Episode #525

- Danielle and Ryan went on their official first date, which went very well. Brent was horrified by his sister’s intention of spending time with Ryan.
- Diane and Tim hired a co-author to ready Ryan’s manuscript for publication.
- Brent and Claire gathered more information on the mysterious Mr. Clayton but then received a shocking phone call: Clayton had been found dead.


The silence is thick with awkwardness in the conference room. Diane Bishop and Ryan Moriani sit at one end of the expansive table--Diane at the head, Ryan to her left--and wait. Not a word passes between them once initial greetings have been dispensed. Ryan figures that their relationship, if it can even be labeled as such, has bypassed the period in which small talk is necessary. That is not to say that they can be comfortably quiet together, but any attempts at light conversation would feel like exactly what they would be: bullshit.

He breathes a private sigh of relief when the door opens and Tim Fisher enters, followed by a very attractive woman in a charcoal sweater and a figure-hugging pencil skirt. Ryan and Diane both stand as Tim introduces her.

“Diane Bishop, Ryan Moriani, this is Cassandra Ward,” he says as handshakes are exchanged. “She’ll be co-authoring Ryan’s book as we move toward publication.”

Tim and Cassandra settle on Diane’s right side. As they all engage in pleasantries, Ryan watches Cassandra carefully, trying to get a sense of this woman with whom he will be working intimately for the next few months. She could either be his salvation in this process or his greatest nightmare.

“I presume you’ve been through the manuscript and have thoughts,” Diane says to Cassandra. “Why don’t I begin by sharing what I see as the greatest problem areas, and then you can give yours?”

“I’d like an opportunity to discuss what I think works first,” Cassandra says. “I always prefer to do it that way when I’m giving a writer feedback on his work.”

Ryan can certainly appreciate that. Maybe he is going to like working with this woman.

Diane, however, is not amused. “If you insist. I’m not a big fan of all that hippie-dippie positive reinforcement crap.”

Cassandra ignores the jab and addresses Ryan. “Your story is extremely compelling,” she says. “I read about it in the news, but to get inside your head and see it play out from your perspective--it’s fascinating. And somehow, I really understand how it spiraled and became as much of a catastrophe as it did.”

“Thank you,” Ryan says. He relaxes ever so slightly. He lives with such great shame over what he did to Tim, Claire, and the rest of the Fishers that he still cannot comprehend how someone could read this book and not start throwing rocks at him, but if it means he has an effective story, so be it.

“One section that really works for me,” Cassandra continues, “is the chapter about your relationship with Claire, while…” She glances over at Tim.

“While I was dead. You can say it. It’s fine,” Tim says.

Cassandra laughs at the bizarre necessity to break this tension. “At any rate, that chapter really put me on your side.”

Ryan exchanges a look with Diane. They have discussed this, and Ryan is well aware of Diane’s viewpoint on the matter.

“Actually, we agreed to cut that chapter,” Diane says. “It slows the story down almost completely.”

“You need the development of the relationship so that everything else resonates,” Cassandra counters.

“You can build rooting value without spending 22 pages putting people to sleep. Ryan and I have been over this. I’d like to fold it into the end of the previous chapter--”

“I’m sorry, but I disagree.” Cassandra looks to Ryan for support.

“I think I agree with Diane,” he says. “I like the idea, but doesn’t it feel very self-indulgent?”

“You’re writing a memoir. If you hadn’t noticed, the whole concept is self-indulgent.”

Diane shakes her head insistently. “It’s disgustingly self-indulgent. No one wants to read about--”

“To be fair,” Ryan interrupts, “some of that might be colored by the fact that you hate Claire.”

“I don’t think we should cut it,” Cassandra says, folding her arms. “Frankly, I think it’d be an enormous mistake. Tim, what do you think?”

“I actually agree with Cassandra,” he says. “As much as I hated reading it, the content works in the scheme of the larger story.”

You are not editing this book!” Diane says. “And if I say we’re cutting the chapter--”

Ryan catches Tim’s eye as the debate rages on. Tim might not be his greatest fan, with good reason, but right now, they are in full agreement: this is going to be a miserable process.


“Where is this guy?” Claire Fisher says, folding her arms tight across her coat-clad body. “It’s freezing out here.”

Brent Taylor checks his watch. “He said ten minutes… and it’s been almost twenty… so I hope soon.”

He takes Claire’s lead and folds his arms. It does little to protect him against the frosty New Jersey air. As cold as it is has seemed in Washington of late, this is a different kind of frigid, the kind that burrows under your skin and into your blood.

“Are you sure that was him?” Claire asks, obviously caught up in thought. “All we have to go by is that one picture…”

“It was him,” Brent says. He is sure of it. The short look they got at the dead man struck him immediately, even though he has only seen one photo of Clayton.

“What if this is a set-up? It’s all very convenient, don’t you think?” Claire takes a deep breath and exhales a visible cloud of chalky white air. “Clayton gets shot to death, someone knows to call you…”

“Only because I put out feelers to everyone I know. It was bound to work its way through the grapevine.”

Claire grimaces with doubt. He cannot fault her for being skeptical; Clayton’s shooting and death have come just as they were getting closer to figuring out his true identity. He would like to think it is a sign that they are getting too close for someone’s comfort… but whose?

“Why do we have to wait outside?” she mutters.

“I don’t know. These detectives are strange. At least they’re willing to talk to us, though. All we have to do is endure the cold for a little while longer, and we’ll have our information on who Clayton really is.”

They wait a few more minutes, kicking around a stray pebble and theories about Clayton’s death. The side door of the station opens, and Detective Wheeler, a tall woman with straight, honey-colored hair, steps outside.

“Detective Kreizman will be out in a moment,” she says, lighting a cigarette.

“Do you have any information for us? On who this ‘Mr. Clayton’ really is?” Brent asks.

“We do,” Wheeler says, as Kreizman, a short man with curly black hair, joins them outside. “Your Mr. Clayton had his real identification on him when he was killed.”


The plates clink as Danielle Taylor sets them on the table. She takes her seat, and Josh does not waste one more second before digging into the chicken parmesan that she prepared for them.

“This is awesome,” he says after gulping down his first bite. “Thanks for cooking.”

She cuts a piece of her own chicken. “Thanks for coming over. It’s good to see you.” With Brent out of town and Molly working late, Danielle thought it might be nice to spend some time with her younger brother. The twins have already been fed and are upstairs playing, which grants her the relief of an actual adult conversation.

“So what’s been going on with you?” Josh asks.

Judging by the way he glances up at her, it strikes Danielle more like fishing than like a casual inquiry.

“I take it Brent said something to you, then,” she says.

About to take a bite, he pauses. “Sorry. Yeah. I didn’t want to sell him out, but--”

“It’s fine. I know he’s not happy about me spending time with Ryan. I figured he would tell you.”

Josh takes a bite and contemplates his next words. Finally, he says, “You can’t blame him for being worried. You were in that basement with them, too. Sounds like it was horrible.”

“Ryan didn’t do that.”

“He caused it.”

“We’ve all caused a lot of terrible things to happen, indirectly,” she says. “Ryan has made some awful choices, but the blame for what Nick Moriani did doesn’t fall on him.”

Josh soaks that up quietly; Danielle can tell that he is not fully convinced.

“If you’d told me a year ago that I would be willingly spending time with Ryan Moriani, I would’ve laughed in your face,” she says. “I know it seems insane. But I’ve gotten to know him, and he’s--he’s a real person.”

“No shit. I thought he was made of wood.”

“Funny.” She cuts another piece of chicken and stabs it with her fork, but she makes no move to lift it to her mouth. “I admit he’s made mistakes. He certainly admits it. How else do you become a better person besides acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them?”

“You think he’s learned as much as he obviously needed to?”

“I think he’s getting there,” she says, hating the twinge of doubt within herself. “Come on--you’ve done stupid things that wound up being good in the long run because they forced you to grow. Haven’t you?”

“I’m sure I have,” Josh says, suddenly seeming preoccupied.

“Did I hit a nerve there?”

“No. Just… thinking about someone.”

Danielle has a sense that someone might be Lauren Brooks, but she decides not to push the issue. Forcing Josh to discuss things he doesn’t want to discuss is the easiest way to make him turn on you.

“Just be careful,” he says, refocusing on her. “Don’t get in too deep too fast.”

“I won’t,” she promises. She hopes that it is possible to keep her word.


By the time the meeting lets out, Ryan feels as though he has been through a triathlon. He cannot imagine months of working like this. Tim and Cassandra exit the conference room first, and though Ryan wants to catch up to Cassandra to thank her for meeting with them, he hangs back and pulls Diane aside.

“That was… interesting,” he says.

“She’s a pain in the ass. Should be a rough few months. You have fun sitting down to write with her.”

“We’re going forward with this? The way you two got into it, I thought--”

“I said she’s a pain in the ass. She’s also very good.” Diane gathers her things from the conference table. “She’ll be good for this book, Ryan. That’s what counts.”

Caught up in disbelief, he tries to absorb this.

“Thank you for standing by me on the Claire chapter,” Diane says. “I appreciated you not buckling and taking her side on that issue.”

“You’re right about that chapter. It’s the right instinct for the story.”

As Diane passes him on the way out of the office, a wry little smile turns up her mouth. “Hey, maybe the upside of having Cassandra onboard is that you and I won’t wind up killing each other.”

She exits, leaving Ryan to think about the months of work ahead of them.

Out in the lobby, Tim waits with Cassandra for the elevator.

“Sorry if that got a little heated,” she says. “I just don’t see the point of backing down without making my viewpoint heard--especially not when it could compromise the whole project.”

“Believe me, Diane can take it. She’s a… real piece of work.”

“You’ve worked with her for a long time?”

“For a few years before I, um, disappeared, and for the past few years, as well,” he says. “And we have a daughter together.”

Cassandra’s head draws back at the same time that her eyes seem to leap forward. “That’s certainly another wrinkle to this situation. Do you all know any other people?”

“Doesn’t feel like it sometimes,” Tim says. “But thank you for coming in for the meeting. I think this is going to be a good fit, as far as whipping the book into shape.”

“I hope so.”

The elevator dings, and its doors part. Cassandra steps toward it, then turns back and shakes Tim’s hand.

“Thank you for standing by me in there,” she says. “Having an ally helps.”

“Happy to do it.”

She enters the elevator and offers a warm smile as the doors close in front of her. Tim finds himself staring at them long after they have closed, considering what the next few months of working with Cassandra might be like.


“Reginald Carter,” Detective Wheeler says as she opens the wallet to show an Illinois driver’s license behind a plastic panel. “That’s his real name.”

Brent turns to Claire. “Does that name ring any bells?”

He can see that she is already turning it over in her head, trying to see if it sparks any memories, but all the effort produces is a frustrated shake of the head.

“How can we be sure it’s him?” Claire asks.

“He had Clayton’s false driver’s license and Social Security card on him,” Detective Kreizman explains. “Same photo on the license as on Reginald Carter’s. This is your guy.”

The enormity of these facts overwhelms Brent. No matter where this leads them, it will inevitably blow the entire case wide open. They know who “Mr. Clayton” is.

Now they just have to figure out who the hell Reginald Carter is.

“We’ll make copies of everything for you,” Detective Kreizman offers. “If there’s anything we can do to help…”

“Thanks,” Brent says. “And as soon as there’s news about the shooting--”

“We’ll keep you apprised. I’ll be back with the copies,” Wheeler says as the two detectives duck back into the building.

Brent and Claire stand in silence in the cold, neither of them sure where to begin.

“I wish that name meant something to me,” Claire finally says. “But just like Clayton, it’s a blank.”

“At least we have proof that Clayton was a front all along. Your father, Nick Moriani, and whoever else… they’ve been using Carter-as-Clayton as their cover-up for years.”

“You think there’s someone else?”

Her skepticism surprises him. It hadn’t occurred to him to think otherwise.

“Of course there’s someone else,” he says. “Clayton--Carter, whoever he is--was shot to death. He knew someone was following him, paying attention to him. If he mentioned it to whoever’s above him, maybe they got nervous and decided to eliminate him.”

Claire soaks up this theory and offers no argument. Brent opens his mouth to offer further corroborating evidence, but the loud roar of an engine drowns out the words before they even emerge.

Both Brent and Claire turn their heads to the street, where the engine’s growl grows closer and more deafening. It takes only a flash of an image, a fraction of a second’s worth of perception, for Brent to realize what is going on.

“Get down!” he yells, pushing Claire to the sidewalk as gunshots ring out around them.


Have Brent and Claire gotten themselves in too deep?
What will Cassandra’s presence mean for the group at Vision?
Can Danielle ever fully trust Ryan?
Come discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode