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- Jason was excited to learn that Natalie is expecting a baby. 
- Tori awoke from her coma but refused to talk to anyone about why she was at Philip’s loft the night he attacked her. 
- After she shot and killed Philip, Paula fainted. She awoke with no memory of the shooting, and Molly claimed that she had shot him to stop him from killing Sarah. Brent told the sisters that a nearby building’s security camera had no footage of the shooting. 
- Sarah received a mysterious Christmas present containing a flash drive.

Raindrops patter against the roof, the sides of the house, and the windows, bony fingers tapping out an ancient rhythm that goes on and on and on. For Sarah Fisher Gray, the sound dulls the outside world even more, thickening the cocoon that has developed around her as she sits before her laptop in the guest bedroom of her parents’ home that has become her and her husband’s room. She watches the video on the screen intently, although by this point, she has seen it so many times that she could close her eyes and envision it just as clearly.
Though grainy, the images are unmistakable: her own self knocking the gun out of Philip Ragan’s hands; Paula uncertainly picking up the gun; Sarah forcing Philip off herself; Paula pulling the trigger, sending Philip back into the railing before he slumps to the floor.
She keeps hoping that repeated viewings will change the storyline, that what happened on the hospital’s balcony might be as malleable as the story that she and her sister have kept up in the weeks since. But here it is, in actual black-and-white: undeniable proof that their mother was the one who pulled the trigger and that, at the moment of the shooting, Philip was not actively threatening any of their lives. 

Sarah drags the slider on the bottom of the video screen backward so that she can watch again. She sees herself and Molly side-by-side as Philip holds the gun aloft and aims it at them. The seconds pass so slowly that their sluggish movements are nearly imperceptible; the three figures seem to remain frozen for minutes on end, although Sarah can recall all too well the frantic debate going on as Philip inadvertently confessed to the murder spree and tried to convince Molly to leave King’s Bay with him.

The mere existence of the footage sends a shiver through her, and she pulls her blanket tighter around her shoulders. Beneath her, the former kitchen chair that now serves as a desk chair is hard and unyielding, and she wriggles to try and get more comfortable. Her laptop rests on the too-small writing desk — a piece that was never intended for more than aesthetic purposes and the occasional jotting of a note — another reminder that this is not her real room, these are not her things, and that they have been pushed into these circumstances because of the havoc that Philip Ragan wrought upon her family’s lives. 
When she first put the flash drive into her laptop’s USB port, late on Christmas night, she immediately understood what its contents would be. All it took was seeing the single file in the folder — a video with a runtime of 57 minutes. Brent Taylor’s words rumbled in her head:

  Sarah Fisher Gray

"That’s the strange thing. Our guys who went over there to check it out said there are 57 minutes of footage missing. The recording just goes blank a few minutes before you would’ve been out there."

She knew exactly what she would find in that video. Sure enough, when she finally had the privacy to watch it, there it was: the events of that day, the day her father was murdered, the day her mother killed a man in retaliation. She shudders at the thought that someone targeted her — them — and sent this video to… what? Intimidate them? Blackmail them? She pulls out her earbuds, deciding that enough is enough and that today is the day she must stop pretending this video doesn’t exist. 
Before she can rise from the stiff chair, though, there is a light rap at the door. Instinctively, she slams the lid of the laptop closed as she calls out, “Come in!"
Paula Fisher cracks the door open and sticks her head inside. “I wanted to see if you’d like any more coffee before I pour the pot out."
“Go ahead,” Sarah says, standing and tossing the blanket onto the bed. 
“Is everything all right?” Paula asks. She eyes the desk chair, sitting askew, and the cord of the earbuds closed partially beneath the computer’s screen.
“I was reviewing something for work, that’s all. I actually need to head out for a bit. To see a client."
“Oh, okay. I can watch Billy—"
“I was going to drop him at the daycare."
“Nonsense. Let me watch him. Please.” Paula’s eyes take on that mournful, almost pleading look that has become so familiar since Bill’s death. 
Sarah channels her nervous energy into folding the blanket. “I don’t want to take advantage. We’re here to be with you — because we all need to be together. Not for free childcare."
“He’s my grandson. And it gives me something… purposeful to do.” 
“And he loves spending time with you.” Sarah pushes a smile across her face as she finds herself searching her mother for something else — some indication that Paula remembers more than she claims about the shooting, that she is keeping something from them. 
“Matt and Tori should only be a few more hours, anyway,” Sarah says. 
Helen said she was going to stop by later today, too."
“Good. I’m glad you—” Sarah cuts herself off before finishing the thought: aren’t alone. But she can see in Paula’s face that she understands.
Paula lets out a resigned sigh. “Keeping occupied is the best way to get through this.”
“That goes for all of us,” Sarah says, as the wheels in her brain roll faster and harder, compelling her to take action. 

Cassie's Coffee House

After he drops Sophie off at school, Jason Fisher points his car in an unusual direction. Normally he would head to the arena to begin work; today, however, he has a very special agenda. On his way to Natalie Bishop’s apartment, he stops at Cassie’s Coffee House for a pair of lattes. 

As he is thanking the cashier and sticking his debit card back into his wallet, he hears the familiar chime that signals the opening of the door. He glances up reflexively and sees Sabrina Gage entering the coffee house. She diverts her eyes toward the floor and hesitates. Jason moves to the end of the bar and attempts to distract himself with his phone while awaiting his order, but by the time Sabrina has finished paying, his drinks have still not been called.

He takes a deep breath and approaches her.

“Hey,” he says. 

She looks up warily, as if she’s turning a corner into a dark alley. “Hi."

“Listen. I owe you an apology.” 

Sabrina reacts with surprise, but there is still something cautious about her demeanor.

“It was wrong of me to snap at you the way I did.” Embarrassment washes over him as he recalls how he practically ran her out of the arena with a flaming pitchfork. “You weren’t up to anything, and it wasn’t my place—"

“It’s okay,” she says.

“It isn’t."

“I understand. That woman who used my name— she caused you a lot of pain. And it looks like you’re going to get your wish, anyway."

“What do you mean?"

“My boss is dead,” she says, folding her arms in front of her simple black coat, “and I can’t exactly use a dead serial killer as a reference, so unless there’s a miracle, I’m going to move back with my parents in Iowa.” She glances at the baristas moving busily behind the counter. “I probably shouldn’t even be spending money like this, but the number of coffees I would have to skip to save enough for rent is crazy, so…” She shakes her head.

Jason feels a stab of shame. His thoughts of her in recent weeks have been about how badly he feels for what he said to her, but he has hardly considered the fact that this poor woman must be dealing with the fact that she was working for a murderer and had no idea. As he studies her now, he can see how fragile she is, even though her coma is a thing of the past. She appears as if she might be one hard knock away from breaking. 

“You must be reeling from finding all that out about Philip,” he says.

She nods. “I’m sorry about your father. If I’d had any idea… Just goes to show how not ready for the real world I am, if I had no clue that Philip was that evil.” 

“None of us did."

She just shrugs. Jason is trying to figure out what else to say when he hears a barista call his name.

“Thanks for your apology,” Sabrina says. “That was nice of you."

“It’s the least I can do.” He takes the two cups from the barista and then says to Sabrina, “Good luck."


Jason takes the coffees and leaves the shop, but the sadness in her face stays with him long after he pilots his car out of the parking lot. 

* * * * *

“What did you and your parents decide about school?"

Dr. Sue Nguyen sits patiently in the leather armchair, hands folded over the notepad in her lap. Across from her, Tori Gray is nestled into a corner of the couch. She hugs a throw pillow in front of herself as she stares at the nonstop flow of rain passing by the window. 

“They want me to take the semester off,” Tori says.

“And you’re all right with that?” Dr. Nguyen asks.

“They say it’s important for me to get better."

  Tori Gray

“I asked how you feel about the decision."

Tori regards the therapist silently. She doesn’t like the woman’s glasses, which are way too round for her face, or her bob haircut, which is too severe, or the sweater jacket that is at least a decade out of style. But what she hates most is that soft, condescending tone that Dr. Nguyen uses — as if she thinks she’s fooling anyone into thinking that she is doing anything other prying for info. 

“I don’t really have a choice,” Tori says. “Classes start Monday, and I’m not registered for them."

“If you could register for them, would you?"

“I can’t, okay? And maybe my parents are right — I’m too tired and I look like crap and I don’t really want to deal with everyone on campus asking me questions."

An awkward silence descends upon the office — at least, that’s how it feels to Tori. The doctor, however, sits there as placid as ever, neither her face nor her body betraying any kind of reaction to Tori’s response.

“How’s your physical therapy going?” she asks at last.

“It’s fine."

More silence. 

“It’s hard,” Tori says when she can’t stand the quiet any longer. “I’m so sore. And tired.” 

Dr. Nguyen nods sympathetically. “I’m sure it’s very difficult.” 

“Yeah.” And Tori isn’t exaggerating. Even now, resting on a couch, her bones and muscles feel wearier than she ever thought possible; her last physical therapy session was almost 24 hours ago, and all she wants to do is nap. Her wheelchair is stationed only a few feet away, and as much as she hates the sight of it, she is relieved that she will not have to walk out of here later.

“Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?” Dr. Nguyen asks.

“Not really. No.” Tori clutches the pillow more tightly as she looks up at the clock on the wall, wondering how fast the next 18 minutes can possibly pass.

Objection Designs

“Thank you,” Sarah says to the intern who deposits her in Molly’s office suite. The anteroom looks the same as always, but the big desk where Cameron Kelley once sat is too neat, and the chair behind it is empty. Sarah hasn’t often visited her sister at work over the years, but when she has, the receptionist normally waves her by; today, however, she had to sign in and then be escorted to her destination. Philip might be gone, but the terrible specter of what he did will linger for a long time.
Through the open door, Sarah sees Molly rise from behind her desk. She meets Sarah in the anteroom.
“What’s going on?” Molly asks, her dark eyes flared with panic already. Sarah knew that her call asking Molly to meet would have this effect, but it’s unavoidable.
Sarah closes the door. “There’s something I need to tell you about. Or show you.” She pulls the flash drive from her purse and holds it up.
“What is that?”
“Come here.” Sarah moves into Molly’s office and inserts the flash drive into the USB slot. Molly watches with confusion as she opens the file and hits play. Only once the image loads does Molly gasp.
“Where did this come from?” Molly asks as the scene unfolds on the monitor.
“I don’t know. It was under the tree on Christmas day, wrapped with my name on it.”
“How would someone...?”
“Because a thousand packages get delivered to the house around Christmastime. Mom probably opened it, saw that it was a gift, and stuck it under the tree.”
Molly is unable to pry her gaze off the screen. “We need to destroy this. Why do you still have it?”
“Do you really think whoever sent this doesn’t have another copy? Come on.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?”
Sarah grabs the mouse and pauses the video. She doesn’t need to watch this again, and she needs Molly’s full attention.
“I already did some digging,” she says. “The security guard on duty in the bank building that morning was a woman named Denise Campbell. Single mother with a teenage son. Maybe she’s desperate and saw an opportunity…”
“We have to tell Brent.”
Sarah cocks her head. “Are you kidding me? You want to announce to the police that we both gave false statements? And that you knowingly covered up a crime in the first place?”
Molly’s mouth jerks open and then closed; it takes her several seconds to channel her thoughts into words. “Was there a note? What does this person want?”
“Nothing. But I’m sure it’s coming. Maybe whoever did this is waiting for me to take some action. Or to see if the police file charges.”
“They won’t. It’s been weeks. If they were going to…”
“Yeah.” Sarah sighs, the uncertainty of the situation weighing upon her like a boulder upon her back. “For all anyone knows, we’ve never seen this. The video doesn’t exist. So what I need to do is find this Denise Campbell and figure out if she would’ve had any reason to try and pull something.”
Molly’s shoulders slump, and she covers her face with her hands. “This is a disaster. I only wanted to spare Mom from…” She trails off, overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.
“I know. And I really, seriously don’t think she remembers shooting Philip at all. Maybe we can give this person – whoever it is – whatever he or she wants, and this whole thing will go away for good.”
Molly allows her hands to fall to her sides. “Do you think that’ll work?”
Sarah shrugs. “Only one way to find out.”

* * * * *

Jason and Natalie sip their lattes as he drives toward their destination. Though he keeps reminding himself to be calm, the knot in the pit of his stomach shows no signs of untangling itself, and he finds himself staring absently at the brake lights ahead and the raindrops on the windshield.

“Do you think she has any idea?” Natalie asks.

The question jolts him out of his near-trance. “Who?"

“Your mother."

“What? No.” He shakes his head, as much to emphasize his answer as to loosen up the fog inside it. “I think she’ll be shocked. Happy, but shocked."

  Jason Fisher

“Did you tell her we were coming?” Natalie asks, an edge creeping into her voice.

“I said I might stop by, but that’s it.” He sees that she is ready to boil over. “I didn’t want to freak her out! If I said we had news, she might think— I don’t know—"

“Why would that freak her out?"

He turns the wheel as he mulls over his answer. “She’s on edge these days. I think she’s had more than her share of nasty surprises in the last year."

“Yeah,” Natalie agrees in a grudging tone, one that has to admit that he has a point even if she isn’t ready to concede defeat entirely. 

He reaches over and takes her hand. “She’s going to be thrilled.” 

Only a few minutes later, they are parked in front of his parents’ house. They look at one another, take a deep breath, and then walk up the stairs to the front door. As Jason rings the doorbell, he is hit with a wave of fresh, unexpected sadness as he realizes that there is no chance that his father might be home — that he will never be home again, will never know this child that Jason and Natalie are going to bring into the world.

“Hi,” Paula says, surprised, when she opens the door. “Come in, come in."

“We aren’t interrupting, are we?” Jason asks. “Sorry I didn’t call ahead—"

“Oh, please. I was just having some espresso—"

“Okay, because we have news.” He wraps an arm around Natalie and pulls her close. “We’re having a baby."

“You are?” Paula clasps a hand over her mouth. “Oh, my!"

Before Jason can answer, another voice cuts in: “You’re what?"

He and Natalie look toward the kitchen, where Helen Chase stands in the doorway, eyes wide. 


How will Helen take Jason and Natalie’s news?
Will Sarah and Molly be able to get out of their mess?
Will Tori ever work through her trauma?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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