Episode #509

- Ryan impulsively kissed Danielle, who then rushed out.
- Danielle was thrilled when Elly called to ask if she could spend some time in King’s Bay over the summer.
- Molly hoped to persuade photographer Philip Ragan to shoot a new campaign for Objection.
- In Brazil, Brent and Claire’s investigation was deterred by a misunderstanding that landed them in a jail cell. Brent got in touch with the King’s Bay Police Department, who had them released. Local police records then showed that James Robbins is truly dead, but his compound was once owned by someone named “M.R. Clayton.”


As she enters the elegant restaurant’s bar area, Molly Taylor’s nerves hum anxiously, like a car in idle waiting to burst off the line. She prefers to arrive early for appointments, but today is an exception. It is vital that she not arrive until the person she is meeting is there and waiting. Still, the fact that it is fifteen minutes after their appointed meeting time weighs upon her as she spots him at the bar.

Wordlessly, she seats herself beside Philip Ragan.

“I’m sorry,” he says, turning to her, “I’m waiting for--” He cuts himself off as recognition takes effect.

“It’s nice to see you again.” Molly extends her hand. “Molly Taylor, Objection Designs.”

Philip offers a polite but wary shake. “I remember. Philip Ragan.”

I remember.”

“You’ll have to excuse me,” Philip says. “I’m meeting someone.” He checks his watch. “Late though he might be.”

“Would it happen to be… I don’t know… the creative director of a certain noted architecture magazine here in the Northwest?”

Surprise and outrage flash over Philip’s face in nearly simultaneous waves. “You’ve got to be kidding. This was a setup?”

“I’d prefer to think of it as a resourceful negotiation tactic.” She reminds herself to play it cool. Now is not the time to apologize for having misled him.

Philip stands. “I’m sorry, but this is--”

“You might as well stay and finish your drink,” Molly says. “Hear me out. I think you owe it to the person who purchased your photograph ‘By a Rope’ at the full sticker price.”

That information gets Philip to pause, long enough so that Molly can flag down the bartender. “I’ll have a gin-and-tonic,” she says. Normally she prefers something sweeter, a truly mixed drink, but it seems beneficial not to give Philip any ammunition with which to dismiss her as another flighty woman from the fashion world.

Molly watches the bartender make her drink, but she is aware of Philip sitting back down in the high bar chair. He lifts his martini to his mouth.

“I just need you to hear me out,” she says as the bartender hands her the gin-and-tonic. “What you said about preferring not to photograph people--I might not agree entirely, but it makes sense to me. It even inspired me a bit as I was reworking some of our upcoming collection.”

She reaches into her bag, pulling out her sketchbook before Philip can protest. She sets it open in front of him.

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of hanging the clothes on the models, so that they become an afterthought,” she continues. “It’s how our industry typically approaches advertising. But I admire your perspective. There’s something valuable about questioning the norm and pushing yourself to be different.”

She turns the pages of the book, allowing him a glimpse at each of the designs.

“That’s why I’d like to work with you, Philip. This is the first time I’ve ever been so inspired by a photographer. We have the opportunity to do something really interesting for mainstream fashion.”

Philip sips his martini with excruciating slowness before finally lifting his attention to her.

“I don’t aspire to work in fashion,” he says. “I’m not wowed by the alleged glamour or--”

“I’m not asking you to be. All I’m asking is that you give this serious consideration. You can’t argue that an up-and-coming photographer wouldn’t like some of the attention that comes from a successful media campaign.”

She tries her hardest not to smile too much, not to betray her utter amazement at having pulled this off so smoothly. She thinks she succeeds… more or less.

“I’m willing to consider,” Philip says at last, holding his lips together in a way that makes Molly suspect he is barely concealing a grin.


The summer evening has cooled to a comfortable temperature, but Danielle Taylor and Elly Vanderbilt still sip on iced coffees as they stroll through the downtown streets with Danielle’s twin nephews.

“So I didn’t win the election, but maybe that was for the best,” Elly is in the midst of saying. “Being president is a lot of stress, and I can still be on Student Council.”

“That’s a really good attitude,” Danielle says, surprised as always by the girl’s maturity. “I’m not sure I would have been so level-headed at sixteen. Scratch that--I know I wasn’t.”

Elly laughs. “Maybe I’m just trying really hard to come up with a reason not to be disappointed about it.”

They turn a corner, and Danielle has to tug on Caleb’s hand to keep him walking with them; at every intersection, it seems, he wants to dart in any direction that they aren’t headed.

“The rest of the school year went well otherwise, though?” Danielle asks.

“Yeah. My friend Ashley had this huge sleepover on the last night of school. There were, like, twenty of us at her house. It was crazy.” She drinks her coffee and lets the memories wash over her. “Some of us wanted chocolate cake, so we decided to make one, except we couldn’t turn on the mixer because it would wake up Ashley’s parents. So we had to do it all by hand.”

“And how did that turn out?” Danielle is pretty sure she already knows the answer.

“A giant mess! But it was so funny. Ashley’s mom came downstairs in the morning and looked like she was gonna have a heart attack. But we cleaned it all up.”

Elly pauses in front of a store to survey the clothing in its front window. They have done very little shopping today--their only purchase has been the pair of sunglasses that Elly is now wearing--but they have certainly done their share of browsing and admiring. For Danielle’s part, it has been more than enough; the opportunity to spend time with Elly, especially when she is so happy and willing to talk, is a gift.

“How about boys?” Danielle asks, cringing as she hears herself sounding like a mom--a very out-of-date, awkward mom.

Elly shrugs and turns back from the store window. “I don’t know. This guy Evan asked me to the end-of-the-year dance, so I went with him… but he was kind of an idiot.”

“Most of them are.” Danielle catches herself. “Forget I said that. You’re going to have lots and lots of success with boys. Men. Whenever you’re ready for it.”

They fall into step again. Christian drops his miniature water bottle on the sidewalk and doesn’t seem to care, but Elly pauses to pick it up. When the boy shows no interest in holding it anymore, Danielle takes it and puts it in her purse.

“Thanks,” she says to Elly. A moment passes before she asks, “What about Travis Fisher? Have you been talking to him?”

She catches the beginnings of a blush on Elly’s face.

“We IM a lot,” Elly says through a grin. “I told him I was coming to visit.”

“Are you going to see him?”

Elly shrugs. “Probably.”

Danielle decides that is a sufficient amount of boy-related torture for now. She wants to make sure that Elly knows that she is receptive to talking about these things if and when Elly has questions or issues. But she also remembers being a teenager and being colossally embarrassed about boys most of the time.

She changes the subject. “Have you started thinking about college? I know it’s a few years off, but these days…”

“I take the PSAT this year,” Elly says. “I don’t really know what I want to do yet.”

“That’s fine. You aren’t supposed to know yet.”

“Tell our guidance counselors that. They’re so pushy.”

“It will come together,” Danielle says. “Give yourself time to explore the things that interest you.”

They make it another few steps before Elly stops and turns to Danielle. “There is something I know I want to explore.”

“What’s that?”

“I might need your help,” Elly says. “I want to find my biological parents.”


After Philip Ragan leaves the restaurant on foot, Molly hands the valet attendant her ticket and waits for her car. She is almost giddy from her meeting; it proved a much greater success than she expected. By the time Philip finished looking through the sketches with her, he actually seemed… interested.

For the first time since she was appointed Chief Creative Officer of the company, Molly feels something resembling faith in her ability to steer Objection. She has never doubted that she is capable of designing appealing clothing, but having a strong enough vision to guide a company is another matter entirely.

As she waits for her car, Molly folds her arms and offers up a silent prayer to Camille Lemieux: Thank you for this opportunity. I promise I won’t let you down.

She is lost in thoughts of her late mentor when the sound of her own name tears her back to reality.

“Mrs. Taylor!”

She turns left and then right before spotting a vaguely familiar face, that of a Hispanic man in his late thirties or early forties.

“Detective Oscar Casares,” he says as he approaches. “We met last year at--”

“Of course,” Molly says, recognizing Brent’s colleague. “I’m sorry. I was a million miles away just now.”

“Did everything turn out all right with Commander Taylor?” Casares asks.

Molly is not sure what to make of that statement. Has Brent been having some trouble at work that he has not told her about?

“He’s actually out of town until tomorrow. Is there something I should ask him about?”

Casares’s features go slack with surprise. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I just thought you’d heard.”

“Heard what?”

As Molly awaits the man’s explanation, her car pulls up to the curb. She gestures to the valet as he exits on the driver’s side and holds the door open. “Just a moment.”

“Detective Casares,” she says, “what’s going on with my husband?”


Danielle summons every bit of energy within her in an effort not to overreact to Elly’s pronouncement.

“Are you sure that’s what you really want?” she asks carefully.

Elly’s response is immediate. “Yes! I need to know where I came from. Who I am.”

Steadying herself with a deep breath, Danielle places her hands on the girl’s shoulders. “You are a wonderful young woman. You’re intelligent, you’re beautiful, you have two parents whose lives revolve around you. That’s who you are.”

Elly’s head drops with embarrassment.

“I know,” Elly finally says, “but there’s this whole other… possibility. I just need to know. I have parents out there who I’ve never met. I have no idea what they’re like.”

Danielle reminds herself of the promises that she, Melanie, and Tom have made over the years. It is better not to confuse Elly. Melanie and Tom are her parents. Danielle is more than welcome to dote upon her as a godmother. Right now, however, with her daughter standing before her and pleading for answers, none of that is particularly convincing to Danielle.

“I can’t ask my parents. I need your help,” Elly says, apparently sensing that she has Danielle in a weak moment.

Before Danielle can respond, things get even worse. She sees Ryan Moriani coming down the street, obviously having spotted her.

“Hi,” he says, stepping right up to them.

“Hi.” The sensations of Ryan kissing her--his lips, his scent, the rush and the immediacy of it all--come barreling back at her. “Uh, Ryan, this is Elly, my goddaughter.” She decides it best not to mention that they have encountered one another before: when she and Elly discovered Ryan passed out on a bench in the park one morning last winter. Not that Ryan would remember anyway.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Ryan takes Elly’s hand softly in his for a shake. “Ryan Moriani.”

Elly looks between the two adults. “You’re… Travis’s uncle.”

Ryan’s confirmation is slow in coming. “Yeah. That I am.” He shifts uncomfortably. “Having a shopping day?”

Danielle nods but then makes a split-second decision. “We were. We need to get home, actually. The boys are getting cranky.”

“They seem fine,” Ryan says, but as Danielle pulls Caleb, Christian, and Elly past him, it dawns on him.

“Danielle, I’m sorry,” he says, leaning in close to speak quietly. “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable, with the…” Acutely aware of the kids’ presence, he trails off. “I’d like to see you again, sometime soon.”

She can’t allow herself to consider it.

“We really need to go,” she says, and with that, the four of them move hurriedly down the street, leaving Ryan standing in the middle of the sidewalk.


For the bulk of their trip back home--first on the two airplane flights that brought them back to SeaTac International Airport, and now on the car ride from the airport--Claire Fisher and Brent Taylor have traveled in silence. There are simply too many questions, ones that they have no possibility of answering at this point in their investigation. Instead of spinning their wheels and driving themselves mad with possibilities and theories, they have occupied themselves with books, magazines, and the sights.

Not that the events of their trip to Brazil have ever been far from Claire’s mind. As Brent drives her back to her apartment, she is only half-aware of the music on the radio, and most of what she sees through the vehicle’s window does not even register. She is grateful for the “King’s Bay, Next Exit” sign on the freeway--mostly because it means they are almost home and are thus closer to embarking upon the next leg of this journey.

Brent turns off the freeway, and a few minutes later, they pull into the parking lot of Claire’s apartment complex. Only once he parks the car in front of her building does Claire speak:

“Thank you.”

“I wasn’t going to make you take a cab all the way from SeaTac,” he jokes.

“For everything,” she says. “For doing this with me. You have no idea how important this is to me.”

Brent is quiet. Maybe he does know.

“You’ll look up Clayton Holdings tomorrow?” Claire asks.

“Yeah. I’m sure it’s a front. This Clayton--whoever he is--he’s been tied to your dad and Nick for years.”

Claire combs her memory, trying to recall if there might be something from her childhood to help out: a face, a name, anything. The name Clayton doesn’t ring any sort of bell, though.

“At least we know it isn’t my father,” she says as she opens the passenger door. “That would’ve been too much.”

“But that way, we’d know something more concrete.” Brent watches her pull her bag from the back seat. “Nice work out there, Claire. I wasn’t sure how it’d go bringing you along, but you held it together.”

“Thanks. I think. Once you find out some more about Clayton, we can--”

But her words fall off as she turns and spots two people emerging from the lobby of her building: Molly and Tim.

“What are you doing here?” Claire asks them, as Brent opens the driver’s side door.

“Molly called me,” Tim says.

Claire and Brent exchange an uncertain look over the roof of the car.

“I ran into Detective Casares earlier,” Molly tells Brent. “How was Brazil?”


On the ride home, the brief encounter with Ryan proves an even bigger distraction to Danielle than the twins’ jabbering and craziness in the backseat. She can also feel Elly watching her intently from the passenger seat.

“Are you dating that guy? Travis’s uncle?” Elly asks out of the blue.

Danielle grips the steering wheel harder. “No. Definitely not. Did we act like we’re dating?”

Elly contemplates that for a moment. “Broken up, maybe. Or on a break.”

“There’s nothing to be on a break from.” Danielle shakes her head adamantly.

“I remember him from the park,” Elly says. “He was passed out on that bench. We brought him back to Brent and Molly’s.”

“He needed help.”

“He seems like he’s doing better. Is that because of you?”

Danielle focuses on the blinking of her turn signal and the maneuvering of her car around a corner. The steering feels a little loose, a little shaky; she should really get it in for a tune-up.

“It’s complicated,” she finally says. “Ryan has a lot of things to work through. He did some awful things to his family.”

“Travis has told me.”

“Then you understand why it would be ridiculous for there to be anything between us.”

“Seemed like he has a thing for you.”

That kiss flashes across Danielle’s mind again. Fleeting though it was, it has stuck with her. Probably because it is the only one she has received in far, far too long.

Yes, that’s it. The attention from Ryan is nice, in theory, because it is attention. Not because of him.

“I hadn’t noticed,” she says dismissively as they continue their drive home.


Molly advances on Brent, everything about her suggesting that she has caught him in some horrible lie. Claire feels compelled to intercede.

“He’s helping me,” she says. “I needed police help, and Brent offered--”

Still, Molly remains intent upon her husband. “You could have told me. You went to Brazil and tried to pass it off as a quick work trip across the state?”

Claire opens her mouth to speak again, but Brent jumps in ahead of her.

“I was going to tell you,” he says. “As soon as we got back. We didn’t want to raise any questions until we had at least the beginning of some answers.”

Molly folds her arms across her body, clearly trying to exhibit some restraint in front of Claire and Tim.

“Why now?” Tim asks. “After all these years…”

Claire wondered if they would put two and two together. Of course the mere mention of traveling to Brazil holds the same weight for Tim that it does for her. He lived through that, too. He and Travis are enormous parts of her motivation for launching this search. It is as much their experience as it is hers.

“There are some things we found out,” she says, “that we needed to look into. Brent thought it would be a good idea to start there.” Seeing Molly’s skepticism, she further explains, “Brent talked to one of the guards who helped Nick hold us in the basement. Someone besides Nick hired him--someone calling himself Mr. Clayton. The same person who helped break Nick out of the hospital.”

The color drains from Tim’s face.

Brent takes the baton from Claire. “Someone has been pulling strings for years. Someone who’s still out there. I had this wild theory that it might be…”

“James,” Tim says. The mere act of saying his name, even after so much time, appears to sap Tim’s energy.

“He’s dead,” Claire hastens to add. “That’s why we had to go down there. To confirm that. We didn’t want to say anything until we had some idea.”

Although she has been gradually relaxing as the explanation emerged, Molly now shakes her head at Brent. “You wound up in prison on another continent! I had no idea where you were. If you hadn’t been able to get in touch with the police here…”

“I’m sorry,” Brent says without hesitation. “It was a judgment call. I didn’t want to keep it from you.”

“We have children,” Molly says. “I deserve to have some input when you’re planning on putting your life in danger.” She moves closer to him, and they begin an actual discussion.

Claire tries not to listen. Tim moves in on her.

She decides to beat him to the punch. “I’m sorry for taking off the way I did--because of Travis. I know it wouldn’t have been fair to him if something had happened to me… even if he might be thrilled about it these days.” They share a strained smile. “But I had to choose, and I didn’t want either of you knowing what was going on until we had something concrete.”

Tim nods. “I understand. But why now? Why are you doing this?”

“I wish this had ended with Nick, but it goes beyond him.” She did not intend on throwing this into the mix, but now seems as appropriate a time as any: “Brent talked to Dr. Domingo again. He swears that the man who brought you to that clinic as Tom Clayton was not Nick Moriani.”

“He’s been saying that all along,” Tim says, but the words hold no conviction.

“He has no reason to cover for Nick anymore. Whoever brought you to that clinic is the same person who helped Nick fake his death and almost kill of us. The same person who owned my father’s hideout in Brazil. Mr. Clayton.”

Tim’s only response is a wordless dip of the head, an attempt to process all of this and center himself again.

“There’s someone still out there,” Claire says, “and whoever he is, he’s devoted far too much time and energy to hurting us to stop now. That’s why we have to stop him.”


Will Tim join Claire and Brent in their search?
Will Molly and Philip be able to work together?
Can Elly change Danielle’s mind about Ryan?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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