Episode #582

- Tim asked Sarah to investigate Cassandra, particularly the cryptic “equinox” that her ex-husband, JD, mentioned to Tim.
- Molly was devastated after Brent served her with separation papers. Philip suggested that she travel to New England with him for his mother’s annual charity masquerade ball, to get her mind off her troubles.
- Sarah was uneasy about having to tell her recently widowed brother, Jason, about her engagement to Graham.


Trepidation floods Tim Fisher’s being as his sister seats herself across from him. He knows that he asked her to conduct this small investigation, but since she called him to report that she has information for him, he has been wondering if he really wants to know--needs to know. Cassandra’s past is her past, and as long as the path to their future is clear, does it matter what has come before?

“Are you sure about this?” Sarah asks, pausing over the accordion file she has just placed on the table.

Tim forces himself to nod. Better safe than sorry.

As Sarah opens the file and extracts its contents, Tim wraps his hands around his latté. Its warmth seeps through the cardboard cup and heats his palms. It is a relaxing sensation, but he wishes it would actually calm his nerves.

“Is it bad?” he asks.

Sarah freezes mid-movement. Her hesitation spikes a new worry in Tim’s gut. “Depends on what you mean by bad,” she finally says. “It’s... it’s interesting.”

Interesting sounds like code for bad.”

She turns a photocopied document for him to see. “This is the Last Will and Testament of John Ward. Cassandra’s father. It was executed in 2003, shortly after his death.”

Tim scans the page for something blaring, revelatory. All he sees is a bunch of standard black-and-white language.

She flips the page. “Here’s what got my attention. ‘To my daughter, Cassandra Ward...’” She traces her finger downward until it lands on a highlighted section. “‘...the Equinox Diamond ring.”

Equinox. Tim never knew that a seemingly random noun could sound like such a threat to the life he has established.

“JD was talking about a ring?” he wonders aloud.

Sarah puts the will away and digs out more papers, articles with a line highlighted here and there. “John Ward’s mother left the ring to him in 1981. This diamond is incredible, Tim. It has a natural blue coloring--I guess that’s where the name came from, I don’t know for sure--but it’s been certified as being flawless over and over again. It’s worth somewhere in the mid-six figures.”

“Wow.” He sips his latté but does not really taste it as he ponders this rush of information. All this over a ring? Does JD for some reason think Cassandra owes him the item?

“Here’s where things get, um, interesting,” Sarah says. “When Cassandra’s mother was killed, the Equinox ring was found in a safe in her home.”

“I thought it was left to Cassandra.”

“It was. And yet Millicent Ward had it at the time of her death.”

“Maybe she was keeping it safe for Cassandra,” Tim says. “You aren’t exactly going to walk around with a ring like that on your finger when you run to the grocery store.”

“True. Except for this...” Sarah produces another thick chunk of paper; it has the look of an intimidating, overstuffed legal document. “In 2006, Cassandra filed suit against her mother, requesting that she hand over the ring. The suit was dropped before it went anywhere, though.”

She leans closer, as if preparing to share a secret none of the other coffee house patrons can know. After a deep breath, she tells him: “A few months later, Millicent Ward was killed during a seemingly random break-in at her home. The Equinox ring went to her daughter.”


“I’m so sorry,” Paula Fisher says as she places a plate of cookies on the kitchen table. She hovers over her chair for a moment longer, her hands held out and open as if waiting for the proper words to come to her.

“Thanks, Mom.” Molly Taylor offers a grateful look up at her mother, who responds by seating herself. “I guess Brent and I both knew this was coming. For a long time, we knew. We just didn’t want to admit it.”

“There’s no shame in fighting for something you love.”

“I know that.” Still, Molly cannot shake that nagging sense of foolishness; she feels that if she had accepted the irreparable rift in her marriage months ago, perhaps she would not feel so stuck, so listless, now.

Paula picks up the teapot and fills her daughter’s cup. “Have some tea. It will relax you.”

“Thanks.” Molly breathes in the warm steam, hoping that it will clear her head in a way that nothing else has been able to do recently.

“Focus on the boys. And on your work. Keeping yourself occupied is the most important thing you can do now,” Paula says.

Molly picks up one of the freshly made oatmeal raisin cookies. “I’m actually going to take a trip. Get away for a few days. It’ll be good for Caleb and Christian to have the time alone with their dad.”

“Where are you planning to go?”

“New Hampshire.” She hesitates in explaining further, even though there is no reason to feel strangely about it. “My photographer, Philip--his mother is holding a masquerade ball for charity. He invited me to go back east for a few days and be his guest at the ball.”

Paula’s teacup slows its ascent toward her mouth and then stops entirely at chin level. “Are you sure that’s a wise idea?”

“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.”


Molly busies herself with nibbling on the cookie. “I met Philip’s mother when we went east for business last year. She’s a terrific woman.”

“I don’t doubt that. But I’m still not sure it’s appropriate for you to...” Paula trails off, takes a long sip of tea, and then continues. “...take a vacation with another man.”

“That isn’t what this is about.”

Paula does not say anything further on the subject, but she does not have to. Even as Molly changes the subject to discuss the boys’ first season of youth basketball, she can feel her mother’s reproachful stare burning into her.


“I thought we were meeting at the restaurant,” Cassandra Ward says as she lets Tim into her suite.

“We were.” He pauses to let her kiss him quickly on the lips; he is too frazzled to push her away, to take any definitive action about their relationship, before he knows more. “But I needed to talk to you.”

“Can’t wait for dinner, huh?” she says with a smile, stepping in front of the mirror to put on one of her earrings. When he does not respond in a similarly lighthearted manner, she turns back to him. “Tim. Is everything all right?”

The words, rehearsed and reviewed over and over in a feverish panic, pile up in Tim’s throat. It’s now or never. If he does not act on the knowledge that Sarah gave him, he will only be getting in deeper with a woman who has kept things from him. If he does act on it, then everything that he has invested in this relationship could turn out to have been for naught: either because he will learn some horrible truth about Cassandra, or because she will be furious that he went behind her back.

He knows what the right thing to do is.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the ring?” he says.

Alarm registers across her face. It lasts a mere split-second, and then she busies herself with putting on the other earring. But it was there.

“What ring?” she asks.

“The Equinox Diamond. That’s what JD was talking about, wasn’t it?”

She sighs in defeat, but it seems to take hours for her to show some kind of reaction. “How do you know about that?” she asks flatly.

He forces himself not to get caught up in excuses. “That’s not important. Why didn’t you tell me that’s what he was talking about?” He cannot bring himself to speak the rest of it: Did your mother’s death have something to do with that ring? One thing at a time.

“Because it isn’t any of your business.” She slams the lid of her jewelry box closed. “I told you JD likes to turn up and pester me for money. That ring is the most valuable thing I have, by far. He thinks he’s somehow entitled to it because we were married.”

“Why would he mention it to me?”

“He’s trying to stir up trouble! That’s all he ever does.” Exasperated, she clutches the sides of her head, submerging her fingers in the wavy black hair. “And look what he managed to do. Great.”

Tim’s mind spins, attempting to process all of this at once. There is still the matter of the lawsuit, and the circumstances of her mother’s death...

“Where is this coming from?” Cassandra asks.

“It’s coming from someone who wants to know the woman he’s in a relationship with,” he says. “I have kids, Cassandra. If there are things I don’t know--things that could put them in danger--”

“What are you talking about?”

He remembers when he was young, standing at the edge of the pool, waiting to dive in and feel the rush of cold. He would take a deep breath, squeeze his eyes shut, and then jump. Once he was in the air, there was nothing he could do but wait for it all to rush over him.

That is what he does now, as he pushes out the big question: “What really happened to your mother?”

Her eyes flare. “How dare you?”

“I just--”

“I don’t think dinner is such a good idea.” She stomps over to the door and yanks it open. “You’d better go.”

“I’m not saying--we need to talk about this, that’s all.”

“I need you to go,” she says, shaking her head. She stands at the open door, leaving him with no choice but to oblige.

He can think of a thousand things he would like to say: I’ll call you later. I just need to hear your side of the story. I’m sorry. Instead, keeping his head down, he steps through the door. A moment later, it slams behind him.


Sarah climbs the stairs in the empty arena and makes her way down the walkway, dragging her hand along the railing. Down below, the ice is an empty sheet of pristine, unblemished white.

When she reaches the entrance to the administrative office, she finds the door open and the light on. Even though Jason is expecting her, she still knocks before poking her head into the office.

“Hey,” he says, rising from his seat to hug her.

“Good to see you,” Sarah says. “How are you?”

“Good, good.” He turns away, as if shuffling the question out of sight. “Little Miss Sophie is doing a great job of keeping me company today.”

Sarah makes her way over to the playpen where her young niece is playing with a stuffed duck and a stuffed cow. “Why are you here on a weekend?” Sarah asks Jason as she bends over the side of the playpen to greet Sophie.

“Had too much to get done. I couldn’t focus at the house.”

Sarah picks up Sophie, who cuddles right up to her chest. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” she tells her brother.

“No, I’m happy to see you. What’s up? Sounded like you had something important to talk about.”

“Yeah.” She bounces Sophie on her hip. “Jay, I don’t know how to tell you this...”

He scrunches up his face. “Spit it out really fast?”

“Thanks for the tip,” she says with a laugh. “I mean... I know this is crappy timing. I, um, I’m engaged.”

“You are? You and Graham, you’re...” He moves to embrace Sarah again, enclosing Sophie between them. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you. I just want you to know that I understand how weird this has to be for you, and we’re not planning any kind of huge wedding. We’re going to do something small, just us and the witnesses and Mom and Dad. You don’t have to come. I mean, you’re welcome to if you feel up to it, but I know--”

“I’d love to be there. Seriously.” His face betrays no hint of the pain that she thought another wedding, especially so soon after his own tragic one, might bring.

“Do whatever you’re comfortable with. I didn’t know he was going to ask me. I wouldn’t have--” She doesn’t even know what she is trying to say, other than that she is sorry for what he is going through.

He nods, apparently understanding that much despite the jumble of words pile atop the sentiment. “You don’t have to feel bad about getting married. I swear. I’m happy for you.”

“Well, thank you,” she says, relieved, even if she is not 100 percent convinced his feelings on the matter are so cut-and-dry.


Minutes after Tim’s forced departure, Cassandra continues to pace the floor of her suite. Her thoughts are a tangled mess. Fueled by nerves and rage, she finally grabs the phone and scrolls to an all-too-familiar number.

“Hey,” the man answers.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she barks, foregoing any sort of greeting.

“Whoa. Cass. What are you talking about?” JD says.

“You know what I’m talking about. That ‘equinox’ garbage you said to Tim.” She pauses to allow her ragged breathing to catch up to the words spilling rapid-fire from her mouth. “You’re sick, you know that?”

“I’ve heard that a time or two.” She can hear the smirk in his voice, that same stupid, cocky smirk she remembers far too well.

“He knows about the ring.”

JD’s response is not at all what she expected. He sounds confident, almost playful. “So your boy’s smarter than I thought, huh? How’d he pull that off?”

“He knows about the ring and he was asking questions about my mother.”

Now there is the stunned silence she expected.

“How much does he know?” JD finally asks.

“I’m not sure. He came in here, asking all sorts of questions--dammit, JD! You couldn’t just keep your big mouth shut for once?”

“Don’t blame this on me. You’re the one keeping secrets from her boyfriend.”

Anger burns her chest from the inside. “Dammit! Damn you. I thought this was done.”

“You want me to do something about it? Get him to stop sniffing around?”

“No.” The answer flies out before she even has the chance to consider it. “Tim is a good man. I need to... convince him he has this all wrong. That’s all.”

“You let me know if you need me to do anything,” he says.

“I don’t want you to do anything but shut up!” She hangs up the phone before he can even begin to spew out some idiotic response.

She can get this under control. She can make Tim understand that he has this all wrong--she has to. She cannot have him digging further into her mother’s death, or asking any more questions about that damned ring.


What is Cassandra really hiding?
Should Tim walk away from this relationship?
Is it wise of Molly to go away with Philip?
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