Episode #535

- Danielle confronted Diane about having given Ryan alcohol.
- Seth proposed to Alex that they have a threesome… with a woman. Alex agreed but was later torn over whether to go through with it.
- Brent told Claire that Reginald Carter has a grown daughter living in Orlando. Claire attempted to contact the woman.


“Welcome to Wedding Hell,” Jason Fisher announces as he leads Alex Marshall through the dining room. “Or Wedding Heaven, if Courtney asks you my opinion about it.”

Alex takes in the mounds of books, magazines, fabric samples, enlarged photographs, and other nuptial-related items that have swallowed the dining room whole. “I’m sure I’ll get dragged into it sooner or later.”

“Just be grateful you get to be a groomsman, or you know you’d be out shopping for a brisdesman outfit with them right now.”

“I’ll take the tux,” Alex says as he sifts through a few of the overly shiny dress fabrics strewn over the table.

They make their way into the living room, where Sophie sits at a complicated table full of colors and objects and buttons. Alex kneels down to join her, while Jason darts into the kitchen. He returns with a bottle of water for each of them.

Sophie smacks her hand on a large red button that produces a honking sound. She squeals in response and does it again.

“Is it weird that I’m totally fascinated with this thing?” Alex asks as he joins the baby in playing with the table.

Jason cracks open his water bottle. “Nah. I spend way too much time playing with her toys. Which I can usually get away with, until she crawls away and I’m sitting there like an idiot.” He takes a drink of his water. “How’s the apartment? Lonely yet?”

“No offense, but living alone is kind of nice. I have a feeling I’ve outgrown the roommate thing.”

“You’ll have another one. It’s just a matter of time,” Jason says. “But, you know, a grown-up kind of roommate.”

The thought lands on Alex. He has been enjoying having his own space, after years of living in dorm rooms, with his mother, and then with Jason. There are times when it would be nice to have another person around, but for the time being, he is quite content with the way things are.

“Has Seth been staying over?” Jason asks.

“Not usually. We keep our own space. It’s nice.” Alex does mean it; there are plenty of positives to their casual arrangement--even if he sometimes wonders what it would be like if they could be more serious. “That’s actually… Do you and Seth talk much?”

“About you two? No. We talk about work, sports, light stuff. I don’t know if you noticed, but I haven’t been the hugest fan of Seth.”

“I noticed.” Alex falls quiet, even with a hundred different words leaning precariously over the tip of his tongue. “We’re having kind of a weird period right now.”

Jason doesn’t appear too fazed. “You guys are always in a weird period.”

“No. I mean, yeah, but this is a new weird.” Try as he might, Alex cannot bring himself to vocalize the issue.

Thankfully, Jason takes the lead. “Why? What’s going on?”

“Seth asked me to do something,” Alex says, forcing himself to say it, even if his mind insists upon adding a bunch of extra words and phrases that prevent him from cutting to the chase.

A curious expression twists Jason’s face. “Something like…?” And then he recoils. “If this involves poop, don’t even start with me. I get enough of that with this one,” he says, gesturing toward Sophie.

“No poop. That I know of.” Alex shudders, both inside and out. “He asked me to do something, and I agreed.” He glances at the baby, unsure if he should say more in her presence.

“Chances are, she’s not going to understand whatever it is,” Jason says. “I think you’re safe.”

Still, Alex reaches over and covers Sophie’s ears, which induces a fit of giggles. “He wants us to have a threesome. With a woman.”


Maybe it is the daytime hour that causes sunlight to stream into a place that seems incompatible with it. Maybe it is an inherent seediness in the worn upholstery and scratched floors. Maybe it is the result of all the things she read about this establishment courtesy of Google. Whatever it is, Claire Fisher feels uneasiness moving through her veins as soon as she steps through the club’s front door.

She approaches the young Hispanic man behind the bar, sorting through the cash register’s till.

“I’m looking for Aimee Garmyn,” she says.

The man grants her the most passing of glances and shrugs.

“I need to see her,” Claire says.

With a laugh, the man pauses his work at the register. “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to. If you seek Aimee, you’re gonna have to make an appointment.”

“But it’s--” Claire takes note of two busty women parading across the empty club in g-strings and little more. “It’s not for that. This is business. Aimee told me she was going to meet me up.”

Another shrug.

Claire leans on the bar. “I called two days ago. Aimee’s father was connected to some people--people who have hurt my family very badly. I need her help.”

The man’s features harden. “Look, lady--”

“It’s fine, Julio,” comes a thickly accented female voice. Claire looks over to see a woman, painted into in a tight, short black dress and some shiny new stilettos, emerging from the back room.

“You must be Claire,” she says as she reaches the bar. “I’m Aimee.”

“Hi. I know this must seem weird, but I need your help.”

“I dunno what I can do for you,” Aimee says, her heavy Long Island accent transforming the syllables.

“As I said on the phone, it’s about your father. Reginald Carter. I’m sorry for your loss.”

The woman rolls her eyes. “Thanks. He had it coming, the people he got himself involved with.”

Optimism seizes Claire. “Then you know things about his business? The people he worked for?”

“Do I look like a sheltered little girl?” Aimee asks, waving a hand full of bright red press-on nails around the dingy club.

Claire chooses not to address the question. “Is there someplace private we can talk? I have to ask you some questions about your father.”

“Come on back to my office.” Aimee turns and heads back through the doors from which she came. Claire follows, trying not to notice the graceless manner in which Aimee tugs down the back of her too-short dress over her protruding buttocks.


Ryan Moriani steps into the open doorway of Diane Bishop’s office. He finds her huddled over two stacks of printed pages: the ones on her right are face-down, the ones on her left are face-up. He considers not interrupting her after all, but she glances up from her work before he can rethink his appearance.

“Business Admin needed me to sign some papers,” Ryan explains. “I thought I would swing by and say hi.”

“Oh. We’re on a saying hi basis now, huh?”

“Sorry. I should know how you feel about social niceties.” He leans against the doorframe. “I wanted to thank you for the wine the other night. Even if it did get me in a little bit of trouble later on.”

“Me, too,” Diane says.

“Uh-oh. What happened to you?”

She removes her glasses and sets them on the stack of already-reviewed pages. “Your girlfriend happened to me.”

“Danielle? Since when do you and she--”

“Since she accosted me in a public place and chastised me for daring to possess a bottle of alcohol in your presence.” Diane scowls at the memory. “I’ve had more pleasant encounters with homeless people.”

Ryan steps further into the office now. “What did she say to you?”

“She told me that I should know better. That you shouldn’t be drinking, and I shouldn’t be facilitating your drinking.”

“I can take care of myself,” Ryan says.

“I’m not the one who needs to be convinced of that.”

Ryan ponders this unexpected slice of information. He understands that Danielle cares and worries about him, and normally, he would appreciate that. But to confront another adult--let alone his de facto boss--about his drinking… that is wildly inappropriate.

“I’m sorry if she made you uncomfortable,” Ryan says.

“Please. She mostly made me annoyed.” Diane picks up her glasses and holds them between two fingers. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have some editing to finish. I wouldn’t want to get you drunk by association or anything.”

Ryan starts for the door. “I’ll see you for our meeting on Friday. Again, I’m sorry.”

“Just tell your girlfriend to stay the hell out of my face,” Diane says, her head already back down in the pages.

Ryan exits the office and cuts a sharp line toward the elevator, his every step fueled by irritation.


Alex waits for Jason’s response. Knowing his friend, he expects some kind of loud exclamation, perhaps some jumping off the couch. All he gets, however, are a surprised face and several seconds of quiet.

“You said you’d do it?” Jason asks calmly.

“Yeah. I-I didn’t know what else to say.”

“Do you want to do it?”

“I don’t know.” If Alex knew the answer to that, the last few weeks would have been much easier.

“Are you into that? I didn’t think you really wanted anything to do with women in that way…”

“I don’t. I mean, yeah, women are great, whatever. But I kind of thought I was past that.”


“But Seth is into it. He hasn’t even--” Alex glances at Sophie, who is so enamored with her toy table that she could not possibly have less interest in what they are discussing. “He hasn’t even been with many guys. So I know he’s into it, and that might… do something for me.”

Jason considers that. “Then go for it.”

The swiftness and simplicity of the response throw Alex for a loop. “Really? That’s all you’ve got?”

“What do you want me to say, that it’s a terrible thing to do and you should kick him in the balls for suggesting it? There’s nothing, like, inherently wrong with it, if all three of you are into it.”

“I know. It’s not like I’m a gigantic prude.”

“Then do it… unless you’re worried about being left out.”

The possibility has occurred to Alex on more than one occasion. As hot as it might be to see Seth with a woman, Alex fears that it will simply be a very embarrassing forum for him to discover how not into him Seth truly is.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Jason says.

“There is that,” Alex admits. “And the whole issue of not really knowing what to do.”

“You mean, with the girl? What, you want me to give you a tutorial?”

“No, but--”

“That’s why Seth is there, right? Let him show you. Or don’t do anything at all with her and just focus on him. You do get to set some rules here.”

Alex drinks his water and mulls over the situation. The fact that Jason has not tried to talk him out of it makes him think if he really is being too uptight about this. He did tell Seth he would do it; maybe he should just stop overthinking and go for it.

“All I know is, it’s good that things don’t always go the way you expect them to go,” Jason says. “Look at Courtney and me. We got back into this not thinking about dating, just--” Now he glances at Sophie and censors himself. “--just having fun. And then we wind up having a baby and getting engaged. If you’d told me two years that this is how things would go, I would have freaked out. But then it happened and it was so good.”

“You’re comparing you having a daughter to me having a threesome.”

“Um. I guess so. All I mean is, don’t get so hung up on expectations that you ignore perfectly good, different possibilities.”

As Alex thinks about that, Sophie hands him a plastic orange cube.

“Thank you, young lady,” he says, turning the block over in his hand.


As soon as Aimee Garmyn opens the door to her office, Claire hears a set of screams.

“Cherry!” Aimee yells. “Cherry! Boom-Boom! What did I tell you two about doing that in here?”

Seconds later, a woman and a man, both wearing items that qualify as underwear only in the most technical sense, scamper out of the room.

“You two better not be worn out for later!” Aimee hollers after them. She holds the door open and gestures for Claire to enter.

Aimee seats herself behind the desk. “Have a seat,” she tells Claire.

Claire looks over the ratty pair of chairs positioned across the desk from Aimee. Having seen the two immodest people fleeing this room a moment ago, she wonders what goes on in here on a regular basis. And what that might mean for these chairs.

“I’ll stand,” she says, and off Aimee’s perplexed expression, she hastens to add, “Back problems. My... chiropractor doesn’t like me to sit if... I don’t have a special pad with me.”

Aimee does not conceal her contempt for this ridiculousness, but neither does she force Claire to sit in the potentially disease-ridden chairs.

“Your father,” Claire says, eager to get down to business and get out of this hellhole. “Do you recall him ever mentioning a man named Nick Moriani? Or James Robbins?”

“Moriani… yeah, that sounds familiar. I know he had a friend named Jim, but it wasn’t Robbins. I dunno. Common name, that.”

“Yeah. It is.” Thousands of questions swirl around Claire’s head and make it difficult for her to focus, let alone pick the right one. “Did you ever hear anything about a Mr. Clayton?”

Aimee thinks about it and shakes her head. “Don’t think so. You don’t mind me asking, what did my father do to you, exactly?”

On the plane ride from Washington, Claire thought about how she would explain all this. It sounds absurd to a third party; heck, sometimes it sounds completely insane to her.

“I only recently became aware of your father’s involvement in any of this,” she begins. “But a man named Mr. Clayton has, for years, been helping people toy with my family. Hurt us in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. My husband was kidnapped and kept from us for years. Nick Moriani held us all captive and tried to kill us in an explosion. And right before Christmas, I was shot just for asking questions about it all.”

Aimee’s eyes widen. “You sure you’re not bullshittin’ me?”

“I promise. What I’ve learned recently is that the person orchestrating all of this--or, at least, helping it play out--was someone named Mr. Clayton. After your father’s death, a close friend and I discovered that Mr. Clayton was actually your father.”

“I never knew about no Clayton.”

“I’m not surprised. It was a business alias, mostly. But you have to understand why this is so important to me. Someone is still out there, someone who gave your father his orders--and probably had him killed when it seemed like we were closing in on him.” She leans forward, propping her arms on the worn desk. “I need to find that person before any more terrible things can happen to the people I love.”

Aimee considers all this for a long moment. Claire fears that she has said too much, that Aimee is either going to call Security or shut down entirely.

“I wish I knew more,” the woman finally says, running a long, fake fingernail through her teased blonde hair. “My father and I, we didn’t talk much. Nothing too bad, just didn’t have a lot in common, you know?”

“I understand.”

“There was a woman,” Aimee says. “Name was Loretta. I only met her once, but it was very clear she was a boss or something.”

“Loretta? Do you know her last name?”

Fried blonde hair wags around as Aimee shakes her head. “Nope. Only met her because I went to visit my father when I was in Jersey last year. She came by while I was at his house. Scary old bag. I made myself scarce pretty fast, lemme tell ya.”

“How do you know this Loretta wasn’t just your father’s… lover?”

A snort pushes its way out of Aimee. “My father? No way. He was a fruit.”

“Excuse me?”

“My father was a homo. Queer as the day is long,” Aimee says. “Didn’t admit it ‘til he was in his 50s, but none of us were really surprised.” She shakes her head again. “No way was that Loretta anything but the ringleader. She called the shots.”

Questions present themselves in her mind and multiply before Claire can even recognize them. Doing her best to wrangle as many of them as possible, she fires them at Aimee, hoping for something, anything, that will lead her to this woman and the answers that she and Brent so desperately seek.


Was Jason’s advice to Alex surprising?
Is Loretta the person Claire and Brent have been hunting?
How will Ryan handle Danielle now?
Join us in discussing this episode in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode