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- Following Bill’s death, Brent and Claire decided to let bygones be bygones and start fresh. 
- At Bill’s funeral, Travis told Rosie that he blames her for having left Philip alone in the hospital room, giving him the opportunity to murder Bill.
- Jason and Natalie planned to tell Paula that they are expecting a baby — but when Jason blurted out the news, they were shocked to realize that Paula had a visitor who’d also heard. 


Paula Fisher's surprise is evident when she opens her front door to find her son and his girlfriend standing there, a lazy but steady onslaught of rain behind them. “Hi,” she says. “Come in, come in."

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

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

“Okay, because we have news.” He pulls Natalie Bishop to his side. “We’re having a baby."

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

Before either of them can confirm that she isn't hearing things, another voice cuts in: “You’re what?"

Helen Chase stands in the doorway that joins the kitchen to the dining room, her eyes ablaze. Jason and Natalie exchange a look.

"You didn't mention that you had company, Mom," Jason says. "Hi, Helen."

"I started to say that I was having espresso and coffee cake with Helen, but you blurted out your news." Paula dithers uncertainly for a moment before she moves forward and embraces her son. "And it's wonderful news. Truly."

  Helen Chase

"Thanks," he says, as Paula moves to hug Natalie, too -- probably the first time they have ever done so, he thinks. 

"Thank you," Natalie says. "We know it's kind of a surprise, but we're really excited."

Jason glances toward Helen, who is eyeing them carefully. She has her arms folded in front of her taupe cardigan. 

"Okay, Helen," he says. "I'm guessing you have something to say, so why don't we just get it over with?"

Thaw Coffee & Tea

"Thanks," Diane Bishop says as she drops her change into the can marked ‘Tips' beside Thaw Coffee & Tea’s cash register. The coins clang against the aluminum as they land. "How's your grandmother doing?"

Behind the counter, Travis Fisher hands the cup marked with Diane’s order to another barista. “Okay, I guess, considering, you know, everything. I think it’s good Aunt Sarah and Uncle Matt are staying there."

“So do I.” She hikes her purse up on her shoulder. “Thanks, Travis. I’ll see you."

With a nod, he sends her off to the other end of the bar to await her drink. The next customer steps up to place his order. Travis is swiping the man’s debit card when his peripheral vision catches the door opening, the same way it does hundreds of times a day. Reflexively he glances up, and his brain takes in how attractive the woman is, with her long, dark hair, denim jacket, scarf, and black leggings — and it is only after he processes all of this that he realizes his brain has played a trick on him. If she were in her uniform, he would have recognized Rosie Jimenez immediately, and there’s no way he would’ve looked at her that way.

Travis tenses as she steps up to the counter, behind the man who seems to be placing his card back in his wallet as slowly as humanly possible. When the man steps aside, Travis keeps his head down, and it is only when he senses Rosie coming forward that he looks up.

“Hi, could I ha—” But she stops cold when she sees who is working the register. 

Edge of Winter Arena

On the other side of the coffee shop’s wall, Edge of Winter Arena is mostly empty. The morning figure skaters have finished their practice, and it isn’t yet time for the lunchtime hockey players. The ice’s fresh surface gleams a brilliant white, still slick and wet from the Zamboni’s work. 

After she sweeps the excess snow off the ice, Tempest Banks closes the heavy doors to the rink and moves behind the skate counter. When she works the morning shift, this is always a period of time that she anticipates; after the early-morning rush, she is able to sit down and relax, as long as there are no last-minute catastrophes. Thankfully, today doesn’t appear to be one of the bad days, so she grabs a yogurt from the staff room and perches on a stool behind the skate counter. 

She is eating and checking Facebook on her phone when she hears the door across the way open and close. The sound reverberates through the large, empty space. Jason said that he wouldn’t be in until later today, but maybe it’s him. 

That or a customer with a complaint, she thinks, cringing at the possibility.

The man who rounds the end of the rink and comes toward her is middle-aged, maybe in his late 40s or early 50s, though the scraggly, salt-and-pepper beard makes it difficult to tell. He wears a hat with ear flaps and a heavy jacket with the Seahawks logo across its chest. 

“You work here?” he calls out, and there is immediately something about his tone that puts her on-guard.

She sets the yogurt aside. “Yep. What can I do for you?"

“What about the guy who owns the place? He here?” The man tips his head in the general direction of the staircase that leads to Jason’s office. 

“He’s not in. I can give him a message if you want."

The man glances around, as if checking that the coast is clear. When his hand goes into his jacket, Tempest instinctually knows what is happening even before she sees it.

“You can empty that cash register,” the man says as he points the handgun at her. “Now."

322 Bar & Grill

The waitress sets two plates down on the table with a smile. Brent Taylor and Claire Fisher thank her, and the young woman winds her way back toward the kitchen. The main dining area of 322 Bar & Grill is only lightly populated, with a few other tables of patrons scattered throughout the space, since it is still on the early side of the lunch shift.

“It’s still hard to accept that it’s real,” Claire says. “Especially because I never got to see Philip after it came out."

Brent holds his lips in a tight line. “I’m sure. I was never the guy’s biggest fan, but I really didn’t see that coming at all."

“Yeah.” She looks down into her salad. “I’m still trying to piece together the logic. Because Molly called off their engagement?"

“It had much deeper roots than that, obviously. Probably had to do with control — she took it away from him, and he was proving something by striking back. I can't believe he was around my kids..."

Claire quietly takes a bite of the salad, chewing as she thinks. 

“I know it must be weird for you not to have closure on this,” Brent says.

“It is. I never had a sibling. We were really getting to know one another. And then to find out that was all a facade…"

He nods sympathetically as he bites into his burger. 

“Enough about that,” she declares.

“We can keep talking about it if you want to. That’s what I’m here for."

“I appreciate that.” She pushes the salad around with her fork. “I’m glad we found time to do this. Everything has been so nuts lately."

“You’re telling me. Hoping work goes back to more of the routine now. Which brings me to a question…"

“What’s that?"

“When do I get to take you out for a real date? You know, dressing up, champagne, the whole nine yards?"

Claire feels her cheeks flush. “That sounds really nice."

“I mean, these little stolen lunches are good and all,” he says, “but I think we’re ready to step it up."

She smiles. “I agree."

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say. Then it’s a date."

“I think we actually have to make a plan before you can say that."

“Ugh. Don’t make get out my calendar and get all practical,” he says, but a bright grin rests on his face as he pulls out his phone. 


The agonizingly lengthy seconds that pass in the Fisher home are nothing short of a silent standoff among the four of them: Jason, exasperated and bracing for the worst; Helen, her stance and energy that of someone ready to pounce; Natalie, her wild eyes almost daring Jason's former mother-in-law to fly off the handle; and Paula, cringing at the possibility of what lies ahead.

But when Helen does speak, her tone is careful, and the words come slowly. 

"I'm surprised, yes," she says. "But a baby is very exciting. And your family could certainly use some good news. Congratulations."

Jason draws back in shock. "Oh. Wow. Thanks."

"Thanks," Natalie repeats, sounding as if she knows she's walking right into a trap. 

"I'm sure Sophie will be thrilled to have a little brother or sister," Helen adds, a little too quickly, as if she's spitting out memorized dialogue. 

"We haven't told her yet, but I bet she will be," Jason says. 

"It's wonderful," Paula says as she takes Jason's hand. "Oh, there's so much to talk about! Why don't we go into the kitchen? Helen brought some great espresso -- real high-octane stuff!"

"Sure." Jason allows his mother to lead him toward the kitchen but throws a confused look back at Natalie. She follows, but before she can enter the kitchen, Helen steps back into the doorway, partly blocking the way. 

Natalie lets out a groan. "Here we go."

"No need for dramatics, dear," Helen says quietly. "But a new sibling will represent a lot of changes for my granddaughter, and you can bet that I'll be looking out for her best interests."

"I'm doing the same thing."

"Mm-hmm." Helen looks her up and down. "I've got my eye on you, missy. Don't forget that."

With that, Helen turns to go into the kitchen. Natalie lingers behind for only a moment longer, trying to quell the competing feelings of annoyance and fear that have suddenly sprung up inside her like a wildfire. 


At the sight of the gun, Tempest's legs turn to limp slabs of jelly. She has only seen a gun in person twice before: once, when one of her mother's loser boyfriends was watching TV while drunk and tried to show off by pulling out his handgun, which he proceeded to drop on the floor, scaring the crap out of Tempest and her mom; the second time was in King's Bay, when JD Robinson took her and Samantha hostage in Sam's car. She remembers how frightened she was then, how certain she was that someone would get shot before they made it out of the car, but Sam was clever and steered them into traffic so they could outsmart the guy. It was a surprise to Tempest that someone who had been raised like Sam was could think like that -- and if she could do it, Tempest definitely can. She's gotten herself out of worse scrapes before. 

She opens the register, knowing exactly what she'll find. "Here. That's everything."

She pulls out the loose bills and, with a hand that refuses to be steady, hands them to the bearded man. Better to get the damn thing over with. If Jason gets mad, she can replace the money.

"Eighteen dollars? Are you fuckin' serious?" he says in a gravelly whisper, never moving the gun off her.

  Tempest Banks

"All the cash from this morning," she says, determined to keep her words from wavering. 

"Are you lying to me?"

She holds up the till. "That's it."

"Fuck." She can see the man's mind working. "Where's the safe?"

She hesitates. 

"Come on, you little bitch. I know there's a safe someplace."

She thinks about saying that it's in the back hallway, but she knows that he would make her lead him there, and she isn't sure about her chances if he traps her there.  She could also lead him toward Thaw -- but putting a maniac with a gun in a busy place when he realizes he's been tricked doesn't seem too smart, either. Sweat beads on her forehead, and her entire body seems to clench.

Hold it together, girl, she tells herself. 

"Where is it?" he barks, hoisting up the gun for effect. Her fingers grip the counter tighter in response. 

Her mouth is dry. "It's in the office. Upstairs."

He glances toward the stairs, as if evaluating the pathway, and then pats the countertop. "Come on."

"I can't." She speaks before the thought is even fully formed inside her head. "I-- my knee is messed up. I can't climb over that."

"Are you fuckin' kidding? Give it a try."

"I can't." She scrunches her face, forcing something like anguish -- which isn't exactly tough to conjure right now -- to the forefront. "I hurt it. Playing hockey. Can't hardly bend it."

The man sighs with annoyance, and for a split-second, she thinks he is about to shoot her dead. 

"How do you get in and out of there, then?"

"The door." She points toward the back of the room, and as she looks, she confirms that the door isn't visible through the rows of racks that hold rental skates. "Behind the shelves."

"Where's it come out?"

"Right around the corner. Look."

With the gun still pointed in her direction, he leans to peer around the corner. She watches nervously, hoping it will pass muster. 

"I'm gonna stand right here," he says. "You go right to the door, open it, and get your ass out here."

"Okay." Her mind races. "The key to the office is on a hook next to the door. I have to get that."

"Fine. Just get it. You have ten seconds, bitch."

She turns, her heart thudding, and remembers to fake a hobble as she goes behind the shelves. Her legs still feel like jelly. 

"Ten... nine... eight... Pick up the pace!"

"I'm trying!" she calls out. She glances back and can't see him, which she hopes means that he can't see her.

"Seven... six..."

With shaky fingers, she takes the key off the hook -- and lets it fall to the floor. 

"I dropped the key," she says, not even sure if he will care.

"Then pick it up and get your ass out here!"

She bends down to get it -- and, as she does, she feels for her phone in her pocket. She stiffens her hand, desperate to make the shaking stop, and presses her thumb to the sensor to unlock the screen. This has to work. 

"Five... four..."


In the coffee shop, Travis and Rosie exchange stony stares over the counter. 

“Oh,” Rosie finally says, her tone derisively flat.

“Yeah. Didn’t you know I worked here?"

“Why would I know that?!”

“You’ve been in here before, haven’t you? Maybe if you’d been paying attention— kind of like how you should’ve been paying attention at the hospital—” He stops himself when he sees the other barista throwing him a scolding look and realizes that his volume has escalated quickly. Down the bar, Diane is watching them, too. 

  Travis Fisher

He reaches for a cup. “What do you want?"

Rosie hesitates, her mouth puckered. “You know what? I’ll get my coffee somewhere else."


She turns and walks away from the counter. In an instant, Diane is in front of Travis again.

“What was that all about?” she asks.

He is trying to channel all the steam and rage into a coherent statement when he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. Without even thinking, he reaches for it and, seeing the name on the screen, checks the new text message.

“What the hell?” he mutters. 

“What’s wrong?” Diane asks.

“It’s from Tempest.” He glances at the door that leads to the arena, as if it might somehow provide an explanation. “She just texted me ‘911.’"


How will Travis react to Tempest’s message?
Should Natalie be concerned about Helen?
Do Claire and Brent stand a fighting chance?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum now!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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