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- Much of King’s Bay gathered at the arena for a New Year’s Eve fundraiser in memory of Courtney.
- Sarah and Matt shared the news that they are engaged with family and friends.
- Helen was upset to learn that Jason had brought Natalie as his date for the party.
- Sandy went upstairs to the A/V booth to check the DVD for a special presentation, but when it never came on, Ryan went to check on her and discovered something shocking…

Edge of Winter Arena

Ryan Moriani edges his way through the dark A/V booth, but when his foot strikes something, he freezes and looks down. The world seems to stop turning around him--no oxygen to breathe, no sound to hear, nothing--as he realizes what he has just hit. A hand goes to his mouth as he slowly backs away, trying to process what he is seeing.

Before him, the lifeless form of Sandy James lies on the floor, covered in a substance that he instantly knows is blood. 

His gaze darts around the dark room, illuminated only in the slightest by the electronic glow of the DVD player, sound board, and other equipment. He sees no one, not across the room, not behind him, not in any of the corners. In a burst of movement, he pulls back the open door, but no one is there, either. 

Thoughts come to him in flashes. Sandy is dead. Someone killed Sandy. He's standing in a room with a dead body. He should check--see if she's okay. They're going to think he did it. He shouldn't touch her.

"Sandy?" he asks, even though he knows it is futile.

He looks through the window, down at the party happening in the arena below. He realizes that he is the only person in the world who knows yet what a horrific night this is.

* * * * *

"I wonder what the hold-up is," Jason Fisher says, rising once again from his seat at the dinner table. Guests are mingling and circulating about as the waitstaff finishes clearing the salad plates; they have orders not to begin serving the main course until the short video begins to play, but that does not appear to be happening.

"It's probably just the DVD acting weird," Natalie Bishop says from her seat beside him as she sips her white wine.

"Yeah, but between Sandy and Ryan, they can't figure it out?"

Jason sees Ryan's face appear in the rectangular window of the A/V booth up above the rink. He waves his arms, hoping to get his brother's attention, but even though Ryan appears to be looking in his direction, there is no reaction before Ryan backs away from the window. 

  Jason Fisher

Jason sets his napkin on the table. "I'm gonna go see what's up."

"Don't stress out so much," Natalie says, but he is already on his way toward the stairs.

* * * * *

Don Chase carefully makes his way over the carpeting and off the ice, where dinner is being held, and rounds the perimeter of the rink. He is approaching the arena's entry when one of the doors opens with a loud yawn and his wife enters.

"There you are," Don says as he hurries toward her. "I've been looking for you."

"Oh. I was just talking a call outside. My sister wanted to wish us a Happy New Year." Helen holds up her cell phone, as if to corroborate her story, before placing it back in her small satin evening bag.

"You went outside to take a phone call? It's freezing," Don says.

"I know. But I was coming back from the ladies' room when she called, and it was so loud and the doors are right here." Helen crosses her arms over her chest and uses each hand to rub warmth into the opposite arm. "They haven't served the main course yet, have they?"

"No. I think there's going to be a presentation first."

"Great. Let's get back to our seats, now that that's over with," Helen says with a smile as she begins to lead the way.

* * * * *

Jason strides quickly toward the stairs, his dress shoes clapping loudly against the concrete floor. He has just hit the bottom step when he sees Ryan up on the landing, emerging from the A/V booth.

"Did you get it to work?" Jason calls up.

But Ryan does not respond. He continues walking, his gaze focused somewhere in the middle distance, and grips the railing as he descends the stairs.

"Ryan. What's going on?" Jason asks. 

It is only now that Jason sees that his brother is as white as the sheet of ice that lies nearby--only without any of the sparkle. Jason gives him a once-over and sees something on the tip of Ryan's shoe... something slick and red.

Jason's heartbeat quickens. "Where's Sandy?"

After a pause that seems to last an eternity, Ryan finally looks him in the eye.

  Ryan Moriani

"We need to call 911," Ryan says.

* * * * *

As energetic big band music plays over the arena's sound system, the party guests circulate around the makeshift dining area atop the ice surface. When Sarah gets drawn into a lengthy aside with Diane, Matt decides to bite the bullet and do something that he has somewhat been dreading all evening.

He makes his way over to the table where Danielle Taylor sits, checking something on her phone.

"Hey," Matt says tentatively.

Danielle looks up and, after a split-second of appearing startled, offers a gracious smile.

"Hi, Matt. Happy New Year."

"You, too." Matt clamps his hands over the back of the empty chair beside Danielle. "I just wanted to say hi."

"I'm glad you did. And I hear congratulations are in order."

"Yeah…" Something inside Matt twists uncomfortably. "Sorry you had to find out from someone else. I should've told you Sarah and I got engaged. It's just--"

She holds up a hand. "Matt, it's fine."

"Thanks, but…" He struggles for a few seconds to find the right words. "Just want you to know I'm sorry about the way everything went down. And if I led you on…"

"It's okay. These things are complicated. And you were always a gentleman to me."

He chuckles. "If you say so."

Danielle's fingers circle around the bottom of her water glass. "I really am happy for you and Sarah."

"Thanks. And are you and Ryan…?"

"I'm not sure. We're just enjoying spending time together right now." Danielle's gaze sweeps toward the arena's stairs, and suddenly her expression hardens. Matt looks to see what has grabbed her attention. He sees Ryan, pale as can be, talking emphatically to Jason, who is nearly doubled over and appears to be in hysterics.

"What in the world is going on?" Danielle asks nervously as she stands.

* * * * *

"I need to see her," Jason says, gasping for air. "Are you sure--"

"Jason, she's dead." Ryan reaches out a hand and places it on his brother's shoulder, hoping to steady him. "I'm so sorry."

"Please just let me go see her."

"No. No." Ryan blocks the stairwell. "You're not going up there. We have to call 911." 

"Who would do this?" Jason swallows hard, his eyes brimming with tears that he cannot control. "Why would someone want to hurt Sandy?"

"I don't know. But someone who's here tonight…" Ryan cannot even finish the statement. 

Jason turns to the wall, shaking his head. "She can't be dead. She can't."

Ryan doesn't know what else to say. He encircles an arm around his brother's shoulders and feels Jason's body heaving with sobs.

"What's going on?" Danielle asks as she races over.

Ryan looks over, almost surprised to see her, to realize that they are not alone or sealed off in some horrible nightmare world. Until now, the party has been some strange, distant thing, something he didn't have to face.

"Do you have your phone?" Ryan asks. 

* * * * *

When Brent Taylor pulls up to the arena, he is greeted by the sight of a squad car just outside the front doors, its lights whirring against the dark night. He quickly parks his own SUV, hops out, and dashes inside. He finds the party guests milling around the dining tables on the ice. When Molly spots him, she hurries over the carpeting in her heels.

"Can you tell us what's going on?" she asks.

He looks around. "Where are the officers who responded?" 

"Upstairs. In the A/V room, where…" She draws a deep, uneasy breath. "Where it happened."

"My god. Are the boys okay? They didn't see anything, did they?"

"No. I haven't told them." She points across the way. "Danielle is trying to keep them busy."

  Brent Taylor

"Good." Brent blinks his eyelids hard. "I don’t understand why someone would do that to Sandy.”

“Me, neither. But can you get us out of here? I’m sorry I called, but--”

“I get it. Do you know who the officers are?”

Molly shakes her head. “A man and a woman. The man’s around our age. The woman is much younger.”

“I’ll go upstairs and see what’s going on. You’ll be out of here soon.”

“Thanks, Brent.” Molly kneads her hands together and turns back to look at her young sons as her ex-husband darts off toward the crime scene.

* * * * *

Helen and Don sit at a table with Paula Fisher, while Bill stands behind them, occasionally pacing a few feet this way and that.

“This is so horrible,” Paula says, her head wagging back and forth in disbelief. Her eyes are still wet with tears. “Who would do something so awful?”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Don says. He reaches for his wife’s hand and finds it freezing cold under his touch.

“She’s always so good to the kids,” Bill adds. “Everyone loves her.” He catches his error and pauses before correcting himself: “Loved.”

This provokes a fresh sob from Paula.

Helen’s head swivels around anxiously. “Will they please just let us out of here?”

  Helen Chase

* * * * *

Upstairs, Brent finds the door to the A/V booth open and two members of the KBPD attending to the crime scene.

“Commander,” says Officer Ted Madsen, a black man around 40 years old. “We haven’t touched the body yet.”

Brent peers into the room and recoils at the sight of Sandy, sprawled on the floor and covered in a grisly amount of blood. His many years of police work have desensitized him to scenes like this, but the fact that the victim is a woman he has known for many years, albeit very casually, makes it much more difficult to flip that switch.

“Do you mind telling me why you’re holding an entire party worth of people hostage at a crime scene down there?” Brent says.

The other officer, a younger Hispanic woman, steps forward from behind Madsen. “We didn’t want to let anything slip through the cracks. If someone down there did this…”

Brent doesn’t want to acknowledge the possibility, even though he knows it is the most likely scenario.

“What’s your name?” he asks the woman.

“Jimenez. Rosie Jimenez. Just graduated from the academy.”

Brent sighs, annoyed at the luck of having a true rookie responding to something like this, especially where his family is concerned.

“Get down there and take down names,” he tells her. “No one leaves without giving their name and showing some I.D. That way we have records for later.”

With a nod, Jimenez slips away and heads downstairs.

“Now what the hell happened?” Brent asks Madsen. He kneels near the body, careful to avoid the rivulets of blood now staining the concrete floor.

“Looks like her throat was slit.”

“Jesus.” Brent cannot stop staring at poor Sandy, splayed out. One thing catches his attention, though: the name visible in reflective script on the lapel of the heavy winter coat covering her navy blue evening dress.


“There’s one really weird thing,” Madsen says. Brent turns to look and instantly sees what Madsen is referring to: a pair of footprints--one left, one right, both apparently men’s shoes--stamped on the floor in blood.

* * * * *

Finally, the partygoers are released from the arena and stream out into the parking lot. Jason leans against Natalie as he walks; his entire being is exhausted, his face sticky from the tears that will not stop coming.

“This is a nightmare,” he says, looking back at the arena. He doesn’t know if he will ever be able to view it the same way again.

Alex Marshall approaches them. “Why don’t we get you home?”

Jason shrugs. “I just want to know what happened.”

“Brent is going to figure it out,” Alex says.

“Do you want company?” Natalie asks.

“You go take care of Bree,” Jason says.

Natalie looks across the way toward her daughter, who stands clustered with a group of other young skaters. “I don’t even know how I’m going to explain this to her.”

Jason feels his breathing growing labored again. He cannot stop picturing Courtney on the roof of the hotel, in her wedding dress, bloodied and clinging to life. And now poor Sandy…

He nearly jumps out of his skin when something explodes overhead. But when he looks up, he sees the sky alight with color, not too far in the distance.

“It’s the fireworks down by the bay,” Alex says. “It must be midnight.”

“Happy freakin’ New Year,” Natalie mutters as the three of them stare up at the garish display of color and light.


Who could have done this to Sandy?
What do the two bloody footprints mean?
Come to the Footprints Forum to share your theories!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

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