Episode #591

- After impulsively sleeping with Josh during their business trip to Phoenix, Lauren changed her flight to return home early.
- Jason continued to close out family and friends who attempted to help him with his grief over Courtney’s death.
- Samantha and Tempest escaped from the car where JD was holding them at gunpoint. JD took off in the car, with the police in pursuit.


The hospital feels disturbingly calm tonight. From where Tim Fisher stands in the emergency room’s cramped waiting area, pacing over a scuffed linoleum floor, everything feels too normal. Not urgent enough. The movements of the doctors and nurses, the calls over the PA system, all of it--it’s troubling to Tim, making him wonder why no one feels the same panicked urgency that he does.

What is more likely is that this is business as usual, and it is a slow night at the hospital. But reason is not of much use to him at the moment.

“She’s been in there for too long,” he says to his mother, who is seated on the end of a row of plastic chairs.

“They’re just evaluating her,” Paula Fisher says. “Making sure she’s all right. Samantha said herself that she wasn’t hurt.” She does not sound fully convinced, to Tim’s ears.

“Still. It was a lot to go through. I can’t even imagine...” He keeps envisioning Samantha in that car, JD holding a gun to her head and forcing her to drive. The thought of his child, his little girl, trapped like that is almost too much to handle.

And it is all his fault for getting them mixed up with Cassandra and JD.

“He hit her once,” Tempest Banks says from a few seats away. Her voice is quiet, as if she fears that every syllable is the one that is going to make the building explode or something equally cataclysmic. “But she seemed fine. Promise.”

“Thanks.” Tim nods at the girl, this virtual stranger who was Samantha’s companion in the terrifying experience. He knew from Travis that Claire was having the teenager stay with her, and Tim remembers her vaguely from their encounter in Los Angeles, but it is still surreal for him to think of her as a semi-permanent part of their lives. He and Claire were once so close--she was the person he knew best in the world--and now, he is barely aware of a major decision like taking in a foster child.

He also wishes that Claire were working tonight. Surely Samantha’s exam would be complete by now if she were.

Tim takes a few uncertain steps closer to Tempest, who has her hands balled up and held between her legs.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asks. “If you want to get checked out--”

“I’m cool,” she insists, with a quickness that says she hasn’t even contemplated the question.

“If it’s the insurance thing--we will find a way to handle it.”

“I’m fine. Seriously.” Her dark eyes flicker what seems to be a warning at him, and he takes the hint to shut up. He makes a mental note to be sure that Claire gets her in for a checkup soon.

“Here. Who wants some of this crap?” Diane Bishop says as she and Bill Fisher reappear with several cups of hospital coffee. As soon as she has the various cups handed out, she raises her own to her lips and takes a long, anxious swig.

“Nothing yet?” she asks Tim.

He shakes his head. “She’s still back there.”

“No word on whether they caught that maniac, either?” she asks. “I’ll go out in the damn road and stomp on his face with my heel, if that’ll be quicker.”

As everyone contemplates that possibility, Samantha emerges from behind a curtain, pulling down her sweatshirt.

“Everything okay?” Tim asks.

“I have a bump on my head, but that’s all,” she tells them. “The doctor says I’m fine otherwise. I’m just really tired.”

Tim can’t help himself, and he pulls her into a hug. The poor kid has had a worse day than she ever, ever deserves to have, and in this moment, while he holds her, Tim vows to do everything he can to make sure she never experiences anything like this again.


“Sorry it’s so late,” Alex Marshall says as he places the bags of takeout on the kitchen table. “I’ve been an hour behind where I wanted to be all day long.”

“It’s okay. Gave me time to put Sophie down,” Jason Fisher says. The sound of ruffling fills the room as Jason begins rooting through the bags. “You got egg rolls, right?”

“Yeah. They’re in there somewhere. And crab Rangoon.” Alex makes a face. “I know how you feel about that stuff.”

“Don’t judge me!”

Jason retrieves plates and forks, and Alex sets out the cartons on the table. The aromas of the various foods mix and mingle in the air, making Alex realize just how hungry he is.

“So you had lunch with your... with Graham?” Jason asks while filling his plate.

“You can call him my father. I think.” The word still feels foreign on Alex’s tongue; it is not something that he has ever applied to a particular person, just an abstract concept that denoted a void. “I’ve been seeing him pretty regularly. It’s weird how normal it feels.”

“How can it be weird and normal at the same time?”

“You know what I mean. It isn’t dramatic. It’s just... getting to know each other.”

“Well, good. I’m glad it’s working out.” Jason heaps some lo mein onto his plate and then seats himself at the table. “You want weird? Your father is marrying my sister. Think about that for a sec.”

Alex adds some steaming, glazed General Tsao’s chicken to his plate and then sits, too. “I know. Does that mean we’re going to be related?”

Jason contorts his face while he does the mental calculations. “Maybe it’ll make me your uncle-in-law or something.”

“I don’t think ‘uncle-in-law’ is really a thing. And if it were, I don’t think it would be the brother of my father’s wife.”

“Let’s pretend. It’ll be funny.”

Alex lifts a forkful of food to his mouth, and a split-second later, heat is searing into his tongue, the roof of his mouth, his gums, everything. “Oh, crap,” he mutters. He keeps his mouth open as he exhales, as if that might push the heat out. “I need some water.”

He lurches toward the cupboards, while Jason retrieves a water filter pitcher from the refrigerator.

“Glasses are in there,” he says, pointing to a door. Alex opens it as Jason says, “No, the next one.”

Alex moves to close the cabinet, and as he does, his free hand knocks something off the shelf. It clatters to the countertop. He grabs the item and is about to replace it when he becomes aware of what it is: a prescription pill bottle. His eyes get a look at the label, but he quickly shifts them away.

“They’re in here,” Jason says, darting around him to get a glass. He hands it to Alex and, in one aggressive movement, takes the pill bottle from him and replaces it in the cabinet.

They remain frozen like that for a moment, both aware of an unspoken gravity. Alex breaks the stare in order to pour his water--even though the burning in his mouth has been forgotten--as he contemplates whether he should say anything.

“I went to the doctor,” Jason explains as he goes back to the table. “I wasn’t sleeping well. So he prescribed something. End of story.”

Alex chooses his words carefully. “Have you been taking them since Courtney...”

“No. Just for... no.” Jason busies himself with his food. “It’s fine, Alex.”

As he returns to the table, Alex tries to believe that. It makes perfect sense for Jason to be taking something to help him sleep. It’s perfectly legal and safe. And yet, something about the way he reacted to Alex seeing the bottle--his panic--strikes Alex as troubling.

“You didn’t mention you were having trouble sleeping,” he says.

Jason’s fork drops to his plate. “Because it doesn’t matter, okay? Drop it.”

They return to eating, this time in silence. Alex dares not mention it again, at least not yet, but the incident hangs over their meal, sucking the air out of every possible avenue of conversation between them.


While the adults sign paperwork and ask the doctor an assortment of unnecessary questions, Samantha and Tempest sit in the waiting area. Samantha does not know what to say to the other girl; despite what they just went through together, they don’t really know each other, and all the normal getting-to-know-you questions seem so trivial in the wake of being held hostage in a moving car. They stare at the TV droning in the corner of the room, showing one primetime crime drama or another. Samantha cannot tell them apart.

Tempest is the one to break the silence. “You really did awesome back there.”

“Thanks.” Samantha pushes some of her hair back behind her ear, even though it is going to fall forward again in a matter of seconds. “I don’t even know how I managed not to crash the car. I was so nervous. I thought I was going to throw up.”

“Not gonna lie, I didn’t think you were gonna be able to handle it.” Tempest cracks the slightest of smiles. “Thanks for not getting me killed.”

“I think that was luck more than anything.” Everyone keeps telling Samantha what an impressive job she did, how she was so composed and smart, but all she felt throughout the experience was sheer terror. All she could do was keep driving, because if she hadn’t, JD would have shot her. It wasn’t exceptional, just necessary.

“Did you leave Claire a message?” she asks.

Tempest nods. “I guess it’s late wherever she is. East coast somewhere.”

“New Hampshire, I think.”

“I told her how I tried to go back and then I called you and something kind of crazy happened. But I said everything’s fine.” Her gaze strays to the marks on the linoleum. “I hope she isn’t mad that I left.”

“She’s probably going to be a little mad,” Samantha says, “but I have a feeling that will pass.”

Tempest begins to respond, but she gets distracted by something across the room. Samantha follows her lead and sees what it is: a news interruption on the TV.

“My car,” Samantha says as they watch. “Dad! Mom! The TV--” She finds words difficult, because the news broadcast is demanding so much of her attention, but the adults understand her point and gather around to watch.

And there it is: Samantha’s little gray Mazda, smashed into a telephone pole at the bottom of an off-ramp. It is barely recognizable, more a heap of metal and fumes than anything. But it is, without a doubt, her car.

“...the driver was pronounced dead at the scene,” the newscaster is saying.

Samantha doesn’t know what to say or do. She feels guilty for being relieved. A man is dead. Her primary emotion should not be relief, but it is.

“Good,” Diane says, feeling no shame over her own relief. “He got what he deserved.”

She places a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, and Samantha tries to relax into her mother’s touch. All she wants now, all she needs, is to be close to her family, to believe that everything is really going to be okay.


Alex and Jason continue their meal in a stilted, almost painful manner. If their conversations usually run like smooth, brand-new Ferraris--as this one was, ten minutes ago--then this is a rusty old truck, sputtering its last breaths of life. Alex tries to keep things normal, talking about his new novel and how the draft seems to want to become two separate books, and it works well enough to fill the space. But the incident with the pill bottle hangs over them, unacknowledged but very much present.

When the doorbell rings and Jason gets up to answer it, Alex feels great relief. He is even happier when Jason leads Lauren Brooks into the room.

“I was kind of surprised by your text,” Jason is saying. “I thought you were out of town until tomorrow night.”

“I was. There was a change of plans.” Lauren gives Alex a hug.

“Do you want some food?” Jason says, already getting her a plate and fork.

Lauren shrugs. “Might as well. Thanks.” She stands over the table and begins foraging through the multitude of open cartons.

“I’m going to take ‘change of plans’ and ‘late-night visit’ to mean something’s up,” Jason says, watching her.

“Then you would be a very perceptive guy. I’ll give you one guess.”

“Josh,” Alex and Jason say at almost the exact same moment.

“Ding, ding, ding. It’s the same old--you know what? It isn’t even worth discussing.”

Alex catches her eye. “If you didn’t think it were worth discussing, you wouldn’t have dropped in so late. What’s going on?”

He can see her contemplating what to reveal, or how to do it, as she finishes filling her plate. She drops into an empty chair and then says, “I did something stupid.”

“So, business as usual,” Jason says with a grin.

“Ha ha. You’re hilarious. I, um... I slept with Josh.”

“And there’s our drama,” Alex says. “What happened? Are you just mad that you did it, or--”

“Yes!” Lauren shakes her head as she stares into her plate of food. “Nothing’s going to change. He more than proved that.” Alex and Jason listen as she recounts the story of their potential client’s seedy request.

“And now I have to work with him,” she says with a groan. “At least we’ll get the account, I guess. Not that I want to get it this way. Ugh.”

Instinctively, Alex glances over at Jason and finds him doing the same in return. A wordless communication takes place between them, and things feel as if the awkwardness over the prescription bottle did not happen. Alex is appreciative, in a strange way, for Lauren’s problem.

“You know how I feel about Josh,” Jason says, “but I think it’s also pretty clear there’s something between the two of you. You haven’t been able to get him out of your system.”

Lauren recoils, as if she has been physically shoved. “It was a slip-up. I don’t care.”

“Which is why you came over here in a panic,” Alex says.

She takes a big bite of food and shakes her head insistently while chewing. “I can’t care. Josh and I--there’s nothing there. He’s always going to be who he is, and I’m always going to be who I am. There’s no changing that. So nothing else can happen.” She spears a piece of chicken with her fork. “Now I just need to make sure nothing happens.”

Alex and Jason watch as she eats and tries to convince herself that such a thing will be possible.


“You’re sure you don’t want to come to my place?” Diane asks Samantha as the group spills out into the hospital’s parking lot.

Normally, Tim would be annoyed by Diane trying to wrest control of their daughter from him, when she knows that it is his night with Samantha, but tonight, he fully understands it. He would not want to be away from her for a second, given what just happened.

“All my things are at Dad’s,” Samantha reminds her. “Besides, Tempest is going to stay there, too.”

Diane seems to accept that but quickly changes tacks. “Where the hell is Claire, anyway? Shouldn’t be at least a little concerned?”

“She’s out of town,” Tim says, as he realizes that’s the extent of what he knows. Samantha whispered to him an explanation about Tempest having run away and Claire going out of town before Tempest turned back up, but in all the fright and confusion, the details did not seem important.

“She and Brent are in New Hampshire,” Paula clarifies from behind them.

The location sets off a spark in Tim. “New Hampshire? Isn’t that where that Loretta...”

Paula nods, a movement encumbered by some mixture of disapproval and concern--in what percentages, Tim is not certain.

Bill puts his arm around Paula’s shoulders. “Let’s go home. I can make everyone some tea, and we can all relax. I’m sure everyone needs a good night’s sleep.”

Murmurs of agreement sound all around. Tim contributes one, but his mind is elsewhere, occupied by possibilities.

“I just want to put on some pajamas,” Samantha says as they continue moving toward the cars.

As they walk, Tim watches her. She is such an adult. She is as tall as her mother, and though he has always considered her to be a mature kid, intelligent and thoughtful, tonight’s events have made it clear just how grown-up she is. The way she conducted herself in such a horrifying situation is nothing short of amazing.

And it never would have happened if he had insisted on having the full story from Cassandra from the outset, rather than taking her at her word and letting JD worm his way into their lives.

Suddenly he is itching to get home, but it has nothing to do with the promise of tea or sleep.


What is Tim going to do now?
Can Lauren keep her vow regarding Josh?
Should Alex be concerned about Jason and the pills?
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