A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-Three

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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.

Mitchel sipped at his steaming coffee while Melanie blew on hers through the little hole in the black plastic lid. It was fresh. The man had not lied about that.

They were parked in a parking lot next to the freeway. The sound of the few cars speeding down the freeway met Melanie’s ears. Melanie and Mitchel were on watch while everyone else slept in the back of the van.

“We should reach Ogden by lunch tomorrow,” Melanie whispered.

Mitchel nodded. “We really need to get the van fixed while we are there. It will be impossible to go on without it.”

“I know. What do you think is wrong with it?”

“Hard to say, could be as easy as the thermostat or it could be the head gasket.”

Melanie grimaced. She didn’t know what a head gasket was, but it couldn’t be good and was probably expensive.

He smiled. “Let’s pray it’s not the head gasket.”

Melanie glanced into the back. Seth slept on bench seat at the back of the van. Sam and Jennifer were curled up on their sides next to one another on the floor. They had taken out the middle seats to have sleeping space and moved all of Jennifer and Sam’s belongings to Mitchel’s truck.

Driving through the mountains required some creativity with sleeping arrangements. They all felt better about this situation than staying in a rundown motel where anything could happen.

Usually Mitchel and Melanie took different watches, so one of them could sleep while the other drove, but they were only stopping for a few hours until the sun came up. Once the sun came up, Melanie would be wide-awake anyway and they could set out on the last leg of their trip to Ogden.

Rain pattered on the windshield and lightening flashed across the sky lighting up the gold tones in Mitchel’s hazel eyes. She watched the drops stream down the glass and counted. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand and then it came, the crackling thunder.

She sipped her coffee. Not bad for a gas station, not good like a coffee shop, but not bad.

Rap. Rap. Rap.

Melanie jumped splashing hot coffee down her chest. She screeched in pain. “Son of a—”

Mitchel drew his gun. “Head down!”

The lightening flashed again. Seth threw open the sliding door shotgun in hand.

“Whoa, boys. Put those down,”

The main with a short crew cut was draped in a long black raincoat nearly to his feet. He held up a badge.

Home Land Security.

Melanie was relieved and aggravated. Why were they here, in the middle of the night in the pouring rain?

“How can we help you?” Mitchel asked. He and Seth lowered their guns.

Jennifer and Sam were waking up in the back now.

“Just the four of you?” the officer asked.

“Yes, sir,” said Mitchel.

Jennifer yawned covering her mouth. “How can we help you officer?”

She scooted out of the sleeping bag.

“Where are you coming from?”

“Denver,” Jennifer said. “Is there a problem?”

“We are stopping everyone coming in from Colorado.”

They are looking for the Butcher Melanie realized. She looked at Mitchel. He had made the connection as well, she saw.

“Are you looking for someone in particular?” asked Seth.

“A young man in his early twenties traveling alone, without any significant connections to the area,” said the officer.

“Well that’s not us,” said Seth.

Mitchel shot him a look that told him to stop being antagonistic. Seth shrugged and got back up on the bench in the back.

“Officer, these girls are my own children. I’ve had Mitchel and Seth with me since Blue River. Their parents are dead. They were good friends of my family, and I have taken them under my care. No one here is the Butcher,” Jennifer said.

So, she made the connection too. Melanie smiled her crooked smile and arched her eyebrow. She wanted to kiss her mom for standing up to this guy. She so rarely showed any sign of authority it always surprised Melanie when she did.

The officer’s jaw bulged and he licked his lips. “Do you plan to stay in Utah?”

“No,” Jennifer said.

He threw a glance at Seth and Mitchel and licked his lips again.

“How long will you be here?”

“Not long.”

Melanie knew her mom was being intentionally difficult. She was tired and sick of dealing with Home Land Security. She was frustrated by being accused of Holly’s family’s murder. She was done playing nice.

“Where are you going?”

“Ogden.”

He clenched his teeth again.

“And then?”

“The safe zone.”

“And you’re all eligible for admission?” he looked to Mitchel and Seth again.

“Yes,” said Jennifer.

“I see.”

“Are we free to go, Officer?” Melanie asked.

“You can’t sleep here,” he said and turned to go back to his car. He got in and turned on his headlights. He didn’t move.

“He’s waiting for us to leave,” Mitchel said.

Jennifer slid the door closed. They were all wide-awake now anyway.

“I’ll drive,” Jennifer said.

Melanie, Mitchel, and Seth got out of the van and ducking their heads went to their cars and climbed in.

Once they were on the freeway, Melanie reached up and rubbed the back of Mitchel’s head. “Do you think they called us in to Utah?”

“Who? Colorado Home Land?”

He glanced at her. “No, they just saw the Colorado plates.”

Trail Technique

trail running 2

Trail running can be intimidating for new runners and even experienced runners who have never run trails. My advice is just get out there and try. I can guarantee you will love it. It is different and harder in some respects. Go out with minimal expectation of your performance when you first start, just like you did when you began running roads.

Trail running takes practice. The more you jump rocks and descend crazy slopes the better you are going to get. That being said, there are some tricks you can start with. When you are running uphill don’t tip your hips forward or back too much. Try to keep your torso straight up and down, keeping your chest up and open. Shorten your stride and pump your arms. Stay up on your toes as much as you can. Sometimes the mountain is so steep it is faster to walk up than try to run. If that is the case, don’t waste all the energy trying to run it, you look silly anyway as hikers pass you trying to power up the hill.

Going down can be more difficult than going up. You want to lean into the forward momentum. Your feet will slip out less if you keep your weight on your toes on steep descents. Landing on your heel is like putting the brakes on and your feet will slide right out from under you.  Keep your stride short and fast. If there are a lot of rocks, keep them really short and fast. If the rock looks loose, it probably is.

Put your arms or elbows out for balance, and be ready to change your footing quickly. I try to keep my hands empty on crazy descents. That way if I fall I don’t have to search for whatever I chucked or replace what I break.

When you’re trail running watch the ground in front of you about two feet and then farther down about 10-15 feet, so you know what is coming. Plan your foot strikes as much as possible and be ready to correct it if you touch down and find it precarious.

Make sure and give yourself enough time to finish your run. Trail running takes longer because of the climbs and more technical terrain, especially when you are first starting out.

I’ve watched some of the top ultrarunners (Anton Krupicka and Killan Jornet) come down steep descents and it is terrifying and mind blowing all at the same time. It takes practice, like everything else in running. Don’t go out there thinking that your speed and skill on the road will translate onto the trail because it doesn’t.

trail running

 

 

Girls on the Run

GOTR

Logo is property of Girls on the Run.

“It’s time to wake up Sky,” I said while rubbing his back.

“MMMM,” he moaned from under the blanket.

“Come on it’ll be fun.”

“MMMM.”

“We can stop and get hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll.”

At that, he began kicking the blankets off.

“What are we going to have to do?” he asked once we were on the road happily munching on a cinnamon roll.

“Fill water cups, cheer, ring cow bells, and hand out granola bars.”

He rolled his eyes. “Cow bells?”

“Yes, you can’t have a finish line without cow bells.”

We arrived at the Girls on the Run 5k at 7 in the morning to help set up our aid station filling cups of water and setting out thousands of granola bars on the table.

“How many runners are there?” I asked another volunteer named Lisa.

“1500,” said Lisa.

I smiled. This was going to be an amazing morning.

Girls on the run is a non-profit program for girls ages eight though thirteen and Sky and I were volunteering at their annual 5k event. The goal of the program is to “unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.”

Learn Live Dream Run

Everyone who ran the 5k was assigned the number 1 on their bib, because each of the girls is number one. The theme of the race was be your own superhero, the girls (and boys if they wanted to run a mostly girls race) wore florescent green capes as they ran. They had face painting and colored hair spray the girls could use to become a superhero before the race began.

The aid station Sky and I were assigned to was actually a pre and post-race station. When we arrived there and I realized we were on the wrong side of the finish line, I was a little bummed because I wanted to see the girls race past with the green capes streaming out behind them, but I smiled and handed out water asking them what their super powers were.

I was really impressed with the number of parents who were running with the little girls both mothers and fathers were out there with their hair and faces painted too.

The race began at 9:00 in the morning with the firing of a blank out of a gun. It’s a beautiful sound when the sun is rising over the mountains into a cloudless sky and you have 1500 superhero’s lined up at a starting line arch.

After they all run beneath the arch, it was empty in the pre-race festival area. Crickets chirped inside my head as I looked around at the green and pink balloons dancing alone in the morning breeze.

The program manager came up to us and asked us to hand out medals to the girls as they crossed the finish line. I was overjoyed. Handing out medals at the finish line is the most rewarding part of a race.

Slipping the medals over the heads of the red-faced sweaty girls as they came across the finish line was more amazing than I could have hoped. They laughed, they cried, and they won, every last one of them.

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