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Spencer demanded that Natalie submit Peter to a paternity test. Natalie swiped Samantha’s fork and spoon from a dinner party.
- Sarah turned the tables on Zane Tanaka, the blackmailer, and convinced him to destroy the security footage that showed Paula, not Molly, shooting Philip.

- During Molly’s trial, the District Attorney attempted to discredit Tori as a witness by suggesting that she’d lied about why she went to see Philip the night he attacked her.

Raindrops patter against the kitchen window as Jason Fisher fills his favorite mug with coffee. It is a white mug with the word “DAD” and a blob resembling a heart decorating it, all crafted with the uneven execution of a young, painting finger. Every time he uses it, he remembers how heartwarming it was when Sophie came home from kindergarten with it, how he recalled having made similar presents for his parents when he was young and how this gift reminded him what a position of reverence his daughter has always put him in, just as he did his own parents. 

It almost helps him not be irritated by the sound of her shouting down the hall.

“Girls, you’d better be dressed for school!” he calls out.

“They are,” Natalie Bishop says as she enters the kitchen, a trenchcoat cinched around her waist and their infant son on her hip. “I just had to step over them to get here."

“Small victories, huh?” Jason takes a sip of coffee and takes in Natalie’s appearance. “Are you going out?"

She pauses as she sets her purse on the counter. “I thought I told you. I’m taking Peter to that Mommy & Me class today. At the community center."

Jason racks his brain for a few seconds. “I’m sure you did. Ever since Molly’s trial began, things go in one ear and out the other."

“I don’t blame you. You’re sure you’re okay taking the girls to school before you go to the courthouse?"
  Jason Fisher

“Yeah. Of course. It’ll be good for you two to check out that class."

Natalie smiles. “I just hope he loves it."

“He will.” Jason reaches out a finger and pokes Peter on the nose. “You’re gonna have fun, aren’t you?"

“Mom!” Bree shouts as she comes running into the kitchen, Sophie on her heels. “I need you to sign my permission slip!"

“Why didn’t you show this to me last night?” Natalie asks.

Bree shrugs as she holds out the paper. Jason takes the baby from her so that she can sign it. 

“Do you have a pen?” Natalie asks Jason.

“Here,” Bree says, digging into her mother’s purse. She quickly produces a pen and then returns her attention to the contents of the bag. “Do you have any of those mints?"

Natalie freezes, the pen hovering over the form. “How many times have I told you not to go through my purse?"

Bree steps back, cowed, but she also has something in her hand. “Why do you have a fork and a spoon in your purse?"

Jason watches in confusion as the preteen pulls out a plastic baggie with two pieces of silverware in it. 

“That is sort of weird,” he says. 

“Yeah,” Sophie pipes in. “Don’t you need a knife?"

Jason laughs. “I don’t know if that’s the weird part."

“I swear, sometimes I still have pregnancy brain,” Natalie explains. “I was out getting lunch the other day, and I had the baby with me, and he woke up and started crying. I was in such a rush to get out of there that I stuck my fork and spoon in my pocket. I don’t even know. I want to bring them back."

“I’m sure they won’t notice two missing pieces,” Jason says, “but that’s nice of you."

Natalie quickly signs the permission slip and slides it back over to Bree. She takes the baby back from Jason.

“Okay, we need to get going so we aren’t late,” she says. “Girls, go get your backpacks ready so Jason can get you to school."

Bree and Sophie run out of the room without acknowledging that they’ve actually heard her.

“Good luck,” Natalie says as she gives Jason a quick kiss on the lips. “We’ll check in later."

“Don’t let Peter text. He’s awful at it."

Natalie chuckles. “Well, he needs the practice! I hope everything goes all right in court."

“Me, too,” Jason says, picking up his coffee and taking a solemn sip as he watches Natalie leave.

KB District Courthouse

“For its next witness, the defense calls Sarah Fisher Gray to the stand."

Sarah takes a deep breath and makes her way to the stand. She has testified in plenty of court cases over the years, first as a police officer and then as a private investigator. Still, this one feels different; her chest is tight and her breathing is shallow as she is sworn in by the bailiff. She sits and waits for Conrad Halston to begin his questioning. 

“Ms. Fisher Gray, would you identify yourself for the court?"

“I’m Molly Taylor’s sister,” she says. 

“And what is your profession?"

“I’m currently a private investigator. I was an officer and then a detective with the King’s Bay Police Department for three years earlier in my career before transitioning to the private sector.” 

“As we’ve heard from other witnesses, you were on the balcony at the time Philip Ragan was shot,” Conrad says. “Would you walk us through that experience?"

Sarah nods and steels herself. She looks out at the audience, where her mother’s face is tight with concern. Seated beside her is Matt, who gives Sarah the faintest smile as a means of encouragement. It breaks her heart to think of him ever finding out that she has come up here to present a false story, though she would like to believe that he’d understand why she has to do it. Sometimes she wishes that she could just be the straightforward, principled person that he believes her to be -- but, as she has learned, life doesn’t always work that way. 

“After we found out that my father had been found strangled, I went to find Molly,” she says. “She was out on the balcony with Philip. When I went out there, I told them about Dad, and-- I already knew that Philip had been alone in the hospital room with him. And Philip must’ve realized that I knew, because he slid around and blocked the door so we couldn’t go back inside."

“Did you at any point make it clear to Philip that you suspected he’d killed your father?"

“Yes.” Feelings surge up within her as she recalls how overwhelming and surreal that day was. “Once he was trying to block us from going back inside, I figured we had nothing to lose. But then he pulled out a gun and held it on us."

“Did he indicate that he was going to shoot you?"

“He did. I specifically remember him saying that if Molly didn’t quietly leave with him -- if I didn’t let them leave without alerting the police -- then we would both die."

“So Philip Ragan verbally threatened to kill you and Molly while holding a gun on you,” Conrad says, touching his chin as if in thought. “What happened next?"

Sarah draws another deep breath. She gazes out and sees every eyeball in the courtroom trained upon her. She sees how terrified Paula looks -- for her daughters, no doubt, but Sarah can only imagine how much more scared her mother would be if she knew that she was the one who shot Philip, largely unprovoked. If the judge and the jury knew that.

She has to do this. 

“We tried to negotiate with him,” Sarah says. “I told Molly that she should go with him. I was trying to figure out how to make him think I was playing along and then stop him before he could get away with Molly. But before anyone could leave, my mother came out onto the balcony."

“Where was the gun at this point?"

“He was still holding it. On us. He hadn’t backed down from the threat to shoot us. That’s why I was telling Molly to go."

“Okay. So your mother, Paula, came out onto the balcony. Why?"

“She’d just been told that my father -- our father -- had died. The doctors hadn’t been able to revive him.” She hesitates, surprised by the sudden appearance of a lump in her throat; nearly a year after Bill’s murder, she thought she’d be able to get through this testimony without getting choked up, but her emotions have other ideas. 

“It’s all right,” Conrad says softly. “Take your time."

Sarah knots her fingers together and continues. “Our mother was hysterical. The way she rushed out, she pushed the door into Philip. It was enough to knock him off-balance. I saw an opening and I kicked him -- I knocked the gun out of his hands."

She watches the jury, listening with rapt attention. 

Bring this home, Sarah, her mind whispers. You can do this.

“Where did the gun go?” Conrad asks. 

“It fell to the ground. It’s all sort of a blur, but I remember Philip grabbing me. He pulled me toward the railing. He said he would throw me over if Molly didn’t go with him."

“Did you believe that he would really do that?"

“After he strangled our father and said that he would shoot both Molly and me? Yes. Completely.” Her adrenaline is pumping now, helping her keep this up. “And then our mother fainted. One of us had yelled out that Philip killed Dad -- I don’t remember if it was Molly or me, sorry--"

“That’s all right. Your mother fainted, and then what…?"

“I saw Molly holding the gun. I didn’t really see her pick it up, because Philip had yanked me away, but I remember her holding it very clearly."

“And what were you thinking in that moment?"

Sarah squeezes her eyes shut. She can picture what actually happened so vividly -- the same scene depicted, from a strangely neutral, silent distance, on that recording that Tanaka has -- and has to force it aside so that her mind’s eye can roll the scene that she and Molly have scripted together.

“I was relieved that Molly had the gun,” she says. “I thought it might be our ticket to getting off that balcony alive. And also scared, because I don’t think my sister had ever held a gun before -- certainly never fired one."

“And then?"

“Philip seemed shocked. He told Molly to put it down and leave with him. If she didn’t, he’d toss me over the railing."

“What did Molly do?"

“She just kept holding the gun there. I could see her shaking. I knew we had to do something -- Philip had his arms around me, and I couldn’t get away -- so I yelled for her to shoot. I knew there was a chance she’d hit me, but at that point, I knew it was our only chance."

“Was that when Molly fired the bullet that hit Philip?"

“Yes. I heard the shot, and I felt Philip’s grip on me loosen all of a sudden. And then he fell to the ground."

Again she glances at the jury. She has been around enough juries to know when they are buying something, when their sympathy has been triggered, and that definitely appears to be the case here. 

“Tell us what happened next," Conrad prompts her.

“Truthfully, it’s all a blur, but Philip fell, and Molly was-- I don’t know, she seemed like she was in shock, so I just broke away and ran inside to get help. I think Molly dropped the gun. But I thought this was our chance to get to safety, and we were at a hospital, so I could get someone to help Philip before the damage was irreversible."

“You didn’t believe Philip was dead at that point?"

“He wasn’t,” Sarah says. “His eyes were open, and he was making noises. Frankly, I wanted them to save his life so that he could be brought to justice for what he’d done -- to the five people he killed and to my daughter, who was still in a coma at that time."

Conrad asks a few more questions to round out her testimony, and Sarah answers them exactly as prepared, but her brain keeps drifting off to deal with other matters -- like the fact that, no matter why she did it, she just violated her code of professional ethics in a major way, and there is a tape out there proving that she did so. She can never take that back. 


Inside the clinic, Natalie sits patiently in an exam room with Peter in her lap. Her heart thuds inside her chest as adrenaline shoots through her body. She can’t wait for this to be over.

“Right in here,” she hears a woman say as the door to the room is opened. A nurse in blue scrubs holds it open for Spencer Ragan, who steps inside and looks at Natalie with surprise.

“Someone will be in shortly,” the nurse says. The door closes behind her.

“What are you doing here?” Spencer asks. His hair and face are slightly wet from outside, and his army green anorak jacket is dotted with raindrops. 

“You didn’t give me much choice."

“I mean early. What are you up to?"

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Natalie says. “I wasn’t going to risk being late, the way you’re acting. Do you want us here or not?"
  Natalie Bishop

“I don’t know if want is the right word, but sure.” Spencer slips off his jacket, revealing a black cashmere sweater. 

She watches him eyeing Peter. The way he looks at the baby, he might as well be looking at a set of scrolls written in an ancient language. He appears slightly intrigued and very perplexed.

There’s no way he could raise a baby, she thinks. Or that he’d even want to, once he calms down.

The door opens again, and a different nurse in the same blue scrubs enters. 

“Hi, I’m Tasha,” she says. Spencer introduces himself briskly and shakes her hand.

“And I’m Natalie.” They shake as well. “This is Peter." Tasha plays with the baby’s tiny fingers for a few seconds, eliciting a smile and a gurgle. 

“So what do you do? You just swab him, right?” Natalie asks. 

“Yes, it’s all very safe. He won’t even notice."

Natalie glances toward Spencer as she says, “Then let’s get this over with."


Sarah’s entire being clenches as the District Attorney, Audrey Tam, rises from her seat to begin the cross-examination.

“Mrs. Gray, what is the nature of your relationship with your sister?” Tam asks.

Sarah’s response has a few false starts before she finally manages some words: “She’s my sister. We’ve had our ups and downs in the past."

In the audience, Brent leans over to Tim, who is seated beside him. “I had a bad feeling they were going to go for this,” he whispers. 

Tim nods gravely. “There’s really no getting around it. But Molly has nothing without Sarah’s testimony."

“You and your sister have both been married to the same man. Is that correct?” Tam says. “Brent Taylor?"

“Yes,” Sarah says flatly.

“She needs to not start acting cold,” Brent says quietly to Tim. “It’ll make her seem unlikable to the jury."

“The D.A. knows exactly what she’s doing,” Tim adds.

“I would say that’s rather unusual,” Tam says as she paces in front of the prosecution’s table. “You were married to Mr. Taylor first, correct?"

“I was."

“And then he married your sister?"

Sarah pauses for a calming breath, though its effectiveness is dubious. “We got divorced. Several years later, he married my sister. It’s unusual, but it is what it is."
  Sarah Fisher Gray

At the defense table, Molly cringes. Conrad warned them that this might come up, and she has tried to prepare herself, but she still wasn’t ready to have this part of her life picked apart and put on display for the jury -- and the public. 

“Was your divorce from Mr. Taylor amicable?” the D.A. asks.

“We both agreed that our marriage wasn’t working,” Sarah says. 

“Was he involved with your sister prior to that divorce?"

“Objection!” Conrad says as he bolts out of his chair. “This is beyond the scope--"

“It is not,” Tam says firmly. “This line of questioning relates directly to the relationship between the only two individuals able to testify to the circumstances of the shooting that the defendant is charged with. And since the victim was her fiancé, it’s only reasonable to discuss her marital history.” 

“I’ll allow it,” Judge Ricardo Sandoval says. 

Conrad sits back down and allows a fraction of his annoyance to show.

“I’m sorry,” he says to Molly. “I tried."

“I know."

“Mrs. Gray, to the best of your knowledge, was your ex-husband involved with your sister prior to the end of your marriage?” the D.A. asks.

“No.” Sarah shakes her head for emphasis. “I’m sure there were feelings there, but-- no. Not that I know of. Actually…” She swallows hard. “The marriage ended because I was unfaithful. I had an affair with the man who’s now my husband. Brent was committed to our marriage until he found out about my infidelity."

She offers a meaningful look in Molly’s direction. Molly can hardly believe what she is hearing. She never would’ve expected her sister to put their issues aside to this degree and sacrifice herself publicly for her. 

“Oh, Sarah,” Paula says softly. 

“She’s doing what she has to do,” Matt says, though he cannot take his eyes off his wife. “That’s why I married her. Again."

Paula lets out the tiniest laugh as the D.A. attempts to gather her bearings.

“No further questions,” she finally says. 


Once the swabs are taken from both Peter and Spencer, the nurse labels and stores them.

“How long will it be before the results are ready?” Spencer asks.

Nurse Tasha consults a chart for a moment. “You’ll be getting a call in 10 to 14 days."

“What?! How can it take that long?"

“It’s a DNA test, not a Big Mac,” Natalie interjects. 

“We have a continuous backlog of tests to run,” the nurse says patiently. “And many of those take priority because they’re court-mandated."

“I’ll pay extra,” Spencer says.

“I’m afraid that won’t matter. We’ll process your test in 10 to 14 days and be in touch."

Before Spencer can continue arguing, the nurse exits the room.

“What does it matter if it takes a few extra days?” Natalie says as she begins gathering her things. 

“I’m sure you’d love for this to drag out for as long as possible, so you can keep living in denial,” Spencer says. “You can have your Thanksgiving with Jason and the family and pretend like nothing is wrong."

“Nothing is wrong. I told you, I already had a test run. Jason is Peter’s father. So yeah, I do want this over with. But we can’t control this part of it."

“Whatever.” He moves for the door.

“They’re your family, too,” Natalie says.

Hand on the doorknob, Spencer pauses. “Not really. Not anymore."

“What is going on with you?"

“Let’s just say I’ve had my eyes opened. And if this goes the way I’m expecting, Jason will, too."

He pulls open the door and walks out. Natalie remains sitting, the baby in her lap, as she listens to the door close, sealing them in this silent, still room. She thinks back to when she arrived at the clinic 30 minutes ahead of schedule...

“Excuse me,” she says to the nurse as she sets down her purse in the exam room. “Could I ask you a favor?"

The nurse turns. “Of course."

“My ex-boyfriend is coming to take a DNA test to find out if he’s my son’s father, and… well, I just don’t trust him. He’ll do anything he can to avoid taking responsibility.” She reaches into her purse and pulls out the plastic baggie containing the fork and spoon. “Could you please run the test using these for his sample instead?"

“I can assure you that our documentation and chain of custody for all our samples are held to the strictest of standards,” the nurse says, eyeing the baggie like it might be a stick of dynamite. “There would be no way for him to manipulate the results."

“He’s done it before.” Natalie sees the nurse about to ask a follow-up question and cuts her off. “I scheduled this test so that he wouldn’t be able to pull any kinds of tricks. Even if you swab him or take blood -- he’s liable to come up with some way to tamper with the sample. Please just run the test for me using these. I took them from his apartment."


“Ms. Bishop.” She reads the woman’s nametag. “Tasha, I’m not asking for anything unethical. If I brought in these items to run the test, your lab would regard that as normal, right?"

“That’s true…"

“So let’s just do it that way. We can go through the motions of taking a sample from my ex so that he doesn’t know I’m onto him.” Natalie hesitates and puts on her best pleading face. “Please, help me here. I’m desperate."

Natalie turns Peter around on her lap so that they are face-to-face. 

“This has to work,” she says. “Otherwise everything could be ruined."


Will Natalie get away with her scheme?
Will Sarah’s testimony help Molly’s case?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!



Monday, November 21, 2016

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