin to get satisfied.

Exercise becomes the best addiction you have ever had.

 

Bodies

I went to the Bodies art exhibit over the weekend, which is human bodies with the skin removed exposing the muscles and bones. The bodies have been donated for this purpose and preserved through a process called polymer preservation.

Throughout the exhibit there were walls covered with information on the nervous system, circulatory system, muscles, ligaments, and bones. In addition to this information, there was information about how to keep your body healthy and strong. They address topics such as nutrition, physical activity, and lifelong learning.

At the conclusion, was a map of the world, which highlighted where centurions (people who have lived to 100 years of age and over) have lived. I was surprised that there was a large group in the United States in California. The other large groups were in Japan and China.

One of the things it talked about was how we age more slowly if we remain active not just physically, but mentally and sexually too. It’s a careful balance. You cannot neglect one area of your body and expect to get good results in the end. Endurance athletes often say it’s mind over matter, but it’s not you have to train both because without one the other does not continue.

Being able to see all of the muscles and bones interconnected was fascinating and mesmerizing. As an athlete who pushes their body and mind people what it can do, seeing the nuts and bolts of how it all happens gave me a new appreciation for the feats of endurance completed by others and myself.

The bodies were very beautiful and amazing most were posed in the middle of complex physical activities. I would encourage anyone to go to this or a similar exhibit if they have the opportunity. It’s appropriate for all ages, if handled in the right way. If your child has a fear of skeletons or the walking dead, probably isn’t such a good idea :0)

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 16

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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 passed 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.

The sun had not wrapped its fingers around the peaks of the mountains when Melanie threw back the blankets and rolled out of the comfort of her bed. The pile of running clothes on the floor were, exchanged for her pajamas. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and pulled bright yellow socks over her feet.

The sun’s glow had barely begun to paint the sky with honey and rose, as Melanie stared down at the shotgun and the 9 mm laid out on her lavender quilt folded at the foot of her bed. She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and pulled it through the back of her running hat.

The holster was going to chafe, but not taking one or the other on her morning run was not an option. The nine was going to be easier to carry while she ran. She may need to get something smaller just for running. Something to think about, she could go into town and look at the gun store later in the day.

She shook her head, another gun.

She ran her hands over the muscles that had developed in her arms and shoulders since she began boxing lessons with Jake.

She swung her underarm holster around her back and laced her arms through the suspenders. She ran the stick of anti-chafing cream along her ribs and stomach where the holster would rub. The chest strap clicked in her hands, she pulled it tight to limit bouncing, and slid the nine into its home. She bounced on her toes a few times to make sure it wasn’t too loose. Yep it was going to chafe.

Daisy wagged her tail as Melanie rummaged through her closet for her running shoes.

“You have to stay with mom and Sam today.” Melanie rubbed the furry head of the Rottweiler pup. Her cell phone fit perfectly into the stretchy pocket on the back of her shorts.

The house was quiet. She pushed Sam’s bedroom door open enough for Daisy to go in once she left.

Melanie shuffled into the kitchen and sat at the table to pull on her shoes. She scratched the words, “Went for a run be back at eight,” on a piece of paper and left it on the table for her mom.

Her fingers moved over the buttons of the alarm system, which had never been used before now. It beeped three times letting her know it was ready.

She stepped across the threshold and pulled the maroon door shut behind her. With her eyes closed, she pulled the heavy pine air in through her nose. She needed this run. Running was the only time she could let go of the rest of the world and just be Melanie.

She headed toward town, the familiar rhythm of one foot in front of the other taking over. The maple and oak trees that lined the streets were filled with emerald stars carefully rimmed with yellow. Melanie turned a corner. The pale aspen groves rustled in the breeze that drifted down the dark pine canyons and into the river valley. She took another deep breath filling her lungs and expanding her chest. Her pace increased as her heart rate reached a stead beat.

The streetlights winked out as she passed and the sun crested the jagged peaks to the east. She turned another corner and headed down the main street of downtown. Her mother had tried to get them to lower the flag to half-mast for the first week of the Justice Law’s enactment, but as Melanie closed in on the courthouse the red, white, and blue fluttered at the top of the silver pole.

Her eyes followed the pole back to the ground, where a black mass sat. Melanie slowed her pace. She glanced back the way she had come and then down the side streets. No one was in the streets. No cars. No stray cats. Nothing. She slowed to a walk and unclipped the strap securing her gun in the holster.

“Hello,” Melanie called.

It’s probably a bag of garbage or donations. Sometimes people would leave donations at the church in a black bag. She shook her head. Not at the courthouse. She stopped at the bottom of the steps. It was a person, a man. She could see his sneakers. He was wearing dark blue jeans and a black hoodie.

Melanie took her gun out of the holster, but kept it pointed at the ground. “Are you all right mister?”

He was on his side, his knees pulled up, and his arms around them. His face was toward the pole. As she passed, she turned so she was always facing him and was now walking backward to get a look at his face. She lifted her foot up one-step and then another.

The man’s face was tucked down against his knees. She took another step toward him.

“Are you all right?” She was five feet from him and stopped mid-step. Her foot hung in the air before she dropped it to the ground. White zip ties bound his hands and feet.

Melanie took a step back. Her heart began to smack the inside of her ribs. Her breath grabbed at her tonsils. She raised her gun and flashed her eyes all around her. She backed down the stairs. She lowered her gun, but didn’t holster it. With her left hand, she reached back and pulled out her cell phone.

She pressed a button and held the phone to her ear. She scanned the street again.

“Sheriff Tom,” said the male voice on the other end of the line.

Melanie choked. She cleared her throat. “Sheriff, this is Melanie Craig. There’s a body.”

“Where?”

“Courthouse flag pole.”

“You all right?”

Melanie nodded and then realized he couldn’t see her. “Um, yes. I’m fine.”

“I’ll be there in just a few minutes.”

Melanie nodded again. “Um, okay.”

She pushed the disconnect button and then dialed the house.

Jennifer picked up. Her voice was heavy with dreams.

“Mom, I’m going to be later than eight.”

“What, where?”

“I’m out on a run.”

“Why did you go out in the first place Melanie? It’s not safe for you to run anymore, not when there are people out there who won’t sign the petition.”

“I’m not giving up my life just because of this law mom.” Melanie paced back and forth on the step. She watched a black car round the corner. The engine roared as it straightened out.

“I gotta go mom.”

“Melanie—” Melanie hung up the phone and slid it back into her pocket. She gripped the gun with both hands and backed away from the approaching car. She kept it pointed at the ground. The car came to a stop. She held her breath.

Sheriff Tom stepped out of the driver side.

Melanie let out her breath and lowered the gun to her hip.

“Anyone with you?” he called.

“No and you’re the first person I’ve seen this morning. Alive.”

“You sure he’s dead?”

Melanie nodded.

She sank to the ground. Her grip slackened on the gun and it clattered to the ground next to her.

Sheriff Tom ran over to her. “Whoa, you’re all right. Take a deep breath.” He slid her gun into the back of his belt and kneeled beside her.

Melanie began to shake from head to toe.

Sheriff Tom scooped her up and took her to his car. He popped the door open with his boot and set her into the passenger seat. “Stay here.”

Melanie heard the trunk unlatch.

He walked to the back of the car. He came back with a blanket and wrapped it around her. “Deep slow breathes. I gotta go check on him. I’ll be right back.”

Melanie’s phone rang. She pulled it out of the pocket and stared at it.

Mom flashed in block white letters on the screen.

Melanie watched Sheriff Tom draw his gun and approach the man at the foot of the flagpole. He kicked the foot and got no response.

Melanie answered the phone.

“Are you all right?” Jennifer asked.

“There’s a body mom.”

The line was silent.

“Mom?”

“I’m here. Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m with Sheriff Tom now.”