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- The Fishers planned a dinner party to help Paula ease into her year of house arrest.
- Alex suggested to Trevor that they adopt Yvette’s unborn child, but Trevor felt uncertain about becoming a parent right now.
- Spencer
met with a doctor in the hospital’s lab about conducting a second paternity test on Peter.
- Sarah
received probation for her role in covering up Philip’s shooting. She was upset to discover Tori hanging out with Zane, knowing that she couldn’t tell her daughter about Zane blackmailing her. 

The Fisher home bubbles with activity as family members and friends swirl around the living and dining rooms. A thin but steady layer of pleasant conversation and laughter fills the air. From the kitchen at the back of the house, the tantalizing aromas of pork tenderloin, roasting potatoes, and other dishes drift outward, speeding up the guests’ internal countdowns to when dinner will be served.

“Look at that smile! Look at it!” Paula Fisher exclaims in the entryway, where she is hoisting her youngest grandchild up and down. A smile of pure joy radiates from his still-toothless mouth and chubby cheeks.
Jason Fisher finishes hanging his family’s coats in the nearby closet. “He’s always so excited to see you, Mom.”
“Not as excited as I am to see him.” Paula pulls the baby close, stroking the back of his head. “You are so precious, little Peter.”

“And he napped a lot today, so he should have a few hours of energy in him,” Natalie Bishop says as she rifles through the diaper bag for a pacifier. “I just hope it wears off and he actually sleeps tonight.”
“We’ll be sure to wear him out,” Paula says. “He’ll have to show off how his crawling is coming.”
The doorbell rings. A year and a half ago, someone coming to a dinner party here wouldn’t even bother with the doorbell; the Fishers’ belief in “the more, the merrier” was well known, and anyone invited would have felt welcome to try the doorknob first. But since the Footprint Killer’s rampage, Paula always makes sure to lock the door, and even her children have taken to ringing the bell to announce themselves.
  Natalie Bishop

Paula moves to hand the baby back to Natalie, but Jason motions for her to stay put.
“I’ll get it,” he says, and when he opens the door, there is Spencer Ragan.
“Spencer! You came,” Paula says. “I didn’t think you would.”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t return your message,” Spencer says as he enters the house. “I wasn’t sure that I felt comfortable coming, honestly, but then I thought… it’s only right that I be here for you.” His face falls. “I can’t believe you have to go through this, all because of Philip.”
Paula fixes a brave grin upon her face. “I’m going to be just fine."
“Did they give you one of those…"

“They certainly did.” She pulls up the hem of her flowing black pants to reveal the ankle monitor clamped around her leg. 

“Wow. And you can’t go out at all?” he asks.

“I can walk to the edge of the property,” she explains, “and I can go out in the backyard. Your father and your Uncle Jason put a treadmill in the den so I can have my walks. Now please, let me hang your jacket.”
“I can--”
“I insist.” Paula tugs at the sleeve of his coat until he wriggles out of it. She passes Peter back to Jason.
“This must be Peter,” Spencer says. “Do you mind if I…” He holds out his hands.
“No, go right ahead. He’s your cousin.” Jason places the wiggling infant in Spencer’s arms.
“He’s gotten so big since the last time I saw him.” Spencer allows his eyes to flicker in Natalie’s direction for only a split-second, but it is enough for her to catch the implied threat. “You guys must be enjoying every minute you have with him. He’s growing so much.”
Jason lets out a little laugh. “It really is amazing. Except when he decides he wants to party all night. That’s… less amazing.”
Spencer holds Peter out directly in front of him and looks into the baby’s beaming face. “You look to party, huh, little man? I wonder where you get that from.”
“You know, I really do need to feed him,” Natalie says, and she snatches Peter out of Spencer’s hands. “Wouldn’t want him getting cranky.”
“I’m sure he’s fine for a few more minutes,” Jason says, but Natalie is already spiriting the baby away.
“Oh, I’m so happy you came,” Paula tells her grandson. “Why don’t we all go inside and get something to drink?”
“Just in time!” As he sets down a serving bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, Alex Marshall looks up from the refurbished dining table that sits in the dining room of his new house.
In the doorway, Trevor Brooks takes off his heavy coat. “Wow. Seriously. Dinner looks amazing.”
“Did you eat anything at the shoot?”
“You know how those things are. They put out, like, carrot sticks and air.”
“Well, this has a few more carbs than that,” Alex says.
“Thank god.” Trevor kicks off his shoes and moves to greet his fiancé with a kiss. “Thanks for cooking.”
Alex shrugs. “It’s relaxing for me. And I thought… we could talk.”
With a tentative nod, Trevor agrees. “Yeah. We should. Sorry I got stuck at this thing all day…”
“It’s your job. Don’t apologize. Let’s sit down and relax and talk.”
Trevor goes into the kitchen to wash his hands. Alex opens a bottle of red wine that he placed on the table earlier, and he is filling their glasses when Trevor returns.
“First of all,” Alex says as he heaps pasta and salad on Trevor’s plate, “I want to apologize for the way I brought up the whole thing with Yvette’s baby the other day. It wasn’t right of me to spring it on you like that and expect an answer right away.”
“Thanks,” Trevor says, though it isn’t clear to Alex whether he is referring to the food or the apology.
Alex takes a seat on the wooden bench opposite Trevor. “Have you had time to think about it?”
“Yeah. I…” Trevor pauses to sip his wine and think. “I hate disappointing you. Like, it hurts me to do it. But I don’t feel like we’re -- or at least I’m -- ready for a kid. Not this fast.”
“Okay.” Alex had already prepared himself for this outcome, given Trevor’s initial reaction and the disquieting silence between them ever since, but something inside him still stings at hearing it made official. “If that’s how you feel, then that’s how you feel.”
He reaches for his wine, still processing this verdict.
“Alex,” Trevor says, with a sudden note of desperation in his voice. “I’m sorry. I get where you’re coming from. I just feel like it’s best to be honest.”

“It is. Really.” Alex offers what he hopes is a reassuring smile.
“I just have this… I’m worried.”
It takes another few seconds for Trevor to coax the words out of himself. “What if you decide that being a dad to this baby is more important than being with me?”

“I’m not going to--”
  Alex Marshall

“It could happen. I know being a dad is something you want badly. And it feels like you think this-- this chance came along at the right time. I don’t want to hold you back from anything.”
“Trevor.” Alex sets down his glass and reaches over the table, where he grasps Trevor’s hand. “I want to be with you. To spend my life with you. To become a parent with you. And if you aren’t ready… then we aren’t ready.”
For the first time since sitting down, Trevor appears to relax.
“You have no idea how much it means to hear that,” he says. “I love you.”
Alex squeezes his hand. “I love you, too.”
At the far end of the dining room, near the kitchen, Claire Fisher cradles a glass of diet soda as she talks to her son and his dinner guest.

“How are things lining up for move-in day?” she asks.

“I'm pretty much all packed,” Travis says.

“For the record, I think your son might be a hoarder,” Rosie Jimenez says, her arm linked through Travis’s. “I came over to help him pack, and you would not believe the things he was trying to bring with him to the new apartment."

Travis turns to her with exaggerated shock. “Those things are important!"

“You do not need four years’ worth of old warm-ups from your high school soccer team,” Rosie counters. 

“Honey, you do have a tendency to… hang onto stuff.” Claire cracks a grin. “I remember you had those wrestling dolls…"

“They were action figures,” Travis says.

Rosie sticks an arm in front of Travis to cut him off. “And he still has them!"

“You’re kidding!” Claire says.

He shrugs and turns away bashfully. “They might be worth money someday. I don’t know.” Smiling, he points his finger at Rosie and then Claire. “You two are trouble. No more ganging up on me."

Tim Fisher swoops in behind Claire, a full wine glass in hand. “What’s going on over here?” 

“Rosie is telling me about how it’s been helping Travis pack for the move,” Claire says. 

“Yeah, how soon until you and Landon have all of us over for a dinner party like this?” Tim asks his son. 

“Our apartment is, like, the size of this dining room,” Travis says. “So that might be a little tricky."

“There’s one thing you won’t have to worry about,” Tim says, lifting his nose in the direction of the kitchen. “The food will be amazing."

Travis unlinks his arm from Rosie’s. “That’s my cue to get back in there. Things should be ready in a few."

He dips back inside the kitchen, leaving Rosie with his parents. 

“I can’t thank you enough for helping him with this move,” Claire says to the younger woman. “He and Landon are so stubborn, they’d try to do it all on their own."

“I’m going to miss having him around the house, but it’s good for him to get out on his own,” Tim says, a little wistful. 

Claire grins at her ex-husband. “You’ll also miss his cooking.” Then she turns back toward Rosie. “How about you, Rosie? Is your family in King’s Bay? Do you see them often?"

Rosie hesitates and pushes a strand of her long, black hair back behind her ear. “Not much. We aren’t very close.” She looks into her half-full bottle of beer and then takes a hearty swig. “I’m going to go get another. Can I get either of you anything?"

They politely decline the offer and watch as she crosses through the dining room toward the makeshift bar. 

“She’s such a nice girl,” Claire says. “Woman, I should say. I really hope things work out for her and Travis."

Tim bobs his head in agreement. “Yeah, she’s great. And they seem happy."

Claire lifts her glass and clinks it against Tim’s. “To young love. May they have it much easier than we did."

“I’ll drink to that,” Tim says before tipping back his glass.


Paula clasps her hands together. “I’m so glad you could make it!” 

She stands in the middle of the living room, with Conrad Halston and her eldest daughter standing before her. 

“I’m not scheduled to leave King’s Bay until Monday,” Conrad says, “so the timing is wonderful. Thank you for having me. I hope you enjoy this."

He hands her a bottle of red wine. 

“Thank you so much,” Paula says. “You didn’t have to bring anything. We’re the ones who owe you!"

He holds up a palm. “It’s my job."

“You went above and beyond,” Molly says. “For all of us. And we’ll never forget it."

“It smells terrific in here,” the attorney says. “I should’ve expected that, considering who’s hosting."

Matt and Travis have been hard at work in the kitchen all day. They haven’t let me lift a finger,” Paula says. “And I saw your daughter a few minutes ago. She and Christian were up to something."

Conrad smirks. “I’ll go find them before they do any damage.” He slips off in the direction of the den.

Paula’s gaze trails behind Conrad until he turns the corner into the back hallway. Then she looks at Molly with a knowing gleam in her eye. 

“He’s a very nice man."

“Yes, Mom, he is. A very nice man who’s leaving town tomorrow. And who only came to town because he was defending me on murder charges."

Paula lets out a quiet huff. “I just want you to be happy."

“I am happy. I have two wonderful sons and a big, caring, nosy family. And soon I’ll have my job back and be able to focus on my career."

Her mother purses her lips, but before she can get a response out, Molly directs her attention toward the entry to the living room.

“Who’s that?” she asks, indicating the younger Asian man flanking Tori as they arrive for dinner. 

“Oh, that’s Tori’s new… well, I don’t know what he is, exactly. You know how kids can be about terminology and all that,” Paula says. “But they seem to be spending a lot of time together! His name is Zane."

“Zane.” Molly turns the name over in her mouth as memories come flooding back to her. “Zane."


Across the room, Sarah Fisher Gray bites her tongue as best she can as she greets her daughter. 

“You didn’t tell me you were bringing a date,” Sarah says, careful to look at Tori even though all her energy is focused on Zane like a deadly laser.

Tori shrugs. “I told Grandma.”

“It’s good to see you again, Mrs. Gray,” Zane says. He sticks out his hand.

Sarah uses all the willpower she can muster to hold back an outburst. “You, too.” But she can resist squeezing his hand a little harder than necessary. 

“Sarah,” Molly says as she sidles up to her sister. “Can I steal you for a minute?"
  Sarah Fisher Gray

Zane levels his stare upon the darker-haired Fisher sister. “Hi. I’m Zane."

Molly regards his extended hand with confusion. 

“I’m Tori’s date,” he says, as though that is supposed to clear what the entire situation. 

“Zane has been to the house a few times already,” Sarah explains in what she hopes is a genial enough tone. “This is Tori’s aunt, Molly."

“It’s a pleasure,” the young man says as they shake hands. 

“Same,” Molly manages, though as soon as the grip is broken, she takes Sarah by the arm. “You’re needed in the, uh, in the kitchen."

The sisters slide out of the living room and through the dining room. As they enter the kitchen, Sarah feels an unspoken promise pass between them not to say anything until they are out on the deck. 

“Hey there,” Matt says from his post at the stove.

“We’ll be right back,” Molly says, and she slides open the glass door. The two women move through it swiftly, and only once it is closed does Molly dare speak again.

“What in the heck is going on?” she asks. “Isn’t that…?"

“Zennosuke Tanaka. Zane. Yeah.” Sarah exhales loudly as she looks out at the backyard, bathed in evening darkness. “Guess who just happened to meet Tori and ask her out?"

Molly presses her hands against the deck railing. “What is he doing? Trying to torture you because you beat him at his own game?"

“He knows I have that money. And he’s… implied that if he were to come into possession of it, he’d be too busy to keep seeing Tori."

“That is so screwed-up,” Molly says. “What are you going to do?"

“I don’t know. I can’t tell her the truth, or he’ll turn around and -- if there’s even a hint of legal trouble while I’m on probation, I lose my P.I. license for good. I can’t. Matt is still testy with me over having covered up the shooting in the first place. If I got into trouble again…"


“Maybe I’ll just pay him off.” Sarah folds her arms; her face is stony with determination. “I can’t let my daughter be with that guy. I can’t."


Alex takes Trevor’s used silverware, places it alongside his, and then reaches for Trevor’s plate.

“No way are you cleaning up,” Trevor says. “You cooked. Let me."

“It’s no trouble."

“It’s the least I can do.” He playfully swats Alex’s hands away and takes the plates from him. “Besides, we have a dishwasher."

“Okay, this literally is the least you can do,” Alex says as he takes his seat again. “But it’s still sweet."

Trevor spirits the dirty dishes away to the kitchen. As Alex sits back again, he feels his phone vibrating incessantly in his jeans pocket. He pulls it out and sees Diane Bishop’s name on the screen.

“Hey,” he says as he brings the phone to his face.

“Do you just not answer text messages these days?” she snarls in his ear.

“We were having dinner.” 

“Well, I hope you’re done, because this is important. Is there any chance you’re free to meet with Yvette tonight?"

“I…” Alex glances into the kitchen, where he can see Trevor’s back at the sink as he rinses the dishes and files them into the dishwasher. Alex stands from the table and ambles toward the living room, hoping that the running water will drown out the sound of the call.

“I don’t think Trevor is onboard,” he says into the phone. “It is really quick."

“I know it is. And if you guys decide this isn’t right, then that’s fine. But you should come meet with her. It won’t be long before she has this kid, and if you miss the chance and do decide it’s something you want to do…"

Alex swallows a lump in his throat as he considers the situation for a long, difficult moment. 

“I don’t know,” he says.

“There’s no commitment. But if she can’t even meet you, then the possibility is off the table. Who knows? Maybe meeting her will change Trevor’s mind."

“Maybe.” He hears the water turn off in the kitchen. “I’ll text you in five."

He hangs up and makes his way back to the dining table, where he picks up his wine and downs the rest of the glass. Trevor returns to pick up the nearly empty salad bowl. 

“Were you on the phone?” Trevor asks. “Or was I hearing things?"

“No, I was.” He looks into Trevor’s face and makes an instantaneous decision. “Listen, I need to run out and take care of something really fast."

“What? Is everything okay?"

“Yeah. Of course. And I’ll even stop for dessert on the way home."

“If it involves cake, I’m sold,” Trevor says as he disappears back into the kitchen.

A knot of guilt twists inside Alex’s stomach as he watches his fiancé exit the room. He should just tell him what he’s doing. But that would restart the entire argument, and there’s a chance that he will meet Yvette and they won’t even hit it off, so it would all be for nothing.

Alex grabs his keys from the sideboard as he takes out his phone to text Diane back.


After handing Peter off to Samantha and Tempest, Natalie ducks out the front door. She knew it would be too suspicious to grab her coat, but the nighttime air has an alarming bite to it, and she braces as she walks down the front steps and to the side of the hedges that separate the driveway from the house. There, she finds Spencer waiting. 

“What the hell do you want?” she snaps. 

“We need to talk."

“What else could there possibly be to talk about?"


She rolls her eyes. “Shocking. Tell me what you want, Spencer. You know what? I think I know. You enjoy torturing me. You have this, this sick need to make other people miserable because you’re miserable."

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” A car passes down the street, its headlights slicing through the ever-increasing darkness. 

“I think you’re freaked out,” Natalie says, unrelenting. “You like this part of it: having power over me. Being able to torment me. Thinking that if it comes to it, you’ll be the best dad in the world. But really, you’re scared. Because if you’re Peter’s-- if that’s what the test says, then you actually have to be a father. And I don’t think you want that. That’s why you’ve been dragging your heels. It’s been weeks and weeks of this. If you want to take the test, let’s just take the damn test--"

Monday morning,” he snaps, his voice suddenly far too loud for her to be comfortable. 


Monday morning. Meet me at the hospital at 9 a.m. There’s a lab."

“The hospital? What is wrong with you? We could run into someone--"

“You should’ve thought of that before you messed with the results at the private lab.” A sneer emerges on his face. “I’ll see you then."

He weaves back around the hedges, and Natalie hears his footsteps ascending the front steps. She plans to count to 100 and then go inside, as well, but she is only in the twenties when she sees a pair of headlights lead another car up the street. It pulls to the curb opposite the Fishers’ house, and when the engine turns off and the car’s interior light goes on, Natalie sees Don Chase in the driver’s seat. 

“Shit,” she mutters, her count already forgotten. 

Inside the car, Helen Chase slides her purse over her shoulder. 

“I think that was Spencer going inside just now,” she says. “I’m glad that he decided to come. Paula said they haven’t seen much of him lately."

“She needs all the support she can get,” Don agrees as they step out of the car. 

Natalie lingers by the hedges, hoping that they will not see her, but as they step up on the curb and approach the steps, Helen gasps. 

“It’s just me,” Natalie says. “I’m getting some fresh air. Hi, Helen. Hi, Don."

Don lifts a hand in greeting. “Hi, Natalie. I take it Sophie and Jason are inside?"

“They are. I was just feeling a little queasy, so I stepped outside. I’ll be in in a second."

“We’ll see you inside,” Helen says brusquely, and the older couple heads up the steps to the front door. 

Don rings the doorbell. “I wonder if the court put one of those do-dads around Paula’s ankle."

But Helen’s eyes are glazed over in thought.

“Helen?” he says. 

She snaps out of her daze. “I’m sorry, dear. What were you saying?"

“Oh, it’s nothing. Are you all right?” 

“I’m fine. Yes.” She touches a hand to his arm. “I’m just fine.” But in the seconds before the door is opened, all she can think about is how Natalie was standing outside in the freezing cold with no coat or anything. And Spencer had gone inside moments earlier. First there was that strange, intense conversation between them at the chili cookoff… and then that BMW that Sophie swore was Spencer’s at the house… and now this.

What in the world is going on with you two? Helen wonders as Tim opens the front door and greets them.


What will Helen do about her suspicions?
Is it wrong of Alex to go meet with Yvette?
Does Sarah have any choice but to pay Zane off?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum!



Monday, March 20, 2017

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