The man translated as he continued reading. “Woman was last seen leaving her place of work in a posh neighborhood called Scarsborough Meadows in White Town Friday night. Her employer, Sandy Phillips testified to driving Conchita to the 9:50 bus that was headed to Latino Town. Said vehicle went missing en route. Indicators suggest this may be a kidnapping crime, but no suspects have been identified as of this afternoon. If anyone has information of the whereabouts of bus number 986, report to the authorities in Latino Town.”
Claire watched Eve’s reaction when the man read Sandy’s name. In horror, Eve thanked him and grabbed the paper. “Claire, this is a lie. Sandy’s my friend, why would she say this? Conchita walked to the bus, she was shot in front of my house. The men put her in a van to dispose of her. I saw this with my own eyes! Claire. What am I going to do? I can’t live with myself this way. I have to tell the authorities.”
Claire reached over, grasping the woman’s arm. “Can I see the paper, Eve?”
“Claire, I’m sorry. I have to get home. I have to do something about this.” She stood, then tossed the paper to Claire. “I hope I see you again. Maybe we can stop these games and have a real conversation.” She dug into her purse for some money, but Claire put her hand out to stop her.
“Don’t worry about this, Eve. First time is free.” Claire smiled and added, “I’ll be back tomorrow at midnight if you want to talk.”
“What did you say?” Eve felt ill. She wasn’t thinking clearly. “Sorry, I have to go.”
She turned toward the front exit and stared at it. Looking to see if the waitress was watching, she saw that it was safe. Each foot step felt like her body was moving in slow motion, her shoes filled with lead. But she did reach it. She was there. All she needed to do was push it open.
Eve struggled with the handle and threw her weight against the forbidden door. It was locked. “God! Why?” She tried again, but to no avail. Giving up, she headed for the back of the room where she would find her way out.
Claire saw the panic in Eve’s face. Worried, she stood and followed the woman toward the back of the café. “Where are you off to, Eve?”
Eve stood where the tree had grown over her exit. She turned around to see Claire watching her with an odd expression on her face. “Oh God, I’m going to throw up.” She reached out for the shiny brass knob protruding through the tree’s appendages, and just as before, the branches shriveled up to expose her exit. She grabbed at it and in a panic, dashed through the portal.
Claire stood in shock, she’d witnessed the tree wither and expose a door where the strange woman had disappeared. But now there was no exit, only a wall covered with limbs of a very old tree. “God, am I dreaming?” Her worries about her perception of reality had nagged at her over the years. Her nightly dreams were so real to her. She went back to the table and grabbed the paper. It was real. She studied it, she read the name Sandy Phillips, the name Scarsborough Meadows, all the key words that she hadn’t found with her computer searches.
Then her eyes saw it.
Claire dropped the paper on the table, she slowly sat, her head felt light. After a few heavy breaths, she looked again. The date. The publication date on the top corner of the paper.
It read 2045, 30 years in the future.
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