Episode #557

- Jason and Lauren interviewed one of Seth’s neighbors, who said she heard a female voice yelling on the night of Seth’s attack. They were more convinced than ever of Sabrina’s involvement.
- Molly was grateful to Philip for joining her in New York and helping her in meetings with prospective buyers.
- Tim, Claire, and Danielle searched Los Angeles for Travis and Elly but were told they had to wait eight more hours before filing Missing Persons Reports.
- Travis and Elly were robbed by a girl at a diner. They planned to sneak out of their motel early in the morning to avoid facing the bill that they couldn’t pay. Back in the room, they had sex for the first time.


Beep! Beep! Beep!

The razor-sharp electronic screeching tears through the peace of Travis Fisher’s sleep. He reaches to turn off the alarm, but in the split-second that he cracks his eyes open, his brain absorbs his surroundings. He isn’t at home, in his bed, hitting the snooze button before his mom or dad comes in to make him get up. He’s in this crappy motel in L.A., and--

“Oh, shit,” he croaks. He bolts upright and scrambles to silence the alarm.

“Elly,” he says, reaching over to shake the girl beside him. But she is already awake and staring at him.

“We have to get out of here.” Even as he speaks, Travis lays his body over hers. “I don’t want to get up.”

“I know.” Elly sighs, a breath so deep that Travis can feel her rise and relax under him. 

He feels as though he should mention last night, but he doesn’t know what to say. It would be so cheesy to say that it was great--would it? He doesn’t even know. Instead he plants a quick kiss on her lips, then jumps off the bed. They have to split before that guy at the desk catches them and realizes that they don’t have the credit card or the cash to pay for the room.

As Travis throws his stuff into his backpack, Elly gets out of bed and slips back into the clothes she wore yesterday. She hurriedly packs up her own things, and within five minutes, they are ready to go.

“Got everything?” Travis asks as he opens the door. She nods, so they move out of the room, taking care to be quiet, just in case. Travis eases the door closed, and they move to the left, down the cracked cement walkway toward the exit.

“Where you two headed so early?” comes a loud, assured voice from behind them. They turn back to see John, the big guy from the front desk who checked them in yesterday.


The first streaks of dawn splash across the sky. Five weary individuals stream out of the precinct, their eyelids drooping and their feet dragging. They have all been so focused on maintaining enough energy to make it to this moment; now that it has come, their systems are crashing, hard.

“What now?” Claire Fisher asks the group.

Someone stifles a yawn. Bleary-eyed, Danielle Taylor proposes, “We sleep?” Even as she says it, she shakes her head, knowing that it will not be possible. Not until they find Travis and Elly.

“It’s a big city,” Tim Fisher says. “I don’t know how much more aimless looking-around I can handle.”

Tom and Melanie Vanderbilt murmur in agreement. Claire understands their frustration; they spent the whole night going from one deserted tourist site to another, hoping against hope to find the teenagers. Or at least telling themselves that while they killed time until they could file Missing Persons Reports for Travis and Elly.

“I’m going to text Travis,” Claire says, pulling out her cell phone. “It’s worth a shot.”

The others offer a short burst of encouragement, though she suspects that they are humoring her. Neither of the kids has answered any of their phone calls, responded to their voicemails, or acknowledged their text messages. But she has to do something.

So she taps out the message on her phone: Are you ok? In LA? We are here. She hits send and watches it disappear from her outbox, sent out into the world... and, with any luck, her son is happy and healthy and safe, and he will read the text and maybe even respond.


Molly Taylor wakes up early that morning. She showers and packs up her things, and she meets Philip Ragan in the hotel lobby. They take a cab to pick up a rental car, and once they pile into the nondescript, silver-y sedan, Philip officially takes the lead. He guides them out of New York City and over a series of freeways and highways that he clearly knows very well. Molly loses count of the number of toll booths at which they stop--she has hardly ever seen one before, let alone this many in a single drive--and, after a few hours of traveling, Philip suggests that they stop for lunch.

“We used to come here when I was young,” he tells her as they pull into the parking lot of a quaint little diner called, as its fading sign proudly announces, Mo’s. It does not look at all like the type of place that Philip would choose to frequent, but he is already beaming as he steps out of the car.

Molly is grateful for the opportunity to get out of the car and stretch her legs. The heat that greets her feels heavier than that of a Northwest summer, as if it is a physical being wrapping itself around her body. They trudge through the humidity and into the diner; its interior, all worn surfaces and comfort, perfectly matches the outside.

A spry elderly woman squeals at the sight of Philip and enthusiastically hugs him. Philip happily accepts the embrace.

“It’s been too long,” the woman says, stepping back to examine him. Then she notices Molly. “And who is this?”

“This is Molly Taylor. A business associate,” he says. “And a friend.” He looks to Molly and allows that to land. “Molly, this is Dot. I’ve known her since--”

“Since he was this big,” Dot says, holding her hand at waist level. “And would ya look at him now?” She gazes admiringly on Philip, then grabs two menus from the host’s stand. “Here, come with me.”

In her slow, loping way, Dot leads them to a booth by the window. Molly and Philip slide into opposite sides, and she hands them their menus.

“You’re headed up to the castle?” Dot asks.

Molly catches Philip’s eye. “The castle, huh?”

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration,” he says. “More than a bit, actually.”

Dot swipes aside his humility with a wave of her hand. “Oh, pssh. His family’s house is a real sight to see. The Castle in the Clouds, we call it. Up there on a hill with all that fog rolling in all the time...”

Philip laughs. “Yes, we are headed that way. I was in New York for business and thought it would only be right to visit my mother.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll love that! What can I get both of ya to drink?”

Philip gestures for Molly to go first. “I’ll have a coffee,” she says. Philip orders the same, and Dot scampers off.

“I can’t wait to see this castle,” Molly says with a grin, wondering what other surprises she has yet to learn about Philip Ragan.


The front desk guy looks even bigger and scarier today than he did yesterday.

“We, uh, we were gonna go have some breakfast,” Travis says.

“Up awfully early, aren’t you?” John asks, folding his arms over his barrel chest.

“It’s the time change,” Elly jumps in, surprising Travis with how comfortable she sounds spinning the story. “We’re from back east. It’s already, like, the middle of the morning for us.”

John nods slowly, deliberately. “Bringing all your stuff with you?” he asks.

“I’m really paranoid,” Elly says. “You never can be too careful.” She pauses to play with a strand of her hair, something Travis has never seen her do before. “There was this one time where my mom and I were on a plane, and like, she kept telling me not to put my bags up in the little bin or whatever, but I didn’t care, because who wants that thing on the floor the whole time? You barely get any foot room as it is. So I put my stuff up there, and when I went to get it at the end of the flight, it was gone! And we didn’t know what to do, so we asked the flight attendants, but they didn’t have any idea where it was, so we went out and we were gonna tell the police or security or something, but then we saw this lady running out the door with my bag! And we tried to catch her, but she got in a cab and left. So I lost all my stuff. Now I always think it’s a good idea to keep it with you all the time.” Elly takes her first breath in half a minute, but it is short-lived. “And the lady had one arm.”

“One-armed lady took your stuff,” John says.

Elly’s head bobs up and down. “Yep. It was crazy.” She grabs Travis’s hand and begins to lead him away. “I’m starving already. We’ll see you later, okay?”

Travis can’t tell if John buys the story or not. Maybe he is too shocked by the whole rambling thing to respond. Whatever the case, Travis and Elly blow through the lobby and out of the building, and soon as they hit the sidewalk, they burst out in laughter.

“And the lady had one arm,” Travis quotes, hardly able to breathe.

John emerges from the front of the motel. “What’s so funny?”

Travis and Elly exchange a look, and without needing any words, they both know what they need to do now: run like hell. So they do.


The familiar sounds of early morning practice bombard Jason Fisher as soon as he enters the arena: blades chopping across the ice, competition music rushing from the speakers, coaches hollering at their students. Jason rounds the rink and catches up with his own former coach, Sandy James, who is walking around in her skates with her blade guards on.

“You’re in early,” Sandy observes.

Jason would rather not be reminded. “I have mountains of work to deal with, now that Sabrina’s been fired and Seth’s...” He doesn’t know how to finish the statement. In a coma? Maybe going to die?

Luckily, he doesn’t have to say it aloud. Sandy nods grimly and follows him up the stairs to the second floor, where his office is located.

“It’s such a shame, what happened to Seth,” Sandy says, her blade guards clunking loudly upon each step as they climb. “The police don’t have any idea who did it?”

Jason shakes his head. “They’re talking to the neighbors today, Brent said. Lauren and I went last night and talked to one of them.”

“Why would you do something like that?”

“Because.” They pause at the railing that overlooks the ice surface below; there is something soothing to him about the sight of young skaters flying back and forth over the crisp white surface. “I don’t think this was a random attack. Neither does Courtney. Especially not after the poisoning.”

Sandy takes that in. “You think Courtney is right?” she asks.

“About Sabrina? Yeah.” As much as he would rather not believe that the woman he so eagerly hired and defended could be capable of such horrible acts, he sees no other explanation.

Attempting to shake off the thoughts, he moves to the office door. When he turns the key, however, he finds that the door is already unlocked. He quickly turns the knob and finds Sabrina Gage standing over her desk.

“I didn’t think you’d be in this early,” she says. “I came in to pack up my things.” She holds up a half-full cardboard box as proof.

“Okay.” Jason has no idea how to behave around her. Neither does Sandy, apparently. They file into the office silently. Jason scrambles to think of some kind of small talk to make.

Sabrina sets the box down on her desk. “I should apologize for how I acted the other day. I was--I was overwhelmed, that’s all. Working here was a great experience. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

“Thanks,” Jason says, still at a loss. “It was... I’m sorry it had to come to this.” He looks at her, her newly dark hair falling around her face as she stoops over to toss more items into the box, and again tries to figure out how this woman could be such a maniac. Or why.

He decides to test the waters. “Have you heard about Seth?”

Sandy flashes him a look. Sabrina, for her part, glances up in confusion.

“No. What about him?”

“He’s in the hospital,” Jason says. “In a coma. Someone attacked him in his apartment building--pushed him down the stairs. He’s in pretty bad shape.”

“Oh my gosh.” Sabrina clasps a hand over her widened mouth. “That’s... that’s horrible. Was it a robbery or something?”

“The police aren’t sure.”

“Should I go see him in the hospital? Is his family there with him?” She brushes the hair out of her face and freezes like that, holding it back, displaying what appears to be genuine, utter shock.

“His parents are in town, yeah. The doctors aren’t sure what to expect.”

“My gosh.” She shakes her head and opens two more desk drawers. “I guess I’ll leave all these files and you guys can handle them.”

“Thanks.” Jason gets settled at his desk, with Sandy still standing on the other side of it, as Sabrina gathers her things.

“I’ll get out of your way now,” she says. “Please... I know I kind of went nuts the other day, but if you need any help, let me know. I’m really grateful to have had the experience, and I hope we can be...” She trails off. “I hope you don’t hate me.”

Jason forces a smile. It is all he can manage. In a matter of moments, Sabrina has taken her belongings and left the office. Jason and Sandy wait a few seconds before they speak at all.

“Do you think she’s telling the truth?” Sandy asks. “About not knowing about Seth?”

Jason throws his head back and sinks further into his chair. At this point, he doesn’t know what to believe, or what to make of Sabrina Gage.


Claire is not too certain about the “interesting” restaurant that the group comes across, but the promise of caffeine and a few minutes to sit down are enough to get her inside. The five settle at a round table in the center of the restaurant, and an alarmingly perky waitress descends upon them with hot cups of coffee.

The men take a few sips of their coffees, then stand to make the rounds of the morning diner patrons with photos of Travis and Elly. Claire, Danielle, and Melanie sit at the table, awkward silence curling in the air around them like the tendrils of steam rising from the coffee mugs.

“I really am sorry,” Danielle blurts out. “This is not at all how I wanted this to go.”

Melanie drops her eyes to the faded tablecloth.

Spurred on by the lack of response, Danielle adds, “Claire can tell you how vindictive Diane can be.”

“It’s true.” Claire is all too happy to jump in; talking is much easier than stewing in awful silence. “She’s done some horrible things to my family.”

“I just don’t understand how this happened,” Melanie says, pinching the bridge of her nose.

Danielle sputters without producing words.

“I’m going to go get some fresh air.” Melanie rises and heads outside. Claire has quickly learned that “fresh air,” for Melanie Vanderbilt, means “a cigarette.”

Once they are alone, Danielle turns to Claire. “I’m sorry you and Tim had to be dragged into this.”

Claire waves that off. “Please. My son might be a lot of things, but an angel is not one of them.” She sips her coffee. “You don’t have to blame yourself for all of this. It was out of your control.”

Danielle simply shakes her head. “I’ve already managed to blame everyone else for it, in one way or another: Diane, Ryan...”

The mention of his name is an instant spark, like the sudden strike of a piece of flint against steel. Claire is immediately more alert than any cup of coffee could make her.

“You and Ryan...” she begins, feeling both desperate and obligated to mention the shared tie between her and Danielle, something they have managed to avoid for the entire journey thus far.

“He’s changed,” Danielle scrambles to say. “He’s remorseful for what he did. He knows all the damage he caused. There’s a good person in there.”

It all sounds very defensive to Claire, but she, of all people, understands it well. “I know. If there weren’t, I wouldn’t have been able to believe in him for so long.” She drinks her coffee as thoughts, more familiar than she’d like to acknowledge, cloud her mind anew. Her relationship with Ryan sometimes seems as if it took place in another lifetime. It is nearly impossible for her to remember it as it existed then, as it felt at the time; it is as if, once she learned about what he did to Tim, all those memories had a dark paint splashed over them, a paint that she will never be able to wash off.

“I know you probably think I’m insane for trusting him,” Danielle says.

“No.” She says it before she even thinks about it--to reassure Danielle, really--but then realizes that she means it. “You’re compassionate. And if Ryan is genuinely remorseful, then he deserves a second chance. I could never give it to him, and it’s probably better for both of us that I couldn’t, but maybe you’re just what he needs. Besides, you know what you’re dealing with. I’m pretty sure Brent has made sure of that.”

They share a raw laugh, about how protective Danielle’s brother is, about how screwed-up the entire situation is. Tim and Tom return to the table, having had no luck showing the kids’ pictures, and soon Melanie rejoins them, as well. Conversation comes in fits and starts, and Claire drinks her coffee, thinking about what it means to have a second chance and if she is wasting hers.


Travis and Elly run blocks and blocks. They don’t stop until they are probably a mile from the motel. When Travis spots a mini-mart, they duck in there and pretend to peruse the snacks--things that, despite their ridiculously low prices, they still can’t afford.

“That was close,” he says, breathing hard from the run.

“Yeah.” Elly tries to catch her breath. “What are we even gonna do now? We have no place to sleep, we can’t buy food... we can’t even afford train tickets to get back.”

“I know.” Uncertain of how to reassure her, he reaches out and takes her hand. Their fingers entwine, and somehow, he feels a little safer already. “We’ll figure it out. I’m just--I’m glad we came here. Even if it’s a mess. Being here with you, it’s--it’s awesome.”

As soon as the words spill out, he wishes that he could take them back. He sounds like an idiot, gushing over her and being all emotional and stupid.

“Yeah, it is,” Elly says, and when she smiles, something inside Travis settles down.

“So what do we do now?” she finally asks.

Travis notices the clerk glancing suspiciously at them and picks up a few different snacks, pretending to evaluate them. “I don’t know,” he tells Elly. “What is it, like 6 a.m. or something crazy?”

He pulls out his phone to check the time and notices that he missed a text message--not surprising, considering the way they were running. When he opens it, his surprise increases tenfold.

Are you ok? In LA? We are here.

“My mom says she’s in L.A.,” he says.

“What? How?”

“I don’t know.” He stares at the message for another few seconds. “Maybe we should call her. She can help us, and if I tell her that you’re not ready to deal with Danielle yet...”

“Okay.” He can tell that Elly isn’t crazy about the prospect, but neither of them are too thrilled with the idea of going hungry or sleeping outside, either. He leads the way outside the store, hoping that John from the motel hasn’t somehow followed them.

Outside, the coast is clear, and they stand in the parking lot as Travis places a call to his mom. She answers before the first ring even finishes.

“Oh my God,” Claire says through the phone. “Are you okay? Where are you?”

“I’m fine. We’re fine, Elly and me. Why are you here?”

“Your dad found the train reservation on your computer.”

“Oh.” He should’ve seen that coming. “So you guys came down here?”

“Yes! Where are you? We’ll come get you.”

Travis doesn’t even think of arguing with her. “We’re at this, like, mini-mart. I think the intersection is Franklin and Vine. Yeah.”

“We’re coming,” Claire says. “Give us a few minutes. Stay there.”

She ends the call in a flurry, and Travis feels an immediate pang of guilt for having made her worry so much. There was a time when he would have wanted that, but not now. Maybe it is best that his parents come get them and they put this all behind them.

“They’re coming?” Elly asks.

He starts to answer her, but a face crossing the parking lot catches his eye.

“It’s her,” he says under his breath, trying to indicate the girl to Elly without pointing too overtly. Thankfully, Elly takes the hint and sees the same thing he does: the girl who robbed them, walking right toward the mini-mart’s entrance and carrying Elly's purse.


Will the adults get to Travis and Elly before they get in more trouble?
What is Sabrina going to do next?
What is in store for the rest of Molly and Philip’s trip?
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