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- Tim was stunned to run into Liam Cassel at Vision Publishing. Liam explained that he was only back in town to handle some paperwork, but Tim blasted him for his underhanded act of revenge against Alex. 
- After drinking with her dinner, Danielle bumped into Jimmy, who sensed that something was off and questioned her sobriety. She yelled at him about her grief in the middle of the busy restaurant and then rushed out.
- While waiting at home alone for Danielle, Molly was disturbed to hear sounds outside the house.
- On the pretense of visiting Spencer (whom she knew was out-of-town), Tori went to Philip’s with a bottle of champagne and proposed that they share it. After having a glass, Philip prepared to send her on her way, and a desperate Tori kissed him.

The heels of her shoes lift off the exposed cement floor as Tori Gray pushes herself up on her tiptoes. Stretching upward, knowing that she has no other choice, she presses her lips against Philip Ragan’s. The heat from his body, from his mouth, sears into her, eradicating her nervousness and her doubts. This is it. This is right.

But it lasts for only a flash, for an instant. Just as soon as she feels Philip’s lips push back at hers, he jerks backward, breaking the kiss.

“Tori,” he says, eyes wide. “What are you doing?"

“I…” No matter how hard she sucks in air, it won’t seem to get down to her lungs. They stand there, frozen, the paper bag containing the corked champagne still in Tori’s hand, by the entry to Philip’s loft — the door wide open, a cruel reminder that he was planning to show her out without a second thought. That he wants her gone.

She swallows and tries to speak. “I just thought… the champagne…” She knows she sounds stupid, that she is babbling, but she doesn’t know what else to say or do. “I’m such an idiot. I’m such an idiot."

“You are not.” He moves forward again, his hands out, as if torn between offering a reassuring touch and the threat of putting his fingers anywhere near a scalding hot burner. “You are a smart, engaging, and, yes, beautiful young woman. But you’re a young woman. You’re in college. And I’m—” He scrambles to dredge up more words. “I’m in love with your aunt. I want to marry her."

  Philip Ragan

“Her? Still? After what she did to you?” 

“I was the one who gave Molly reason to doubt me,” Philip says, “and I’ve worked hard to win her back. To earn her trust again."

She stares at him, at the utter determination on his face — to make her hear him, to make his point sink in. To tell her no. 

“I’m such an idiot,” she says again, and since he is blocking the doorway, she instead bolts in the other direction. The first thing she sees is the sliding door to his bedroom, and she rushes inside, pulling the door closed behind herself. How could this have gone so wrong?

* * * * *

Somehow, Danielle Taylor’s head grows foggier during the Uber ride home, even though the minutes that creep by put the shots of tequila she did further and further in the past. As she watches the trees and houses pass in the darkness, she attempts to straighten herself out by focusing on practicalities. She will explain to Molly that she stopped at 322 for dinner — as she really did — and that, when she got in the car to leave, it wouldn’t start. She will say that she called AAA, only to be told that there was a significant wait time, and rather than wait in the rain to have the car towed, she decided that she would come home — so as not to leave Molly waiting alone at the house — and deal with it in the morning. It isn’t bulletproof, but it is far from implausible, and she doubts Molly will do more than listen to the explanation and then offer whatever help she can in the morning.

A dark veil of shame dangles just over Danielle as she rides in the car, as no matter how hard she focuses on getting her story straight, her encounter with Jimmy Trask continues forcing itself to the forefront of her mind.

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

She recalls the look of concern on his face — no, the look of pity. That’s what it was. Pity for poor Danielle, widowed and drunk and a total mess.

“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."

The outburst felt good, satisfying, for an instant, until she saw the other people in the restaurant, watching her and judging her, scanning her as if they knew exactly what she had been up to. 

She has to keep Jimmy from saying anything to Elly or Brent or Molly. She can always deny it, of course, and blame it on her grief. They won’t know that she was drinking. All she has to do is hold it together tonight.

Up ahead, the driveway comes into view on the right.

“You can pull over on the shoulder,” Danielle tells the driver, who gladly obliges. 

As the sedan pulls away, she stands at the edge of the long driveway. With a safe distance remaining between herself and the house, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to gather herself. All she has to do is walk into the house, tell Molly her story, and get on with the night. She can drink some water, have some coffee or tea, and go up to bed. She can do this. 

She opens her eyes — and takes only one step up the driveway when she sees something running toward her. It is all a blur, a rush of movement and shape in the dark, and it is only when it is mere feet away from her that she realizes it is a person — a person dressed in black, or dark colors, who nearly bowls her over before racing off down the street.

“Stop!” she yells, but it is a weak effort, and frankly, she doesn’t know that she wants the person to stop. She wants to go inside and be safe.

Molly, she realizes with terror. Molly is home. She hurries up the driveway, over the rain-slicked pavement, to get to the house.

* * * * *

As he drives through the quiet streets of the Audubon Ridge subdivision, Tim Fisher cannot shake thoughts of his run-in with Liam Cassel earlier today. Something about it felt strange, but at the time, he was so upset to see Liam — and at the thought that the man would dare show his face around the Vision Publishing offices after the way he stabbed Alex Marshall in the back — that he didn’t consider the deeper implications. But there is something distinctly odd about the fact that Liam returned to King’s Bay without informing anyone. Tim doesn’t know if it is because his senses are on high-alert these days, but he cannot stop musing on the weirdness of Liam’s reappearance, particularly in light of the Footprint Killer’s two most recent murders. He doesn’t really care that he told Liam he wouldn’t tell anyone he had seen him; he needs to let Brent know. 

And it might make his concerns about Spencer and the paint irrelevant, he hopes as he pulls up to the gray-blue house. Thoughts of Liam momentarily fall away, as he is surprised to find the driveway empty. He expected to see his son’s car parked there; Travis’s shift at work ended nearly an hour ago. He decides to text him once he gets inside the house and puts his things away, but he makes it only halfway up the stone walkway before his cell phone begins ringing.

Not wanting to pull it out in the rain, Tim hurries under the cover of the entryway. On the phone’s screen, he sees not his son’s name, but his sister’s. 

  Tim Fisher

Sarah,” he answers urgently. “Did you talk to Brent?"

“Yeah,” she says. “They tested the paint that was used to leave those footprints by Cameron’s body."

The millisecond-long wait feels like a year to Tim. “And? What did he say?"

* * * * *

Once she is inside the bedroom, Tori leans against the closed door. Of course the room is perfect. The bed is adorned with crisp white sheets and a pristine white duvet. A large area rug in black-and-white plaid covers much of the cement floor. Expertly framed artwork hands on an interior wall, while gray curtains cover the window along the exposed brick wall. It is tasteful and adult and mature — all the things Philip is. All the things that he can see she is not.

There is a knock on the bedroom door.

“Tori?” Philip’s voice asks tentatively, moments later.

She doesn’t answer. 

“There’s no need to feel embarrassed,” he says through the door. “I was caught off-guard. That’s all. I had no idea you felt this way. It’s my fault for not having recognized it."

She swears that she can feel the heat from his body radiating through the door, and even the thought of that is too painful now. She was so stupid to think that she had a chance. Needing to distance herself even more, she moves to the bed and sits down on its edge. 

“Please come out,” Philip says. 

Tori sets the paper bag at her feet and drops her head into her hands. Her brown hair dangles in the air as she attempts to compose herself enough to go out there and face him.

“We can keep this between us. No one has to know."

And that is when it hits her. He isn’t saying that for her benefit; he’s saying it for his. He doesn’t care if she’s embarrassed or humiliated. He just doesn’t want Molly to get the wrong idea.

“What if I told her?” she shouts back, rage burning inside her chest. “What if I told her that I was here tonight and that we kissed? What would perfect Molly think of you then?"

* * * * *

Danielle has not even made it to the house when the front door flies open. Molly Taylor appears and gazes out into the dark.

“Danielle?” she asks.

“Oh, you’re okay,” Danielle says with relief as she moves to the porch. “What are you—"

“Someone just rang the doorbell,” Molly explains. “It wasn’t you?"

Danielle shakes her head. “No. I saw someone— running away—"

“From the house? Who was it?"

“I don’t know. I didn’t see.” Danielle’s head is spinning. The person had a mask on, she is sure of it. She would have noticed if he or she didn’t. Right? Then something catches her eye. “What’s that?"

  Molly Taylor

Molly looks down and, for the first time, sees the paper bag resting in front of the door. 

“I didn’t order anything,” she says as she picks up the bag. 

Danielle recalls the figure sprinting away from the house, slamming into her in a frenzy. “That wasn’t a normal delivery."

“But I don’t know what—” Molly freezes as she looks into the bag.

“What? What is it?"

Molly trembles with terror as she holds out the bag. Danielle peeks inside nervously.

Inside the bag is a black rose — and the body of a dead bird. 

* * * * *

Tim stands in front of his house, protected from the rain that seems to be coming down harder now, and his pulse quickens as he waits for Sarah’s explanation.

“It was an acrylic-latex paint,” she says. “For house interiors. Here, I wrote down the brand and all that…"

He exhales harder than he thought possible. “Thank god."

“Tim, what the hell is going on? Why did you need to know about the paint?"

“Because of something I came across,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter now.” As long as it isn’t auto touch-up paint, he doesn’t care about the paint at all.

“You’re acting really weird,” Sarah says, her voice crackling slightly over the cellular connection. 

“I know, and I’m sorry." He pulls out his house keys and unlocks the door. “I need to call Brent about something right away."

* * * * *

Philip’s hesitation, his palpable nervousness, is so satisfying to Tori. She looks to the closed bedroom door as if staring down the man himself. 

“She would believe me,” Tori says. “She doesn’t trust you. She already proved that."

“And what would that accomplish?” he responds, a note of taunting in his voice now. “Molly would hate me, and you’d have the satisfaction of knowing you ruined my life?"

To her annoyance, Tori doesn’t have much of an answer.

“It doesn’t mean I would be with you,” he adds, louder and more forcefully.

She doesn’t know what to do. Her humiliation is fading ever-so-slightly — or, at least, the adrenaline behind it is. Now she’s simply locked herself away in someone else’s bedroom and will have to face him if she wants to get the hell out of here. Frustrated, she stands up, and as she does so, her foot knocks over the paper bag.

“Shit,” she mutters, as the champagne bottle rolls out of the bag and underneath Philip’s bed.

  Tori Gray

She gets down on her knees to retrieve the bottle. Her hand fishes beneath the bed, but instead of feeling the cool glass, it feels a fabric of some sort. She pulls at it, hoping to move it out of the way, and is able to see that it is a duffel bag — a cheap, black one, not at all the kind of thing she would expect Philip to own.

“That’s enough of this,” Philip declares. She hears the bedroom door sliding on its track as Philip whips it open.

“What are you doing?” he asks when he sees her with the bag. “Put that back."

“Why? You don’t want me to see what’s in it?” Looking at him now, thinking he’s so superior to her, she can’t help but fight back a little. “Something you don’t want Molly to know about? What, you have some messed-up fetish thing?"

“Tori. Put the bag back where you found it."

“Or maybe I’ll just take a peek.” She tugs at the zipper, but what’s inside makes no sense to her at first.

Until an image blasts onto the screen in her mind.

She has seen these before — on Brent’s phone, when he was showing her mom a photo — of a pair of cheap, tan dress shoes. Her hand cannot resist touching them, turning them over, and that is when she sees the marks of red on the soles.

Tori’s blood runs cold.

“Oh my god,” she manages to say as she cranes her neck toward Philip, whose eyes are now burning with rage. “Oh my god. It’s you."


Did Tori’s realization shock you?
What will Philip do now?
Who left the gift for Molly — and why?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Friday, October 16, 2015

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