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- Matt and Danielle unexpectedly rang in the new year together.
- Alex expressed his displeasure with Vision Publishing since Diane’s firing. Tim told him that they should sit down privately and talk about Alex’s writing career.
- Spencer rejected Claire’s attempts to get to know him, unaware that she is really his biological mother.


Alex Marshall leans back in the black mesh conference chair and clasps his hands together behind his head. “I just don’t think it’s the right move for me,” he says to the only other person in the conference room.

“I agree,” Tim Fisher responds, “which is why I wanted to meet with you alone. I know you’re getting a lot of noise from a lot of voices here--”

“Seriously. Since Diane left, it’s been mostly that: noise.”

“Well, I don’t think turning this into a crime novel is the best idea.” Tim picks up the manuscript, bound with a binder clip, that sits atop the conference table. “It’s a very effective piece of character fiction. I think that should be your focus as you revise--the characters and what they want, not solving a murder.” 

“I’m glad you feel that way.” Alex stares out the large window that takes up an entire wall of the conference room; it frames a view of the King’s Bay skyline and the rapidly darkening winter evening. “To tell the truth, I’m questioning whether Vision is where I want to be once this book is done and my contract is up. It definitely feels like there’s been a shift around here lately.”

 “I shouldn’t say this, but since you’re my brother’s best friend, I feel like I can…” Tim sighs. “A lot of spirit and focus left with Diane. I understand that they’ve had to make cuts, and it’s benefited me because I’ve had some opportunities to step up, but letting her go was a really short-sighted decision.”

Alex nods. “That’s how it seems to me.”

Tim absently flips through a few pages of the manuscript before placing it back on the table. “Did you and Diane ever discuss the movie rights to your first two books?”

“Sort of. In general terms. Why?”

  Tim Fisher

“I think it’s time to get more serious about it,” Tim says. “Your stories are perfectly cinematic in scope--not too big, not too internal, you know? I think they’d translate into movies nicely. Especially if we could work with a smaller company and go the indie route--it might open up your writing to a new market and get publishers to stop trying to cram you into that ‘airport reading’ cubbyhole.”

“You make a pretty good argument so far,” Alex says. “Did you hear that Josh Taylor is going to be working for a movie studio in L.A.? He’s in P.R., but it might be a foot in the door, at least as far as making some connections.”

“That’s sort of what got me thinking about this again, when Jason mentioned that to me.”

“Then I say, let’s go for it.” Alex can actually feel the excitement welling inside himself. This might be the exact boost that his writing career needs right now.


The campus buzzes with after-dark activity. Students in gym clothes move in and out of the athletic facility; others carry their stacks of books from the library back to their dorms; a group of freshman boys shout and yell as they takes turns attempting skateboard tricks near the quad. Travis Fisher pulls his girlfriend out of the way as one of the skateboards goes whizzing by.

“Dude! Watch out!” Travis shouts to the oblivious freshman.

Elly waves the near-miss away with a brush of her hand. “No harm done.”

“Yeah, until he runs somebody over.”

Pulling the sleeves of her fleece jacket down over her hands, Elly asks, “Do you want to stop in the Bistro and get a muffin or something, or do you want, like, real food?”

“Whatever is fine. I just need to eat something before I start working on this paper.”

“That’s code for ‘I’m going to get really grumpy if I don’t eat a meal,’” she says, “so let’s go get pizza.”

Smiling, Travis reaches down and clasps her hand through the jacket sleeve. He leads the way, stepping off the curb to cross the parking lot--as a set of headlights come flying toward them.

“Watch out!” Elly shouts, yanking him back.

The Range Rover screeches to a stop.

“Watch where you’re going!” a voice yells from the driver’s window.

“See what I meant about someone getting run over?” Travis mutters to Elly. He squints as his eyes adjust to the bright beams of the headlights and, through the windshield, he recognizes the driver.

You watch the hell out, man!” Travis yells to Spencer Ragan, who sneers at him from behind the steering wheel.

Elly tugs on his sleeve. “Come on. Let’s go eat.”

Spencer leans his head out the open window. “If I’d known it was you, I wouldn’t have bothered hitting the brakes.”

“Wouldn’t put it past you,” Travis says.

Elly drags Travis away, but not before shooting Spencer an icy glare. He barely waits for them to pass before he slams the accelerator, and the Range Rover goes squealing out of the parking lot.

322 Bar & Grill

"One bacon and mushroom burger, and one turkey burger,” the server says as she sets down the two entrees.

“Thanks,” Matt Gray tells her. She smiles and departs, leaving him and Danielle Taylor to begin sampling their food.

“These are so good,” Danielle says as she eats two of her sweet potato fries.

Matt takes a big bite of his burger before responding. “I’m starving,” he says as he wipes his mouth with his napkin. “I had a really crappy bagel this morning and then didn’t have time to grab anything all day.”

Danielle laughs. “Isn’t ‘crappy bagel’ kind of the norm for the Northwest?”

“Good point. That’s one thing I really miss about the East Coast. Well, two. Bagels and pizza.”

“I can’t help you with the pizza,” Danielle says, “but I actually found great bagels at this little bakery out in Old Town.”


“Yeah. I found them completely by accident, but they’re so much better than what you normally find around here. It’s a bit of a hike out there, but every now and then, it’s worth it.”

“You’ll have to show me sometime.”

They fall into affable silence for a moment as they eat. Matt finds himself surprisingly comfortable--something he does not often feel around people whom he has only recently gotten to know.

“I’m glad I ran into you on New Year’s Eve,” he says somewhat abruptly.

“Me, too. Speaking of… You never told me your New Year’s resolution! You said you needed time to think about one.”

“I’m not good with that kind of stuff.”

“Why not?”

He just shrugs.

  Matt Gray

“If you had to set a goal for this year, what would it be?” she asks.

“Hmm…” He pauses to take a drink of his soda. “Got it. Find a new job.”


“Yeah. Windmills is killing me. Too stuffy. And everyone’s so keyed-up all the time.”

“That sounds like a resolution to me,” Danielle says with that warm, easy smile.

“How about you? You getting back into the music thing yet?”

“I’ve been making myself sit down to write for half an hour every day. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually write something worthwhile.”

“I’m sure you already have,” Matt says.

Danielle glances around the busy restaurant. “I wouldn’t put money on it. But it feels good to be doing it, for now.”


“This year is going to be about me,” she says with resolve. “I can’t believe I spent so much of the past year planning a wedding that turned out to be such a bust.”

“That wasn’t your fault.”

“I know.” She sounds unconvinced and then repeats, “I know. But so much of the past few years was about making that relationship work, or trying to change someone who can’t be changed. This year, it’s about doing whatever will make me happy. And Elly, of course.”

The sentiment resonates with Matt more deeply than he expected. He lifts his glass to her.

“To New Year’s resolutions,” he says, “and actually sticking to them.”

“To New Year’s resolutions,” Danielle says as she touches her glass to his.


The dark has fully fallen by the time Tim leaves the office. The traffic is plodding along, as it normally does at this time of the evening. Stuck at a red light, he glances at the two new e-mails that have come in to his phone since he left work. When he puts the phone back in the cup holder, he sees the light turn green. Several seconds later, the cars in front of him finally begin moving. He is just pulling through the intersection when he notices the Range Rover on the side of the road.

He gives the stalled vehicle only a passing look and is about to continue on his way when he recognizes the person standing beside the car. Feeling compelled to help, Tim maneuvers his car to the shoulder and hops out.

“Something the matter?” he calls out to the young man.

“Flat tire,” Spencer says.

“Do you need to call someone? A tow truck?” Tim asks, holding out his phone.

“I already called Triple A. I’m waiting for them.”

“Ah.” Tim realizes that the kid has no idea who he is--which isn’t surprising, but then again, the whole connection is so awkward. “Um, by the way, I’m your--your sister’s ex-husband. Travis’s father. Tim Fisher.”

Spencer’s entire face tightens up. “Oh. Listen, I’ve got it. The tow truck is on the way.” He turns back to the car.

“You don’t have a spare?” Tim asks.

  Spencer Ragan

“Yeah, I do,” Spencer says, turning back with something closely resembling annoyance.

“I can change it for you.” Seeing the young man’s hesitation, Tim asks, “How long did they say the wait for that tow truck would be?”

Spencer shrugs. “I don’t know. An hour or so. It’s a busy night.” Before Tim can say anything else, Spencer adds, “Seriously, it’s cool. I can wait.”

“I don’t mind,” Tim persists.

Spencer just stares at him for a long moment. “How about you get lost? My mom has told me all about you people. I don’t want anything to do with Claire, and I don’t--”

“We’re divorced.” Tim doesn’t know why he feels so driven to stand his ground here, but it feels like the right thing to do. “I don’t mind changing your tire. That’s all I’m saying.”

Spencer thinks about it and then, wordlessly, goes around the back of the Range Rover and opens the back door. “Tire’s in there.”

As Tim pulls open the compartment in the trunk to retrieve the tire and jack, Spencer hops back into the driver’s seat and slams the door closed. Tim watches him from behind for a few seconds. He remembers too many encounters with the boy’s father, James Robbins--first cold, and later outright hostile. He remembers the sight of his father-in-law’s body plunging to his death, when only moments prior, Tim thought he was about to die. And he recalls being trapped in the basement of his father’s restaurant as Nick Moriani prepared to detonate a bomb--a plot that had been orchestrated and executed by Spencer’s mother.

Maybe all that explains why he kneels down at the side of the road and, with traffic rolling by, changes the tire in the dark.


Matt is decidedly not hungry when he arrives home from dinner. The burger and fries, not to mention the piece of apple pie that he had for dessert, sit heavy in his stomach as he parks his truck and walks toward his apartment. He is fiddling to find the right key when he notices something on his front door.

It is a note, held up with a piece of scotch tape. He inserts the key into the lock but doesn’t even get to the point of turning it, as he absorbs the note’s words.

Please, please, meet me on Pier 22 tonight. I don’t know where else to go. I need you. I’ll be there. Just come—and don’t call or text me. I’ll explain when you get there. – Sarah

Everything about it seems weird: the tone, the urgency, the fact that she came here and left a note instead of calling him.

Maybe Graham did something to her phone. Matt has always gotten a weird vibe from that guy, though he figured it was because of the sense of competition between them. But obviously, Sarah is feeling it, too.

He can’t have her down on that pier alone at night. And it’s obvious that something serious is bothering her. So, without even unlocking his door or removing the note, Matt reverses course, hops back into his truck, and takes off for Pier 22.


What will Matt find when he gets to the pier?
Will Spencer ever be able to accept the Fishers?
Is Alex Hollywood-bound?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Tuesday, Feb. 14th, 2012

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