Episode #561

- Molly went to New York on business, accompanied by Philip. After their work was done, she agreed to join Philip on a drive to New Hampshire to visit his mother--a woman named Loretta.
- Brent reported that Seth’s ex-fiancée, Miriam Frost, had been arrested for the attack that left Seth in a coma.
- Jason’s bachelor party came screeching to a halt when Jason realized that the stripper who made a move on him was actually Sabrina, but before he could prove it to anyone else, she vanished from the party.


Jason Fisher wishes that the hotel suite had handles that he could grab onto, so that he could stop the damn place from spinning the way it is. He needs to sober up. The suite, which was a minute ago dark and pulsing with music and debauchery, is now illuminated by the bright overhead lights. The three remaining strippers stand around in various states of undress, not particularly ashamed of their nudity, even though the whole thing strikes Jason as very sad in the harsh light of reality. As for the fourth stripper...

“You arrested the wrong woman,” he tells Brent Taylor. “She was here. Sabrina was here. She came after me--”

“Slow down.” Tim Fisher takes a step toward his brother and places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Jason shrugs it off.

He addresses one of the women clad in a black bra and panties. “The other woman who was with you--who was she?” he asks.

The woman looks to her equally undressed colleagues, who both shake their heads. “I’ve never worked with her before,” the redhead says. “She showed up at the last minute. Said Missy got sick, so they sent her instead.”

The information drills itself into Jason’s brain. He doesn’t know how it all fits together, but it does--of that he is certain. He saw that look in Sabrina’s eyes. Courtney’s poisoning, Seth’s coma--it is all related to Sabrina Gage and whatever she came here tonight to do.

The rest of the partygoers stand around, silent and gawking at the abrupt change of tone. Alex Marshall steps forward and claps his hands together. “Maybe we should clear out,” he announces. “I can take Jason home.”

“I don’t want to go home,” Jason says. “I want her found and locked up.”

Brent appears utterly lost. “You’re sure it was Sabrina?” he tries.

“Yes. I took off her mask. It was her. And then she ran out of here like a bat out of hell.”

While the others gather themselves and the women put their outfits back together, Brent and Tim take Jason to the side.

“That scared the shit out of me,” he tells them, doing everything he can to keep his volume down and his voice calm. “The way she came after me--it was like she’d been planning it forever. Like that’s what this is all about.”

Tim and Brent exchange a worried look. Jason would like to think that they share his concern, but he suspects that they are primarily worried about him, or at least, his sanity.

He didn’t even want to let his mind travel to this place, but he knows that he has no other choice if he wants them to understand how serious this is. So he takes a deep breath and says it: “It reminded me of Shannon.”

That does the trick. Instantly, their demeanors transform. They seem as alarmed as he feels.

“Did she confess to anything?” Brent asks.

“No. She just--you should’ve seen the look in her eyes.”

Brent scans the room, as if searching for some heretofore-unseen clue. “I can’t arrest her for having a crazy look in her eyes. Especially not when we have an actual suspect based on tangible evidence.”

All Jason can do is shake his head, vehemently, insistently. “Miriam didn’t attack Seth. I don’t know what’s going on, but Sabrina did it. And she poisoned Court, too. I know it.”


The Audi tears through the night, a homing missile fixated upon its destination and immune to inertia. Inside, Shannon Parish’s hands grab the steering wheel so hard that they might as well be welded to it.

It’s over. It’s all over.

She wants to ignore the thought. It could have been over a thousand times already, but she has persevered, fought through, made adjustments so that she could reach her goal. As much as she would like to believe that is still possible, she knows that something changed tonight. When Jason realized it was her kissing him, pinning him against the wall--something came over him. Like he knew.

He can’t know, not all of it, she reassures herself as the car screams around a tight corner. But he knows enough. Too much.

This is not how it was supposed to go. Their first kiss--well, Sabrina and Jason’s first kiss--was supposed to be something special. Something that would make Jason realize how much he has been missing, how much he needs her. It wasn’t even hard to get in there. All she had to do was pay one of the hired strippers what she would have made for the night; the girl was all too happy to take the money and stay home.

Now it’s all ruined.

There has to be something she can do. Maybe she can apologize to him. She came on too strong. Jason is a good man, he always has been. He wouldn’t cheat on Courtney, awful as she is. He is a man of his word, so of course he needs to break up with her before he can be with Shannon. She should have realized that before she made such an aggressive move.

The car in front of her hits its brakes, for no reason at all. “It’s a goddamn 45!” Shannon shouts at the windshield as she jerks into the next lane and races on.

She knows what she felt back there. Kissing Jason... pressing her hand against the front of his pants... she remembers what that felt like, so long ago, the first night that they made love. During the snowstorm. She remembers climbing into the shower with him in the hotel in Arizona, how perfect his backside looked as he stood under the stream of water, oblivious to her creeping in...

No. She cannot give up now. She is so close. She has to free him from Courtney, and then they can be together. And the first step is to keep that wedding from happening.

An adjustment. A change of plans. That’s all it will take.


On the front porch, Alex searches Jason’s key ring for the proper key to open the door. Before he can find it, though, Jason snatches the ring from him.

“I can do it,” he says. Alex doesn’t doubt that his friend is capable of unlocking the door; he might be a little drunk, but he is far from incapacitated. But he still feels the need to take care of Jason however he can, try to keep him calm after what happened at the party.

Once inside the house, Jason cuts an uneven path straight for the stairs.

“I’ll get you some water,” Alex calls after him. He heads for the kitchen, finds a glass, and fills it with water from the dispenser set in the refrigerator door. He is exiting the kitchen when he hears the front door unlocking again.

“You guys are back already?” Courtney Chase asks. Lauren Brooks enters behind her, equally surprised.

“Uh, things got a little weird,” Alex hedges. “It was... you should ask Jason.”

Alarm tugs at every muscle fiber in Courtney’s face. “Where is he? Is everything okay?”

“He’s fine. He went upstairs. I was gonna bring this to him.”

“I’ll take it up to him.” She takes the glass of water and then gives Lauren a quick hug. “Thanks, maid of honor. I hope you had fun.”

“I hope you had fun,” Lauren says as Courtney dashes out and hurries up the stairs. Once she is gone, Lauren turns to Alex. “What happened?”

“Sabrina was there. At least, Jason thinks she was. As one of the strippers.”

“What? How?”

“I don’t know.” He cannot come up with a gesture adamant enough to express how baffled he is by the entire situation. “No one else saw her. But he says that she came after him--kissed him. You cannot repeat this to anyone.”

“I won’t. I swear.” Lauren folds her arms, apparently trying to process this bizarre new information. “But she what, escaped?”

“Yeah. She ran out before we got the lights turned on. Jason is convinced that she has to be the one who’s been all these horrible things. Poisoning Courtney...”

“...attacking Seth. Wow. Courtney was right all along.”

“I guess so.”

Silence lingers over them as they struggle to make sense of these latest developments. Lauren drops onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table.

“Why would she be doing all these things?” she wonders. “I mean, if she really did all of this, she’s completely insane. Like, certifiable, needs-to-be-locked-up crazy.”

“I know.” Alex crosses his arms and leans against the kitchen wall. “I have a feeling there are a lot of things we don’t know about Sabrina Gage.”


Brent stands at the kitchen counter, flipping through the mail that he brought in earlier but chose not to deal with. He separates the junk from the bills and then pours himself a glass of water; he certainly did not get drunk at the aborted bachelor party, but he can still feel the faint buzz of alcohol throughout his body.

When he hears the front door opens, he startles. But then he hears a rolling suitcase coming down the hall, and he prepares himself. Just when he was starting to forget about the fact that he no longer lives here full-time...

“Hey,” he says as soon as his wife turns the corner into the kitchen.

“Hey.” Molly recoils in surprise. “I thought you’d still be out at Jason’s party.”

“Things got cut short. Long story.”

Molly sets down her purse and a variety of other items on the countertop. The silence between them in thick with emotions unarticulated.

“Is Danielle in bed already?” Molly finally asks.

“Yeah. She was heading up just when I got home. She looked really worn out... this thing with Elly has been really hard on her.”

Molly dips her head sympathetically. “How have the boys been?”

“Good. I mean, totally nuts, but good. This afternoon, they were out back on the swings, trying to swing as high as they could so they could kick their shoes over the fence. Mrs. Rouverol didn’t appreciate almost getting pelted with Crocs, I don’t think.”

The story brings a smile to Molly’s face, and for a split-second, Brent forgets their current situation. It could be any night, with him and his wife standing around in the kitchen, catching up on their boys’ latest antics. He decides to go with it.

“How was your trip?” he asks. “Mission accomplished?”

“I think so. It’s a horrible time for pretty much all business, but I think we managed to get them to carry some of our clothes as a test in the spring. It’s a good start.”


“Thanks. I’m glad Philip came with me, honestly. I wasn’t sure about it, but I don’t think I could have won those people over so easily without him.” She unpacks a few items from her purse: her cell phone, and a slip of paper that she very deliberately lays on the counter. “I need to remember to send Philip’s mother a thank-you note...”

The news hits Brent like a punch to his gut. “His mother? Why?”

“That’s why we drove to New Hampshire. She lives there, and Philip wanted to stop by and see her.” Off his reaction, she hastily adds, “I thought it would be nice to clear my head and see New England.”

He does not know what to make of this. It isn’t that he suspects Molly of doing something more with Philip--but she can travel all over with him, yet she can’t sleep under the same roof as her husband?

“You’re sure that’s all it is?” He can’t help himself.

“Yes! Brent--” She moves toward him but then pulls herself back. “This isn’t about Philip.”

“If you say so.”

She stares him down for several seconds. “I’m going upstairs to unpack. I’m exhausted.”

“I’ll get my stuff out of the guest room and go back to Josh’s.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Wouldn’t want to disrupt your sleep with my presence.”

All she can do is shake her head as she takes her suitcase and disappears from the kitchen. Brent drinks his water. He wishes that he could have restrained himself from snapping at her the way he did, but... it felt good, too. Why should she get everything she wants out of this situation? Why should he have to come and go like a criminal on probation?

He sets down the empty glass and is contemplating whether he should really head over to Josh’s tonight or just crash in the guest room, as he has been for the past few days. The debate is still raging in his head as he moves to head upstairs--but something catches his eye. At first he thinks that he simply imagined it. It isn’t as if the topic has been far from his mind at any point in the last few months. But he swears that he really saw it somewhere. That name.


And then he sees it, for real. On the slip of paper that Molly set out. Mrs. Loretta Ragan, followed by an address in New Hampshire, all written in an overly ornate style of cursive suggesting someone of an older generation.

It’s just a coincidence, he tells himself, but he cannot keep himself from finding a scrap of junk mail on which to copy down the address.


“Thanks for letting me in here,” Alex says to the nurse as she holds open the door for him.

The man, a colleague and friend of Claire’s, offers a gracious smile as Alex steps into the room. “Don’t make me regret it. No after-visiting-hours shenanigans.”

“Not too many shenanigans I can get into with a coma patient. I mean...”

“Take all the time you need,” the nurse says as he backs out of the room and closes the door.

Alex pulls a chair over to the side of Seth Ashby’s bed. Slowly he lowers himself into it, unsure why he is even here. After all the craziness of the night, and especially Jason’s certainty that Sabrina did this to Seth, Alex felt as though... he doesn’t even know. It isn’t as if Seth can offer any answers, given his current state.

“How’re you doing?” Alex asks, feeling as dumb as ever as the question passes his lips. He has been to visit Seth a few times, and he has yet to decide which is sillier: talking to a comatose man or sitting here in complete silence.

“Probably not too great,” he continues, “with the whole coma thing. Can you even hear me?”

Shockingly, no response.

“Come on. You need to wake up. Because I want you to be okay. And your parents... They’ve been here the whole time. Your mom’s been praying nonstop.”

He sees Seth’s hand, lying there limp on the bed. His instinct is to reach for it, but after all that they have been through, he knows that isn’t right. He never could have imagined, when Seth came back into his life, that things would end up like this.

No. Nothing is ending this way. Seth is going to wake up.

“Did Miriam really do this?” Alex asks. He props his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. He sits there for a few more minutes--five, fifteen, who knows?--and finally accepts that, whatever he came here for, he isn’t going to get it tonight. Seth is not going to wake up magically and tell the truth about who attacked him.

“You’re going to be fine,” Alex says. He stands and returns the chair to its spot against the wall, all the while wishing that he could believe the words he just said. “Please get better.”

He lets himself out of the room and thanks the nurse again on his way out of the hospital. If he had only stayed another minute, though, he would have seen Seth’s finger twitch... and his eyelids fluttering...


Will Seth wake up in time to confirm Sabrina’s crimes?
What is the next step in Shannon’s plan?
Will Brent finally uncover the truth about Loretta?
Come over to the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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