Episode #519

- Lauren told Josh about her and Courtney’s concerns regarding Sabrina. He reluctantly offered to keep his eyes and ears open for information.
- Diane asked Tim to compile a list of possible co-writers for Ryan’s book.
- In a realtor’s office in Chicago, Brent noticed a security camera that might lead him to an image of the mysterious Mr. Clayton.


Ever since he received Sabrina’s text--a seemingly innocuous “What are you up to?”--Josh Taylor has been on edge. He considered not even responding, but he refuses to let Lauren Brooks’s paranoid ranting make decisions for him. And he could definitely use some of what Sabrina is offering.

He lets Sabrina in and finds himself studying her from a new perspective. Lauren’s concerns, whether legitimate or not, have made him wonder about this woman. Is she really okay with their arrangement? And why?

“The traffic was so bad on the way here,” she says, gritting her teeth and shaking her head as she removes her coat. “I swear, I could’ve killed someone.”

It is the kind of comment that Josh probably makes ten times a day, but in light of Lauren and Courtney’s worries about Sabrina, it gives him pause.

“That would’ve been a little extreme,” he says with an uneasy laugh.

Sabrina eyes him sideways. “Yeah… it would’ve. That’s why it was an exaggeration. You know, like a joke?”

“I know, I know.” He feels like an idiot under her confused gaze. “You, uh, you want a drink?”

“Do you have vodka? That thing with the Sprite…”

“Please, me not have a stocked bar?”

They move to the kitchen, and Josh sets about making their drinks. This is ridiculous, he tells himself as he replays Sabrina’s earlier comment and his absurd reaction to it. He is not going to let Lauren’s nonsense get under his skin. She’s probably just jealous.

He hands Sabrina her drink and, a moment later, closes the space between them with his lips. What they need right now is not a conversation.


Ryan Moriani cannot tell if he is dreading this or not. On one hand, he wants it to be over; ever since he turned in his draft to Vision, he has been waiting for some response, any response, about the work. On the other, he is terrified to hear that they think it is awful or, even worse, that the poor quality has made them decide to scrap the book entirely. And on a third, nonexistent hand, he just wants the waiting to be over regardless…

“Have a seat,” Diane Bishop instructs him as she leads him into her office.

Though he is unsure whether his nerves will allow him to sit still, Ryan complies. Diane hovers on the other side of her desk.

“I’ve been through your draft twice now,” she says.

Ryan cannot wait a second longer. “And?”

“The story’s there. And you hit some nice notes--little things that surprise the reader and make you seem sympathetic at times when you probably shouldn’t.”

“So you like it.”

Diane lets out a sigh. “This isn’t a matter of liking it or disliking it. It’s about creating a product from raw materials. Right now, we have those materials assembled, but they’re still in a fairly rudimentary package.”

That sounds… not great. Rudimentary?

“What do we do now, then?” he asks. “You give me notes and I work on another draft?” He knew this would be part of the process, even if the thought of facing more time with this book terrifies him. Getting through the writing once was difficult enough; more passes through it seem impossible.

“Not exactly.” Now she does that irritating thing that Diane Bishop does in meetings, as Ryan has observed over the past several months: she paces. Not very far, but it is clearly a pace. She walks a few steps in one direction and then a few steps in the other, never emerging from behind her desk. Ryan finds it excruciating, as if she is drawing out the moment just to stick it to him.

“We’re bringing in someone else,” Diane finally announces.

Now Ryan is glad to be sitting, because the news hits him in such a way that his entire body goes limp. If he were standing, he is fairly certain he would have crumpled to the ground.

“You’re firing me from my own book? Do you know how hard I worked on that? I might not be a professional writer, but I killed myself working on that thing. This is--it’s my story. You can’t just take it away from me and hand it to someone else like it was never mine to begin with. How would you feel if I ripped off your arm and just gave it to somebody else?”

He doesn’t even know where the rant came from, but it felt damn good.

“Get a grip,” Diane says. “A co-writer. Someone to help you shape it, sharpen it. You’re not being fired.” A grin spreads over her face. “Rip off my arm? Really?”

Ryan slumps in shame. “You said yourself I’m not such a great writer.”

“This isn’t personal, Ryan. It’s about putting out the best product that we can. Don’t get your panties all twisted up--this isn’t a reflection on you or your story.”

As he squirms in his chair, Ryan wishes that he could believe that.


As Brent Taylor reaches into the envelope and grips the photos between two fingers, an anxious current pulses through his body. This could be it: the moment the whole thing blows wide open.

“Let me see,” says Claire Fisher, standing across the desk from him.

Brent pulls the photographs from the envelope. He still cannot believe his good fortune in noticing the security camera in that realtor’s office in Chicago; if he had visited a few weeks later, the tapes would have been wiped, and he never would have had this opportunity.

He holds up the stack of photos for Claire to see. “Here he is. Our Mr. Clayton.”

Claire leans in to study the grainy reproduction from the security camera.

“Do you recognize him?” Brent asks.

Instead of answering, she takes the stack from him and flips through the series of nearly identical, high-angle shots of a brown-haired Caucasian man in a charcoal gray suit.

“I don’t know,” she finally says. “I don’t think so.”

The breath that Brent didn’t realize he was holding in now releases in a big whoosh. He only wishes it were one of victory and not disappointment.

“Are we sure this is our guy?” Claire asks, still poring over the photos.

“Yes. I took them to Domingo. He says this is the man who brought Tim to his clinic. This is Clayton.”

“Great. So who is he actually?”

Brent has nothing to offer but a weary shake of the head. He hoped that the image would spark some memory for Claire, that she might recall an associate of her father’s whom she never suspected of being particularly important.

Finally, she removes her eyes from the pictures and looks at Brent. “So what do we do now?”

He wishes he had an answer.

“You wouldn’t believe how little information there is about this guy in the public record,” he explains. “A Social Security number and his real estate dealings. That’s it. No driver’s license, no residence of record…”

“Because he doesn’t exist.”

“Exactly. ‘Mr. Clayton’ is somebody else… but who?”

Claire fumbles for an answer but suddenly lights up. “There’s someone else who needs to see these.”


“Tim.” Before Brent can respond, she hurries to add, “I know it’s a long shot, but if this man brought him to Domingo’s clinic--maybe Tim saw him. We don’t know for certain that he was comatose that entire time. And if this man was posing as his father…”

“It’s worth a shot,” Brent agrees.

Claire stuffs the photos into the envelope. “Pray that this works.”

Brent sighs. “That’s all I’ve been doing lately.”


As he and Sabrina lie in his bed later, sheets strewn over and around them, Josh has to bite back a laugh. He acted insane before--taking Lauren’s fears seriously, thinking Sabrina might be some secret homicidal lunatic. She is the same woman he has known since the blackout last fall. The same uncomplicated, horny woman.

“Whew. I needed that,” Sabrina says, gazing up at the ceiling.

“Me too. You would not believe what a pain in the ass work was today. I can’t wait ‘til I don’t have to take orders from three different people who can never agree on anything.”

He rolls onto his side and pinches the sleeve of the lightweight gray sweater that Sabrina is wearing.

“You up for another one?” he asks.

A smirk twists her lips. “Why not?”

Sabrina moves to straddle his naked body, and in a matter of seconds, they are going at it again. Josh’s fingers work up and under her sweater, then start to peel it off.

“No,” Sabrina murmurs, her mouth against his. “Leave it.”

“Why? You’ve had it on the whole time.”

She pulls back. “That wasn’t exactly slow and tender, Josh. I took off what I needed to take off.”

“And now we have time to get this off, too.” Again he tugs the sweater up, but this time, she smacks his hands away and moves off him.

“What the hell is wrong?” Josh asks.

“What the hell is wrong with you? I said no!”

Sabrina climbs off the bed and begins putting on the rest of her clothes. Josh watches in confusion.

“Sorry,” he says. “Although it’d be easier to apologize if I knew what I did.”

“You’re pushy, that’s what!” She wriggles back into her black skirt. “Can you just mind your own business?”

“All I did was--”

“No one ever just minds their own fucking business!” She picks up a shoe off the floor--one of his, Josh realizes as it flies at him.

He moves to avoid it. “What the fuck? It’s a sweater. It’s not a big deal.”

“Just leave me alone, okay?”

She storms out of the room and, seconds later, out of the house. The slamming of the door echoes behind her, and Josh sits in a puddle of sheets, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. And if Lauren might be onto something after all.


Shannon slams the car door behind her, but when it does not feel significant enough, she opens it again and slams it harder. And again. And again. The impact rattles through her hand and body, but she is grateful for the discomfort, in a strange way. It distracts her, takes her out of the moment.

She throws her head against the back of the seat. Damn Josh. She knew this was a risk of letting herself get too close to anyone. It’s even worse that it turned out to be someone who knows Jason and Courtney. Maybe it’s time to cut him off. If he’s acting this way…

Without even realizing that she is doing it, she pushes up one of the sleeves of her sweater. The cuts are still red and raw. She wishes that she could stop doing this, but sometimes all she can think about is how stupid this whole plan is, how it’s never going to work and she’ll be left alone all over again. And then she needs the release more than anything.

She has done a good job of hiding the scars from Josh. Sometimes she won’t call him for a week or two, waiting for them to recede. Truth be told, he probably likes her more because of the gaps between meetings. And he has never asked about the older-looking ones--probably too serious for him, bless his simple Neanderthal heart. But tonight, he almost got too nosy for his own good.

She tugs the sleeve down and starts her car. It might be time to make some changes.


As soon as he returns to his car, Ryan punches in the phone number on his hands-free system. The call rings once… twice… and doubt overtakes him. He shouldn’t be doing this.

Then comes the answer: “Hello?”

“Danielle. It’s Ryan.”

“I know.”

He doesn’t say anything, unsure how to approach this conversation. His reason for the call seemed so clear before he made it, but now that she has answered…

“Is everything all right?” Danielle asks. And it puts him at ease, at least a bit. There is no accusation in her voice, no aggression--just concern.

“Everything’s fine.” That is not exactly true, but it sounds less melodramatic. “I was hoping for some advice, that’s all.”

“What kind of advice?”

“On taking criticism. On your work--er, mine.”

“I take it you turned in your draft.”

“That would be correct.” He starts up his car and steers toward the exit of the parking garage. “Diane wants to bring in someone to help me with it. Help, quote-unquote.”

Now the silence is on Danielle’s end. She finally asks, “What did she say about it?”

“The story’s there, but we need to focus it. That kind of thing.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“It isn’t that bad. Which is why I feel stupid about feeling so…”


“Yes.” He pulls out of the garage and turns right. “How did you deal with that with your music? Did you just ignore it?”

“You’re asking the woman who became an alcoholic after she lost her record deal?”

Thankfully, she follows the comment with a laugh. Ryan joins in, just enough to keep it from being uncomfortable.

“I’m no expert,” Danielle continues, “but as best I can tell, you’re supposed to take it not as criticism, but as someone helping you perfect what you have. Just see it as… them doing some of the work for you.”

Ryan wonders if he can tame his emotions to such a degree. “Thanks. I’ll try that. I knew you’d have some wisdom for me.”

“Every now and again, I do.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. You have an amazing ability to help people. Danielle, you’re… you’re one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.”

Even though they are not in the same physical space, Ryan is sure that he detects a change in Danielle. He scolds himself for having gotten too serious.


“I should go. I have to pick up Caleb and Christian.”

His next words come in a single breath: “I’m sorry for dragging you into this. I should’ve known better. Thanks for your help.”

“You’re welcome,” she says, but it is cool and robotic, and before Ryan can even conceive a reply, she hangs up.

He does not know what he expected. As much as he would like to think that they are friends, circumstances make that fairly impossible. Whatever bond they have developed is not going to progress any further. And he cannot blame Danielle for that--for standing by her family, for standing up to the terrible things that Ryan has done.

He grips the steering wheel harder than necessary and tries to focus on his driving.


Will Ryan’s doubt drive him to reckless behavior?
What should Josh do about Sabrina now?
Will Tim be any help in identifying Clayton?
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