Episode #566

- Sophie was rescued, unharmed, from her kidnapper. Courtney decided that she still wanted to marry Jason.
- When Molly arrived home from her trip back east, she informed Brent that she had accompanied Philip to his family home. Brent was startled to discover that Philip’s mother is named Loretta--the same as the woman believed to have been the boss of “Mr. Clayton.”
- Lauren brought Philip to the wedding as her date.
- Brent informed Jason and Courtney that Sabrina’s credit card was used to rent a car several hours away. The location suggested that she was headed for the Canadian border.
- Jason and Courtney were married. Sabrina/Shannon lurked outside, intent upon putting an end to the love triangle in her mind.


The hotel restaurant has been rearranged to accommodate the wedding reception. The tables have been spread out to create space for a dance floor, which is currently the focus of all in attendance. As a duet between Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat plays over the sound system, Courtney Chase and Jason Fisher share their first dance as a married couple.

“Is it weird to think of yourself as Mrs. Fisher?” Jason asks as they sway together.

“Why am I Mrs. Fisher and you’re not Mr. Chase?” Courtney teases.

The most mature reaction Jason can come up with is to stick out his tongue at her. With his hands resting on her hips, he is incredibly aware of all the eyes upon them. “Are we not supposed to be talking?” he whispers.

“I think we can do whatever we want. We’re paying for all these people to get drunk!”
Unable to grasp how they actually made it to this point, or that he gets to spend the rest of his life with Courtney, Jason leans in and kisses her quickly on the lips. It would be a much more overt sign of the feelings threatening to burst from his body right now, but he is pretty sure all those people are still watching them.

“Lucky I’m in love with my best friend...”

As they continue to dance, their four parents sit at a table with Courtney and Jason’s longtime figure skating coach. Sandy James sips on a glass of Chardonnay, marveling at the newlyweds as they dance.

“I remember when the first lesson I gave them together,” Sandy says, “and how I told them they had to hold hands, and Courtney was too embarrassed to do it!”

“But of course Jason didn’t mind,” Bill says.

Helen and Don exchange a surprised look. “I never knew that,” the bride’s mother says. “Courtney came home from that first lesson so excited.”

Sandy speaks over the rim of her wine glass. “Because I taught them how to do a lift to break the ice--so to speak--and once Courtney got a taste of that, she was hooked.”

“And now they’re married,” Paula says. “When they were teenagers, I thought there was a chance... But for so many years there, it seemed like they might never even be friends again.”

“Everyone has to take their own road to get to their destination.” Don pauses to watch his daughter and new son-in-law dancing. “Maybe they wouldn’t have appreciated it as much if there weren’t some struggle.”

The others nod in agreement as a hotel employee appears beside their table.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” he tells them, “but I have a phone call at the main desk for Sandy James.”

“That’s me.” Sandy stands, casting a surprised look to her tablemates. “Guess I’ll be right back.” She follows the waiter out of the restaurant and out to the lobby. He slides behind the desk and hands her the phone.

“Hello?” Sandy asks. “This is Sandy.” But there is no answer. “Hello?” She hands the receiver back to him. “That’s so strange. They didn’t say who it was?”

“I’m afraid not,” the clerk says. “If they call back, I can ask who it is, if you’d like.”

“I’d appreciate that. Thank you.”

The clerk moves to help another guest, and Sandy is about to turn to rejoin the reception--when she feels something cold and hard pressing into her back.

“Don’t say a word,” a woman’s voice orders her. It is not a whisper, but it is close.

Sandy swivels her head, trying not to make this any worse than it has to be. “Sabrina?”

“Shut up. And come with me.” She jabs the gun harder into Sandy’s spine to emphasize her request.

Trying to control her breathing and keep her body from going limp with fear, Sandy asks, “What are you doing?” She looks at the two guards posted at the entrance to the restaurant. The police put them there to keep Sabrina, or anyone working for her, out of the reception. Now Sandy is a lobby away and helpless. She tries to signal to the guards with her eyes, but Sabrina quickly whips her around.

“The question is, what are you doing? And the answer is, helping me. Now come on.”

With no choice, Sandy follows Sabrina’s direction and, guided by the concealed gun, walks to the stairwell.


Inside the restaurant, other couples have joined the newlyweds for some dancing. Brent Taylor, however, is not one of the men out there with his wife. He and Molly silently agreed that they had to sit together during dinner, but thankfully they were at the bride and groom’s table, where they were able to deflect attention off themselves. Now that the meal is over, Molly has gone to talk with Lauren and Philip, and Brent remains at their table, sipping on a drink while he listens to Tim and Cassandra chat with Sarah and Graham.

“Everything okay?” Claire Fisher asks as she slips into the empty seat beside him.

Brent considers his answer as he tends to his drink. “You want a pleasant answer? Or an honest one?”

Claire glances momentarily at her ex and Cassandra, long enough to offer a quick greeting, and then focuses on Brent again. “I figured today wouldn’t be easy for you or Molly.”

“I don’t think I realized how hard it would be. But it’s bringing back all these memories, which would be great except there’s no solution to our problems, you know?”

“I know.” She sighs empathetically. “There could be a solution. As soon as we figure out...”

He nods, but he interrupts himself as something new springs to life in his eyes. “I need to tell you something. Come here.” He leads her away from the table--the others notice them leaving but don’t say anything--toward the edge of the dance floor.

“What’s wrong?” Claire asks.

“Molly went on a business trip with Philip Ragan,” he says. “That photographer--”

“Lauren’s date?”

“Yeah. He’s been shooting Objection’s campaigns. They were on the East Coast for business, and somehow she wound up visiting his mother with him.”

“I’m sorry.”

He appreciates her skipping a lot of painful steps for him to explain, but there is even more to tell here. “It isn’t just that. She says it’s friendly, and--I guess I have to trust her on that. But she was writing a thank-you note to his mother, and...” He knows how ridiculous it sounds to treat this like some grand revelation, but it is too striking to ignore. “Her name is Loretta.”

Claire absorbs that quietly. He can see her turning it over in her head, weighing the probability against the sheer insanity of the coincidence. “It isn’t that uncommon a name...”

“I know. But--her name is Loretta, she’s from New England, she’s wealthy. And her son somehow wound up mixed up with this family. Maybe it isn’t that big a leap.”

“Maybe,” she grants, though he can tell she is less than fully onboard. “It couldn’t hurt to look into it.”

“No. And I’m going to do just that.” As he watches his wife across the room, chatting comfortably with Philip, Brent’s resolve solidifies. “If there is any connection between the Ragans and Nick Moriani, I’m going to find out.”


It only takes a few songs for Courtney and Jason to tire of dancing. While he goes to join his brother and sister for a few minutes, Courtney seats herself at the table where her parents are now talking with Alex Marshall.

“Done dancing already?” Helen asks.

Courtney offers a sheepish smile. “We got bored.”

“I guess when you’re used to doing lifts and twirls and all that stuff, swaying back and forth isn’t too exciting,” Don says as he hands Sophie off to Courtney. He is proud to get a few chuckles out of them in response.

“It really is lovely,” Helen says as she surveys the reception. “Everything turned out wonderfully.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better wedding.” Courtney stops herself and then adds, “Um, except for the part where my daughter was kidnapped this morning. But at least that had a happy ending.” She pulls Sophie even closer to her, more grateful than ever for the continued presence of this wonderful little person in her life.

“Thank goodness,” Helen says, exhaling heavily.

“Has Brent heard anything else about Sabrina?” Alex asks.

She shakes her head. “She used her credit card to rent a car in Bellingham, but she hasn’t tried to cross the border to Canada yet. I’m just praying that they catch her and that can be the end of it.”

Helen reaches over to take her daughter’s hand. “I’m so proud of you, honey. You’ve grown into such a lovely woman, and a terrific mother.”


“It’s my only child’s wedding day. Allow me to gush. I couldn’t ask for anything more than for you to be with someone as wonderful as Jason.”

A little embarrassed, Courtney nevertheless smiles. “Neither could I. I guess I’m lucky we found our way back to each other. And that you’re all here to share it with me.” She looks from Helen to Don. “I can’t thank you guys enough for being so good to me. I don’t think I ever realized how good I had it until I became a mom myself.” She pauses and then says, “There was a time I was worried that you guys wouldn’t be together for my wedding.”

“But we made it,” Don says. “We all made it. And I wouldn’t change a thing that happened along the way. If some of that hadn’t happened, we might not have Alex with us.” He places his arm around Alex’s shoulders.

Alex grins. “And I’m happy to be an honorary part of this family. I don’t even know how it worked out that way, but I’m really grateful that it did.”

“So am I,” Courtney says. “You have no idea how annoying it was to be the only one these two had to worry about!”

The family shares a laugh, but out of the corner of his eye, Alex catches sight of something he would rather ignore: Graham Colville watching him. When Graham realizes that he has been spotted, he looks away immediately, but the impact upon Alex has already been made. He laughs a little harder, happy to show the man who fathered him how happy he is with his honorary family.

The ringing of a cell phone is a merciful distraction. “I think that’s mine,” Courtney says as she extracts it from Helen’s purse. She checks the screen and then answers. “Hey. Where are you?” She passes Sophie back to Don and moves away from the table, holding up a hand to excuse herself.


Sarah Fisher leans over to Graham Colville. “You should go talk to him.”

Graham turns back to her and feigns surprise. “Who?”

Sarah throws him a look that makes it apparent she is not buying his act. “He’s hurt, and he’s carrying around years of resentment. It might take some time, but you can get through to him.”

Appearing less than convinced, Graham double-checks that Tim, Cassandra, and Jason are engaged in their own conversation before he says quietly to Sarah, “I’m not so certain about that. Alex made it quite clear--”

“Because he’s hurting!” She wishes he wouldn’t be so stubborn; one less-than-successful encounter with Alex, months ago, should not be enough to deter Graham from trying to know his son. “You keep looking over at him. It’s pretty obvious you can’t just let it go.”

“I never said I could. Whether or not I can do anything about it, that’s another matter entirely.”

“Graham. He’s your son.”

He glances, concerned, at their tablemates, who do not seem to have heard. “I’m going to use the restroom,” he says suddenly, setting down his glass and his napkin. “Excuse me.”

She lets him go, knowing that it will not do any good to argue now. Graham might be a sharp businessman and a rock-solid support for Sarah when she is in turmoil, but he is not nearly as skilled at turning the lens back on himself. She watches him disappear into the short hallway that leads to the restrooms and tries to focus back in on the other conversation at their table.

“So I took the test with my other partner,” Jason is telling Cassandra, “and completely bombed. It was a mess.”

But she is too distracted to engage with them. Instead she finds herself rising from her seat and stepping across the restaurant, to the table where Alex sits with the Chases.

“Hey, Alex,” she says gently. “Could I have a word with you?”

“Um, sure.” He already sounds as if he knows where this is headed, but he nevertheless follows her to a more private place.

“I know this is asking a lot,” she says, “but Graham is... he wants a chance to know you. He understands that you feel you’ve been burned, but--”

“I have been burned,” he responds, with a great deal more force than she expects. “I grew up with my mom, and that was enough of a mess. I don’t have any obligation to the guy who abandoned both of us.”

“You know it was more complicated than that.”

His concession is reluctant. “Maybe. But I’m not going to turn my whole life upside-down on the chance that it’ll be all rainbows and sunshine and I’ll have a daddy or whatever. I’ve built my own family. I had to.”


“I’m sorry. I can’t change how I feel.” And with that, he returns to his table and to the Chases, his surrogate family. Sarah scrambles back to her own table before Graham returns. This might require a little more creativity than she expected.


Brent cannot take it any longer. He has been doing his best to circulate through the reception, enjoying himself as he catches up with family and friends. No matter how much he manages to lose himself in a moment, though, he keeps searching for his wife--and more often than not, he finds her in the vicinity of Philip Ragan. When Philip and Lauren move away to get drinks, Brent feels his reservations fall away, and he marches over to Molly.

“Can I talk to you?” he says.

“Of course.” The softness of her voice surprises him; he expected her to bristle at the request. But it is that openness that makes this a crucial conversation. She is too trusting, too welcoming.

“I want you to watch yourself around Philip.” He knows it sounds crazy even as he says it, but that does not make it any less necessary.

She stops just short of a full eye-roll. “That’s the problem? What, are you... jealous?”

“No! Molly, I don’t trust him.”

“Why not?” As soon as the question leave her lips, the answer follows on its heels. “Is this about his mother? Do you seriously think she’s some kind of insane crime lord?”

He rushes to spit out his justification. “It isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Say she was in cahoots with Nick, for whatever reason. She sends her son to King’s Bay, he gets close to someone in the family she hates--”

“Brent, this is lunacy.”

From out of nowhere, Claire swoops in. “Is everything all right?” she asks them, fully aware that it is not.

“It isn’t any of your business,” Molly says.

Her tone sets Brent off. “It is her business. It’s all of our business, Molly. Every one of the Fishers, everyone who’s been hurt by these people.”

“No. It’s nuts.” She sticks her finger in his chest, something he has never seen her do before. “Philip and his mother are perfectly normal people. She’s this society lady who plays tennis and goes to auctions. They live in this amazing house up on a hill, and the locals call it the Castle in the Clouds because of all the fog. You couldn’t ask for anything more idyllic or--perfect. She is not Nick Moriani, Part Two. You two do whatever you want, but leave my friend alone.”

With that, she storms away from them. In spite of her utter refusal to believe him, Brent hopes that she will at least internalize his warnings, keep them in mind as she deals with Philip. He knows it is a stretch, and yet... it isn’t that much of a stretch.

Then he notices the expression on Claire’s face. She seems spellbound.

“What’s wrong?”

“What did she say? The Castle in the Clouds?”

“Yeah. How pretentious is that?”

Claire stares him directly in the eyes, as if willing him toward a realization. “Castle in the Clouds. Do you remember what that lady said--the psychic, or whatever she said she was, in Brazil?”

Brent remembers the woman who called herself Senorita Estella, despite her advanced age. She was their cellmate for the brief time that they were tossed into a holding cell in a Brazilian jail, back at the beginning of this investigation. And no matter how crazy Brent sounded warning Molly about the Ragans, Senorita Estella sounded a hundred times more unhinged.

“The Palace in the Sky,” Claire says. “She said that’s where we would find our answers. The Palace in the Sky.”

Now he knows how Molly felt a moment ago. The idea is so out-there, so utterly bizarre, and yet...


Jason circles the room but does not see his new wife anywhere. He stops to ask Lauren and Philip, “Have you guys seen Courtney?”

“I’m afraid not,” Philip says.

“Ladies’ room,” Lauren suggests as if it should be the most obvious answer in the world--which, now that Jason thinks about it, it is.

“You guys having fun?” Jason asks them.

He is happy to see such a broad smile on Lauren’s face. “Philip’s not much of a dancer, but yeah, I think we’re good.”

“Excuse me. My mother forced me to take ballroom dancing lessons for far too many years. It’s just that I don’t do things like the Electric Slide very well.”

No one does the Electric Slide well,” Lauren says.

Jason feels his phone vibrating in his pocket. He would have preferred to turn the thing off and not think about it all day, but after this morning’s insanity, it seemed wise to keep it on him. He excuses himself quickly and steps away to answer it.

When he pulls the phone from his pocket, he sees that it is not a call, but a text message from an unfamiliar number. He opens it to find a picture that knocks the wind right out of him.

It is a picture of Sandy, her face contorted in terror as the butt of a gun presses against her temple.

He scans the room for Brent, but just as quickly, the phone vibrates again. This time it is a call, from the same number. He answers immediately.

“Who is this?” he says. “What do you--”

“Jason.” He recognizes the voice immediately. “If you care about Sandy, I suggest you don’t show that picture to anyone.”

He fumes, trying to gather his thoughts. “What are you doing?”

“Come up to the roof. There’s a stairwell next to the elevator bank.”

“You’re insane.”

“Meet me on the roof. And if you even think of bringing anyone with you, you’re going to be very sorry. And so will Sandy.”

The call ends abruptly. Jason looks around, wondering if anyone nearby has noticed his absolute terror. He seems to be in the clear. He does, however, locate Brent, talking with Claire. He hurries over to his brother-in-law and pulls him away.

“I need your help,” Jason says quietly. “And I need you to keep it to yourself for the time being.” They exit the restaurant and head for the stairwell.


“This is totally nuts,” Jason whispers. His words bounce off the cement walls of the stairwell, anyway. Brent motions for him to stay quiet as they approach the door at the top of the stairs.

“I’ll stay here,” Brent mouths a few stairs from the door. Uncertain, but aware of the plan they discussed, Jason advances the rest of the way and pushes the door open.

It is mostly dark outside by now; a hazy dark blue hangs over King’s Bay, moody and foreboding. Jason looks around, his eyes struggling to adjust to the lack of light.

“Sabrina!” he calls out, but as he whips around, he spots them: two shapes, near the edge of the roof. He walks quickly, well aware that she is watching him the entire time. He hears Sandy whimper with fear.

“Let her go,” he commands. He stops perhaps ten feet away from them, and now he can see that Sandy is on the ground, her hands and feet tied together and a gag taut across her mouth. Sabrina stands over her, backlit by the city and holding a gun to Sandy’s head, just like in the picture she sent him.

“Let her go!”

She shakes her head, dark hair swaying back and forth. He can barely see her face, but there is something wild about her--something that makes it clear that whatever strings were tethering her to reality have now been snapped.

“Help me,” Sandy says, her words muffled by the gag but still decipherable.

“What do you want from me?” Jason asks.

“There are a few ways we can do this.” Sabrina drags the gun along the side of Sandy’s face. “The gun, obviously. That would be easy enough. Or I could toss her over the side here. That would be a lot more painful for poor Sandy--”

What do you want from me?” he demands, louder, crazier. He cannot fathom how he brought all this pain and suffering upon the people he loves, simply by... being. “Just tell me. Tell me, Shannon.”

It is a shot in the dark, both literally and figuratively, but as soon as he says the name, he knows that he is right. Her posture changes; she leans toward him, as if he has expressed some sentiment of great affection.

“I want you,” she says. “Either you leave here with me, or Sandy is done for. Your choice.”

“I’ll go with you.” He doesn’t even have to think about it. There is no choice. “I’ll leave with you right now, Shannon.”


Will the plan Jason and Brent made work?
Will Shannon get away with Jason?
What will Claire and Brent do about Loretta?
Join the discussion in the Footprints Forum!

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