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- After the DNA test on baby Peter -- which Natalie had secretly tampered with -- suggested that Spencer had two X chromosomes, he fled King’s Bay to go visit Loretta, who swore there were no biological abnormalities in his medical history.
- Tori got to know Zane, who unbeknownst to her was the man who had been blackmailing Sarah and Molly with the video of Philip’s shooting.
- Paula
remembered shooting Philip and interrupted Molly’s trial to take the blame. The District Attorney vowed to bring charges against her, as well as against Molly and Sarah for their roles in covering up the crime.

Thaw Coffee & Tea

As Tori Gray steps inside Thaw Coffee & Tea, the sleek, white-and-ice-blue interior is a sharp contrast from the muted, rainy day outside. She folds up her umbrella and is about to set out for the counter when she sees who is behind the register. 

“Ugh,” she says below her breath. She has nothing against Sabrina Gage, really, but the other woman is a reminder of that embarrassing period when Tori was chasing after Philip Ragan and saw his assistant as a threat of some kind. Thinking of Sabrina at all, let alone seeing her in the flesh, sends a hot rush of shame through Tori’s body. If she had recalled that Sabrina was working here now, she would’ve kept going down the road until she hit the Starbucks. 

Before she knows it, Sabrina has spotted her, too. They hold eye contact for just a moment, but it is enough for Tori to know that she can’t just back out the door like a total weirdo. So she takes a deep breath and walks up to the register. 

“Hi,” Sabrina says. “Tori, right? How are you?"

“I’m good. Thanks.” Tori busies herself by taking her wallet out of her purse. “How are you?"

Sabrina flashes a toothy smile. “Really good. I hope your holidays were good. I mean, I know things must be tough for your family, but--"

“They were okay. Really."

Chastened by the abruptness of Tori’s words, Sabrina nods. 

“What can I get for you?” she asks.

“Nonfat cinnamon latte. Please.” Tori hands over her debit card, and Sabrina swipes it in silence. She hands it back, and Tori is about to place it back in her wallet when she pauses.

“This is weird for me,” she says. “Sorry. I’m sure you’ve read all the news…"

“Yeah. I’m sorry for what you had to go through. It’s scary."

“I’m okay now. And you were with him every day -- that’s scary."

Sabrina shudders. “I know. But I got lucky. I’m glad you’re okay."


Their eyes meet again, this time in a quiet moment of mutual understanding.

“Your drink will be ready at the end of the bar,” Sabrina says.

“Cool. Uh, have a nice day."

“You, too."

Tori moves off to wait, relieved that an encounter she was dreading turned out not to be so bad after all. Maybe it really will get easier to process what happened with Philip as time goes on. 

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” comes a male voice from behind her.

She turns to see Zane Tanaka standing there, wearing a dark green military jacket, with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. 

“Huh?” she asks after realizing she’s probably been staring at him with her mouth open for way too long. 

Casablanca?” He waits for her to respond and then finally continues himself. “Funny running into you here, that’s all. I thought this might turn into one of those things where we just trade ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’ texts and then never talk again."

Dammit, Tori thinks as she stares at his dimples. Why does he have to be so hot? 

“Sorry about that,” she says. “I’ve been… there’s been a lot going on."

“Okay. I was kinda hoping I’d see more of you, that’s all."

She feels herself blushing. She really hasn’t wanted to avoid him, but everything has been so damn complicated. Looking at him right now, though, she wants to do anything but avoid him.

“Do you have a few minutes to sit and talk?” she asks. 

“Yeah. Sure."

“Cool. Because there’s been some stuff going on, and I guess it’s time I told you-- You’re probably going to run out of here screaming, but--"

“Tori, it’s okay.” He places a hand on her forearm. “I know. I know everything."


Four cups of coffee and a plate of untouched muffins rest on the dining room table of the Fisher home. Three Fisher women, anxiety radiating from their pores, wait as Conrad Halston flips through a file before setting it in front of himself. 

“The good news, as I said, is that the D.A.’s office is willing to play ball,” he says. “Sarah, they’ve agreed to limit the charge against you to false swearing."

Immediately Sarah lets out a heavy sigh of relief.

“What does that mean?” Paula asks.

“It’s a lesser charge than perjury,” Conrad explains. “A misdemeanor."

Sarah leans in, her elbows against the edge of the table. “And what are they talking for a sentence? I know it can be up to a year in prison--"

“Prison is off the table."
  Conrad Halston

Paula clasps her hands together. “Oh, thank goodness!"

“They are asking for the maximum $5,000 fine,” he says, “and a year of probation -- as a tradeoff for not going after the obstruction of justice charge."

“I can do the fine,” Sarah says. “And probation. This is all great. Thank you, Conrad."

His expression tightens. “That isn’t all. If you violate your probation--"

“I won’t."

If you were to violate your probation, you’d be stripped of your P.I. license."

Sarah inhales sharply, and her response comes slowly. “Oh. Wow."

“Well, she certainly won’t do anything to violate it,” Paula says. “Will you, dear?"

“No. I’ll be fine. Thanks, Conrad."

With a solemn nod, he flips the page. “Molly, as for you… I wasn’t able to get them down to the false swearing charge. They’re insisting on second-degree perjury."

“Okay,” Molly says as she wraps her palms around her mug of coffee, the steam still wafting off its surface. “And that means…"

“It’s a class-C felony."

That fact lands like a lead balloon in the center of the table.

“You’ll still be allowed to sit on the board of your company,” he says. “Frankly, there aren’t a lot of detriments to someone of your standing being a convicted felon -- you aren’t applying for jobs, for example. And in comparison to a second-degree murder conviction…"

Molly nods hurriedly, though she is clearly shaken. “Yeah. Of course."

“They’re also requesting a year of probation and payment of a $5,000 fine,” Conrad adds. “Neither of which I foresee being an issue. Correct?"

“Correct. Yeah. Thank you."

“Excellent.” Again he flips the page. This time, his gaze lands upon Paula. “And Paula…"

A nervous look passes among the three women. 

“I’ve gotten them down to second-degree manslaughter, which is a class-B felony,” Conrad continues.

“That’s good,” Sarah says. “It frames it a lot more as an accident."

“Yes. That was an important downgrade,” he says.

Paula sets her coffee down on the table, but one shaky finger lingers on the handle. “What does this all mean? What will happen to me?"

“That’s the difficult part,” Conrad says, his words more hesitant now. “They’re insisting upon a year of prison time."

322 Bar & Grill

Samantha Fisher sits in a booth at 322 Bar & Grill, picking at a plate of French fries and listening to the Twenty One Pilots song playing over the restaurant’s sound system. On the table sits a square box wrapped in festive red wrapping with green cartoon Christmas trees printed over it. 

As time goes by, one song bleeds into another, her iced tea grows lower in the glass, and the present sitting beside her begins to feel more foolish. She moves it from the table to the booth beside her. It was silly to do this, she reasons, as once again she looks to the door, only to find total strangers coming through it. 

When the waitress comes by with the pitcher of iced tea, however, Samantha agrees to a refill, and she begins sipping on the fresh glass, even as her brain and her heart adjust to the reality that this is a fool’s errand. 

But then it happens. The door opens, and her brother actually walks in. She nearly chokes on the iced tea and then reminds herself not to look so concerned. She casually checks her phone, but the only information on the screen is the time, which tells her that it is 23 minutes later than their planned meeting time.

“Sorry I’m late,” Spencer Ragan says when he arrives at the table. That’s all. No explanation, no excuse, nothing. Just a not-very-passionate apology. 

“Thanks for coming,” Samantha says. It’s better than nothing, and it isn’t as if she has his address so that she could turn up at his new house unannounced. 

“Yeah. What’s up?"

“I wanted to give you this.” She picks up the box and hands it over.

Spencer appears genuinely taken aback. “You didn’t have to do this. I’m sorry. I didn’t get you anything…"

“You didn’t have to. You’re my brother. I wanted to get you something, that’s all.” She motions toward the box. “You can open it."

He begins unwrapping the package, but the waitress stops by to ask for his drink order. He places an order for a bloody Mary and then continues. Samantha watches eagerly, but she realizes that she is half-dreading whatever putdown he will have for the gift. 

Spencer pulls the wrapping away from the black box. “Is this…?"

“It’s an iPhone speaker for the shower,” she says. “I know you’re always playing music, so this way you can actually hear it in there. It’s Bluetooth--"

“It’s awesome. Seriously. Thank you.” He sets down the box and, for the first time since he walked in, really focuses on her. “That wasn’t necessary, but it’s really nice of you."

“I felt strange not having any contact with you over the holidays. I know we aren’t close, but…” She trails off and has to gather her thoughts. “What did you do for Christmas?"

“I went skiing. Hit Sugarloaf in Maine and then Aspen. I had old friends from boarding school in both places, so it was cool."

“Okay. Good. I’m glad you… you had people to be with. We all missed you."

As if she had just turned a blowtorch on him, Spencer jerks backward.

“So that’s what this is about,” he says. “They sent you to trick me back into the family fold, huh? I’ll tell you what: it’s not going to work."


Tori feels her stomach drop to her feet. “You what?"

“I’ve seen the news,” Zane explains. “That story is all over the TV and the internet."

She lets out a slow, heavy sigh. “Yeah. So you know…"

“That your--” He glances around to be sure no one is listening in and then lowers his voice. “Your aunt was on trial for murder, but your grandma confessed, so now they’re both in trouble. Yeah, I know."

She swallows hard. “That’s not all."

Zane cocks his head.

“Nonfat cinnamon latte!” the barista calls. Grateful for the momentary reprieve, Tori steps over to grab her drink, but then she has it and she has to face reality again.
  Zane Tanaka

“Did you read about me testifying?” she asks.

“Yeah. I saw. They said you…”

“I wasn’t having an affair with him. Or anything. He was engaged to my aunt. My cousin lived with him. That’s it.” In spite of what she confessed to Molly before the holidays, it’s close enough to the truth, and she isn’t going to ruin a promising new thing by making herself look like as big of an idiot as she was a year ago. Because she isn’t that way now. 

Zane simply shrugs. “If you say you weren’t, you weren’t. I believe you."


“Really. Besides, I’m not exactly an angel."

She lifts an eyebrow. “Tell me more."

“You’ll find out in good time. What are you up to after this?"

“Actually…” Tori checks the time on her phone. “I’m supposed to babysit my little brother this afternoon. I had class this morning--"

“Would you want company?"


“Yeah. I could grab a coffee and come hang with you.” A smirk crosses his face, causing his left dimple to dip in again. “Is that weird?"

She thinks it over for a split-second. “No. It’s fun. I’d love company."

“Great. I’ll get that coffee and we can split."

“That sounds good.” Tori watches as he walks to the register, unable to keep a smile off her face and a fluttery feeling out of her chest.


Paula turns ashen as she slowly moves a hand to her quivering stomach. 

“This is why I--” Molly cuts herself off and turns to Conrad. “She can’t go to prison."

“Hence why we aren’t taking the deal,” he says. 

“Good,” Molly says. 

Paula stares down at the table for a good, long moment. 

“Mom, are you okay?” Sarah asks.

When Paula finally looks up, she is shaky, her eyes wide and her mouth half-open. 

“What else can we do?” she says. “You’ve already done so much to bring the charges down. If they want me to go to prison…"

“You are not going to prison,” Sarah says firmly.
  Paula Fisher

“We didn’t do all this so that it would wind up like that for you,” Molly concurs. “There are other ways.” Her gaze again shifts sideways toward Conrad. “Right?"

He hesitates before nodding. “Yes. There are other things I can suggest. Other bargaining chips. Community service, probation…"

“I’ll do anything,” Paula says. “I can’t spend a year in prison. I can’t."

“We aren’t going to let that happen,” Molly says. 

Paula draws a deep breath. “I think I need to use the restroom."

“Go. Take your time,” Sarah tells her. 

The others sit quietly as the older woman goes into the short hallway off the dining room. 

“Do you really think there’s a chance the D.A. will go for no jail time?” Molly asks in a hushed voice once the bathroom door closes. “It’s still manslaughter."

Conrad’s brow furrows. “I have to try. If we had a video of the shooting, maybe the judge would see that--"

“But we don’t,” Sarah says flatly. “We don’t have one. So we have to figure this out."

“Conrad, I’m sorry I put you in this position in the first place,” Molly says. “If you’d been able to defend Mom from the outset…"

“There’s no telling how this would have gone. That D.A. is out for blood because she wants a high-profile conviction. It’s absurd.” He slaps a hand down on the table. “No, your mother is going to be fine. Because the thing is: I don’t lose."


“No,” Samantha says, surprised by how irritated she is at Spencer’s reaction. “No one sent me."

“So you get me to meet you and you have this present, and you’re full of Christmas cheer, and I’m supposed to feel bad that I missed the big Fisher Christmas?"

Samantha drops the French fry she is holding back onto the plate. “I don’t have to do this. I wanted to see you because you’re my brother. I was respecting your space by asking to meet someplace neutral rather than at your house. But if you don’t want to see me, you don’t want to see me. Enjoy your speaker."

She clumsily pulls a 20-dollar bill from her wallet, sets it on the table, and is scooting out of the booth and grabbing her coat when Spencer finally speaks again.

“Wait,” he says. She can tell from his expression that he is racking his brain, that he has no idea what he is supposed to say. 

“All I wanted to do was wish you a merry Christmas and see that you’re okay,” she says.

He sets his jaw. “Okay. Sorry. I’m a little-- I really don’t feel like I can trust Tim and Claire right now. And no one can force me to."

“No one should. You can do whatever you want. You could’ve refused to meet me today if you wanted to."

He hesitates, then lifts his index finger. “Point for you. Sit. Please."

After a moment of hesitation, she slides back into the booth. 

“How’s Paula doing?” he asks. “I read about everything."

“Is it difficult for you? Are you angry at her for being the one who shot Philip?"

“I don’t know,” he admits. “I feel like I should be, in a way. But Philip killed my grandfather. He killed Ryan. He almost killed Tori. Can I blame her for picking up that gun? I don’t think so."

They pause as the waitress delivers Spencer’s bloody Mary. 

“It’s so strange to me that Grandma shot someone at all,” Samantha says. “I can’t picture it."

“I don’t even think she can. It sounds like she was in a-- I don’t know, some kind of trance."

“Yeah. I was watching her on Christmas, holding baby Peter, and she just… seemed so much like the grandma I’ve always known. I can’t imagine her going to prison."

“How’s Peter?” Spencer asks. 

Samantha reacts with surprise. “He’s… good, I guess? Really cute. He gets bigger every time I see him."

“I’m sure. I haven’t seen him in a while. Obviously."

“I should see him more. I’ve been busy -- applying for jobs and stuff. Trevor is trying to get me an interview for a copywriting job at Objection. But Peter is -- I’ve had little cousins before, but it’s funny because he’s my cousin on both sides. Is there even a name for that? Double cousins?"

Spencer pauses mid-sip. “You are. You’re double cousins. Or whatever they call it."

“I don’t think it happens that often,” Samantha says with a laugh.

“No.” He sets down his glass, lost in thought. His mind jumps back to the doctor reading the DNA test results… to the confusion of the test claiming that, while he was related to Peter, he had two X chromosomes, as a woman would… to Natalie’s insistence that if she had tampered with the test, it wouldn’t have shown that the sample were related to Peter at all.

“Oh my god,” he says quietly.

Samantha looks at him sharply. “What?"

“Nothing.” Spencer grabs his keys off the table. “But I have to go."


What will Spencer do about Natalie now?
Is Zane being genuine with Tori?
Can Conrad really save Paula from prison?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!



Friday, January 06, 2017

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