A Vigil for Justice: Episode 21

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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.

Father Chris a killer, Melanie didn’t want to believe it. He was a servant of God. The commandments said thou shalt not kill or some such thing. Melanie paced back and forth in her bedroom. She ran her fingers through her hair. She hadn’t been able to sleep when she got home from her shift with the militia. Daisy laid on Melanie’s bed and watched her stalk back and forth. Melanie put her hands in her back pockets and then took them out. Images of Father Chris standing at the pulpit flashed through her mind.  His even tone and conviction in his voice as he read the words of God to everyone gathered before him.

She ran her hands through her hair again and stopped pacing. Child abuse was definitely wrong, and if what he said was true, that woman was a danger to her children, but why not just turn her in. Father Chris could have gone to Sheriff Tom.  She let out a long breath. No, he couldn’t. There was that priest confidentiality thing. He was stuck. Oh, god, Melanie groaned. From where Father Chris stood, he really didn’t have a choice, if he wanted to save those kids.

Melanie knew how destructive child abuse was, not firsthand, her parents had never laid a hand on her or Sam. But Mitchel and Seth knew, and she had seen the wounds and scars on them. Mitchel’s hands and forearms would always bear the pink and white modeled scars from when his father had shoved his hands into scalding water when he was three. Seth bore the marks too, the sleek white line on his shoulder where his father threw a steak knife at him. And Anna, their mother, suffered more than either of boys at Evan’s hands. Bruises on her arms and face were a constant reminder to everyone in the community that Evan was a monster.

Maybe Evan was on Father Chris’s list. Should she keep that from Mitchel, would Mitchel try to stop Father Chris from killing his father, Melanie didn’t know the answers. She wasn’t going to tell Mitchel. She didn’t know what Father Chris was planning, maybe nothing. She ran her hands through her hair again, and massaged her scalp. She didn’t sign up for all this. She needed to clear her head. She walked over to her closet and pulled out her running shoes.

Mitchel was sitting on her front porch, his head in his hands, when she ran up the road finishing her six miles. She slowed to a walk as she came into the driveway.

He looked up. His eyes rimmed in red and his face flushed. He stood. “I’ve been calling you.”

She pulled her phone out. She hadn’t heard it ring. Five missed calls. All Mitchel. “What’s wrong?”

He wrapped his arms around her. His generally sturdy stable body slumped against hers.

“Mitch,” she whispered and rubbed her hands up and down his back.

He buried his face in her neck. “He killed her last night, while I was out with the militia. He beat her to death. Seth found her this morning.” Mitchel’s body shuddered and he began to cry.

Melanie held him tighter. “I’m sorry.”

“They’re looking for him. He’s probably long gone.”

Melanie heard the front door of the house close. Jennifer came and wrapped both of them in her arms. “Sheriff Tom called and wanted to make sure you were with friends.” Tears ran down Jennifer’s cheeks and she rubbed Mitchel’s back. “Come inside. I’ll make you something to eat.”

Mitch stepped back, and nodded wiping his nose down his sleeve. Melanie’s arm pulled him against her as they headed toward the house. “Where’s Seth?”

“I don’t know he took off,” Mitchel said.

“I’ll make up the guest room. I want you and Seth to stay with us,” Jennifer said as Mitchel slipped into a chair at the kitchen table. Melanie poured two cups of coffee setting one before Mitchel.

He stared into the black liquid not blinking. “Thank you.” His voice was quiet and distant.

Melanie looked at her mom.  Her ribs squeezed her heart until it felt like her chest was going to collapse. Images of her mother collapsing to the floor at the front door when Sheriff Tom came to tell them Melanie’s father had been killed in the avalanche waved through her. Her throat closed. She took a slow breath and tried to calm herself down. She had to be here for Mitchel now. He needed her.

Jennifer slid two plates with pancakes, bacon, and eggs onto the table. “Mitchel where would Seth have gone? I’m going to go look for him. He shouldn’t be out there alone.”

Mitchel lifted his head and wiped his nose again. “He’ll be looking for our dad at the bars.”

Jennifer’s eyes grew wide. She grabbed her keys off the counter and stripped her jacket from the chair. “Mel, watch Sam.”

Melanie nodded. The front door slammed and the van started up. The tires squealed as Jennifer took off down the street.

“I shouldn’t have left her alone with him. He was so angry and drunk before I went out last night. I knew he would hurt. I told Seth. I told her to stay away from him and to do whatever he asked.” Mitchel covered his face with his hands and wept. His entire body shook with it. Daisy whimpered at his feet.

Melanie pulled his hands away from his face. She held his face between her hands and looked him in the eyes. “Mitchel, this is not your fault. Your father did this not you. If you had been there, he would have killed you too. You couldn’t have stopped him.”

Not without killing him yourself, Melanie thought. She knew Mitchel thought it too, but either one of the was willing to say it aloud. Neither one of them wanted Mitchel to be a killer.

Mitchel pushed the food around on his plate. He watched the syrup drip from his fork as he held it several inches in the air. Melanie stayed by his side. She didn’t question him. She didn’t try to fill the silence. She knew how it felt when people tried to make it okay, when it wasn’t okay at all.

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