Episode #526

- While Sarah spent Thanksgiving with her family, Matt took Tori to spend the holiday with Jake and Mia in Pennsylvania.
- Courtney warned Jason to be wary of Sabrina.
- Lauren and Josh continued to soften toward one another as he helped her investigate Sabrina’s grudge against Courtney.
- Brent and Claire traveled to New Jersey, where they learned that Mr. Clayton, who had been found dead, was really named Reginald Carter. A car drove by, and someone fired gunshots at Brent and Claire.


The unmistakable blast of gunshots tears through the winter night. Brent Taylor’s world shifts into slow motion. He swears that he can hear the click of the gun, the snap of the trigger, and the boom of the bullets’ release, all broken down into individual units, each taking seconds at a time to play out.

“Get down!” he yells. He pushes Claire Fisher to the sidewalk and throws his body over hers.

It seems as if they spend another ten minutes lying on the sidewalk, though Brent knows it is ten or fifteen seconds at the most. The roar of the car’s engine fades into the distance, and an uneasy sense of relief floods Brent’s system.

“Claire,” he says, gasping for breath. He wants nothing more than to hear a response.

The slow motion kicks in again as he waits.

“What was that?” Her voice trembles with fright.

Brent slides off her and clumsily tries to make his way to his feet. He grabs onto a nearby trashcan and uses it for balance as he stands. The door to the station opens again, and Detectives Wheeler and Kreizman rush out.

“What happened?” Wheeler asks.

“Someone took shots at us.” Brent struggles to stand all the way. Kreizman moves over and assists him. “A car just tore by and--”

“What kind of car?” Kreizman asks.

“Late-model. Honda, Toyota, something of that nature. Silver.” He didn’t even know that he had processed these details, but this is often what he finds with fast-moving situations: he retains things for later recall that he never knew he was holding onto. “I didn’t get a look at the plates. I’m sorry.”

“The important thing is that both of you are okay,” Wheeler says as she takes Claire’s hands to help her up.

“That sidewalk sure is hard,” Claire says, forcing a laugh as she pulls herself up.

“Sorry,” Brent says. “I just wanted to get you down.”

“I understand.”

But Brent is past apologizing, because he sees the red trickling all over the sidewalk.

“Claire, were you--”

She follows his gaze downward, to her leg, and it seems to be just as much of a revelation to her. Blood colors the ground around her, and Brent springs into action.

“She’s been shot,” he says, reaching for Claire as her face goes white.


Seated behind his desk in the upstairs office, Jason Fisher watches his coworker carefully.

“I didn’t tell you only because I didn’t want it to sound like more than it was. You’ve gotta trust me,” Jason says.

Courtney stares him right in the eyes. “I do. But I don’t trust Sabrina.”

“I was just as much to blame as she was.”

“No. For all the offhand comments to me, about the baby and our relationship. The trying to provoke me. When I went into labor--”

“I’m sure that was a misunderstanding,” Jason counters.

“I don’t trust her. And you shouldn’t, either.”

His fiancée’s warning plays on a loop in Jason’s head. A few feet away, Sabrina Gage sits at her own desk, fingers clattering away at her keyboard. Jason tries to see what Courtney is talking about, but all he sees is friendly, competent Sabrina.

Not that he doesn’t believe Courtney. It is quite possible that there is some animosity between the women, especially since Courtney is engaged to the boss and has a baby with him, which Sabrina might view as a threat to her own security with the company. Jason certainly has tension of his own with Seth Ashby, who is currently making a copy across the office--but he wouldn’t tell anyone that Seth is a dangerous psychopath, as Courtney has implied about Sabrina.

“Everything okay?” Sabrina asks, jarring Jason from his thoughts.

“Yeah.” He rubs his forehead. “Just tired. The baby was up all night.”

She offers a sympathetic half-smile. “You guys have really taken to this parenting thing, I have to say. Sophie is a very lucky little girl.”

Jason thanks her and glances back at the papers on his desk. That was a nice, normal thing to say. Not exactly the mark of a lunatic. He has to wonder if Courtney is reading too much into Sabrina’s comments and mistaking slight tension for something more aggressive.

Seth takes his copies from the machine and makes his way across the office. He pauses in front of Sabrina’s desk.

“I meant to tell you,” he says. “I finally started season one of Weeds last night. You were right--it’s really good.”

“I told you,” she responds with wide, insistent eyes, reaching out and smacking him on the arm. It is a quick gesture, playful and light, but the unnecessary contact catches Jason’s attention.

He cannot help but observe their interaction curiously. They have always gotten along and been civil with one another, but now it seems that Sabrina and Seth are growing closer. He wonders if he should say anything to Alex.

Of course not. It is none of his business.

He tries to refocus on his work, but in the back of his mind, he still puzzles at how Courtney could find this woman sitting across from him to be a threatening maniac.


The holiday week has thinned the ranks considerably, as people have already departed for their vacations. The office feels like a bit of a ghost town to Lauren Brooks as she passes empty cubicle after empty cubicle. The one that is her destination, however, is occupied, and she pauses outside it before speaking up.

“Do you have a minute?” she asks Josh Taylor.

He turns and sets eyes upon the red-and-green gift bag in her hands. Tissue paper decorated with Christmas trees pokes out the top.

“This is for you.” She hands him the heavy bag.

“Oh.” Josh accepts the gift uncertainly. “Thanks.”

“Go ahead. Open it,” she says. Already she feels like this was a stupid idea. She thought it would be appropriate to get Josh something; after their hostile falling-out earlier in the year, they have begun talking again, and things have become increasingly civil in the last several weeks. But now, seeing his confusion, she wonders if she has severely overstepped the new boundaries of their relationship.

Josh digs through the tissue paper until he arrives at the top of a bottle. He pulls the half-gallon container out of the bag.

“How’d you find this?” he asks, inspecting the label of the specialty microbrew. “I haven’t seen it anywhere this year.”

“I went to the brewery. I remembered you talking about this winter ale that you like so much--”

“Yeah. It’s awesome.”

“The bottle is called a growler or something,” she says, feeling dumb the second the statement spills out of her mouth.

Josh smiles up at her. “Growler. Yeah. And thank you.” He pauses awkwardly. “I didn’t know we were exchanging gifts…”

“You didn’t have to get me anything. This is--it’s a token of my appreciation. For your help with this Sabrina thing.” She wants to kick herself; the words just tumble out. She wanted to do something nice for him, hoping to continue the thaw between them, perhaps even proving to him how much she still cares. But that feels so awkward and forced now.

“Well, thanks,” Josh says, setting the bottle on his desk. “I appreciate it.”

“It’s my pleasure. Merry Christmas.”

“Same to you.”

She backs quickly out of the cubicle and, with a nervous wave, slips back to her own desk. She is fairly certain that Josh didn’t notice that she intended the gesture as more than a thank-you between coworkers, but she still feels like an idiot for having expected the gift to be some magical breakthrough in their relationship.

Maybe that’s no longer a possibility, she thinks, all the while wondering how she is supposed to make herself stop caring.


The movers have deposited the furniture throughout the house, but other than that, it is a mere skeleton of a home. Five people have gathered in the living room and kitchen to unpack boxes.

“They did a lovely job with the renovations,” Helen Chase says. “This kitchen is impeccably floored!”

Courtney Chase calls out from the living room, where she works with Paula Fisher and Sarah Gray: “You have to see what they did with the attic. We’re going to use it as a guest room.”

Helen pokes her head into the living room. “I didn’t know there was an attic! You have to show me.”

“I want to see, too,” Alex Marshall says, emerging behind Helen. Courtney leads the way, and the three troop upstairs, leaving Paula and Sarah to the unpacking in the living room.

Paula quietly takes items from the open box and sets them on an end table. She glances at her daughter, who also works in silence, though her mind appears to be spinning at a far more rapid rate than required for unpacking books and DVDs.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to speak with you about,” Paula says.

Sarah looks up warily. “Yeah?”

“About Christmas.” Paula hesitates, wondering if this is really necessary. She knows that avoiding the situation will not solve it, however. “I presume you want Tori with us…”

“Obviously.” The expression on Sarah’s face is one that Paula used to see quite frequently--a look of utter disdain for the question she has been asked and, moreover, the person who asked it.

“I thought it should be up to you how to handle the situation,” Paula says. “We always invite Claire and Diane…”

“So you want to know if you should invite Matt?”

Paula nods. “It’s entirely up to you.”

She fears that she is about to bear the brunt of an explosion. She can see her daughter stewing; Sarah sets a stack of DVDs on the coffee table much harder than necessary.

Instead she releases a deep sigh and says, “You should invite him. It will make things easier with Tori.”

“Are you sure?”

Sarah’s response gets caught on its way out, like a sweater snagged on a nail. She tears loose and forces herself to continue. “It’s the right thing to do.”

“As long as you’re all right with it,” Paula says.

A quiet nod, and Sarah returns her focus to unpacking. Paula attempts to make small talk about plans for Christmas day, primarily the menu, but a few minutes later, Sarah excuses herself and steps outside.

She takes out her cell phone and places a call. “Hi,” she says. “I have a question: what are your plans for Christmas day?”


Brent peers around the doorframe into the hospital room where Claire is waiting to be discharged.

“How do you feel?” he asks.

She shrugs. “A little tired. It’s only my leg, though. No real damage done.”

“Pretty good attitude for someone who’s never been shot before.”

“And not planning on having it happen again,” she says. “But I see far worse things every day at work.”

Brent enters the room, a cramped space that feels barely larger than a broom closet, and sizes her up. Finding her in such good spirits is a bit of a surprise; he expected her to be more frightened by the incident.

“Do you want me to call Travis?” he asks.

“I don’t want to scare him.”

“Anyone else?” He hesitates for a second. “Tim?”

Her answer is swift and forceful: “No.” The single syllable speaks volumes, and Brent decides not to push the issue.

“I’m fine,” she says. “In a weird way, it’s good that this happened.”

“What kind of painkillers did these people give you?”

“I’m being serious. This lends weight to your theory that someone had Clayton--or Reginald Carter, whatever his name is--killed because we were getting too close. And maybe this will be the key to getting to that person.”

“I hope so,” Brent says. The thought has already occurred to him.

“They’re bringing me the bullet. That’s a start, isn’t it?”

“It is. Yeah.” He sighs. He is glad that she has such a positive attitude about this, but luck is all that prevented this from being a much worse injury.

“We need to be more careful,” he says. “Someone came after us. The same someone who had a man killed. You could’ve been…”

“I know.” But she seems undeterred, and Brent strangely finds this to be a relief. He does not want to lose his main ally in this quest.

“I hope they bring my discharge papers soon,” she says. “This room is making me claustrophobic.”

Brent nods in agreement and gestures at the strange green paint on the walls. “And what’s with the island décor? I half-expected to find a tiki torch burning in here.”

They share a laugh. Now that Brent sees that she is okay, he feels a new energy, a recharged resolve to crack this mystery open and end it, once and for all.

“Thank you for doing this with me,” he says, his tone turning serious. “Having someone with me who doesn’t think I’m crazy for pursuing this--”

“I understand.” And that is all she needs to say. They fall into the easy quiet of an unspoken bond and wait for the nurse’s return.


Have Brent and Claire lost perspective on this situation?
What is Sarah up to?
What will it take for Lauren and Josh to reconnect?
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