Episode #534

- Jason and Courtney were at odds over Sabrina.
- Tim asked Cassandra to have dinner with him after a meeting at Vision, and she happily accepted.
- Lauren and Alex had a run-in with Philip Ragan at an art show, though they were unaware of his connection to Objection Designs.
- Brent and Claire feared that their investigation might hit a dead-end when “Mr. Clayton,” a.k.a. Reginald Carter, was found dead in New Jersey.


Lauren Brooks sets her morning coffee on the conference table so that she can set up the display board at the head of the room. Once the easel is standing, she removes the various posters from their protective sheaths and prepares them for presentation.

“That is sick,” Josh Taylor says as he strides into the room. “They are gonna love this.”

“I hope so.” Lauren takes a step back to admire the first poster. She is incredibly proud of the work they did on these mockups for Objection Designs, and yet that is no guarantee that the clients will like any of it.

“You were right about the font,” she says. “The one I was using was way too aggressive.”

“I know. I’m pretty awesome.” Josh laughs, though Lauren cannot tell if it is because he is kidding or because he truly is that impressed with himself. She suspects the latter, which is reason number ten thousand or so why she wishes she didn’t find the whole thing kind of cute.

“Seriously, you kicked ass on these,” Josh says. He goes to the easel and flips through the mockups, taking care to cover them when done.

She grins at the compliment and stammers a thank-you as their client enters the room.

“Good morning,” Molly Taylor says, a large, stylish purse on her forearm and a Starbucks cup in her hand. She greets her brother-in-law with a hug and then exchanges kisses on the cheek with Lauren. “Is it only the two of you today?”

“Susan will be in in a few minutes,” Lauren answers. “What about you? Alone today? That’s unusual.” She picks up her own coffee--not that she needs the caffeine, with all the adrenaline she can feel running through her veins.

Molly holds her arms theatrically over her head. “Spotlight’s on me! Just kidding. My photographer will be joining us. He just stopped to use the--” She is interrupted by the arrival of a man in the doorway. “Speak of the devil. Josh Taylor, Lauren Brooks, this is Philip Ragan.”

Josh moves to shake hands with the photographer, dressed in a striking and elegantly cut glen plaid suit, but Lauren is glued to her spot. She recognizes his face instantly--and, judging by the way his eyes fix upon her, Philip knows just who she is, too.

“Lauren and I have already met, actually,” Philip says. Nevertheless, he extends a hand to her. Lauren sets down her coffee before shaking it.

“Good idea,” he says, regarding the coffee. “Whatever is in that cup probably stains.”

“How do you two know each other?” Molly asks.

“We met at a gallery opening last night,” Philip says. “Or, should I say, encountered one another. Lauren expressed her not-very-positive--nor very well informed--opinion of an impressive painting… but not before emptying a glass of Merlot all over my white shirt.”

Josh snickers. Molly appears unsure of how to respond.

Lauren’s cheeks sting with embarrassment. The most cogent thing words she can muster are, “How much do I owe you?”

“Later,” Philip says, as Susan Johnson-Willis enters and a new introduction is made. They take their places for the meeting, and Lauren hopes that her humiliation will fade enough so that she can focus on the task at hand.


On the first floor of the Edge of Winter Arena, the sleek, modern coffee shop buzzes with activity. A Lady Gaga song plays over the state-of-the-art sound system.

In the center of the shop, Brent Taylor leans conspiratorially over a small table. “All three of them. Your father, Nick Moriani, and Reginald Carter. Conspiracy charges that were mysteriously thrown out by the judge in December, 1987.”

“So we have a substantial link among them,” Claire Fisher says. “It’s still strange to me that Carter was connected to my father, but I’d never heard his name before New Jersey.”

Brent shrugs. “It isn’t that strange. Based on everything else we’ve gathered, he was another man in their operation--not necessarily someone close to him and Nick.”

Claire nods as she wraps her hands around the hot beverage before her. This all feels like significant progress: they know who “Mr. Clayton” is, or was; they have established that he was an associate of her father and Nick; they know that Carter is definitively dead and thus no longer a threat. Yet loose ends abound. Why was “Clayton” doing all this to begin with? How did he wind up dead? And who fired those shots at Claire and Brent if Carter was already out of the picture?

“What about the judge?” Claire asks. “Have you looked into him? Might be worth talking to. With all three of them dead--”

“He’s dead, too. Heart attack. 1996.”

Claire sighs. She fills the thoughtful silence by sipping at her latte. Finally she permits her thoughts to play aloud. “Who was Reginald Carter, then? He has to have been working for someone.”

Brent is ready with information before she even finishes the thought. “There is one person. Someone who might be able to give us some answers.”

Immediately Claire’s mind flashes to Ryan Moriani. It is possible that he knows something, at least as far as Carter’s general existence. He might not have known about the Clayton alias or the covert doings, but he might have some information about Reginald Carter that could lead Claire and Brent toward greater discoveries.

“Ryan?” she says. “I’ll try to talk to him again. He might--”

“Not Ryan,” Brent interrupts, “although we should talk to him. But there’s someone else we need to talk to.”


The waitress sets down two plates--an omelet and hash browns for Tim Fisher, and a stack of pancakes with scrambled eggs for Jason. The brothers thank her for their food before resuming their conversation.

“Just fire her,” Tim says as he sprinkles salt over his hash browns. “It will take care of the whole situation.”

“Yeah. And probably get me sued.” Jason reaches for the maple syrup.

“For what? Firing someone who threatened your fiancee?”

“I don’t even know if she did that,” Jason says. “Even Courtney says so. She thinks they were threats, but…”

“But you’re going to marry her. So you should trust her.”

Jason knows that Tim makes an excellent point. He has felt guilty for days about not simply siding with Courtney on the matter. But the way she went off on Sabrina--accusing her of going so far as to harm a child--struck him as too much, not to mention unfounded.

“Look, I know Courtney doesn’t like her,” he says as he pours syrup over the pancakes, “and she has every right not to. It’s just that the way she’s handling it seems really… irrational. Like, I worry about her.”

Tim pauses, his fork over the omelet. “Do you think she’s going through some kind of post-partum depression?”

“I don’t know. I thought of asking her if she wants to see anyone--a therapist--just to talk, but I’m worried about her taking it the wrong way.” He sets the syrup down. “I am so bad at this stuff. How the hell am I supposed to get married? I don’t even know what I’m doing.”

“No one does. And once you think you’ve got a handle on it, something comes along to blow your whole life apart, just to warn you not to get too cocky.”

Jason grimaces. “Thanks. That’s very inspirational.”


They chew in silence for a few seconds.

“That dinner you had the other night,” Jason says, “was that a date? Did you ever figure that out?”

“I’m still not sure. It was a dinner. A chance to get to know someone.”

“You think it went well?”

“Seemed like it. Not that I need to rush into anything, but…”

“You deserve to find someone normal, especially after all the crap you’ve been through. So if this woman has potential in that department, go for it.”

Tim’s eyes grow wide. “She manages to work with Ryan and stand up to Diane, so those are both in her favor.”

“Maybe. Or she’s completely insane.” Jason hesitates before continuing; he has wanted to question Tim about this topic but has not been sure if it is appropriate. “What’s it been like working with Ryan? I don’t know how you can sit in the same room as him, let alone work on a book about what he did to you.”

“I’m not sure, either,” Tim says, seeming just as amazed as Jason. “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But once I read the book, it became… removed, somehow. Almost like it was someone else’s life.”

“You don’t just want to punch him in the face all the time?”

Tim grins. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind it, but what good is it going to do me? I have my life back--maybe not the life I thought I’d have, but I have time ahead of me, I get to watch my kids grow up… I can’t afford to waste any more of it dwelling on what’s happened.”

“Okay, that I admire,” Jason says through a big bite of pancake. He finishes chewing. “You think you can teach Court to feel that way about Sabrina?”

“I still don’t know how I taught myself to feel that way,” Tim says as the waitress arrives to refill their coffee cups.


“Can we go back to the one with the scarf?” Molly asks.

Trying not to display her nerves, Lauren flips back through the mockups until she comes to the one Molly requested. She feels that the presentation went well--there were enough nods and shared looks between Molly and Philip--but it is still a guessing game.

Molly takes in the poster for a long moment. Lauren glances at Josh; she can tell he is in the same restless, hopeful state as her. Their boss, Susan, appears completely unfazed by the process, having spent years honing her poker face.

“I like this,” Molly says, and after a silent but apparently meaningful exchange with Philip, she adds, “a lot. This really captures what we were going for with these photos--”

“For the clothes to tell a story,” Philip says, “instead of relying on a model to do it.”

“I’m glad that you like it,” Lauren says. Immediately she feels lame. Couldn’t she at least come up with something thoughtful to contribute?

Philip holds up his index finger, as if to catch everyone’s attention. “I do have one concern.”

Lauren waits, breath held in her chest.

“The font,” he says. “It’s a bit… passive for my liking.”

As hard as she tries, Lauren cannot suppress the grin that breaks out over her mouth.

Philip notices and zeroes in on her. “Is something funny about that?”

“No. Not at all. It’s just--I was originally using a different font, and, well--”

“I might’ve suggested she change it,” Josh jumps in.

“I’m pretty sure the phrase you used was ‘too aggressive,’” Lauren says.

“What did it look like?” Philip asks.

Lauren tries to figure out how to explain it, and thinks of naming the font--which she doubts a photographer would know by name--before remembering something. “I actually have the old version here…” She darts over to her bag and pulls out a folder. As she tries to find the artwork in question, she explains, “I thought something with a harder edge worked with the jacket--the serif font has a sharpness to it…”

She hands Philip the sheet. He and Molly review it.

When Philip looks up from the page, he is wearing a smirk that appears all too at-home on his face. “I agree. Who knew you had it in you?”

“Does that mean you’ll take my word about that painting last night having been boring?” she quips.

He shakes his head. “Not a chance.”

As the meeting disperses, they make plans to develop the mockup further, this time with Lauren’s original font. Handshakes and thanks are exchanged, and soon, Molly and Philip are filing out of the conference room.

“Excellent work,” Susan says to Lauren and Josh. “I’d have been proud if they had selected any one of those pieces.” She exits, leaving the junior pair behind to clean up the remnants of the meeting.

“Sorry if it sounded like I threw you under the bus there,” Lauren says to Josh. “I didn’t mean to make it sound like the font thing was a mistake on your part.”

Surprisingly, instead of jumping down her throat, he waves it off. “No worries. Your instinct was right as far as what they wanted. No harm there.” He slips the photos back into their covers. “Although…”


He pauses, though Lauren suspects it is less hesitation and more making her sweat. “You and that Philip dude.”

“What about us--him? You know what I mean.”

“There was some definite flirting going on there.”

“There was not.”

“Totally was.” Josh breaks down the easel. “I can read you, Brooks.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, even as she feels her face betray her by burning up again.


Claire inches forward, awaiting Brent’s newest dose of information.

“Carter had a daughter,” Brent says. “Name is Aimee Garmyn. She’s 34 and lives in Orlando.”

“Have you contacted her?”

“Not yet. If we’re lucky, she’ll be able to tell us something to point us in the right direction.”

“I hope so.” As Claire sits back in her chair, a wave of something unexpected washes over her: hopelessness. In light of new and clear facts, she should feel optimistic about their prospects of getting to the bottom of this. And yet, all it feels like is more of the same. They hack past one layer to find another. Another name, another motive, still no answers.

“Do you think there’s going to be an end to this?” she asks, not so much of Brent but of the world in general. “Or is it like one of those Russian dolls that you open only to find another, smaller one inside, and inside that one is an even smaller doll, and it just keeps going and going?”

Brent’s mouth cracks into a grin, though within an instant, it slides into a dour scowl. “I feel the same way at times. Guess we’ll never know if we don’t try.”

“I guess.”

He glances down at his watch and, in the process of looking up, snaps his attention right back to the watch. “Crap! I have to run. I didn’t realize it was so late.” He shoves the papers regarding the 1987 conspiracy case into a folder. “The boys have this play at school. Christian hasn’t stopped talking about it for at least two weeks.”

The thought brings a smile to Claire’s face. “Enjoy. Before you know it, he’ll be slamming the bedroom door on you and telling you that you’ve ruined his life.”

“I’m sure. And I’ve got two of them to do it to me.” He pauses, folder in hand. “But that’s why we’re doing this, isn’t it? So we get to have those moments, instead of…”

She understands the implied alternative. “Yeah. That is why.” She wraps her hands around the coffee cup again, appreciative of the warmth. “Thanks for sharing this all with me. I know I’m not exactly the most vital resource--”

“Your support is one of the best resources I have,” Brent says before draining the rest of his coffee. “And you don’t look at me like I’m insane for wanting to know these things.”

“You aren’t.”

He raises his eyebrows, as if to thank her for humoring him, and tosses his empty cup into a nearby trashcan. “I’ll keep you updated,” he says as he leaves the shop.

Claire makes no move to follow him. The place has a lively energy to it--certainly a more frenetic vibe than Cassie’s--but she is nevertheless content to remain at the table, drinking her coffee and engaged with her thoughts. Until one thought in particular becomes too strong to ignore.

She takes out her cell phone and dials. “Orlando, Florida,” she says to the automated system, and then waits before registering her request: “Aimee Garmyn.”


Will Claire be able to handle investigating alone?
Could there be something between Lauren and Philip?
Should Jason take Tim’s advice about Sabrina?
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