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Alex moved out of Jason’s house, and Trevor helped him moved into his brand-new house.
- Molly’s trial for shooting Philip got underway.
- The
prosecution called a member of Molly's family as a witness.

KB Courthouse

“For its next witness, the State calls Spencer Ragan to the stand."

At the defense table, Molly Taylor’s entire body tenses. She knew that her nephew was going to be called, and Conrad has attempted to anticipate what the prosecution is going to use his testimony to establish. But she has never been particularly close to Spencer, and now she feels a fresh current of fear over what he might have to say about her and her intentions in shooting Philip

Spencer, dressed in a gray suit, makes his way up the aisle of the courtroom and toward the witness stand. He passes Claire, who is seated at the end of a row and gives him a reassuring nod; he sees the rest of his family sitting just behind Molly and Conrad, and they all watch him carefully as he takes the stand. 

The bailiff has him place his hand on a Bible.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

“I do,” Spencer says before taking his post on the witness stand.

As he watches, Brent Taylor feels his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulls it out for a cursory glance and sees the number of his kids’ school on the screen.

“I have to take this,” he tells his sister. Grateful that they chose seats toward the back of the courtroom, he slips out. 

Audrey Tam, the District Attorney, takes a few methodical steps toward the witness stand, her heels clicking against the linoleum floor, before she begins her questioning. 

“Please state your name for the court,” she says.

“Spencer Ragan."

“And what was your relation to the deceased, Philip Ragan?"

“He was my brother. Adopted brother."

“How do you know the defendant, Molly Taylor?"

“She was engaged to Philip."

“We’ll return to that in a moment,” Tam says. “Is that the only context in which you know Mrs. Taylor?"

“She’s my aunt,” Spencer answers. 

Tam stops her pacing. “Your aunt was engaged to your brother?"

In the audience, Jason Fisher leans over to his older brother. “She’s trying to make this sound like some kind of hillbilly nightmare,” he whispers.

“I know,” Tim agrees quietly. “We knew this was going to happen."

Jason watches the D.A. nervously. “It’s gonna make the jury think we’re all crazy."

Spencer draws a deep breath before launching into his rehearsed explanation: “I was raised with Philip as my older brother. Our father — Philip’s biological father — was actually my grandfather. When I was a baby, he kidnapped me from his daughter, Claire, who was married to Tim Fisher, who’s Molly’s brother."

Tam widens her eyes dramatically at the jury. “That’s certainly complicated."

“We only found out a few years ago,” Spencer adds. “Molly and Philip weren’t related. At all."

Back at the defense table, Conrad gives Molly an encouraging look. Spencer is interjecting the bits that they discussed with him without even waiting for the cross-examination. That can only help.

“You said Molly and Philip were engaged,” Tam says. “What was their status at the time of his death?"

“I don’t know, honestly. They had broken up, like, a year before. But it seemed like they were getting back together."

“Do you know why they had broken up?"

Spencer’s expression darkens, and for the first time since he took the stand, his eyes drop to his hands. 

“I accidentally backed my car into the front room of Molly’s house,” he says. “It caused a lot of damage. Philip knew that Molly was already worried about my influence on her kids, and he didn't want her to think even worse of me, so he said he was the one who’d driven the car into the house.” The answer comes out sounding rehearsed but clear.
  Spencer Ragan

“In other words, Philip was willing to risk his relationship with the woman he loved in order to protect you?” Tam asks, though it is more of a statement.

“Objection,” Conrad says sharply. “That’s speculation."

Judge Ricardo Sandoval nods. “Sustained."

“I’ll rephrase,” Tam says. “What did Philip say to you about his decision to take the blame for that accident?"

“That he didn’t want Molly to know it was me,” Spencer says. “Because it would make everything more complicated with their wedding coming up. He knew that she would forgive him for an accident."

“Did Molly ever learn the truth about that accident?"

“She figured it out, yeah.” Spencer glares into the audience at Travis Fisher, who caused the entire thing to come spilling out at Thanksgiving nearly two years ago. If not for that, maybe Philip never would’ve snapped. “She broke up with Philip after that."

“But you said they seemed to be getting back together at the time of Philip’s death?"

“Yeah. A lot happened in that year. A lot of people died. Philip was always-- he was there for Molly, I guess. And he always said he wanted to get her back."

“Okay.” Tam walks back to her table and glances at a stack of papers. 

As everyone awaits the next question, Brent slips back into the row beside Danielle.

“I have to go,” he says. “That was the kids’ school."

“What? Is something wrong? I can go--"

“No, it’s something I should deal with. But thanks. If Molly asks, though, it was work.” He watches the concerned expression on his sister’s face deepen. “The boys are okay. But I don’t want Molly to worry any more than she already is."

Danielle nods in agreement, and Brent once again dips out. 
The D.A. refocuses on Spencer. “What were your and Philip’s living arrangements?"

“I lived with him. He made me, kind of. But we lived together for probably two years before he died."

“Was it a large residence?"

“Not really. A big loft. It had bedrooms, so it was more of an apartment, but--"

“But it was fairly close quarters."

Spencer nods.

“And in all that time of living together,” Tam says, “did you have any suspicion that your brother might be the person behind the so-called Footprint Killings?"

“No.” The same images and flashes that have been whirring through Spencer’s head for a year come back, always so ready to reappear, but no matter how much he digs through them, he can never find anything more concrete than what happened at the time. “I didn’t have a clue."

“You never saw or heard anything that suggested he might be responsible for those murders?"

“No.” Spencer swallows hard as he attempts to push down the emotion that is creeping up. “Nothing."

“Thank you, Spencer,” Tam says before turning to the judge. “The prosecution has no further questions."

Cassie's Coffee House

Diane Bishop enters Cassie’s Coffee House and finds herself tossed into the middle of a very busy mid-morning scene. While she waits in line to place her order, she spots Alex Marshall sitting at a small table in the center of the dimly lit shop, his attention zeroed in on his laptop. Diane pays for her drink and then makes her way over to him. 

“I thought you’d be in court,” she says.

Alex looks up from his computer. “I had a meeting I couldn’t reschedule. Research for my next book."

“Ooh. What are you working on?"

“I’ll tell you when it actually becomes something more than a pile of confusing research,” he says with a sigh. “Trevor’s at the trial, though. I’ll go tomorrow."

“We had a million calls into the show about it. I’m waiting for some kind of update from Sarah."

“Diane!” calls a voice from the bar.

“Go get your drink and then join me,” Alex says. “I could use the distraction."

Diane retrieves her latté and then returns to Alex’s table. 

“How’s that new house of yours?” she asks. “And when am I coming over for dinner?"

“We should make that happen soon. And the house is great. It’s a big change having so much peace and quiet, though."

“Probably great for writing."

“I’m getting a lot of work done. But I do kind of miss the…"

“Chaos?” Diane says through a laugh.

“Yeah. I got really attached to having Sophie be a part of my daily routine. And those last few weeks, when Bree was there, too… it was fun. A lot of work, but it was fun."

She tests the temperature of the still-scalding latté. “Are you actually bemoaning the fact that you don’t have screaming kids running around your house?"

“I think so. Kind of. But you know -- there are a lot of pluses that come with all that.” He places his hands on the edge of the table. “It’s got me thinking a lot about what comes next."

“You mean having kids."

Alex nods slowly. “I always assumed it would be something that I magically felt ready for one day, or I’d know it was exactly the right time — but I guess it’ll always be a leap of faith in a way."

“Have you talked to Trevor about this?"

“Not really. It’s mostly been on my mind a lot."

“As someone who was 100 percent not prepared to be a parent,” Diane says, “I can tell you I haven’t regretted it. Even if I’ve regretted a lot of other things."

“I feel like I’m getting there,” Alex says. “Like I’m almost prepared.” 

“Then I would say talk to Trevor about it. What’s going on with you guys, anyway?"

Alex shrugs as a grin spreads over his face. “He’s at the house a lot. Things are kind of… normal? They’re good. Things are good."

“That’s great. You deserve it.” Diane risks another sip of her drink and succeeds in not burning her mouth. “Do you know how he feels about kids?"

“He’s said he wants them."

“Might be a good time to bring it up with him,” she says. “Or if you want, I can do it when you have me over for dinner…"

“Don’t you dare!"

“I wouldn’t! Unless you tell me to. Then I totally will. We can have a secret signal."

Alex laughs. “I’ll bring it up on my own. You can still come to dinner… as long as you keep your mouth shut."


Light threads of rain bounce off the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the courthouse. During a recess in the proceedings, attendees of Molly’s trial spill out into the hallway and mill around, recapping and speculating. 

Claire finds Tim tapping out a message on his iPhone at the end of the hall.

“Trying to keep up with work?” she asks.

“Doing my best. I’m definitely going to have to check in tomorrow, at least. There’s too much going on."

“I’m sure…” Claire folds her arms and glances down the hallway. “He did all right up there."

“Yeah. I was worried. He’s been through enough — having to relive everything that happened with Philip can’t be easy."

“No, but he seems to be handling it all right. Has he said anything to you lately? I worry that all of this is bringing a lot to the surface."

“He’s been his usual self. Tight-lipped, stoic, a little sarcastic. You know, nothing ever gets to him."

“Or that’s what he wants us to think,” Claire says. 

“Exactly. But no, I think he’s doing all right. He’s settled in at work, he’s visited Tori a lot, and he didn’t put up any kind of fight when Molly and Conrad asked to prep him for his testimony. Things are almost… dare I say… becoming normal?"

“I don’t even think I know what ‘normal’ looks like anymore. But the fact that he doesn’t hate me feels like serious progress."

“It is serious progress.” Tim grows quiet for a spell. “Do you remember how horrible last fall was, before we knew about Philip? Those few days after I found the paint in Spencer’s car--"

Claire shudders. “I know. I didn’t even want to consider the possibility that Spencer could’ve been the killer, but it wasn’t something we could ignore."

“I know. I hate that it seemed like something we had to think about, but at least it wasn’t true. And now I know that he doesn’t have that kind of hate in him."

“Do you?” asks a familiar voice from nearby.

Both Tim and Claire turn abruptly to see Spencer standing mere feet away from them.

“Spencer. Hi,” Claire says, flustered. “We were just talking about Philip…"

“And how you thought I was a killer.” His steely green eyes stare them down. Yeah, I heard."


“I promise you that we’ll take this very seriously. Thank you."

With those words, Brent leads Caleb and Christian out of the principal’s office and down the hallway. Since most of the students are in class, the hallway is almost eerily quiet right now — a mood boosted, no doubt, by the tense silence hovering over Brent and his sons.

“Why would you ever think it was a good idea to punch someone?” Brent asks as they walk.

“He deserved it,” Caleb says.

Brent lets out a huff. “Did that talk with Principal Burke not get through to you at all?"

“Yeah, I’m suspended for the rest of the week. I get it."

Brent pushes open the door at the end of the hallway, and they exit the school into the gray day and the light rain coming down.
  Brent Taylor

“Why do I have to go home if he’s the one who got in trouble?” Christian asks. “I have art later!"

“Because this is a stressful day and we aren’t making multiple trips back and forth,” Brent says. “Besides, it might be good for everyone to hole up in the house and calm down today."

“Tyler said Mom was gonna get the death penalty!” Caleb says. “He deserved more than a punch."

“Your mother is not getting the death penalty.” Brent uses his key fob to unlock his SUV. “It’s not even an option. So don’t let that scare you."

“He still deserved a punch,” Caleb grumbles.

Brent yanks open the driver’s door. “Stop saying that. You know violence is never the answer. Ever. Now get in."

As the boys scramble into the car, Brent sinks into the driver’s seat. He looks at the twins in the rearview mirror and starts the engine. They’re at that age where sometimes they seem so grown-up and he wonders where all the time has gone; at other times, like right now, they are still the little boys he knows so well, and his heart breaks at the thought of what they are going through.

“I know you guys are worried about your mom,” he says, his voice sanded down from its spiky tone of a minute ago. “And I know it’s scary. Other kids shouldn’t be saying nasty things like that."

“That’s what I mean,” Caleb says.

“But hitting someone is not the answer. And those kids are being jerks."

“I don’t get why Mom even has to go on trial,” Caleb says. “Philip killed Grandpa and Uncle Ryan."

“And Cameron,” Christian adds.

“Yeah… but that’s not exactly how the justice system works. We can’t just go around shooting — or hitting — people who do bad things. Now, your mom was trying to save herself and Aunt Sarah and Grandma from Philip, and the jury is going to understand that--"

“What if they don’t?” Christian interjects. 

The car hums beneath them as Brent stews over that possibility for a long moment.

“Your mom’s lawyer is going to make sure they do,” he says at last. “I’m doing everything I can, and so is the rest of the family. But in the meantime, I don’t want you guys listening to anyone who says anything like what Tyler said. Okay? It isn’t worth your time."

He puts the car in reverse and backs out of the parking space.

“I’m scared for Mom,” Caleb says, his voice quieter than normal.

Brent stops the car, his hand perched over the shifter. The raindrops pelting the windshield are fatter than the ones from even five minutes ago. 

“Don’t be,” Brent says, even though what he really wants to say is, Me too.


Just outside the courtroom, Travis Fisher huddles with his sister.

“He did a pretty good job,” Travis says, conscious of his volume considering how many people are swirling around. “I half-expected him to, I dunno, tell them to throw her in Alcatraz for life and walk out of the courtroom."

“It isn’t like he has no conscience,” Samantha counters.

“I don’t know if I’d go that far…"

The doors to the courtroom swing open again, and their uncle appears. Travis and Samantha immediately pull Jason over to them.

“Did you hear anything else? About how they think it’s going?” Travis asks.

“Not really,” Jason says, “but Conrad seems really confident. He says all the state can do is lay out a bunch of building blocks, which he can then spend his time knocking over one-by-one."

“He’s really good,” Samantha says. “It’s weird. I almost called him ‘Uncle Conrad,’ even though he hasn’t been my uncle for years.” She pauses and studies Jason. “Is it weird for you that he’s here?"

“I don’t care how many times he and Natalie were married, as long as he gets my sister acquitted."

Samantha holds up her index finger. “It was only once."

“I know,” Jason says. “I just mean… it isn’t weird. And Spencer did a good job of not playing into the prosecutor’s hand. Her questions could’ve made Philip look a lot more innocent and Molly look a lot worse."

“That’s what I was just saying,” Samantha says, casting a gratified look Travis’s way.

“Yeah, yeah.” Travis rolls his eyes. “He didn’t totally blow it. What a saint."


Tim and Claire remain frozen in the tractor beam of Spencer’s gaze.

“You thought I was the killer,” Spencer says.

“We didn’t think that,” Tim says. “We just…"

“Found paint in my car and assumed? Because that’s a normal conclusion to jump to.” Spencer folds his arms across the front of his suit. “Yeah, I heard your conversation."

“Spencer, we’re just relieved--” Claire’s suddenly labored breaths overtake her words. “No one knew what to think."

He looks between the two of them, his eyes burning with a rage that neither has seen out of him in a long while.
  Tim Fisher

“Did you go to Brent? Did you have the police looking into me for being a serial killer?"

“We just checked out the paint,” Tim says. “And it didn’t match what had been used at the crime scenes."

“That was all,” Claire adds.

“Great.” Spencer shakes his head with disdain. “That’s all it took for you to believe that I didn’t murder multiple people? Fuck you--"

Tim moves toward him. “Spencer--"

“And fuck you, too. That’s what you think of me, huh? That’s who I’m always going to be to this family?"

“We didn’t say that,” Claire says, “and we certainly don’t think it."

“You know what?” Spencer throws his hands up in the air. “I don’t believe you, and I don’t trust you. Same as you don’t trust me."

“Spencer,” Tim says more insistently.

But he just keeps walking until he reaches the front doors of the courthouse, where he makes a sharp right and storms out of the building.

“Should we go after him?” Claire asks. “I don’t want him thinking that we believe those things about him."

Tim hesitates. “Let’s give him a bit to cool off. He’s angry. Once he realizes that we didn’t really think that…"

“But we did. Or we thought it was possible."

“But we didn’t want to. And we don’t now."

“Yeah,” she says numbly as she resists the urge to race out to the parking lot and try to stop Spencer.


Will Spencer hear out his parents once he cools off?
Will the prosecution succeed in making its case against Molly?
Are Alex and Trevor ready to become parents?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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