Episode #327

Previously ...
- Alex and Trevor caught up at the Objection fashion show. After finally meeting Trevor, Dylan teased Alex about how attractive his new friend is.
- Matt confided in Bill that he doesn't know if he can trust his relationship with Sarah anymore, but Bill urged him not to give up on her entirely.
- A phone call from the Chicago police provided Brent with the information that Nick Moriani once owed a sizable sum of money to the Esposito crime family. Brent realized the dates of Nick's debt coincided with his courtship of and marriage to Katherine.
- Claire and Ryan hoped that the cut-up dress was a one-time prank and nothing more.


The elevator doors part, and Claire Fisher steps out into the concrete maze of the parking garage. It is a good ten or fifteen degrees cooler in here than it was in the hospital itself, and the change comes as something of a relief to Claire. She has been waiting to get away from the hospital's stuffy air all day.

Maybe I won't have a chance to enjoy the sunshine, she thinks, but at least I get to relax a bit now. Her shift today was rife with chaos, thanks in large part to the elderly patient who was having a problem keeping his bedpan in a position in which it wouldn't make a complete mess of himself and the bed. Not once, but twice.

A shower sounds like a wonderful idea. Then, afterward ... she knows exactly how she's going to spend the rest of the night.

In the otherwise lifeless garage, her footsteps sound a hundred times larger and louder than she knows they must actually be. The eerie stillness of the place sends a chill through her, and with a quick glance to each of her sides, she increases her pace just a bit as she heads for her car.

Calm down, she thinks as she fishes for her keys in her purse. It isn't rational to fly into a panic simply because the garage is dead right now.

Her fingers grasp the keys and pull them from her purse.

But the garage isn't entirely dead right now. Behind one of the thick cement poles, silent as can be, is Stan Lincoln--and he is watching every step that Claire takes.


The club is nowhere close to full, considering that it is still fairly early, so the music and lights are working their magic on an empty dance floor. In a booth off to one side, Alex Marshall sits with Dylan Carrington and three other guys, all of them sipping on drinks as they wait for the night to pick up some steam.

"You knew at least one of them was gonna turn out screwed up," the guy with the spiky black hair says. Alex thinks his name is Coltin, but every time he's met the three, they've been in their little clique, so he has trouble distinguishing one from the other.

"I think it's all a publicity stunt," Dylan counters. "Come on, they turn eighteen and they're trying to work this grown-up image and all of a sudden she's got an eating disorder?"

"I really could see that," one of the other guys--Stephen, maybe?--says. "Totally a setup to make them seem less innocent."

Alex sips on his Long Island iced tea and tries to keep his mind from wandering too much. It's nice to go out and socialize, but spending an entire night discussing Mary Kate Olsen's bulimia and Britney Spears's cancelled tour isn't his idea of a stimulating time. Especially since he knows that Coltin and Stephen and the other guy are just waiting to get drunk, pick a cute guy from the crowd of clubgoers, and make him the night's true activity.

But they are Dylan's friends, and they're nice enough. Besides, Alex does enjoy the dancing, so he only has to put up with the conversation for so long.

He tries to remind himself of that as Coltin raises his voice in disagreement: "No way! They've built, like, this whole empire on being squeaky-clean. I don't think they would just risk it now--"

Someone cuts him off, and the debate continues in a similar fashion. Alex keeps one ear on the conversation and the other on the music, smiling and nodding politely just often enough not to look like he's spacing out. In a matter of minutes, he realizes that he has finished his drink.

Another drink seems as good an option as anything else, so he excuses himself from the table. He turns to head for the bar, but there is a group of people literally right in front of him.


It takes him a second to figure out who just spoke his name, but finally he sees Trevor Brooks behind the two guys and girl who walk by Alex.

"How you doing?" Trevor asks, giving his friends a gesture to indicate that he'll be with them in a minute.

"Good." Alex gives an instinctive glance backward at the table and finds Dylan watching them. "Trevor, you remember Dylan, right?"

"Yeah!" Trevor nods and raises a hand, and Dylan returns the greeting, a quizzical look plastered on his face.

Trevor and Alex talk for a few more minutes before Trevor goes to catch up with his friends. There is something about the parting, though, that puts a smile on Alex's face; it's as if neither of them really feels wants to go back to their respective groups, but obligation overrides everything else.

Alex makes his way to the bar and gets another drink. When he returns, he slides into the booth beside Dylan, who flashes him an even more extreme version of his earlier expression.

"What?" Alex asks.

"So you're spending all this time with him, and he's hot, and it turns out he's gay, too?"

Alex tries to keep the edge out of his voice, but he doesn't do a very good job. "I'm not allowed to socialize with other guys who happen to be gay?"

"Don't be stupid," Dylan says. "I'm just teasing."

Alex returns his focus to his drink, now not even bothering to pretend that he is interested in the conversation at the table.


Katherine Fitch Moriani lifts the curtains aside just enough to look through the window. It's getting dark, but she recognizes the man on her doorstep. He called earlier and asked if he could stop by and speak with her, so she's been expecting the doorbell. Now that he's here though, she pauses at the door, wondering if it's a good idea to talk to Brent Taylor without informing Nick.

"Good evening, Mrs. Moriani," Brent greets once she finally decides to open the front door.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to make sure you weren't one of those annoying Christ-peddlers," Katherine fibs. She steps back inside, inviting him to follow.

"I promise you won't have to write me a check, and I didn't bring a Bible," Brent says good-naturedly. Katherine offers him a seat in Nick's favorite, plush armchair before sitting across from him.

"Is your husband around?"

Katherine shakes her head no, thinking she'd already told him this over the phone. Brent seems to relax a bit at her response. With that out of the way, he's now poised for business and jumps into the reason he stopped by.

"I wanted to ask you some questions about your finances ..."

"Tsk, tsk, Mr. Taylor, you promised me this wasn't a charity drive," Katherine chides.

Brent chuckles in spite of himself, but carries on, "I'd like to know how involved Nick is in your personal finances. Do you share the wealth with him, so to speak, or do his personal investments keep him financially sound?"

Katherine knows the police--and especially Brent Taylor--have had their lingering suspicions over her husband. Seeing him here, she can't help but recall the fire at the mansion in which Brent was injured. They thought it could have been connected to Nick, but she had refused to believe that. He was her husband, and she trusted what he said. And that still holds true today.

Besides, it only makes sense that Brent would carry on a personal vendetta like this. He is related to that awful Danielle, after all.

"When I married Nick, I allowed him joint access to my accounts," Katherine responds, earning a look of disapproval from Brent. "But before you even ask, he's never done anything unsavory or even remotely suspicious with them," she adds, with a roll of her eyes. "I have all the bank books, and all of the account statements are directed to me. I see where every nickel and dime of my money is spent."

"And there's never been anything questionable ... in all the time you've been married?" Brent probes, disbelieving. "When's the last time he's withdrawn a large sum from a joint account, just to give me an idea?"

He's already made his mind up about Nick, and Katherine's not liking his insinuations. "Not that it's any of your business, but he invested a healthy sum in that new design firm -- Objection? Or should I say, we invested ..."

"I don't know, should you say that? Or does Nick decide these things for the both of you?"

Her eyes narrow. "I'm not some confused, rich widow with Alzheimer's. I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions. There's no wool being pulled over my eyes. I've kept track of my finances expertly over the years, and that hasn't changed since I've married Nick."

Brent's overstepped, and Katherine rises from her seat to signify that she's finished with this discussion.

"If you have any more questions regarding my husband, I'd prefer that you to take them up with him next time, Mr. Taylor. We're finished here."

She closes the door after he departs and leans back against it, her manicured hand resting lightly on the doorknob. Why are the police asking questions about Nick once again? What has he done now to provoke their attention? She wonders where he is right now.

There is no way that Andrew could have been right about Nick all along. Katherine banishes the thought and heads upstairs to do something more productive with her day.


Stan's eyes lock on Claire as soon as the elevator doors slide open. He knew that her shift was ending somewhere around this time, and he has been waiting by her car for the better part of half an hour.

He tracks her intently as she steps out of the elevator, orients herself, and walks toward the car. She glances around nervously--must realize that the place is empty, not a damn soul in sight--and picks up the pace a little bit.

"What a pretty little bitch you are," Stan murmurs to her distant form. Of course, she's more trouble than those looks are worth. But if she were just another girl, he'd be proud of his son for scoring a girl who looks so good ... damn troublemaker.

Not that Ryan's much better. But he can be dealt with later.

Stan steps cautiously out from behind the pillar. Claire still can't see him, not at this angle, but he knows that he has to make his move quickly now.

He should've gotten to this months ago. Stole that dress out of her closet--that family oughta realize what pieces of crap their screens are; makes it insanely easy to sneak into the house. But after he left the pieces of the dress for her and Ryan, he got into that fight. Any clinic or hospital in town would've been at least a little suspicious of a stab wound like the one he had, so he had to hightail it out of King's Bay and bide his time.

They had to know it was him, but the beauty of it is that he was nowhere near King's Bay for weeks afterward. No chance of any run-ins with the idiot local cops. At least they've had time to sweat about the damn dress.

His mind jumps a little with excitement at the thought of Claire and Ryan agonizing over who might be terrorizing them or when he might strike again.

He takes a few more cautious steps. Not tentative, just careful. There's no one around.

He watches as Claire fingers her keys, gets closer to the car. She's walking fast. Hell, maybe she can sense that he's here somewhere.

Keeping his steps as light as he can, he starts moving faster. Right behind her. He'll have her before she even realizes anyone's there.

And then: a tiny mechanical sound, one he might've overlooked if it weren't followed by another set of footsteps.

Stan turns, sees the woman coming out of the elevator, and ducks behind a car. No way the bitch saw him, but still better to lay low.

The other woman goes to a car not far from the elevator, but when Stan looks up, Claire is in her car. The engine starts, and a moment later, she backs out of the parking space.

"You're not getting away from me again," he says, standing up slowly to watch her drive off. "Not on your life."


Matt Gray unlocks the door to his apartment, enters and closes it, then flips the lights on and stands in the entryway for a moment, silent. Thoughts of Sarah, of Bill's reassuring words at work all come flooding back to him. For as much as he misses her and knows it, a part of him--most of him, actually--just hurts, and he is certain that pain will soon give way to anger and, finally, a quiet resolve.

He swallows hard and digs his hands into his pockets, walking toward the kitchen table and setting down his wallet and car keys. He can still smell the lingering odor of the Pier's kitchen on himself, and a long, hot shower sounds better with each passing second. That's when he hears the doorknob turn.

And knows it's her.

"Hey," she says and steps awkwardly into his doorway, closing the door behind her. "I saw your car out front." He doesn't say anything but soaks in the sight of her and then locks his gaze on the door behind her. "Did you just get off work?" she asks.


"Oh. You look tired." There's a restraint, an apprehension in her voice that he picks up on and takes an unexpected amount of satisfaction in.

At least she realizes the severity of everything she did that night, he thinks and glances at her now, standing a few steps away.

"Listen," she says but stops in mid-sentence.

"What, Sarah?" The sound of her name on his breath stabs into his stomach, and he immediately regrets the terseness of his tone.

"Um." She wrings her hands and studies them and then looks back up at him, levels her gaze against--into--his. "This is really hard for me..."

"Me, too."

Finally, she blurts it out quietly:

"Listen, Matt." A beat, then: "I'm sorry."

"Me, too." He repeats. Every emotional impulse within him wants to embrace her at this junction, but his mind knows better, is done being fooled. "Is that all?"

"Matt, come on. You have to believe me. I... I'm really sorry for my behavior at the fashion show. You more than anyone know how hard it is for me to handle my sister with Brent. You know how hard all of that is. I know you do. I didn't mean to suggest that--that... Well, you remember."

"Doesn't make it right, the way you acted." He sets his jaw for a moment as the seriousness of his next sentence settles inside of his throat. "I think you should go."

"Matt..." He can tell she's to the point of tears. "I love you."

"No," he says. "You love the idea of using me as a means to up the stakes in this revenge mission against Molly and your ex. And I'm done being used." He tries to bite back his frustration but fails and raises his voice with, "I'm not your god damn bitch."

"I... I never used you, Matt." She's quieter now, and her head is down. "I wouldn't. I love you."

"Just go, Sarah. Please."

She looks up at him again and lets out a sigh; she seems on the verge of saying something else but instead turns and lets herself out.

Matt stares at the door for a few seconds after its slam resonates fully in his ears and heart. Then he turns, heads towards the bathroom so he can shower and, with any luck, drown all of this out.


The navy sky continues to lower itself over King's Bay. The growing darkness is a relief to Stan, who has been biding his time. He feels a lot safer creeping around this neighborhood in the dark.

Claire's car is the only one out front. Perfect.

He moves quickly to the fence on the side of the house and reaches over to unlock it. It swings open, but he grabs it so that he can sneak in. She might be out on the deck or one of her little brats could be running around out here.

He shuts the gate very carefully, not wanting to arouse any suspicion, and moves slowly around toward the front of the deck. No one out here. Good.

Keeping one eye on the glass door, he climbs onto the deck and hurries to press himself against the back of the house. Unless someone happened to be pressing his or her face against a window inside, there's no chance of him being seen.

Last time, he waited until he was sure the house was empty, pried one of the screens out, and climbed into the dining room. He looks to the same window now. The screen is there, just as he left it, in place but definitely bent.

He looks up the side of the house, to the window that he knows is in Claire's room. The dining room seems like a much easier option.

In a matter of seconds, he has the screen detached. He pokes his head inside but hears nothing. No TV, no movement, nada.

He pulls himself through the window, suddenly very aware of the pain in his side. This damn cut hasn't been healing, not that he really ever expected it to. It'll just join the other half-healed wounds all over the rest of his body.

Keeping his ears perked and his eyes moving, Stan creeps toward the staircase. She must be upstairs. One of the stairs creaks under his weight, and he pauses, gripping the banister. Tension rushes through his body, but the moment passes.

He keeps climbing, more carefully now. When he is almost at the top of the stairs, he can hear the faint sounds of movement from somewhere upstairs. From Claire's room, he realizes as he reaches the top.

He slides against a wall and pauses again. There she is. Just feet away, separated from him by a narrow hallway. Finally, he's going to get his hands on her, make her pay for the mess she's caused.

In one swift burst, he makes his move. He breaks away from the wall and practically lunges across the hallway, through the open doorway of Claire's bedroom.

His target turns with a start and cries out: "Bill?"

And Stan freezes. It isn't Claire in front of him--it's Paula.


Will Stan harm Paula so that he can get to Claire?
Can Sarah convince Matt to give her another chance?
Is Dylan's jealousy justified, and will he act on it?
And is Nick's house of cards about to crumble?
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