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- Ryan married Danielle on his deathbed before succumbing to injuries from his shooting. 
- The police found a pair of bloody footprints at the scene of Ryan's shooting--just like the ones they found at the site of Sandy's murder. 
- Family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Ryan. 


The black Towncar rolls to a stop in front of the funeral parlor. A pair of conservative black heels step out of the back seat, followed by a set of black men's dress shoes. The two individuals make their way toward the entrance of the funeral parlor.

"Oh, this is just awful," the woman says as they pass the sign at the front door, which reads Ryan Moriani, Room B.

Once inside, they must do no more than stand at the entrance to the room where Ryan's wake is being held before they are noticed.

"Oh my god. Thank you so much for coming," Jason Fisher says as he moves over to greet Katherine Fitch and her son, Andy.

"We had to be here," Andy says solemnly. "We're so very sorry about Ryan."

"I still can't believe it," Katherine says. "What kind of monster would do something so horrible?"

Jason's eyes flare. "That's what we're trying to figure out."

Bill and Paula Fisher scurry over.

Katherine takes Paula's hand. "We're so sorry for your loss."

"Yours, too," Paula says. "You meant a lot to Ryan."

"That's very flattering." Katherine glances toward the head of the room, where Ryan lies perfectly still in the open casket, his arms folded over his chest. "I wish I'd been able to see him one last time--to say goodbye."

"We're so glad we had the chance to do that, at least," Jason says.

  Paula Fisher

Andy leans in closer toward Jason. "How is Danielle? I can't imagine how horrible this must be for her."

"She's holding it together. You know how strong she is."

His lips sliding into a straight line, Andy nods. "That she is."

"It still seems like a bad dream," Katherine remarks to Paula. "Ryan sounded so happy these past few months. We didn't communicate much, but when we did…" She raises a hand to her chest and sighs. "It's just terrible."

"He would be happy you're here," Paula says.

Katherine pauses and, taking a half step back, studies the other woman. "I hope you know what a difference you made in his life."

Paula frowns.

"It's true," Katherine says. "In the end, the goodness that came from you overshadowed all of the awful things that Ryan owed to that monster Nick and that pig Stan Lincoln. Give yourself credit for that much."

"Thank you," Paula says quietly. "Would you like to see all the photos we've brought?"

Dutifully, Katherine follows her.

* * * * *

"I just wanna tell you how sorry I am, Dani," Jimmy Trask says as he wraps his arms around Danielle Taylor.

"Thank you." Danielle steps back to look him in the face and even forces a smile. "And thanks for coming."

Jimmy sticks his hands in the pockets of his khaki pants, which have a loose black dress shirt tucked into them. "If you need anything, I'm here for you."

"I'm going to need some help with my lessons for the next few weeks, if you're interested," she says.

"Count me in."

When Bob Taylor comes over to check on his daughter, Jimmy excuses himself. He searches around for Elly but doesn't see her. That is when he spots Claire Fisher, signing the guestbook. He approaches her.

"So what kinda stuff are we supposed to write in here?" he says.

Claire turns, surprised, the pen poised just over the page. "Memories or a little message about Ryan or just condolences to the family."

"Okay. I can figure that out." He waits for her to finish writing her own entry. "How you been, Claire?"

"All right. This has really been…" She shakes her head. "Losing Ryan has been very odd."

"I bet. Did you guys stay close?"

"No. Not at all. But I loved him once. He was my first love, really, a long time ago." 

"Well, I'm sorry all this happened." He cocks his head. "I miss seeing you."

Claire isn't entirely certain how to respond; she enjoyed her time with Jimmy, but in many ways, it feels like a blip on the radar of her life. 

"It's good to see you, too. And I'm sure Danielle and Elly are both very grateful that you're here." She hands him the pen. "Take care, Jimmy."

With a look of mild surprise, he takes the pen and watches her go.

* * * * *

Samantha Fisher keeps a curious eye on her father throughout the wake. He doesn't speak much to anyone, though he sits politely and makes conversation with people as they approach him. At one point, she decides to join him in the back row of seats.

"This has to be pretty strange for you," she ventures.

"You have no idea."

Samantha turns a thought over in her head, one that has been there for a long time--years, really. "Did you hate Uncle Ryan?"

"No." Tim sits up straighter and seems to be working the thought on his own, as if it were a glob of dough that requires serious kneading. "No. For a long time, I resented him."

"Because he tried to send you to jail?"

  Tim Fisher

"I'd say that's a good reason to resent someone, yeah. But also just for existing. I know you don't remember much about when I was gone--"

"I remember."

"Well, a lot happened while I was away. And when I came back, your grandma had this new son--this person I had only known as someone Claire was scared of before--and your aunts and uncle had gotten to know him. It was like walking back into The Twilight Zone… even more than it would've been otherwise."

She looks ahead, watching the mourners circulate near the casket. 

"Why are you asking me all this now?" Tim says.

"Because I saw you sitting here," she explains, "and I thought maybe it was bothering you that you had to come here and couldn't tell anyone how you really felt because it's not proper."

In spite of their surroundings, Tim cracks a grin.

"What?" Samantha asks.

He wraps an arm around her shoulders and pulls her closer. "How did you get to be so smart?" 

* * * * *

Though she sees Andy and Katherine the moment they enter, Danielle isn't sure that she has the energy to face them--at least not Katherine. She talks with Jimmy and then her father, and when she sees the Fitches coming toward her, she takes a deep breath to steel herself.

"Oh, Danielle," Andy says, not even hesitating before giving her a hug. "We're so sorry for your loss."

"Thank you." Feeling the warmth of his body is strange; it yanks her back in time, to a period of her life that is such a distant memory that it often doesn't seem real. But this contact is, and it reassures her somehow. 

As they separate, Danielle locks eyes with Katherine.

"Danielle," the older woman says, her nostrils flared ever so slightly, as if to build in a mini-moment in which to terrify Danielle, "you have my deepest condolences."

"Thank you, Katherine. Ryan would have appreciated you being here."

"I loved Ryan. And if being with you made him happy…" Katherine's eyes narrow. "Then I'm pleased he was able to marry you before he passed."

Danielle bows her head gratefully, knowing this is absolutely the most civil exchange she will ever share with Katherine Fitch.


When the wake concludes, the guests climb into their cars and make their way across town to the cemetery, a vast park only blocks from the bay itself. From the peaks of the small, rolling hills inside the cemetery, the waterfront is visible. Ryan's mourners navigate over paved walking paths on the way to his burial site. As the crowd moves, however, Brent Taylor hangs in the back with Sarah Fisher Gray.

"It was tough to miss, once I had a minute to think things over," he says in a low voice. "Everything--the broken window, the gunshot, the study itself--it's really similar to the scene from when Nick was shot."

Sarah lifts an eyebrow pointedly. "When Ryan shot Nick."

"Exactly. It's like someone wanted to recreate that."

"Why?" Sarah stops walking to put some distance between them and the rest of the group. "You think someone wanted to punish Ryan for trying to kill Nick?"

"It wasn't a coincidence, that's for damn sure. I still can't figure out how Sandy fits into all this, though."

"Well, they both worked at the arena," Sarah says. The shade of an evergreen tree falls over both of them. "Or Sandy wasn't supposed to be the first victim."

Brent grimaces. "Yeah. It's hard to ignore that she was killed wearing Jason's jacket, in a room where Jason was supposed to be."

"So then someone's after our family."

"That's what concerns me."

"But he--or she--wants us to know that, based on the footprint thing," Sarah continues. "I know we aren't all saints, but there's a pretty short list of possible suspects there."

"We already pulled the visitor logs from Loretta Ragan's prison. She hasn't been in contact with anyone unusual."

"Don't put anything past that woman, from what I've heard."

Brent pauses and looks around to be sure they won't be overheard. "There's one other angle that's jumped out at me."

"What is it?"

"It's too much to explain in depth right now," he says, "but let me brief you tonight."

"Brief me, huh? You want me back on the force?"

"Actually, you being a P.I. is perfect right now. Let's just say I'm going to have a case for you very soon."

* * * * *

Shortly thereafter, everyone gathers at the grave site. The celebrant says a few words and then invites Jason to come forward and offer a eulogy.

"Ryan, we might not have grown up together," he says, looking out at everyone who has come to mourn his older brother, "but in the time that we did know each other, we truly did become brothers. I'm so grateful that we had that time. You were a rock for me during the darkest time of my own life, and I'll never forget that."

He pauses and again looks up, this time at the casket suspended over the opening in the ground. He knows Ryan is just inside there, with the sun bouncing off the oak, warming it, but the idea that this is the place Ryan will remain for all eternity is still perplexing.

Now he addresses the others gathered: "I'm still in shock that he's gone, but I think this poem sums up the way I'm trying to look at this day." He withdraws a piece of paper from his inner jacket pocket, unfolds it, and reads: 

  Jason Fisher

"You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

"Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,
Or you can be full of the love that you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

"You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes,
love and go on."

He folds the paper again. Mere feet away from him, Danielle sniffles and leans against her father for support.

"That is how I'm choosing to think about Ryan today," Jason says, his voice dangerously close to cracking. "We might have had a limited time together, but we affected each other in deep, meaningful ways. He leaves behind a family and a loving wife, Danielle, who he had far too little time with."

Thoughts of Courtney wash over him, and he has to pause again. Tim gives him an encouraging nod.

"Ryan, we love you, and we'll miss you so much," Jason says, and then he bows his head and goes to rejoin his family. 

"And now," the celebrant says, "Ryan's family invites everyone to take one of these lilies--which represent purity, such as how Ryan's soul has been restored to purity in death--and place it atop the casket as it's lowered into the ground."

An attendant passes out the flowers, and as she finishes, Danielle steps forward and gently drops the flower on top of the casket.

"I'll love you forever," she says, her voice breaking. Brent and Josh flank her, each holding an arm around their sister.

"Come on," Bill whispers to Paula. But she does not move. She clutches the lily and stares at the grave.

She turns to her other children. "You go."

  Danielle Taylor

Solemnly, Molly, Sarah, and Jason add their lilies to the grave. 

Tim steps up beside Paula, his own lily in hand. "Come on, Mom," he says. "I'll do it with you."

She swallows and then looks to the grave again. "I can't do it."

"Yes, you can," Bill says.

"No." She turns her back to the grave. "I don't want to do it. I can't."

Bill places a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Honey…"

Paula shakes her head. "I'm not saying goodbye to him. This is all my fault--all that time we lost--"

"None of this is your fault," Tim says. His siblings crowd around their mother. 

"Would you go up there with me?" asks a voice from nearby.

The Fishers all look at the source of the voice, a young man in a black suit, white shirt, and black tie, holding a lily in his hand.

"You came," Paula says incredulously to Spencer Ragan.

"I had to." He comes nearer. "I didn't really know him at all, but I felt like I needed to say goodbye."

A few feet away, Travis leans over to his sister. "Oh, god," he whispers. "Here we go."

Samantha responds by widening her eyes at him. "It's good that he came. Just be a good sport about it today?"

"Ugh. Fine," Travis says with a huff. 

Meanwhile, Claire, who has been keeping a respectful distance, trades a look with her own half-brother.

"I really didn't think he would come," Philip says.

Claire can't help but smile a little. "Maybe there is hope, after all."

Spencer stands in front of his grandmother. "We all missed out on a lot," he says. "It's probably time to make up for that."

"Oh my goodness," Paula says, and tears begin to gush from her eyes. She faces the grave again.

"Come on," Tim says, and the family moves forward as a unit, with Travis, Samantha, and Tori joining them as well.

"Goodbye, my son," Paula says, reaching out her hand and letting the lily fall onto his coffin. 


Will Spencer finally embrace his family?
Will Danielle be able to cope with her grief?
What does Brent have planned for Sarah?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it now!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

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