The Judge came to our neighborhood on a restless Saturday, following the crisp breeze of April.
Throughout most of my life, I haven’t given much thought to the concept of vigilante justice. To me, that stuff belonged in movies and cheap TV shows, not down at the park on Fourth and Western.
But things changed when all our neighborhood residents were informed that a registered pedophile had moved in just down the road. A quick Google search that afternoon revealed that this man – a Mel Anderson – had been convicted of repeatedly molesting his six-year-old niece, along with several of her young friends.
So, there you have it. Mel Anderson, certified piece of shit had moved in just a few streets down.
Now, nobody is happy in a situation like this. But it’s just the way the world works: you can’t get rid of the scum of the earth, no matter how hard you try… at least, that was my belief until the morning of April 7th, 2015.
That morning, a group of joggers found a moaning, twitching Mel stewing in his own syrupy blood. This seemed to be an instance of punishment fitting the crime: his hands were cut off, hands that presumably once touched underage children; his eyes were cut out so they could never view child porn again; and, just for good measure, his penis had been hacked off, for reasons that should be obvious.
This was how The Judge introduced himself to the town.
The Judge is the name the papers would eventually give him. Or her. Although the papers mourned the gruesome sight being displayed right next to the community park’s playground (where no doubt Mel had been lurking the night before), they weren’t overly concerned with the pedophile having his livelihood cut short (quite literally). Of course, there were those who demanded answers, but most people were quite content to let the matter slide. As far as they were concerned, The Judge was just taking out the trash.
The Judge visited again just two weeks later.
April 28th, the back alley of Silverfox Bar. Veronica Jeffers, aged 28, had her tongue sliced out for falsely accusing a man of raping her. She’d been hoping to swindle money out of the deal, but she hadn’t thought through her lie very well and, fortunately, the man was set free. Unfortunately, Veronica wasn’t prosecuted. Veronica’s fate was somewhat more merciful than Mel’s: before anyone found her, she had already drowned in her own blood. The stiffness was already setting in her muscles by the time the ambulance arrived.
The media made the connection right away, and thus The Judge was named and tagged. He’d scour our neighborhood streets for filth and scum, keeping our little community safe and sound. He was obviously a very controversial figure: some hailed him for his bravery, some hoped he would meet the same fate as his victims.
But everybody was interested in him.
A few more deaths popped up in the weeks that followed. A pair of parents who had disowned their 14-year-old daughter for being gay was found victim of two crudely performed lobotomies. A relatively inconspicuous man was gutted down by the creek: authorities found an array of missing neighborhood pets in his basement, all tortured and dismembered.
Our neighborhood seemed to sparkle just a little brighter with each death. There was, however, one problem that we did not account for.
You see, our little neighborhood is only a few thousand people. How many child-molesting, animal-torturing, prejudiced scumbags can live in such a small area? It was bound to happen sooner or later, but in our case it was sooner: The Judge ran out of people to hunt.
A few weeks went by without (bloody and gruesome) incident. Most people believed that The Judge had retired from his short-lived career, having cleaned the neighborhood and kept the streets safe.
But on May 30th, around 5PM, a young child named Barbara Tib was found on Lakeview Road, severely beaten with her lips sewn shut. She was about nine years old.
The neighborhood was in an uproar of shock and bewilderment. Could this be the work of The Judge? If so, why would The Judge hurt a child?
The answer became apparent with a little prodding from Barbara’s schoolmates: Barbara was a notorious bully, one whose actions were often ignored by the teachers and playground monitors. She’d been beaten just as she’d beaten the weaker girls. Her lips had been sealed so she couldn’t hurl her hateful insults ever again.
At this point, it was too late to stop it. And it became increasingly worse.
Barbara’s parents were the next to go, beaten to death for failing to discipline their own child. The teachers who had stood idly by as she bullied the other children were tied up and thrown in the river to drown, their struggles ignored by the rest of the world.
A few days later, Jenna Tanson, who had once caused a fender bender by texting and driving, was run down with a car. She was 19.
The police were frantic looking for this man. The rest of us were slowly giving in to panic. We had encouraged The Judge at first, but now we had to wonder: By what standards was he now judging us?
Things have gotten much worse in the last week. A woman caught littering has disappeared – I wonder if she’ll ever turn up. The kid next door who occasionally smokes a little weed had so much heroin forcibly injected into his system that he OD’d.
As for me, I’ve stopped going out of doors. I follow the news updates but I keep my windows nailed shut and a gun beside my bed at all times. My neighbors are slowly disappearing. And now, I have to ask myself:
What might I have done wrong?