She ran down the pathway, pushing aside branches and twigs lashing at her arms and face. As she came to a clearing, she paused briefly to glance behind her. They paused, just out of sight. All she would make out were three vague images bathed in yellow, blue, and black – a terrible blackness that felt more like a void than a presence.
“Come to us, Claire,” they whispered.
She turned and dashed down the path again. She knew this path. It should lead to – yes, she saw it up ahead! She dashed off the path and hid behind a tree, pressing her back against it and taking slow, deep breaths to silence herself, just like they taught her at the academy, until her breathing slowed to a more controlled rate. She listened for a moment to see if they passed. After two full minutes passed without a sound, she hazarded a glance around.
Nothing. But then again, it was dark. They could still be nearby. She crept toward the dilapidated cabin just out of sight of the path, careful to avoid stepping on any twigs, fallen branches, or low spots that might trip her.
Somehow, she knew where they all were. As if she had been here before. he reached the door and dashed inside, closing it behind her silently and leaning her head against it, finally allowing herself to gasp for the air that wouldn’t seem to fill her lungs.
“What are you looking for, Claire?”
She turned slowly to see the yellow presence behind her, inside the cabin. It was in the shape of a person, but she couldn’t clearly make out who it was, but they seemed familiar – as if it were a presence she once knew well, but now only remembered vaguely. She turned to face it, blinking her eyes several times to try and focus. “Do I know you?”
The image cleared to a woman with long, brown hair and big, brown eyes. “You did once, Detective Claire Barnes, but it’s been a while.”
Claire shook her head, confused. “It must have been quite a while. I don’t remember your name.”
The woman smiled. “Give it time.”
“Where are we?” Claire said, looking at the dusty computer equipment around the cabin. “And wait, weren’t you just chasing me?”
The woman laughed nervously. “Yes. And no. It’s complicated. I’m trying to help you. I know what you face. And I know what you need to help. I just don’t know if it’s best for the greater good.”
“How can you know?” Claire gasped. “I don’t know you. And you don’t know what’s happening around here. It’s a mess. Things that were once so clear – I don’t know. Tanger Falls used to be such a nice, simple town. And I thought that the Simone Dawkins case coming to trial would help us find closure on all that tragedy that tore the town apart a few years ago, but then everything came unraveled. Evidence that was conclusive was suddenly tainted and …”
“It’s coming undone,” the woman in yellow said.
“Exactly.” Claire paused studied the woman, thinking. Wait, that face. And the Simone Dawkins trial. “Wait, I do know you. Didn’t you work for Simone at that advertising company? I talked to someone, a young woman. But no, she didn’t look like you. She was someone different. Someone who’s gone now.” Claire shook her head and slumped against the wall, running her hand over her face. “What’s wrong with me? I can’t seem to get my head on straight all of a sudden. I have to go on the bench in a few days to testify and I can’t clearly remember anything! It’s bits and pieces. Almost like a dream.”
The woman put out her hand and helped Claire back to her feet. “It can come back together, but I’m not the one you need. You need another. You need the one that can set things right in Tanger Falls, for once and for all.”
The woman held out her hand an opened it to reveal a ruby ring in a yellow gold setting. Claire took it and held it up to a ray of moonlight shining through the slits in the boards over the cabin windows. Of course! That was it!
The light was blocked by a blue light shining outside the window. Claire gasped and grabbed the ring, clasping it in her hand. The woman in yellow put her hand on the doorknob. “Go now. Find her before it’s too late. Find her before it all comes undone.”
“Who?” Claire asked as the door exploded to reveal the blue and black presences standing on the other side of the door, grabbing the woman in yellow.
Claire screamed as she jerked awake, staring around her bedroom. She gasped for breath for several moments until she realized her cell phone was vibrating on the bedside table. She jerked it up.
IT’S COMING UNDONE.
She dropped the phone, wiping the sweat off her forehead. What did these dreams mean? Why did she keep dreaming of the ruby ring? The one piece of evidence that put Simone in jail. The piece that Simone claimed was never hers, and that her ex-husband verified. The one piece suddenly wiped clean of conclusive evidence. The one piece of evidence that suddenly didn’t fit anymore.
The ruby ring.
“Ruby Josen,” Claire whispered.
And she remembered it all.