Episode #329

Previously ...
- Josh and Scotty went to dinner at 322, and their waitress turned out to be Courtney. Josh struck up conversation with her, and Scotty encouraged his pal to pursue her.
- Distressed over her lack of success in winning over Matt, Sarah went to see Diane, who had an idea.

- Brent visited Katherine to inquire about Nick's finances. She assured the police commander that all is on the up-and-up and sent him on his way, but in private, Katherine worried that Nick might be hiding something from her.
- Stan broke into the Fishers' house, planning to attack Claire, but he ran into Paula instead. After a tense confrontation, Stan fled and Paula called the police.


The house sits proudly on one of the spacious lots that line Campbell Court. It is set back from the street by the U-shaped driveway, guarded from the neighboring properties and the sidewalk by a perimeter of imposing hedges.

The front door opens, and Katherine Moriani emerges. The July sun is hot against her skin, a sharp contrast to the air-conditioned cool of the house's interior.

"When do you think you'll be back?" her husband calls out from the living room.

Katherine pauses in the doorway. "In time for dinner, I'm sure. I'll phone you if anything changes."

She steps out onto the front porch and pulls the door closed behind her. The chance to go out with some of her friends truly seems like a blessing; she has been itching to escape the confines of this house. Ever since Brent Taylor's visit yesterday, being in the house with Nick has been stifling.

She hasn't wanted to mention Brent's visit, let alone the type of questions he was asking. Surely Nick would not appreciate hearing about the commander's nosiness. Katherine doesn't care to consider how her husband would react; besides, it isn't necessary to stir up trouble over nothing. And that's all Brent Taylor will find in his silly investigation of her husband: nothing.

Katherine briskly moves toward her Mercedes, forcing the unpleasantness out of her mind for the afternoon.

Inside the house, Nick leans back in the leather armchair. He lifts the glass of whiskey close to his face, allowing it to linger right beside his cheek. Something definitely seems strange about Katherine.

He scans his memory of the past twenty four hours, wondering if there is anything he might have done to disturb her. Nothing comes to mind.

He doesn't have much opportunity to worry about it, though. His cellular phone chirps, and he reaches to the coffee table for it.

Back outside, Katherine starts up the engine and adjusts her sunglasses. A moment later, the gold Mercedes rolls out of the driveway, into the street and away from the house.

The hedges on the side of the house rustle, but not enough for anyone walking by on the street to notice.

Inside the hedges, Stan Lincoln closes his eyes momentarily. Every fiber in his body is ready to drop from exhaustion. He has been awake for thirty six hours and counting; after last night's mission gone disastrously wrong, knowing the cops would be after him, there was no way he was going to stop long enough to sleep. If not for the adrenaline pulsating in his veins, he doubts he would even be able to keep moving.

But this has to be done. And soon enough, he will able to get all the rest that he wants. The thought brings a strange wave of pleasure over him. He has been running for so long, hiding and ducking out of the way. There is something satisfying, almost triumphant, about being the one to bring an end to it, finally.

There's no reason to keep going, anyway. His encounter with Paula made that outrageously clear. What is he doing with himself? Why? This is no way to go on living. He doesn't have to, so he won't.

After he says his goodbyes to his son.


"Thank God he didn't hurt you!"

"I'm glad you called us when you did."

Molly and Brent are offering their support, but their words barely even register with Paula.

"I wish it would have made a difference. It didn't help you catch him before he got away," Paula says to Brent, shaking her head sadly.

She didn't sleep last night. Not after seeing Stanley again. The police arrived almost immediately, but Stan had already slipped away into the night.

"True, he has yet to be found, but your call gave us the jump on him this time. He can't have made it too far, and we're betting he's still around town. We'll find him, Paula."

Paula looks to Bill for reassurance, but he's just as doubtful as she is. She's still so shaken up after the encounter. Seeing Stanley in her home again after all this time. Knowing all that he's done to her family -- to Claire, to Ryan.

She recalls being panicked when the two of them were face to face, but she was also angry. She wasn't going to let this man harm any of them anymore. She was surprised she was even able to hold the phone steady enough in her trembling hands, but she managed it. Her courage was something Stan hadn't counted on, and it gave her the upper hand.

Now, she's almost thankful for how the situation played out. She prevented him from coming near Claire, and equally as important, she stood up to him, confronted him, and proved to them both that she didn't need him now or ever again. Once Brent and the King's Bay police find him and take him into custody, he'll pay for what he's become. And she will finally feel the sense of closure she needs after all this time ...

"Mom, did you hear what Brent just said?" Molly asks, snapping her mother out of her thoughts. Paula shakes her head, and Bill studies his wife with evident worry.

"Until we find Stan, I want to place 'round-the-clock security outside the house," Brent repeats. "Stan would be stupid to come back here, but his actions have been remarkably unpredictable in the past, and we don't want to take any chances. We'll have an officer stationed here at all times."

Paula simply nods her head.

"Also, I want both of you," Brent continues, looking to Bill, "to be careful whenever you leave the house. Don't go anywhere alone, especially at night. Perhaps you should stay around the house and lay low for a while if possible. Ryan and Claire, too."

"You'll be fine. I promise Brent will put an end to this," Molly says with confidence.

"We couldn't be in better hands," Bill agrees, rubbing Paula's shoulders gently.

"I'm going to head upstairs and let Ryan and Claire know about the police protection," Molly says, taking it upon herself to inform her family. "I'm sure they'll be down to talk to you before we leave." She gives Brent a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving the room.

Molly's display of affection doesn't go unnoticed by Paula. "I take it things have been going well with the two of you?" Changing the subject to something pleasant lessens the nervous, twisted feeling in the pit of her stomach. For now, anyway.

"Everything's going great with our relationship, and Molly's really throwing herself into her new job. She loves it." Brent's unabashed enthusiasm seems out of place in this atmosphere that was so somber only moments earlier, but he can't help displaying it. "I wanted to let the two of you know that I appreciate how great you've been about Molly and me. It hasn't been easy. We tried to fight it for Sarah's sake -- for everyone's sake -- but Molly and I know that we're supposed to be together. Having you on our side is more than we ever could've asked for."

"We just want her to be happy. That's all we want for all of our children. We know how much she cares about you," Bill remarks.

"And we care about you, too. The two of you are wonderful together. Just goes to show you that things always work themselves out in the end," Paula says, her tired eyes brightening, if only briefly, when she smiles at Brent.

Things always work themselves out in the end ... Paula can only hope that sentiment is true in Stan Lincoln's case, as well.


"This is ... good," Jason Fisher mutters to himself and glances at his watch before looking back down at the fourth page of the copy of Alex's manuscript sitting in his lap. He stumbled on it a few minutes ago, right after his post-skating shower, and has been engrossed for the last few minutes while awaiting his sister's arrival. There's a knock on the door, and he sets the text on the couch, heads for the door.

Sarah looks surprisingly pleased to see him, he notes as he greets her with a hug and a hello.

"Wow," she says as she steps into the apartment. "This is pretty nice, Jase. I can't believe I'm just seeing it for the first time."

"Yeah," he says, nodding and shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "We like it." He offers a smile. "You should come over more often. We never really get a chance to hang out."

"I know." She walks into the living room area and sits down on the couch. "We're both so busy with stuff."

"Want anything to drink?" he offers.

"No, thanks."

He nods again and moves into the kitchen, quickly retrieving a bottle of Aquafina from the fridge and heading back into the other room, contemplating for a few seconds just how to breach the subject of his sister's behavior as of late without causing yet another Fisher sibling spat.

"What's this?" Sarah asks as he sits down next to her and sips the water.

"Alex's book," Jason says. "I'm not sure if it's finished or not, but it's pretty good. I was reading it before you came."

"The opening page is captivating. I didn't know he could write like this."

"Me, neither. I've read one or two of his shorter stories, but ... yeah. That's pretty solid."

"Hunh." She seems lost in thought for a second but places the manuscript on the end table adjacent to the couch and looks back at her brother. "Anyway, what's up?"

"Well," he begins as he exhales from another swig of ice water, "how're you doing?"

She's silent for a moment, then offers a shrug. "Okay, I guess. A little better."

"I've been kinda worried about you," he says carefully. "You were pretty upset the night of the show."

"I know," she says and immediately sets a pout on her face that he's known all of his life. "I can't stand our sister right now, as you may recall."

"I know. That's what I was hoping we could talk about, Sarah."

"Perhaps." She pauses. "I know you're on her side."

"I'm not, though, is the thing," he counters. "Not at all. I wouldn't have called you over here if I was gonna take sides--that's the point. Like, I don't always approve of the choices you make, but that doesn't mean I don't love you, too. I just want you to know that I'm here for you if you need me."

"Oh," she replies. "Well ... thanks. That means a lot to me."

"How's Matt?" he asks, trying to gracefully guide the conversation away from their sister. Part of him felt guilty even inviting her over to touch base on things, since he knows how hard a time Sarah's given Brent and Molly over the years, but he felt it needed to be done and he does truly enjoy Sarah's company, if only in sporadic doses.

"Not too bad. He's upset with me, but I feel okay about things. I've got a new plan to set things right, so I'm optimistic, I guess."

"Good," he says, not wanting press any further about her next move. "I'm glad."

He sips his water again and then sets the bottle down on the coffee table.

"I just want you to be happy, Sarah. And not the kind of happy where you're taking pleasure because other people are miserable--genuine happiness, for yourself."

Sarah seems to need a moment to process the thought. "I know, Jay, and I believe that. Thank you."


"I could've come and picked you up," Josh Taylor says, "without, you know, hurting myself or anything."

Courtney Chase settles into the booth. "Nah, it's a long way for you to come. No point in driving all that way."

The restaurant's bar area is nearly full, despite the mid-afternoon hour. Most of the other patrons are in pairs of two, and it strikes Courtney that to any observer, she and Josh are just another one of the couples having a late lunch.

"I really wouldn't have minded," Josh says as he sits down across from her. "Not that I really have any clue about this town's geography. I can do my neighborhood and downtown. Anything else is sort of a stretch."

"I would love to live closer to downtown. There's always so much stuff going on ... I've gotta move out of my parents' place eventually."

"Nothing wrong with free room and board."

Courtney fingers the menu sitting in front of her. "Don't get me wrong, I don't mind that part of it. But I'm kinda pushing the age limit here. If I live with them much longer, I think I automatically move into that 'there is no hope of me having an independent life, ever' category."

"I really think you'll be okay," he says, smiling broadly. A pair of sharp dimples crease his cheeks, and the smile only accentuates the strong, square line of his jaw.

She flips open the menu, pretending to scan its contents while her mind works overtime to keep the conversation moving.

"There just comes a point where you need to not be living with your parents," she says after what feels like far too long a pause.

"I feel you on that. That's partly why I wanted to leave San Diego. I was always with my dad--at home, at work ..."

"Did you, like, plan to come up here because Brent was here, or did it just work out that way?"

"Little bit of both. And my pal Scotty--the one you met the other night--he's been living up here for a couple years, so I thought it'd be fun to live with him. It just sort of fit together the right way."

She brushes back a few loose strands of hair. This is harder than she thought; her mind can't quite keep up with the date. She is trying to carry on conversation and make sure it goes well, all the while trying to sit back and actually enjoy the experience.

Thankfully, Josh doesn't seem to notice.

"So what about you?" he asks.

"What about me?"

"I dunno. Where'd you go to school? What'd you study? How long have you been skating? Stuff like that."

She pauses and tries to come up with someplace to begin, but all that comes out is a giggle. She tries to keep her inward groan from showing externally.

"C'mon, start talking."

She can feel her grin broaden, but this time, no ridiculous laugh slips out. And once she finally figures out a way to start talking, with Josh piping up to ask questions or make jokes, she finds it very easy to keep going.


Nick rises slowly, his knees strangely weak, as he listens to the voice spilling out of his phone. It isn't possible ...

He clutches the phone tightly in his hand, so hard that its edges dig into his skin.

"Are you sure?" he asks. Try as he might to maintain his composure, at least outwardly, he can hear his voice rattling. "I'm not in the mood for practical jokes, so if this is--"

The voice in his ear silences him. In that moment, even though his brain is still attempting to work out the logic, he believes it. He has to.

Stan moves closer to the house. It'll all be over soon enough. But first he has to get to Ryan, has to see him one last time. He isn't even sure what he wants to say; there are so many conflicting ideas running through his head. But he has to see his son one last time before ...

He doesn't want to think about it. He doesn't need to. Right now, all he needs is to get inside and convince Ryan to listen to him.

He settles beneath an open window. There is a voice inside, a man's voice, and he listens more closely to figure out whether it belongs to Ryan.

It takes a few seconds for the words to distinguish themselves, but once they do--Stan's attention is hooked. He listens even harder, straining to hear every syllable.

The voice isn't Ryan's, but Nick's. By this point, though, it doesn't matter. He can't be hearing what he thinks he's hearing. Except that he is. He peeks through the window to get a better grip on the scene. Nick is pacing across the room, his back to the window.

Stan's mind spins into overdrive. He feels a sudden need to take action--he's not even certain why, but it seems like he should.

He doesn't even realize that he has revealed his presence until Nick's eyes lock with his. When he raised his head above the window's edge, he left himself in plain sight for Nick to see once he turned around.

Stan freezes. He isn't sure if he should bolt or if he should confront Moriani, call him on his bullshit.

Nick's eyes narrow. Into the phone, he says, "Call me back in a minute." He flips it shut and approaches the window.

"What are you doing here?" he challenges Stan.

Maybe he doesn't realize what I heard, Stan thinks. "I gotta see Ryan."

"He doesn't live here anymore."

The stare between them holds for another moment, a long one, and Stan becomes aware that Nick knows exactly what he heard. Everything.

"I can't believe I ever left my kid with an asshole like you," Stan says. He doesn't even linger to watch Nick's reaction. Instead, he darts away from the window, through the hedges on the side of the house, and away from Moriani's deadly glare.

Nick's fingers leap to work on his phone. He holds it to his ear as he listens to the ring.

"This is Nick Moriani," he says. "I have a job for you."


Is it the end of the road for Stan, or is he going to cause Nick more trouble?
Is there a future for Courtney and Josh?
What did you think of the encounter between Sarah and Jason?
Now join us in the Footprints Forum for some discussion!

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