Episode #556

- Philip offered to accompany Molly to New York for a meeting with potential buyers. Eager for the help, she agreed.
- Cassandra confessed to Tim that her ex-husband, JD, played a part in her mother’s violent death.
- Tim, Claire, and Danielle chased their runaway kids to Los Angeles, where they met up with Elly’s adoptive parents.
- Travis and Elly explored Los Angeles, but when they stopped at a diner, a teenage girl stole Elly’s purse--which had all their money in it.


“Shit. Fuck. Shit.”

Travis Fisher mutters swear words to himself as he and Elly Vanderbilt let themselves into their hotel room. He flips on the light switch and cringes at the room. It looked crappy enough in the light of day, but now, with the sun tucked away for the night, it seems like even more of a hellhole.

A hellhole that they won’t even be able to pay for.

“Did that seriously just happen?” Elly asks.

“Yeah. We got played.”

“And robbed.”

“And robbed.” Travis sits down on the edge of the bed. The comforter feels rough and itchy beneath his hands.

Elly folds her arms across her chest and paces back and forth in the same three-foot space, over and over. “Should we call the police?”

“And tell them what? Some girl clowned us and that was all the money we had because we ran away from home and we’re underage?” Just saying it all out loud like that pounds more energy out of him, energy he didn’t even know he had to lose. This was so stupid.

“Maybe we need to call home,” he says. “I mean, it’s not like our parents hate us or anything.” He imagines there will be some figurative ass-kicking when this is over, but if that’s the worst of it...

“Yeah...” He can hear the rational side of Elly--the side with which he’s most familiar, the girl he has gotten to know so well--working its way back to the surface, trying to convince her to put it back in charge. “You’re right. I mean, we’re so far away, and we have no money, and...”

No matter what she says, Travis can tell that she doesn’t want to go home yet, either to San Francisco or to King’s Bay. She isn’t ready to face any of this. It surprises him how much it hurts him--physically hurts--to think of her having to deal with all this crap before she is ready.

“There’s gotta be a way,” he says, his resolve surging. Ideas spin out and tangle in his mind. “I mean, we can stay here for tonight, as long as we get up early and get the hell out, right?”

She seems conflicted. “I guess. That’s kind of...”

“Look at this place! They don’t have any right charging for it anyway.” He cracks a smile in hopes of getting one out of her, and after a few seconds, it works. “Come on. We might as well try to get some rest. Who knows what crazy stuff is gonna happen tomorrow?”

“Yeah. You’re right.” She sits down on the bed beside him.

The next thing he knows, she is kissing him, hard. Usually he is the one who has to initiate. Even when he can tell she is thinking about it, she waits for him to make the move. Not tonight. When she pulls away, he can see in her eyes that something is different.

“Thanks, Travis,” she says before kissing him again, even more forcefully.


The adults straggle out of the precinct, enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty.

“What are we supposed to do for eight more hours?” Claire Fisher asks as they step out into the warm Los Angeles night, a welcome departure from the stuffy interior of the police department.

“I can’t believe they won’t let us file Missing Persons Reports yet,” Tom Vanderbilt says. “They’re sixteen and seventeen years old. They’ve been missing long enough.”

His wife, Melanie, nods in agreement beside him. Tim Fisher seats himself on a nearby bench, and Danielle Taylor joins him. Danielle sighs with exasperation--the same thing all of them are feeling. Tim knows he is.

“I just hope they’re okay,” Danielle says. “They have no idea of all the things that are out there.”

Melanie shakes her head. “This shouldn’t be happening in the first place.”

Tim cringes. He is not sure if Melanie intended it, but it sounds very much like an accusation aimed in Danielle’s direction.

Danielle notices. “I never wanted this to happen. If I had my way, it never would have. I made my peace with this secret.”

“Really? Is that why you wanted to tell her last year?” Melanie’s eyes widen with a fire that Tim has not seen the entire day. “How do we know you didn’t plan for this to happen?”

“Melanie,” Tom says, stepping in front of his wife. Danielle simply lowers her head.

“I know everyone’s worn out and worried and emotional,” Tim cuts in, “but now is not the time. We have kids to find.”

“What are we supposed to do?” Melanie asks, her voice calmer, even if it sounds as if she is working very hard to keep it that way.

“We keep looking,” Tim says. “There are a lot of places we can hit in eight hours. They’re kids, and neither of them has spent time here before.”

Claire jumps in to help him out. “True. I bet their tourist ideas aren’t that imaginative.”

Danielle rises from the bench. “I say we start with some coffee.”

The others agree, and they make their way down the block, telling themselves that they are ready to tackle this search anew.


At the carved wooden desk in the corner of her suite, Cassandra Ward faces off with an angry Microsoft Word document. She has repeatedly attempted to put words down on the virtual page, to get a jump on her next project, but nothing suitable has presented itself in the past... hour and a half. Jeez. She stands to refresh her glass of wine and try to shake her mind loose.

As she refills the glass, she glances around the suite. It has become comfortable to her over the past several months--as close to a home as anything she has had in the last two years or so. And that is why this writer’s block makes her so uneasy. She has experienced it before. When her time in a city is coming to a close, she finds herself unable to settle, unable to be creative. Now that her work on Ryan Moriani’s book is done, it is happening again. She should have seen it coming.

She doesn’t especially want to leave King’s Bay just yet, though. She has nothing concrete lined up next, and she can write from here as well as she can write from anyplace else. Besides, she has grown very fond of Tim Fisher, and she would hate to throw that away needlessly. But there is no denying this restlessness, this nomadic spirit that seems to have been programmed with a timer since--

The knock on the door startles her.

She takes a moment to compose herself and then goes to answer it. Maybe Tim is already back from Los Angeles, having found Travis.

When she opens the door, she wishes that she had checked through the peephole first.

“What are you doing here?” she asks.

“Hey, Cass,” JD Robinson says. He looks her up and down, his dark eyes prowling over her body in that way that she once found charming. Now she finds it disgusting.

“How did you find me?”

“I saw that new book you got published. Wasn’t that hard once I knew you were up here.”

Her fingers grip the glass harder. “We have nothing to discuss.”

“I don’t know about that.” JD pushes past her and strolls into the room. “Would you look at this? Nice shit, Cass. Nice shit.”

He takes his time wandering around the room, sweeping his index finger over every surface. Cassandra remains at the open door.

“What do you want?” she finally demands.

“Bet you got a real nice check from that book, huh?” he asks without looking up at her.

The simplicity of it is almost enough to make her laugh. Almost. Her ex-husband might be a lot of things, but complicated is not one of them.

“You came all this way to hit me up for money?”

“You’ve gotta stop changing your phone numbers.” He stops at the framed photograph of her mother and, after a lingering glance at it, focuses on Cassandra. “So what do you say? How’s five grand sound?”

“JD, get the hell out of here.” She thinks of bolting from the room, but she knows that will not solve anything.

“I’d be glad to. Just write me that check and--”

“No way. Get lost.”

“You sure about that?” He picks up the picture of her mother. She wants to rush over and slap it out of his hand. How dare he lay a finger on that, after what he did?

“You know,” he says, “I bet a lot of people would be interested in finding out that you were the one who got your own damn mother killed.”

Every muscle in Cassandra’s body tightens to the point of being frozen. “Shut up, JD.”

He stares at the photo of her mother. “You have that check for me?”

“This is the last time.” Her hands are numb as she moves for her checkbook and scribbles out the amount and a poor approximation of her own signature. She makes a mental note to transfer money from her savings account first thing in the morning. “How much money do you think they pay me for these things? I don’t have thousands and thousands of dollars just sitting around--”

He snatches the check from her. “That’s a shame. ‘Cause it can get pretty expensive to keep a secret like this. You know?”

She cannot even stand the sight of him. She shoves him toward the door. “Get the hell out, JD.”

He does not fight her, but she can feel him sneering at her as she slams the door in his face. One of these days, she will be rid of him. One of these days.


The summer night wraps itself around Molly Taylor as she and Philip Ragan step out of the noisy restaurant. They walk through the streets of the Meatpacking District in silence for a long moment, appreciating the contrast of the city lights against the black sky.

“I tell you, these late-night business dinners are not the same after you have kids,” Molly says. “I feel like it’s 3 a.m.”

Philip chuckles. “Come on. That’s what you always wanted, isn’t it? The perfect suburban life, the house, the kids...”

He stops short of adding the husband, though Molly hears it loud and clear, anyway. She scrambles to change the subject.

“That went much better than I expected,” she says, all too happy to reflect on the dinner with buyers that they just wrapped up. “Going to dinner with them was a great idea. I think we really bonded.”

“You couldn’t have just had a cold meeting in a sterile room in the middle of the day,” he says. “That’s no way to make people appreciate art.”

“I don’t know if Objection’s clothes are exactly art--”

“If you feel moved to make them, they are.”

She considers that as they walk. “Well, thank you,” she finally says. “Having you here with me has been a big help.”

And I took care of my own business this afternoon, so all in all, a very successful trip. You can head home tomorrow knowing that you accomplished something.”

We accomplished something. What do you have planned before you come back to King’s Bay?”

“I thought I’d go visit my mother first,” he says, sticking his hands in his trouser pockets. “I’ll rent a car. It’s only a few hours’ drive, and it would be great to see her.”

Through a laugh, Molly says, “I’d love to meet the woman who raised you. She must really be something.”

“She is.” Abruptly, Philip stops walking and turns to her. “If you’re so curious, why don’t you come with me?”

The idea comes so out of the blue that all Molly can say is, “Really?”

“Absolutely. If you don’t have to rush home--”

“I don’t.” She exhales heavily. As much as she already misses the boys, she knows that it is good for them to have Brent at the house for a few days. She is sure that all of them would appreciate a little extra time. “I could use the time away, honestly. It might help clear my head.”

“I don’t know if anything could accomplish that,” he says with a smirk, “but this might be as close as you’ll get.”

“You really wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not. Believe me, I wouldn’t have mentioned it if I minded.” He begins walking again. “As long as you promise not to take total control of the car radio. I can only handle so much Nickelback, or whatever it is you listen to.”

“I do not listen to Nickelback!” Molly smacks him in the shoulder.

“Maybe not, but I must be close. Matchbox 20? People from American Idol?”

She shakes her head and half-suppresses a laugh. “I’m not answering that.”


As Elly’s mouth pushes against Travis’s, her hands press against his chest. The sheer force of it takes Travis by surprise, but he goes with it. When her fingers tug at the bottom of his t-shirt, though, he pulls back.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” She reaches for the button on his shorts.

Against every instinct in his body, Travis moves himself backward and away from her. “Elly... I don’t want you to do anything you aren’t sure of.”

“Why do you think I’m not sure about this?” She runs her fingernails over his bare lower leg. “You’ve been amazing through this whole mess. You’re, like, the only person I can actually trust.”

For some reason, his mouth and throat are so dry that he can barely form words, let alone get them out. His breaths come hard and shallow, and his heart pounds so fast that he doesn’t even know if it is pumping blood anymore.

“Believe me, I know what I’m doing,” Elly says, “and I want my first time to be with you.” She leans in and kisses him again.

Travis pulls away for the fastest t-shirt removal in the history of the world, and then they are kissing again, harder and with more urgency than he thought possible, as they collapse back onto the bed together.


Will Travis and Elly stay out of trouble?
What will the adults do if and when they find them?
What does JD have on Cassandra?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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