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Vagilantes holds a promise of a new age when children will be safe from pedophiles and opportunistic sexual abusers. But, you can expect a a bumpy ride on this road to justice.
There are many fine points to planning a murder. In her rush, she probably missed a few details. Rayanne Byers doesn’t believe in beginner’s luck. Pacing in her Boulder condo, alone and anxious for some indication of her success or failure, she worries.
Thirty-nine hours and seven minutes ago – she’s counting – she snuck into her neighbor’s condo and left a parting gift, of sorts, for him. An hour later, she heard him arrive home as expected, after his weekly prayer meeting. Other than one flush of his toilet early this morning, she hasn’t heard anything from next door. It’s densely quiet.
Is he dead? She’s got to know. It’s too early for her to make a move. She doesn’t have an excuse to go and look. At least not for another hour and twenty-three minutes, when she is scheduled to show up to work for him. She paces. She waits.
With each step, she picks at raw memories. Of him, and other sexual abuse that exploited her childhood innocence and deformed her life. I’m warped enough to try murder, she tells herself – more defiant than sad. I stopped him in his tracks. I saved the other girls. I’ve done the right thing. Haven’t I? She wonders.
At the corner of her living room, Rayanne reverses the direction of her steps again. She glances at the clock, recalculates and keeps moving. She whispers his name with each pacing footfall. Her breath catches when she hears muffled sounds of crashing and smashing from the other side of the interior condo wall that they share. She has her answer, It’s not over yet!
She knows his floor plan and traces his location from the noise. She imagines he careens, from one wall to the other, down his stairway. When he reaches the first floor, he thuds into the coat closet door and does something that sounds as if his glass-topped table is now damaged.
There’s more clanking, followed by a silence that is broken when a car passes outside on the neighborhood street. Rayanne stands still, holding her breath until she hears another thunk and a groan. She expects he is moving toward his front door.
She rushes upstairs to her second-floor bay window and looks over their common exterior wall into his patio courtyard.
She looks down and sees the man she secretly renamed Uncle Ernie stumble from his doorway. He collapses face down onto his concrete patio.
She stands transfixed at her window, looking into his yard beyond the six-foot-high red brick wall that divides her front patio from his. On his side, three vibrantly colored leaves disengage from a young maple tree and fl utter around his prone body. Caught by a breeze, they move off to a corner and continue their dance with dying brothers.
Encouraged to see that he is not even trying to get up, Rayanne watches and waits for a clear ending. She knows that she contributed to this grim scene, but doesn’t allow herself to worry about being caught. That’s not the important part now. Not yet. Not ever.
Her plan is simple. He will die, and she will return to her peaceful and private life. She watches a spasm force his chest to rise from the ground. His forehead becomes a pivot point on the rough surface of the patio. He slumps, then raises his head enough to turn his face to one side. His chin tilts upward a few more inches then falls as if a support has been jerked away – adding certain insult to his cheek. His twitches become fainter – she imagines an electrical current fl owing, but decreasing as it moves from one of his hands, to his hips, a foot, then to another hand. His mouth opens and shuts, but his lips do not form a call for help.
His eyelids slide closed. Blood seeps from abrasions on his face and spurts from his nose. He convulses and folds in upon himself. His face is again hidden from Rayanne. Proof of her work appears on the back of his baggy chinos – traces of blood and feces expanding into larger shapes on the fabric. Instead of celebrating, Rayanne shakes her head, dreading what she sees as a cleanup task. Then she smiles, because it is a job she can now refuse.
In response to a moving shadow above her, on her left, Rayanne snaps her head up. Nothing is there except for golden leaves, waving on a weak and misplaced-in-the-city aspen tree. A car drives by and she becomes aware of how exposed she is standing in the window. Framed by her white lace Kmart curtains, she confirms from this high point that no one is around and looking in her direction. She takes comfort in knowing that even if someone walks by, they cannot see Uncle Ernie behind his section of the tall brick patio wall.
He isn’t making any noise that she can hear through the double panes of glass. She unlocks and cranks her window open a crack. If he’s moaning, she can’t hear him above the sound of echoing traffic on the main street a block over.
Why did he have to come outside? Now, her plan depends on none of the other condo occupants noticing him before the poison has overpowered his system. She considers. Her neighbors are routinely away at work by this time of day. They rarely come to their front yards. Instead, they exit through back doors to their attached garages and common driveway. Should be OK.
Maybe not. Rayanne again sees herself in the window, exposed to all the world. She drops to her knees and peeks over the dust-free windowsill, watching Uncle Ernie’s motions decrease. She tries to catch his last breath and twitch. Maybe that was it, she notes. It’s been awhile.
She considers the semantics of the situation – he is not really her victim. Am I still his? He isn’t really her uncle – he is not even an Ernie. The man’s name is Edward Blake, or so he says. As a child, she forgot his real name but was inspired when she first heard the rock opera Tommy. She put a label on her memories of him with the haunting words, “I’m your wicked
Uncle Ernie… You won’t shout as I fiddle about, fiddle about, fiddle about!”
A flash of light crosses her consciousness. Rayanne struggles to focus her attention back to an older Uncle Ernie dying in his courtyard below her window. Her vision is blurry. There was no other answer, she tells herself. I had to kill him to save all the girls. A shot of sickness rushes up her throat. She sprints to the bathroom and grabs the toilet bowl. As her retching subsides, she needs to swing around and plop down on the toilet seat in response to another urge to release. She hangs her head and floats disconnected in the dizzy waves that bring insulating peace.
Her doorbell sharply intrudes. Surprised by another glitch, she wipes herself quicker than she would like. She takes a scan of her body, pats her short mousy brown hair, and tugs her clothes into position before running down the stairs. Through the window of her front door, she sees two smiling faces.
What a stupid time to be selling something, she silently chides the strangers as she crosses the room toward them. Then she realizes that it is unlikely they know what has just happened on the other side of the brick wall. She opens the door to a woman bracing a young boy in front of her, with her hands on his shoulders.
The smiling faces are missionaries – people who claim to know what is best for everyone. She remembers how it felt to be a believer. Today she wants to feel that good. She wants to be saved.
——- end of free preview —— thank you for reading ——
The story continues –
Responding naturally, with feminine support and nurturing, four women are drawn into Rayanne’s drama. Their attempts to save this damaged soul are sidetracked by the death of another pedophile and then another. Still questioning if murder is ever justifiable, they learn that they are not alone in finding answers outside the law.
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