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Spencer was rattled to meet Natalie’s infant son, Peter, even though Natalie insisted that Jason, not Spencer, is the child’s father.
- With her trial for shooting Philip looming, Molly visited the Objection Designs store and realized how much is going on at the company while she is on leave.
- Sarah
identified the person blackmailing her and Molly as Zennosuke Tanaka, an I.T. worker who’d gotten a hold of the security footage that showed Paula shooting Philip. She turned the tables on him and neutralized the blackmail threat just before Molly’s trial was slated to begin.

Outside, it is barely dawn, but inside the KBAY radio station’s studio, the lights are on and the coffee is flowing. In the recording booth, Diane Bishop and Luke Berman huddle close to their microphones.

“It’s finally here,” Diane says. “The day King’s Bay has been waiting for — the final chapter in the Footprint Killer saga."

“Not just King’s Bay. The entire country,” Luke says. “Today, Molly Taylor’s trial for shooting and killing Philip Ragan begins."

“She’s claiming that the shooting is self-defense, and frankly, I can’t even believe the D.A. would pursue a trial here,” Diane continues. "It’s crazy. The man murdered five people — full disclosure, as many of our listeners already know, two of the victims in particular were like family to me — and nearly killed a sixth, who was my best friend’s daughter. Of course he posed a threat to Molly Taylor’s life."

Luke is nearly on top of his microphone as he adds, “And not only hers — her mother and her sister were out on the hospital balcony, too. The gun was Ragan’s. I don’t see how there’s a case here."

Diane finishes a quick sip of her coffee and sets the mug back on the desk. “I know we don’t always agree, Luke, but I’m right with you on this one."

“For once,” Luke says with a chuckle.

“For once. If you ask me, Molly Taylor should be getting a medal for what she did — and if there’s any justice in the world, her jury will see that, too."


In the mostly dark kitchen of her very quiet home, Molly Taylor sits at the table in her pink bathrobe, clutching a mug of hot coffee between her palms. Diane and Luke’s voices sound from the small radio she usually keeps on a shelf above the sink for when she’s washing dishes, though she has moved it onto the table so that she can hear it without waking up the rest of the house.

As the radio hosts discuss what happened on that balcony last fall, Molly’s mind drifts back, too, the same way it has every single day since the shooting. Of course, Diane and Luke don’t know — can’t know — what really happened. But Molly cannot shake the vision of the bullet tearing into Philip’s chest and knocking him against the railing — nor can she forget the sight of her own mother, trembling as she held the gun and pulled the trigger.

She still doesn’t know how it could’ve come to that. For all her concerns over Philip’s trustworthiness after he lied about Spencer’s car crash, she never in her wildest nightmares could have imagined that he would go on a mad killing spree. She doesn’t know how she never saw in all those months — not even when he worked his way back into his life, back into her bed...
  Molly Taylor

Even the thought of his hands on her, the very night before he killed her father, sends a nauseating shiver through her body. At the time, she felt as if she’d found her way back to something stable and real; in truth, she was playing right into the hand of a monster. She can’t believe that she was so stupid.

The radio show has gone to commercial, she realizes, and she is about to turn it off when she hears footsteps on the stairs. Bracing for it to be one of her sons, she is relieved to see that it is Danielle Taylor instead. She doesn’t know if she can face the boys at all today, let alone in her current state.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Danielle asks.

Molly shakes her head. “I think I managed about three hours."

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how scary this must be for you."

Molly sighs. “What are you doing up so early?"

“I turned in early last night, so I woke up naturally,” Danielle says as she goes about making herself a cup of herbal tea. “I’ve been jotting down ideas for lyrics for a while now."

“That’s great.” Molly hopes that if she acts normally, if she talks about things other than the trial, that things will be normal. But that has become more and more difficult, and now the start date of her trial is here, and all she can do is wait.

Danielle leaves the kettle heating on the stove and joins her former sister-in-law at the table. 

“You’re going to get through this,” she says, placing a hand on top of Molly’s. “You’re strong. You did what you had to do to protect your mother and sister. The judge and jury are going to understand that."

“I hope so.” She couldn’t let her own mother face charges for shooting Philip, not after what he did to their family — and now that Sarah seems to have neutralized the threat of that blackmail tape, it really is just Molly’s word against the state’s.

In her mind’s eye, she sees Philip in the last moments of his life, his face ashen as he spoke his final words to her: “I did it all for you."

“I did what I had to do,” Molly says quietly as the radio drones on in the background.

Edge of Winter Arena

As is the case on most mornings, the Edge of Winter Arena is alive well before most of the world, lights on and music blaring over the sound system. Skaters dash over the ice, performing their jumps, spins, and elegant edgework. At center ice, Bree Halston launches herself into a flying camel spin. She springs off the toe of her left skate and lands on the blade of her right, and as she does, she whips her left leg up so that it is perpendicular to the ice. She does four quick rounds in that position, then varies the spin by dipping her head toward the ice, then her leg, several times, in the daring spin known as an illusion. 

“There you go!” Jason Fisher claps from the side of the ice. “Great combination spin. That was a perfect illusion!"

Her cheeks flushed, Bree smiles. “Thanks. That felt good."

“It was good. You kept it centered and strong. Great work, Bree."

“Does that mean I don’t have to do laps?"

“Not quite. Three laps and then your lesson’s over. I want you to run your short program one more time before you’re done for the morning, okay?"

“Deal,” the girl says before dutifully taking off to complete her laps, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth for endurance.

Jason steps off the ice and into the penalty box, where he sits down on the bench. He takes his phone out of the pocket of his Edge of Winter parka and is checking his e-mail when he hears someone else enter the box from the other side.

“I thought you might want this,” Sabrina Gage says as she hands him a to-go coffee cup. She wears the ice-blue t-shirt and black apron that serves as the uniform for Thaw employees.

“What’s this?” Jason asks as he puts his phone away.

“Your usual. I saw you out here and realized you hadn’t come in this morning."

“Yeah, I was running late. The baby is barely sleeping, so I thought I could steal a few extra minutes of rest before Bree’s lesson…"

“Congratulations again,” she says. “You and Natalie must be over the moon."

“We are,” he says with a smile. “Just tired. Sophie was definitely a better sleeper than this when she was a newborn. And hey — thank you for the coffee. Hang on…” He pulls out his wallet.

“Oh, please. It’s my treat."

“You don’t have to—"

“It’s the least I can do to thank you for getting me this job. I was on the verge of having to move back home."

He hesitates for another moment, then puts his wallet away. “That’s really sweet of you, Sabrina. Thanks."

She shrugs, blushing, and brushes some of her dark hair back behind her ear. "I’m sure you could use the caffeine today."

Jason immediately understands what she is referencing, without her having to say it. “Yeah. I’m heading to the courthouse after this."

“How’s your sister doing?"

“She’s keeping up a strong front. But she’s nervous. I just hope this thing goes quickly."

“If she was protecting herself, your mom, and your sister, then it was self-defense. They should understand that."

“I hope they do,” he says solemnly. 

Sabrina folds her arms across her body and shivers against the cold, though it might be more of a shudder. “I still can’t believe it was Philip. I mean, I know it was, but it doesn’t make sense to me."

“It’s been really hard to process, even all this time later. He always seemed so… composed. Calm. I guess that’s how he fooled us all for so long.” He pauses in thought as he tests the hot coffee. “Looking back, do you see any signs? Anything that sort of… adds up?"

She lets her eyes drift toward the far-away ceiling as she thinks. “I don’t know. He was really big into privacy, that kind of thing, but I thought it was just him being professional. He seemed so sophisticated and fancy, you know? But nothing ever seemed out-of-place. Nothing that'd ever make me think he could do... that."

“It still shocks me,” Jason says.

“I spent so much time alone with him. My mom even warned me… but I thought, ’No, I’m a grown-up, and he’s a professional. It’ll be fine.’ But I could’ve been in so much danger. Especially after the terrible things he did to your niece — if I’d been the one to find those shoes…"

Jason nods grimly. “It’s really scary. But this nightmare is almost behind all of us — and as soon as Molly is exonerated, it will be, for good."


The brick walls keep moving around Spencer Ragan. He can’t see them moving, but they are, because every time he moves across the cell, the dimensions feel different: longer, more cavernous. And the iron gate is shrinking, too.

He hurries to the gate and grips two of its bars. Leaning forward, he struggles to see out into the hallway, but it is a blank. Cement floors stretch off into the distance, but he can make out no other cells, no signs of life. He wishes he could remember how he wound up here; he has a vague sense that they put him here, but he doesn’t know who they are, and he doesn’t know where this place is, and if the damn walls don’t stop moving, he doesn’t know how in the hell he is supposed to find a way out of here. 

“Help!” he shouts, but the only response he receives is the echo of his own voice. 

A sharp ringing slices through the air, distant at first, then more present, more insistent. He wonders if it is an alarm of some sort… a signal meant to tell him something…
  Spencer Ragan

The hotel room is dark as the ringing of Spencer’s cell phone yanks him out of his dream and back into reality. He silences all texts and other alerts while he is asleep, but since Tori’s attack last year — and the subsequent revelations about Philip — he has his phone set up to allow calls to come through. This way, if there is an emergency, he will be aware, no matter the time. His heart rate spiking despite his groggy state, he reaches for the phone from amidst his tangle of sheets and blankets. 

The number isn’t one that he has saved in his phone, but he recognizes it as the service that allows prisoners to place collect calls to cell phones. Part of him is tempted to let the call go to voicemail without answering, but another part of him has to know why she is calling. So he answers.


“You have a collect call,” announces an automated voice, “from…"

After a brief pause, the air on the line grows heavier, and there she is: “Your mother."

Spencer accepts the charges and sits up in the bed. “Mother,” he says.

“Good morning,” Loretta Ragan’s voice trills over the line. “I’m so pleased you answered."

“I thought something might be wrong. Is everything all right?"

“Other than the fact that I’m rotting away in prison, yes. Things are just wonderful. But actually, it’s the beginning of quite a lovely day. Don’t you agree?"

He glances toward the hotel room’s blackout curtains, through the center of which he can see just a sliver of daylight. With the phone held to his ear, he climbs out of bed and pulls the curtains apart to reveal the gloomy fall morning. 

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Loretta presses. “That murderer is finally going to face justice for what she did to your brother—"

“Philip murdered five people. My grandfather. My uncle. And nearly my cousin."

“Oh, goodness. That woman shot him dead in cold blood! He didn’t even have the opportunity to stand trial. Can you believe that amateur of a district attorney was dragging her heels on pursuing charges at all? I had to use some of my channels to exert some pressure--"

“Why are you doing this?” Spencer blurts out. 

Loretta gasps. "They’ve gotten to you, haven’t they? They’ve brainwashed you."

“They’re my family."

“No. I am your family. And I am all you have left, now that they destroyed Philip. It would do you well to recognize that before they destroy you, too.” Her sigh ripples over the connection like tissue paper being crumpled. “I never should have allowed him to bring you to that place."

Spencer swallows hard as he looks out at King’s Bay. For so long, he resisted being here, treated it like a punishment. But sometime in the past year or two, it has begun to seem like home. A new, strange home, very different from the places he was raised, but home nonetheless.

“Molly shot Philip to protect her family,” he says.

“She was looking for an excuse. Those people destroy lives. Claire did it to your father—"

“Because the two of you kidnapped me!"

“Because we were trying to protect you from her and the rest of that horrid circus."

“I don’t want to do this right now,” Spencer says. “Or at all. If all you called to do was gloat--"

“It isn’t gloating, Spencer. I miss your brother very much. And I miss you. Why aren’t I allowed to grieve, too?"

He pictures her face, the animated, regal expressions and makeup that he used to know so well — not the plain, tired, old woman he saw the last time he visited her in prison. Sometimes she seems like a character from another life, from a dream. And at other times, in spite of himself, he longs for the life he had before he knew about the Fishers or his father’s double life or any of this. 

“I have to go,” he says.

“Why? I want to talk with you."

“I don’t want to talk about Molly or Philip or the trial. Okay? I have to go. Goodbye, Mother.” He presses a button to end the call.


“What is going on down here?” Sarah Fisher Gray asks as she enters the kitchen of her parents’ home.

Her mother turns back over her shoulder from her post at the stove. “I’m making breakfast."

“For the entire jury and their extended families?”

On the kitchen table, Paula has already covered several plates with aluminum foil. Sarah peeks beneath the foil to reveal eggs, egg whites, bacon, and sausage.

“We’ll all need our strength today,” Paula says. “I’m making some pancakes now."

Sarah decides to let that pass without comment. She knows that her mother finds comfort in providing for the family at times like these, and if the worst result is that they wind up with some wasted food, then so be it.

“Are the kids up yet?” Paula asks.

“No, they’re still sleeping. Matt’s in the shower. Have you talked to Molly  yet?"

“I don’t want to bother her. I hope she got some rest. This could be a long day… a long set of days."

Sarah leans against the counter just beside the stove, as Paula watches the batter solidify into pancakes. They do smell good, with just enough sweetness to catch Sarah’s attention.
  Paula Fisher

“It’s Molly’s word against the D.A.’s, essentially,” Sarah says. “We were the ones out on that balcony. They’re going to have a hell of a time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a serial killer wasn’t threatening you and me. Conrad has the right approach — establish that Philip was the killer, that he was dangerous, and then have Molly and me both testify that we were in mortal danger on that balcony."

“Yes. I hope you’re right.” Paula’s eyes suddenly become glassy, unfocused. “I can almost see it…"


Paula squeezes her eyelids closed. “I’m trying to remember."

“Remember what?"

“What happened on that balcony. If I could be an additional witness…"

“No.” The admonition comes out sharper than Sarah intended, but it is necessary. She can’t have Paula digging at whatever buried memories she might have of the shooting, not now. “You don’t need to do that to yourself."

“I remember rushing outside,” Paula says, her voice a little dreamy, “and finding you girls with Philip, and he had that— that gun, but then… there’s nothing."

“Listen to me.” Sarah takes her mother by the shoulders and swivels her so that she can look her right in the face. “You were in shock. You fainted. Molly picked up the gun and had to shoot Philip before he threw me off the balcony."

Paula winces at the description, as if it’s a real, visceral memory.

“That’s what happened,” Sarah says firmly. Now that she is 99 percent certain that video recording of Paula shooting Philip will not come out — she doesn’t for a second trust Tanaka to have deleted all his backups, but if he does release it, he’ll receive no money and immediately face criminal charges thanks to Sarah’s recording of him confessing to blackmail — all they have to do is get through this trial, and they can put this entire thing behind them. She never should have let Molly drag them down this road in the first place, but she did, and they’re all in this together. 

“I’m so scared,” Paula says, her voice cracking ever so slightly. “My Molly can’t go to jail — especially not after we’ve lost your father and Ryan. It’s too much."

“I know. I know.” Sarah wraps her arms around her mother and pulls her close. “Molly won’t go to jail. That’s why we’re doing this."

Paula nods against Sarah’s shoulder, trying to make herself believe that it’ll be that cut-and-dry.

“Now come on,” Sarah says. “Those pancakes aren’t gonna flip themselves, and we need our strength, right?"

“Right.” Paula offers her a grateful smile and then returns her attention to the stove. Sarah stands back and wishes that her outward confidence actually reflected the way she feels inside — but until that jury declares Molly not guilty, she knows that she will not be able to relax.


Will the trial go as the Fishers hope?
Will Paula ever remember what happened?
Will Spencer ever be able to shake Loretta?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!



Friday, October 07, 2016

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