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- After she lashed out at him, Jimmy correctly suspected that Danielle had been drinking. Danielle returned home to see a mysterious figure running away from the house, and she and Molly discovered a black rose and dead bird had been left on the porch.
- Samantha agreed to cover for Tori, who told her she was going out with a guy — but didn’t mention that the guy was Philip Ragan.
- Tori brought a bottle of champagne to Philip’s, and they drank together, but when she kissed him, Philip was shocked and insisted that he intended to marry her aunt, Molly. Humiliated, Tori locked herself in his bedroom and was shocked to find something under his bed: a pair of shoes that she knew belonged to the Footprint Killer.

Tori Gray doesn’t know what she expected to find in the duffel bag beneath Philip Ragan’s bed. Something private, perhaps something embarrassing — but not this. The pair of nondescript tan dress shoes lie before her, their soles still bearing red marks upon them, and Tori’s mind flashes to the other time she has seen them: when Brent showed her mother a photo of an identical pair of shoes, the ones being used by the Footprint Killer to mark the scenes of his victims’ deaths.

“Oh my god,” she manages to say, though even the act of forming words feels Herculean now. “Oh my god. It’s you."

Something wild burns in Philip’s eyes, something Tori has not seen from him before. She stares up at him, trying to comprehend how this man — this caring, intelligent, handsome man — could also be a crazed murderer.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, but she can hear the hesitation in his voice, that split-second hitch that indicates that he is desperate and searching for a way out of this. 

  Tori Gray

She looks to the bedroom door, which Philip slid open moments ago. She is on her knees on the floor, the duffel bag still in her shaking hands, and Philip towers over her, halfway between her and the door. Somehow, she has to make it out of that door and out of this loft and away from this madman. 

Quickly she wonders if she could text her mom, but there is no way Philip won’t be suspicious if she pulls out her phone, which is in the purse that still hangs over her shoulder. 

“Sorry,” she says, dropping the bag and standing. “I thought I recognized them, but I must be imagining things. It’s— never mind."

His stone-cold gaze tracks her as she takes a few tentative steps, trying not to forecast that her destination is the door. But she knows that Philip knows. After another tense, breathless moment of standing there, ostensibly awaiting some kind of response from him, she gathers all her reserves of strength and bolts for the doorway. 

Philip is on her in an instant. His hand grabs her shoulder, yanking her backward, but she wriggles away and keeps moving. His next tactic is more painful, as Tori feels him tug on her hair. A scream slips out of her as her entire being is pulled back toward Philip. Thinking as fast as she can, her body nothing more than a collection of jangling nerves and tight muscles, she swings around and aims a foot at him. It hits him square in the midsection, and the blow is enough to make him double over — enough for Tori to break from his hold, her scalp still stinging from the force he used to pull her hair. She is suddenly grateful that Philip opened the front door earlier, intending to see her out, because there is no way that she would have been able to pull it open herself without him stopping her. But it is thankfully open, and even though she can feel Philip’s heat right behind her, she makes it through the doorway and into the hallway.

Only now does it occur to her that she still has to escape the building, escape him. She thinks about knocking on a neighbor’s door, but if that person isn’t home, it will be useless. The elevator is going to take too long. When she spots the door for the stairwell, she makes a break for it.

“Help! Help!” she screams as she runs, hoping that someone, somewhere, will hear and be alarmed. 

Her hand pushes down on the door handle to the stairwell, and she flies through it. She tries to slam it closed behind her, but the door has a soft-close mechanism on it, and all she manages to do is slow Philip down for a second. 

“Help me! He's hurting me!” she shouts loudly, her voice echoing through the cavernous stairwell.

“Get back here, you little bitch,” Philip croaks as he grabs hold of her. With his hands squeezing her shoulders so tightly that it hurts, he tries to pull her back toward him. Tori’s leg shoots up behind her, aiming for his crotch or his stomach or anything, really, that will weaken him, but all she manages to do is jab him in the thigh.

“Let go of me!” she shrieks, though it is addressed less at him than at whatever potential audience might be able to hear her from elsewhere in the building. She struggles against him, trying to break free, and she gets a foot onto the next step down—

—but as she does, she feels Philip letting go of her, pushing her away, and without solid footing on the step, she feels herself tumbling forward, and then her head is hitting the floor and her feet are up in the air and she is banging against everything all at once as she plummets down the stairs.

* * * * *

Brent Taylor kneels on the stone porch, the yellow light from the outdoor sconce beaming down upon him as he peers into the paper bag. With a grimace, he closes the bag and sets it aside.

“Jesus,” he says with a grimace. “You didn’t touch any of it, did you?"

Molly Taylor shakes her head. “No. I almost threw up when I saw what was in there, though."

“Here, let’s bring this inside,” Brent says as he picks up the bag. His sister holds open the door for them to come inside the house, and Brent leaves the bag on the floor as he follows Molly and Danielle into the kitchen.

Molly cannot shake the vision of the dead bird and the black rose that were in that bag. Those items have haunted her nightmares for so many years — but it has been so long that they have almost come to seem like a figment of her imagination, something terrible her subconscious conjured up to terrify her in the night. But now the terrifying reality of their origin has come racing back to her.

“That’s exactly what Craig left for you?” Danielle asks as she clutches a glass of water between her hands.

“He left the bird and a dozen black roses,” Molly says, looking to Brent as if for confirmation that she isn’t crazy, “but it’s the same idea. Right on the doorstep of the apartment I used to live in."

“Craig is dead,” Brent says firmly. “No question about it. And I don’t know why, after all these years, someone connected with him would be back to terrorize you. The last I checked, his father was in a nursing home and his mother had passed away, and he didn’t have siblings."

  Molly Taylor

“So then it’s someone who knows the story,” Danielle says.

Molly nods, barely able to keep the emotion of the situation from overtaking her; she feels tears of panic welling behind her eyes. “It’s like what happened to Ryan. The killer staged that to be just like when Ryan shot Nick, right? And now this…” She pauses to catch her breath. “Do you think Tim is right? That the killer is coming after all of us and this is my—my—?"

Brent folds his arms. “But I think that’s what the killer wants you to think.”

* * * * *

“This place is really cool,” Samantha Fisher says as she slips her debit card into the bill holder that the server left on the table. “I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it."

Tempest Banks takes the bill and adds her own card to the mix. “It’s kind of an underground thing, I guess. I heard some of the hockey players talking about it at work the other day."

“Well, I’m glad we came. And the food was amazing."

The two young women sit at a table in a dimly lit restaurant called The Depot, established in a refurbished railway station at the very north end of King’s Bay. The area is one that Samantha has always known to be very industrial — not a place she would ever have any reason to visit. But when she proposed to Tempest that they go somewhere off the beaten path for dinner, Tempest had what turned out to be the perfect suggestion.

Their server comes by and takes the bill. Samantha takes one more bite of what remains of the delicious deconstructed chocolate hazelnut cake she ordered for dessert, but she is unable to shake something that has been nagging at her throughout the meal.

“I still haven’t heard from Tori at all,” she says as she sets down her fork.

“She’s with some guy, right? She’s probably getting busy."

Samantha widens her eyes at Tempest’s bluntness, but Tempest simply shrugs and uses her own fork to scoop up some of what’s left on Samantha’s plate.

“I’ll text her,” Samantha says, reaching into her coat pocket for her phone. “She probably just forgot to check in."

“You’re doing her a damn favor by covering for her ass so she can sneak around with some boy,” Tempest says. “The least she can do is let you know she’s okay."

“That’s my point.” Samantha quickly taps out a text message and sends it. For seconds afterward, she stares at the screen, hoping to see the telltale bubbles pop up to indicate that Tori is composing a response, but no such sign appears.

“I’m sure it’s all good,” Tempest says, and Samantha nods as she attempts to convince herself of the same thing.

* * * * *

Philip freezes at the top of the stairs. He has seen some gruesome, horrific things over the past several months — like Sandy James writhing on the floor as blood spurted from her throat, or Roz Brooks tumbling out a second-story window and splattering on the driveway below — but it has yet to cease shocking him how a person can be full of life one moment and utterly devoid of it the next. Now, as he stares down at Tori’s crumpled form in shock, he attempts to catch up to this newest reality.

She knows. Someone knows. Someone besides his mother, that is, but Loretta Ragan is not like most people. It somehow makes it more real, more concrete, that another person in the world is aware of what he has done — who he is. 

But she isn’t moving. He hurries down the stairs and, as he does, the ping of a cell phone notification sounds from somewhere on Tori’s person — from inside her purse, he would imagine. He ignores it, as he is trying to ignore the way his heart is thumping rapidly against the inside of his chest, and leans in to check her breathing. He can make out the faintest breaths. Despite the way her leg is splayed out at an indecently crooked angle, despite the bleeding gash on her head, she is alive.

This little girl was crazy to come here tonight. What did she think, that he was going to forget about Molly and take up with some college student? Throw away everything he has worked so hard to secure for a romp with a child? She should have minded her own business — if she had, she never would’ve wound up like this. It’s her fault. This is her fault for being so naive. 

He has to get her out of here. She can’t be found in this building, or anywhere near his home. No one can know she was here tonight. He realizes with alarm that the door to the loft is still open, but he can’t risk going back to close it. Spencer will not be back for a few hours, still, and what’s most important is to get Tori out of here, make it appear that she was never here. It occurs to him that he has no idea what kind of car she drives, but he has to move the car, too. 

There isn’t much time. He pulls the sleeves of his shirt over his hands and reaches for her purse to find her car keys.

* * * * *

Molly wrinkles her brow in confusion. “I don’t understand. You don’t think I’m in danger?"

Brent glances around the kitchen — the place that is still so familiar, the place that was once his home, too — as he searches for the proper phrasing. 

“I think someone is trying to scare you,” he says. “Someone wants you to think you’re being targeted. The footprints in your office — they weren’t made with Cameron’s blood because Cameron wasn’t supposed to be killed."

Molly gasps involuntarily at the mention of her assistant’s brutal murder.

“Whoever killed Cameron stamped those in paint to give you the idea that you were the next target,” Brent continues. “Then Cameron came in and had to be killed so he wouldn’t tell anyone who the killer was. I’m sure of it.” 

He turns to Danielle, who has been standing by quietly, sipping her water and observing.

“I’m going to need to take a statement from you,” he says, “about what you saw outside."

“Yeah. Of course. Not a problem.” She fidgets and sets her water on the granite countertop. “I wish I’d seen more. It happened so fast — he came running at me in the dark—"

“Why were you standing at the end of the driveway, anyway?” Brent asks. 

Danielle looks down at her hands as she searches for the answer. “My car wouldn’t start, and it was raining, so I left it downtown and took an Uber home. I didn’t expect there to be some guy running…"

“Of course not,” Brent says, and Molly nods along behind him. “But it was a man? You’re sure of that?"

“It seemed like — the person was big. I think bigger than me?” She closes her eyes in an attempt to draw upon the memory. “I didn’t see much specifically. I’m sorry."

“It’s okay. But he was wearing a mask, you said?"

“No,” she responds quickly, “or maybe. Yeah, I think he was. He must’ve been. I didn’t see a face — it was dark."

“Okay.” Brent jots down a few things on the small notepad he has pulled from his pocket. “Why don’t you come down to the station in the morning and we can go through the whole thing?"

“Sure.” Danielle picks up the water glass again. “I’m sorry I didn’t think to look closer."

“It isn’t as if you expected to come home to something like this,” Molly says. “Don’t worry."

  Brent Taylor

Brent takes out his cell phone. “I’ll tell you what, though. I’m going to call Ben’s mother and have her drop the twins off here instead of at my place. We’re all going to sleep here tonight. I’ll take the couch. It’ll be safer for us all to be together."

Molly looks at him with gratitude, though she says, “You don’t have to do that."

“I want to. No arguing, okay? And I’m going to have a squad car posted outside. We’re not taking any risks.” He dips into the living room to make his call.

“Can I get you anything?” Danielle asks Molly. “I know you must be pretty shaken."

“I might make more tea,” Molly says. “Do you want some? Are you all right? You seem… off."

“Me? No. Not at all. It’s been a weird night. That’s all. Actually, I’m going to go take a hot shower. By the time the boys get here, we can put on a movie — something funny — and hang out."

“Okay. That sounds nice.” 

Danielle hurries out of the kitchen, and as Molly fills the tea kettle, she listens to her sister-in-law’s footsteps on the stairs and tries to pinpoint what, exactly, seems so strange about Danielle tonight.

* * * * *

Philip carries Tori’s limp body down several flights of stairs, trying to ignore the bone jutting out from her leg that keeps rubbing against his forearm. He exits through a side door into the drizzling night. Thankfully, the darkness conceals them enough, and with a push of the Volkswagen key fob he found in her purse, he locates the blue Golf parked down the street. He places her in the passenger seat, pockets the keys, and then hurries back upstairs. As fast as he possibly can, he puts on a pair of latex gloves, disposes of the champagne bottle, and locks up the loft — but not before grabbing the duffel bag containing the shoes and taking it with him.

With Tori still unconscious in the passenger seat, he drives toward the north end of town and follows unfamiliar streets until he comes to what looks like a seedy area. The radio is turned off and the car is deathly silent, but the sound of Tori’s cries for help — all of them, from Sandy to Ryan to Cameron to Roz — deafen him from inside his head. He was hoping he wouldn’t have to do this again. He didn’t want to do this again.

It’s her fault for coming to me, he reminds himself as he parks on a dark street, as far from streetlights and building lights and other cars as he can. It’s her fault for throwing herself at me and trying to ruin things for Molly and me.

He turns off the engine but leaves the keys in the ignition. He doesn’t know what he is trying to stage, exactly, but the issue of the car will confuse things considerably. As long as Tori didn’t tell anyone where she was going...

He has no way of knowing whether she did, although the way she has gone about this entire juvenile seduction plan suggests that she wouldn’t have wanted anyone — especially her family — to know what was going on, at least not yet. Spencer hasn’t said anything, and Philip knows that the two cousins have been getting closer. And Tori mentioned something over the summer about having had a major falling-out with her girlfriends. If someone does know that she was headed for his home, he can always say that she never arrived — maybe even pretend that Tori was using him as a cover story for meeting with a man in this sketchy part of King’s Bay.

He looks over at her, her chest rising and falling almost imperceptibly with the shallowest of breaths. He doesn’t want to do this. But he knows that he must.

* * * * *

“Still no answer,” Samantha says as she and Tempest exit the restaurant. The glow of the streetlights bounces off the slick pavement, causing it to shine even in the darkness. 

“I bet that ungrateful heffa isn’t even thinking about you,” Tempest says, a familiar undercurrent of annoyance in her voice. 

Samantha rolls her eyes as they stroll down the sidewalk, back toward where she parked. They reach the corner where her car is waiting.

“I’m just going to call her before I start driving,” she says. “She’ll at least have to notice I’m calling."

“You’d think. Unlock the doors. I’m freezing."

  Tempest Banks

Samantha unlocks the car and then presses the Call button on her phone. Tempest is climbing into the passenger when a noise erupts — not near them, but from somewhere down the street.

* * * * *

Rivulets of blood have dried on Tori’s face. The gash on her head is still wet and red, but it seems to have stopped bleeding for the most part. Philip tries to ignore her face and focus on her neck. All he needs to do is snap it. One good twist, and that will be it. 

He is reaching for her neck, trying to work up the nerve to make the move that will end her life, when a loud noise causes him to jump backward against the driver’s side door.

The shrill ringing fills the car. The name “Samantha” appears on the electronic display as the call comes in over the car’s Bluetooth system. Tori’s phone must be in her purse, Philip realized earlier, and it must have connected to the Bluetooth automatically when he started the car. 

He sits back and tries to breathe through the ringing, which feels as if it lasts forever.

Around the corner, Samantha looks at Tempest with alarm.

“That’s so weird,” she says as she listens to the dual rings — both in her phone and from somewhere nearby.

“It’s a coincidence,” Tempest says skeptically.

“I know. Why would Tori’s car be anywhere near here?” Nevertheless, Samantha ends the call, and the ringing — wherever it was coming from — stops, too.

“Okay, that’s real weird,” Tempest admits.

Samantha places another call — and, within an instant, the loud ringing from a set of car speakers begins again. With the phone to her face, she goes around the corner. Tempest watches with concern for a moment, then jumps out of the car to follow her.

“That’s her car!” Samantha exclaims when she sees the blue Golf all the way down the street. She hurries toward it, with Tempest right behind her.

“Tori?” Samantha calls out uncertainly.

In the car, Philip freezes. It is not possible that Tori’s cousin somehow found her here — or, Heaven forbid, followed them. It simply isn’t possible.

He hesitates for only a split-second more, hands moving toward Tori’s neck, and then he sees Samantha and another figure approaching the car from the passenger side. With the electronic squeal of the phone call still sounding through the air, he realizes that he has only one choice.

He throws open the driver’s door and, covering his face with the duffel bag, runs.

“Hey!” Samantha yells.

Philip hears his frantic footsteps echoing off the buildings around him as he races down the street. He doesn’t dare look back, for fear that the girls might catch a glimpse of his face. 

“Who the hell was that?” Tempest asks. “Her boyfriend?"

“Maybe someone trying to steal the car,” Samantha says. The ringing finally stops, and the two young women approach the Golf.

“Oh no,” Samantha cries, and a second later, Tempest sees why: Tori is lying in the passenger seat, bleeding from her head and not moving at all. And then they see something even more horrific.

“No! No!” Samantha yells when she makes out the pair of tan men's dress shoes lying at Tori’s feet. “Tempest, she’s—"

Tempest grabs the cell phone from her hand and punches several buttons quickly.

“911. What’s your emergency?” comes a voice from the other  end. 

“That was the killer,” Samantha says breathlessly. “The killer— he— Tori—"

She rips open the door, desperate to see whether her cousin is alive but terrified to learn the answer, as Tempest relays their location to the dispatcher.


Can Tori still be saved?
Will she reveal the killer’s identity?
What is going on with Molly’s “gift”?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

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