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After testifying at Molly’s trial, Spencer overheard Tim and Claire talking about how they’d once suspected him of being the Footprint Killer. Feeling betrayed, Spencer told off his biological parents and stormed out of the courthouse.
- Natalie and Jason welcomed a son, Peter.
- Tempest's
mother, Yvette, came to her office to plead for another chance at forgiveness. Tempest unloaded on her about the abuse that Tempest had suffered at the hands of Yvette’s boyfriends.

He opens his eyes to a world that is pitch-black.

At least, that’s how it seems at first. But then the intimations of shapes become clear, even through the darkness. The curve of the bedside lamp. The soft blue glow of the bedside clock. The edge of the wall that leads to the closet. As consciousness returns to him, Spencer Ragan becomes aware that he is in his very dark hotel room, as he is every morning.

On this particular morning, however, he feels as though he has been awakened by someone taking a mallet to his skull. He squeezes his eyes shut against the ache as the previous night comes back to him in jagged flashes: the bottle of whiskey. The rented Escalade with the neon lights and the partition. The pulsing beats at the Lookout. The bucket at his table with the champagne bottle sticking proudly out of it. The girl--

His eyes snap open and he rolls to his other side. Her face is hidden, but a swirl of blonde hair covers the pillow beside him. Her bare shoulders peek out from beneath the sheets. The girl in his memory is hot; he hopes this morning’s reality lives up to that.

He sees the time on the alarm clock and realizes that, on the other side of the room’s blackout curtains, it is already the middle of the morning. As he reaches for his phone on the nightstand, his hand brushes against something. He has his suspicions, but it takes only pushing the button on the bedside lamp to illuminate the half-line of white powder and accompanying residue that lingers on the nightstand. 

He has no idea what time they got back here, let alone went to sleep, and he has no idea if there is any ibuprofen in the bathroom. He wonders if he could have someone bring that to him.
  Spencer Ragan

There is only one notification on his phone: a confirmation that a package was delivered an hour and a half ago. It takes him only a second to remember what he did. And the sense of spite sends a warm glow over his aching, hungover brain. 

“What time is it?” slurs a voice against the pillow. 

Spencer looks over. The girl is staring at him. She looks tired and rough, considering last night, but she’s clearly hot. Very hot. 

“After 9,” he says, surprised at how raspy and rocky his own voice sounds. 

“I’m so glad I don’t have to work today.” She lets her eyelids close as she touches a hand to his bare chest; the feeling is electric, and Spencer is suddenly aware that he slept naked. 

“Me neither.” Even the thought of going to Vision Publishing stirs up his anger, after what he overheard Tim and Claire saying yesterday -- that there was a time when they suspected him of being the Footprint Killer, that they went so far as to have a tube of red touch-up paint Tim found in his car tested to make sure it wasn’t the same paint the killer had been using. Yet part of him wishes that he could be at Vision this morning...

An idea strikes him like a spike to the chest. Something he realized last night. Something he has to do. He starts to sit up.

“Where are you going?” the girl asks.

“Need to get moving. I have a busy day."

“I thought you said you didn’t have to work."

“I don’t. But there are things I need to do."

She snakes her hand beneath the bedsheets. “But there are things I want to do."

Spencer considers leaping out of bed anyway, but her hand quickly and persuasively makes its case.

“Ten minutes,” he says as he lies back against his pillow.


Seated at her dining room table, Claire Fisher sips on a cup of hot coffee as she scrolls through a newspaper article on her tablet. Not a lot of excitement happened -- at least not in the courtroom itself -- on the first day of Molly's trial, but every news outlet seems to have found its own angle on the opening statements and first few witnesses' testimonies. 

Claire looks up from her reading when she hears the door to Tempest Banks's bedroom open. Tempest trudges out in basketball shorts and an oversized sweatshirt. 

"Hi there," Claire says as she watches the half-asleep young woman navigate to the sofa. "Sorry I left for my shift before you got home last night. How was your day?"

"It was fine." Tempest pulls a throw pillow toward herself. "How was court?"

With a sigh, Claire recalls yet again Spencer's rage when he overheard her and Tim discussing their theory of a year ago -- a theory she never wanted to believe but knew, in the midst of the terror that had seized King's Bay, they couldn't ignore. She remembers so clearly her relief at learning that the paint in Spencer's car didn't match that being used by the Footprint Killer. 

"Things are off to an all right start," she says. "Molly's lawyer seems confident, and the prosecution definitely didn't come out with a slam-dunk case."

"That's good."

"Can I get you something for breakfast?" Claire asks. "Cereal? Or we have some of those blueberry muffins left."

"I don't want nothing."

"Why not? Do you not feel well?"

"I'm fine," Tempest says flatly. Claire has lived with the girl long enough to know that means the exact opposite.

"Did something happen yesterday? Was it something with Samantha?"


Claire retrieves one of the muffins from the kitchen, places it on a plate, and brings it, along with a napkin, to Tempest.

“You should eat something before you go to work,” she says, as she hands Tempest the breakfast.

“Thanks.” Tempest picks off a piece of the muffin.

Claire gets her coffee mug from the table. “I’m going to take a stab in the dark here… but did it have something to do with your mom?"
  Tempest Banks

Tempest looks at Claire, then at the muffin, and then back at Claire. “You trying to butter me up?"

“I just want to make sure that you’re all right. And that you’re eating enough."

Tempest eats the muffin in silence for several seconds before she says, “That crazy heffa showed up at my office!"

“What did she want?"

“To talk to me. I dunno. Same stuff she always says. She wants me to forgive her."

Claire considers her next words carefully as she sits on the back of the sofa. “I’m not saying this as a joke, but do you think you need to get a restraining order against her?"

“What? Really?” Tempest sits up straighter as she contemplates that. “Maybe… I mean…"

“Do you feel like you’re in physical danger?"

“From her? Nah."

“So she never hit you. She never…"

“She never did. Her damn boyfriends, though.” Tempest shakes her head at the memories. 

In all the years Claire has had Tempest in her home, she has never been able to get her to open up about why exactly she ran away from home. Her heart has broken as she’s considered all the possibilities and thought about how bad it must have been for a young girl to run away from her home and never look back, never even mention her family. 

“There’s a story I need to tell you,” Claire says.

Vision Publishing

"Good morning, Tim."

Tim Fisher raises a hand as he crosses through the lobby of Vision Publishing. "Morning," he says to the receptionist, who is implausibly sporting what must be her sixteenth new hairstyle this year. 

"This came for you earlier," she says, holding out a small cardboard box. 

He sticks his keys in the pocket of his raincoat and takes the package from her. It feels exceptionally light to the touch, and he can hear something clattering around inside it. With the box balanced on one hand and his work bag in the other, he winds his way through the bullpen full of cubicles to his office. 

He sets the package on his desk and removes his raincoat. The return address, which is also in King's Bay, is not one that he recognizes. Using the pair of scissors from his desk, he sliced open the taped-up seam of the box and pulls it open. 

It takes him a moment to understand what he is seeing. There is red everywhere, covering the interior of the box in spatters and clumps. Lying on the bottom is a piece of paper with typed words and streaks of red on it; an open tube of red paint rests atop the sheet. Realization dawns on Tim as he carefully picks up the paper and reads. 

To: Tim Fisher
Fr: Spencer Ragan 

This letter is intended to serve as notification of my resignation, effective immediately, from Vision Publishing. Human Resources has received a much less festive notice, as well, but feel free to explain to them why I've resigned. 

Tim holds the letter, dumbfounded, as he stares into the paint-covered box. 


"Ryan's dad did that?" Tempest asks, her gaze cloudy with confusion. 

"Yeah. I didn't see either of them for years afterward." Claire has joined Tempest on the sofa and cradles her mug between her palms. "And I never dealt with it, not really. Tim was the first person I told, and that was years later. I couldn't take it anymore."


"I thought that if I didn't acknowledge it, then no one else would know, and it would go away," Claire continues. "But it didn't go away. It ate away at me, and it made me feel like... because I'd been raped, I was damaged goods, and I would never be worthy of anything meaningful."

"That's bullshit," Tempest says, and then she softens again immediately. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."

"So am I." Claire can feel herself being pulled back into that web of emotions that, even decades later, can so easily entangle her and make it seem as if she'll never be able to claw her way out. She tries to shake free of it before it's too late. "My point is, it was a traumatic thing for a young woman to process, let alone on my own--"

"And you think I should be talking about what happened before I ran away." 

Claire offers a compassionate smile. "I'd be more than willing to listen if it would help take the burden off you."

Tempest toys with the muffin wrapper as she mulls that over. 

"It isn't as bad as what happened to you," she finally says. 

A wave of relief hits Claire, as if she has been without breath for hours and is suddenly able to take as big a gulp of air as she wants or needs. 

"It can still be painful," she says. "Something that stays with you."

"Right. Yeah. It was fine 'til she showed up. Then it's like I can't stop my brain from thinking about it."

"Thinking about what?"

Tempest levels a hard stare at her, as if to say, You think I don't know what you're doing?

"If it would help you to talk about it -- or just say it out loud -- I'm here," Claire says. "Just know that."

Her jaw set squarely, Tempest nods. Claire takes her silence as a cue to back off, so she stands and returns to the dining table. She is setting her mug down when Tempest speaks up. 

"She let them hit me. Me and my brother, I mean."

Claire turns and stands as still as possible, scared to frighten off this confession, this vulnerability. 

"One boyfriend after the other," Tempest says. "They get drunk or they get mad and they take it out on us. Didn't matter if we actually did something or not. I got so tired of it. It was easier sleeping on the street or in the park than worrying about some guy waking me  up to smack me and throw me around."

"That sounds exhausting."

"It was. And she never stopped 'em, not really. Didn't even try. Just stood there and yelled a little, or pretended she didn't hear it from the other room."

"I'm so sorry," Claire says. "Having her around must really bring back those memories."

Tempest nods sadly. "And she's gonna do it again. She says she's sorry, but the guy -- he's been around forever. They were always on and off and back on. He's gonna do the same thing to this kid. And she's gonna let him."

"That doesn't sound safe. Maybe you could prevent that--"

"I don't wanna be responsible for her mistake. I did enough of that."

"But that baby is your brother or sister."

Tempest sets her plate down hard on the coffee table. "You sound just like her."

Claire's chest stings with regret. "That isn't what I meant. The baby isn't your responsibility. But maybe there's something we can do..."

"Only thing I wanna do is not see her lying ass ever again." Tempest makes a beeline for her bedroom. "I gotta get ready for work."


The only response Claire receives is the slamming of the door. She listens to the sound of the shower being turned on and sinks back into her chair at the table. She wants to be glad that Tempest finally opened up, to believe that this could be a turning point for Tempest in healing -- but now she fears she has only made it worse. 


Tim barely waits for the elevator doors to open before he blasts through them. He barrels down the hall of the King’s Bay Metropolitan Inn until he arrives at the room that has been his destination ever since he flew out of the office a short while ago, a number of unanswered phone calls and text messages burning away at him. 

He knocks solidly upon the door and waits. Nothing. He strains to hear anything inside, but the sound of a housekeeping vacuum somewhere down the hall makes it difficult to determine if there’s any activity inside the room.

Again he knocks. “Spencer! It’s Tim. Open up. Please!"

And he waits some more. Still nothing. It’s possible that Spencer is in there, biding his time until Tim goes away. So he knocks once more.

No answer comes. He isn’t entirely surprised. But then again, Spencer’s method of resigning from Vision was the sort of behavior that demands attention and a confrontation, especially the way he knows his son.
  Tim Fisher

“Where the hell could he be?” Tim mutters as he attempts to figure out his next move.


Spencer hears the doorbell chime inside the house. The not-as-gloomy-as-expected day pains his eyes even through his sunglasses as he awaits an answer. When the door finally opens, Natalie Bishop takes him in with wild, fearful eyes. Spencer grins at her. By the time she speaks, she has smoothed out that animalistic instinct into something more composed.

“Spencer. What brings you by? Jason isn’t home."

“I assumed not.” He bulldozes past her into the house.

“The baby just went down for a nap,” she says.

He double-checks the time on his phone, which is clutched in his hand. “Already?"

“He’s an infant. He sleeps a lot.” She folds her arms. “You haven’t been here before, have you? How did you know where we lived?"

“Philip kept a disturbingly organized address book.” He whips off his sunglasses. “We need to talk."

Natalie lowers her voice and leans in. “We have nothing to talk about."

“Is that true, though? Is it really?” He can’t resist flashing a toothy snarl at her. 

“Yes. I told you--"

“You told me you’d had a test run. And I believed you because… because I wanted to, honestly. For some insane reason, I didn’t want to risk ruining things with the Fishers. But now I see how stupid that was."

Natalie pauses. Again he sees that primitive flash in her expression.

“What the hell is going on?” she demands.

“Let’s just say I finally woke up. Those people made up their minds about me a long time ago, and rolling over and playing dead isn’t going to change that. Especially not if I have a kid out there--"

“You don’t!”

“See, I don’t know that. I took the word of a woman who had every reason to lie. But, really, if that kid is mine, I have no reason to protect Jason -- and I definitely have no reason to protect you."

“You’re insane,” she says.

“Probably. But I want answers. And I want them now."

“What the hell do you expect me to do about that?"

“Isn’t it obvious? We set up a paternity test. A real one."

“I already said I had one done,” she says through gritted teeth.

“And I already said I don’t trust a word out of your mouth,” he shoots back. “Look: if the test says Jason is the father, then I don’t give a shit if he knows we fucked. I know you guys weren’t technically together. But if it says Peter is mine--"

“Peter is not yours!"

“We’ll see.” He moves to the door, which has remained open, and has to put on the sunglasses again to combat the throbbing in his head. “I’m going to text you the name of a lab and a date and time to be there. Bring the baby, let them do the test, and that’s that. Got it?"

Natalie seems to be chewing on a rebuttal for several seconds before she says, “You’re a bastard, you know that?"

“I just want an answer. Can you really blame me for that?” He starts to walk down the steps from the porch but calls back over his shoulder: “Keep an eye on your phone."

He crosses over the driveway and hops back into his BMW. Natalie continues to watch him from the house. He revs the engine, and she closes the door. 

“We’ll see,” he says as he peels out of the driveway.


Will Tim be able to get through to Spencer?
What will the paternity test reveal?
Will Tempest accept Claire’s help with Yvette?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!



Saturday, October 29, 2016

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