Episode #587

- Lauren and Josh traveled to Phoenix to woo a potential client for Willis Advertising.
- After JD threatened Tim at knifepoint, Tim contacted the police. Two officers paid a visit to Cassandra, who lied that she hadn’t had contact with JD recently--even though he was hiding in the closet of her hotel suite.
- Tempest felt pressured by Claire’s plans for her and ran away in the middle of the night, leaving a goodbye note. In the morning, Claire phoned Brent, who had the police look for Tempest but wanted Claire to be realistic about the chances of bringing her back. Distraught and feeling helpless, Claire agreed to join Brent on his trip to New Hampshire to protect Molly and confront Loretta.


All around him, the restaurant pulses with the nonstop flow of lunch hour activity, but Josh Taylor is completely unfazed by it as he speaks.

“Essentially, what we’ll do is present Sue Casa’s as the Tex-Mex version of something like the Olive Garden,” he says, gesturing with his fork as he speaks. Lauren Brooks, who sits beside him and watches, knows that holding onto the fork is a calculated move, a little flourish to show how much he is enjoying the food served by their potential clients. Josh might be a bullshit artist, but at times like this, that comes in handy. “We want to position your restaurant as a home away from home, a place for people to gather with their families.”

He glances casually over at Lauren, and she takes the cue to wrap it up. “At the same time, that approach also allows us to present Sue Casa’s as a more upscale choice than, say, Applebee’s. It’s where you take your family to have a more sophisticated meal--with a twist of culture at a price point that’s manageable for the average American.”

She is surprised by how smoothly the words flow out, considering how many times she reviewed them in her hand. With her spiel done, she picks up her fork and uses it to stab another piece of the enchilada on her plate. She suspects that their food--which is much better than she expected it would be--was prepared with a lot more care than the average meal here.

“Very nice,” says Antonio Lopez, one of the two men seated across from them. He and his business partner--neither of whom bears any resemblance to the cartoon Hispanic woman who adorns the restaurant’s signs and menus--have been listening to Josh and Lauren’s pitch for the duration of the meal, but neither has offered much in the way of a response.

The business partner nods, but his face reveals nothing.

“We only get one chance to roll our restaurant out over the west coast,” Antonio says, “so you can understand why we’re anxious about making sure it’s done properly.”

“Of course,” Lauren says. “That’s what we’re here to assure you of: with Willis, you’ll be in the best possible hands. The west coast will understand exactly what your restaurant is all about.”

The burly man takes a moment to regard her silently, then continues: “As I’m sure you’re also aware, there are a number of firms competing for this campaign. Sue Casa’s has been very, very successful here in Arizona, and we plan for that to be the case all up and down the west coast.”

“Then we’re on the same page,” Josh says, fork still in hand.

“That’s why we need to be sure that whichever one we choose has our best interests in mind. You know, is really going to go the extra mile for us.”

Something about Antonio’s choice of words set off an alarm in Lauren’s head. She tries to maintain her calm and listen.

Josh cuts right to the chase. “What would that extra mile entail?”

Antonio’s lips curve into a pinched smile. “You might be wondering who the real ‘Sue Casa’ is. As you can tell, it’s neither of us.”

Lauren once again has to stifle a laugh at the mention of the restaurant’s name. She almost managed to forget about it during their pitch, but now that Antonio is so openly discussing the titular character, Lauren cannot help but remember how ridiculous it is. She has no idea how she is going to get through an entire ad campaign, if they land the job.

“We have a third business partner,” Antonio says. “My wife.”

“Shouldn’t she be here today?” Lauren asks, already dreading the response.

Antonio looks from her to Josh and back again. “That’s where a little bit of additional help comes in.”


Every bus station that Tempest Banks has ever been in smells the same way: old, musty, like someone filled it up with water and then let it dry in the sun. A film of dust coats everything--floors, walls, countertops, chairs. As she waits in line at the ticket window, she stares outside. What looked to be a nice day is quickly turning gray, and something about those clouds tells her that it’s going to rain later.

What a terrible place to live on the streets. It rains all the damn time. At least in L.A., you know the weather will be good most days.

This place doesn’t seem that bad otherwise, but she sure as hell isn’t going to sit out in the rain all the time. And she can’t stick around and run the chance of bumping into Claire or anyone else. Better to go back south where it’s sunny. She doesn’t know if she can go back to L.A., see the same people, hang out in the same places... Maybe once she gets there, she’ll figure out how to get to San Diego. It always seemed nice there. Her mother took her on a trip there once, when she was really little. Tempest has always remembered how different from L.A. it seemed, like the air was always fresh, like you could sit out on the beach all day baking in the sun.

San Diego seems like a great idea.

As the line moves forward, she pulls out her money and counts it. Between what she had in her pockets and what she was able to scrounge up from people outside, she should have enough for a ticket down to L.A. Once she gets there, she can figure out the rest.

She tries not to think about how the clothes she’s wearing and the backpack she’s carrying all came from Claire. She feels bad ditching out in the middle of the night like that, but she couldn’t stay there. Not with all the stuff Claire expected her to do. It would’ve just turned out ugly, anyway, once she realized Tempest couldn’t do most of that stuff.

Finally she reaches the front of the line. Cupping her money in her hands, she sets it all on the counter.

“That bus going to L.A.--Los Angeles,” she says. “Can I get a ticket for that?”

The tired-looking man behind the counter produces his best attempt at a polite smile underneath his bushy beard. “Sure. That’ll be 144 dollars and 78 cents.”

Tempest feels like someone just reached into her chest and squeezed her heart really hard with their hand. “A hundred and 44 dollars?!”

“That’s what I said,” the man says, already disinterested.

“I thought it was...” She goes over the numbers she read in the pamphlet. She added up the trips from here to Portland, and from Portland to Sacramento, and from Sacramento to L.A.

“You don’t have it?” the man asks.

“Uh... no. I...” She gathers up her money, stuffs it in her pocket, and steps out of the way. Her cheeks and her chest both feel like they are on fire.

“Stupid,” she mutters to herself. Where the hell is she gonna get another eighty dollars?

A voice from behind her grabs her attention. “You short?”

This man is younger and less sweaty than the one behind the counter, and his beard is more blondish-brown than gray. He wears a heavy work jacket and big, worn jeans.

“Uh, yeah.” To make sure he doesn’t try to swipe her money, she adds, “By a lot.”

“I’ve got a truck, and I’m headed south. I could take you as far as Portland, if you like.”

Relief washes over her. Portland is a good chunk of the way. She can figure out the rest as she goes. “Great. Thanks.”


Claire Fisher does not know how long she has been staring out the airplane’s window, but the thick, unending clouds surrounding the plane have lulled her into something of a trance. When the pilot’s voice announces that they will soon be beginning their descent into Manchester Boston Regional Airport, she tries to snap out of it.

“Are you nervous?” Brent Taylor asks from the seat beside her.

Of course I’m nervous, she thinks. We flew across the country to do what? Confront a dangerous lunatic and hope we goad her into confessing? But Claire knows that what Brent needs right now is not skepticism, but support. And she came with him by choice. No matter how ill-planned this trek might be, the temptation to take on Loretta face-to-face is too great to resist. And besides, Molly is in the woman’s house. At the very least, they need to get her out of there before something happens.

“Thinking about Tempest,” she says. It is not entirely a lie. As preoccupied as Claire is with imagining the various ways their encounter with Loretta might play out, she is even more consumed with worrying about where Tempest went after slipping out of the apartment in the middle of the night. Claire wants to believe that when the plane lands and she turns on her phone, there will be a message explaining everything and assuring her that Tempest is fine, but she has a feeling that is unlikely.

“Maybe there’ll be good news when we land,” Brent says.

“Maybe.” She tries to offer an appreciative smile. “I just wish I knew what I did to make her leave.”

“I told you: you probably didn’t do a thing. There’s a lot you don’t know about her. We have no way of knowing what was going on in her head.”

As much as Claire reminds herself of that, it doesn’t feel any better. “I just hope she’s all right, wherever she is.”

“I do, too.”

They lapse back into quiet, but Claire cannot focus on the book in her hands. Even a casual glance at it is enough to know that her brain does not want to grant it the attention needed to absorb any of the words.

“Have you been thinking about Loretta this whole time?” she asks, needing to fill the empty space now. “Do you have any better idea of how to go about this?”

Brent shakes his head and fiddles with the latch on his tray table. “There’s actually another thing I was looking into, back home. I’m hoping there’s some word when we land.” He lets the tray table fall down, then puts it back up as a flight attendant approaches. “It’s for Tim, actually.”

The way he says it makes Claire think that he has been working hard to keep this inside the entire flight.

“Is everything okay?” she asks.

“I hope so. It isn’t--Tim is fine. There’s just something going on that he needed help with, and I had some officers looking into it. I’m hoping there’s news waiting for me.” The situation sounds a lot more troubling than his words are trying to make it sound.

Claire settles back in her seat and looks out the window again. The first traces of something beyond the dense clouds are beginning to show. She can see the vaguest hints of a city down below, and her desire--no, need--for the plane to land intensifies. She feels as if she has been living in suspended animation for so long, and she needs to take action, somehow, to correct her uneasiness. Before they go home, they are going to know why Loretta has done the things she has done to them. They have to.


Bill Fisher presents the two plates to his customers with a flourish, setting them down on the table to produce a satisfying clink. Normally the restaurant’s owner would not be serving tables during a weekday lunch, but in this case, he is glad to make the exception.

“For my two favorite sons,” he says.

“Thanks, Dad,” Tim says as he looks at the tantalizing grilled chicken pesto sandwich before him.

“You aren’t going to join us?” Jason asks.

“I wish I could. Busy day in the kitchen, though. Do you promise to bring that granddaughter of mine over this weekend?”

Jason offers a broad smile. “Absolutely.”

“And you,” Bill says to Tim, “I’ll see back at the house later. Enjoy your lunch, guys.” With that, their father retreats back to the kitchen, where--from what Tim can hear--things are every bit as hectic as Bill said. At least business is good, judging by all the activity and how packed the dining room is.

Tim takes a first bite of his food and savors it before asking his brother, “So how are things? How are you managing?”

“Fine.” It is the same clipped, shut-you-down delivery that Jason has come to favor in the months since Courtney’s passing. Aside from being here for him and continuing to ask the question in various forms, Tim doesn’t know what else to do to change that.

“What’s going on with you and Cassandra?” Jason asks. “Dad said you broke up with her.” This is the second step of his strategy of late: deflect.

Tim plays along, needing to make some kind of connection with his brother, even if it is in the form of spilling his own troubles. Jason appears so grateful to hear them, too.

“I’m not sure what happened, to tell the truth,” Tim says. “I’m not entirely sure I ever will. I think she might have broken up with me.”

“What’d you do?”

“Even you are going to have a tough time blaming this one on me. She--God, this sounds crazy.” He does his best to relay how Cassandra’s ex-husband turned up in King’s Bay, and how the animosity between them has something to do with an extremely valuable diamond ring that might or might not be related to Cassandra’s mother’s death. And Cassandra herself might or might not have something to do with the death, too.

Jason finishes chewing a big bite of his blue-cheese burger. “Um, that’s... quite a story.”

“I know. Oh, and did I mention that her ex was waiting for me in the parking garage with a knife last night?”

“What?” Jason puts his burger down as the reality of that statement sinks in. “Are you serious?”

“I called Brent. I mean, nothing happened. I told him I wasn’t seeing Cassandra anymore, and I wasn’t asking any more questions about the ring. Brent is having some guys look for him, but if I never see him again...”

“The whole thing could just die now. That’d be good.” Jason shakes his head. “Man. If Cassandra didn’t officially break up with you, I vote that you call it a breakup now and be done with it. This is not worth getting shanked over.”

“No kidding.” If not for the total lunacy of some of the things he and his family have experienced in recent years, Tim might not even believe that this is happening; as it stands, he simply wants it to be behind him for good. If he never hears from Cassandra or JD again, it will be too soon.


Tempest follows the man out to the parking lot, where he unlocks a bright blue pickup truck with mud splashed all over the driver’s side.

“Headed down to L.A., I heard you say?” the man asks as he opens his door.

Reaching for the handle on the passenger side, Tempest says, “Yeah.”

“What’s down there?”

“Home. I was up here, uh, visiting some people, and now I gotta go home.” Without much of a pause, she hurriedly adds, “Everyone’s waiting for me. Family and stuff. They’re gonna be mad if I don’t show up fast.”

The man nods as he slides behind the steering wheel. Tempest gets in beside him.

“Name’s Jeff,” he says, offering his hand. She shakes it.


She hates this nervous feeling she always gets when she first gets in the car with a new person. Hell, it feels like this the whole time. Like you can’t really relax because you never know what they’re gonna try. She always feels like she spends the whole ride not being able to put her butt down on the seat.

Jeff turns the key, and the truck takes a few seconds to come to life. The engine coughs, and after it clears itself out, the truck begins a loud, steady humming.

“How’d you get all the way up here?” Jeff asks. He backs the truck out of the parking spot and guides it toward the exit.

“Uh, I rode with friends.”

“Where are they now?”

“They’re staying up here.” She knows where his questions are going. Not that she wasn’t prepared to pay him back for the ride, but she wishes they could skip all this double-talk and he could just come out and ask for what he wants.

“You know, gas is pretty expensive these days,” Jeff says.

“I know.”

As they wait for the light to turn green so he can pull out of the parking lot, Jeff turns and tosses a suggestive grin Tempest’s way. She knows exactly what it means: Tell me how you’re gonna pay me for the ride. She’s done this too many times not to see it coming.

She was stupid to think it wouldn’t come back to this. What did she think, just because she had a nice place to stay for a little while, and some new clothes, that she could just go on buying tickets for buses and trains and never have to hitch a ride with some gross guy again? An itchy feeling spreads over her, making it impossible to sit still.

“Crap, I can’t go yet,” she says suddenly. “I, uh, I forgot something.” In one not-so-graceful move, she unbuckles the seatbelt, yanks on the door handle, and slides out of the truck.

“Hey!” Jeff calls after her, but she just throws up a hand in a lazy wave and walks as quickly as she can back toward the bus station.

She can’t do that anymore. She can’t.

Once she is around people again, she glances back. Jeff’s truck is moving out of the parking lot. She tries to get her heart to stop pounding and fishes out the cell phone Claire bought her. She pulls up Claire’s number and dials, but instead of ringing, it goes straight to voicemail.

She thinks of leaving a message, but by the time the beep comes, she has no idea what to say. Everything she can think of sounds so stupid. Instead she hangs up.

She sits on a bench outside the station and flips the phone over in her hand a few times. What the hell is she supposed to do? She could walk back to Claire’s place, but it took her forever--all night, basically, with a few stops--to make it here. She doesn’t have the energy right now. And she can’t even take a nap here. She has to go find somewhere else to sleep.

It all feels like too much to think about. All the days and nights of finding doorways and alleys to lie down in, and then she could never really get sleep anyway... She doesn’t know why it’s different now, but after a little bit of time with a bed, it seems a lot harder to do all of that again.

So she opens up the phone again and dials one of the only other numbers she has.


“It’s not a big deal,” Josh insists as he and Lauren step into the elevator back at their hotel.

With her finger poised to push the button for their floor, Lauren freezes. “He wants you to sleep with his wife so he can divorce her without giving her his share of the restaurant! That’s kind of a big deal!”

“Technically he didn’t say I had to be the one to sleep with her.” Josh raises his eyebrows suggestively at her and then pushes the button himself.

She folds her arms across her chest. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Ridiculously awesome.”

They ride in silence until the elevator hits the 12th floor, and as soon as the doors open, Lauren shoots out of it, into the hallway.

“Oh, come on,” Josh says, right on her tail. “What the hell else am I supposed to do? Lose out on this huge account?”

“Yes! This is nuts. This guy doesn’t care who does his ads. He’s looking for someone to seduce his wife so he can screw her in a divorce. That doesn’t strike you as insane?”

“It is insane. But I don’t get the big deal. I bang some cougar, we get the account, everyone wins.”

Lauren tries her hardest to ignore him as she comes to her door and fishes in her purse for the card key. She can feel Josh lingering behind her, and as soon as she gets the door okay, he is on her heels, following her into the room.

“Shouldn’t you go to your own room and prepare for your big seduction?” she says.

He closes the door. “Not until you thank me.”

“Thank you? For having no moral compass whatsoever? Josh, seriously--I’m fine going back to Willis and telling Susan about this. We’re not going to get fired over it.”

“No, but we look like rockstars if we pull this off.”

She starts to respond, but her mind is moving so much faster than her mouth possibly could, and all she manages is a big, graceless sputter. She wishes that she didn’t care what he did, but this is her account, too, and it should be her choice. Antonio Lopez’s request was so hilarious and over-the-top that she almost laughed in his face, except no one else seemed to think it was a joke. She cannot believe Josh accepted it seriously and said he would be in touch.

“This doesn’t seem, I don’t know, familiar to you?” she finally asks.

The swiftness of his response makes it clear that he already drew the parallel in his head, too--and apparently doesn’t care. “The Poppin’ Lips people? So I hooked them up with some coke. Big damn deal. Got us the job, didn’t it?”

“This isn’t how I want to build my career.”

“Don’t give me all that moral crap. You got mad at me for going out on a limb for our jobs, then you turned around and lied to me when you thought you had cancer! How does that make you a better person than me, again?”

She turns to the mirror, but instead of focusing on her own image, she sees Josh behind her. She knows he has a point, and the shame radiating through her body confirms it. Lying to him about that was stupid and impulsive. But she was hurt and scared, and--

“That was dumb, okay?” She meets his eyes in the mirror. “But I didn’t know if I could trust you, and I couldn’t deal with someone like that at the time. Saying I’m sorry isn’t going to change what happened.”

The next words that come out of him are much quieter, much more like a Josh she almost forgot she ever knew. “I would’ve been there for you, if you had... I wouldn’t have pulled some jerk move and bailed.”

“I know.” The admission makes her feel even worse for what she did. “That’s not what this is about, though. This is about Antonio and his insane proposition--”

“No.” He places his hands on her shoulders and deftly spins her around to face him.


“Look at me. Listen.” She does. “This is about you and me, and--” He is still speaking as his face grows closer and closer to hers, and the words do not cease until his lips are on hers, kissing her harder than she has ever been kissed before.

“You’re completely nuts,” she says once they break apart.

“We already established that.”

“Yeah.” She can still taste him on her mouth, in her mouth. This time she is the one who kisses him. She has to taste it again.

Josh pulls away from her. “What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know.” It comes out fuzzy and indecipherable as he kisses her once again. Lauren opens her mouth, letting his tongue plunge inside, and the next thing she knows, her hands are pushing him backward, onto the bed.

Her head spins as they swap kisses, their mouths tangling with such force that they seem determined to join as one, and finally her fingers tug his shirt out of his pants, as the voice of reason grows dimmer and dimmer in the back of her mind.


What comes next for Lauren and Josh?
Who is Tempest going to call?
What awaits Brent and Claire in New Hampshire?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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