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- The Fishers decided to spend Thanksgiving at the hospital in order to be near the comatose Tori. 
- Molly invited Philip to join her family for the holiday, and he hoped to use the occasion as a cover for killing Tori before she could wake up and reveal that he is the Footprint Killer. 
- Natalie decided to tell Jason that she is pregnant, but when she arrived at the hospital to meet him, she was stunned to see another familiar face there. 

KB Memorial Hospital

Time stops as Natalie Bishop looks at the younger man on the other side of the ICU’s waiting area. Spencer Ragan stares back at her, barely managing to keep his jaw from falling open and his eyes from springing out of his head. Natalie is acutely aware of the way Jason Fisher’s hand feels over hers, how it must look, how...

“Who’s that?” she asks Jason quietly. “With Samantha."

“That’s my nephew, Spencer. Why?"

Nephew. His nephew. She slept with Jason’s nephew. The realization causes her ever-present hint of nausea to rise, and she has to suppress a gag. 

Her mind is zooming in overdrive, but it still takes what feels like forever for her to string together a response. “I thought it might be a new boyfriend."

Jason chuckles. “That would be a little weird, since they’re brother and sister.” 

  Natalie Bishop

“Yeah. I guess so.” 

“So… you had something you wanted to talk about, right?"

“Oh. Yeah.” She shakes her head, desperate to reorient herself, and numbly follows Jason to the terrace. The chilly autumn air blasts her face and hands but still does not jolt her back to clarity.

“What’s going on?” 

His expression is so genuine, so concerned. Even after the way that she has been pushing him away lately, she can tell how much he cares for her. This is the kind of man you should have a child with, she thinks as her mind fumbles to assemble a response. 

“I need to apologize for the way I’ve been lately,” she begins. “A few weeks ago, I found out…”

Through the window, she catches sight of Spencer, still talking with Samantha. She could swear that he is stealing glances at her and Jason.

“Found out what?” Jason asks.

Her heart pounds against her chest, but once the answer clicks in her brain, it spills out of her with surprising ease.

“Conrad has been trying to screw with the child support,” she says, “and I’ve been fighting with him and his lawyers. I didn’t want to drag you into it, because it’s my mess, but it’s been stressful, and I’ve been taking it out on you. It’s had me gun-shy. That’s all. I’m sorry."

He nods with understanding. “Okay. Thanks for telling me. If there’s anything I can do—"

“Just be with me. Okay?” She forces a smile and squeezes his hand, which feels almost as cold as hers. 

“I can do that."

“Good. Now why don’t we go enjoy whatever amazing food your dad whipped up?"

“Sounds good to me,” Jason says. He opens the door for her, and as she steps back inside the hospital, she allows herself a barely perceptible sigh of relief. She can’t tell him, not today, not like this — but at least she has bought herself some time to figure out her next move. 

* * * * *

The hospital cafeteria has been decorated for the holiday, with lively cartoon turkeys adorning the walls, as well as a banner that spells out "HAPPY THANKSGIVING" in brown, orange, and yellow letters. Modest arrangements of miniature pumpkins and colorful ears of flint corn form centerpieces upon each of the tables, along with the usual table tents full of information. When Molly Taylor and Philip Ragan enter the cafeteria, however, their attention goes to the pair of long tables that have been pushed together toward the back of the room. 

“This looks so nice,” Molly says as they watch Travis Fisher and his grandfather set out clamshell-style to-go boxes on orange placemats around the tables. 

“It’ll be wonderful for everyone to be together,” Philip says, his hand resting on her back.

“Can we help with anything?” Molly asks her father as he rounds the end of the tables.

“No, no, just relax,” Bill says with a smile. “Happy Thanksgiving, Philip."

“Same to you,” Philip says. They observe in silence for another moment before he quietly asks Molly, “Should we go visit Tori while we wait?"

Molly scrunches her face as she turns back toward him. “Why don’t we wait until after dinner? Spencer and Samantha didn’t go in that long ago."

That’s the point, Philip thinks, though he bites his tongue. The more people in the room around the time he does this, the better. He is acutely aware of the vial and syringe in his pocket, waiting to be put to use. His nerves have been frayed all day, knowing what he has to do, but he simply wants to get it over with so that he can have some peace of mind, at last.

“Let’s go save seats down there,” Molly suggests, and they move to the other end of the table, where Travis is setting out plastic cutlery.

Meanwhile, Claire Fisher and Tempest Banks enter the cafeteria and gaze with pleasure at the setup.

“This is great,” Claire tells Bill as she greets him with a friendly hug. “Thank you for including us."

“Of course. Happy Thanksgiving,” Bill says. “We’re just waiting for everyone else to come downstairs."

“You and Travis did all this?” Tempest asks as she eyes the now-opened containers of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and more. 

“He’s getting to be one heck of a sous chef.” Bill stands back to survey the table. “And we have pumpkin and pecan pies for later, don’t worry."

“Let’s go say hi,” Claire says, waving at her son across the room. But there is a duo waiting near the middle of the table, and as happy as Claire is to see Tim, she has to suppress a groan at the sight of Diane.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” she tells them both, as Tim stands to give her a hug.

Diane says looks to Tempest specifically and says, in a surprisingly pleasant tone, “Sam is in with Tori right now, but she’ll be down soon."

Tempest takes half-a-step back in surprise. “Oh. Cool. Thanks."

“Happy Thanksgiving,” Diane adds, and it is all Claire can do not to fall over in shock. 

* * * * *

Once everyone has made their way down to the cafeteria and found seats around the table, Bill rises from his seat at the head. The few other individuals seated elsewhere in the large room watch curiously as he speaks.

“Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite days of the year,” he says. “No, this isn’t the most conventional way to celebrate it, but this has been a difficult year for all of us. There’s been a lot of loss, and a lot of fear."

Seated just to his left, Paula looks around the table, so happy to see all four of their children there — but the dull ache that she normally carries around, thanks to Ryan’s absence, surges up like a flaming ball of heat. 

“But today, I choose to be thankful,” Bill continues. “Because we are here. Together. No one is going to take that away from us."

At the other end of the table, Natalie’s body stiffens as Spencer’s gaze traces its way down the line and lands on her. She sharpens her focus on Bill, trying to block out everything else. 

“Maybe, just maybe, all the love in this room — all the gratitude we have for one another,” Bill says, “will reach Tori tonight. She knows how loved she is, and how much we’re all waiting for her to wake up."

  Bill Fisher

Matt reaches over and clasps Sarah’s hand. In response, she pushes a strained smile across her lips. 

Bill picks up his plastic cup of sparkling cider; the others follow suit. 

“Happy Thanksgiving, everyone,” he says, “and here’s to a year where we can all heal and be together."

“Happy Thanksgiving,” the voices around the table join in as they lift their cups. 

* * * * *

“I’ll trade you my cranberry sauce for those sweet potatoes, if you aren’t going to eat them,” Jason says to Natalie later in the meal. 

“What’s wrong with the cranberry sauce?” Travis calls out from several seats away with a grin. “I made that!"

“I’ve always hated cranberry sauce,” Jason says. 

Sarah pushes her half-full clamshell container toward him. “You can have my sweet potatoes. I’m done eating."

“You’re done already?” Matt asks.

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” she answers with a shrug. “I want to get back upstairs."

“They said they’d come get us if there was any change with Tori,” Matt says.

“I know. But I want to be with her.” Sarah scoots out her chair and stands. “Thanks for cooking, Dad and Travis.” With brief nods toward both men, she hurries out of the cafeteria and toward the elevator. 

The family attempts to finish their meal without reacting too much; everyone knows how on-edge Sarah and Matt must be, a feeling most of them share in their concern for Tori. When the others have mostly finished eating and have begun to move around the table, Tim plants himself in Sarah’s former seat and leans in toward Matt.

“She’s been like this the whole time, huh?” Tim says.

Matt nods somberly. “She blames herself for, I dunno, not knowing where Tori was or who she was with."

“It isn’t Sarah’s fault."

“I know that. You know that. My wife, though — it’s that cop thing she’s got in her. Like it’s her job to know everything. Stop everything from going wrong."

“Yeah.” Tim’s mouth forms a thin, tight line. “I wish that thing with Liam had panned out — that we knew something. But his alibi checked out."

“I just want my kid to be okay. She’s my little girl, even if she’s not little anymore."

“Believe me, I get it,” Tim says.

Even though Matt is speaking quietly, there is a hard intensity to each and every word: “And when we find out who did this, I’m gonna kill the sick bastard.” 

Neither of them takes note of Philip, across the table, with his head bowed as he chews his food, doing his best not to hear them. 

* * * * *

After the meal, Travis and Tempest take the elevator back up to the ICU. They make their way through the halls to Tori’s room, where they find Rosie Jimenez, in her KBPD uniform, stationed outside. 

“Oh. Hey,” Travis says as her face registers.

“Hey,” Rosie says. “Can I see your IDs real fast?"

“What? You know I’m related to her."

“This is my first day doing this, and neither of you has been in yet."

Tempest silently hands over her driver’s license.

“Fine,” Travis grumbles. As Rosie quickly checks their IDs against the sheet of approved visitors, he asks, “How’d you score Thanksgiving duty?"

Rosie rolls her eyes. “Kind of my place on the food chain.” She hands them back their licenses. “Go ahead."

“Thanks,” Travis says, though his stare lingers on her for a fraction of a second as he puts his wallet away.

Tempest opens the door to Tori’s room. “Come on."

“Right. Yeah.” He looks back to Rosie. “Happy Thanksgiving."

“You, too,” she says. “Sorry about your cousin."

Travis mutters his thanks and follows Tempest into the room. As soon as the door is closed, she spins around toward him.

“The hell was that?"


“You and that cop."

“She’s a pain in the ass.” Travis steals a glance at Rosie, who is checking her phone, through the half-open blinds. “Still sucks that she has to work on Thanksgiving."

“You think she’s hot, huh?” Tempest beams with the satisfaction of having seemingly cracked the case. “I mean, she is…"

“Maybe, if a know-it-all on a power trip is your type,” Travis says with a shrug. 

* * * * *

Philip helps gather the used containers and paper pie plates. After dropping several in the trashcan, he steps up beside his younger brother.

“Are you doing all right?” he asks.

Spencer’s eyes flash sideways at him. “Yeah. I guess. I went in and saw Tori earlier."

Philip breathes out slowly through his nose to steady himself; even the mention of her name spikes his blood pressure now. “How was that?"

“It’s weird,” Spencer says. “She’s hooked up to all these machines. She looks like…” He flinches. “Like she could die."

“It’s really a tragedy."

“I had dinner with her not that long ago. She’s actually pretty cool."

“I’m sure she is,” Philip says evenly. He can see the anguish in Spencer’s face, a sort of vulnerability that he rarely allows to show through. Philip feels a stab of guilt in his gut as the image of Tori in that hospital bed blasts across his mind, as it has done so many times recently. He hates knowing that he hurt someone with whom Spencer was growing close. 

  Philip Ragan

It didn’t have to be like this — if she had just minded her own business, or not gotten any ridiculous ideas about being with him, none of this would have happened. But he was forced to do it. He had no choice. 

Spencer sighs. “It sucks knowing there’s nothing I can do for her.” 

“It’s unfortunate,” Philip says, his mind firing off so much noise that he finds it difficult to focus. “But no matter what, you have the Fishers now, and you have me, and nothing is going to change that.” 

* * * * *

While the clean-up is in progress, Natalie excuses herself to call her daughter and wish her a happy Thanksgiving. Since she actually did that hours ago, she hurries to the balcony outside the ICU and fires off a text message. She folds her arms against the cold and waits, growing more annoyed with each minute that passes, until Spencer finally joins her out there.

“Took you long enough,” she says.

“I didn’t look at my phone right away. And did you want everyone knowing I was coming out here to meet you?"

“I don’t want anyone knowing anything.” She grits her teeth and takes a step toward him. “I had no idea you and Jason were related. If you knew—"

“What makes you think I had any clue? When you said you had been dating some guy your age, I was supposed to assume it was someone I was related to? Why the hell would I do this on purpose?"

“I don’t know.” She shakes her head. “How did we not know this before?"

“I didn’t see you at Ryan’s funeral."

“I left to take Jason’s daughter home,” Natalie says. “You were there?"

“I came for the burial."

Her instinct is to shout at him, blame this on him, but she knows that makes no sense — and, more importantly, antagonizing him isn’t going to help. “Jason can never, ever know. Do I make myself clear?"

“Do you think I want them knowing?"

“Good.” She breathes a sigh of relief and sees a whisper of white air floating from her mouth. “Did you tell any of your friends?"

“Uh…” He lifts an arm and mindlessly ruffles his dark hair. “Some of them know I got with some MILF."

Panic runs fresh through Natalie as he uses the term, and she has to resist the urge to touch a hand to her slightly protruding stomach. 

“What, you think I give my friends the full name and Social Security Number of every chick I get with?"

“I don’t know what you do,” Natalie says roughly, “and honestly, I don’t need to know. I just want to be clear that we’re on the same page here. Jason and I weren’t together either time you and I…"

“Then no harm, no foul, right?” Spencer pulls open the door. “Your secret’s safe with me."

He reenters the hospital, leaving Natalie out in the cold. She grips the railing and looks out at the dark town in an attempt to steady herself. She can do this. She can have this baby and hold onto Jason. She can have it all.

* * * * *

“When you’re all better, I’m finally gonna teach you how to snowboard,” Travis says as he looks down at Tori in the hospital bed. “No more excuses."

Tempest allows him a long, silent moment with his cousin before she speaks. “It’s still so weird seeing her like this."

“I know. I feel like she’s about to wake up and tell me my shirt is ugly or my hair looks stupid or something. And I would actually be fine if she did."

As they share a light laugh, the door creaks open, and Molly and Philip appear.

“Sorry, we didn’t mean to interrupt,” Molly says.

“No, come in,” Travis tells his aunt. They do, and Philip gently shuts the door behind them, as if the mere sound might be enough to wake the sleeping patient. 

“I’m surprised Sarah isn’t in here with you guys,” Molly comments.

“Grandma convinced her to go for a walk with Billy. I doubt she’ll be gone too much longer, though,” Travis says. 

Molly walks around to the other side of the bed, and Philip follows her respectfully. 

“Come on, Tori,” she says. “You can do this. Your mom and dad and brother — all of us — we’re waiting for you to come back to us."

Philip reaches out with a strong hand and rubs Molly’s back. She looks over her shoulder at him appreciatively. 

“I’m so grateful you’re here,” she says. “It means so much."

He smiles warmly at her, doing his best to crowd out his own fear until the three of them are once again focused on Tori. He thought that the entire family being here tonight would work to his benefit — that he would have ample opportunity to complete his mission and make sure that Tori never wakes up. But her room is like a subway station tonight, the way people are coming and going, and the purist in him hates the idea of marring this wonderful holiday with Molly with a relative’s death. Truth be told, he feels too close to her, too grateful himself, to flip that switch inside himself and carry out an act so awful now. 

No, he tells himself, it can wait until morning. Casually, he removes his scarf and places it over one of the chairs in the corner of the room — a perfect reason to return in the morning and do what must be done.


Did Philip just make a fatal mistake?
Will Natalie tell Jason about the baby?
When is Tori going to awaken from her coma?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!

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Friday, Nov. 27, 2015

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