Episode #622

- Elly’s roommate, Georgia, returned to campus after disappearing suddenly and being out of touch all winter break. Elly asked her what happened with Spencer the night of the finals week party.
- When Helen discovered sleeping pills in Jason’s room, he made a big show of flushing them down the toilet. She took the incident as further proof of his instability as a parent to Sophie.
- Both Diane and Ryan played upon Natalie’s insecurities about Julian’s feelings for her.
- Ryan managed to swipe Julian’s manuscript from Diane’s assistant’s computer and e-mailed it to someone he was sure would be very interested in it…


Through the closed door of her dorm room, Elly Vanderbilt can hear the sounds of college life: music blaring, feet running, laughter ringing out. But all of it seems distant and unimportant right now. She sits on the baby blue comforter of her roommate’s bed, one arm wrapped around Georgia as she sniffles.

“I shouldn’t have gone back to his room,” the blonde girl says as she attempts to stop crying.

Though Elly agrees, she is sure that vocalizing that thought would not be very helpful at the moment. Instead, she says, “We all make… judgment errors. It happens.”

“I know, but…” Georgia lets out a loud sigh, the kind that crackles in her throat because she has been crying. “I feel like such an idiot.”

“Don’t.” Elly squeezes her shoulder. “You can’t blame yourself. Spencer is the jerk here.”


“Besides, it’s over. It happened, and it’s done, and you got to go home and cool off for a few weeks. And now, I’m here for you.”

Georgia raises her hand and wipes her eyes. Another sniffle escapes as she takes a Kleenex and dries her face, though the tearstains remain on her cheeks.

“Thanks for listening,” she says.

“Anytime.” Elly gives her another squeeze and then slides her hand back into her own lap. “Travis will kill him for you. You know that, right?”

Whatever peace recently came over Georgia disappears in an instant. “No. You can’t tell Travis.”

The vigor of her demand surprises Elly.

“Promise me you won’t tell anyone,” Georgia says. “Especially not Travis.”


“Promise me.”

There isn’t much Elly can say or do but agree--even if she thinks Spencer’s family should know what a creep he is.

“I promise,” Elly says, just in time for a knock on the door. The girls scramble instinctively. Georgia sweeps her pile of used Kleenexes into the wastebasket, and Elly flies to her feet. She debates for a second over whether to open the door, but when she checks through the peephole and sees that it is Travis, she glances back to make sure Georgia is okay and then opens the door.

“Hey!” she greets him overenthusiastically. “Did you just get back?”

“A little while ago, yeah.” He plants a quick kiss on her lips. “Hey, Georgia.”

“Hi,” Georgia says, her voice still a little shaky.

Travis seems to pick up on the vibe in the room. “What, uh, what are you guys doing?”

Georgia springs into action before Elly can get out a single word. “Nothing. Just getting settled back in. Right, El?” She holds a hard stare upon Elly, a silent demand for  reassurance.

“Right,” Elly says, knowing that she has no other choice but to honor her friend’s wish.


Peace and quiet are the orders of the day at Ryan Moriani’s house, where he and Danielle Taylor are currently stretched out on adjacent sofas, each absorbed in a novel. Despite the serenity of the afternoon, though, something inside Ryan will not stop jangling; he keeps thinking about his excursion to Vision Publishing earlier today, and the e-mail and phone call that followed. Now, as he waits for his cell phone to vibrate in his pocket, he finds that he is reading entire pages without absorbing any of their words.

There are a few false alarms: an e-mail notification for a newly delivered electric bill, a phone call about a Homeowners’ Association meeting. When he feels the repeated vibrations of a ring and checks the phone’s display again, he almost doesn’t believe that it is actually the call he has been awaiting.

“Ryan Moriani,” he answers, gesturing to Danielle that he will be back in a moment. He swiftly rises from the couch and exits to the kitchen.

“Had a chance to look over that manuscript,” the gruff male voice on the other end says. “Not bad, from what I could tell.”

“I told you.”

“You said Vision’s about to close on it?”

“Very soon. The contract was only delayed because of the holidays.”

“So what do ya want me to do?”

“More importantly, what do you want to do?” Ryan says. “You’ve been wanting to pull the rug out from under Diane Bishop for a long time, haven’t you?”

“Yeah. Still can’t believe you didn’t take me up on my offer and let me publish your book instead.”

“My hands were tied. She already had me under contract. There wouldn’t have even been a book if Diane hadn’t hounded me.” Ryan drums his fingers against his leg nervously. “But this one is yours for the taking, Sal. You have to move quickly, that’s all.”

“When can I meet him?”

Ryan lowers his voice as he says, “Julian? You want to meet him?”

“Not gonna sign someone to a publishing contract before I meet the guy, ya know?”

“Of course. Yeah.” Ryan pauses to think. Even though he is probably silent for no more than two or three seconds, it feels like an eternity. “Any chance you’re going to be in King’s Bay in the next 48 hours?”

“Not likely, buddy. I’ll tell you what: you get this St. John guy to Vegas by the weekend, let me sit down with him for twenty minutes, and we’ll see if we can work something out.”

Great, Ryan thinks. That shouldn’t be difficult at all.

“I’m on it,” he says. “One more thing, Sal.”

“What’s that?”

“There’s something I think Julian might want to include in the book--something unsubstantiated that concerns my father and me. If I deliver this book to you, I need your word--”

“That I’ll get that part outta the book?” Sal lets out the laugh of a man who’s been burning his lungs with cigars for years. “Might be able to do that for ya.”

“Great. I’ll, uh, I’ll talk to Julian and be in touch with you as soon as possible.”

“Don’t dangle this in front of me unless you can deliver, Moriani,” Sal says.

“Don’t worry. I’ll deliver.” I don’t know how the hell I’m going to, but I will, Ryan thinks before saying a quick goodbye and pocketing the phone.

When he returns to the living room, Danielle looks up from her book with interest. “Everything all right?” she asks. “You rushed out of here like the house was on fire.”

“Oh, just a call I’ve been waiting for,” he says, “about the paperback printing of my book. Business stuff.”

She returns to her reading, and Ryan reclaims his spot on the other couch, but he knows that he will not be sitting still for long. He has to do something--fast.


There are a lot of things Don Chase expects he might encounter when he arrives home from the post office. He might be greeted by the sounds of Helen up in the attic, hard at work on her never-ending renovation of the space. He might discover the enticing smells of a slow-cook dinner being prepared in the kitchen. One thing he does not expect, however, is a sharp-dressed younger man to be sitting in his living room with his wife.

“Honey, this is Eric Westin,” Helen says, standing from the sofa to meet him with a hug and a kiss. “He’s an attorney.”

Eric rises and extends his hand. Don, caught off-guard, shakes with the man. There is something immediately off-putting about Westin: he is too polished, too slick.

“Don Chase,” he says before turning to Helen. “What’s going on?”

“Your wife has retained me to represent the two of you in a possible custody suit.”

Though Don had a feeling this would be the next thing Helen suggested, never in a million years did he expect her to retain an attorney without even consulting him. He does everything he can not to blow his lid.

“I see,” Don says in a very measured tone. “Helen, can I talk to you in the kitchen for a minute?”

She goes with him, but her demeanor is meek, nervous, like she knows what is coming.

“Are you crazy?” Don asks in a heavy whisper as soon as they are alone in the kitchen. “A custody suit?”

“We have to look out for Sophie’s best interests.”

“Taking her away from her father is not in her best interests!”

“Neither is being raised by a troubled young man who can’t cope with his grief and refuses to let her out of his sight, ever.” Helen folds her arms and seems to gain resolve. “I worry about Sophie, growing up with Jason.”

“There are a lot of things we can do besides sue him for custody.”

“Like what? He’ll barely speak to anyone about anything more serious than the grocery list!”

Don knows that he cannot argue with that, and yet, this all seems wrong. They are all struggling with the loss of Courtney, a year later. Trying to take Sophie away from Jason permanently seems so extreme.

“All I ask if that you hear Mr. Westin out,” Helen says. “We’re only having discussions right now. This way, we have the information we need if decide to move forward.”

He hesitates before answering, “I’m not saying I’m comfortable with this. I will ask questions and listen to what he has to say. That’s it.”

“That’s all I’m doing right now, too.”

She leads him back to the living room, where Eric Westin is fiddling with his Blackberry. He doesn’t acknowledge their presence until they are both seated on the sofa across from him.

“Don agrees that we should at least hear what you think,” Helen says, taking her husband’s hand.

Westin clasps his hands together in his lap. “As I was saying before you arrived, Mr. Chase, there are certainly grounds for concern, based upon what your wife has told me. But we’re going to require some more substantial… ammunition if we’re going to make a convincing case against your son-in-law.”

Don does not miss the look that passes between the attorney and his wife--a look that suggests this so-called ammunition might not need to occur naturally.


In room 312, Natalie Bishop is preparing to take a relaxing bath. After a game of tennis and a Shiatsu massage, a nice soak sounds perfect. She is running hot water into the oversized tub when the room’s telephone rings.

Normally, she would ignore it, but that phone rarely rings. If anyone needs to reach her or Julian personally, they call their cell phones. It must be the front desk, she reasons as she crosses the bedroom in her robe to answer the call.

“Hello?” she says.

“Oh.” The female voice on the other end sounds startled. “I, um, I’m afraid I might have the wrong--I’m looking for Julian.”

“He isn’t here at the moment. Can I ask who’s calling?”

“Um, it’s… no, nevermind.”

Something about the woman’s voice is incredibly suspicious. She’s obviously up to something.

“This is his fiancée,” Natalie says. “I’d be happy to give him a message.”

“Fiancée?” The woman speaks the word with a unique combination of shock and distaste.

“Yes. Now would you like to leave a message?”

“No, that’s okay. Bye.” Just like that, the line goes dead.

Natalie holds the receiver in her hand for another moment before replacing it. Why would an unidentified woman--especially a woman who sounded so shady--be calling for Julian? And why would she be so surprised to hear that he has a fiancée?

She can hear the water filling the tub in the bathroom, but even with the chill that rushes through her body, that hot bath no longer sounds inviting.


The usually sedate bookstore is currently a mob scene, packed with students desperate to track down the few used copies of the books they need for the semester’s classes. Elly and Travis wind their way through the melee, trying to read their individual lists of books as they go.

“I need to go find that stupid Shakespeare collection thing,” Travis says. “I couldn’t get it online anywhere.”

Elly reviews her list. “I just need that Sociology textbook now. You go that way, I’ll go this way, and we’ll meet back here in five minutes. Deal?”

Travis surveys the crowd. “See you in five… if either of us is still alive.”

They part ways, and Elly has to use her shoulders to ram her way down the main aisle. Things are even worse in the aisle where the Sociology courses’ books are kept. The scene reminds her of Black Friday at Wal-Mart, with students elbowing each other, grabbing at everything they can find, and then tossing unwanted items all over the floor. She forces her way to the center of the aisle and, after a lot of craning her neck and standing on her tiptoes, locates the shelf for Sociology 190. Her vision settles on the stack of textbooks she needs, and on a clearly used copy near the edge of the shelf. She stretches her arm to reach it, but before she can, another hand shoots out and snags it.

A hand, she realizes as her eyes track upward, belongs to someone whom she really, really does not want to see today.

“Hey there,” Spencer Ragan says, his gaze twinkling with some kind of sick mischief.

Elly ignores the greeting and pushes her way closer to the shelf. There are several other copies of the book, but they are all brand-new and thus cost $80 each.

“Looks like I got the last used one,” Spencer says.

“I noticed.” She picks up one of the new books. “Why don’t we trade?”

“Why should I pay more for that one when I got this one first?”

“Because you can afford it.” She leans closer and lowers her voice, not that anyone would hear her over the steady buzz anyway. “And because I can convince my roommate to go to the Disciplinary Board with what you did to her.”

Spencer lets out a mock-horrified laugh. “Are you blackmailing me, Elly? Over a textbook?”

She slaps the brand-new book back on the shelf. “This isn’t about the book. Georgia told me what you did. It’s mean, and it’s gross.”

“What did I do, exactly?”

“You made her give you a…”

“A blowjob.” He says it slowly, relishing her discomfort. “I didn’t make her do it. She was quite willing.”

“Well, you made her… swallow.”

He almost snorts his laughter.

“And then you stole her clothes and forced her to walk home all the way across campus in her underwear.”

“First of all,” he says, “I tapped her on the head to warn her. I can’t help it if she was so engaged in her work that she couldn’t be bothered to move.”

“By which you mean, you held her head down.”

“Tapping, holding, who knows these days? Secondly, it’s not my fault if she misplaced her clothes and then became very unpleasant. I wanted her out of my room if she was going to make such a scene, that’s all.”

“You’re such an ass,” she says, wishing that she could punch him here and now. He would probably enjoy it, though. “It was a cruel thing to do, and you know it.”

“Maybe you should tell your friend not to go around blowing every Tom, Dick, and Spencie on campus, then.”

Elly gets jostled momentarily by a surge of people moving by, and when she rights herself, she finds Travis by her side.

“Got the Shakespeare book,” he says before noticing Spencer in front of them. “Is he bugging you?”

“Hey, nephew. I’m the one being harassed here.”

Travis gives her a questioning look. “What’s going on?”

Elly wants so badly to tell him how badly Spencer treated Georgia, how stupid he made her feel, but she promised not to say anything. Georgia would be so embarrassed if she knew that Travis knew.

“Nothing,” Elly says, grabbing him by the hand. “Let’s go.” She starts to drag him down the aisle.

“Elly. Wait. You forgot something.”

She turns to see Spencer holding out the used book for her. She hesitates only an instant before grabbing it.

“See? I’m not always so bad,” he says, flashing a closed-mouth grin.

Elly concentrates on pushing her way toward the cash registers, gripping Travis’s hand tightly in her own.


Natalie forgoes her bath and opts for a quick shower instead. She dresses in dark jeans, a white ruffled blouse, and a plum-colored coat, given the rainy conditions outside. Then she sets out to pick up her daughter from her tutoring session, her nerves still jumping like popcorn kernels as she crosses the hotel’s lobby.

Out of the corner of her sight, she spots a familiar face at one of the tables beneath the covered area that houses the restaurant’s café. Just as her mind registers whose face it is, the man spots her and waves at her.

“Natalie!” Ryan Moriani says loudly, condemning her to, at the least, a hello. She diverts from her original path to stand beside the café’s waist-high wall. On the other side of it, Ryan sits at a high table with a dark-haired woman in her 30s.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than linger around my hotel?” she asks.

“I see that you and Diane have some things in common… like believing the entire world revolves around you. I was actually just having a late lunch with my friend. Amanda, this is Natalie. Natalie, Amanda.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Amanda says. Natalie grudgingly shakes her hand.

“Is something the matter?” Ryan asks with that obnoxious grin, the same one he tried to use when he came to confront her about Julian’s book. It is the sort of look that is supposed to threaten that he knows more than she does, even though she knows the man is an idiot.

“Everything’s fine. Wonderful.”

“You don’t seem wonderful,” Ryan says. “Does seeing me unnerve you that much?”

“It has nothing to do with you,” she snaps. “Some… woman called our room asking for Julian. Probably someone out to hound us, I’m sure.”

Ryan’s smirk brightens. “Yes, because you’re so popular.”

“Shut up. I’m leaving.”

She turns to make her exit, but Ryan’s voice stops her after a single step.

“You’re sure it was a stranger?”

Natalie turns around, staring from him to the Amanda lady and back again. “What’s that supposed to mean? What are you up to?”

“I’m not up to anything! But it sounds like your precious fiancé might be.”

She doesn’t even know how to rebuff such a ridiculous accusation.

“All I’m saying,” Ryan says, “is that the last time I was supposed to get married, it turned into a huge disaster because we waited and waited to have this big, perfect wedding. I wish I had just taken Claire to Vegas months before that and eloped. That way, we would have been married before everything with my father happened.”

“I’m not planning on shooting anyone and framing my brother for it.”

“You don’t have a brother. Just Diane. And let’s be honest, you would frame her if you did shoot someone.”

Natalie begins to agree before realizing how absurd the entire conversation is. “I’m going now. Enjoy your lunches.”

“Just think about what I said.” Ryan picks up his fork and is poised to resume eating his salad, but he pauses to add, “If it’s security you want, make sure Julian marries you before this book goes public.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Natalie tells him and, without wasting another second of her day, she turns and makes a beeline for the exit.

Back in the café, Ryan and Amanda resume eating in silence. Only once Ryan sees Natalie pass through the hotel’s revolving door does he dare to speak.

“Thanks for playing along,” he says.

Amanda--or whatever her real name is; he has already forgotten--takes another bite of her salmon and then holds out her palm. “Where’s my money?”

He pulls out his wallet and hands her a hundred dollars. “This is for the phone call.” He adds another hundred to her hand. “And this is for playing it cool just now. Well done.”

“You really think this is going to work?” she asks.

“If I’m reading Natalie Bishop correctly, the thing that scares her most in the world is the thought of being alone,” he says. “And just in case, I have one more trick up my sleeve.” He continues eating his chopped salad, hoping that Natalie is insecure enough to ensure his plan’s success.


Will Ryan’s manipulation of Natalie be successful?
Has Helen gone too far in hiring an attorney?
Should Elly tell Travis what Spencer did?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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