Episode #565

- In Iowa, Lauren and Josh discovered that the real Sabrina Gage is a woman in a vegetative state--and the Sabrina in King’s Bay stole her identity.
- Sophie was kidnapped from the hotel by a man who knocked Helen out. Courtney lashed out at Jason, blaming him for not having believed her about Sabrina sooner.
- Jason realized that he had seen the kidnapper’s car turn into a motel. He and the police rushed there, and the panicked kidnapper jumped into his car with Sophie. As the police tried to stop him, the kidnapper lost control of his car and crashed.


Frank Milligan had no idea what he was getting into. He does this sort of job all the time: knock on a door, sweet-talk someone into letting him in, swipe something. Easy as pie, usually. An hour of work for a few thousand dollars. He figured that’s what this would be.

When the lady told him it’d be a baby he was swiping, he definitely hesitated. A baby’s a lot different than an expensive necklace or a CD full of valuable info. But then she told him the whole story, about how the baby’s dad tricked her into giving the kid up, and now he was getting married to some chick who didn’t even want the kid, just tolerated her to hang onto her guy. And Frank figured, in a roundabout way, he was doing the kid a favor, putting her back with her real mom.

It was easier than he expected. He knocked on the door, said he had something for the wedding, knocked out the old lady, and left with the kid. In and out in ten minutes. The baby didn’t even scream as he walked through the hotel--not too fast, don’t want anyone to get suspicious--with her. He got in the car and headed for the motel where they were supposed to make the handoff.

Then came the cops. He heard them knocking on doors, saw them asking people questions. He figured they were just hitting up the nearby places where someone might hide out with a kidnapped baby. Frank figured he could handle it. Pretend he was about to take a shower, put the kid in the bathroom and turn on the vent. Pray she stayed quiet for the minute it would take to get rid of the cops.

But then there was the other guy. The one screaming and yelling, probably the dad. Frank didn’t know what would happen if he came to the door, or if the baby heard him. So he wrapped her up in a blanket and his coat and carried it all out to the car. He figured no one would even notice. He just had to make it down the stairs, get in the car, and pull out. He hid her on the floor of the backseat, behind his own seat, wrapped up so she wouldn’t be easy to see if you just glanced in the window.

They noticed, though. Because they knew the car. Frank didn’t know how, but he sure as hell didn’t expect that. It was a rental, like he always insisted on, some generic little thing that no one would give a second look. He had no clue how they ID’d the car.

The rest of it happened in flashes that seemed more like pictures than anything he was actually experiencing. A gun pulled... a cop car blocking the exit... the Toyota smashing through the piece-of-shit wooden fence... and before Frank knew what was happening, he lost control of the steering wheel, and the Toyota went skidding and spinning around until it slammed into something. And then everything got really, really quiet.


When the car smashes into the second fence, it is as if every ounce of sound has been drained out of the world. Jason Fisher could swear that he hears not a single noise--not cars in the distance, not birds overhead, nothing. The world simply hangs there, stiller than still and pregnant with all sorts of horrifying possibilities. Jason is afraid to breathe, because if he does, that giant pause will end, and then he might have to face something that he never, ever wants to face.

But the world does it for him.

“Don’t move!” one of the police officers yells as they all rush across the road with guns drawn.

“Wait here,” Brent Taylor tells him as he joins the other officers. Jason obeys for a second and a half and then slowly follows Brent across the street. Traffic slows to a crawl around them.

Slats covered in chipped white paint cover the small Toyota, and dust and dirt obscure the view inside. Through an open strip in the windshield, however, Jason sees the driver’s red cap move.

“Step out of the car,” one of the officers barks at the driver. The man struggles but then forces the driver’s door open. “Put your hands where I can see them!”

His red cap bowed, the man obliges. Jason has never seen this guy before in his life. Not that he expected it would be someone he knew, logically, but he hoped that seeing him might provide some clue, some--

“Where is she? Where’s the baby?” The officer advances on the car, gripping his gun tightly.

“In the back.” The red cap jerks toward the debris-covered vehicle. “On the floor.”

Brent and the two officers move toward the car, but one of them keeps his gun trained on the driver the entire time. She should be crying, Jason thinks. After what just happened, Sophie should be crying. He doesn’t let his mind venture any further than that.

The officers shove aside chunks of wood and maneuver their way into the back seat. Jason can tell that they have found something--they spend too much staring in there, not saying anything. Not saying a damn thing.

“What’s going on?” he yells, unable to bear it.

No one responds.

Brent leans down and lifts out a form that Jason recognizes as his daughter. Immediately one of the officers has his radio out, calling for an ambulance.

Jason runs toward them. “Give her to me,” he says, not even sure if he wants to know any more.

“We need to have her checked out,” Brent says as he extends his arms to hand the baby to Jason. He doesn’t know what he is accepting: a reason to rejoice or something that will ruin his and Courtney’s lives forever.

Until, for the first time since the crash, Jason hears her make a noise.

“Da,” she says in that mush-mouthed way she has been saying a whole bunch of things lately. Jason thrusts out his arms, takes her, and looks her over. She appears to be... fine.

“How are you not screaming?” he asks the baby.

“She was wrapped up in blankets and a jacket on the floor,” Brent says. “Didn’t get thrown by the impact or anything.”

Finally, finally, Jason allows himself to breathe. And he pulls his daughter close, unable to believe that he will have the opportunity to do so thousands of times more.


“Oh my god,” Courtney Chase says, planting one kiss and then another and then another on her young daughter’s forehead. She folds Sophie tightly into her arms and turns to Brent. “They’re sure she’s all right?”

“The paramedics looked her over thoroughly,” Brent says. “She’s fine.”

An autumn chill surrounds them as they stand under the porte-cochere of the hotel. Jason watches from several feet away as Courtney, unable to wipe the mad grin from her face, whispers something to the baby. Sophie responds by babbling back and swatting at her mother’s face.

The bridesmaids--Molly, Sarah, and Sandy--wait nearby with Don and Helen.

“I’m so glad she’s okay,” Helen says. “I’m just sorry this happened.”

Courtney turns to her. “Mom, this is not your fault.” The others murmur their reassurances to Helen, who does not appear convinced.

“What about Sabrina?” Courtney asks Brent. “Where is she? Does the kidnapper know?”

“He’s only met her once, or so he says. I tend to believe him. She was supposed to meet him at the motel to take Sophie, but obviously that didn’t work out.”

“They flagged her credit cards and her license plate and ID,” Jason says. “She won’t get far.”

Courtney gives him what must be their first direct look since he arrived with Sophie. From what Jason can tell, she has been trying her hardest not to dwell on him--not to acknowledge him, really. This time, she simply nods.

“Why don’t we all go upstairs and get ready?” Sandy says.

Jason watches Courtney intently for her reaction. Though the proposition seems to throw her, all she says is, “I’ll be upstairs in a few minutes.”

Sandy heads back inside the hotel with Jason’s sisters and Courtney’s parents. Brent claps a hand down on Jason’s shoulder. “I’ll give you guys some time alone,” he says as he returns to the squad car.

Then it is just the two of them.


They move wordlessly to a spot inside the hotel’s lobby, a small sitting area away from the melee of wedding setup and police cleanup. While Courtney clings to Sophie, Jason hovers over a striped bergère chair.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Courtney responds with a tight-lipped nod. She is dressed in black yoga pants and a zip-up sweatshirt that make it clear how much of the baby weight she has managed to lose; her face is bare and her hair hangs loosely around her shoulders. Even without the wedding dress, the fancy makeup, and the complicated hair, Jason cannot imagine wanting to marry anyone else.

“You were right,” he says. “You’ve been right all along about Sabrina. This was my fault, for not putting a stop to it earlier.”

“It’s not about who was right--”

“I know. And I can’t change what happened, but I can promise to change things from here on out. Your word above everyone else’s. I was wrong not to trust your instincts about Sabrina.”

Her silence sucks whatever fight he has left right out of his body. This day has already been such a nightmare. He should be grateful that Sophie is all right, even if things don’t turn out the way he hoped they would.

“I can go tell everyone the wedding is off,” he says. “For today. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. You and Sophie--you guys are my family.”

He lets go of the chair back, which he realizes he has been gripping far too hard, and starts for the elevators.

“Jason. Wait.”

He stops at the first sound of her voice, before a full word even emerges.

“I don’t want you to tell them that,” she says. “I want to marry you. I’m supposed to marry you today.”

He has to study her face for a second to be sure that she said what he thinks she said. Everything about her expression tells him that his ears are right.

“You’re not allowed to take that back,” he says as he rushes to her, wrapping his arms around her and trapping Sophie between their bodies.

“Don’t worry. I won’t.”

Relief floods Jason’s system, and his entire body finally unclenches. Exhaustion from this nightmare of a morning overtakes him. He might fall asleep on the spot if he weren’t so damn excited to marry this woman.


A few hours later, the day has settled into something resembling a normal wedding day. Guests have begun to arrive in the hotel’s opulent Champlain Ballroom, where arrangements of orchids and calla lilies bring the warm colors of fall indoors. The string quartet’s rendition of Debussy’s Clair de Lune floats on the air.

Molly Taylor, in her strapless peach bridesmaid’s dress, is chatting with her mother about the morning’s chaos when she sees Philip Ragan enter the ballroom. She swiftly excuses herself and makes her way toward Philip, clad in an impeccably cut dark gray suit.

“Crashing weddings now, are you?” Molly asks.

“I was passing through the lobby and noticed there was some sort of event going on. I couldn’t resist,” Philip says. “Actually, Lauren asked me to be her date.”

“Oh!” Molly doesn’t know why that had not occurred to her; she was aware that Philip and Lauren have been out a few times. “Was she able to get a hold of you?”

“She called me a little while ago. Something about coming from the airport? She said she would explain later.”

“It’s been a... crazy morning. But everything is on track now.”

“And how are you? Is the bride causing all sorts of havoc?”

“Let me tell you, I’ve been a bridesmaid quite a few times,” Molly says, “and Courtney might be the easiest bride of them all.”

“Then your brother is a lucky man.”

“He is.” Molly gazes around the room for signs of the groomsmen, who have yet to appear. She hopes that perhaps they will not at all until it is time for the wedding to begin. Then she can do her part and ignore the day’s other complications.

“Are you sure everything’s all right?” Philip asks.

She is quick to nod away the question. “Everything’s fine.”

“Then what are you searching for?” He levels a knowing look upon her as her eyes drift back from the door.

“Looking for Brent, that’s all.” She smoothes an area of her dress that does not need it. “We’re supposed to walk down the aisle together. That might be the most time we’ll have spent together in weeks.”

“Might as well give the bride and groom a preview of what they have to look forward to.”

“Yeah. It’s all uphill from here, right?” Out of the corner of her vision, she sees two bodies charge into the room. Lauren Brooks and Josh Taylor appear anything but dressed for the event, in jeans and sweatshirts.

“We made it,” Lauren announces as she hurries toward Molly and Philip.

“Hi, Josh.” Molly gives her brother-in-law a quick hug. “You guys missed a lot of excitement.”

“That’s what it sounds like. The baby’s okay?” Josh asks.

“She’s fine,” Molly says.

Philip greets Lauren with a kiss on the cheek. “Why were you coming from the airport? And why are you dressed like you’re the maid of honor at Britney Spears’ wedding?”

“It’s a long story that involves a red-eye to Iowa and a coma patient.” She waits just long enough for that to land. “Molly, where’s Court? And have you seen my mom? She said she was bringing my dress over.”

“Your dress is here, and Courtney is upstairs. Come with me.” Molly takes Lauren by the hand to lead her out of the ballroom, then pauses. “Josh, I’m sure Jason and Courtney wouldn’t mind if you stayed for the wedding.”

Josh looks down at his outfit, then over at Philip. “The groom tried to punch me out at Christmas dinner, and I used to date the bride. I think I’ll pass.”

“I used to date the groom, and they let me be the maid of honor!” Lauren says with a laugh as she and Molly rush out of the ballroom.


On the back patio of the hotel, Jason, his best man, and two of his groomsmen sit around a table with cigars.

“You do not tell your mother I let you have that,” Tim says to Travis.

Travis takes a puff from the cigar. “Not like I haven’t had one before.”

Tim shakes his head, simultaneously amused and annoyed. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

Jason stares out at the wooded area behind the hotel. Evergreen trees stand tall and proud, reaching up to touch the perpetually gray Northwest sky.

“I still can’t believe I’m getting married in a little while,” he says, to no one in particular.

“Yeah,” Alex says. “I can’t figure out how we’re old enough for that.”

Jason smokes his cigar in silence for a few seconds. “I have a kid. Oh my god.”

The others join him in incredulous laughter. Brent emerges through a back door of the hotel, putting his cell phone into his pocket.

“Are you ready for yours?” Jason asks, handing him the cigar.

Brent sets about cutting the end of the cigar. “I have news about Sabrina--or whoever the hell she is.” The others pause and listen anxiously. “Her credit card was used at a rental car facility in Bellingham an hour ago.”

“You think she’s headed for Canada?” Jason says.

As Brent nods, he picks up the lighter from the table and sets the end of his cigar ablaze. He brings the cigar to his lips and, when the end is burning calmly, continues. “Looks like it. She’ll get picked up if she tries to cross the border.”

They all absorb this news in silence. Finally Travis says, “That whole thing is so nuts. She always seemed really nice at the rink.”

“I know,” Jason agrees. He still finds it difficult to rationalize that the woman with whom he has been working all this time is actually deranged. He saw a very strong hint of it on the day that he fired her, but poisoning Courtney? Putting Seth in a coma?

He looks intently from Brent to Tim and back again. “I don’t know if I’m crazy for mentioning this, but doesn’t this remind you guys of...”

“Yeah,” Brent says quickly. “It makes sense, in a completely insane way. Sabrina Gage is not a real person--at least, the woman you know, that’s not who she is. It’s a lot less crazy to think that she’s someone unhinged that we already knew about.”

“Shannon died,” Jason says, though he knows what a weak argument it is. He never saw the body. Word came through a lawyer. Everything could have been orchestrated. “Just thinking that I spent all that time around her and didn’t know it might be Shannon--that scares the hell out of me. Sophie was alone with her!”

“She can’t get away,” Brent says. He blows a puff of smoke into the air. “So don’t worry about it. She’s going to be caught, and in the meantime, you focus on getting married.”

Jason takes another drag off the cigar and hopes that it will be that simple.


“Look who I found!” Molly announces as she swings open the door to the bridal suite. Courtney hurtles around in her chair, nearly knocking over the woman who is in the process of doing last-minute touch-ups on her makeup.

“Thank God!” she yells, bursting to her feet and rushing to the door. Her strapless ivory gown seems to float over the carpet as she moves.

“Sorry I’m so late,” Lauren says as they hug.

Courtney squeezes her and then takes a step back. “It was for a good cause. And these three did a very admirable job of holding down the fort.”

“Thank you,” Lauren says to Molly, Sarah, and Sandy, all in their peach dresses with hair down.

“Happy to do it,” Sandy says. “I just couldn’t believe everything that was going on.”

Sarah laughs. “She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this is all happening while Lauren’s away!’”

“But she’s here now,” Courtney says. “How fast can you get dressed?”

“Very.” Lauren looks her up and down, beaming with pride. “You look gorgeous. Just... amazing.”

“Thank you.” They bask in mutual joy a moment longer before Courtney says sternly, “Now go get ready!”

Sarah leads Lauren off to where her dress has been safely hung, and Courtney returns to the makeup chair. Molly stands beside her as the finishing touches are applied.

“I wanted to talk to you about something,” Courtney says, shifting her eyes without moving her head so that she can look at Molly in the mirror. “I know it’s none of my business, but I know things between you and Brent have been... difficult...”

“To say the least.”

“Anyway, if it makes you uncomfortable to have to walk down the aisle with him, I can switch the pairings. You can walk with Alex, and I’ll put Brent with Sandy.”

“Courtney, that’s really kind, but you don’t have to--”

“It’s no trouble.”

“I appreciate it. But it would be wrong not to walk with Brent,” Molly says, turning away. “It would feel like... like admitting defeat. And I’m not going to do that. But thank you for even thinking of it.”

Courtney holds still while her mascara receives a final fill-in. “For what it’s worth, he was amazing today when Sophie was missing. He really is a hero.”

“I know. That’s why I fell in love with him in the first place.” Instead of being bolstered by that, though, Molly seems burdened. Suddenly she shakes her head, and a smile and gleaming eyes take the place of her sullen contemplation. “Now, no more talking about that. This is your wedding day, and there are nothing but good things in store for you, Jason, and Sophie.”

Courtney realizes that, even with Sabrina still on the loose, she truly does believe that.


The quartet’s soft Canon in D fills the ballroom, each note stretching dreamily to weave a spell over the seated guests. Jason escorts both Paula and Helen down the aisle. The proud mothers of the groom and bride take their seats in the front row, while the groom assumes his place near the officiant.

As the soaring song lilts through the space, the wedding party begins its procession. Sandy and Alex emerge first through the flowing, cream-colored curtains that have been hung from the ballroom’s ceiling. Sandy carries Sophie, who wears a dress made to match the bridesmaids'. They take light, measured steps down the center aisle, the former beaming as if it were her own child’s wedding and the latter unable to believe that his two best friends are about to be joined in marriage. When he catches sight of Graham Colville, who is watching him carefully, Alex quickly averts his gaze.

Sarah and Travis follow. Travis fields a few winks and even a whistle at how grown-up he looks in his tuxedo. Sarah finds Graham in the crowd and offers him a warm smile; knowing that he is here to support her and share in her family’s celebration makes her think about what a stabilizing force he has been in her life in the past several months.

Next are Molly and Brent. Molly holds onto her husband’s arm as they walk, and though it is the type of contact that once seemed so normal and comforting, all it does now is make her aware of the distance between them. The walk down the aisle feels as if it takes twenty minutes, and she wonders if everyone else can feel the tension between them that she cannot ignore. Brent stares straight ahead, firmly focused on the end of the aisle, and when they reach their destination, they part as easily as two strangers who were paired up the day before.

Finally come the maid of honor and best man. Lauren appears utterly refreshed. The quick shower, application of makeup, and change of outfit make her feel as if the trip to Iowa took place a week ago--except for how strongly she recalls the image of the real Sabrina Gage, lying helpless and unresponsive in that bed. At her side, Tim exudes pride at being able to stand up for his little brother on such an important day.

The curtains drift closed as the last notes of Canon in D come to rest. At the head of the room, Jason realizes that his legs are shaking. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other and back again.

“You nervous?” Tim leans in to ask him.

“No,” Jason whispers, a thoroughly unconvincing lie.

And then it happens. The quartet strikes up the first notes of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, and the entire room seems to inhale in anticipation. Heads turn to the back of the ballroom. Then the curtains part, and there is Courtney, her arm hooked through her father’s. Jason is pretty sure that his legs are about to give out from under him.

Courtney’s simple, elegant dress fans out around her as she and Don begin their walk down the aisle. Her dark hair is pinned up, and her gold earrings shimmer as the light bounces off them. When she tilts her head and smiles at Lauren’s parents, Jason is sure that he has never seen her look more perfect. He remembers her as a teenager in skating tights and a baggy t-shirt... as a kid playing dress-up in her competition dress and show make-up... as a young woman not yet comfortable in high heels, accompanying him to his parents’ then-annual New Year’s party... as a harried waitress in that 322 uniform with her hair in a ponytail... as a first-time mother lying in that hospital bed, bringing their daughter into the world. And now here she is, grown-up and stunning, the mother of his child and the partner with whom he will spend the rest of his life.

She and Don reach the front of the room. Don gives his daughter a kiss on the cheek and appears very close to tears of joy. He reaches out and shakes Jason’s hand, and then finds his seat beside Helen. Sandy steps forward to place Sophie in Courtney's arms.

As Courtney stands before him with their daughter, Jason realizes that he hasn’t taken a breath in far too long. As he breathes in deeply and tries to catch up, Courtney lets out a little laugh. He feels like he should say something to her, whisper something perfect and beautiful, but he has no idea what that might be. Instead he takes one of her hands, and the Bridal Chorus drifts to its close.

The officiant looks warmly over them before lifting his head to address their guests. “Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, we have come today to celebrate the joining of Courtney Anne Chase and Jason Charles Fisher in marriage...”


When applause explodes and Mendelsohn’s Wedding March rings out from the ballroom, employees and guests passing through the hotel grin as they soak up the joy of a happy wedding day. One woman, however, lingers across the hall from the ballroom’s double doors, and when she hears those sounds, she might as well be hearing a funeral dirge.

She never thought it would come to this. When she came back to King’s Bay, Courtney was not even a problem. She was working with Jason, that was all.

I should have made my move then.

But she wanted to bide her time, wanted to make Jason fall in love with her as a new person. She thought it was the only way to pull this off. Then Courtney swooped in and got herself pregnant, and Jason wound up chained to her.

You have no choice left now, Shannon Parish tells herself, adjusting her oversized sunglasses as she moves away from the ballroom and toward the hotel’s restaurant, where the reception will be held. It is time to do what she should have done months ago.


What does Shannon have in store for the reception?
Are you surprised Jason and Courtney actually got married?
How long can Molly and Brent go on like this?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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