Note: Intended for release on Friday, November 5th. Apologies for the delay. Happy reading!
The familiar sound of the evening news crackled on Heather’s car radio as the five of them sat and listened. Nothing validated them more than hearing of their good deeds on the radio right before heading into another house of judgement.
This just in: The vigilantes strike again. Long-time teacher, allegedly accused of practicing physical abuse to discipline her students for decades, was found dead in her home this morning. The police are no closer to finding those responsible but they suspect there must be more than one person involved and there seems to be no stopping them. One can’t help but see a pattern with the killings. Are they doing the work the police and justice system are simply incapable of handling themselves? Stay tuned for this and more…
Carol, sitting in the passenger seat, switched off the radio and blew into her hands. The nights were getting colder yet Heather refused to turn the heat on when they were in her car. Something about burning unnecessary fuel.
“Hey, I want to hear what else he has to say,” Jane said, flexing her fingers to keep circulation going.
“He says the same thing every time. Besides, I want to get this one over with so I can get home to my warm house,” Carol says, her eyes piercing into the side of Heather’s face.
“Here, here!” Came a chorus from the other two women, Susan and Terri, sitting on either side of Jane.
“It wasn’t my idea to be here tonight. I’m in the minority here, remember? And I just want to say one last time—”
“Here she goes again,” Terri says, rolling her eyes at Heather through the rearview mirror.
“I just want to say one last time, that doing this two nights in a row while the cops are out looking for us is a bad idea. I thought we all agreed that once a week was much safer? What will our families think?”
“Is she serious? Somebody tell me she isn’t serious right now?” Terri asks rhetorically.
“Heather, chile, you ain’t got no family. Remember what your monster of a husband did? Or shall we remind you?”
Heather turned away from looking at Terri through the rearview and turned her attention back to the dark house they were staking out just across the street. She remembered all too well what her husband did. Drove himself and their two children into a tree on purpose. She was divorcing him and he took the ultimate revenge by taking her world away so she would be left with nothing. Monsters like him deserved more than jail and he didn’t even get that. A more compassionate God would’ve killed him along with her two children. But instead he survived. If you call being paralyzed from the waist down and living out the rest of his life in a home surviving? He had no alcohol in his system and the roads were slick with ice from heavy snow storms. It was all just a horrible accident. The footnote on Heather’s destroyed world were those two words “horrible accident” and that was that. She was expected to move on with her life.
Luckily, she met four other women, each with similar stories from their past and it was her idea to seek solace for their pain by doing unto others what God or the justice system wouldn’t. But as a former judge herself she wasn’t about to condemn anyone who might be innocent. And so these five women, whenever they hear or read of an alleged crime committed where the person is most likely guilty, they come together and vote on whether or not they should pay that person a late night visit.
“Look!” Susan says, leaning forward in her seat and pointing towards the house. They all look to see a light come on somewhere in the house. And that’s all the signal they need that tonight would be the night for judgement.
They weren’t monsters themselves, after all. And so they had rules that must be followed even before paying a visit to the possible guilty party:
A majority vote is required before locating the residence of a suspected guilty person.
Judgement must take place after 10pm and only if the person is awake.
Final judgement, if found guilty, must be carried out without question.
The second rule is the trickiest because the guilty tend to go to bed early and sleep easy. As was the case with Gerald Townsend. A janitor and serial rapist by day. Allegedly. And also a late night snacker at night as it appeared that he had woken up and was right now in his kitchen.
He lived on a quiet street, which was ideal for the work that had to be done. Some tried to scream their way to freedom, though it never helped their defense whenever they did as screaming meant an immediate decision of ‘guilty’ was found.
It was Heather’s job to find out where any new suspect lived as she had no one in her life and was retired. She would start by finding them at work and then follow them in her old used car back to their house. Once there, she would wait for the others to arrive and pile into her car one-by-one when they were able to get away from their work or family obligations. If even one of them was unavailable, for whatever reason, the job would be put on hold for another night. None of them have ever missed a night.
“Everybody ready?” Everyone nodded their heads and filed out of the car in their heavy coats, hats and gloves. To anyone who may have been watching from their car, they simply looked like five women on their way to a friend's house for the evening. No one would ever suspect a thing.
They walked up to the front door and Heather knocked. It was always on her as it was her car and she just looked the part of a frantic woman with a broken down car in need of assistance.
He opened the door wearing a robe that hung open, and a pair of red boxers with various images of Santa Claus smiling back at them. Terri’s stomach turned at the sight of him. He held an open carton of milk in one hand and scratched at his side with the other.
“Sorry to bother you, but you were the only house with lights on and my car just broke down with my friend’s and I. We were hoping to use your phone to call a tow truck? It’s freezing out here.”
He took a chug from his milk carton and burped in their general direction. “Sure, come on in,” he said. His voice was more annoyed than it needed to be and they all found it difficult not to look at him with disgust as they stepped through his front door.
Once inside it was go time. His milk carton hit the floor before he did. Carol preferred to use a taser on the larger men as they seemed to take several blows over the head sometimes and after the first blow they’d fight back. She applied it with pleasure against his side and his body convulsed immediately before collapsing to the floor.
They removed their outer garments and hung them on the coat rack he had in his tiny foyer before each taking a limb while Carol led them further into the house and chose his living room to be better suited for their needs.
They found a sturdy enough chair and tied him to it, securing him with handcuffs as well. The final touch was a gag around his mouth in case he should wake up while they busied themselves in his kitchen.
“I hope he has good liquor,” Heather said, opening all of his cupboards.
“They always do,” Terri said, looking in his refrigerator. She removed a half dozen carton of eggs and a package of sausage links from the freezer. “He doesn’t seem to be a healthy eater so no go on omelettes ladies.”
In less than an hour they were all standing around a tiny island in his kitchen, eating a brunch meal worthy of any five star restaurant. Terri was a chef and restaurant owner by day, serving up some of the best brunch meals in their state. When they discovered this it was decided that they would not render judgement on an empty stomach, and instead would eat a meal made from whatever was in the house at the time. Terri loved this element as it tested her ability to, as she put it, ‘turn water into wine.’ And she never disappointed.
Susan took her glass of cheap vodka into the living room to check on their defendant.
“Ladies, Mr. Gerald Townsend is with us now.”
They all carefully put down their forks and knives onto their plates, wiped their mouths with paper towels, as there were no napkins to be found, and took their drinks with them into the living room.
“We are go glad to have you with us, Mr. Townsend. Do you mind if we call you Gerald?” Carol said, taking a seat on the couch opposite where he was tied.
Gerald squirmed and tried to speak through his gag but his words were garbled and his efforts to free himself, pointless. His eyes were red and moist from the after effects of the taser. They could tell he was angry. But they had encountered this reaction before.
Carol nodded to Susan who was appointed the person in charge of explaining to the accused what was happening and how the evening would go.
“Gerald, you needn’t be worried. Unless you’re found guilty, that is.” The women all laughed in unison and his eyes widened from fear. He’d heard of vigilantes on the news earlier. Killed some woman who was accused of something. He couldn’t remember what. Were these women the vigilantes the cops couldn’t seem to find? “You probably don’t know why we’re here. It turns out a few women have accused you of raping them.” She made a tsk tsk sound and shook her head, feigning disbelief in such allegations. “We know how hard it must be to continue working when you have to face those accusations. Well, we’re here to help you, Gerald. We want to give you a chance to tell your side of the story. If you can make us believe you’re innocent of the charges then we’ll leave and you can go back to bed. But if we find you guilty? The only punishment we are able to hand out is death.” His eyes grew wide again. “Now, I’m going to remove this gag. But I warn you, Gerald. If you use foul language or scream at all during these proceedings you will be found guilty and will have no opportunity to defend yourself. Nod if you understand.” Gerald nodded.
Susan looked at the other women who all nodded their agreement to remove the gag. Carol was ready with her taser, which she kept hidden behind her back. After all, they didn’t want his decision on how to behave to be based on the obvious power they had over him at all times. They felt the accused should be given every opportunity to act freely.
Susan untied the gag and pulled out the handkerchief they stuffed in his mouth. He moved his tongue around and flexed his jaw to try and get it back to normal.
“Shall we begin?” Terri asked, again rhetorically.
“Get the hell out of my house,” Gerald said, his eyes like fire looking at each of them without an ounce of fear.
“Now, Gerald, remember what we agreed to,” Susan said, reaching her hand out to touch his shoulder.
He turned on her and growled with more fury and anger. “I said, get the f—”
Carol moved swiftly behind him and with her taser, zapped him before he could finish his sentence. “I love when they do that. Makes our job much easier.”
“I don’t. What if he’s innocent?” Jane asked, biting her nails like she always did out of nervousness.
“Was your boyfriend innocent when he smacked you around and apologized every time the next day?” Carol asked. Jane shook her head. “We agreed this is how it would be. Now, how should we do this? The quick way or the torturous way?”
The following morning, Terri went into work with a smile on her face. Usually, she would be the first one into work, but her newest hire, a waitress, was always there waiting for her. At first, Terri thought she was trying to make a good impression and told her she didn’t need to come in so early. But the girl said she didn’t really sleep much at night and was an early bird. It wasn’t until Terri visited her last place of employment that she discovered a man by the name of Gerald Townsend, janitor.
When she saw Maria, she was delighted! “Good morning! I have a feeling today is going to be an amazing day for both of us.”
Maria looked at her boss strangely but said nothing. Instead, she went right to work, getting the tables set and ready for opening time. Unlike Terri, she turned on all the televisions. It made Maria jump out of her skin from the sound as the early morning news appeared. Their stations of choice were never the news, instead some sport, talk show or cartoon. No one wanted to watch the news while enjoying their meal. But this morning Terri put on the news and the report she was hoping to hear came on.
The vigilantes strike again. Their latest victim, Gerald Townsend, a janitor and man accused of having raped several women where he worked. Many of them undocumented and scared to come forward.
One has to wonder if the police truly want to catch whoever these killers are?
Maria dropped the tray she held in her hands when she heard his name. Terri rushed over and slipped a chair behind her before she fell and helped her sit down.
“Are you okay?” Terri asked.
“That man. He… He…” Maria started to speak, her voice and hands shaking.
“I know. But he can’t and he won’t to anyone else anymore.”
FULL DISCLOSURE: 1. I’m not perfect. 2. I’m not rich. Keeping those two things in mind, you may come across typos in grammar, punctuation, and tense (my known biggest writing issue). My feelings won’t be hurt if you point them out to me in the comments.
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