Episode #555

- Tim and Danielle discovered evidence that Travis and Elly had run away.
- Travis and Elly boarded a train bound for Los Angeles.


The thirty-something hours on the train pass slowly for Travis Fisher, but not in the excruciating way that he feared they might. He and Elly Vanderbilt spend almost half the day playing cards, pausing for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time to get swept up in conversations that they never planned to have. When they move to the dining car, unsure of what to expect, they find themselves seated at a four-person table with a couple from central Oregon. The woman passes the meal by telling Travis and Elly how she cannot eat this and that because of her rampant irritable bowel syndrome; the teenagers spend the time suppressing snickers and squeezing each others’ hands underneath the table.

At night, they curl up in the seats in which they spent most of the day. Travis thought that the night would be the easiest part of the trip, because the hours would fly while he sleeps, but he finds a deep sleep elusive with the movement of the train and the constant need to reposition their bodies against one another to keep their limbs from going numb. Yet he doesn’t find the night frustrating. There is something relaxing about it, dozing off and waking up entwined with Elly, feeling no pressure to do anything but lie here and enjoy the moment.

Around noon the next day, the train finally arrives at its destination. The California sunshine greets them through the windows, and they gather their few belongings and straggle off the train in a cluster of anxious passengers.

“So, here we are,” Travis announces. It seems like the right thing to say.

Elly takes in the summer weather. “I can’t believe we actually did this.”

“Yeah. Me neither.” Again he wonders if this was a huge mistake. They are hundreds of miles from home without much money or a plan.

“Thank you,” Elly says, flashing him the sweetest smile as she takes his hand. “I couldn’t stay in King’s Bay after what happened.”

No, not a huge mistake, he thinks as he leads the way toward a pack of taxi cabs, hoping that he can figure out how to get one to take them... well, anywhere.


Meanwhile, across the city, three passengers walk off a plane without any luggage. Claire Fisher, Tim Fisher, and Danielle Taylor make their way straight from their gate to the baggage claim area, where they have arranged to meet two others.

“I’m so sorry about this,” Danielle says as soon as she sees Melanie and Tom Vanderbilt. Her old friends bow their heads sympathetically, as if to say, What’s done is done. Calling them to say that their daughter ran away--because of a secret that was never supposed to be revealed--was agonizing for Danielle, but Melanie and Tom took it in stride. She supposes their temperaments are a significant reason why their friendships have lasted so long, and through so much.

“Our flight took forever to take off from Seattle,” Danielle explains. “We were stuck on the runway for half an hour, at least.”

Tim and Claire nod along, their annoyance with the situation showing.

“We should still be able to catch them at the train station,” Claire says. She extends a hand to the Vanderbilts. “I’m Claire, Travis’s mom. I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances.”

“We’ve heard a lot about your son,” Tom says. Danielle notices Claire wince, though she suspects everything Elly has told her parents about Travis has been glowing. Tim follows up by introducing himself.

Melanie shakes her head, her weariness conveying both sadness and anger. “Elly is getting a little too comfortable with this running-away thing.”

Danielle lets out a sigh as she recalls that horrifying moment when she realized that Elly had put the pieces together. “I can’t exactly blame her, this time. No one should have to learn something like that the way she did.”

“Diane will get what’s coming to her for causing this mess,” Claire says.

Tim joins in with exasperation. “Amen.”

“Who’s Diane?” Tom asks.

“We’ll tell you in the car,” Danielle says, looking around for the exit. “Let’s go get a cab. We don’t have time to waste.”


As soon as they leave the train station, Travis and Elly head out to see the city. Travis finds it weird to be in a completely foreign city with no plans whatsoever, but with Elly at his side, he feels like nothing about the world needs to make sense.

They stroll a few miles to the Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Tourists and vendors clutter every square inch of the area, but they push their way along the boulevard, eyes focused mostly on the ground as they pass famous name after famous name.

“Look! Marilyn Monroe!” Elly says, kneeling to get a better look at the slab of cement with handprints and a signature in it. Travis stands over her, making sure that she doesn’t get trampled. Elly tentatively touches her hands to the legend’s imprints.

“Ooh, Elly’s got the same size hands as Marilyn Monroe,” Travis teases.

She looks back at him and rolls her eyes. “Must mean I’m going to be a huge star, huh?” She lingers over the prints a few more seconds and then stands up. “This is so cool. I can’t believe all these famous people have really been here.”

They push their way through the crowd in front of the theatre and take in some more famous people’s marks, though Travis doesn’t recognize a lot of the names. As they move away from the theatre, a man dressed up like Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean leaps in front of them. The costume is so convincing that, if Travis didn’t know better, he’d think it were Johnny Depp himself.

“Does the lady want a picture with the Captain?” he asks, a heavy pirate accent sawing at the edges of his words.

“We don’t have a camera,” Elly says. But Travis pulls out his cell phone, and Captain Jack is all too happy to pose with Elly. Travis snaps the picture.

As soon as the camera’s light dissipates, Captain Jack is in Travis’s face. “That’s a dollar.”

“Are you kidding?”

Captain Jack brandishes his fake (Travis hopes) sword. “Do I look like I’m kidding?”

“Whatever.” Travis pulls out his wallet and slaps a dollar bill in the guy’s hand. Satisfied, the Captain turns away from them and moves onto his next victim.

“Hey, can I put this in your bag? I hate having it in my pocket,” Travis says to Elly. She agrees and sticks the wallet in her purse. They continue to push their way along the strip.

“Um, Alvin and the Chipmunks have a star?” Travis pauses to puzzle over this. “Seriously?”

Elly laughs and points up at the Kodak Theatre. “That’s where they have the American Idol finales!”

“And, like, the Oscars,” Travis says, amused by her frame of reference.

A not-very-convincing Michael Jackson impersonator approaches them, and now that they know the drill, Travis and Elly worm away from him before he can force them into a picture. They continue walking, looking at the stars that line the boulevard and almost forgetting about everything that they have left behind in King’s Bay.


“I hope we aren’t too late,” Tim says, checking his watch for the umpteenth time as the adults climb out of the taxi-van. Nevertheless, he asks the driver to wait a moment, and the five of them troop inside.

He checks the arrival board and sees no sign of the train that Travis and Elly were most likely aboard. Quickly he hurries to the desk, where a bored-looking young man with questionable facial hair sizes him up.

“What can I do for you?” The employee is so unenthusiastic that Tim wonders if the last person he asked that question shot him in response.

“Did train 16A arrive yet?” Tim asks.

“A while ago, yeah. They were running a little ahead of schedule.”

“Dammit.” Tim pinches the bridge of his nose and looks to the group behind him, all of whom are taking in this news. “Our kids were on that train,” he says. “They’re both minors.” He pulls out a photo that he printed off Travis’s computer. “Do they look familiar?”

The employee glances at the picture, but Tim already knows what the answer is going to be: “Nope.”

“He isn’t answering,” Claire says, putting away her cell phone. Tim can tell that her call has been sent straight to voicemail, as they all have the past hundred times or so. “What do we do now?”

“We think like teenagers,” Danielle says as they hurry back out to the taxi.


After their first outing to see L.A., Travis and Elly hike a few miles to their motel--which looks much grosser than it did on the internet, but hey, all they’re doing is crashing there for a few days. The sun is already receding behind the horizon by the time they arrive. In the lobby, they find a big, burly guy wedged into a black polo shirt manning the front desk.

“Uh, we have a room reserved,” Travis says. “The last name is Fisher.”

The guy, whose nametag declares him to be named John, checks the computer. “Claire?”

“That’s my mom. She’s meeting us later.” He doesn’t know why he feels the need to add that, but it somehow makes the whole situation seem more legitimate.

John does some more fiddling with the computer system. “I just need to see the credit card you’d like the room charged to.”

“I put it in online,” Travis says. “I mean, my mom did. Can’t you just use that info?”

“I can hold the room on that card,” John says, “but I need to see the card before I can charge anything on it. So you either need to show me that card or pay cash at checkout.”

“Our mom will have the card with her,” Elly says, jumping in. “She had to take a separate flight to meet us here. Split custody. Long story.”

John shrugs, not especially concerned with the details. He clicks away at the computer some more and produces a plastic card key. “Here you go. Room 107. Through the lobby and out into the courtyard.”

Travis takes the card. “Thanks.”

They walk casually out of the lobby and into the courtyard area, where palm fronds and dead bugs float in an abused-looking pool. Once they are inside Room 107, Travis commends Elly: “Good thinking with that custody thing.”

“Why thank you. I can be a very good liar when I need to be.” Elly sets down the backpack that she borrowed from Samantha’s room. “Now what?”


Tim, Claire, Danielle, and the Vanderbilts roam the observatory and the surrounding area, but amongst all the families and the couples on dates, they do not see Travis and Elly anywhere.

“I was sure they’d want to see that,” Danielle says, pointing to the Hollywood sign nestled on the side of a mountain.

“You can’t actually go to the sign, can you?” Claire asks.

“They have it fenced off,” Tom Vanderbilt says. “There are a few spots you can go to get a good view of it, though.”

The prospect of continuing to run around Los Angeles with little more than blind guesswork is not particularly appealing to Claire, but if it will help her find her son, then so be it. “Where are the other spots?”

Tom pulls out one of the informational brochures that he grabbed upon their arrival. Meanwhile, Tim continues to stare at the Hollywood sign, glowing white even as the sky turns a darker shade of blue.

“What about the Walk of Fame?” he says suddenly. “We should try that.”

The others agree, and they waste no time in heading that way.


Dinner seems like the most pressing concern, so Travis and Elly roam the area in search of a place to eat. They pass an assortment of fast food joints and places that look like they’ll be far too expensive. Finally they come upon a diner that, with the glowing tiger above its door and slapdash paint job on the front, looks like it might be the fun kind of grungy. Inside, a haggard hostess, who appears to be decomposing at the same rate as the building, leaves them at a table with two stained menus.

“Bitch! You gimme that back!”

The exclamation comes from a corner booth, where a group of teenagers raise a ruckus. The waiter, a man in his late 20s who looks like he has worked 72 hours straight, frowns at the booth full of teens as he comes to take Travis and Elly’s orders.

“I’ll have a Coke and the bacon cheeseburger,” Travis says, handing over his menu.

“And I’ll have a... Sprite. And the chicken strips,” Elly says.

“Thanks for actually ordering something,” the waiter says. He seems genuinely grateful. Travis notices that the kids in the corner have two sodas and a plate of nachos for the five of them.

The waiter brings their drinks a moment later.

“What are we going to do tomorrow?” Elly asks.

“We can do one of those bus tours like you said. I dunno, what else is there? We can go to the Hollywood sign thing.”


The kids from the corner booth begin to file out, passing by Travis and Elly. One of them, a black girl wearing a ripped hoodie and carrying an overstuffed backpack, stops at their table.

“Real cool purse you got there,” she says to Elly.

The compliment catches Elly off-guard. “Uh, thanks.”

“You know where you got it? I think I wanna get one.”

“I got it for Christmas,” Elly says, sounding a little embarrassed.

“Oh. You mind taking a picture of me holding it? Then I can look for one myself.”

“Um, sure.”

The girl pulls out a beat-up disposable camera that looks like it might not even work. “Here, you take it,” the girl tells Travis. To Elly, she says, “You get in the picture with me.”

Elly obliges. The girl starts to pose, then looks around. “The lighting in here is shit. Let’s move over there.” She leads them over toward the entrance of the restaurant, where the bulbs seem to be slightly less dead.

“Ready?” the girl asks. Travis winds the camera. He holds it up and points it at them, wondering what the hell the point of this is.

“Three... two... one,” he counts down. He snaps the photo. The flash goes off. And before he lowers it, he hears a thump.

The girl has clocked Elly in the head with her own purse and run out the door.

“Hey!” Travis yells after her. “Are you okay?” he asks Elly. She murmurs that she is but looks and sounds dazed. Travis rushes out the diner’s front door.

“Get back here!” he yells.

Just as Travis catches up with the girl, who is laughing hysterically, she tosses the purse to one of the other kids, a tall guy who leaps a fence like he has superpowers. Travis lets go of the girl and runs after the guy. It takes him several seconds to get on top of the fence, and when he does, the guy is nowhere in sight. He turns back to find the black girl running in the other direction and Elly standing at the entrance to the diner.

“We can call the cops,” he says uncertainly.

“And tell them what? Travis, all our money was in there. How are we gonna pay for anything? Even the hotel.”

Travis’s stomach drops as he realizes that she is right.


Will Travis and Elly cave and call their parents?
Will the adults have any luck finding them?
Talk about it in the Footprints Forum!

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