Episode #548

- Tim gave his family advance copies of Ryan’s book, but Paula showed no interest in reading it.
- Molly blew up at Claire and blamed her for encouraging Brent’s obsession with the Clayton/Loretta mystery.
- Courtney was treated for having ingested rat poisoning. Her prognosis was positive, but she remained firm that it couldn’t have been an accident. Jason promised to fire Sabrina if it would put her at ease.


When Elly Vanderbilt ran away from home, she headed for King’s Bay by default. It was the only place far away from San Francisco where she knew an adult who might let her stay for a while. After a bit of frenzied Googling, one lengthy train ride, and several bus trips, she showed up at Danielle Taylor’s address. Her godmother was, as Elly predicted, all too happy to take her in for a bit.

What Elly did not predict was that King’s Bay would become something of a second home to her. She now visits every time she has a long break from school, to see both Danielle and Travis Fisher. The house where Danielle lives--technically her brother and sister-in-law’s house--has begun to feel very comfortable to Elly. And yet, as she unpacks her things in the guest room, something about that house feels different this time.

“It’s weird here,” Elly says to Danielle, who sits on the bed, helping her remove things from her suitcase. “Like, really quiet.”

Danielle shrugs. “Maybe because the boys aren’t running up and down the halls screaming... for now.”

Elly laughs as she hangs a light, summery top in the closet. “Are you gonna do any more of those Open Mic performances? It sounds like you had a lot of fun.”

“It felt good. It’d been a long time since I got up in front of people and played the guitar and sang.”

“Then keep doing it! You know you’re good. You had, like, songs on the radio.”

“That was a long time ago,” Danielle says. A distant look materializes in her eyes but just as quickly vanishes. “So, senior year coming up. Have you done much looking at colleges yet?”

Elly sighs. “Yeah. But I think I might have to retake the SATs for some of the schools I want to go to. Like, if I can get a 2200, I’d be really good.”

“You know, back in my day, the SATs were only out of 1600.”

“I’ve heard about that,” Elly says with a grin. “Like how you used to have to play music off those little tapes or whatever.”

“...and I’m officially old.”

“Oh, please! You are not old.”

Danielle hands Elly another top, which she considers and then re-folds to place in a drawer.

“Maybe I can make a big dinner tonight,” Elly says. “To thank Brent and Molly for letting me stay here.”

Danielle folds her hands, suddenly very serious. “There’s something I need to talk about with you.”

Her tone catches Elly off-guard. She pauses over the open drawer.

“Brent is...” Danielle struggles for words. “He isn’t staying here all the time right now. He’s staying with our younger brother.”

“What? Why?” And then it occurs to Elly what Danielle is implying. “You mean he and Molly...”

“They’re going through a rough patch. You know all about what happened with Brent losing his leg, and... well, that’s enough to put stress on anyone. They’re taking some time to get their bearings.”

“Are they, like, separated?”

“No. Everything’s going to work out. It’s temporary,” Danielle says, though her reassurances sound less than wholly convincing.

Elly lowers herself onto the opposite edge of the bed. Now she understands what that weird feeling is, the feeling she recognized as soon as she entered the house. It isn’t just quiet; it is tense, uncertain, like everyone is walking around on their tip-toes, afraid to make the move that will cause the whole house to crumble around them.


Stationed at her parents’ kitchen table, Molly Taylor feels much more grounded than she did even an hour ago. Nothing has really changed--Brent is still staying at Josh’s, her every move at work is being scrutinized by a hundred people who seem ready for her to fail--but there is something so comforting about her parents’ home, this place where she grew up, that is all seems a bit less terrifying now.

“I’m sorry to drop in out of nowhere,” she says, “but I had to get out of the office.”

“You say that as if I mind you dropping by,” Paula Fisher says as she sets a sandwich in front of her daughter. Molly smiles at the grilled cheese, prepared without so much as a question. Paula simply knew what she needed today.

Paula takes a seat diagonally across from Molly and asks, “Did something happen at work?”

Molly understands exactly what this is, and she is all too happy to play along. “Work is... work. It wouldn’t be so stressful if everything else was in order.”

“Like with Brent.”

“Like with Brent.” Molly picks off part of the grilled cheese sandwich and chews it while she thinks. “How long can this go on? He’s been out of the house for weeks.”

“I think you’re the one who decides when he can move back in,” Paula says.

“But can I do that even if nothing changes?”

“That depends on what you want.”

“I want my marriage back,” Molly says firmly. That is one of the few things of which she is sure these days. She sees Paula ready to respond and hurriedly adds, “But the way things have been--that isn’t the marriage I signed up for. Brent running around trying to be a superhero, putting our kids in dangerous situations... I don’t want to be a part of that.” The words spew out of her, fast and unedited. Only when she hears them aloud does she realize the severity of what she is saying. “Am I being ridiculous?”

Paula draws a deep breath and leans closer. “I think you’re doing what is right for you at this particular moment. I don’t think that you need to make any decisions about your life as a whole or your entire future right this second. So take that pressure off yourself.”

Molly doesn’t know how she is supposed to do that. With every day Brent is out of the house, their relationship grows more fractured.

“Every marriage has its rough patches,” Paula says. “Some are more dramatic than others. Your father and I have had them. There were times when I felt that there was no way things could work out... but they did.”

The doorbell interrupts them. As Molly soaks up her mother’s advice, Paula goes to answer the door. She returns with Sarah in tow.

“Hey,” Sarah says to Molly, the ever-present undercurrent of awkwardness humming between them.

“Hi,” Molly responds. She notices the book in Sarah’s hand. “Is that Ryan’s?”

“Yeah. I just finished it.” Sarah hands it to Molly. “It’s not that bad. I mean, it’s pretty candid, but... he isn’t blaming any of us for the things that happened. He takes responsibility. I don’t know...” She trails off, apparently torn over how to react to it.

“I’d like to read it,” Molly says. “Mom, have you read it yet?”

“You take it,” Paula says, palms held in front of her as if she were being presented with a box full of maggots.

“You should read it. For your own peace of mind,” Sarah says.

“I’d rather not.” Paula’s stubbornness is so forceful that Molly doesn’t even know how to respond. She trades confused looks with Sarah.

Molly decides to try a delicate approach. “Mom, I really think that if you--”

“I said I don’t want to read it,” Paula snaps, silencing them both.


“She’s doing better already,” Jason Fisher says, his feet propped up on his desk as he talks to Seth Ashby across the office. “Her mom is there helping with the baby while I’m at work, so I hope Courtney is really resting.”

“Good. I still don’t get how she ingested enough rat poison to get that sick, though.” Seth makes a face at the thought. All Jason can do in response is to shake his head; he has been wondering the same thing, to no avail, since Courtney’s diagnosis.

“Courtney?” Sabrina Gage asks as she enters the office, returning from her lunch break.

“Yeah,” Jason says. “The doctor says she should be fine. In a way, it’s a good thing she collapsed, so we got her to the hospital right away. Otherwise this could’ve been a long, slow...” He doesn’t even want to finish the thought.

“You’re sure she’s going to be okay?”

“Pretty sure. Yeah.”

“Good for her,” Sabrina says as she sets her things on her desk. Jason watches her intently. He has been putting this off all morning, but he knows that if he doesn’t do it now, it will drag into tomorrow, and then the day after that... All he wants is to be able to go home tonight and tell Courtney that he did this for her. So he swallows as much of his anxiety as he can and pipes up.

“Sabrina. Could I talk to you? In the conference room?”

“Of course.” She seems all too eager to do as he asks, which only makes this more difficult. He has no idea what to believe. Sabrina has been an asset to this office, and though he has seen her grow overemotional, he has never witnessed any of the malice that Courtney sees from her. Still...

They walk silently to the conference room. Jason is too consumed by thought to bother with small talk.

“What’s up?” she asks.

“There’s something I need to discuss with you.”

Her eyes nearly bulge out of her head as he closes the door. He wonders if she thinks he is going to give her a raise or something. She seats herself on the edge of the conference table, waiting eagerly.

“Sabrina... I’m going to have to...” He pauses, takes a deep breath, and then forces it out. “I’m going to have to let you go.”

Her entire body goes slack, like a balloon that’s just been stabbed with a pin. She doesn’t even move, just sits there, perched on the edge of the table and frozen in time.

“I’m sorry,” he says, needing to fill the quiet, “but it’s a money thing--”

“No, it’s not.” Her voice is mechanical. “There’s enough money. I saw the budget the other day.”

His stomach burns with the shame of having attempted that lie. If she had just accepted it, even if she hadn’t believed it, it might have made this whole thing less awkward.

“As I’m sure you know,” Jason says, “there are some... personal tensions involved, and I think it would be best for everyone--”

“She did this, didn’t she? She forced you to fire me.” Suddenly she springs off the table, re-inflated, re-energized. “Stand up to her, Jason. I’m good at my job. You-- you need me. And if Courtney can’t accept that--”

“I’ll help you find another job. I can make some calls, if you’d like. I just think it would be best for all of us if we ended this arrangement.”

Sabrina’s eyes burn with rage. “You know what would be best? If you told that fiancée of yours to shove it up her ass! She’s insane, Jason. She’s trying to ruin your life.”

“That’s enough!” He swings the door back open. “I’ve made my decision.”

Just like that, the rage fades, giving way to embarrassment, remorse, like someone coming down from a bender. Jason feels as if he were watching a series of cartoon characters morph into one another, with dizzying speed.

“You can’t fire me,” she pleads. “You can’t. I’m sorry. I was out of line with what I said--but I don’t know why Courtney hates me so much. All I want is to do my job--”

“Like I said, I’d be happy to help you find another one. But this can’t go on.”

“I don’t want another one!” she screams. Throwing out an arm, she shoves her way past him and out of the room. He hangs back, listening as she mutters frenzied nothings either to herself or to Seth in the office and then tears out of there, a few personal belongings in her arms.

He feels awful, even if her reaction did confirm that this was the right thing to do. He simply hopes that, the messiness of Sabrina’s firing aside, this will make everything better. Yet he cannot shake the sense that he has just made things a whole lot worse.


Courtney Chase lies on the couch, clad in pajamas even though it is midday. She desperately wants to do something, leave the house, even if it’s just going to Target. Putting on real clothes would be nice, too. But every time she so much as sits up, she is reminded of how weak her body still is. And her mother is never far away, warning her to stay on that couch and get as much rest as she possibly can. Sophie, perhaps sensing that her mom needs to rest, has been uncharacteristically quiet with Helen all day. So Courtney remains on that couch, the TV droning on with reruns of Jon and Kate Plus 8, which seems to be on around the clock without interruption.

Lauren Brooks and Alex Marshall sit on the loveseat--she on one cushion, he on the arm--and keep her company.

“Give it another day or two and I’ll sneak you out for a field trip,” Lauren promises. “Maybe we could even go old-school and hit the mall. Like high school.”

“Is it sad that I’m really excited at even the thought of that?” Courtney says.

Lauren laughs. “No. You are never too old to get excited about shopping.”

“Just stay on that couch for a while,” Alex says. “Rest up. You’re lucky you have your mom and dad and Jason to watch over you.”

“I know, I know. I just wish I could--it’s frustrating being told you can’t do stuff.”

Alex and Lauren nod in agreement.

“I still have no idea how this happened,” Courtney says. “It’s not like I’m walking around finding piles of rat poison to gobble up all day long.”

“The doctor was sure you couldn’t have just breathed it in or something?” Lauren asks.

“He said there was too much, unless I’d been sitting with my head in a bag of it, inhaling it for 24 hours straight.” Courtney levels her gaze on her friends. “I seriously don’t think this was an accident.”

Alex’s follow-up sounds tentative, almost disbelieving. “You think you were poisoned?”

“I know it sounds nuts.” It still sounds ridiculous inside her own head even to entertain the thought. “But I was around Sabrina the day before it happened.”

“We really think she’s that crazy now?” Lauren says, her eyes going wide. “I mean, I know she’s wacko, but there’s a big difference between picking fights with you and trying to poison you to death.”

Courtney runs it all through her mind again. It does sound nuts. And yet, Sabrina’s behavior at the rink, during the wedding cake tasting, was so bizarre that she cannot stop thinking about it. Unless the bakery had it in for Courtney, Sabrina must have been involved in this. Somehow.

“But why would she try to poison you?” Alex asks. “I’m not disagreeing that she’s a little... off. But does she really have that much of a vendetta against you that she’d want to kill you?”

Lauren offers him a sideways glance. “You’re just defending her because you almost had sex with her.”

Alex hits her with arm with a pillow. “Shut up. I did not almost have sex with her.” When the girls both scowl, he hastens to add, “Whatever. I’m not even defending her. I just have no idea what her motive would be.”

For all the time Courtney has spent thinking about this, she is no closer to an answer than Alex is. “I don’t know. But this was not an accident. I just... I just know.”

Lauren and Alex seem to agree, but Courtney cannot help wondering if she is the crazy one here.


Claire Fisher and Brent Taylor huddle over Brent’s desk, which is so heavily covered in printouts and photographs and faxes that it looks like some kind of abstract art exhibit. Brent tracks his finger down what must be the twentieth phone bill they have looked at this evening.

“Where is the 207 area code from?” he asks, as if she might know the answer off the top of her head. “Look how many calls Clayton--Carter, I mean--got from there.”

Claire turns to Brent’s laptop, which has been relegated to the chair beside her, and within moments, she has her answer. “Maine. And it looks like it’s the only one for the state...”

“I really think we should focus on the women in Maine, then,” he says. “There were too many calls from that 207 area code, especially considering Carter apparently never even went to Maine.”

“Hey, I like that. Maine is small. That narrows this down a lot,” Claire says.

She wonders how many women named Loretta could really be living in Maine. A surge of energy pulses through her, but by this point in their investigation, she has learned not to pay too much attention to it. What feels like the thing that is going to break the case wide open often leads to nothing more than a new array of confusing questions.

Brent shuffles several sheets to his right, where he has begun building a ‘to be discarded’--or rather, a ‘to be put in a box in case we screw and need this later’--pile. “I’m going to have this number traced,” he says. “Look how many times it appears on this bill.”

Claire glances at the bill and nods in agreement, though she has no sense of what counts as “too often.” She suspects that her own phone bill would show the same five or six numbers over and over again.

“We are so close to this,” Brent says, sitting back from the table. He lets out of a heavy sigh. “I can feel it.”

“We are. And we’re going to find this Loretta. Soon.”

Hands behind his head, Brent seems lost in the possibilities. “And then I can move back home... be with my boys all the time again...”

“I think we’re all ready for that to happen.”

With a grin, he asks, “What’s that mean? You getting sick of me?”

“No, it’s just... Molly and I had, I guess you could say, words at the restaurant opening.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think she blames me for dragging you into this,” Claire says. “Which she isn’t entirely wrong about. If I hadn’t brought the Morianis into our lives to begin with...”

“No. This is not your fault. It’s Nick Moriani’s, and Reginald Carter, and Loretta, whoever the hell she is.” Brent leans forward, intense. “What did Molly say to you?”

“Nothing.” Claire regrets ever having mentioned it. Even if it hurts to have Molly suddenly disliking her--and dislike seems a mild word for it--she understands why her former sister-in-law would lash out.

“She has no right to blame this on you.”

“Brent-- I’m sorry I said anything.”

“If Molly has anything to say about this, she should talk to me, not you,” he says. “Of course, that would involve being in the same place as me for more than three minutes.”

“I’m sorry this is happening,” she offers, at a loss for anything more useful to say.

“So am I.” He drops his chin into his hand. “Let’s just find this woman. We’ll find her, she’ll be punished, and things will finally go back to normal.”

Claire nods, but she wonders if Brent even knows what ‘normal’ means anymore. Because she sure has no idea.


“It’s so sad,” Elly says as she takes a seat on Travis Fisher’s bed. “They can’t break up.”

“Maybe it’ll work out,” Travis offers. He switches on the TV. “And if not, better they not put the twins through years and years of going back-and-forth, right?”

Elly studies him carefully. She knows that he is talking as much about his own parents as he is about Brent and Molly. Sometimes he surprises her like that--he seems normal, completely fine, and then he makes one comment that reminds her how much pain he is holding in.

“Danielle said Brent and your mom have had some crazy stuff happen with this investigation thing,” she says, hoping to get him to open up more. She can’t force him, but she can open the door.

“Dude, my mom got shot. In the leg, but still. That’s pretty hardcore.” He shakes his head. “Whatever. I get that it’s important to her, but it’s going on forever and it’s like, what the hell are they actually gonna find out?” He focuses on choosing a channel and finally settles on some idiotic VH1 reality show.

“I’m glad you’re back,” he says, turning to face her.

She feels a smile overtaking her face. “So am I. I missed you.”

“Same.” He reaches a hand out to her face, and a moment later, his lips are upon hers, and they are kissing--softly at first, then with their mouths practically linked as one. She really has missed him. Sometimes she’ll be sitting in class and think about him and find herself grinning like a total goof, and--

His hand is definitely on her boob.

She tries not to bristle at the touch. It isn’t that she minds, but this is still new for her, and she is very self-conscious about another person touching her this way. To show him that she is okay with it, she places her hand on his leg, rubbing in a small circle as they continue to make out. The fine hairs on his leg feel strange to her touch, but in an intriguing way.

And then his hand moves again, down her stomach, and--

This time she pulls back. “Travis. Wait.”

He looks at her blankly, without surprise. Like he pretty much expected this.

“Not now,” she says, startled. “Not yet.”

He doesn’t even protest. He just leans back on his elbows.

“Sorry,” she says. Even the simplest of words feel like marbles crowding her mouth. “I’m just not--I don’t think I’m ready--we can keep doing--”

“It’s cool. I get it.” He smiles to reassure her, then kisses her gently on the lips, with none of the ferocity of a moment ago. “When you’re ready.”


She can see the disappointment in his face, but he is a trooper about it. He puts his arm around her, and they sit back to watch Ricki Lake yelling at a bunch of women way too old to be acting this stupid and juvenile.

“I’m just glad you’re here,” Travis says with a sigh.


Paula stares at her daughters, who both remain frozen in front of her. Molly can hardly remember a time when Paula has snapped at them with such intensity. She is ready to drop the topic, but of course Sarah has to keep pushing buttons.

“You should give it a chance,” Sarah says. “I know you think it might be painful to relive all of that, but--”

“What’s painful is constantly being told what I should do,” Paula says, “and how I should feel about my own son.”

That shuts Sarah up, too.

Unabated, Paula rolls on, words tumbling out of her almost too fast to be clear. “After all of that happened, I wanted to see my son. I wanted to make sure he was okay. But I wasn’t supposed to. I had to sneak around just to catch a glimpse of him. And God forbid I actually spoke to him.”

Molly recalls Paula telling her about having gone to see Ryan, about having found him playing poker in a seedy bar, looking like he’d been to hell and back. She remembers what she told her mother: Ryan is the one who has to help himself now.

“Imagine what it’s like,” Paula says, “to have to train yourself not to think about your child every day. Imagine that you couldn’t see how Caleb or Christian or Tori were doing, and you had to pretend you were all right with that.”

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“You don’t have to be sorry. Just stop pushing that thing in my face.” She points a finger at the book. “Stop telling me how much I need to care about it. I can’t open myself up to all that again.”

Molly removes the book from the table. Even having it in Paula’s line of sight feels like disrespect for her mother.

“I’m sorry I yelled,” Paula says, moving past them to exit the kitchen.

Once she has gone, the sisters stand in silence, neither sure what to say.

“Sorry if I pushed her too hard,” Sarah finally says. “I guess I wasn’t thinking.”

Molly waves it off. “None of us have been.”

They hear their mother moving up the stairs of the house where she raised them, where she spent so many years pretending she didn’t have another child she thought about.


Will Paula reconnect with Ryan?
How can Molly and Brent repair their marriage?
What will Shannon do next?
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