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- Sarah set out for Iowa to investigate the woman who has been claiming to be Sabrina Gage, the comatose woman whose identity Shannon Parish once stole.
- Alex and Trevor's fling -- which took place while Trevor was engaged to Liam -- was exposed in front of a host of people, including Alex's ex, Cameron.
- Tori told Brent that she'd seen Helen Chase away from her dinner table right around the time Sandy was killed on New Year's Eve. Brent then interviewed Helen and Don, and Helen claimed that she had been home alone on the night Ryan was shot.


The campus is unbelievably quiet as Brent Taylor cuts across the luscious green grass of the quad. At the other end of the expanse of lawn, a group of boys run around, leaping to catch a Frisbee in mid-air; otherwise, however, the normal, bustling energy of the university has been replaced with a lazy summer stillness, as if the institution itself has decided to ride out the hot months with a long nap.

He enters the Student Center and bypasses the elevator, instead opting to take the stairs up to his destination. By the final flight, though, he is regretting his decision. The socket of his prosthetic leg feels loose, as it too often does after climbing this many stairs, and he ducks into the men’s room to adjust it.

A few minutes later, he goes into the Student Affairs office. Samantha Fisher sits behind the reception desk, clearly surprised to see him.

“Uncle Brent,” she says as she turns away from her computer. “What are you doing here?”

“Have a question that I’m hoping you can help me with.” He ambles over and leans on the counter in front of her desk. “Is this place this dead all summer?”

  Brent Taylor

“Mostly. There are a few weeks when different camp groups use the campus, but other than that, it can be a little eerie. But since there aren’t many students around, I get to work whichever shifts I want.”

“That’s good. I’m sure your parents appreciate that you’re so willing to work and help out with tuition.” He pulls a printed sheet of paper from his pants pocket. “I’ve got a few questions to ask you.”

Unfolding the paper, he lays it on the counter, spinning it around so that Samantha can read it.

“I tried to do this online,” he says, using his finger to point to the necessary item on the complicated page, “but the legend is pretty confusing.”

“You need help decoding the course schedule?”


“That’s great! Continuing education has so many benefits. What are you thinking of taking?” she asks.

“It isn’t for me.”

Understanding dawns upon her, and she sits up rigidly. “Is this police business?”

“No. Well, yes, but it has nothing to do with you directly.”

He watches her breathe a tentative sigh of relief.

“This Advanced Painting class,” he continues. “Am I reading this right? It meets Wednesday evenings?”

She studies the sheet for a moment. “Yeah. Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m.”

“Okay. Great. That’s all I needed to know.” He refolds the sheet but then pauses. “There isn’t some official system where instructors record attendance, is there?”

“Not that I have access to, no.”

“That’s all right. Thanks for your help, Sam.” Brent tucks the sheet back into his pocket, confident in one thing: if Don Chase was at his painting class -- as he claims he was -- then Helen Chase has absolutely no alibi for the night Ryan Moriani was killed.


Following a restless night’s sleep in a nondescript but thankfully decent hotel on the side of the freeway, Sarah Fisher Gray pulls herself out of bed. The sun is still cresting over the horizon as she dresses and leaves the hotel, eager to get to work. As she expected, a stop at the local diner is good for more than simply coffee and an omelet; when she produces a photo, the waitress immediately and sadly identifies its subject as “that poor Gage girl.” Sarah then visits the local library to glean what she can about the family and about Sabrina’s accident, and by midday, she sets out for her most important destination.

The house is a simple, ranch-style one, with a front yard that could use some maintenance and a blue-gray exterior that is overdue for a paint job. Sarah passes a compact burgundy sedan as she walks up the driveway.

She presses the doorbell and waits. A light breeze jingles a wind chime above her head. Finally, the door creaks open.

“Can I help you?” a gray-haired woman asks through the screen door.

“Hi. I’m so sorry to drop in on you like this,” Sarah says. “I have a daughter who’s -- well, she’s in the same… the same situation your daughter was in, from what I’m told. We live over in Cedar Rapids, and… I read a story in the newspaper about your daughter and just thought -- I really am so sorry to surprise you this way.”

Barbara Gage’s face softens. “That’s all right. Why don’t you come on in? What’s your name, hon?”

“Ashley Hoover. Thanks.”

“Barbara Gage. It’s nice to meet you, Ashley.”

“You, too.”

The women shake hands, and Barbara leads the way into a small, cozy kitchen. The floor is covered in a blue-and-white linoleum pattern, and a round table sits in the corner.

  Sarah Fisher Gray

“Can I get you something? I made a pot of coffee not long ago,” Barbara says.

“Some coffee would be great,” Sarah says with a weary smile. She has always enjoyed the part of her job that occasionally requires her to play a role, but that enjoyment tends to conflict with the guilt she feels over lying to perfectly innocent -- or probably innocent -- people like Mrs. Gage.

“Your daughter,” Sarah continues as Barbara pours the coffee, “she’s doing okay now?”

Sabrina is doing real good. The doctors didn’t think she’d be back to this point for a long, long time. Take cream or sugar, hon?”

“A little cream, please. And that’s so nice to hear. I’ve just -- I want my little girl back so badly.”

“How old is she?”

“Seventeen this October. The accident happened nearly a year ago,” Sarah says, running smoothly through the details she developed during her flight. “Your daughter isn’t home, is she?”

“Afraid not. She’s actually -- she’s doing so good that she decided to move away.” Mrs. Gage hands Sarah a mug and then takes a seat across the table. “Get a fresh start. Breaks my heart after all the time we lost with her, but if it makes her happy…”

Sarah allows a smile to stretch over her face. “That’s great news. Where did she move?”

“Someplace in Washington state. Not too far from Seattle, I don’t think. She got a job offer that she was dead-set on taking.”

“Wow. What’s the job?”

“She’s working for some hotshot photographer. She always was into artsy stuff. About your little girl -- what’s her name?”

Sarah has to stuff down the instinct to say Tori, the way she is normally so happy to do when anyone asks such a question. “Kristen,” she answers instead.

“What do the doctors say? She doesn’t have a TBI, does she?”

Sarah’s whole body tenses up as she forages for the right answer. She should know this. Dammit.

“TBI?” she finally ventures.

“Traumatic brain injury.” A cloud of skepticism passes over Mrs. Gage’s face.

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I’m so scattered lately.” Sarah sips her coffee for a moment while she strategizes about how to get this back on-track. “Kristen’s been--”

“Why don’t you tell me who you really are?” Mrs. Gage demands, her face hard, a network of lines more visible than they were mere seconds ago.

Sarah’s heart thumps. “Excuse me?”

“You’re another one of them, aren’t you? Did they send you? I want you to tell me the truth, lady!”

Harbor Boulevard

The lunchtime crowd fills the restaurant with its chatter and its energy as summer sunshine spills through the wall of windows that face the street. On the opposite side of the restaurant, Alex Marshall sits with Don and Helen Chase beneath a brightly colored, woven wall hanging as they tend to an order of oysters.

“I think it’s wonderful that you’re writing something new,” Helen says as she places an empty shell facedown in the ice.

“I’m trying to keep busy,” Alex says. “Working on something new helps keep me from thinking about the fact that my book is being turned into a movie that I have absolutely zero input on.”

Don picks up an oyster. “I still can’t believe Liam could have been so spiteful. Can you, Helen?”

She remains tight-lipped and then takes a sip of her mineral water.

“I think I see his point-of-view,” she says carefully, “but I’m sorry that you’ve had to suffer, Alex.”

“Whatever. I did bring it on myself.” He forces himself to brighten. “How’s your painting, Don?”

“Auditing that class at the university really helped sharpen my skills,” Don says. Alex listens intently as the older man describes some of the work he did for his class. Helen places her hand over Don’s as he speaks. Don is still talking when something catches Alex’s attention at the entrance of the restaurant: Cameron Kelley, waiting at the host’s stand.

“Excuse me for a sec, would you?” Alex says as he rises from the table. He quickly winds his way through the busy restaurant.

“Hey,” he says to Cameron, who peers at him uneasily through heavy eyelids. “I saw you over here and wanted to come say hi.”

“Well, hi,” Cameron says flatly.

Alex feels as if a force field has been beamed between them, a layer that he has no idea how to cut through. He decides that humility might be his best weapon.

“I’m really sorry about what happened,” Alex says. “But I’m being completely honest when I say that what happened between Trevor and me -- that was before I started dating you.”

“And then you went right back to him after we stopped seeing each other.”

“No.” Alex fiddles with the rolled-up sleeve of his blue oxford shirt. “That night at the Lookout -- that was a one-time thing. Nothing was going on between him and me while I was with you.”

Cameron cocks his head to one side. “Why should I believe you?”

Alex sighs. “I don’t know. Because you know I’m not a terrible person?”

“I don’t think you’re a terrible person.”

“Good. Thanks.”

“But I do think you’ve been dishonest with a lot of people, and that isn’t fair. I liked you, Alex. A lot. And then I find out that the whole time, you had these feelings for your ex--”

“I wasn’t, like, fantasizing about Trevor while I was with you.”

“Whatever.” Cameron goes quiet as the host returns and hands him a takeout bag. He signs his receipt, stuffs the duplicate copy in his pocket, and then finally regards Alex again. “It isn’t my job to make you feel better about what happened. If that’s what you’re looking for, sorry.”


“I’ll see you around, Alex.” Cameron turns and marches out of the restaurant.

I tried. I can’t control how he chooses to react, Alex tells himself -- disappointment nevertheless stinging him all over -- as he returns to his lunch with the Chases.


The summer heat assaults Brent as he exits the air-conditioned Student Center. The Frisbee players have stopped their game and are now sprawled on the grass, chatting and enjoying the weather. Brent is halfway across the quad, headed back to his car, when his cell phone bursts to life in his hand.

“How’s Iowa?” he asks when he answers Sarah’s call.

“Productive.” A thin layer of static crackles over the line as she talks. “I found out something… interesting that I think you need to know.”

He stops walking. “What?”

“First of all, I’m 99 percent sure that the woman in King’s Bay really is Sabrina Gage,” she says. “Unless she somehow found the most incredible plastic surgeon in the world -- she looks exactly like the Sabrina Gage who has lived in Center Point her entire life.”

“Okay. That’s something.” Brent turns this information over in his mind, trying to reconcile it with all the other strange things happening of late. “So what the hell is going on?”

“I just went to see Sabrina’s mom. Nice woman, but she seemed a little at her wit’s end.”

“She had a daughter who was in a coma for years who just up and moved across the country. I bet she’s concerned.”

“Yeah. But she was much more annoyed to see me than I expected -- because someone else came around last week asking the same questions,” Sarah says.

“What? Who?”

“She described her to me. Hispanic, dark hair, probably in her 20s -- ‘gorgeous,’ she made sure to say. Whoever it is was here trying to get info on Sabrina. I’m thinking this could be a big deal for the case--”

“I have a feeling I know who it was,” Brent says, annoyance flaring within him. “I’ll deal with it.”

“You think it has to do with the murders?”

“I don’t know. Indirectly, maybe.” Brent stares across the quad, where two of the young men have busted out into an impromptu wrestling match. “But you get the sense everything with Sabrina is on the up-and-up?”

“I’m not sure I’d go that far,” she says, “but I do think she’s who she says she is. I still think it’s strange that she decided to plant herself in King’s Bay. But there’s an interesting twist to that, too.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t overreact,” she warns, but as she explains what she has learned, Brent’s irritation of a moment ago gives way to a searing rage that he knows he will have no choice -- whether it’s a good idea or not -- to address very soon.

Edge of Winter Arena

Samantha trades texts with Tempest Banks throughout her shift at work, and when it ends, she decides to surprise her friend -- or whatever Tempest is -- by dropping in to see her at work. She grabs them a pair of iced coffees from Thaw and then heads into the arena itself, where she finds Tempest passing time behind the skate rental counter with a magazine. The arena feels unnaturally still, with the white ice untouched and every little sound echoing off the high ceiling.

“Wow. It really is dead around here,” Samantha says, instantly regretting her choice of words. “Quiet, I mean.”

“It’s dead, girl,” Tempest says. “That for me?”

“Yeah. Thought you could use a little pick-me-up.”

“Thanks.” Tempest takes the coffee and sips from the straw. “It’s good to see you.”

Samantha finds it difficult to keep a grin off her face, and she leans on the counter. “You, too.”

The sound of the arena door opening and closing thunders through the large, empty space, and Samantha instinctively takes a step back from the counter. Shortly thereafter, she sees Alex rounding the side of the ice and coming toward them.

“Hey, girls,” he says as he nears them. “Is Jason upstairs?”

“Sure is,” Tempest says.

Alex sticks his hands in the pockets of his khaki shorts and looks around. “It’s a little eerie in here, huh?”

“Been like this for weeks. No one wants to hang out in a place where the workers keep getting killed,” Tempest says. “As much as the customers drive me nuts sometimes, I wouldn’t mind having a few of ‘em in here now.”

“I’m sure. I really hope things pick up soon,” Alex says.

“My Uncle Brent came in to see me at work today,” Samantha chimes in. “He had some questions about an art class -- I think it had something to do with the murder investigation, but I can’t figure out how.”

“That whole thing with the shoes and the prints and stuff sounds like something a crazy-ass artist would do,” Tempest muses as she nibbles on the end of her straw.

Samantha nods thoughtfully. “Yeah. Maybe. I hope it means they’re close to figuring it out.”

“They’re going to catch this psycho -- before anyone else gets hurt, I hope,” Alex says.

Tempest sets her coffee down on the counter. “They better catch whoever it is real soon, or this place is gonna be in real trouble.”

“I’m glad the police are around to keep you guys safe in the meantime,” Samantha says.

“Let someone try and come after me,” Tempest says, planting her hands on her hips. “I’ll show ‘em what’s up.”

“I bet you would,” Alex says, grateful to have a reason to laugh, “but let’s hope it doesn’t ever come to that.”


“What a nice lunch,” Don says as he steers the car onto the street where he and Helen live. “Alex seems to be handling himself well, all things considered.”

“He seemed upset about that Cameron,” Helen says as she looks out the window, watching the houses and trees go by. “I never thought they were a good match.”

“Well, it’s over now…” Don trails off, and his brow furrows with concern. “What in the world?”

Helen looks ahead and sees what has caught his attention: a police car waiting at the curb outside their house.

“I hope something else hasn’t happened,” Helen says.

The next 20 or so seconds seem to last forever, as Don maneuvers the car into the driveway and puts it in park. As Helen undoes her seatbelt, she sees Brent Taylor and another man step out of the squad car.

“Brent,” she asks as she gets out of their car, “what’s the matter?”

But Brent’s face is serious, unfriendly. He walks toward them with authority.

  Helen Chase

“Helen Chase,” he says, pulling out a pair of handcuffs, “you’re under arrest for the murders of Sandy James and Ryan Moriani. You have the right to remain silent…”


Has the Footprint Killer finally been caught?
What else did Sarah learn in Iowa and tell Brent?
Should Alex give up on a friendship with Cameron?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

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