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- Helen was arraigned on murder charges for Sandy and Ryan’s deaths but was released on bail. 
- After Claire talked Brent down from his suspicions about Philip having hired Sabrina Gage, they made plans to have dinner together.
- Cameron, still upset about Alex’s fling with Trevor, reluctantly agreed to record a meeting for Trevor, who had to go out of town on Objection business.
- When Cameron delivered a gift basket to the house that had been brought to the office for Molly, a depressed Danielle swiped the bottle of wine from it and drank it. 

The whole world is thick and heavy. 

At least, that's how it feels when Danielle Taylor floats back into consciousness. Weak sunlight streams through the bedroom window, and she blinks against it with achy eyelids. The room is warm, especially when she realizes that she is not even underneath the blankets on her bed — until she realizes that she has been sleeping in her clothes. 

That is when she remembers that it is not morning at all. A jolt of adrenaline whizzes through her as she jerks her head around to view the time on the bedside clock. Her brain seems to bounce around inside her skull, causing her to wince before she can focus on the clock’s neon display: 7:12 p.m. 

The wine.

Now she knows why she feels this way. She isn’t hungover, precisely; maybe she is still drunk, or maybe she just needs a glass of water. But she hasn’t felt this way in a long, long time — years — and as the feeling settles over her, so does its partner: a hot rush of shame and regret. 

I drank, she thinks with horror. I drank that wine. Her eyes wide open, staring at the opposite wall, she lies there and tries to process that. All her years of sobriety, down the toilet. At her next meeting, she will have to say, “I’m Danielle, and I haven’t had a drink in one day."

  Danielle Taylor

She is so angry with herself that she doesn’t know if she is going to cry or pick up the clock and throw it against the wall. But no, that wouldn’t fix this. In physical pain, she pulls herself to a sitting position and looks out the window. Molly’s car is nowhere to be seen in the driveway. She said earlier that she wouldn’t be home from her meeting until 8 or 8:30. Thank goodness.

Operating on autopilot, Danielle lumbers downstairs, her head feeling like a bowling bowl and her limbs strangely uncertain. She finds the gift basket that Cameron brought over — the one that was delivered to Molly’s office — sitting there empty aside from cellophane wrapped crumpled up and lying inside it. The artisanal cheeses and olives and chocolates that came in it are positioned neatly on the kitchen table. Danielle has a hazy recollection of having unpacked the basket so that it would not be noticeable that she had removed one key item. She even remembers rinsing out the bottle and taking it out to the recycling bin, where she buried it under a pile of other items. 

“Looks like a great bottle of Cabernet in there."

Cameron’s voice drifts into her mind. That was, in a way, what got her thinking to do this — if he hadn’t pointed out the wine, then...

“No. You did this,” she tells herself, her voice surprisingly firm and loud in the empty house.

But he noticed the wine. He might even mention it to Molly. She’ll know it’s gone. She’ll know who took it.

Knowing what she has to do, Danielle reaches for her car keys — but before she even has them off the hook, she releases them and finds her cell phone on the countertop instead. The last thing she needs is to get a DUI now.

That would fit, some voice inside her whispers. You’re already such a screw-up.

She pushes the voice down and uses an app to call a ride. She can take care of this. She will. No one ever has to know about her mistake.


“Okay, Christian’s in the shower, and Caleb is playing video games until it’s his turn,” Brent Taylor announces as he reaches the bottom of the staircase. “I might even get them to bed at a decent time without too much arm-twisting."

“Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched,” Claire Fisher replies from the kitchen, over the sound of running water. Brent follows her voice and finds her standing over the sink, drying a large metallic bowl. Plates, silverware, and cups fill the open dishwasher.

“You did not do all the dishes,” Brent says in disbelief.

“Thought I’d make myself useful.” She sets the bowl in the plastic draining stand on the counter and then uses the towel to dry off her hands. “You did all the cooking—"

“I grilled! And I let Christian pour bagged salad into a bowl and add dressing. It wasn’t exactly a day of slaving away in the kitchen."

“Well, the grilling is a skill I don’t have,” Claire says as she closes the dishwasher. “The meat was great. And Christian’s got a way with a bagged salad…"

Brent smiles. “Thank you, then. That was really nice of you."

“Happy to help. Thanks for having me over."

“My pleasure.” He gestures toward the wine glasses sitting on the kitchen table. “Which one is mine?"

“The one with a little left in it,” she answers with a grin as she retrieves the bottle. “Want some more?"

“Yeah, why not? It’s been a hell of a week."

Claire refills both their glasses, and they move out to the backyard, where they seat themselves on the wicker outdoor sofa.

“It’s a gorgeous night,” she comments as she looks up at the sky, still a luminous blue but now with subtle pink streaking its surface. 

Brent sighs loudly. “I actually feel — dare I say it — relaxed."

“Good! You need it. I’m sure you’ve been driving yourself crazy with the murder investigation."

“I’ve barely been able to think about anything else for months. I still don’t like that Helen is out on bail—"

“She isn’t going to do anything while she’s waiting to stand trial,” Claire says.

“I would hope not. But I also wouldn’t have pegged her as a murderer, so…"

“Yeah.” Claire takes a sip from her wine glass. 

“You know, I could’ve used your help a few times along the way,” he says, now taking his turn to stare up at the sky.

“What do you mean?"

“You were a good investigating partner. I don’t think I would’ve gotten Loretta behind bars if not for you."

“To be fair, she was trying to kill me, so I didn’t have to do much…"

“Nah, you did. In a sick way, I kind of enjoyed our little adventure together.” He holds up his wine glass. “To the good old days."

Claire laughs as they clink glasses. “To the good old days… of hunting down psychopaths together."

They drink their wine, and then the unmistakable weight of things unspoken settles over them. Claire can feel it, just like a heavy blanket on this warm summer’s night, and by Brent’s body language — the way he sinks into the couch, half-turned toward her — she can tell that he feels it, too.

“It’s a shame we missed out on all that time,” he finally says.

She turns, regarding him with surprise. “What do you mean?"

“All those months we didn’t even talk. We were so close for a while, and then—"

“Yeah. I owe you an apology there. I’m sorry I ever made that move. I was drinking, and I know it was completely awkward."

He holds up a hand. “Claire. Don’t."


Her head buzzes gently from the wine. The edges of everything seem a little softer, simultaneously less intimidating and more exhilarating.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” Brent says.

Objection Designs

Except for the light spilling in through the large windows, the office is dark when Cameron Kelley returns following the offsite meeting. It tends to clear out earlier during the summer, but he didn’t expect the place to be deserted already. He huffs with annoyance as he cruises past the reception desk and heads down the hallway toward Molly’s office suite. 

As he walks, he pulls his phone from the pocket of his skinny chinos. He has no idea when Trevor Brooks is supposed to be back from his day trip to Portland, but if everyone else in the office is gone and Molly isn’t even coming back, there’s no way Cameron is going to waste a beautiful evening like this waiting around for Trevor. He uses his phone to send a quick e-mail, telling him that he will be able to find the recorder on Cameron’s desk whenever he arrives. 

He replaces his phone in his pocket and fishes through his messenger bag for the digital recorder. He pauses in the hallway outside the office to locate it and then quickly rewinds to be sure that the meeting he recorded for Trevor is, in fact, still on there. The sound of one of the familiar voices that he listened to all afternoon is enough to confirm that, so Cameron stops the playback and goes into the office. He flips on the lights in the anteroom, where his desk sits, and sets the recorder on the desk.

He’ll be glad to get rid of the damn thing. It’s been sitting in a drawer in his kitchen for months, a constant reminder of how Alex Marshall used to spend time there. He’s thought many times about tossing it in the trash, but somehow that seemed unsatisfying. At least this way, he’s forcing Trevor to return it to Alex. 

I should leave him a little surprise, Cameron thinks, a devious thought sparking in him. A little message, maybe, just so they both know what I really think of them.

Maybe that isn’t the wisest or most mature move, but it is difficult to resist the temptation. He picks up the recorder, still contemplating what he might say, and hits the Record button — but then he hears a crashing noise from mere feet away.

He turns. The door to Molly’s office is closed, and no light is showing underneath the door. But the crash definitely came from inside there.

He sets the recorder on the desk and goes to the door.

“Molly?” he calls.

There is no answer.

“Molly?” he asks again, rapping lightly on the door. When there is no answer, he cautiously pushes down on the handle to peer inside.

“What are you doing here?” Cameron exclaims as he stops mid-movement in the doorway. 


Trevor Brooks leaves Portland later than he had hoped, though he takes comfort in the fact that the issues with the Objection store there appear to have been resolved, at least for the time being. He manages not to hit traffic until he is only 50 or so miles from King’s Bay, but then the never-ending waiting begins to drive him mad. Restless, he dials his mother’s cell phone number and is surprised when she answers after only the first ring.

“Hi, hon,” Roz Brooks says, her voice surrounding him via the car’s speakers. “How’s my boy?"

“I’m good, Mom.” Trevor smirks to himself at his mother’s usual unbridled enthusiasm. “I wanted to see if you guys were still coming up tomorrow."

“We are! We got to spend two whole days with Lauren and Josh and the baby. We’re on a flight out of L.A. at 9 a.m., so we’ll see you when you get home from work tomorrow."

“I might work from home tomorrow, so I’ll be there,” he says. With annoyance, he glances out at the expanse of brake lights in front of him.

“Oh, that’ll be so nice! Are you home from Portland yet?"

“Stuck in traffic,” he says. “I just want to get back so I can grab something from the office and head home to relax.” 

“Don’t be impatient, Trev. Could be there’s a reason the universe wants you to take your time."

“Yeah, because the universe sucks."

“Trevor Brooks!"

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, accustomed to her nuggets of wisdom and warnings about karma and fate and all the rest. “But you’re right — I’m sure nothing interesting is happening there, anyway.” 


Every time Don Chase peers out the front window, the chaos outside seems to grow a little more ominous. News vans, cars, reporters, and camera people swarm in the street just off the Chases' modest piece of property. He continually checks the time on his watch and waits for the phone to ring, but the first indication he receives of his wife's return is when the entire circus outside directs its attention toward the corner. A moment later, he sees Helen's Kia Optima treading its way through the madness like a shark through the water, slowly and intently. She opens the garage remotely and, as soon as she hits the driveway, speeds inside. 

Don meets her in the laundry room, where a door joins the house to the garage. He can hear the shouts outside being drowned out as the garage door lowers to the ground. 

"Why would you go out in all that?" he demands as his wife enters the house, holding two reusable grocery bags by their straps. 

"Because I am not going to let these ridiculous accusations ruin our lives," she says, moving past him on her way to the kitchen. 

  Helen Chase

"It's probably good for us to lay low until your trial," Don says as he tails her. 

Helen hoists the bags up onto the kitchen island. "I went to get groceries so that we could have a nice dinner. I wasn't performing a trapeze act in the streets!"

"Still... these people are vultures."

"I'm not going to go into hiding or act like a guilty person," she says. "And until I can see my granddaughter again -- which, God willing, will be very soon--"

"I don't want you to be disappointed."

"The lawyer hasn't gotten word officially, so I'll choose to be optimistic. You'd do well to do the same!" She removes several items from the bags. "Look at this delicious tri-tip roast I found at the store."

"I just want to make sure you're -- we're -- taking this seriously. It's a godsend that you're even out on bail."

Helen freezes in front of the open refrigerator and whips around. "Why's that?"

"You're facing murder charges!"

"They're completely trumped-up," she says dismissively. She waits for Don to repeat the sentiment, and when he doesn't, she glowers at him. "Don. You can't really think--"

"I don't think anything!"

"I am not some kind of murderess." She shoves the roast and several produce bags into the fridge. "I can't believe you'd even consider the possibility."

The intensity of her state sends a chill through Don. 

"I just want this to be over," he says. 

"So do I. And it will be. In the meantime, we have to be strong." She returns to the island and removes a bottle from one of the bags. "Look at this lovely bottle of wine I picked up. Why don't you go relax, and I'll prepare dinner? It will be good for us to have a nice meal."

He knows that he doesn't have much choice, so he simply nods.

"I'll be touching up one of my paintings," he says as he leaves the kitchen, wondering if there is any chance that he is about to wake up and discover this has all been a terrible nightmare. 


Danielle's heart races as the car approaches the house. But when it pulls into the driveway, Molly's car is still nowhere in sight. Her head still spinning a bit, she thanks the driver and hurries into the house. She sets the paper bag on the kitchen table, unpacks the takeout containers of food, and then reaches in for one final item -- the reason she brought the paper bag in the first place. 

She sets the bottle of wine alongside the other items that came in the gift basket. Of course it doesn't look out of place; it is the same brand, and regardless, it's just a bottle of wine. Molly gets these baskets from associates all the time. There is no way she could know that this bottle is a replacement. 

Danielle does one last look around the kitchen. Nothing is out of place. The plastic tumbler she used to drink the wine is drying in the dish rack. No one will ever know. After setting up a pot of coffee, which she hopes will help clear her head, to brew, she takes the oversized basket and its wrapping out to the driveway. She is placing them in the garbage bin when Molly's Audi pulls into the driveway. 

"Cameron dropped off a gift basket that was delivered to the office for you," Danielle explains as soon as Molly gets out of the car. "It was so big -- I figured I would unpack it."

"Oh. Thank you. Yeah, those things take up so much space." 

Molly locks the car, and Danielle closes the garbage bin. They fall into step together as they walk into the house.

"I went out to get Thai food," Danielle explains as they enter the kitchen. "It sounded good tonight." 

"Oh, great. Thank you."

"How was the meeting?" Danielle asks.

"It went well. Just long." Molly peruses the cheeses and other goodies from the basket; she gives the wine a passing glance, but nothing to indicate that she thinks anything is amiss. 

Danielle gets out plates and cutlery for their dinner. She is closing the cabinet when Molly’s voice sends a current of panic through her.

“Wait. What’s going on here?"

Danielle pauses, unsure how to react. “What do you mean?"

“Come on,” Molly says, and Danielle nearly drops the plates. 

Molly tilts her head toward the pot of coffee, which is still gurgling as it brews. 

“Coffee? At this hour? Are you going to some rager I don’t know about?"

“Oh. No.” Danielle forces a laugh and brings the plates to the table. “Actually, I was writing something before I went out for the food. I’m feeling kind of inspired. I thought some caffeine might be good for a few more hours of creativity."

It is difficult for her not to wince as she tells the lie, knowing that it is so opposite of the truth.

“Oh. Good for you,” Molly says. “I’m really glad you’re writing."

“Yeah. And don’t worry — it’s lyrics, not music, so I won’t be messing around with the guitar or piano all night."

“I trust you.” 

Molly starts to open the containers of Thai food, and Danielle attempts to focus on setting the table, willing the nauseated feeling in her stomach to go away.


A light breeze rustles around them in the backyard as Claire attempts to read Brent’s expression.

“It sounds serious,” she says, simply needing to come up with some words to prompt him into spitting it out.

“That night,” he says, suddenly looking down into his wine. “I’m sorry I pushed you away the way I did."

Her cheeks flush. “Brent. You don’t have to try and make me feel better about it. I can handle a little embarrassment—"

“No. Not like that.” He pauses uncertainly. “I got nervous."

Claire’s head juts forward in surprise. “Nervous? Why?"

“Because.” He runs a hand — perhaps unconsciously — over his leg, and suddenly Claire gets it. Brent seems to realize what he is doing and pats the lower part of his leg — the prosthetic.

  Claire Fisher

“I haven’t been with anyone besides Molly since this happened,” he says. “It’s weird, and complicated, and I wasn’t sure if you’d be okay with it."

“It isn’t like it would be a surprise to me, Brent. I know you. And I’m a nurse!"

“I know. It was stupid of me. But I let my nerves get the best of me in the moment."

“Maybe you spared us from making a mistake,” she says.

“I don’t think it would’ve been a mistake."

Their eyes catch. Claire has no idea how long the moment lasts — a few seconds, perhaps — but it feels unbelievably lengthy and significant. It is as if all the things that have not been expressed between them in the past two years are now being transmitted silently. 

“Anyway, I’m sorry I made you feel like you’d done something wrong,” he says. 

“It’s okay. Water under the bridge."

“It’s not okay.” 

Claire takes a gulp of her wine. 

“Because I still regret that I messed it up,” he says. He swigs his own wine and sets the glass down on the wicker table, and then he is moving closer toward Claire. His pant leg makes a swooshing noise as it brushes over the canvas cushion. Claire is afraid to make a move, for fear of disturbing the delicate balance between them right now. And when Brent’s fingers curl over her jaw and then his lips land lightly over hers, she realizes that she has been holding her breath and exhales into his kiss. 

“Is this okay?” he asks in a near-whisper when they part.

She nods, struggling to find words. “Yes,” she finally manages.

She barely has time to set down her own glass before they are kissing again.


When Trevor finally reaches the office in downtown King’s Bay, he doesn’t think he will be able to tolerate the sight of another brake light as long as he lives. He parks in a reserved space near the first elevator bay and takes it up to the 18th floor of Winston Tower, where he finds the Objection office bathed in darkness. The fading light from outside provides only the slightest illumination by this time, and he finds himself silently cursing Cameron for not leaving the recorder at the reception desk so he could just grab it and be done.

He treks the familiar path through the halls to Molly’s office suite. He is surprised to see the lights in the anteroom on. Cameron is nowhere in sight, but his bag sits on his desk chair — and, thankfully, the digital recorder is right on top of the desk.

“Thank god,” he mutters to himself as he grabs the recorder. 

Something about the place feels eerie, he observes, as he slips the recorder into his pants pocket. He looks around but, seeing nothing out of place, reasons that it must be the fact that he never sees the office this deserted. 

I’d better get out of here before Cameron gets back from wherever he is, he thinks, and he briskly makes his way out of the office and back to the elevators. As he goes, he taps out an e-mail on his phone, thanking Cameron for recording the meeting and leaving the device for him. 

At no point is he aware that someone is on the other side of Molly’s office door, listening to his every movement with bated breath.


What is going on at the Objection office?
Will Danielle be able to put her slip behind her?
Could Brent and Claire stand a chance together?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, August 07, 2015

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