Episode #551

- Despite Diane’s best efforts, she failed at retrieving the USB drive containing Danielle’s performance from Matt.
- Ryan’s book was completed and ready for publication.
- Courtney suspected that Sabrina had something to do with her poisoning. Jason was unsure but fired Sabrina to be safe.
- Seth discovered the bag of rat poison in Sabrina’s trunk and realized she had poisoned Courtney. Before he could call anyone, though, Sabrina realized what he had seen. Desperate, she smashed him in the head with a vase, kicked him in the face, and knocked him down the stairs of his apartment building. She sped off, leaving Seth in bad shape but still alive.



“Climbing through my child’s bedroom window in the middle of the night? Are you insane?”

Diane Bishop hears the question, but rather than answer Sarah Fisher, she holds the necklace up in front of her. “Is this too much with the earrings?” Diane asks.

“Too much. It looks like your face is encased in metal,” Sarah says, coming up behind Diane to study her in the full-length mirror.

“Thanks.” Relieved, Diane returns the necklace to her jewelry box and digs for something more appropriate. She would have been annoyed with that stupid thing all night, anyway.

“Now back to my daughter and you breaking into her room,” Sarah says.

Diane pauses over the jewelry box. “I did not break in. I knocked first.”

“You’re nuts.”

“I know. Now help me.”

As Sarah joins her in searching for another necklace, she asks, “What the hell are you up to, anyway? What could possibly be so important about a video of Danielle singing?”

Diane simply shrugs. Normally she would be eager to let Sarah in on one of her plans, but she gets the impression that she is not going to receive much support on this one. She finds a simple chain with a pendant and holds it out for Sarah’s approval.

“That’s it. Here, let me get the clasp,” Sarah offers. As she puts the necklace on her friend, Diane checks herself out in the mirror one more time.

“I really look okay?” she asks.

“Absolutely. That dress is great.”

“Good. Because I am not being photographed a hundred times tonight in something questionable.” She anticipates plenty of flashbulbs going off at the launch party for Ryan Moriani’s memoir, and she has no intention of being caught looking like a fool. Or a frump. “I think I look pretty damn good for a publisher. Not that the bar is especially high, but you know.”

“You look good. Now, do you promise to behave?”

“Have I ever promised that?”

“Diane, I’m serious. What are you up to?”

“Thanks to that ex-husband of yours, nothing,” Diane says. “And I thought you hated Danielle, too.”

“I don’t hate her,” Sarah says, a little too emphatically. “She rubs me the wrong way, that’s all.”

“Mm-hmm. Now help me pick out a purse.”



Alex Marshall races into the hospital like a runaway train, too full of steam and too low on brakes to stop and figure out where he is headed. He spins around the lobby for a moment before he mercifully spots a familiar face.

“Claire!” he calls out, making a beeline for her. She turns, and surprise registers as she sees him.

“Is everything all right, Alex?” she asks.

“I don’t know. I got a call from Seth’s parents--something about him having been admitted and--do you know where he is?”

She leads him to the reception desk, which of course he should have figured out as soon as he got here, except his brain was pumping too fast to consider such a practical option. Within moments, they have Seth’s location pinpointed.

“Thank you,” Alex says, already taking off for the elevators. When he reaches the Intensive Care Unit, he finds a nurse who is able to direct him toward Seth’s room. With his heart beating so hard that he thinks he might choke on it, Alex rushes toward the designated room. He finds the door open, and Stephen and Kristen Ashby standing over the bed where Seth lies, motionless and hooked up to countless machines. His face is puffy with bruises and obscured by bandages.

Alex watches in silence and tries to process this new reality. How can that be the Seth he knows in that bed?

“Mr. and Mrs. Ashby,” he finally says, his voice soft and his eyes fixed upon Seth. “I was in a meeting when you called. I came as soon as I heard your message.”

Their twin heads of sandy blond hair turn to him. “We found your number in Seth’s phone. We didn’t know who else to call,” Mr. Ashby explains.

“What happened? How did he--”

“One of his neighbors found him, lying at the foot of the stairs,” Mrs. Ashby says. “The hospital called us after he was admitted.”

“When? How?” Questions sputter directly from Alex’s brain to his mouth, though he is not sure there is any amount of questioning that could make sense of this.

Mr. Ashby leads Alex out to the hallway, as if Seth is just taking a nap and they might disrupt him. His wife follows dutifully, closing the door behind them.

“Last night,” Seth’s father says. “Or, rather, very early this morning. One of the neighbors was leaving for work and found Seth lying there, mangled like this.”

“They have no idea what happened?”

“They said it’s possible that he fell down the stairs. His wallet was still in his back pocket, and it didn’t look like the apartment had been robbed.”

“What kinds of people has he been involved with?” Mrs. Ashby demands. “Drug people? Is that why he moved here?”

“No! He’s--no.” Alex tears through his memory, hoping to stumble upon some long-filed-away bit of information that might hold the key to this terrible, confusing mystery.

“Someone attacked my son,” she rails, “and I want to know who it was.”

“I don’t know,” Alex insists. “How is he? I mean--what do the doctors say?”

“He’s in a coma,” Mr. Ashby says. “They won’t know the extent of his injuries until he awakens and they can run more tests. They seem to have the physical injuries under control, the bleeding and all that. He had a broken rib and arm.”

Seth’s mother catches Alex’s eyes with a stare that refuses to let go. “Do you have any idea who would have done this to our Seth? Or why?”

A thought flashes across Alex’s mind, but it is too unformed, too random, to share just yet. “No,” he says, even as he tries to find a way to make the pieces link up.



Clad in an impeccably cut black suit, with Danielle Taylor by his side, Ryan Moriani makes his way to the hotel’s Champlain Ballroom. When they step through the door, Ryan stops in his tracks, eager to take it all in. The guests who have already arrived are taking part in the planned cocktail hour. Throughout the room stand several easels displaying larger-than-life versions of his book’s cover. It really does feel like the beginning of a new chapter... no pun intended.

Danielle squeezes Ryan’s arm. “This looks great.”

“It really does,” he agrees. He spots his co-author standing near the large projection screen with her date, Ryan’s half-brother. He leads Danielle toward them.

“Cassandra,” he says, leaning in to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for all your help with this book.”

“It’s been one of the least unpleasant work experiences I’ve had,” she says with a grin. He never can quite tell if she is screwing with him, but their work together went smoothly enough.

“Cassandra Ward, this is Danielle Taylor,” Ryan says, stepping back to allow the women to shake hands.

“That dress is gorgeous,” Danielle says. Cassandra wears a bold green dress with gold accents; it might overpower other women, but not her. As the women swap notes about their outfits for the night, Ryan turns his attention to Tim, who is speaking with the A-V technician.

“It’s the only file on here,” Tim says. “Cue it up, and I’ll give you the signal when to play it. The lights will go down at the end of the cocktail hour, we’ll show the video, and then Diane will come up to speak.”

“You sure you don’t wanna make an announcement before that?” the technician, whose mustache threatens to overtake his face, asks.

“Diane wanted to do it this way. To set the scene, as she put it.”

“People might be chatting, though,” the technician counters. “You know how people get when you give ‘em some liquors.”

“Just be ready to do it when the lights go down,” Tim says firmly. They finish up, and Tim turns to find Ryan waiting for him.

“Everything going all right?” Ryan asks.

“It’s fine. Everything should be in order.” Tim moves to slide past him, but Ryan does not step out of the way.


“I just want to thank you,” Ryan says, his gaze suddenly dropping to the floor. After all this time, he still feels uncomfortable looking Tim in the eye, as if he does not have the right to do so.

“It’s my job,” Tim says.

“No. For the way you’ve been throughout this whole process. You could have made this a thousand times more difficult. I know it probably hasn’t been easy for you to sit back and watch this book come together--”

“No, it hasn’t.” Tim’s lips form a tight line, a seal that appears ready to burst at any moment.

Ryan forces himself to look his brother in the face. “I know that saying this can’t change what happened, but... I am sorry for everything I did. I was desperate and stupid, and I allowed you to go through things that you never should have.”

Tim nods. At first Ryan reads it as a silent condemnation, as if he is simply agreeing with Ryan’s words and refusing to grant him any reprieve from the weight and history behind them. When Tim speaks, however, there is no trace of that spitefulness.

“Thank you,” he says. “What you did-- I don’t know that I can ever forgive you for it. I probably never will. But holding a grudge, going out of my way to make someone else’s life difficult... that isn’t me. I’ve lost too much time already. I’m not going to waste it hating you.”

Ryan supposes that is as much as he can hope for. He is about to thank Tim when he notices someone rushing toward them.

“Danielle,” Matt Gray says as he approaches the group.

“Matt?” Ryan says. “What are you doing here?”

His focus remains squarely on Danielle. “I need to talk to you,” he tells her.



After he leaves the hospital, Alex calls Jason Fisher and tells him that he needs to come over and talk. He tries to focus on his driving, but when he parks in front of Jason and Courtney’s house, Alex hardly remembers the drive at all. The only thing he can see in his mind is Seth lying in that bed, battered and unconscious.

Jason leads him into the living room, where Courtney sits on the couch with Sophie. He offers water or something stronger to drink, but Alex cannot even think about that now.

“You’re looking better,” he manages to say to Courtney. And she is. The color is back in her face, and there is an energy about her that was lacking a few days ago.

“I’m feeling better,” she says. “What’s wrong with you?”

Alex sits on the arm of the couch. “I just came from the hospital. Seth is--he’s in a coma.”

“What?!” they say, almost simultaneously but not quite, so as to produce the effect of an echo.

He rattles off the explanation mechanically: “One of his neighbors found him at the bottom of the stairs this morning. His face is all beaten up, and he had a broken arm and a broken rib. It didn’t look like he’d been robbed.”

“What the hell?” Jason says. Alex can see him racking his brain for some kind of coherent statement or question. “Could it have been, like, an accident?” he asks at last.

“It’s possible,” Alex admits. “That just seems...” He remembers the way Seth’s face looked: harsh, beaten. “Let’s just say he would’ve had to have hit his face on every single step of that staircase.”

“But if someone didn’t want to rob him, who would attack Seth like this?” Jason asks.

Alex and Courtney have already made eye contact.

“I have one idea,” Alex says. He can tell that Courtney shares the same thought.

Jason picks up on the connection between them. “You don’t really think--Sabrina? Seriously?” He considers the idea. “I don’t know why she would be doing these things. First the poisoning, now this.”

“Because she is--” Courtney unnecessarily covers Sophie’s ears. “--a fucking maniac. She probably moved here just to go on a killing spree!”

“Something is really off with her,” Alex agrees. “She seems all nice and professional at first, but there’s this other person underneath. It’s like there’s a... she-wolf in the closet.”

“If that’s the closet, then I’d hate to see the living room,” Courtney cracks.

“We need to talk to Seth’s neighbors,” Jason says. “If Sabrina really did do this, someone must’ve heard something, right?”

Alex nods in immediate agreement. If Sabrina really did do this to Seth, there is no telling who she might go after next--and they don’t have time to sit around waiting for it to happen.



To say that Danielle is surprised would be a colossal understatement. Sarah’s ex-husband, whom she barely knows, has just rushed into the party, standing out in his jeans and gray t-shirt, and said he needs to talk to her.

“What’s going on?” Ryan asks with concern.

“Nothing,” Matt says. “At least, I hope not. Danielle, could we just...”

“Yeah. Of course.” She moves away from the rest of the group, toward the projection screen and the A-V guy’s setup. Matt joins her.

“I kinda came across something,” he explains, “and I figured I should give it to you.” He pulls out what Danielle quickly realizes is a USB memory stick.

Now she is really lost. “That isn’t mine.”

“It is now.” He holds it out for her to take. “Diane had this. It got mixed up with Tori’s things, and she wants it back, but I think you should have it.”

Tentatively, Danielle takes the drive. “What is it?”

“There’s a video on it. Of you singing. I guess at the coffee house...”

“Cassie’s?” Danielle flashes back to Open Mic Night. Why would Diane Bishop have a video of her singing from that night?

“She had the words to your song printed out on the screen, like closed captions.”

A horrible thought strikes Danielle. Could Diane know? How? But why else would she be so interested in Danielle’s song? Her hand, suddenly shaky, closes around the drive.

“I don’t know why she would have this,” she says weakly.

“Me neither. But she wants it back, and--look, I don’t really know what’s going on, but you seem like a nice person and she’s a wackjob, so...”

Danielle forces a grateful smile. “Thanks, Matt.”

Just as she is beginning to relax, she sees something that sends a wave of anger through her system: Diane Bishop entering the ballroom. She cannot begin to imagine what Diane was doing with this video, but it is hardly a stretch to think it was obnoxious at best and destructive at worst.

Matt notices, too, and he grabs Danielle’s hand. “Give me that,” he says. She opens her fingers and allows the drive to slide into Matt’s palm. He turns to the A-V tech and hands him the drive.

“Just hold onto this for a few minutes,” Matt says.

“I dunno, sir, I wouldn’t wanna be held liable for anyone else’s property,” the tech says.

“Then don’t lose it.”

Matt turns back just as Diane, heat-seeking missile of destruction that she is, spots him and Danielle and stomps right toward them.

“What are you doing here?” she demands of Matt.

“Nothing. I’m leaving.”

Diane grabs Matt by the arm, her stare bouncing back and forth between him and Danielle. “Not so fast.”



Meanwhile, the party continues to fill up. Among the latest arrivals are Travis Fisher and Elly Vanderbilt. Tim is stricken by dueling senses of pride and regret as he watches his son, dressed in a shirt and tie, step into the ballroom with his date, who looks adorable in a black cocktail dress. He can hardly believe that this is his son, the boy whom he held as a baby, now a young man. Nor can he believe how many of the intervening years he missed, how much of Travis’s growth and life he will never, ever be able to see or experience. Suppressing that longing for a past that he knows he can never reclaim, Tim crosses the room to greet his son and Elly.

“Hey, you guys,” he says. “You both look very nice.”

“See? I told you I could clean up okay,” Travis says with a grin.

“You even managed to get your tie tied.”

“His grandma did it,” Elly fake-whispers.

Cassandra steps up to Tim’s side. “Hi, Travis. Good to see you.”

“You, too,” he says, shaking her hand. “Um, this is Elly. Elly, this is Cassandra.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Cassandra says.

Elly notices Danielle, standing by during what appears to be a very tense conversation between Diane and Matt. “Is everything okay?”

“What’s Uncle Matt doing here?” Travis asks.

“Not a clue,” Tim says. “We’re probably going to get started in a few minutes, so if you guys want to go snag some food, I’d suggest doing it now.” He points toward the impressive buffet of heavy appetizers set up across the opposite wall.

“I’m there,” Travis says, taking Elly by the hand.

“Just don’t spill anything on your shirt,” she warns as they hurry off.

“What is going on over there?” Cassandra asks Tim.

He tries to make sense of the scene, but he cannot imagine what Diane, Matt, and Danielle all have in common. Whatever it is, he hopes they sort it out quickly. The last thing this book needs is more behind-the-scenes drama.



“You think you can just crash my party and cause trouble?” Diane asks Matt, her teeth gritted and her voice as quiet as she can manage.

He yanks his arm away from her. “I’m not the one trying to cause trouble.”

“What is going on here?” Danielle, standing by awkwardly, asks.

Diane throws her a dirty look. “Stay out of it.”

“It’s about me. Isn’t it?”

“You idiot!” Diane smacks Matt on the arm. “Thanks a lot.”

“She has a right to know that you’re plotting to ruin her life. Or whatever you do,” he says.

But Diane has bigger concerns. “Where is it?”

Matt shakes his head, practically taunting her. “Not here. I came to talk to Danielle, that’s it.”

Without attracting too much attention, she tries to make a grab for his pockets. Matt leaps backward.

“Give it to me. Now,” she insists.

Matt just stands there, holding up his empty hands and swiveling his head like a bratty child. This is neither the time nor the place, Diane decides.

She folds her arms across her chest. “Out of my party.”

“Not gonna argue with you,” he says, taking a step toward the door before he turns back to Danielle. “Sorry to drag you into this.”

“No, I appreciate it,” she says.

Matt pivots back toward Diane. For the first time she notices how big he is, his broad shoulders and his stature dwarfing her. “You,” he says quietly, “cut this out. I don’t know why you’re so hell-bent on humiliating Danielle or whatever this is about, but stop it.”

“Thanks for the lecture.” She barely stops short of rolling her eyes.

“It’s pathetic,” he says, not budging an inch. “Is it really that fun to make trouble for other people? Does it make your life better?”

Diane would rather not process what he is saying. She tries to let the words bounce off her eardrums and float right back out into space, forgotten. She glances away from him and sees Danielle. Sure, she’s sanctimonious and a pain in the ass. Diane doubts that will ever change. But maybe this plan to e-mail the file to Elly was a bit much.

“Get out,” she tells Matt as she brushes the thoughts aside.

“Fine.” This time he does not hesitate in moving for the door.

Diane gives Tim the sign, and within seconds, the lights have dimmed and the projection screen lights up the room. Voices quiet and heads turn.

But when the video comes on, it looks nothing like the one Diane approved. Instead of the Vision logo, it is a grainy picture, distorted beyond belief at this size, and--

Diane’s breath catches in her throat as she realizes what it is.

“I’d like to sing a song tonight that I wrote,” says the woman on the screen--Danielle. “It’s based on something painful in my life that I have recently had to come to terms with. Needless to say, it’s very personal.”

As she strums the guitar, Diane bounds for the A-V technician’s table. “Turn this off!” she hisses.

“What? Why? That Mr. Tim told me to run it.”

“It’s the wrong video!”

She gazes out as the crowd watches this bizarre presentation. Voices murmur, unsure what to make of this. She spots Travis and Elly, watching it carefully.

“What is this?” Tim asks as he rushes over.

“The wrong video,” Diane says as she surveys the controls, trying to figure out how to stop the damn thing.

“You sure ‘bout this?” the tech questions.

“Yes!” she and Tim spit at once.

But Diane hears the all-too-familiar lyrics playing through the room and knows that the words are being translated onscreen for everyone to see: “She can’t let go of letting go...”

She sees Danielle, her face devoid of all color or feeling, as the video plays on, laying her secret out there for all to see.


Will anyone realize what Danielle’s song is about?
Will Diane regret what she has done?
Will Seth awaken to reveal what he knows about Sabrina?
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