Episode #326

Previously ...
- Matt planned to propose to Sarah on the night of the fashion show. However, after Brent and Molly went public with their romance, Sarah flipped and asked Matt to elope. He rejected her, claiming that he can't trust their relationship.
- Courtney accompanied Trevor to the Objection fashion show. She met Josh Taylor, who was intrigued by her attitude toward Lauren and Jason.
- Nick nervously informed Ryan that a member of the Esposito family was arrested in Chicago. He warned his son that their house of cards could come tumbling down if Esposito decides to talk.


"Matt!" The young woman's voice snaps him back to reality, at least momentarily. He's been like this all day--for the past few days, actually: totally immersed in thoughts about Sarah and where they could be headed, if anywhere, from here. He looks down at the grill in front him for a second, then up at her. She raises her eyebrows the way that only a waitress can and waves a small piece of paper at him.

"I--sorry." A pause. "Again? Are you sure, Jennie?"

"Uh, yeah," she replies smugly and points to the check in her hand. "This is, like, the third or fourth order you've screwed up today. You're killing me out there, man!"

"I'm sorry," he repeats hollowly. Her expression softens slightly, but she just nods and heads out of the kitchen, muttering to herself.

A hand on his shoulder solidifies his grip on reality, and for now he unclenches the firm emotional fist that hasn't let go of the things he and Sarah said to one another that night.

"Bill," he begins but doesn't say anything else. He wonders how much attention the older man has been paying to his absentmindedness.

"Why don't we go outside and get some fresh air for a few minutes?" Bill asks. Matt turns, nods, and the two weave through the frenetic swarm of the Pier's kitchen awkwardly before slipping out its back door and standing in momentary silence.

The evening air strikes Matt as surprisingly crisp and refreshing, a welcome change from the pungent humidity that inevitably accompanies hours of cooking. He glances at Bill, then concentrates on wiping his hands on his apron before finding the words he's looking for.

"About the other night--"

"That's not why I asked you to come out here," Bill interjects calmly.

"Oh," Matt replies and wrings his hands, staring up at the darkening sky. He swallows hard and then begins: "About that, though. I think I owe you and Paula an apology."

"What for?"

"I, uh, don't think I'm ready to make the kind of commitment to Sarah that I'd hoped. It's--I don't know. She's gone too far this time, Bill."

"Perhaps," he concedes neutrally. "But you still love her, right?"

Matt mulls this over. Of course he still loves Sarah. "It's not about that," he offers, surprised to hear the words come out of his mouth.

"What is it about, then?" Bill asks and studies Matt as a wave of recognition rolls over his face, then vanishes again.

"I feel like a pawn, is all. It's almost as if everything that Sarah and I have worked to build since, you know, the divorce and all of that has been ... a farce."

Bill doesn't say anything.

"It's like the whole thing was another part of some scheme to prove something to--or worse, to get back at--her sister and Brent. I don't think I can spend the rest of my life knowing that our love doesn't mean the same thing to her as it does to me." A beat, then: "Sorry if this makes you uncomfortable."

"Not at all," Bill says reassuringly and places his hand on Matt's shoulder again. "Just give things some more time. Everything will work out the way it's supposed to. You'll see."

"I guess." Matt feigns an encouraging smile but can't find it within himself to believe his would-be father-in-law, and as the two head back into the restaurant, he wonders if he'll ever be able to trust in Sarah's love for him again.


Ryan Moriani hands his menu to the waiter. He sits back while Claire Fisher gives her order and then her menu, and then the waiter thanks them and disappears.

"It's nice to get out like this," Ryan says. "Get dressed up, eat out, have some good wine ... I feel like I eat way too many meals in that damn loft, in front of the TV."

"Hey, it's a step up from the hospital cafeteria or the break room, so don't complain too much."

"All right, I'll grant you that." Ryan lifts the glass of wine, watches as the burgundy swirls gently in the rounded basin. "And I get to spend a little bit of time with you, which, you know, might be considered a bit of a bonus."

Claire smiles warmly. "Thank you for taking me out. I really did have a nice time at the fashion show."

"So did I. Much better than if you hadn't agreed to go with me."

"I'm working on it," she says, diverting her gaze for just a moment.

"I know. And you can have all the space you need, believe me. Just don't push me away completely."

She shakes her head quickly. "I'm not going to, Ryan. I'm hoping that things will settle down now and we can get into some kind of normal life."

He sets down the wine and reaches across the table to cover one of her hands with his. "We can. And we will."

She sighs, and again her eyes drop down into her lap. When she brings them up, her expression is different--much more urgent worry this time.

"I keep thinking about that dress," she says.

Ryan knew this would come up at some point tonight. He hasn't wanted to think about it, let alone engage her in conversation long enough to get her all worked up about it. But he knows that they need to discuss it; it's been hovering long enough.

"Try not to worry about that. It was an isolated incident, and it happened over two months ago--"

"Yeah, but it happened for a reason." Claire's gaze grows hard, unflinching. "Whoever did that wanted to scare the hell out of us--and God only knows what else."


"Here you go. Your waitress'll be with you in a minute."

"Thanks," Josh Taylor says to the hostess, a young woman with thick streaks of blonde in her otherwise dark brown hair. She pauses long enough to smile at him before returning to her post at the front of the restaurant.

While Josh settles himself into the booth, he notices Scotty Young peering after the hostess.

"Not bad," Scotty says under his breath.

Josh's left shoulder rises in a half-shrug. "Nothing special."

"Yeah, well, some of us are a little hard-up lately."

"You're tellin' me." Josh flips open the menu and runs his eyes over the options, far too quickly to absorb any of the information. "Dude, I am starving. I ate lunch, like--" He checks his watch. "--seven hours ago."

"I wanna get a fat steak or something," Scotty murmurs, engrossed in the menu.

"That sounds kinda good, actually."

A Maroon 5 song fills the few gaps that the dinner crowd's conversation might be leaving in the air, and the two men look over their menus quietly for a few moments before their waitress appears beside the table.

"Good evening," she says. The perkiness of her greeting is enough to make them both look up from their menus. "Can I start you guys off with something to drink tonight?"

"Uh, I'll have a Heineken," Josh says. He's known that since they sat down, but he has to think about it to remember. Something about the waitress is tripping a wire in his brain.

"And for you?" she asks, turning to Scotty.

There is no immediate response, and Josh has to shake his head and laugh at Scotty's glassy stare, fixed somewhere on the leather back of the booth.

"Dude. What do you want to drink?"

"Oh, uh ..." Scotty rattles his head, as if shaking off the cobwebs. "Uh, Coors Light."

"I'll be back with those in a minute," the young, dark-haired waitress says. She starts to go, but then it hits Josh.

"I think we've met," he says, and then, allowing her a moment to think about it, "at the Objection party. The fashion show."

He can see the recognition dawn on her face.

"Josh," he reminds her. "I work with Lauren ..."

"Courtney," she says, offering her hand. He shakes it lightly. "Nice to, uh, meet you again."

"Yeah, you too."

A pause settles over them until Courtney speaks again: "I'll go grab those drinks. Be right back to get your orders."

"She's cute," Scotty chimes in as soon as Courtney is out of earshot.

"Yeah, definitely. I actually meant to talk to her some more at the fashion show, but I got sidetracked."

"Ask for her number."

Josh mulls it over for a moment. "Maybe I will."

Scotty nods encouragingly, then turns to watch Courtney disappearing into the kitchen. "Not bad at all, buddy."


Brent Taylor sets the phone down in its cradle and leans back in his desk chair. The chair tilts backward, and he brings his hands behind his head to let this latest information soak in.

We were right all along, he thinks. Moriani's been mixed up with these people this whole time.

The call from a lieutenant with the Chicago police came as something of a surprise, but it makes Brent glad that he decided to put in a few extra hours before heading home for the night.

The lieutenant did some quick work to find out that Nick Moriani was living and conducting business in King's Bay, Washington, and thought that he should let the local authorities know that Moriani's name came up in an ongoing investigation. Brent has been wondering since the night of the fashion show--when he received the call from a friend letting him know that the Chicago PD had picked up a member of the Esposito family--if something incriminating about the Morianis would come out. And here it is.

It's not enough to build a case on or even make an arrest, at least not yet. But it is a gigantic step in the right direction. Esposito hasn't taken the plea bargain he was offered, but after being confronted with some fairly telling records, he has already admitted a connection with some names.

Nick Moriani is one of them. And the connection is a debt.

Brent runs the dates in his head. 2000 and 2001. Not long after Nick showed up in King's Bay, as far as he knows. That was the year that Nick became engaged to Katherine Fitch ... and Claire and Andy devoted their time to convincing the widow Fitch that Moriani had ulterior motives.

Also matches the time frame of Katherine's shooting. And the fire at her mansion, in which arson was suspected but never proven.

"This is too good to be true," Brent says aloud to his empty office.

He's got the missing piece of the equation, and if Esposito cooperates, he will finally have something solid to hold against the Morianis.


Ryan tries to meet Claire's eyes with a look of reassurance, but he is afraid that his own uneasiness over the dress situation will show through. He doesn't have a damn bit more information about it than Claire does, and he doesn't have any real ground for reassuring her.

"I don't know why someone would do something like that and then not follow up on it at all," he admits, "but maybe we just have to consider ourselves lucky."


She seems as unconvinced as Ryan feels. He can tell that she is still working the situation over in her head, trying to fit the misshapen pieces together to reveal some sort of larger picture.

"Maybe our first guess was right," he says. "Nick might've wanted to cause a little trouble between us." Maybe he wanted to make you question your trust in me, he wants to add, but he can't bring himself to touch that territory.

Claire's shoulders lift the cream-colored fabric of her blouse in a shrug. "Or there's someone else out there waiting to make our lives a living hell--like Stan."

"Why would he do something like that and not do anything else for two months?"

"I don't know. But he just disappeared after Sally Marshall died. He's out there somewhere. Maybe he's biding his time."

"Maybe," Ryan says, not eager to give the possibility too much consideration. He has been harboring the hope that Stan got hit by a garbage truck or fell out a window sometime since he vanished from King's Bay.

He feels a sudden vibration against his hip and reaches for his cell phone. The display tells him that this is a call he should take in private.

"Hey, excuse me for a sec," he says to Claire, already half out of his seat, "but I need to take this. I'll be right back."

He answers the call quickly, saying, "Hold on a minute," and hurries outside the restaurant before getting back to the call.

"What is it?" he asks, feeling the unfortunately familiar tingle of panic spreading through his body.

"We might be in deep shit," Nick says.

"Why? What happened?"

"Nothing. Yet, anyway. But I'm hearing that the Chicago police might offer Esposito a deal. And if he talks ..."

"He wouldn't. That would be like suicide."

"He might be stupid enough to take his chances. Anyway, I wanted to let you know. Just be ready."

"Okay," Ryan says without thinking, and then, once he's had a chance to process the thought: "For what?"

"Trouble. If he takes the deal, we might have to move fast."

"Move fast?"

"We'd need to get out of King's Bay and lay low someplace. If it becomes necessary, we won't have a lot of time to waste."

Ryan clutches the phone tightly against his ear and stands there in silence, staring at the taillights of a car as it pulls through a green light and continues traveling down the street until it is out of sight.


Will Ryan and Nick have to go on the run?
Are Claire and Ryan still in danger?
Could Josh and Courtney get romantic?
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