Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-Four

Flag

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 threw their bags into the back of his old pickup truck as he walked to Melanie’s door. They landed with a hollow thud. He pulled open her door and gave her a hand to get in.

She pushed his hand away and laughed. “I’m not that big yet.”

Mitchel shrugged and went around the front of the truck. He climbed in the Driver’s side and slid the key into the hole. He turned the key.

The truck didn’t start.

Mitchel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He turned the key again. This time the truck rumbled to life. Mitchel took the steering wheel in a white knuckled grip and turned toward his right to back the truck out of the parking spot.

Once they were out on the road, Melanie laid her hand over his and squeezed.

“I love you,” she said. “No matter what happens when we get to the safe zone, know that I love you.”

He pressed his lips into a thin line and nodded.

They drove down the city streets for ten minutes before turning onto the dirt road. The tires crunched and flung rocks pinging into the wheel well. The interior of the truck remained silent as they continued to kick up a cloud of dust behind them. Melanie watched the trees fall away, replaced by the black stumps of whatever had been around the safe zone.

Melanie’s eyes fixed on the grey stone wall before the angular lines of the fifteen foot barbed wire fence standing before it. Her heart shuttered against her chest and made her breath catch in her lungs. She coughed.

The tires of the truck ground to a halt. The crunch of two more sets of tires soon followed. Melanie took a deep breath and opened her door. She slid to the ground and was glad her ankle continued to heal and no longer shot searing pain up her leg when she put her full weight on it.

The dust cloud was settling. Seth walked toward them with Sam and Jennifer close behind. Sam had left Daisy in the car. Probably best Melanie thought. They didn’t need an eighty pound angry Rottweiler getting into the middle of things if there were any problems with their entry into the safe zone.

There was no way Seth would pass. Melanie chanted these words in her head.

Mitchel’s hand took ahold of hers. “Let’s get this over with.”

Not the encouraging words Melanie wanted to hear, so she just nodded.

The six of them walked forward together.

Sargent McCall stood relaxed with two soldiers at attention to both sides. They were all armed, but no one had their guns drawn. Melanie took that as a good sign.

She knew there wouldn’t be a problem with Sam, her mom, Mitchel or herself. Seth was the only one who could screw this up. What would happen if he did get in? She hadn’t thought of that before now. He would continue his killing spree she was sure.

Even if he did pass and they were going to let him in, could she remain silent and let him walk through those gates? She didn’t think for one second any one of them would be safe when they knew who and what Seth was.

Sargent McCall stepped forward. “All of your weapons must be relinquished before entering the safe zone. Please place them on the ground and back up ten steps.”

Seth had never used a gun to kill his victims. They could take all his weapons, it wouldn’t stop him. Sharpe objects are not hard to find.

Melanie was the last to respond to the command to disarm themselves. Her fingers moved over the leather holster feeling every worn patch of the now soft and pliant leather. She felt naked without it as she opened its buckles.

Mitchel lowered his gun and holster to the ground in front of her. Her mom set the butt of the rifle against the gravel and then bent to allow the barrel to settle onto the rocks.

Seth shrugged out of his holster and it slipped down his arms and into his hands at his back. He was only a few feet in front of her. She could have almost brushed her finger tips across his broad back.

Melanie paused. They had to know. She looked into the eyes of each of the five men staring back at them. Captain Jackson had to have told them. He knew everything. If he passed all their checks would they still let him in with all the evidence against him?

She pulled her right arm through the holster. The gun dropped to her left hip. Melanie reached around and closed her hand over the grip of her 9 mm. The rough grip was cool as she raised the barrel and took sight at the center of Seth’s back.

It took less than a tenth of a second for the soldiers to respond. Four mat black AK47 rifles stared back at Melanie.

“Melanie put the gun down. We have everything under control.”

Red sprayed from the side of Seth’s neck splattering Melanie’s face, hands, and shirt with a sticky warm blood.

Seth turned toward his twin and then his knees buckled. His body crumbled to the ground.

Sam was screaming to Melanie’s right. The men in black fatigues crouched and three moved in toward Seth. The other two had their guns pointed toward Melanie’s left.

She turned.

Mitchel stood there. His hands were raised. Tears ran down his face mingling with the blood, which speckled those angular features Melanie knew so well.

 

Falling on Your Face with Grace

face plant

Everyone who runs falls. My training partners and I have decided if there is no blood, it didn’t happen. I have had some epic falls. Just over this last weekend I fell three times, twice on Saturday and once on Sunday. Only Sunday drew blood, but the Saturday falls were ones to remember.

I’m always grateful I haven’t fallen on top of sharp rocks or sticks. As I’m careening down the trail, I always think, “God it would suck to fall right there.” Usually, there is a horde of sharp demonic rocks or a two-inch broken pointy root sticking straight up.

Both falls on Saturday happened when I was coming downhill once I stepped on a wet rock and the other I caught my toe. On my first fall, was head over heels. Sponge bunny grabbed my arm trying to stop my momentum.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I assessed the damage. I was covered in dirt and hit my head causing a small bruise. “Yep.” I jumped up dusted off and kept going. Not too bad injury wise and funny to watch.

Fall two, we were almost back to the trailhead and there were other people on the trail out hiking the trail since the sun was up. I glanced up and saw two people coming up. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up my foot high enough and caught a rock. Down again. It was another complete roll over.

“Are you alright?” called the couple from down the trial.

“Yep,” I said, and kept going.

Sponge bunny laughs behind me. “You know when you fall, you get that, oh shit, look for just a second, by the time you come to a stop it’s gone.”

Sunday.

We went out for a 20 mile run and were on our last 4 miles. It was level ground.

“Look at that view,” sponge bunny says from behind me.

I turned, mistake. I caught my toe on a rock. This time I twisted to toward the mountain and away from the edge of the trail. I sat there a second and then got to my feet.

There was blood, my right knee, hip and shoulder and the usual dirt.

“That hurt a bit,” I said, laughing.

“Yeah, but it was cool to watch. You did like this ballet twist in the air,” Sponge bunny said. “The whole time I was thinking go to the right, go to the right.”

We started down the trail, blood slowly running down my leg.

 

Everyone falls at some point. You just get up, dust yourself off, and keep going because quitting is not an option.

Taking the Rocky Path

Uintas and speedgoat july 2013 018

Rocks are inevitable if you are a trail runner. Road runners encounter them as well, but it’s usually a stray. On the trail, you find them in piles, scattered, and rivers running down the trail. Negotiating them going up, down, and over “level” ground is an art, especially if you don’t want to tiptoe placing one careful foot after another.

We’ve all seen those runners who recklessly bomb the trials regardless of what the terrain is. Some of us cringe thinking, “God I hope he doesn’t fall on his face.” Others of us think, “Hell yeah, I wish I could do that.”

Whether you are a tiptoer or a bomber you have to get through the rock and you will probably stumble and fall at one point or another.

If you are the “Hell Yeah” people, it’s all about practice. Really, you’re doing the same thing as the tiptoer, but much faster and the more rock there is the faster you have to be. Going up and going down are pretty much the same. The biggest difference is if you fall going down it will hurt a lot more. Going up it is usually just a stumble without impact.

It’s like reverse wack-a-mole. So if you sucked at hitting the freaking mole on the head with the hammer when he popped up, this game is for you.

If the rocks are somewhat scattered or separated, look for the holes and put your foot in them. Small fast steps are your best friends here. Make sure you are watching both at your feet for immediate foot placement and two or three feet in front of you for planning.

Always be ready to jump to your other foot and redistribute your weight when a foot placement goes badly.

Different shapes and sizes pose different problems. Bigger rocks are sometimes a blessing because you can use them for foot placement. Big jagged rocks are not good, don’t try to use them as foot placement especially if they are wet. The problem with big rocks is sometimes they look stable and their not.

Smooth flat rocks present the problem of traction especially going up or down. On level ground, they aren’t much of an issue. Try to avoid smooth flat rocks when you are ascending and descending. If you do need to use one, make sure your weight is over your center of gravity. You are more likely to fall if it’s not.

Wet rocks of any size and shape are slick, even if they’re not assume that they are. If they are at a severe angle, avoid them. If they are a bit jagged you can probably get a hold of them to make a quick step. If they are round and crammed in with a bunch of others, you’re probably okay too, just be prepared for some foot movement.

Small rocks, fist sized or smaller, are better together. Ideally, there will be enough space between them that you don’t have to worry about it at all. Having them all pushed up against one another, makes it much easier because they don’t roll away as you land on them.

I’ve found moving over the rocks quickly results in less ankle injuries. Fast feet don’t stay on the ground long. You’re gone before rocks have a chance to shift. Tiptoers are going to stumble more than actual falling. In my opinion, they stumble more than someone who is bombing the trail. Bombers are more likely to actually fall if they make a bad foot placement, but I think they make less bad foot placements than a tiptoer.

Eventually, you’ll roll an ankle. When you do Rest, Ice, Compress, and elevate. Taking Iburprophen during the first 2-3 days will help reduce inflammation, longer than that and it’s not helping you recover. Get back out running/walking as soon as you can tolerate the pain. Stay off the rock though, because you are more likely to roll the ankle again within six weeks.

Start proprioception exercises as soon as you can without pain. Proprioception is your knowledge of where your body is in space. The stronger this connection the less likely you are to roll an ankle. Balancing exercises are good for this. The best exercise I know of is standing on one leg and writing the ABC’s in the air with your toes on the other leg. Keep doing this until it’s easy to go through the ABC’s twice without falling over.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-Three

Flag

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 didn’t wake once during the night. She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept so well. She relished the heat from Mitchel’s body and moved in closer to him. He wrapped his arm around her middle and pulled her up against him. He kissed her ear.

“Sleep well,” he asked.

“Better than I have in a long time.”

“Me too.”

“I think we were exhausted,” she said.

A knock came at the door.

Melanie groaned as Mitchel rolled away. She pulled the blanket up around her as he crossed the room toward the door. He stopped and then walked over to the side table. He pulled the drawer open and took out his gun.

Melanie rolled to her side of the bed and took her gun out of the side table there. Mitchel stood to the side of the door.

“Who is it?”

“Seth. It’s time to go. Meet you at the cars in ten minutes.” His tone was expressionless.

Melanie laid her gun on the bed as sat up pulling the blanket around her shoulders. “Is he serious?”

“Sounded serious.”

“Do you think they will let him in the safe zone?”

He looked at the gun limp in his hand and then up at her. “I don’t know.”

Melanie lowered her eyes. She couldn’t imagine how he felt. She was ninety-five percent sure he knew Seth was the Butcher, but she wasn’t going to ask him if he knew. She thought it was cruel to make him say it out loud. Mitchel had lost so much in the last six months. He had lost everything, everything but her. And now they had the baby to think about.

She looked up at him. He was far away in his mind. His eyes saw her, but he didn’t.

She couldn’t make it better for him. Things were a mess and were not going to get any better of the next few hours.

“Are we going?” Melanie asked.

He didn’t respond. He didn’t move. His arms hung lifeless at his sides.

Melanie drew the blanket back and slipped to the floor. The air conditioner was blowing cold air into the room causing Melanie’s flesh to prickle. As she reached him, he shook his head. He jumped a little, startled. He hadn’t seen her move over here, she realized.

She brushed her hand through his hair. “Are you alright?”

He pulled her into his arms. “As much as I can be right now. Let’s get our stuff and go out to meet the others. Seth is waiting and soon Sam and your mom will be too.”

His words struck a chord in Melanie, the thought of Seth waiting with her mom and Sam warmed her body into action. She grabbed her jeans and hoodie off the floor and pulled them on.

She slung her holster over her shoulders, slid her gun inside, and then laced her leather belt through the loops. Her pants were tight around her middle. The belt was on its last notch. She would be needing new clothing soon.

Melanie pursed her lips. Mitchel stifled a laugh. She looked up and he was watching her. She smiled and heat filled her face.

She needed him to tell her things would be alright and they would be safe in the walls of the safe zone by night fall, but she knew he wouldn’t say those things because he wouldn’t tell her things he wasn’t sure about.

There was something in his eyes she didn’t see often. She had seen it maybe three or four times during their two years together. Uncertainty.

He picked up her bag and his own and hung them from his broad shoulders. His gun was tucked tightly at the small of his back. He took her hand as he made his way toward the door.

Jennifer and Sam were standing in the hallway with their bags at their feet and Daisy on her leash.

Daisy pulled to the end making Sam trip over the bag in front of her. Jennifer made a grab for Sam, but missed.

“Daisy,” Sam cried.

Daisy bounded down the hall toward Mitchel and Melanie having pulled her leash from Sam’s small hands.

Melanie bent down and took ahold of the leash and rubbed Daisy’s head.

“Are you ready?” Melanie asked.

“We’ve been ready for a few minutes, but…” Jennifer trailed off and glanced toward the elevator.

The ding of it reaching their floor had drawn all of their attention. The silver doors opened and Captain Jackson stepped out clad in black.

“Good morning, I suppose you are headed to the safe zone?”

Mitchel nodded.

“I’ve arranged an escort to get you to the gate house where Sargent McCall is waiting for you,” Jackson said.

“That was very kind of you, Captain,” Jennifer said. She picked up her and Sam’s bags and headed for the elevator.

Melanie handed Sam the end of the leash. “Hold tight so she doesn’t get away when there are a bunch of people around in the lobby.”

“I will.” Sam and Daisy took off down the hall at a run, catching Jennifer waiting as the light of the elevator made its way to them.

When it arrived, they got on.

“Are you two coming?” Jennifer called.

Melanie looked at Mitchel. He nodded.

Jennifer held the door with her arm and it began to beep and tell her to step away from the door in an electronic voice.

Melanie, Mitchel, and Captain Jackson squeezed in. The ride down was quiet other than the beep each time they passed another floor.

Seth was sitting in a cushioned chair near the fireplace when they managed to get off with all their stuff and look around for him.

He crossed the room with a calculating smile growing across his face. He took Jennifer and Sam’s bags. “Ready?”

Sam bounced on the balls of her feet. “I’m ready. And Daisy is ready. And mommy is ready.”

Melanie mussed her sister’s honey colored hair. “We’re all ready.”

Jennifer and Sam followed behind Seth. Mitchel followed them.

Melanie turned around. Captain Jackson was watching them go. He nodded and patted the gun on his hip.

Melanie turned following her family.

Hey, Wake Up!

wake up

One of my biggest struggles during a 100 mile run is staying awake between the hours of 3-6 am. I always have to have a pacer with me during those hours, not just because I like having a friendly face along for the adventure, but because I can’t stay awake!

At three in the morning, I become very tired. I nod off as I’m drudging down the trail. I start weaving back and forth and my footing is precarious. It takes all the concentration I can muster, which isn’t much at that point, to keep my eyes open. I’m so tired I hallucinate. I tell my pacer to keep talking to me and make sure I answer with at least a grunt to help me stay awake. Luckily, none of my races have put me on narrow trails with drops to either side during the wretched hours.

I’ve tried using coffee, but it makes my stomach upset and I’m a coffee lover when I’m not running. I can drink it right before a run, but not in the later stages of a 100 miler. I’ve tried chocolate covered espresso beans, which caused major issues during bear to the point I had to make myself vomit (not pretty). Carbonation bothers me too, so I don’t drink the sodas.

5-hour energy is about the most disgusting option out there in my opinion. I’d rather stay away from Red Bull and other energy drinks if possible.

I know a lot of this boils down to my sensitive stomach. The farther I run, the less tolerant my stomach becomes. I’ve worked on eating solid food and believe I have that figured out. It’s all about quantity.

At Bear 100, another runner offered me nodoz. I turned him down because I had never used it before and was concerned it would upset my stomach. I’ll try the nodoz, if I can’t find anything else.

I know conquering this tiredness issue will drastically increase my speed during the nighttime hours especially from 3-6. It will put a sub-24 hour finish within my grasp. It’s my goal to figure something out before the next 100 (March 2016).

There are many sports drinks and endurance fuel options such as shot blocks and gu, which contain caffeine, but during the final 25 miles of a race I crave real food and I don’t like the sugar spikes with the gu and shot blocks.

I’ve been researching other natural sources of caffeine besides coffee and have come up with a few things I think I can throw into a granola bar such as maca powder, cacao and goji berries. I’m going to find a green tea with fennel and possibly ginseng too.

My other thought is to stop drinking caffeine two weeks before a race with the hope that it will lower my tolerance and make the tea and granola bar more effective.

Does anyone have anyone have any suggestions?

 

 

Why do my arms hurt more than my legs?

arm swing

One of my training partners, Spongebunny, just finished his first 50-mile run. He did amazing and finished the race with a little left in the tank. He also put in a ton of training on the trails over the summer.

His one question a day after the race was, why do my arms hurt more than my legs?

There is a wrong way to swing your arms when you run. I know, I know, you use your legs and feet to run, if you’re running with your arms you have some major issues.

Here’s the thing though, you run with your arms!

Your legs follow your arm swing. If you’re shoulders are tight, arms are stiff and hands are clenched, you’re going to have some arm soreness the day after a long run.

Arm soreness isn’t so bad…

Okay, so you can deal with soreness, you’re a runner after all, and runners, we’re a pretty tough crowd.

Improper arm swing screws everything up from your arms down. It also causes you to burn a lot more energy while you run. I don’t know about you, but wasting energy when I’m running ends badly.

Alright, so how should arms swing when running?

Keep your arms at a ninety-degree angle. Your swing should be short and compact. Pump back and recover on the forward swing. Your elbows shouldn’t pass your waist when your arms come forward. Don’t sway your arms from side to side. Your hands shouldn’t cross your midline.

Relax your shoulders and resist the urge to lift them toward your neck. Tightening up your shoulders is going to throw off your arm swing and your hip movement. If your hip movement is off, your legs will be out of alignment.

Keep your hands loose. Your hands should be opened, not clenched into fists. A good way to measure is to pretend there is a potato chip in your hand and if you crush it you’ll fall on your face or something equally as unpleasant.

If you continue to experience soreness in your arms or have a hard time staying aware of your arm swing in order to correct it there is a neat little contraption you can get called an arm swing trainer.

They are about $30.00 U.S. dollars and found at http://www.byrdband.com

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Sixty-Two

Flag

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial post-apocalyptic 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 awoke piece by piece. First, she could feel herself laying in a bed and a blanket pulled over her. Something was pressed up against her leg. Second, was the smell of the hotel room, a hint of her mother’s soap and Mitchel.

The something began to move toward her head as if it were crawling.

“No Daisy, let Melanie sleep.” It was her mom’s voice that broke the fog.

Melanie took a deep breath and fluttered her eyes against dim yellow hotel light. Once they were open, it was Daisy’s brown eyes she looked into. Daisy used her head to bump Melanie’s and then licked her on the cheek.

Melanie’s hand felt foreign as she lifted it to stroke the broad black head.

“Melanie?” Her mom’s face popped into her line of sight.

Melanie nodded and smiled, as if she would be someone else. “Good Morning, mom.”

Melanie pushed herself up, moved the pillow against the headboard, grabbed the other one, and stuffed it behind her back too.

Her mom was handing her a glass of water.

“Thanks, where is Mitchel?” Melanie asked.

“He and Seth went to get dinner.”

The glass slipped from her fingers, water splashed her face, and soaked into the comforter.

“Sam, can you bring a towel from the bathroom?” Jennifer called. She brushed Melanie’s hair back from her eyes. “Are you alright? The doctor said your blood sugar was low and with the stress, you just fainted. Mitchel wanted to have food here when you woke up. He and Seth have gone to get food all day, so you would have something warm to eat.”

Melanie stared without recognition at her sister who came into the room. Her mother’s stroked her hair again. “Melanie?”

Melanie shook the thoughts of Mitchel alone with Seth the Butcher from her head. She could do nothing right now, but hope he came back.

“Hi Mel,” Sam said bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Can we go now mom? We’ve been here forever.” She stopped bouncing and lulled her head all the way back as she drew out the last word.

“How long was I asleep?” Melanie asked, turning to her mom.

“All day, it’s eight now.”

Melanie’s eyes grew wide. “The safe zone. We need to be there at sun set.” Melanie swung her legs around the side of the bed and dashed to the window. She threw open the blinds. Too late. They were too late. Never safe. Melanie laid her hand on her lower abdomen and closed her eyes.

The beep of a card sliding to unlock the door caused her to turn. Seth’s eyes met hers as he came through the door. They had changed, no longer did she see Mitchel’s eyes there. Seth’s were darker, not the color, but the thing that looked out from them.

He smiled. One look at Seth, and she knew he knew she had fit the pieces together that he had left in his wake. Did he see her as prey or as a member of his pack? She wasn’t even sure which was a better position to be in.

Seth stepped farther into the room. “Glad to see you’re awake.”

The smell of Chinese food filled the room. Mitchel pushed passed Seth, set the bag of white cartons on the bed, and went to Melanie.

He looked her over and then pulled her into his arms.

She squeezed his shirt in her fists. He was safe.

His lips brushed her ear. His warm breath caressed her neck.

“I couldn’t leave him with you.” His words were barely audible.

She tilted her head back, looking into him. He knew. He and Captain Jackson must have put it together after she fainted. But why would Seth still be here if they had?

Mitchel kissed her for a long time. “How’s your ankle?” The doctor gave you some pain medication for it.”

Melanie looked down at her foot. She hadn’t even noticed it. She held it up and rotated it a few times. “It’s fine.”

Mitchel smiled. “Good.”

Sam came running into the room. “Food.” She sprang onto the bed right next to Daisy, who barked and wagged her nub.

Melanie’s stomach grumbled. Mitchel glanced over at her. He tried to squeeze his smile in to a line while stifling a laugh. Melanie shoved his shoulder and snatched a plate from her mom. She loaded it up with ham-fried rice, orange chicken, lo mien, and egg rolls.

The others hovered, waiting for her to take what she wanted before the moved in for their share.

It was silent while everyone began to eat. As Melanie swallowed one bite and another was already on its way toward her mouth. She moved systematically from one food choice to the next, one bite at a time. Her gaze flicked to the last egg roll in the carton. Seth’s white plastic fork prodded the carton toward Melanie with two lingering pokes. She didn’t move her eyes from the red sweeping lines of the pagoda etched on the side of the carton. When she didn’t reach for it, he extended his fork again moving it within a few inches of her.

“Go ahead, Melbelle.”

The muscles in her jaw ceased their chewing and mashed the remaining lo mien from between her teeth. Seth withdrew his fork. Heat flooded through Melanie’s body. She locked her eyes on Seth’s. He was threatening her.

Mitchel picked up the carton and tilted it toward Melanie. She took the egg roll. Mitchel crushed the little pagoda and tossed it into the black trashcan across the room.

Sam bounced on the bed between her mom and Melanie. “Good shot.”

 

“Seth and I stopped at the gatehouse for the safe zone on our way to get food,” Mitchel said. He took a bite of orange chicken.

Each pair of eyes moved from one to the other as they chewed.

When Mitchel had finished he continued. “Sargent McCall said for us to come back at first light. He has a few more things to check into before we could be interviewed for entry.”

Melanie covered her half-full mouth with her fingertips. “Interviewed?”

Mitchel held up a finger and continued to chew the food he had just shoveled into his mouth.

Seth nodded. “He said it was standard procedure and not to worry about it.”

Melanie’s thoughts circled. Another night. Out here. Never safe. She clenched her eyelids together. She felt a hand on her thigh and opened her eyes. Mitchel. It would be alright, she told herself, it’s just one more night. Everything will be fine.

“I’ve booked our rooms for another night and spoke with Capitan Jackson. He said there will be extra guards patrolling the hallways all night and they’re activating the door alarms on all the rooms. The alarm will sound if someone opens a door after ten. All the guests have been notified of the curfew.”

Jennifer placed her hand over her heart. “Thank god.”

Seth stood and walked his plate to the garbage. “No wonder, Sargent McCall believes this place is the safest to stay while waiting for him to do his job.” It slipped from his fingers and he stepped toward the door. Without turning around, he said, “Sleep well and I’ll see you all in the morning.” The door clicked shut behind him.

Jennifer did the same with her plate. “Finish up, Sam. We need to get back to our room, get you bathed and to bed.”

Sam continued to bounce as she took her last bite. “And a story.”

 

Melanie’s stomach was heavy and happy. Mitchel took her plate. He stretched his neck to toward each shoulder and let the plates fall into the garbage.

“Come here,” Melanie said and wiggled up onto her knees.

He sat with his back to her and she began to kneed his shoulders.

“I was so worried when you passed out. They called for you mom to come into the room. The medical guys asked if you had any other medical condition other than being pregnant.”

Melanie’s hands came to a stop.

“What I’m trying to say is your mom knows.”

She began working his tense muscles again. “Did she say anything?”

“Not a word. Just told them you were allergic to penicillin. She hasn’t said anything about it at all, even after they all left.”

“Does Seth know?”

She didn’t think his muscles could get any tighter, but they contracted in her hands.

“No.”