The tires crunched on the snow as the car eased to a stop on the side of the cobblestone road. Ruby Clarke reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed the DSLR camera from her bag. She flipped the on switch and quickly eyed the settings. Everything seemed good enough. She didn’t need perfect pictures nor perfect composition. She needed cold, hard facts.
Earlier that same day Ruby was sitting in her office at the Herald, waiting for a new freelance job. She was a photojournalist working in a small town in upstate New York. She dreamed of making it to the Times. But, after 5 years of working nonstop, that dream slowly died a little more as each day passed. She looked at the calendar on the wall of her cubicle and stared at the date. How had so much time passed since she started this job? What was she doing just sitting in this cubicle? Her phone buzzed. Snapping out of her daydream, she swiped the notification on her phone and read the text that came in. Amelia texted her. As Ruby clicked the messages icon on her phone, she was bombarded with a wall of text messages. Amelia was concerned. Ruby quickly skimmed the texts.
Apparently, Amelia went out to the city last night for some fun at the clubs and met a guy. He seemed “pretty cool” at first and then as the night dragged on, Amelia started to get weirded out by the guy. Subtle things he did here and there. A glance that lingered to long. A touch on the shoulder that was rather firm for just being an acquaintance. Ruby quickly skimmed through the texts. This wasn’t the first time Amelia had texted her like this. She was always concerned about the smallest of things. Ruby stopped and waited for a moment after reading the last line. This was new. Two words made up the final text message that was the most concerning to Ruby.
Ruby sat for a moment, thinking about what she could do for her friend. Maybe a text message to calm her down like all the other times before. Normally nothing bad came out of a weird guy met at the club. No matter how many times it happened to Amelia. But, this one was different. Amelia was legitimately scared. Ruby looked up at her calendar and then the clock. Absolutely nothing was going on in the office and there was likely no business coming her way between now and the end of the day. Ruby nodded as she made up her mind. She started clicking away at the on-screen keyboard and quickly composed a text.
“Send me this guy’s number. I’ll check him out for you.”
Within seconds a phone number popped up on her screen with a “Thanks” attached to it.
Ruby opened her laptop and pulled up the in house search provided to her by the Herald. It was an amazing setup that they had. With a few keystrokes, Ruby had the guy’s full name, address, and criminal history. His name was Ray Gill. The criminal history box on the bio was blank, luckily. But, Ruby knew that the empty box didn’t mean anything other than the fact that he wasn’t caught doing anything. After clicking around some more, she realized that the Herald’s public record search wasn’t going to get her far. She quickly gathered her phone, laptop, camera, and spare batteries and through them all into her bag. Grabbing her keys off the desk, she spun out of her chair, and rushed out the office.
As she made her way down to the parking garage, Ruby pulled up the map app on her phone and punched in Mr. Gill’s address. He was a two hour drive away. After climbing into her car, Ruby checked her gas. She had just filled up her tank this morning so she knew that she would be good to go. Listening to the first instructions, Ruby began her trip to see what was up with this Ray guy.
After two and a half hours of nonstop driving except for a lunch break, Ruby finally pulled into the neighborhood of Ray. As her car creeped up on his house, she noticed that man loading up an old white van in the driveway. This was definitely not the first impression that she wanted of the potential creeper. Ruby watched as he slammed the side door shut and climbed into the driver’s seat of the van. As he started to make his way down the road, Ruby followed with enough distance between the two cars to not be noticed. After another half hour of driving, the van slowly drifted to a halt. Ruby looked down at the GPS. It was the middle of nowhere. She watched him pull the van off the road and get out. He rummaged in the back for a moment and came out of the side door with what looked like a shovel.
Ruby shut her engine off and grabbed the DSLR camera from her bag. She needed a closer look of what Ray was doing without getting any closer. As she stepped outside, the cold winter air surrounded her. The silence of the snow covered woods filled her ears. She made sure that she was hidden slightly from the man while standing behind a slight hill. As she walked to the top, she could finally get a good shot of the inside of the van with her camera. She zoomed the camera in as far as it would go and twisted the lens until the picture came into focus. Squeezing the shutter button, she snapped her shot. She pulled the camera from her face to further examine the picture. Zooming in, she noticed a small pile sitting in the van. Zooming in more, she noticed that the pile looked like a body. Clicking the zoom button once more, she saw a face. Amelia’s face.