Episode #515

- Claire insisted on offering Travis advice about Elly. She drove him to catch Elly before she left for the airport.
- Travis told Elly how he feels about her. Elly was receptive when he kissed her.
- In Brazil, Brent and Claire discovered that James Robbins’s compound was owned by a company called Clayton Holdings, represented by a person named “M.R. Clayton.”
- Courtney enlisted Lauren’s help to investigate Sabrina’s hostility toward her.


The sun goes down earlier and earlier each day, sleeping in is a thing of the past, and schoolbooks litter the dining room table. Nevertheless, Travis Fisher’s entire demeanor has improved considerably during his last two stays at his mother’s home. As she prepares dinner, Claire Fisher observes her son with a tentative sense of relief.

Every now and again, he comes up from his homework to read and respond to a text message on his phone. During one of these brief breaks, Claire decides to be brave and break the silence.

“Who are you texting with?” she asks, trying to seem casual as she chops vegetables for a salad. Based on the regularity of the texts and the amount of volleys going back and forth, Claire has a pretty good idea.

Travis’s eyes widen. “Mom…”

“It’s Elly, isn’t it?” Claire cannot help but smile at the memory of her son dashing up the driveway to talk to Elly and finally kissing her. She still has difficulty thinking of him as such a young man, but the scene was so beautiful. And she was elated simply to see him, at least for that moment, so happy and unburdened.

“Like you couldn’t have guessed that.”

“I didn’t want to be presumptuous.”

Even this short exchange is enough to thrill Claire. For so long, she and Travis shared few words, almost all of them hostile on his end and pleading on hers. Something has definitely shifted in recent weeks.

“I take it things are going well with you guys, then?” Claire asks as she fishes in the refrigerator for the Italian dressing.

She detects the faintest glow of a blush on Travis’s face as he says, “Yeah. Really good.”

“I’m glad. She seems like a sweet girl.” Not that Claire knows Elly in the least, but she would like to take Travis’s word for it--and, beyond that, Molly has nothing but good things to say about the teenager.

“She’s awesome.”

“See? And you didn’t think it was a good idea to go see her before she left.”

“I figured there was a good chance she would just, like, kick me in the nuts or something.”

“Which she might have,” Claire admits. “But she didn’t, and it all worked out.”

“Yeah.” Travis’s eyes stray down to his book, then back up to her. “Thanks.”

There is a sincerity about the word, about the way he looks her in the eye when he says it, that takes her by surprise.

“Seriously,” he says. “That was awesome advice. And thank you for driving me over there, and--just thanks.”

Claire hardly knows what to make of this. The son she has known for months upon months has been sullen, moody, predisposed to take every word she says and turn it against her. This boy is… like the Travis she remembers from before everything with Ryan and Tim and Nick.

“You’re welcome,” Claire says. They are the most satisfying words to pass her lips in a long, long time.


“What do you think of this one?” Helen Chase asks, leaning over to show her daughter yet another photograph of a wedding dress from a bridal magazine.

Courtney examines the dress in question. “Is that… tulle? I don’t even know what that is. And sadly, I don’t think I could fit into it, at this point.”

“The weight will come off,” Paula Fisher assures her from across the table. “Give it some time.”

Uncertain about that though she is, Courtney smiles at her mother-in-law-to-be and turns to pay some attention to her infant daughter, who is sleeping in her carrier on the next chair over. She is immensely grateful that Sophie has chosen this time to be quiet. Getting a little bit of wedding planning done will do a great deal to remove some of the enormous load from Courtney’s shoulders.

“Are we crazy for trying to plan a wedding when we’ve got a new baby and a new house to move into?” she asks the other women.

“No,” Lauren Brooks says, as always the reliable, reassuring, probably lying friend.

“That’s why you have us to help you,” Helen says.

Courtney would like to believe that will be enough, but looking at all the crap spread over her parents’ dining room table, she is not so sure. There are so many decisions to make, so many tasks to get done.

“Why don’t we get some more tea?” Paula suggests. She takes Courtney and Lauren’s cups. “We’ll get some for the two of you.”

“Thanks,” the younger women say.

Paula and Helen exit to the kitchen. Courtney rocks Sophie’s carrier ever so slightly as she tries to relax.

“Don’t make yourself crazy,” Lauren says. “It will all get done. You guys will be moved into the house soon, and then that’s one big thing off your plate.”

“Yeah. You’re right.”

With a wary glance toward the kitchen, Lauren leans in closer. “I’m glad we have a few minutes alone. I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Courtney was hoping that she would have an opportunity to ask about the very thing that she is sure Lauren wants to discuss.

“I made some calls based off Sabrina’s resumé,” Lauren says.


“It all checks out. College, old jobs, references--”

“Oh well. It was worth a check.” Courtney does not even know what she expected to find. She hoped there might be something telling about Sabrina, or at least a reference who might suggest behavior similar to the way that Sabrina has acted toward Courtney. Anything that would help Courtney believe that she hasn’t just imagined Sabrina’s hostility.

“Except for one thing,” Lauren continues. “Her last job.”

“What about it?”

“It doesn’t exist. Her resumé says she was the office manager for a small software company in Tacoma. But when I call the number, it’s a private residence. I asked, and they said they’d never heard of Sabrina Gage.”

Courtney does not want to get her hopes up about discovering something substantial, but this feels… substantial.

“What’s the company? Did you Google it?” she asks.

“Yeah. No record of it. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist.”


“Something is up with that girl,” Lauren says. “Falsifying a resumé is… you don’t just do that.”

Before Courtney can respond, Sophie’s crying fills the room. She tries to comfort her daughter and picks her up, and Paula and Helen return with fresh tea. Still, as they return to wedding planning efforts, Courtney’s mind remains fixed on Sabrina. There is something about her that they have yet to figure out, that much she now knows for sure.


Black pens. Blue pens. Red pens. Sharpies.

Shannon Parish moves down the list of office supplies that need to be replenished and tries to fathom how her life has come to this. How can these people need so many damned pens? Every time she sees one of them putting a pen down where she knows they’ll never find it again, or leaving the cap off so that it dries out and becomes useless, she wants to scream at them. Don’t they know they’re just making extra work for her?

She should not have to do this bullshit. Technically, she owns this place. Jason only has it because of her giving him the money.

Her plan was a lot cleaner in her head, she realizes now. Work as the office manager to get close to Jason. She did not account for as much of the work as she could have. Some of the idiotically robotic tasks that consume her days make her wonder if her efforts are at all worthwhile.

She uses a glance over at Jason Fisher as an opportunity to center herself, to remind herself why she is here doing this mindless garbage. He is hunched over his desk, mapping and then re-mapping a schedule of the arena’s winter ice time. His sleeves are pushed up his forearms almost to his elbows, exposing his fair skin and light hair and the surprisingly thick wrists. She is helping him, in some small way, achieve his dream of running an arena. And they are growing closer every day. She can feel it.

Across the large room, Seth Ashby rises from his desk and announces, “I hate to work and run, but my parents are getting into town tonight, so I have to cut out of here.”

“Alex mentioned they were coming into town,” Jason says, looking up from the schedule. “Good luck.”

Shannon detects a hint of a flush in Seth’s face. After months of working together, she is still not certain what to make of him. He is easy enough to work with, and thankfully he doesn’t insist on lavishing praise all over that idiot Courtney. She suspects that he walks on eggshells in the office to impress Jason and Courtney, however, because of their friend, Alex.

She still has trouble picturing Seth in a relationship with another man. She gets a very sexual vibe from him sometimes, and if Josh Taylor weren’t in the picture and so accessible, she might see what Seth has to offer. She cannot imagine that this thing with Alex is more than a phase… though she wouldn’t mind the opportunity to watch Seth work through his issues with Alex, she thinks as she observes the tight fit of his slacks around his athletic legs.

Seth says his goodbyes and leaves the office. Shannon spends a few more obligatory moments on her inventorying before returning to her desk.

“You’re welcome to take off, if you don’t have anything urgent to take care of,” Jason says.

“Oh, thanks.” She wouldn’t think of leaving now, not when the two of them are alone in the office. “I should probably get this office supply order set up before I even think of leaving, though.”

“At least having someone else here makes me feel like I should be working. This stupid schedule is making me want to spend a lot of time screwing around on YouTube.”

Shannon casually makes her way over to his desk. “Let me see. What’s the problem?”

He indicates a block of time on the calendar, its contents crossed out and rewritten several times. “We’re supposed to have those mini skills classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. But if we put them at 7:30, then there’s a gap on the other days, and I don’t want to have different session times on different weekdays…”

“Can we delineate that block as something different on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?” she asks, trying to make sense of the schedule. “Like time for skaters to work only on spins or something?”

“Not a bad thought.”

She smiles and leans closer, pretending to examine the schedule over his shoulder. His scent fills her senses; it brings her back to the days when they first met, when it seemed things might work out without so many complications. She had already been watching him from afar, and getting close to him just proved how cute and kind he was. Now, years later, she can still see that young man who gave her hope that she could live a normal life. But now he is grown-up, and even sexier, if that is possible. Being this close to him is intoxicating.

“It’s going to be hard to enforce that, though, isn’t it?” he asks.

Shannon snaps out of her reverie, unsure how long she has been reminiscing and daydreaming. She shifts her positioning ever so slightly, just enough to feel a few wisps of his hair brush against her cheek.

“Or,” she says, using every bit of energy within her to focus on speaking, “we could make it program run-through time. On those three days, have the skaters line up their CDs, and they can do programs one by one on clear ice. The coaches will enforce that for us because they’re going to want the open ice time.”

Jason snaps backward and claps his hands. The abrupt movement nearly causes him to slam into Shannon.

“Sorry.” He turns to her. “But that’s brilliant.”

“I’m glad you like it,” she says, so much more elated than he could possibly imagine.


After they finish eating dinner, Claire stands and begins to pile the utensils onto her dirty plate. Travis surprises her by reaching over and taking the plate from her.

“Let me do it,” he says.

She eyes him with mock suspicion. Well, mostly mock suspicion. “Are you sure you’re my son?”

“I could go in my room and play Grand Theft Auto.”

She withdraws her hands. “Okay, no more teasing. Clean up to your heart’s content.”

The landline rings, and Claire moves into the kitchen to answer the call. “Hello?”

“Claire,” comes the man’s voice on the other end. “It’s Brent.”

“Hey.” She peers into the dining area and sees Travis consolidating everything into one pile. “Is everything all right?”

“If by that you mean, ‘Do we have any new info on Mr. Clayton?’, then yes, everything’s all right.”

Instinctively lowering her voice, she moves out of the kitchen and to the back hallway. “What do you have?”

“I’ve been looking into Clayton Holdings,” Brent says. “There’s not a ton of information on them. No surprise there.”


“But there’s enough. It’s a front company for real estate holdings. No other interests, nothing. The only person authorized to sign anything is this M.R. Clayton. The mailing address is a P.O. box in Chicago.”

“My father and Nick definitely spent their share of time in Chicago.”

“Exactly.” Tension dangles on the line. “Are you sure there’s no one else you can think of who was a prominent associate of theirs?”

She has been combing her memory ever since their trip to Brazil, with no success. It is little surprise; her knowledge of her father’s criminal activity did not extend far, and her awareness of Nick Moriani was primarily as a friend of her father’s and later as Ryan’s father. Still, if there were some revenge-minded third associate all along, she is sure that she would have heard about him at some point.

“No. I’m sorry,” she says, but even as she speaks the words, another thought occurs to her. “There is someone who might know better than I do.”

“Who?” The waver in Brent’s voice makes it clear that he has a pretty good idea.

“Ryan. He knew a lot more about Nick’s business than I ever did--he was actually a part of it. And now that Tim knows that we’re investigating, anyway…”

“Let’s talk to him.”

“No. Let me do it alone.” It is not something that she particularly wants to do, but she knows Ryan well enough to know that this is the better option. “He’s going to look at you as a cop. Me--he’ll talk to me.”

Brent hesitates. “Are you sure?”


“All right. Just let me know if--”

“I will. Is there anything else?”

“Just that for now.”

“Okay. I should go, then. Travis is here.” She glances back toward the kitchen and sees Travis transporting everything to the sink in one big, precarious pile. “Thank you, Brent.”

“Thank you,” he says, and she knows that he is grateful for her involvement. He wants these answers at least as much as she does.

She ends the call and makes her way back into the kitchen. Travis manages to set everything into the sink without incident.

“That looked a little risky,” Claire says.

“Nah. I got it.”

He turns on the water and starts rinsing things off. The sight catches Claire off-guard: it is so simple, and yet such normalcy has eluded them for so long. She finally has her son in her home, respecting her, willing to talk with her. There is no way that she is going to risk losing this.

She will find the answers that she and Brent are seeking so desperately, and she will make sure that whoever has done these horrible things is never able to do them again. It is the only way to guarantee that she and her family will finally be safe and happy.


“Thanks for your help,” Jason says as he packs up his things.

“Happy to do it.” Shannon tries to appear busy. She finished placing the office supply order some time ago, but she has no intention of leaving until Jason goes home. If there were a way that she could keep him with her even longer, she would, but pushing too hard will get her nowhere.

As Jason zips up his bag, Lauren Brooks enters the office.

“Coming to take over the night shift?” Jason jokes.

“We just finished Wedding Planning, round one of ten thousand,” Lauren says. “Courtney asked me to swing by and pick up a magazine she left in her desk.”

“Oh. I could’ve brought it home if she’d called me.”

“We didn’t want to bother you. Besides, it gave me an excuse to cut out. I can only take so much of that stuff at a time.”

Jason raises his eyebrows knowingly and slings his bag over his shoulder. “I’m gonna get going. Was Courtney headed home with the baby?”

“Yeah. She left her parents’ right around when I did.”

“Goodnight,” Jason says to both Lauren and Shannon. They offer goodbyes as he disappears from sight.

Shannon begins to pack up her own things once he is gone. Watching him be so sweet with Lauren--who no doubt devastated him when she started flirting with Josh--warms Shannon’s heart. It is a testament to Jason’s good nature and kind heart.

Lauren opens a few of Courtney’s desk drawers but turns up no magazine. She looks up and catches Shannon watching her. Shannon tries to avert her eyes, but apparently it is not quick enough.

“I don’t want this to be awkward,” Lauren says with a heavy sigh. “Because of… the Josh thing, I mean. We’re adults. Jason seems to trust you. I hope you know that I have nothing against you, Sabrina.”

Shannon notices there is no mention of Courtney trusting her.

She puts on Sabrina’s patented sweet smile. “I’m relieved to hear that. If I’d known when I met Josh that he was so involved in all of your lives…”

“Please. If we can handle how incestuous all of this is, you shouldn’t even have to worry about it.”

Lauren continues to search for the magazine, to no avail. “Maybe she brought it home and didn’t even realize it. It’s been weeks since she was here.”


Shutting the final drawer of Courtney’s desk, Lauren turns to Shannon. “I don’t know much about you. Where are you from?”

“I grew up in Iowa,” Shannon says, slipping into the same casual recitation of Sabrina Gage’s past that she has practiced so many times--the same version that she fed Jason when she interviewed for this job. It still sounds fake to her ears, but based upon the reactions to it, she suspects that no one else gets the same impression. “Went to college not far from where I grew up.”

“How’d you wind up all the way out here?”

“I followed an old boyfriend. Bad decision.” She offers a lopsided grin that she hopes will win Lauren’s sympathies; any girl can relate. “But it’s for the best. It’s been good to be away from home.”

“And what’d you do before this?”

Shannon pauses midway through zipping up her bag. Something about Lauren’s tone and the precision of the questions… It’s all too direct, too deliberate. Not conversational.

“I worked at a software company in Tacoma,” Shannon finally says, zipping her bag the rest of the way and doing her best to remain calm. Still, she cannot shake the sense that Lauren is digging for something very specific--and she knows that this is the one hole in her Sabrina Gage cover story. “It was such a crappy job, to be honest. Small business, and the people running it were just not nice at all. I think they closed down already, actually. I tried getting in touch a while back to ask a question, and the phone line had been disconnected.”

There. A simple enough explanation. She still wishes that she didn’t have such a glaring problem with Sabrina’s resumé, but it was necessary. She had to cover that time period somehow, as well as explain how little Sabrina Gage from Iowa wound up in King’s Bay. 

“Oh. It sounds like switching to this job was a good move for you, then!” Lauren opens Courtney’s drawers all over again. “This magazine is totally not here. Oh well. I should get going.”

Yeah, you should, Shannon thinks. She strongly suspects there never was a magazine. Lauren came here to grill her. But why? On Courtney’s orders? Or because of Josh?

“Good talking to you,” Shannon says as she moves for the door. She waits for Lauren to pass, unwilling to leave her in there to go through Sabrina’s desk--though there is nothing incriminating whatsoever there. Lauren exits the office, and Shannon turns off the light and closes the door.

Shannon allows Lauren to go down the stairs ahead of her. Walking behind Lauren, she entertains thoughts of kicking her in the back, sending her tumbling down the stairs, maybe enough to knock that nosy streak right out of her. Somehow, she maintains her cool, and they make it to the arena’s exit.

“Have a good night,” Lauren says as she heads for her car.

“Yeah, you too.”

Shannon slowly walks to her own car. She gets inside and watches Lauren’s car pull out of the parking lot. If that girl thinks she’s being clever, she has another thing coming. They’ve been down this road before, and she won’t stand for Lauren Brooks’s interference this time around.


Will Shannon keep Lauren and Courtney from learning the truth?
Will Claire and Travis have a good relationship from now on?
Could Ryan be the key to solving the mystery of Mr. Clayton?
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