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- After the paternity test seemed to show that he had a chromosomal abnormality, Spencer visited Loretta in prison to get answers about his medical history.
- While awaiting the verdict in her trial, Molly broke down and admitted to Conrad that it was Paula, not her, who shot Philip.
- Paula
finally remembered shooting Philip. Sarah locked her in a storage shed and enlisted Diane to keep her there until after the jury read its verdict. Paula tricked Diane into opening the door and then locked her in there!

Paula! Let me out of here!"

Diane Bishop pounds on the inside of the door of the storage shed that sits in the Fishers’ backyard, but she knows even before listening to the utter lack of response that Paula Fisher is long gone. She can’t believe that she was stupid enough to buy Paula’s guilt trip about how she and Bill accepted Diane into the family in spite of her various misdeeds, or that sappy appeal about how Diane would act if it were Samantha on trial for a shooting she had committed.

I got out-Diane’d by Paula Fisher, she thinks. How in the hell did that happen?

The cold from outside continues to penetrate the shed, and Diane shivers. She looks around at the neatly organized contents, with two rows of stacked plastic bins forming a narrow aisle. Maybe there’s something in here that she can use to bust her way out...

Then she remembers that she still has her cell phone in her coat pocket. Quickly she pulls it out and dials.

“You’re gonna kill me,” she mutters as she waits for an answer from the other end.
  Diane Bishop

KB District Courthouse

As the courtroom continues to fill up in anticipation of the jury’s verdict, the defendant and her sister huddle against one wall.

“Okay, I might have locked her in the shed in the backyard,” Sarah Fisher Gray says in a hushed voice. “But I didn’t have a choice. She was going to rush over here and tell the judge that she did it."

“She can’t do that.” Molly Taylor shakes her head. “Not after all we’ve done to protect her. Even if I wind up going to jail…” Her resolve only grows stronger as she draws a deep breath. “I did this for Mom. And for Dad and Ryan. We can’t let her undo it all now."

“I know,” Sarah agrees.

“Wait. You locked her in the shed? And Diane was fine letting that happen? Nevermind. Of course she was."

“It’s for her own good."

Lips pursed, Molly nods uncertainly. 

Suddenly, Sarah feels the telltale movement of her phone in the pocket of her short coat. She takes it out and, as expected, sees Diane’s name on the caller ID.

“It’s Diane,” she tells her sister, and a laser beam of mutual nervousness shoots between them. 

“What is it?” Sarah asks as she answers the call. “Everything okay?"

Molly watches intently as Sarah processes whatever Diane has to say.

Sarah’s eyes grow wide. “She what?"


After clamping the padlock shut on the shed’s door, Paula hurries inside and retrieves her cell phone from the living room -- where the Christmas decorations that she spent all morning putting up remain shining and proud, like some mockery of the normal life that her family had once upon a time -- and her keys from the bowl in the entryway. Without even bothering to take a coat, she rushes to her car, starts the engine, and backs out of the driveway.

Soon she is traveling along the all-too-familiar route to the courthouse. She has never been a particularly confident driver, and her knuckles turn white as she grips the steering wheel with all her might. The red lights leading out of King’s Bay residential district seem to last an eternity apiece. At one, while she is waiting for what feels like years to move through an intersection, the Christmas music playing on the radio is too much to take, and she jabs a finger at the dash to turn it off. The thoughts buzzing through her head are background noise enough for this trek. 

She still cannot believe that she is the one who shot Philip Ragan dead. The memory is clear as day now, so clear that it is nearly impossible to comprehend how her mind managed to block it for over a year. She winces every time the mental tape gets to the part where the bullet rips into Philip and he falls backward; it is so brutal, so visceral, that she wants to look away, but she can’t. That must be why her subconscious tried to protect her by blacking out and then burying the event. 

Nor can she believe what her daughters have done. Molly took responsibility for the shooting. Sarah assisted her in the cover-up. What about the security footage that the police found to be conveniently missing? Could her girls have somehow been behind that? She has so many questions.

“There will be plenty of time for questions later,” she says to herself as she takes her foot off the brake and continues on her path to the courthouse. A pin-sized drop of rain hits her windshield, and an instant later, so does another. Paula holds onto the wheel even tighter as she keeps driving.


In the visiting area of Carroll County Jail in New Hampshire, Spencer Ragan sits on one side of a plexiglass divider, holding a phone receiver to his ear as he speaks with the woman who raised him.

Through the glass, Loretta Ragan looks at him with pleading eyes as she leans forward. “Spencer, if something is going on, I want to know. I can help you. Now what is this bloodwork all about?"

He hesitates. A child’s scream from somewhere behind him manages to puncture the steady cloud of conversation that fills the space. 

“I can help you,” Loretta says. “If you have concerns about  your health…"

“It isn’t my health,” he says. 

“You just said it was something to do with your chromosomes. Let me help you."

He stares back at her through the divider. He never expected to be here this close to Christmas this year, not after the way he has grown progressively closer to the Fishers and more disgusted with the lies that shaped his upbringing. But finding out that Tim and Claire suspected him of being the Footprint Killer rattled him, and he cannot shake the thought that he might be just like James, Loretta, and Philip, even if his relationships to them aren’t the ones that he was raised thinking they were. How could one person out of four escape that fate? 
  Spencer Ragan

“I don’t want to wind up like you,” he says, barely aware that he has spoken the words aloud until he sees Loretta reacting to them.

Something dangerous glints in her eyes, but when she finally speaks, her voice is softer than he expects it to be.

“I don’t want that for you, either. Every parent wants his or her child to have a better life than they’ve had. Your father and I did our very best to hold our family together, but we made mistakes along the way. Truth be told, we found ourselves in over our heads because of the things we felt we had to do. Your father paid with his life. And this is how I have to pay.” She gestures around at their dull, grimy surroundings. “But you do not have to wind up this way. You won’t."

Spencer swallows hard. Maybe she can help him. If there’s anyone who has the connections to figure out what happened with that blood test, it’s probably Loretta, even if she is behind bars an entire country away. Hell, she managed to apply enough pressure to have Molly arrested for Philip’s shooting.

“Tell me what’s going on,” she says. “Let me help."

He takes in her tired, make-up free face, her once-shining red hair that has dulled to a more natural brown. Sometimes it is difficult for him to align this woman with the memory of the woman who raised him, the woman who was always done up to the nines. 

And then he thinks of baby Peter. The test said that Spencer is not his father. But it also said that Spencer has two X chromosomes. Something is awry. And if there is a chance that that baby could be his...

He looks at Loretta again. He doesn’t want to wind up like her. And he cannot fathom subjecting any son or daughter of his to her poison. 

“There was never anything you saw that said I have two X chromosomes, was there?” he asks.

Loretta’s face crinkles with confusion, and then a soft laugh trills out of her throat. “No. Absolutely not. That’s something we would have known. Your father had extensive tests done when you first came to us."

Came to us. The phrase echoes in his head. He feels his fingers tightening around the phone receiver as the words replay. Came to us. What a joke. 

When we kidnapped you.

“Thanks,” he says. “It was just bloodwork.” He begins to stand.

“Spencer! What is going on? Where are you going?"

“It was just bloodwork,” he repeats. “Merry Christmas.” With that, he rises and hangs up the receiver. Loretta gawks at him as he walks away, but he never looks back.


Adrenaline pumps through Sarah’s veins as she waits at the entrance to the courthouse. She has stationed herself just inside the main doors, not wanting to subject herself to the media outside. The pavement of the parking lot is now darkened with rain, and she watches carefully for every pair of headlights that approach the lot’s entrance. 

Finally, she sees her mother’s sedan pulling in. The car moves abruptly through the rows until it lands -- crookedly -- in a spot not too far from the entrance. Paula gets out and, shielding herself from the rain with one arm, moves briskly toward the courthouse.

“Mrs. Fisher!” one of the reporters yells. Sarah can faintly hear the uproar through the glass. Normally she would want to help her mother, but right now, she is grateful for any delay the members of the press can inflict upon Paula.

Unfortunately, it isn’t too long before Paula has made her way up the front steps. As she approaches the door, she spots Sarah through the glass. 

Paula whips open the door. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” Sarah asks.

“Something I wish I’d been able to do a long time ago,” Paula says. “Saving my daughter.” She proceeds to the security checkpoint and instinctively places her purse and keys in the bin. 

Sarah grabs her by the shoulders before she can go through the metal detector.

“Let me go!” Paula says.

The security guard, a middle-aged guy with a clean-shaven head, has been watching them curiously this entire time, but now he steps forward. 

“Ma’am, what’s this all about?” he asks, though it isn’t clear which woman he is addressing.

“You can’t let this woman into Courtroom D,” Sarah says. “You can’t."


Inside Courtroom D, Judge Ricardo Sandoval takes his post, and those assembled follow suit and sit. 

“I’d like to thank everyone for reconvening on such short notice,” he says. “Given the time of year, I feel it’s best if we’re able to move things along as quickly as possible so that people can attend to family commitments."

In the gallery, Tim Fisher leans over to his younger brother.

“Where did Sarah go?” he whispers.

Jason glances around, but there is no sign of their sister. “I have no clue. Whatever she and Molly were talking about seemed intense."

“Bailiff, would you please bring the jury in?” Judge Sandoval says.

The bailiff opens a door, and a moment later, the twelve familiar faces are filing back into the jury box. 

At the defense table, Molly does her best to keep breathing, but the knot in her chest makes that nearly impossible. These twelve people are about to announce her fate and define the rest of her life. And there’s nothing she can do to change their minds now.


“I’m the defendant’s mother!” Paula tells the security guard. “I’ve been here every day of her trial. They’re about to read the verdict--"

“She’s going to disrupt the trial,” Sarah counters. 
The guard looks between the two of them, unsure what is going on, let alone whom he should believe. 

“This woman has been stalking me!” Paula blurts out. “She’s obsessed with me, and she’s obsessed with my daughter! Please, just let me in so that I can be there when the verdict is read."

“I’m your daughter!” Sarah says. 

After a moment of hesitation, the guard flags Paula through the metal detector. She passes without a beep going off.
  Sarah Fisher Gray

“Thank you,” she says as she scrambles to gather her things.

Sarah tosses her phone and keys into another of the small plastic bins and starts to move through the detector. The guard eyes her warily and then holds up his palm.

“We’re gonna have to pat you down, ma’am,” he says. “Let me get a female guard to help."

“I don’t have anything on me!” Sarah insists, turning her pockets inside-out as she watches Paula scurry down the corridor toward Courtroom D.


“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Judge Sandoval asks, “have you reached a verdict?"

The jury foreperson, a mousy woman with wisps of gray sprinkled over her black hair, stands. 

“Yes, Your Honor. We have."

The judge nods. “Please go ahead and read your verdict."

The foreperson opens the envelope with shaky fingers.

Molly’s entire body tenses even more, which she didn’t think was possible. Conrad turns to her and offers a reassuring look.

“On the charge of second-degree murder,” the foreperson reads, “the jury finds the defen--"

“Stop this!” a voice calls from the back of the room.

All heads pivot to see Paula standing there, breathless and flushed. 

“Mrs. Fisher?” the judge says. “What is the meaning of this?"

“You have to stop,” Paula says as she stalks up the aisle toward the front of the courtroom. “Molly didn’t shoot Philip."

Confused murmurs fill the room. 

“What are you talking about?” the judge asks.

The door flies open again. Sarah comes barreling in. 

“Don’t listen to her!” she exclaims.

Paula regards her daughter for a split-second and then turns back toward the judge.

“Molly didn’t shoot Philip,” she announces. “I did."


How will the judge decide to proceed?
What would the jury’s verdict have been?
Was Spencer wise not to confide in Loretta? 
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!



Thurs., December 22, 2016

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