BY: RAMONA FORREST
She thinks she’s going crazy—the rest of the world thinks she’s a hero…
After her grandson, Will, is molested and the predator released on a technicality, Martha Lavery, a practicing R. N., notices a great increase in anger, lost time periods, and things in her possession that she would never buy. Terrified she is losing her mind, she seeks the care of a psychiatrist. Add to that, unsolicited notice from a handsome, older, male nurse who sees her distress and wants to help and her life rapidly becomes a hopeless, dilemma. Can she handle what is happening, and save her sanity, while being forced to face a vile, horrendous secret, about her own childhood?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: All I can say about The Vigilante is “Wow!” Ramona Forest uses her in-depth knowledge of the nursing field to weave a story so intriguing and twisted that it’s hard to put down. Martha Lavery, a nurse at the local hospital, struggles to try to figure out what is happening to her. She thinks she is going crazy. A boiling rage, of a magnitude she has never experienced before, seethes just under the surface of her otherwise calm, nurturing outward appearance.
She feels helplessness at the knowledge that she can do nothing to help her grandson, a victim of a vicious child abuser…or can she? Missing time, purple spots on her arm, it all adds up to a sinister side of Martha that not even she knows lurks inside her—yet. As she struggles to understand the tragic events in her grandson’s life, she also unravels a side of herself she has kept buried that is now seeking vengeance as the Vigilante. I loved The Vigilante and read it in one sitting.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Vigilante by Ramona Forrest is a psychological thriller of the first order. It revolves around a nurse, Martha, who has an alternate personality, Serena. And Serena gets Martha in all kinds of trouble. I don’t know much about multiple personalities, but I found Forrest’s portrayal of the syndrome very believable. I like both Martha and Serena and found the differences between the two fascinating.
Forrest’s knowledge of the medical field is obviously quite extensive and I thought the retribution that Serena dished out to the predators of children quite appropriate. I liked her characterization and the romance that sort of flitted between the pages of the story. The plot is solid, the writing well-done, and as Taylor points out, it is not a story you want to put down until it is finished. The Vigilante makes you examine your values while giving you a reason to do so, in other words, it’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
Serena’s heart pulsed rapidly, and her eyes narrowed. After weeks of planning and observation, her long-sought mission lay before her. Any thoughts of wrong escaped her conscience—for she had none. A small boy crying out in fear and shame had become her driving force. His deep, broken sobs—those long periods of staring into space, seeing nothing, hearing nothing—held her in a cold, calculating state of hatred.
His suffering and extreme fear of strangers, burned deeply into her soul. She was the protector—always had been. She alone possessed the strength and will to avenge the child. A heinous crime committed against his innocence had cruelly ripped his world asunder.
Serena tossed her head, as she snorted in disdain. What have the police done? Nothing to save him from the unspeakable things that pedophile running ahead of her had done to his small body. And now unbelievably, the man is free to repeat his crimes on another child. Unable to accept or forgive the failure of the authorities, her unrelenting anger had forged her hatred into a hard, unshakeable resolve.
She watched her breath become a fragile mist, rising to vaporize and fade away on the ice-laden, early morning air. She trotted lightly and easily, a lioness on the hunt, this frigid, crisp, March morning in the high, mountain city of Colorado Springs. She made her way silently down a sandy trail that wound in curving pathways through Leesford Green, the city’s jogging park.
Passing several small wooded groves, Serena came up a gentle rise that led through a thick tangle of stunted scrub oak, and halted her run. Slinking deep into the grove, she observed the area carefully. This’ll do. Secluded and spacious enough for her needs, she decided and solidified her plan.
Lightly panting from her run, she rested, idly noting the pattern of dirty snow scattered in shadowed patches beneath the many scrubby, stunted bushes. The graceful bend of bare twigs were starkly outlined against the snow. The little birds, mostly chickadees, scolded as they sought a scarlet seed or two from low, leafless shrubs, hidden away from the pale morning sun. It shed no warmth and barely sufficient light, as it rose behind roiling, diffuse layers of grayish clouds.
Waiting in the shadows, she narrowed her eyes into slits as she watched the running track. Her target ran ahead, but the circuitous trail would bring him close enough when he passed by again. And he would. She’d watched him many times before.
“Habitual little bastard, aren’t you?” She uttered the low growl as the fierce intensity of unreasoning hatred seethed within her. Serena shrugged it away, leaving only sheer determination.
She waited, looking about the area. A few scarlet berries clung to starkly bare twigs and faded leaves lay scattered about, moldering into the few spots of bare soil. Crusted patches of old snow, hidden in the shade, resisted melting. Smiling to herself, she decided, I’ll use that. Impressed at the cleanliness of natural things, she appreciated that creatures of nature might be brutal, even seeming cruel to human thought, but never evil or mentally sick.
She lost interest in her surroundings, other than its use in concealment, as the man’s slightly rotund body chugged steadily toward her. With disgust, she noted how easily he’d become winded from his efforts. His arms flailed out, and the wispy fog of his breaths gusting on the icy air had become increasingly short and rapid. How well she knew him, both form and face. Revenge against the man hardened her purpose and fueled a burning revulsion for his destroying, pedophilic soul.
Finally, his panting and blowing alerted her he was coming close. Her plans had been carefully laid out. With the morning very cold, few joggers were out this early. How perfect!
She nodded. Restless, she allowed a few fleeting doubts to cross her mind but, haunted by the unspeakable outrage that drove her, she ignored them. The clenched fists of the boy’s father, the heartbreak of his mother, and the utter futility of finding justice in a broken system had hardened her.
With jaw clenched in helpless anger at a system that no longer protected the innocent, she huffed, “We no longer have rights. Only the sick bastards who inflict unspeakable suffering on others, to satisfy their own sick needs, are important these days. That monster has ruined the peace and sanctity of more lives than he knows, and the authorities do nothing!”
Her heart raced. She tensed her strong, athletic body as the shuffling gait of her target sounded on the graveled pathway. Older, yet strong, supple, and totally capable, she’d been drawn into this cause unwillingly. Yet as always, it was her duty to protect her host and her loved ones. Squaring her shoulders, she muttered into the icy air, “I must do this—there’s no one else.” With a strong feeling of purpose, waiting in the dense thicket, she prepared to exact vengeance for an evil crime against humanity. I can, and I will!
The wheezing gasps of her intended target neared. Her heart hammered in her chest as she pulled a sand bag covered with thick, sturdy, tan twill from the old blue duffle bag, laid it on the gravel and gripped it firmly in both hands. Her body tensed, tight as a bowstring drawn to shoot an arrow, she prepared to spring.
The tiring man lumbered across her path. She looked about once again. Seeing no other joggers, she stepped out behind him and swung the sandbag heavily against the side of his head. He staggered and dropped soundlessly in a sodden mass on the gravel trail.
Serena tossed the bag aside. She grasped his flaccid, flabby carcass by his sweat suit top and dragged him into the depths of the thicket just off the trail. Cold hatred of this man and what he was, gave her additional strength. Moving him was no problem despite his bulk.
She reached for his neck, felt his pulse along his jugular. It’s rapid and strong. He’s alive. Wouldn’t want to do him in, though he might wish we had.
Chuckling softly, she went to work, opened a pack of supplies, and laid them out. Then she grasped the elastic waistband of his joggers and under shorts and, rolling him to his side, pulled them down to his knees. Donning rubber gloves, she moved his upper leg a bit higher, neatly exposing his privates. She opened a scalpel and reached for the loose, pink, wrinkly skin over his scrotum. The flaccid skin over the soft mounds tensed in her grasp. Without a moment of hesitation, she slashed across each with the razor sharp scalpel.
“Slippery little devils!” she exclaimed softly, ignoring the oozing blood. Squeezing firmly, she expressed the testes one at a time. Burning rage overwhelmed her yet again. She threw the rounded baubles of his sex onto the ground and stomped them into bloody mush with the oversized men’s hiking boots she wore. The smashed pulp of them seeped into the sand and gravel beside the man’s inert body.
“They’ll do you no good from now on, you filthy, destroying, monster!” She spat the words in low, deadly tones at the figure lying before her with his bare, bloodied buttocks exposed to the frigid, early morning air.
She opened a small, dark vial and splashed a brilliant violet liquid over his bleeding wounds. After picking away part of the frozen crust of a small chunk of snow, she packed it into the bleeding mess. Wonder if it’ll hurt with those icy edges. Her eyes narrowed into slits, and she grinned, caring not at all.
Taking out two elongated, hospital-type sanitary napkins, she placed them snugly over the bleeding, melting mess, and pulled his shorts over them, struggling and rolling his flaccid, unconscious bulk. She pulled his joggers, twisted and wrinkled, up to complete the mission.
She observed his pallid features with disdain. His face, rounded and rather feminine, seemed pathetic to her way of thinking, right along with that stubby little nose. The rest of his equipment was nothing to write home about, either. She snorted her derision. “No wonder he picks on small children.”
Her mission done, she enjoyed the sense of complete satisfaction.
His moaning forewarned her he was regaining consciousness. He looked pale, and though blood seeped slowly from his jogging bottoms, she believed his life lay in no immediate danger. “You won’t bleed to death, you filthy, stinking, bastard, but you might wish otherwise.” She laughed softly as her eyes drew into narrow slits again.
Rushing to avoid discovery and recognition, she repacked her supplies and sand bag before sprinting out onto the trail. She’d be just another casual morning jogger if anyone bothered to notice. Maintaining a soft trot, she removed the purple and blood-stained gloves. She twisted a bit and stuffed them into her back pack, and zipped it closed. Continuing on toward the entrance, Serena left the running park with an air of casual nonchalance and sauntered slowly and leisurely several blocks to her small car, an old ‘ninety-five, white, Toyota Celica.
On the drive home, she smiled with a sense of satisfaction that she’d done the world a small, but needed, justice. Pulling into her garage, she pressed the button, closing the wide door.
Before entering the house, she slipped off her rough clothing and men’s boots. She tossed them, along with the pack, behind a piece of unused plywood leaning against the wall near the gardening tools. A few dark spots on her jogging suit caught her attention. Were they blood? They looked more violet in color, but her thoughts, rapidly becoming cloudy and confused, faded quickly as she entered the house.
Once inside, memories of the past hours left her consciousness. Confusion and fatigue descended over her. The hiking boots, back pack, and blue bag were already gone from her memory.
Discarding her clothes, she entered the shower, scrubbed her hair and body unmercifully, seeking the feel of cleanliness. The purple spots on her arms refused to wash off. She frowned as she examined them, but no longer knowing where they’d come from, she shrugged, dried herself, and dressed for bed. Tired, she climbed into her bed and gently slipped away into a fog of exhaustion and bewilderment as she drifted off into a deep and dreamless sleep.
© 2013 by Ramona Forrest