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- After learning that Spencer would be out-of-town for the night, Tori decided to make her move on Philip.  
- The Fishers resolved not to place themselves in danger by being at home alone until the Footprint Killer is apprehended.
- Danielle had an upsetting run-in with her ex, Matt, and ordered shots of tequila alongside her dinner. 

Tori Gray has never been to this building before, but she navigates the corridors with a single-minded focus on her destination. Luckily, it proves simple enough to locate — as easy as it was to get the address from her cousin without letting on that she has a specific purpose in mind — and soon she is knocking on the heavy, steel door, which hurts her hand more than she might like to admit.

Moments later, the door slides open, its movement on the tracks surprisingly loud. Philip Ragan stands there in a pink dress shirt and dark jeans with a look of either surprise or confusion upon his face.

“Hi,” Tori says. “Is Spencer home?"

“Oh, no. He went to a concert in Seattle. Did you have plans with him?"

She lets out a heavy breath and drops her shoulders in rehearsed resignation. “Stupid me. I should have called to see if he was here. I just got this…” She reaches into her oversized purse and pulls out the bottle of champagne. “…and thought he might want to hang out and split it."

Philip gives the bottle of Dom Perignon a quick, knowing look. “That’s an excellent bottle of champagne. 2003? Wow. Where did you get that?"

  Tori Gray

“It was a gift,” she says, thinking fast, “from some people I, uh, tutored for.” She knows exactly how good the bottle is; she spent hours in the wine cellar that Graham kept, the one that her parents only very occasionally visit, and selected something that was expensive but not outrageously so, something that they wouldn’t notice was missing. She is grateful that the internet was able to guide her on her mission, or she would’ve had no idea what to pick. 

“That was very generous of them."

“I know. I was on my way home, and since I’m finishing up my first week of classes, I thought Spencer might want to celebrate. Oh well.” She begins to put the bottle back in her bag but then pauses. “Unless you want to open it with me. I hope I’m not interrupting—"

He seems thrown by the suggestion, but his good manners take over immediately, and he steps aside. “Come on in. Are you sure you want to open that? You could save it for a special occasion."

She shrugs, though the wheels in her head are spinning quickly. 

“I’ve had a rough summer,” she says, “and everyone’s had a tough year. I was thinking it would be nice to toast to, you know, fresh starts and new beginnings and all of that."

“I can certainly get onboard with that,” Philip says, turning back toward her with a smile as he reaches for two champagne flutes in the cupboard.

322 Bar & Grill

The crowd at 322 Bar & Grill grows thicker as the hour grows later. Danielle Taylor sits at the bar, finishing up her Thai chicken salad. Her shoulders are hunched and her gaze is focused on her plate, and some part of her hopes that the buzzing of the crowd will simply swallow her up.

Her head has felt loose ever since she downed those shots of tequila earlier, and although she knows that she is quite buzzed, she continues to be distracted by the bottle of tequila on the shelf. The only thing that keeps her from ordering more is the knowledge that she has to drive her car home — and the fear that she might be too tipsy to be sly about her drinking and someone she knows might see her. She wishes that she still had the remainder of that wine in her closet, but it was too risky to keep it there, so she poured the rest out and took the bottle to a recycling bin down the street. 

You can always stop for more on the way home, her head whispers.

She shakes her head, as if it might force the voice out. She already feels a little sick from the tequila, and she never should have risked drinking in public. This has to stop. 

“Could I have my check, please?” she asks the bartender, careful to sound out the words so that she sounds composed, sober. He just smiles and brings her the check. It isn’t like her behavior would be strange to him; she’s merely another patron, another drinker, with nothing to be ashamed of. 

She pays in cash, takes one more bite of her salad, and pushes out her stool to stand. Her balance is a little off, not too surprisingly, so she steadies herself against the bar and does a mental calculation. She can’t drive. Maybe she can walk around, go have a coffee, and sober up before she drives. But a glance at the clock behind the bar tells her that she is supposed to be home soon. She and Molly promised both to be home by a certain time so that neither would have to be alone in the house for too long. 

I can say my car broke down, she reasons as she heads for the door. But there is someone familiar only feet in front of her.

“Dani! How are you?” Jimmy Trask exclaims cheerily.

“Oh, I’m fine. I was having a quick dinner after my lesson.” She looks at his wet leather jacket. “It’s raining again?"

“Yeah. Been nasty all day.” Jimmy runs a hand over his damp brown hair. “You have to run? Want to sit and chat for a little?"

Danielle unfolds her arms and looks up at him. He really is a good-looking guy, with a few days’ worth of stubble on his jaw and that boyish energy he somehow hasn’t lost in the past two decades. Maybe she was stupid to turn him away. No — then she wouldn’t have had those final months with Ryan. But there’s no reason she has to be a grieving widow forever. Shouldn’t she have some fun? That’s exactly what she needs right now. It’s why she’s been drinking. She needs fun.

“I can stay for a few minutes,” she says, sidling up to him and placing one arm around his back. She can sit and order a coffee. Molly won’t even notice if she is 20 minutes late. 

She rubs Jimmy’s back as they walk toward a booth. Suddenly he stops and turns to her, his brow wrinkled. 

“You’re awfully friendly tonight,” he says.

A smile stretches across her face before she even realizes it. “Why shouldn’t I be? It’s good to see an old friend — a handsome old friend."

Jimmy cocks his head. “You okay, Dani?"

She draws back sharply. “What do you mean?"

“Look, I don’t wanna talk out of line here,” he says, “but have you been drinking?"

* * * * *

The gloomy day begins to give way to the dark night. Molly Taylor again pulls aside the curtain that covers the window pane in the front door of her house, but there is no sign of Danielle’s car pulling into the driveway. She knows that it is far too early to be concerned about Danielle being late, and she doesn’t even want to call or text her and seem crazy, but being alone in the house these days makes her jumpy — especially when night falls.

There are plenty of shows awaiting her on the DVR, though, so she resolves to relax tonight. She decides to make herself a cup of tea first and moves into the kitchen. And that is when she hears it: a loud thump.

It is coming from outside. She goes to the sliding glass door that connects the kitchen to the deck and the backyard, but the darkness outside makes it difficult to see much of anything. But she clocks no movement, nothing strange. 

“You’re going crazy,” she scolds herself as she sets the kettle on the stove.

But then there is another sound. It is more of a shuffling, almost a scraping, and it is definitely coming from the side of the house. 

  Molly Taylor

It’s an animal, she reasons. There are always squirrels and raccoons and even the occasional coyote around here. Nothing to be worried about.

She waits for the water to boil and goes to the family room to turn on the TV. As she picks up the remote control from the coffee table, however, there is something else, something unmistakable.

Tap, tap, tap.

It is the sound of something — someone? — rapping on a window. 

A shiver courses through her body. She didn’t imagine that. She knows she didn’t. Ducking back into the kitchen to grab the house phone, she heads toward the other side of the house, into the large space that makes up the living and dining rooms, which is where the tapping sounded like it was coming from. She stands frozen in the center of the room, waiting to hear something else.

But it never comes. 

“You’re losing it,” she tells herself, and when the kettle whistles, she returns to the kitchen to make her tea.

* * * * *

Tori and Philip perch on a pair of stools at the nook in Philip’s well appointed kitchen, a trio of blown-glass pendant lights hanging above them as they sip the champagne. She types something into the browser on Philip’s iPad, scrolls down, and then slides it toward him.

“You should absolutely take a studio course as soon as you can,” he says as he reviews the King’s Bay University course catalog. “It’s absurd that they don’t require it early on. Everyone should have that hands-on experience."

“Hands-on is good,” Tori agrees, nodding.

Philip scans the university’s offerings silently for another long moment. Tori looks around the expansive unit; every touch seems to have been thought-out, down to the perfect orchid and the gleaming silver bowl spaced perfectly from one another on a console table against the opposite wall. 

“I’m impressed that you’re taking so much initiative,” Philip says, turning toward her. “It can’t be time to pick classes for next semester already, can it?"

“No. But I like to be prepared.” She lifts the champagne flute to her lips, allowing just a few drips of the golden liquid to pass. She already feels a pleasant buzz and doesn’t want to go too far, not when she has to play this perfectly. 

* * * * *

As if injected with a needle, panic courses through Danielle’s entire being. She can feel it, desperate and hot, flowing through her limbs and into her core. She stands up straighter, breathes sharply through her nose to clear her head, and flares her eyes at Jimmy.

“What are you talking about?” she says.

Jimmy recoils, and Danielle figures that she must have gotten in a good shot, making him realize that he was out of line for even considering the possibility that she has been drinking. 

He leans in closer and lowers his voice. “You just seem like, I dunno, like your old self. Like the Dani I remember from back in the day."

“Well, I’m not!” The exclamation flies out of her, and suddenly the restaurant’s lights are buzzing.

“I’m worried about you. That’s all."

“Don’t bother.” Something boils over and bursts out of her, something she can’t control, something she hasn’t felt happen in a long, long time. “You miss twenty years, and then you come back and you want to judge me? After everything I’ve gone through?"

“I said I was worried—"

“You said you thought I was drinking. I’m grieving, Jimmy. My husband is dead. And I don’t need your concern or your allegations or whatever the hell else you want to throw at me."

She pauses just long enough, trying to find her next words, to realize that the other restaurant patrons are watching them. Watching her. She can almost see herself from the outside, see what she looks like, what she seems like.

  Danielle Taylor

She forces her way past him. “I have to go home."

“Dani, wait,” Jimmy says. “You can’t drive like this—"

“I’m not driving.” She doesn’t look at him or at any of the other people who have watched this play out. She simply marches for the door and storms outside, feeling the cool rain tumble down upon her as she pulls out her phone to call a car.

* * * * *

Philip finishes the remainder of the champagne in his glass and places it back on the countertop with a decisive clink. 

“That was wonderful,” he says as he pushes out his stool. “Thank you for sharing it with me."

Tori looks up from the iPad with a start. “You aren’t going to have more?"

“I shouldn’t. I have some more work to do.” He moves swiftly toward a drawer and pulls out a contraption that she doesn’t recognize. “This is a special cork for champagne. It’ll keep the bottle for three days or so. You can bring it back sometime, or give it to Spencer the next time you see him."

“Thanks,” Tori says robotically, her head spinning. Things were going so well. He can’t just be wrapping it all up. She has him right where she wants him.

Philip seals the bottle of champagne and hands it to her. She stands, still unaware of what her next move is going to be.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he says.

She whips around expectantly.

“Make sure you put that in your trunk. It’s technically an open container. Here, take this bag for it."

He retrieves a paper grocery bag, and Tori mumbles a thank-you as she puts the bottle inside it. 

“I hope I was able to shed some light on your schedule for the spring,” Philip adds as he walks toward the door.

“You were. Thanks again.” Tori is right on his heels as he slides open the heavy door.

He turns to see her out, and Tori knows that it has to be now or never.

“Wait,” she says, and before she can talk herself out of it, she stands on her tiptoes and presses her lips against his.


How will Philip react to Tori’s kiss?
Will Jimmy reveal Danielle’s secret?
Is Molly imagining things?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

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