Episode #584

- Molly and Philip, while waiting at the airport to leave for their trip, ran into Josh and Lauren, who were leaving on a business trip. Josh was surprised to see his sister-in-law going away with another man.
- Claire introduced her teenage ward, Tempest, to her son, Travis. Though they got off to a rocky start, Travis eventually offered to help with finding Tempest a job. He also suggested that his half-sister, Samantha, could tutor Tempest for her GED test.
- Authorities refused to cooperate in Brent and Claire’s mission to bring down Loretta Ragan, the woman behind a variety of crimes against their family... who also happens to be Philip’s mother and the woman hosting him and Molly during their vacation.


Josh Taylor has never liked gossip much. What’s the point? You can sit around talking about stuff other people are doing, or you can go do actual interesting things yourself. Plus, he wouldn’t want anyone else running around talking about his business. Sometimes you want things to be secret. So he figures, what goes around comes around and all that.

There are a few things that take priority over his distaste for gossip, though. One of them is looking out for the people he cares about--and the other is stirring up shit for people who deserve it. That dick Philip Ragan definitely deserves it, and as much as Josh likes his sister-in-law, she has no business running off with some other guy ten minutes after getting separated from Brent.

That is why, as he and Lauren Brooks wait for a taxi under the gleaming sunlight outside the Phoenix airport’s terminal, he pulls out his cell phone and dials his brother.

“Hey, man,” Josh says when Brent answers.

“Josh. I thought you were going on a business trip. Is everything okay?” Brent asks.

“Yeah. We’re just waiting for a cab. Listen--” Something on the inside grabs his tongue, makes him stop. Does he really need to do this to Brent?

Yes. He deserves to know what’s going on.

“Listen,” Josh continues. “Lauren and I, we ran into Molly at the airport.”

At the mention of her name, Lauren turns to him. Her eyes widen with realization.

“Really.” It is a flat word, a placeholder entirely free of inflection or emotion--at least, that is how Brent is trying to make it sound. Underneath the surface, Josh can hear a thousand questions.

“Did you know she’s not going on this trip alone?” Josh says. Lauren smacks him in the arm.

Brent’s voice is weak. “No, I... she just said she was getting away for a long weekend...”

“She’s with Philip.”

There is no response, no sound, not even breathing. Josh almost thinks the connection has been dropped, but he glances at the screen of his phone and sees that it is still going strong.

“What are you doing?” Lauren whispers.

Josh shakes his head to brush off her inquisition. He tries to stare forward, but the sun’s brightness burns his eyes. He wonders how miserably hot it is going to be when they move out of the shade; the air already feels heavier than that in Washington, like it is crowding around his body, trying to squeeze him out of existence.

“I didn’t know,” Brent says at last.

He sounds so hurt that Josh again wonders if he made a mistake by relaying this news. But Brent deserves to know what is going on in his own family, especially when his wife more or less lied about going away with another guy--and especially when that guy is a douche like Philip Ragan.

“I just thought you should know,” Josh says. “And I felt weird knowing and not telling you.”

“No, I appreciate it. I don’t like Molly being around him. There are things about him...”

“Believe me, I hear you.”

A cab pulls up and whisks away the man in front of Josh and Lauren. They step to the front of the taxi line.

“Sorry, man,” Josh says into the phone.

“Thanks for telling me. At least someone’s telling me the truth. You go and have a good trip. I’ve got... some stuff to do.”

Josh wonders if that stuff has anything to do with Molly and Philip. He supposes he will find out soon enough. “Later.” He hangs up and pockets the phone.

“Did you really have to do that?” Lauren says. “I thought you hated gossip.”

“I was not gossiping,” Josh mutters as another cab pulls up and pops open its trunk for them.


After finishing her shift at the hospital, Claire Fisher returns to her apartment and picks up the teenage girl who has been waiting there all afternoon. They hop into Claire’s car and discuss, with an awkwardness that Claire fears might never fade--almost as if they are from two different planets, each speaking a language that only occasionally makes sense to the other--how they spent their days. Claire talks about the frenzy that consumed the hospital following a deadly pile-up on the interstate; Tempest tells of how she walked to the park that is not far from the apartment.

“I don’t know what people do at parks,” she says. “I thought it was supposed to be nice or something. But I’ve spent enough time hanging out in parks when I didn’t have to.”

It is another of the many observations that Tempest makes so casually, observations that seem so startling to Claire. It has never occurred to her that there are people for whom going to the park is not just something to do on a lazy day, but a reminder of a dark period in their lives that could return at any moment.

When they arrive at the Fishers’, Claire tries her best not to show her nerves. This is Tempest’s first time coming to this home, and Claire wants to do everything she can to make her comfortable. Still, Claire is anything but comfortable herself coming here. Her most recent interaction with any of the Fishers, save for trading quick messages with Tim regarding Travis, was a fairly nasty confrontation with Paula.

For so long, when Tim was missing and after he returned, Claire was made to feel like a member of this family even when she technically was not. In recent months, though, something has changed. That invisible thread that bound her to them has snapped, and though she cannot pinpoint exactly when or how it happened, she is certain that it did.

But she is here today for a very specific reason. She rings the doorbell.

“So you were married to one of this lady’s sons and then you almost married another one?” Tempest asks as they wait.

“Yeah. It was... complicated.”

“Sounds a little Jerry Springer to me.”

Claire cannot really argue with that. Thankfully, the door opens... and there is Paula.

“Hello, Claire,” she says, her words as stiff as her posture.

“Hi, Paula. I’d like you to meet Tempest.”

Paula extends a hand to Tempest. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You, too,” Tempest half-mumbles as she lazily shakes Paula’s hand. Her eyes sink to the new Nikes that Claire bought her last weekend.

“Samantha is in the kitchen,” Paula says.

“Great. Thank you.” Claire steps inside the house, and Tempest follows. Even though she has been inside this house thousands of times--she even lived here for quite a while--Claire feels like a stranger, a visitor, now. Things between them and Paula are dead silent on the way to the kitchen.

It is a relief when they come upon Samantha, sitting at the kitchen table doing her homework.

“Samantha, this is Tempest,” Claire says quickly, eager to get to business. “She’s staying with me for a while. Tempest, Samantha.” The girls exchange clipped, awkward waves at one another; Claire is not sure what is so embarrassing about greeting another person.

Claire decides to direct the situation. “Tempest is studying for her GED,” she says, even though she already explained as much to Samantha over the phone. “I know you’ve been looking for a part-time job, so we were hoping you could work with her a few hours a week.”

Samantha nods. “I can do that.” She pulls out a spiral notebook and pencil. “Why don’t you tell me what you feel your strengths and weaknesses are, and we can work out a plan?”

Tempest looks at her like she has three heads.

“You girls do that,” Paula chimes in. “Claire and I will give you a few minutes.”

Somehow, Claire winds up having herself steered into the dining room, where she has no choice but to face the awkwardness between her and Paula.

Paula cuts to the chase. “What are your intentions with this girl?”

“I’m giving her a place to stay,” Claire says. “She has no one. I got a look at the system that exists for kids like her, and it’s--it’s not good. She needs support.”

“You have one child who already requires a lot of affection. Are you sure you can handle the split responsibility?”

“This is something I need to do. I’m...” Claire starts to change the subject, then decides it might be best not to go there. Then her emotions take over, anyway. “I’m sorry if you’re upset with me over--whatever you perceive to my role in what’s happened with Brent and Molly. All I’m trying to do here is move on with my life and help someone who needs it. Please respect that.”

Before Paula can challenge her any further, Claire slips back to the kitchen, happy to fill in the gaps in the girls’ very stilted discussion.


As the rental car winds its way down the long driveway, the impressive brick home spreads across the skyline. The lights shining from various windows of the expansive house glow against the dark backdrop of night. It certainly looks like the ideal place to spend a few days clearing her head, Molly Taylor reasons as Philip Ragan parks the car.

“I can carry that,” Molly says as Philip lifts her suitcase from the trunk, but he shrugs away the offer and merely hands her the small zip-up carry-on bag that she brought along. She thanks him, and they make their way toward the house.

The front door opens, and Loretta Ragan emerges in a flurry of energy. “I’m so sorry,” she says, “but the household staff has already gone home. I should have held someone back to bring your bags in.”

“It’s more than all right. Thank you for having me, Mrs. Ragan.” Molly exchanges cheek kisses with the older woman, whose vivid red hair falls loose around her shoulders. Loretta wears a pink sweater set and billowy, white linen slacks--her version of casual.

“It’s so wonderful to see you, my dear,” Loretta says as she hugs her son. Based on everything else about them, Molly expected their interactions to be somewhat stiff or cold, but there is nothing reserved about the way Loretta embraces Philip. It makes Molly feel a little more comfortable in such a formal setting.

“You’ll be staying in the same room as last time,” Loretta tells her. “Philip will help you take your things up in a short while.” Philip smiles in agreement before his mother adds, “I had the cook prepare some dinner in advance for both of you. There’s grilled salmon and steamed vegetables waiting, if you’re hungry.”

Molly nods. “That sounds great. Thank you.” She once again admires the foyer of the home. Artwork in opulent gold frames lines the walls, and to the left, an imposing staircase rises toward the impossibly high ceiling.

“Philip, your brother will be arriving from school tomorrow morning,” Loretta says. “I hope you’ll spend some time with him.”

“Of course I will,” Philip answers, but there is something about the way he says it that makes Molly wonder why spending time with his brother would be such a trial.

“I’m excited for the masquerade ball,” Molly says to her hostess. “I found a mask that I think will work. I’ll show you, and you can tell me if it’s all right.”

Loretta lets out a whimsical little laugh. “I’m sure it’s perfect. I’m thrilled that you’re excited. Every year, the ball is a night to remember--and I suspect this year will be no different.”


After the taxi delivers them to their hotel, Lauren and Josh have their bags sent up to their rooms and settle into the small restaurant off the lobby. Josh drinks a Coke and Lauren an iced tea while they wait for their food.

“He needed to know,” Josh says. He spots her hesitance to agree. “Come on, I can’t see that and not tell my own brother.”

“Okay, maybe you’ve got a point there.”

“I’ve definitely got a point there. Better that he finds out from me.”

“I guess.” Initially Lauren was furious that Josh called Brent to rat out Molly and Philip, but the more she thinks about it, the more she believes that he did the right thing. There is something pretty fishy about Molly going on a trip with Philip ten minutes after her separation from Brent became legal.

“It is pretty weird,” Lauren admits. She plants her lips over the straw and takes a long drink. “Do you think Molly and Philip are really...”

He shrugs. “Who knows? Molly doesn’t seem like the type to just jump to a new guy. Doesn’t mean Philip isn’t trying.”

It stings Lauren a little bit to think that Philip might have intentions regarding Molly that run deeper than friendship. When he ended their relationship, he made it sound so selfless--like he was sparing Lauren, doing her a favor by giving her space to grieve Courtney.

“I think you might be on to something,” she says.

Josh sets his glass down with a decisive clank. “That guy’s a d-bag. You know it, I know it. I can’t believe you dated him.”

“Yeah. While I dated the slightly arrogant, Ivy League-educated photographer, you had the psycho who was sleeping with you while she tried to bust up my best friend’s relationship. What an idiot I am.” She can’t help but cast a satisfied smirk over the table, just to turn the screws on him.

Josh does that annoying thing he always does, turning his head as if there might be something off in the distance that has prevented him from hearing what she said. Then he counters, “Doesn’t matter anyway. Now that Brent knows what’s up, I bet whatever Philip is trying to pull with Molly is about to get cut short.”


Brent Taylor is normally a very attentive driver. As an officer of the law, he figures that he should lead by example. He has also seen too many horrible accidents that resulted simply from drivers being distracted or preoccupied. Ever since the incident in which his car was forced off the road with his boys in it--even though that was far from an accident--he has become even more conscious of focusing his attention fully on the road.

Today, however, he is having trouble adhering to his own rules. Josh’s call has left him antsy and uneasy. He can barely sit still in the driver’s seat, let alone keep from fiddling with the radio, his phone, anything that might serve as an outlet for his nervous energy. Finally he dials a number in his phone and settles in to talk on his Bluetooth.

Claire answers after two rings. “Hi.”

“Hey,” he says as he makes a right turn. “I’ve been thinking.”

“That sounds serious.”

“It is.” He hears voices in the background on her end. “Are you busy?”

“I brought Tempest over to meet Samantha.” Shuffling sounds indicate that she is moving, and the voices behind her fade. “What are you thinking about?”

“Loretta. We need to move in on her.”


“New Hampshire police aren’t going to do it. King’s Bay won’t touch her, either. So I say we do it.”

“That seems a little... ambitious, don’t you think?” She speaks quietly, almost at whisper level. “We can’t just go in there and arrest her.”

“No, but we can get a confession out of her.” The mere idea sends a surge of wild energy through his being. “She comes face to face with us, she’s going to crack. She’ll reveal something.”

“I don’t know...”

“Either we do this, or we let it drag out forever. Come on.”

“When? How? I just took Tempest in. I can’t go running across the country.”

“We’ll figure it out.” With every word of encouragement that he offers her, he becomes more convinced that this is the right course of action. “We have to do this, Claire. It’s time.”

“Let’s talk about this later,” she says.

“Not too much later. When will you be home?”

“An hour, maybe.”

“I’ll come see you. We’ll sort this out.”

Her reluctance is evident in the small but exasperated breath she lets into the phone. “Where is this coming from? Why now?”

“Because,” he says. “I’ll see you in a hour or so.”

He ends the call and steps his foot a little harder onto the accelerator. Something has to be done about Loretta, and Philip, and this entire situation, before something even worse, even more horrible, happens. It’s now or never.


After Philip and Molly eat their late dinner in the dining room and migrate to their respective rooms to unpack, Loretta retires to the study. There was a time when she hardly entered this room at all. It was her husband’s sanctuary, his space away from the world. She used to find the dark wood furniture and the dreary leather bindings of all the books upon the shelves to be a bit depressing, actually. Since his passing, however, she has come to regard the space differently: as a place to be close to him, to bask in his essence and feel as if he is still with her.

Tonight, a fire roars in the grand stone fireplace. The light of the flames brightens the otherwise dim room. Loretta sits in the oversized leather armchair that was her late husband’s favorite spot in the house; her slipper-covered feet perch upon the matching hassock. A generously poured gin-and-tonic cools her hand as she rests.

The door opens and closes. She hardly turns her head to acknowledge the person’s entrance.

“She came, Mrs. Ragan?” the man’s rough voice asks.

“Yes.” Loretta expels a sigh that is heavy with disgust. “I thought Philip might come to his senses, but for some reason, he has decided it’s a wonderful idea to bring this woman to my event.”

She draws a long sip of her gin-and-tonic. “I never should have let him accept that job in King’s Bay. But I couldn’t very well tell him why, and my son has a tendency to be... stubborn might be an understatement.”

Her employee, Tony, stands stiffly in his collared shirt and slacks. She can tell how uncomfortable he is even in this relatively casual attire; she suspects he is more of the leather-and-jeans type in his free time.

“This is some situation. Hell of a situation. You really hate that family,” he observes, his thick New Jersey accent weighing down every syllable.

“They took away the most important thing in the world to me. Of course I hate them.” She stares into the wildly dancing flames inside the fireplace. “But I suppose there is a way I can use this to my advantage. Having a member of the Fisher family under my roof--perhaps that can be beneficial.”

“I’ll do whatever you want. Just give the word,” Tony says.

Loretta rolls her eyes. “How generous. It isn’t as if you’re paid for that or anything.” She drains the remainder of her glass. “Yes, I think Molly Fisher’s presence at this party might prove to be useful, after all.”


Will Brent convince Claire to travel to Loretta’s?
What is in store at the masquerade ball?
How will Lauren and Josh’s trip turn out?
Talk about this episode in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode