Episode #784

- Brent arrested Helen for the Footprint Killer murders.
- Though Helen proclaimed her innocence, Don wondered if she could have actually snapped.
- Hurt by the news of Alex and Trevor’s secret affair, Cameron refused to accept Alex’s apologies.


"Sounds like something out of a dang movie to me," Luke Berman says as he leans in toward the hanging microphone in front of him. 

"It's not really that normal to have a serial killer running around," Diane Bishop comments. 

Luke shoots her a look over the table that they share in the studio's small recording booth. "Not just that. The fact that some old broad got arrested for it. That's some crazy stuff."

"What, older women can't take out their homicidal rage on people, too?"

Luke rolls his eyes at her. 

"If you're just tuning in," Diane continues, "we're talking about the fact that an arrest was made in the so-called Footprint Killer murders yesterday -- and the person arrested was a 67-year-old woman named Helen Chase."

"And she's being arraigned this morning," Luke says. 

"And she's being arraigned this morning. Yeah. Of course, the question remains: why did she do it?"

"If she did it," Luke adds quickly, the way they have been all morning, to keep the station from being accused of calling an unconvicted woman a murderer. 

"I guess we'll have to wait for more information to come out," Diane says, "which I'm sure it will, especially if this goes to trial." She stares out at the relative calm in the studio outside the booth, the small crew slumping in their chairs and listening to the broadcast as it unfolds. She certainly has her theories about why Helen might have killed Sandy and Ryan, but too much of it feels private, and she isn't about to start spouting it on the air. At least not unless someone were to give her a major raise. 

"One thing's for sure, though," Luke says. "I'd love to know what's going on at that courthouse right about now."

"You aren't the only one," Diane says as she checks the time on the monitor to her left. If what Sarah told her was correct, the proceedings should be getting under way any minute now. 


“Isn’t there anything else to listen to?” Natalie Bishop asks from the passenger seat of Jason Fisher’s car. She stares at the radio display with disdain.

“I just want to know what kind of story the public is getting,” Jason says as he directs the car into the courthouse’s parking lot, which is busier than he anticipated.

Natalie groans. “And of course my sister gets to be the authority on that. Ugh."

“You really can’t even stand the sound of her voice?” Alex Marshall, seated in the backseat, asks.

“No!” Natalie says, in a tone that makes it clear to both Alex and Jason that there is more to the story, though neither dares to ask.

“This is a circus,” Jason says as he finds a spot near the back of the lot. By the building’s entrance, a number of news vans clamor for prime space.

The trio piles out of the car and heads up the short cement staircase to the main entry of the courthouse. Jason keeps his head down, hoping not to be recognized by any of the media. In the lobby, across a scuffed linoleum floor, they find Jason’s parents waiting anxiously. Reporters, camera people, and a variety of unidentified busybodies fill the hallway. 

“I thought we were gonna beat you here,” Jason tells Bill and Paula after they all exchange greetings. 

“I couldn’t sit at home twiddling my thumbs any longer,” Paula says. “You dropped the girls off with Danielle?"

“She promised to teach Bree how to play something on the piano,” Natalie says.

“Yeah, like Sophie’s going to let them do any song besides ‘Let It Go,’” Jason adds, and they all share a light laugh, quiet enough for the setting, knowing that it’s probably an accurate forecast.

“How did she seem?” Paula asks. “Danielle, I mean."

“She seemed okay,” Jason says, and he looks to Alex, who nods in confirmation. “I really don’t think she wanted to be here for this, but it was nice of her to offer to watch Sophie and Bree."

“She said it would help her feel useful,” Paula says. 

Bill checks his watch. “It should almost be time to get started. We double-checked -- it’ll be in that room at the end of the hall."

Jason looks around uneasily. “Can we go in yet?"

“They told us not for a few minutes,” Bill says. 

“They haven’t brought Helen in, have they?” Alex asks.

“Not that we’ve seen,” Bill says. 

Jason stuffs his hands in the pockets of his slacks and sighs. “I still can’t believe this is happening. It’s unreal."

“I don’t want to believe it,” Paula says, her gaze fixed upon the doors. 

“It’s really crazy,” Natalie says. “Not that Helen has ever been too pleasant to me…"

“She’s had a really tough time since Courtney died,” Alex says, though he grimaces as he speaks the words, knowing that the explanation does not exactly excuse a murder spree.

“I bet she’ll plead not guilty,” Jason says.

“What else is she going to do? Guilty by reason of insanity?” Natalie wonders. “Is she going to tell the judge that she got a bad batch of Boniva or something?"

Jason and Alex both snicker at the joke, in spite of themselves, but Paula and Bill remain straight-faced. Then they hear the creaking of the courthouse doors. All five of them look over to see Don Chase, in a sport coat and white shirt, entering with a somber look on his face. His shoulders are slumped, and he moves with a weary heaviness about him. When he spots the Fishers, he pauses -- but only for a split-second. Then he heads down the hall, toward the assigned courtroom.

“I should go see Don,” Alex says. The others nod in understanding, and he hurries off. 

“Hey! It’s the husband!” someone from one of the news crews shouts. Like a swarm of locusts, the entire mass of bodies shifts in Don’s direction, stalking him down the hall.

Alex is a few steps ahead of them and picks up his pace. He easily catches up with Don and sidles up next to him.

“Hey,” Alex says. 

“Hi, Alex.” Don looks warily behind him. “This is craziness."

“I know.” Alex backs Don into a corner and uses his own body as a shield. “How are you doing?"

“I’m okay. I don’t know.” Don’s eyes widen at the crowd bulging behind Alex. “I can’t comprehend how this could be happening."

"Mr. Chase!" a man's voice shouts. "Are you going to stand by your wife?"

Alex watched as Don goes pale. 

"Even if she is really the Killer Granny?" the reporter persists.

“He has no comment!” Alex snaps, turning over his shoulder. When he speaks to Don, he does his best to maintain a calm tone of voice. “It’s only an arraignment. For all we know, the state might not even have a case."

“They wouldn’t have made an arrest if they didn’t feel they could make one. The thought of Helen having to spend the night in jail the way she did...” He shakes his head sadly.

“I know. But she’s strong. You both are."

Alex looks into Don’s eyes. He hates seeing him so distraught; for so many years, Don has been a pillar of support, certainly more so than his mother or his biological father ever really were. Helen has been, too. Alex can see that Don doesn’t want to voice the most awful possibility -- What if the police are right? What if Helen did this? -- and Alex doesn’t want to, either. 


"I'd feel better if you went down there," Molly Taylor says as she folds her hands on top of her desk. 

"Happy to do it," Trevor Brooks says from across the desk, where he stands, his already-tall frame now towering over Molly. "Why is this store always such a problem?"

"I have no idea. Maybe it's that Portland-hipster thing."

"I'll head down early tomorrow morning."

"You should be able to get the displays in order in a day," she says, "but if you feel you need to stay over, feel free to expense a hotel room."

"Thanks." Trevor pauses as a thought crashes into his head. "What about the visuals meeting?"

"Oh. I forgot." Molly drums her long white fingernails on the desk for a moment. "The Portland store takes priority. I'll figure something out so you aren't totally out of the loop with the meeting."

She glances over at her cell phone, which has been sitting atop the desk for their entire conversation, but there are no new alerts.

"Waiting to hear about the arraignment?" Trevor asks. 

"It probably hasn't even started yet. I'm just anxious to know what happens."

"It still seems like a sick joke. Courtney's mom? Killing people?"

"I know."

"I don't know her that well," he says, "but I remember her coming over to pick up Courtney after she'd hang out with Lauren, and she always seemed like a nice, normal lady. And she and Don have been more like parents to Alex than his actual parents were."

"Yeah. I guess..." She stares at the phone, as if willing it to produce some news. "Grief can push people over the edge."

"Yeah." The weight of that thought hangs over them for a moment before Trevor, uncomfortable, decides to break the spell. "I'm going to let the manager in Portland know I'll be down tomorrow."

Molly forces a smile. "Good. Scare them a little. It might help." As Trevor reaches for the door handle, she tells him, "Hold on a minute."

He waits as she picks up the receiver on her desk phone and pushes a button.

"Cameron, I'm sending Trevor out to you," she says. "He'll be down at the Portland store tomorrow. I'd like you to coordinate to record the visuals meeting tomorrow so that he can listen to and be up-to-date."

She listens for a moment and then hangs up. 

"Stop by Cameron's desk on your way out," she says. "He'll help you."

"Thanks," Trevor says, swallowing a hard lump that has suddenly appeared in his throat. He lets himself out of the office and closes the door behind himself. 

"Hey," he says cautiously as he walks up to Cameron's desk.

Molly's assistant glares at him. He wears a headset, and it somehow makes him appear more menacing, in spite of his boyish appearance. 

"Molly said I should confirm with you that you'll record the meeting tomorrow," Trevor says. 

Cameron scowls at him. "If you think I'm doing you any favors, you have another thing coming."


Thanks to the foresight of the judge, the cacophony of the media is locked outside when the doors to the courtroom are closed. After some incredibly awkward hemming and hawing, the Fishers and Natalie seat themselves several rows behind Brent, who is positioned near the district attorney. Alex lingers uncertainly in the aisle.

"Go to Don," Bill tells him quietly. "He needs you."

Nodding in relief, Alex does just that. As he is sliding in beside a grateful Don, a door opens, and a hush falls over the courtroom.

All eyes focus on the front of the room as Helen, dressed in the taupe sweater set and slacks she was wearing when she was arrested yesterday, is led toward the table where her attorney sits. She makes eye contact with Paula, her face seeming to offer a silent plea for understanding. Unsure how to respond to this woman who has been her friend for so many years but is now accused of murdering her son, Paula nervously averts her gaze. 

"I wonder where Don found this lawyer," Paula whispers as she studies the woman now conferring quietly with Helen. She is middle-aged and has short, reddish-brown hair; there is a toughness about her, accentuated by her crisp black pantsuit.

"I'm sure they were calling him as soon as Helen got arrested," Jason says. "This is so high-profile."

The judge, an older man with a horseshoe of gray hair around his head, soon calls the court to order and proceeds with a variety of formalities. His voice is gruff, as if he has found the perfect tone to make it clear that he has no tolerance for anyone's shenanigans. 

"Mrs. Chase," he says, "the state has charged you with two counts of first-degree murder, in the deaths of Sandra James and Ryan Moriani. In the case of Sandra James, how do you plead?"

Helen’s voice bears no note of hesitation. "Not guilty, Your Honor.” 

"And in the case of Ryan Moriani?"

"Not guilty," she says, before hastening to add, "Your Honor."

"Very well. You'll stand trial for both crimes you are accused of. As for the matter of bail--"

"Mrs. Chase is accused of two premeditated murders," the DA, a black man with close-cropped hair and wire-rimmed glasses, says forcefully. "The state requests that she be held in custody until her trial."

"Your Honor!" Helen's attorney counters, using the same tone a disappointed mother might use with a toddler. "My client is an upstanding citizen--"

"Mrs. Chase has a prior conviction," the DA says.

“For a misdemeanor."

"A gross misdemeanor--"

“One at a time,” the judge warns.

The DA doesn’t wait to see whether it is his turn. "Custodial interference in the second degree -- pleaded down from a felony kidnapping charge."

"Your Honor, charges that are not on Mrs. Chase's record have no relevance here," says the defense attorney. 

The judge, despite a look of irritation, nods.

"Frankly," Helen's attorney continues, "the state's entire case seems to be predicated on the fact that Helen Chase, a retired grandmother, was at home alone -- rather than, what, making a public spectacle of herself? -- on the night Ryan Moriani was killed. We've seen no physical evidence tying her to that crime or to Sandy James's death, aside from the fact that she was present at a fundraiser -- with many, many other people -- where Ms. James's body was found."

As the judge considers this, apparently waiting for a rebuttal, the DA turns backward and quickly exchanges hushed words with Brent. 

After what feels like the longest spell of silence in history, the DA speaks again: 

"That is not the entirety of the state's case."

The judge furrows his brow. "How so?"

"As it turns out," the DA says, adjusting his glasses, "we have a witness who can testify that Helen Chase visited a shoestore downtown -- a store that sells the same shoes that were used to leave marks at both crime scenes -- mere days before Sandy James was killed."


The judge pinches the bridge of his nose. “Counsel, this is not a trial."

“And so the fact that my client visited a shoestore should not be used to deny her bail."

The judge turns toward the DA. “Does the state have anything concrete regarding the shoes?"

“Mrs. Chase apparently paid cash for whatever she purchased,” the DA says, his tone implying plenty. 

“I bought a pair of heels with orthotics in them!” Helen says. “For that New Year’s party! I can show you--"

“Mrs. Chase, you are not on the witness stand,” the judge says. He scowls at her for a moment before going on: “And perhaps that’s fortunate, because, based on the facts of the case, I’m prepared to grant you bail.”

Helen’s gasp of relief is audible throughout the otherwise silent courtroom.

“Bail is set at five hundred thousand dollars,” the judge says before rapping his gavel on the desk. 


Trevor had a feeling this was precisely the reception he would get from Cameron. Annoyance and shame fight for top billing within him as he tries to sort out a response. 

"Look, I know you're still upset because of what-- what you heard about Alex and me," Trevor says, "but I swear that nothing was going on while you two were dating."

"That's what Alex says. I'm not sure why I should believe either of you, considering how you lied to Liam for so long..."

"That has nothing to do with you." 

Cameron's sneer triggers something inside Trevor. 

"The bottom line is that Molly is your boss, and she asked you to do something," Trevor says. "Let's just pretend we're two strangers and we have this one thing to figure out. Can you just record the meeting on your phone and then email me the file?"

"No way am I using up my data plan to send you some giant file."

"Oh my god." Trevor grunts and feels his hands balling into fists; he has to remind himself that this is his workplace and he needs to keep this professional. "Do you want me to go back in there and tell Molly you're refusing to help?"

A flicker of fear crosses Cameron's face. "I didn't refuse."

"You're not exactly being helpful."

Cameron lets his eyes roll up toward the ceiling as he thinks. 

"Fine," he says at last. "Hey, wait. I have some stupid digital recorder thing that Alex left at my place. He used to walk around and dictate ideas into it. I've been meaning to throw it away. I'll record it on that, and you can pick it up and then give it back to your boyfriend when you're done with it."

"He's not my--" Trevor cuts himself off. "That'll work. Thanks, Cameron. It's been a pleasure."

"Same," Cameron says, focusing on his computer with an intensity meant to tell Trevor that he is dismissed. 

For his part, Trevor doesn't need the signal. He is all too eager to get out of there and forget all about this interaction.


After the hearing has concluded, the attendees loiter uncertainly, not sure what awaits them out in the hallway. Paula stands at the end of her row, watching as Don and Helen embrace. As Helen turns to look at her, Paula feels Bill touching her arm.

“I’m so sorry this is happening,” Helen says as she moves toward them.

Don follows closely behind her. “Helen, leave them--"

“No.” Helen shakes off her husband, and then she is standing right before Paula. 

“I have considered you a friend for so many years,” Paula says, tears welling behind her eyes. “Decades. Our children grew up together. Got married. Gave us a grandchild together. Now, for you to--"

“Mom,” Jason warns.

“You know how painful it is to have your child taken away from you,” Paula goes on, hardly aware of anything but the seething rage she feels toward Helen right now. “I swear to God, Helen, if you took my Ryan from me…"

“I didn’t!” Helen says. “I’m innocent. This is all a misunderstanding."

“For both of our sakes, I hope that’s true,” Paula says, her teeth gritted. She isn’t sure what to believe anymore.

“Come on, let’s go,” Jason says, and before Paula can figure out what else to say, her son and Bill and Natalie are leading her from the courtroom and out into the melee outside. 


Should Helen have been granted bail?
Was Alex right to stand by Don at the arraignment?
Is Cameron being unreasonable toward Trevor?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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