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- The Footprint Killer claimed his final victim when Philip strangled Bill to death at the hospital.
- Tori awoke from her coma. 
- Philip held Molly and Sarah at gunpoint. Paula interrupted with the news of Bill's death and, after Sarah knocked the gun out of Philip's hands, a devastated Paula picked it up and shot Philip, then fainted. 
- Molly told the police that she had shot Philip to save her sister. Paula did not remember the shooting. Security footage of the incident turned up missing and was thus unable to contradict Molly's story. 

Nothing will fix this.
That is all Paula Fisher can think as she stands in front of the vanity in her bedroom. The blemish on her forehead is large enough, but it might as well be the size of Mars, considering how it is drawing every bit of her attention toward it. None of her attempts to cover it up – first by using foundation, then adding a concealer, then washing it all off and starting over with the concealer – do anything but make it more visible, somehow. She looks over her reflection, her hair done and her black dress accented by a simple silver chain with a cross, but the only thing that stands out is that blemish.

“Mom?” comes a voice from the hallway. “Are you almost ready?”
Paula senses her daughter’s presence outside the bedroom door, and she steels herself to respond. When she does not, there is a light rap on the door, and then it opens cautiously. Sarah Fisher Gray pokes her head through the crack and, seeing her mother fully dressed, enters the room.
“You look nice,” Sarah says.

Paula nods somberly. “I can’t cover up this pimple. It’s awful. I had hoped it would go down overnight…”

  Paula Fisher

Sarah evaluates her mother’s face. Paula thinks that she sees her blanch when she locates the blemish, only to cover her reaction an instant later.
Paula sighs. “I look dreadful.”
“You do not. You look like a beautiful lady dressed appropriately for something terrible.”
Turning back to the mirror, Paula once again regards her reflection. “Could you help me with this? I think I need a lighter foundation…”
“Mom. It’s okay.” Sarah’s face appears behind her in the mirror.  “You did a good job. I can barely even see it. And no one is going to be judging any of our complexions today.”
“Is Matt back with Tori yet?”
“He took her black dress to the hospital. They’re going to come straight from there.”
“Do you think she’s up to this?”
“The doctors say she can leave, and I think she wants to be there with all of us.” Sarah addresses both of their reflections. “Come on. We have to go do this.”
Paula focuses on the pimple. “I don’t want to go. I can’t.”
“None of us want to. But we have to. For Dad.”
As Paula lowers her eyes, she finds herself fighting tears for what must be the thousandth time in the past few days. “It’s been so helpful having you, Matt, and Billy in the house. I couldn’t have done this alone.”
“None of us would’ve let you do this alone. We’re here, Mom.” Sarah squeezes her mother’s arm. “And we’ll all be there with you today. We’ll all be there for each other. It’s the only way to get through this.”
Paula takes a deep breath as her emotions walk that too-familiar tightrope of trying not to cry.
“It’s time,” Sarah says. “We have to go say goodbye to Dad.”

* * * * *

In the viewing room at Landry & Sons Funeral Home, Molly Taylor stands before the casket in which her father now lies. Bill Fisher looks peaceful, but almost unnaturally so, as if he is a wax replica of the man whom Molly remembers so well. She bows her head and attempts to say a prayer for her father, but it is difficult to divorce her wishes for him from her outrage at Philip Ragan for having done this.
She can still see Philip’s smile and feel his touch, from mere minutes before she discovered the horrifying truth about him – and mere minutes after he murdered her father in cold blood. She squirms at the thought of having shared her bed with him the night before that, at him placing those hands – hands that had already killed her brother and three others – all over her.
Her eyelids snap open as she realizes that she has lost track entirely of the prayer she was attempting to say. She allows her hands to drop to her sides and, suddenly feeling self-conscious, looks over her shoulder. The room is still mostly empty, but Brent Taylor waits respectfully a few feet away. He offers a melancholy half-grin.
“How you holding up?” Brent asks quietly as he joins her at the casket.
“I don’t know. It still hardly seems real. He’s my dad, but he’s…” She gestures at the corpse, clad in a suit and tie, on display before them. “He’s not.”
“I’m so, so sorry, Mol. If we had just caught Philip before this—”
“I’m the one who’s sorry,” she interrupts. “Philip must have covered his tracks amazingly well. You had no reason to suspect him. But I was with him, up close, and I never— I had no idea.”
“Like you said, he covered his tracks.”
Her head snaps toward him. “I should have known. I looked into his eyes, I… He killed those people and then came to comfort me like he was doing me some kind of favor. And I had no idea that something was off.”
“Because that was the game he was playing.” Brent shakes his head sadly. “I should’ve known after the scene where Cameron was killed. It was clear that Cameron wasn’t the intended victim.”
“He’s gone now. Philip is gone for good,” Molly says, as the image of Philip staggering backward and slumping to the ground, a bleeding hole in his chest, slams once again to the forefront of her mind.
“Are you doing okay? Have you talked to someone? A professional? We have people at the department—”
“That might be good. Yeah.” She folds her arms as she reasons that it is easier to tell him what he wants to hear now and dodge the issue later; there is no way that she can speak to a psychologist about the shooting, especially not someone affiliated with the KBPD. He or she would be able to see right through her.
“I think the fact that the D.A. has been silent is a good sign,” Brent says. “So if you’re worrying about that… don’t. Philip was a serial killer who had just murdered your father. I wish we had that security footage to show conclusively that you shot him to save Sarah, but they wouldn’t have a case, anyway. Sorry, I’m sure this isn’t what you want to talk about today.”
“It’s fine. Thanks for the reassurance.” Of course, he has no idea that she doesn’t need the reassurance: the footage having disappeared is actually much better than it being here to show that Paula was the one who pulled the trigger.
“I’ll give you some time with your dad,” Brent says as he takes a step back. Molly clamps her eyes closed and tries to make herself focus on Bill, but the sight of her mother lifting the gun and firing a shot right into Philip ricochets around her mind, refusing to fade into oblivion.

* * * * *

When Natalie Bishop arrives at the funeral parlor, she immediately sees Jason Fisher on the far side of the room, standing in front of a framed portrait of the Fisher family that was taken on Sarah’s wedding day earlier this year. Sarah stands at the center in her bridal gown, and Bill is right beside her, beaming for the camera. Natalie leads her daughter toward Jason.

“Hey,” she says softly.

Jason turns with a start. “Hi. Thanks for coming.”
“You don’t have to thank me.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Jason,” Bree Halston says, in that overly enunciated way of a child who has practiced her dialogue over and over.
“Thanks, kiddo.”

  Jason Fisher

“Why don’t you go find Sophie?” Natalie suggests to Bree.
Jason points toward the back of the room. “She’s back there coloring with Billy.”
Bree heads in the direction of the other kids. Natalie clutches the handles of her purse with both hands and evaluates Jason. Weariness is drawn all over him, from his tired eyes to his defeated posture. He has not seemed at all like himself over the past several days – not that she can blame him. But the bulge in her stomach, concealed between her long black coat, feels like a ticking time bomb, and with each day that passes without her being able to tell Jason about the baby, it all feels less and less real. When she went to the doctor yesterday, without Jason even knowing that she was there, the entire thing felt like an out-of-body experience.
But there is no way that this man is ready to hear that he is about to become a father again. Not now, and definitely not today.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Shell-shocked, I think. It’s different than it was when Court died. I was such a mess then. This is… I feel numb.”
“You’re allowed to feel numb. And you’re allowed to be mad. If you want to break some stuff, I have some ugly vases I’m dying to get rid of. If you want to go eat a whole pizza, let’s do it. Whatever you need.”
He forces a limp smile onto his face. “Thanks. It helps knowing you’re here for me.”
He opens his arms and draws her in, and as Natalie rests her head against the lapel of his black suit, she tries to work out whether learning about the baby would boost Jason’s spirits or overwhelm him completely. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer.

* * * * *

Spencer Ragan pulls his BMW into the parking lot. With the engine still running, he sits behind the wheel and watches the entrance of the funeral parlor. A certain amount of adrenaline got him moving this morning, got him into the shower and into his suit and onto the road, but now that he is here, it feels as if he has sprung a leak, and whatever was powering him has seeped out. He doesn’t know what to expect when he goes in there. Tim assured him that everyone wants him to come, that he belongs here, but how can he face Paula when his own brother murdered her husband? It might be better if he leaves them all alone and gets the hell out of King’s Bay entirely.
But then he sees something unexpected passing over the sidewalk: his cousin, being pushed toward the front door in a wheelchair by her father. The sight is enough to convince him to kill the engine and hurry to catch up with them. He has to.
Tori,” he calls out as he crosses the lot.
Matt Gray pauses the wheelchair, and Tori looks toward Spencer. She looks tiny in the wheelchair, and she wears a shapeless black dress and cloak that seem ready to swallow her whole. Her eyes are rimmed with red and purple, but she wears little or no makeup at all.
“I heard you woke up,” he says. “I’m really glad.”
“Thanks. This is my first time out of the hospital, actually.”
“The doctors say she’s gonna be just fine, as long as she does her physical therapy,” Matt says.
“Dad, can we have a minute?” Tori asks Matt. He hesitates.
“I’ll make sure she gets inside all right,” Spencer says.
With visible reluctance, Matt removes his hands from the chair’s handles. “Don’t stay out here more than a minute. It’s cold.”
Once they are alone, Tori levels a surprisingly focused gaze on Spencer. “You had no idea about Philip? At all?”
“No!” That was not what he expected from her, of all people. “Why would I…?”
“You lived with him. I don’t know.”
Awkward silence hums between them.
“Why were you even with him?” Spencer asks. “You said there was an older guy. Was it--?”
She shakes her head vigorously. Her limp brown hair wags around her shoulders. “No. Philip was helping me pick art classes for next semester. I found those shoes, and I realized it was him, and he…” She shudders at the memory of the attack.
Spencer feels as though he is trying to grab floating words out of thin air, but he cannot get his hands on any.
“I’m sorry he did this to you,” he manages to say.
“You didn’t do it. You don’t have to say you’re sorry.” She steals a glance toward the entrance to confirm that they are alone. “You haven’t said anything to my mom or dad about Philip and me, have you?”
“My mom keeps asking me questions about the guy I was seeing, and…”
“Well, who was it? Why weren’t you with him that night?”
Her face turns stony.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says. He cannot get over how fragile she looks, and he cannot shake the thought that Philip is the one who did this to her. He could have killed her. He would have killed her.
“Okay.” Spencer moves behind the chair and takes hold of its handles. “Let’s get you inside.”

* * * * *

Natalie briefly pays her respects at Bill’s coffin. She didn’t know him very well, but he seemed like a nice man, a good man – the kind of loving father that she wishes both she and Bree had. Once she is done, she checks on her daughter and then takes a seat in the second row to wait while Jason talks with a crowd of people he identified as Bill’s extended family.
“You know, I’m glad he has you here,” a voice says from above her. She looks to see Tim Fisher standing there. “Mind if I sit?”
“No. Go ahead. Won’t my sister bite your head off for socializing with me, though?”
“Diane isn’t here yet. So it’s safe.”
“I’m really sorry about your father,” Natalie says. “He was always so nice to me.”
“He was an incredible father. I already miss him so much.” He adjusts in his chair. “Listen. I want to talk to you about something.”
Streams of panic shoot through Natalie. “What? Why?”
“About Jason. When Courtney died, he sort of… went off the rails. He didn’t really let any of us in, and it got a little scary.”
“He tried to pull that with me after Ryan died,” she says.
“But you fought back?”
Natalie pushes down the memory of her drunken tryst with Spencer that took place during that time. “Sort of. I got through to him, at least.”
“Good. I just want to ask you – can you keep an eye on him? Make sure he isn’t closing himself off? He’ll bite my head off if he thinks I’m watching too closely.”
“Don’t worry. I’m on it.”
Tim lets out a sigh of genuine relief. “Thank you. He’s been through so much. Courtney, Ryan, now Dad. I just don’t think he needs any curveballs for a while.”
Natalie averts her gaze and, in that moment, Tim waves over the latest arrival. Spencer leaves Tori and her wheelchair with Matt and Sarah to join his father.
“Hey, buddy,” Tim says. “Natalie, have you met my son, Spencer?”
Try as she might to wish it into nothingness, a lightning bolt still passes between her and Spencer as they catch eyes.
“We met at Thanksgiving. Yeah,” she says.
“Good to see you,” Spencer responds.
Natalie quickly scrambles out of her chair. “I should go check on my daughter. But I’ll keep what you said in mind, Tim.”
Before he can even offer a full answer, she is out of there. The last thing she needs right now is to be face-to-face with Spencer. But even when she retreats to the back of the room, searching for lame questions to ask Sophie, Bree, and Billy about the pictures they are coloring, she can feel Spencer’s focus on her, cutting through the room like a laser beam.

* * * * *

Travis Fisher labors over the guestbook for several minutes. Nothing that comes to mind to write seems adequate, but he feels as though he should be able to come up with something about the man he knew as his grandfather for his entire life.
Grandpa, I’ll always miss you, he writes. I’ll never forget everything you taught me about cooking. I’ll make sure we always remember.

He re-reads the words, thinking them silly and poorly phrased, but it’s too late now; they’ve been written. Uneasily, he sets down the pen and steps away from the book. When he turns, he finds Rosie Jimenez – with her dark hair down and wearing a dress, which is far from how he is used to seeing her – standing near the entrance.
“Travis,” she says. “I’m sorry about your grandfather.”
His mouth tightens into a thin line. “Thanks.”

“How are you doing?” she asks.

  Travis Fisher

He looks at her again, dressed up, acting so polite, and something inside him boils over.
“He should still be alive,” he says.
“I know. It’s—”
“You were supposed to be guarding that room. If you had stayed there, he wouldn’t be dead.”
She recoils and, for a split-second, is silent. But then a flame seems to ignite within her.
“I left for a few minutes because Philip Ragan said it was okay,” she counters. “He was on your family’s list of approved visitors. That isn’t my fault.”
“Yeah, well, it sure sounds like it is.”
He can tell that he has gotten in the equivalent of a verbal sucker punch. He hates that it feels good, but it gives him a rush, cutting through the thicket of his grief.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Rosie says, a little quieter and a little rattled, before moving off.

* * * * *

Paula’s stomach roils as she stands at the casket. She thought that it might bring her peace to see Bill this way, cleaned up and dressed nicely, but all she can think about is how morbid it seems. She scans his neck for any hint of those horrible, dark marks that were there when she found him lifeless on the hospital floor, but they have been erased, or covered with makeup, or something so clinical that she doesn’t want to think about it right now.
“I will love you forever,” she says, and she touches a hand to his cool cheek. As she chokes up, she turns to get away. She can’t do this.
The room is significantly fuller than it was when she stepped up to the casket, and the sheer amount of activity overwhelms her. She is hit by the sudden urge to evacuate the place and hide out until this all passes. Except it won’t pass. As she attempts to steady herself, a pair of familiar faces approach.
“Oh, Paula,” Helen Chase says, her face moist with tears, “we’re so sorry.”
Feeling the clog in her throat, Paula simply nods and steps toward her old friends. Helen embraces her.
“Bill was a wonderful friend,” Don Chase says. “He’ll be remembered as a great man. We’re so sorry for your loss.”
“I’m the one who should be saying I’m sorry,” Paula says as she takes a step back from Helen. “I never should have believed it was you. I know you aren’t a murderer.” Her insides quiver at the memory of how forcefully she railed against Helen after her arrest for the first two murders.
Helen waves a hand. “It’s water under the bridge.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“We’re hurting for you, Paula,” Don says.
“I have some of my famous chili in the slow-cooker as we speak,” Helen adds. “It freezes so well. I’m going to bring some by your house later so that you have food.”
Paula nods as she feels the sting of tears once again. “Thank you.”
“Come here,” Helen says, as she pulls her friend into another hug.

* * * * *

When Claire Fisher arrives at the funeral parlor, she immediately scans the room for one person. She locates Spencer Ragan looking at a board of old family photos and makes her way toward him.
“Hi,” she says, a bit timidly, though the fact that he actually responded to her text message the other day gives her a little more confidence in this encounter.
“Hey.” He turns and regards her in that silent, unreadable way he so often does. “This is weird, huh?”
“Very. Bill was more of a father to me at times than my own father ever was.” She peers at the crowd assembled to mourn her former father-in-law. “How are you doing?”
Spencer shrugs. “I don’t know. I checked into a hotel. Being in Philip’s loft creeps me out.”
She hesitates before making an offer: “You’re always welcome to come stay with me if you’d like.”
“Thanks. Tim said the same thing. But I think having my own space is good.”
“I understand. If there’s anything I can do, though…”
“I might need help going through Philip’s stuff,” he says. “Or figuring out who to hire to get rid of it. This still doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know. I’m shocked. I never in a million years could have predicted this.”
“You know what sucks the most?” Spencer says, as his focus drifts back to the collage of Fisher family photographs. “I miss him. As much as it annoyed me that he tried to be my dad sometimes, I liked living with him. And I miss him, but then I think about all these shitty, insane things he did…”
“You’re allowed to miss him,” Claire says. “He was your brother.”
“He was also a psycho who killed my grandfather and my uncle and a bunch of other people.”
She dips her head solemnly. “I know. But it doesn’t change all the history the two of you had. Whatever demons Philip was battling, however badly he snapped – it’s okay to miss him.”
Spencer is silent for a long moment.
“I just can’t believe it,” he says, his shoulders slumping. “How could he do all those things?”
“I don’t know,” Claire says. “We might never understand it. But I want you to know that you aren’t alone in the world. You have the Fishers, and you have me – whether or not you want me.”
He pauses, fixated on the photos, and finally turns back to her. “I do. I really do.”

* * * * *

After several hours, the attendees drive across town to Bayside Cemetery. Paula walks in the front of the group, flanked by her four remaining children, and takes in the rows upon rows of gravestones, stretching as far as her eye can reach. She knows the way to Ryan’s by heart, and soon, her husband will be laid to rest here, as well.
In the back of the crowd, Brent excuses himself from his sons and, leaving them with Molly, hurries to catch up with Claire.
“Hi,” he says as he settles into step beside her.
“Hi. I’m sorry I didn’t return your message. The last few days have been…”
“It’s okay. More than okay.”
She looks out at the gray sky as they travel over the paved path. “I’m still trying to process all of this.”
“Same. I can only imagine how you’re feeling. That’s the only reason I called. After we found out it was Philip…”
“I appreciate that,” she says.
“I can only imagine how hard this must be for you.”
“It’s bizarre.” Conscious of all the people around them, she quietly adds, “I was a little surprised to hear from you, frankly. I owe you an apology about that dinner thing.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Brent says. “Not after everything that’s happened.”
“It was rude of me,” she insists. “There was something going on with— with one of the kids, and it isn’t my place to say what, but I felt caught in the middle, and I thought it would be easiest to dodge dinner. If I’d known you would wind up at the hospital that night…”
“Claire. It’s fine.”
She breathes a sigh of relief. “Thanks.”
They continue walking quietly, the ominous sky waiting imposingly in the distance.

* * * * *

“In the name of God, our merciful Father,” the minister pronounces once the crowd has gathered around the gravesite, “we commit William to the peace of the grave. God, we ask that You will hold him in Your hands for eternity.”

 Sobs and sniffles emanate from the mourners as Tim moves toward the front to address those gathered.

“Dad, this shouldn’t have been your time,” Tim says as he looks into the freshly dug grave. “But I’ll keep you with me always. It was because of your example that I learned what it means to be a man, to be a father – to stand for your family even when it seems impossible, to work to make the world a better place for the children we’ve brought into it. I can only hope that I live a life that’s half as good as the example you set.”
When Molly steps up to say her own part, Tim remains by her side.

  Tim Fisher

“You raised me – all of us – to believe that we were special, and that we could do anything,” Molly says. “Because of you, we not only dared to dream, but we knew that we could make those dreams reality. Not all kids are fortunate enough to have that, but you did it for us, and I could never thank you and Mom enough for it.”
After Molly finishes, Sarah carefully makes her way over the grass and joins her two older siblings.
She has to fight back tears as she speaks. “I think what I’ll remember most about you, Dad, is your faith – in yourself, in your children, and in the power of family. Even when I didn’t want to believe in myself, or didn’t think I should, you did. You gave me the strength to fight through and to be a better person, and I will never, ever stop missing you.”
Finally, Jason takes his place alongside his brother and sisters.
“I remember being a kid and going to the opening of the Fisherman’s Pier, your first restaurant,” Jason says. A smile tweaks his face as the memory washes over him. “You were so proud, so happy. You had worked so hard and finally achieved your dream. I don’t think I understood until years later how much that meant, but now, I’m so grateful that I got to see you in that moment – and that we have the memories of your two restaurants to carry with us, and when we miss you so much we can’t stand it, we can go there and be with you in a special way.”
A pained silence settles over the crowd as Bill’s coffin is lowered into the ground. Tim helps Paula toward the grave and, following the minister’s lead, she takes a handful of dirt and tosses it onto the coffin. 
“You gave him life,” the minister says. “Now receive him in your peace and give him, through Jesus Christ, a joyful resurrection.”

Each of Bill’s children follows suit, and then the grandchildren, and they all stand together, a family united as they watch the dirt scatter over the closed coffin, returning their beloved Bill to the earth.

* * * * *

Night has fallen by the time the Fishers return to the family home. The children and grandchildren fill the house, as ties are loosened, shoes are removed, and food is heated. Paula excuses herself and climbs the stairs, listening to the creaks of the floorboards as she travels this path she has traveled so many times – only it will never be the same as it once was.
She returns to the mirror. Leaning closer and squinting her eyes, she finally sees that blemish again, hidden beneath her makeup. She doesn’t know if it has gotten smaller in the hours since she left the house, or if she was seeing it as much larger than it actually was before. All she wants is to wash the layers off her face and climb into bed.
But she can’t. Not yet. There are people downstairs, people who need her.
“What am I going to do without you?” she asks as her fingertips reach out for a framed photograph of herself and Bill, one taken years ago at Tim and Claire’s wedding. She has seen this photograph every day for so many years, and yet now, it is as if she has never seen it before. The two smiling people inside the frame look so young, so vital, that it amazes her that their lives could have gone on as they did – becoming grandparents, enduring hardships, growing older, until they arrived at the point where they stand today.

Where she stands.
She can hear the activity downstairs – conversation, children running, dishes and silverware being piled atop the table. And it brings the dimmest hint of a smile to her face, with the reassurance that life is continuing, that her family is here with her.
“I’ll take care of them for you,” she says, lifting the framed photo from the credenza.
Instead of going into the bathroom to wash her face, or removing the shoes that have been constraining her feet all day, she lowers herself onto the bed. She crawls toward the pillows on the side where Bill always slept and imagines, just for a moment, that she can feel his warmth radiating from the bed.
She holds up the photo and stares at the man with whom she spent so many decades.
“Goodbye, my love..."

She draws the photograph to her face and plants a kiss on his face through the cool glass.

"Until we meet again.”
Then, with the sounds of her family rumbling through the house, she clutches the frame to her chest and hugs it tightly, as the dam breaks and tears overtake her.


Will Paula be able to move forward with her life?
Is Spencer ready to embrace the Fishers as his family?
How will Jason react to the news of the baby?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015

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