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- Diane blackmailed Keith into giving her a "severance package" when she quit her job at the bookstore--that is, a payout not to report his illegal dealings.
- Paula went to see Claire and was surprised to find Jimmy in her apartment, fresh out of the shower.
- Spencer overheard Samantha and Travis discussing how Travis was responsible for Elly's study-abroad application, which was never submitted. Later, Travis threw a fit when he found out that Spencer is working for Tim. 

Cassie's Coffee House

The pulsing beat and frantic synthesizers of an electronic dance song fill the coffee shop. Diane Bishop has to look around to be sure that she is in the same place that she has been coming to for years. Cassie's might look the same--the usual cozy, bohemian mishmash of furniture and pillows--but the thumping music somehow changes the entire vibe. 

She places her order and then heads to the end of the counter to wait. She is trying to block out the tiny woman talking loudly on her cell phone about the Tory Burch purse she found for less than half-price at Nordstrom Rack. She doesn't know which is more irritating: the woman or the music. And then she spots something that trumps them both: Jimmy Trask entering through the front door. 

Diane is about to turn around and dodge the encounter entirely when Jimmy sets eyes on her. Instead of going up to the barista like a normal person, he approaches Diane.

"Hey," he says. Most of his hands are hidden inside his oversized gray fleece jacket. 

"Jimmy," Diane says flatly. 

"You doing okay?"

"Do you seriously want to play this game?"

"What game?"

Diane lets an annoyed huff roll out of her mouth. "What, we're friends now?"

"I was just asking a question. We worked together for a while. That's all, lady."

  Diane Bishop

"We didn't work together," she says, jamming her index finger into his chest. "You and your jackass buddy took advantage of me--" She can hear the woman behind her, now talking about a pair of pumps she should have picked up. Diane swivels around Jimmy to get some distance from the woman. "You and Keith tried to make me the fall guy for your stupid scheme. I'm lucky I got out when I did."

Jimmy's gaze flashes to the side, making sure that Cell Phone Woman isn't paying any attention to them, before he responds: 

"It's real estate, Diane. It's some shady accounting, yeah, but it's not like--"

"Real estate, my ass. We both know what you guys are doing in that store."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Diane can't hold back a giant, exaggerated eye roll. "Yeah. Okay."

"I'm serious," Jimmy says. "I don't know what you think you know…"

She hears the barista call her name, but something about Jimmy's tone and his expression keeps her planted in her spot. 

"Oh my god," she says, unable to keep a tiny grin off her face. "You really believe that."

"Believe what?"

She pauses, careful to select just the right words. She knows that she is covered--she had Keith pay her entirely in unmarked bills, and she used those to buy a number of gift cards and prepaid credit cards, so there's no trail--but she still doesn't want to implicate herself any further. 

"Your buddy Keith is running a scam on you, too," she says. "You might want to give those books another look--a really good look--before he throws you under the bus, too."

She sees Jimmy's mouth open, ready to respond, but she doesn't wait for whatever idiotic protest he is going to lob her way. Instead, she grabs her drink from the end of the counter, gives Jimmy a little wave, and goes on her way. 


The Volkswagen Golf is making its way through the gray, cloudy day when, suddenly, the Lorde song playing through the speakers is interrupted by a shrill digital bell. Alex Marshall practically dives to answer the phone call before he has to listen to that ring again. 

"Hey!" he says.

Cameron Kelley's voice crackles over the Bluetooth system. "Hey, you. What are you up to?"

"Just taking care of some errands. I'm in the car now. What's up?"

"I was just talking to some of the boys," Cameron says, "and we were thinking about doing a fun Happy Hour somewhere. Maybe some margs and nachos?"

"Er… what time are you thinking?" Alex asks.

"Six? Can you do that?"

Alex takes a deep breath, which is probably muffled by the sounds of air rushing all around the car. "I actually have a bunch of stuff to take care of. And I have to pick Sophie up and stay with her until Jason gets home--"

"So come meet us when you can."

"It's really not the best night," Alex says.

"Oh my god. Come have a drink and relax a little!"

"Cameron. It's a weeknight, and I have stuff--"

"Yeah, yeah. We're not gonna, like, go dancing until 3 a.m.," Cameron says. "Come on. It'll be fun. Maybe we can get a little tipsy and then go back to my place…"

"That does sound fun," Alex says. "Can we do it another night? I told Jason I'd make dinner, so it's weird if I just cut out--"

Cameron lets out an exaggerated groan. "Oh, of course. You have to cook dinner for your husband."

"Excuse me?"

There is a pause while air hisses on the line.

"It's just stupid," Cameron says. "She's not your kid. Jason's not your boyfriend. I am."

Alex feels as if he's just had a fist driven into his stomach. He keeps his eyes on the road, but it takes every ounce of energy he possesses to keep his mind there. 

"Jason is my best friend," he says in as measured a tone as he can. "His wife was murdered when they had an infant. And Sophie might not be my daughter, but she's definitely like a niece to me. At least. That's--Cameron, they are my family, whether we're technically related or not. If you can't respect that, then we don't have much here."

"Okay. Sorry. Jeez. I just… you never want to do anything with my friends. It sucks. Sorry I overreacted."

"Let's pick a night that isn't a weeknight, okay? Then I'd be happy to hang out with your friends." Alex knows that he probably sounds annoyed or oddly petulant, but he can't help it. Not after what Cameron just lobbed at him. 

"Okay. I'm gonna go. Good luck with your errands and stuff."

"Thanks. Talk to you soon," Alex says. He reaches for the button, but the call goes dead before he can push it. 


"Here, have some more," Paula Fisher says as she hovers over the kitchen table with the apple pie that she baked this afternoon.

"It's the middle of the afternoon!" Tim Fisher sets his fork down on his plate and slides them across the table, indicating that he has had enough. "Not that it wasn't delicious…"

His mother sets the pie dish down on the counter. "Well, there's more if you decide you want some."

"Thank you. It was really, really good," Tim says, recalling the delicious combination of the flaky crust and the warm, gooey filling. But another piece of pie is probably the last thing he needs right now; he hasn't exactly been keeping up with going to the gym, especially not since his responsibilities at Vision expanded. 

  Paula Fisher

Paula returns to her seat at the table. "Travis will get past this," she says, resuming the conversation they were in the midst of moments ago. "Of course he's upset. This whole thing must still be such a shock to him. It's a shock to all of us."

"I should have told him, though. I just thought I'd see how it was going having Spencer at Vision--see if he was even going to take it seriously--before I fired a missile and started World War III."

"It's a good thing, what you're doing for Spencer."

"I'm trying to believe that."

"You're in an impossible position, Tim. You're a father to both those boys, and there's no easy way to manage that." 

Tim sighs heavily. "I'm doing what I can."

"And you're doing an excellent job." Paula picks up her own fork, musing on something while she savors the last bits of her own slice of pie. "You're certainly doing a much more commendable job than their mother."

"Claire? Mom, I really don't want to--"

"I went to see her the other day," Paula says. There is something damning about the way she states this simple fact. 

"What for?" 

"I baked her cookies to thank her for that serving dish she… brought over on Christmas."

"I feel bad that she didn't even feel welcome to come in."

"So did I," Paula says, "but it's very clear that she's been keeping herself busy."

Tim furrows his brow. "What does that mean?"

"Well… she answered the door in her robe and let me in, and we were in the middle of talking when a man came out of the bathroom in just a towel!"

"I didn't know Claire was seeing anyone."

"Neither did I. It was all very awkward. What if Travis had stopped by to see her? It was the middle of the morning!"

"Claire is an adult," Tim says, though he's still a little thrown by the idea that he knows so little about her life these days. "It isn't like you saw a parade of men coming out of her bedroom."

Paula gasps and touches a hand to her chest. "Who knows anymore? I feel like I hardly know her at all, between this and the way she lied to all of us about Travis and Spencer."

Tim doesn't know how to respond to that, and he certainly doesn't want to take sides, so he does the only thing he can think to do. 

"Maybe I'll have some more of that pie after all," he says, picking up his plate and fork to head across the kitchen.


It is almost disturbingly slow in the Student Affairs office this afternoon. Aside from the occasional ring of a telephone or delivery of a package, absolutely nothing seems to be happening. Samantha Fisher sits at her post at the front desk, her Kindle open in her lap. She tried to work on her Sociology paper a bit, but the distractions were just frequent enough that she couldn't really dive in and process the work; instead, she has decided to continue picking her way through A Confederacy of Dunces, which she has been meaning to delve into for a long while and is only now getting around to reading.

She is absorbed in the text, just about to forget where she is, when someone enters the office. She sets the Kindle aside and looks up to see Spencer Ragan approaching her desk. After their tense encounter the other day, she is not sure how to regard him.

"Hi," she says politely. "What can I do for you?"

Something about Spencer seems a little more hesitant than usual--maybe the way he has his hands stuffed in the pockets of his skinny jeans, or the way he lets his gaze roam around the office before he answers her.

"Nothing, actually," he says. 

Samantha can't do much to hide her confusion.

"I came to see you," Spencer continues. "I was kind of a dick the other day, huh?"

"Uh…" She trips over her next few attempts at a response. "It's a really weird situation for all of us."

"You could say that, yeah."

Awkwardness descends upon them in the form of heavy, uncertain silence. Samantha pretends to be busy checking something on the computer monitor while she gathers her thoughts.

"I heard you're working for my dad at Vision," she says. "Our dad, I mean--"

"I'm guessing Travis told you that."


"He was not happy," Spencer says. He twists his mouth in a way that looks so familiar to Samantha; it takes her a moment to realize that Claire does the exact same thing. 

"Dad probably should've told him first," she says, "but the whole thing is so complicated. Are you still living at your--at Philip's?"

"Yeah. You live on campus, right?"

"I live with Travis's girlfriend. Elly."

"I know her, yeah. You guys are good friends?"

"Yeah. She's really nice," Samantha says, flapping the cover of her Kindle open and closed nervously. 

"Must be kind of weird for you if they ever get in a fight," Travis says with a little laugh.

She shares his chuckle. "Very weird."

Spencer glances at his phone. "Listen, I need to finish an errand for Philip, but maybe we can meet up sometime. I mean, we're brother and sister. So, like, I'll Facebook you?"

"Yeah," Samantha says, unable to keep a smile off her face. "That sounds good."

"Awesome. I'll catch you later."

He knocks on the desk and then takes off, gone as quickly as he entered the office. Samantha picks up her Kindle again, but she remains distracted by that surprising turn of events. Maybe there is a chance for Spencer to become part of the family after all.


After he stops at the bank and the dry cleaner downtown--and makes a mental note to switch to a dry cleaner closer to Jason's house already--Alex decides to make a detour and see an old friend. His car is parked only a block from the bookstore, so he drops his dry cleaning in the trunk and then walks there. 

He finds the front door open and no one at the counter. He approaches it and hears two voices--both male--coming from somewhere in the back.

"She doesn't know what she's talking about."

"Sure seemed like it."

"You're gonna trust that bitch Diane over me?"

  Alex Marshall

Taken aback, Alex thinks of just backing out of the store--but when he turns abruptly, he bumps into a display table, and the resulting thump is apparently enough to alert the men in back to his presence. One of them, an unnaturally tanned guy with shaggy brown hair, pokes his head out.

"Can I help you?" the man asks.

"Oh, uh…" Alex swallows the sudden lump in his throat. "I was wondering if Diane was here."

The other man, a thin, tall bearded guy, practically comes flying out of the back. "Diane doesn't work here anymore. Who's asking?"

"Just a friend," Alex says. "Sorry to bother you."

He retreats from the store quickly, but the thoughts hound him long after he is back in his car: Why doesn't Diane work there anymore? And what happened to make those guys wind up in an argument about her?


Why were Jimmy and Keith arguing?
Will Samantha and Spencer grow closer?
Was Cameron out of line in what he said to Alex?
Was Paula wrong to tell Tim about Claire?
Discuss it all right now in the Footprints Forum!

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Sat., March 01, 2014

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