Episode #594

- Loretta’s staff informed her that Claire and Brent were in the area and possibly planning to come after her.
- Claire and Brent crashed Loretta’s masked ball. Wearing a wire, Claire approached Loretta, intent upon getting the woman to incriminate herself.
- While Brent waited to move in on Loretta, he spied his wife, Molly, with Philip--who kissed her.


All the spectacle and glamour around Brent Taylor fall away as he stares across the room. The ball gowns, the elaborate masks, the champagne, the unreal décor--hell, the entire mission to bring down the party’s hostess: none of it matters in light of what he is seeing.

He should have known this was happening, and on some level, he did. He knows that his marriage has been in serious trouble, and he knows that Molly has grown more and more reliant upon Philip Ragan. But until this moment, it never quite occurred to him that Molly might be ready to move on. There she is, though, kissing Philip in the middle of his mother’s party. Never mind that Philip was the one who initiated the kiss--Molly is most definitely kissing him back.

When Molly and Philip separate, their faces still so close that they might resume kissing at any instant, Brent is compelled to go to them.

The words, all one thousand of them, lodge in his throat. Finally he croaks out a select few: “Enjoying the party?”

They both turn to him. “Excuse me?” Philip asks, his characteristic smug superiority blazing through.

Molly, however, goes white as the caterers’ pristine table linens. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to make sure you were safe,” Brent says, “but it’s obvious that someone is already taking care of you, so...”

As recognition dawns upon Philip, he closes the gap between himself and Brent. “You have no business being here. This party is by invitation only.”

“That’s how you justify kissing my wife? Really? That I didn’t have an invitation to come in and watch?”

Molly slips her mask off her face. “That wasn’t what it looked like.” She sounds out of breath, weak, panicked--which makes her words even less convincing.

Out of the corner of his vision, Brent observes Claire, now speaking with Loretta. He needs to be ready to move in at any second.

“It looked like you and Philip were kissing,” he says. His entire being feels numb; as much as he wants to be ready to help Claire, he isn’t even sure that he could grip his gun right now, let alone take control of a situation.

“That was--” Molly’s eyes dart over to Philip. “I don’t know what that was. But don’t jump to any conclusions.”

Brent takes the briefest moment of pleasure in seeing Philip’s face fall. Good.

“Let’s go outside and talk,” Molly says, reaching for Brent’s arm.

He wants to do nothing more--except perhaps turn back the clock and make it so that this never happened--but he cannot step away from Claire and Loretta. He can’t let them out of his sight. He is already distracted enough. What made him come here was knowing that Molly was here, growing closer to these people whom she refuses to believe could have done all the horrible things they have done. He needs to make her see what kind of monsters the Ragans are. And they need to bring down Loretta in order to do that.

“I can’t right now,” Brent tells her.

Molly tracks his gaze over to Claire and Loretta; he can tell that she recognizes Claire at once. “What are you really doing here?” she demands.

“I’ll tell you later.”

“How typical,” Philip says, each syllable spattered with contempt. “You barge in to interrupt your wife’s getaway, and then when she needs you, you walk out.”

“Philip, be quiet,” Molly says.

He ignores the request. “I’m only being honest. Brent has been neglecting you for months. He makes time to stalk you across the country but can’t be bothered to have a serious discussion when you ask for it? It’s pitiful.”

Brent’s fingers coil into a fist, and he prepares to make what he knows is a gigantic mistake.


“I’ve been expecting you for a long while.”

Hearing Loretta Ragan’s voice, after all this time, is exceptionally weird to Claire Fisher. In a way, so is the mere fact that Loretta has a voice--a relatively normal, albeit haughty, voice--or a physical person or anything so mundane. She has been a concept in the distance, a dark shadow hovering over their lives, for so long; experiencing her as a real, live human being is surreal.

For her part, Loretta does not seem at all fazed by their encounter. In fact, she appears to be relishing it.

“What exactly is it that you came here to do?” she asks, chin held high and her lips pursed in the first stages of a tight smirk. “Tell me what a bad, bad woman I am?”

“I want answers.” Claire exerts every ounce of energy she possesses to keep her voice strong and steady. “I want to know why you care so much about my family. What did we ever do to you?”

A wispy laugh emerges from Loretta’s mouth as she shakes her head. “I’m stunned you have no idea. Truly.”

“Who are you? Why would you help Nick Moriani? He wasn’t exactly an innocent man.”

Claire could swear that time slows down as she awaits Loretta’s response. She is very conscious of the small digital recorder taped to her skin, beneath her dress. If she can only capture the woman making some sort of incriminating statement, connecting herself to Nick’s maniacal bomb plot or to Tim’s kidnapping by “Mr. Clayton,” then they will have exactly what they need.

Instead, Loretta makes a suggestion. “Why don’t we step out onto the patio?”

Glancing behind her, Claire can see Brent, now engaged in conversation with Molly and Philip. She knows he is smarter than to blow their mission out of the water when they are so close, but approaching Loretta’s son seems dangerously inconspicuous.

“Allow me to rephrase that,” Loretta says. “Either you join me on the patio, or I have security remove you from the premises immediately. If answers are what you came here to find--”

“Fine.” Claire can see the patio doors from here. Stepping just outside the living room cannot hurt too much. Not if it means getting answers out of the woman.

Loretta leads the way. The air outdoors is considerably cooler than that inside the party, and it grabs Claire by the shoulders and shakes her into an even more heightened sense of awareness. Not a fiber in her body is relaxed as she once more stands before Loretta.

“Let me see your face,” Claire says. “I want to see who you are. See who the person who’s been terrorizing my family is.”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to make demands of me.”

“Let me see.”

A moment of stillness passes before Loretta actually slips the mask off her face. Her skin is tight, with that slight suggestion of translucence that comes from plastic surgery. But she is just a person, a woman probably two decades older than Claire. How can she be the monster who spearheaded so much madness?

“Does that help?” Loretta asks. “Does it answer all your questions? Is the truth suddenly clear?”

“Who are you?”

“I’ve been around for a long time, Claire. You simply weren’t aware of it.”

“But why? Why do you care?”

“Because of what you did.”

Claire opens her mouth to ask what in the world that was--what could she have done to this woman she has never met?--but before she gets the question out, a pair of hands grab her roughly by the arms.

“Let’s move to the backyard,” Loretta says, setting down her drink. “We could use a bit more privacy.”

“Brent! Help!” Claire yells as the hulking man drags her away, even though she suspects the glass doors will muffle her outburst entirely.


Don’t do it. You’ll ruin your entire career. He isn’t worth it.

The voice inside Brent’s head makes a lot of sense, but in the heat of the moment, its reasoning pales in comparison to his ire toward Philip. He wants nothing more than to clock him in his smug, condescending face and knock him into next week.

However, if he has a good read on Philip Ragan’s character--and he thinks that he does--Philip is the type of guy who would revel in dragging Brent through the mud and seeing him reprimanded officially.

And that is when he sees it: the thing that causes him to unclench his fist. He watches as Claire heads out to the patio with Loretta.

“Dammit,” he mutters, his attention now almost fully diverted. Why would she be so naîve?

He turns back to Molly. “We’ll talk later. Soon, I mean. And as for you--” He jabs a finger in Philip’s direction. “Keep your hands off my wife.”

“Where are you going?” Molly asks.

“I have something to take care of.”

As he swings back around, Brent’s eyes peer through the door to the patio, where he can see Claire and Loretta. He needs to get to them. Claire might think it’s safe, but--

“I have a better idea,” Philip says from behind him. Before Brent knows what is happening, a security guard is coming toward him.

His instinct is to pull out his badge, but he has a feeling that would only make things worse right now. Loretta and her staff don’t exactly have a history of playing by the rules.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to leave,” the guard says, already reaching for Brent’s arm.

Brent pulls away. “I’ll leave on my own in a minute. I just have to go get my friend.”

“No. Now.” Again the guard swipes out a hand toward him, and again Brent steps back.

“I’m a police officer,” Brent says, reaching for his badge. “Commander.” He flashes the badge, and that actually gives the guard a moment of pause.

“He isn’t here on police business,” Philip says, stepping up. “He’s my friend’s husband, and he’s here bothering her. Please remove him.”

Deciding that it would be best to avoid being thrown out by force, Brent makes his way to the front door before the guard can drag him there. He tosses one last glance back at the patio door, however, and sees no sign of Claire or Loretta. His heartbeat intensifying, he hurries out front, desperate to figure out his next move.


After Brent’s semi-voluntary exit, Molly can feel herself withdrawing from the party, from the woman she felt like just minutes ago. She can still feel Philip’s lips against hers, and she can still see the devastation on Brent’s face--even behind his mask--when he saw them together. Even her blood feels jumpy, unsettled.

“Why don’t we go into the study?” Philip suggests.

He leads her into the beautifully appointed room, one of several in the house that she has not seen before. It is a heavy room, and not just because it is full of aged leather and dark wood; it immediately strikes Molly as being heavy with history, with the weight of memories and stories and lies. She supposes that she is about to add to all that.

“Philip, about what happened out there--”

“I’m sorry.” His face is full of sincerity, in a way that surprises her for someone who is always so slick, so measured. “What I did was entirely inappropriate.”

It was, but for some reason, she does not know what to say.

“I’m also sorry about the unpleasantness with Brent,” he adds. “I suppose I was a little embarrassed. I never expected him to be here. But the fact remains that he has no business--”

“I know.” Brent’s presence has been tugging at her in a way that has nothing, or at least little, to do with what he saw between her and Philip. And what did he mean when he mentioned his “friend” to the guard? In spite of all the resentment and strife between her and Brent, it occurs to her that it might be best not to mention his other interest in this place to Philip.

“I’ll talk to Brent later,” she says. “I’m sure he knows that he was out of line, but so was I. I never should have let you...” She doesn’t want to say it. Shame stings her stomach.

That was all my fault.” He flashes a genial smile. “And again, I apologize for it. I let my excitement about the party get the best of me, that’s all.”

Molly doesn’t quite believe him, and she is not convinced that he even believes himself, but she is grateful for the opportunity to avoid delving deeper into the matter. Maybe the awkwardness of the situation will force things back to normal between them, allow them to bypass any unnecessary dramatics.

She busies herself by strolling through the office, admiring the furnishings and the old, well preserved stone façade of the fireplace. Framed photographs line the mantle, showing Philip, Spencer, and Loretta throughout the years, as well as a man whom Molly presumes must be--

“That’s my father,” Philip says, reflecting on the spread of photos over her shoulder.

“What a good-looking family,” she says, picking up one particular photo in which Philip is college-aged and Loretta appears as a softer, more natural version of the woman she is in the present. And Mr. Ragan...

“He has one of those very familiar faces,” Molly says, placing the photo back on the mantle. Even as she says it, she is not sure if it’s the truth. She swears that she has seen Philip’s father somewhere before--but she has no idea where or when.


The backyard looks stunningly dark to Claire. The haze of lights from the house still burns the edges of her vision, but as deep into the estate’s grounds as Loretta and her goon are dragging her, the house and the party are little more than distant, vague concepts. She has no idea where they are headed and half-expects to come upon a lake into which she will be hurled.

“This will do,” Loretta orders, and the man stops, forcing Claire to jerk to a stop, as well. She can see a chain-link fence nearby and hears some sort of motion from inside its boundaries, but the dark is too thick to reveal any more detail.

“You don’t want to do this,” Claire says. She needs to get Loretta talking, keep her talking, long enough to capture something on the miniature recorder. She needs to figure out a way out of this. The muscled man’s hands hold her bare arms roughly and unrelentingly.

“On the contrary,” Loretta says, “I very much want to do this. In fact, I have been looking forward to it for some time.” Her lips part, but she seems to reconsider and instead addresses the man behind Claire. “Find the wire.”

In a flash, Claire’s dress is torn, and the exposed recorder is being ripped from her body. Her spirit sinks as she realizes how poorly fit for this entire mission she is. Where is Brent? Surely he saw her go outside. He was right there, watching and waiting.

“As I was saying...” Loretta begins to circle Claire, sizing her up like a lion preparing to make its move on a trapped deer. “This is something I’ve very much wanted for a long, long time. I truly believed Nick would take care of the whole lot of you in that little restaurant, but that didn’t exactly go as planned.”

“Why?” Keep her talking. Keep her talking. “What allegiance did you have to Nick Moriani? And why do you care about my family?”

Loretta pauses, arms folded in front of her. “There’s your problem, dear. They aren’t your family. Not really. But you’ve elevated those people, the Fishers, onto such a pedestal--above even your own flesh and blood.”

Claire doesn’t even know how to respond. What could this woman possibly care about the Fishers, or about Claire’s own tattered family?

Another voice cuts in. “Look what I found,” the man announces. Claire turns her head and sees Brent being dragged toward them by another muscle-bound thug.

“He was creeping around the side of the house,” the thug says.

“Well, this is wonderfully convenient,” Loretta says with a hint of a smile, “because now I can handle both of you at once. As I was saying, after Nick’s botched attempt to rid us of all of you, it seemed wise to remain quiet for a time. But you had to come after me, didn’t you?”

“What the hell is this about?” Brent demands.

“It’s too bad your little friend can’t explain that to you. As I was telling her, though, the problem is that she has no idea how wrong she was in the first place.”

“What did I do?” Claire struggles against the man’s hold, which only drives his fingers further into her flesh. “I don’t even know you!”

Loretta moves closer to the fenced area. Inside it, Claire can now see two sets of glowing eyes cutting through the night.

“You killed my husband,” Loretta says. “You killed him in cold blood, without remorse. You ruined my life. And finally, finally, you are going to pay for it.”

The accusation is so baseless, so utterly insane, that it sends Claire’s head spinning. That’s what this has all been about? Some case of mistaken identity?

“I didn’t kill anyone,” she says.

“It’s odd that you would say that. Because you killed my husband. And now you’re going to pay for it.”

With a snap of her fingers, she has the goons moving Claire and Brent toward the fenced enclosure. They trade looks as they wriggle to get free. Inside the fence, the ferocious dogs stir. Again Loretta snaps her fingers, and the dogs sit.

“I didn’t know your husband,” Claire says. “I couldn’t have killed him. I have no idea who he was.”

“I find that difficult to believe,” Loretta says, locking her eyes upon Claire’s so forcefully that Claire wonders if the woman is about to cast a spell over her. “Because he was your father.”

If her head was spinning before, now it is whirling out of control, struggling to grasp onto any of the words that have just been thrown at her. Her father? Loretta’s husband?

“Give them to the dogs,” Loretta says, and despite Claire and Brent’s thrashing, the thugs do just that.


Is Loretta telling the truth about James Robbins?
How can Claire and Brent get out of this situation?
How does Molly really feel about Philip’s kiss?
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