Episode #595

- Philip apologized to Molly for kissing her. She was uncertain how she felt about the kiss but was alarmed when she spotted a picture of Philip’s father and was sure that he looked familiar.
- Loretta had her henchmen drag Claire and Brent into the backyard, where she threw them into a fenced area with her attack dogs, planning to leave them for dead.
- Loretta finally revealed the motive behind her vendetta: she blamed Claire for the death of her husband--who happened to be Claire’s late father, James Robbins!


Inside the house, the grand masked ball continues, a spectacle of high society and excess. Elsewhere on the grounds of the Ragan estate, deep enough that the lights and noise from the party are but a faint suggestion in the distance, things are much less festive, much more dire--though no less surreal.

Claire Fisher cannot shake the thought that this must be a nightmare. As two musclebound men force her and Brent Taylor into the fenced enclosure where two vicious dogs’ eyes blaze through the dark like the headlights of some caravan from hell, the words that Loretta uttered a moment ago continue to assault her mind:

He was your father.

Now Loretta stands there, so smug, her arms folded over her chest, as she watches her goons deposit Claire and Brent inside the fenced area. The two pit bulls lie on their chests, waiting. Their noses, however, lift to attention at the prospect of these two new visitors.

“You couldn’t have been married to my father,” Claire says. She has to keep Loretta talking. The woman obviously wants to brag about all she has accomplished. “I would have known--”

“You might have known if James Robbins were married to me, yes. Not James Ragan, however.” The high collar of Loretta’s fiery red dress rises up behind her neck, making her look even more like some kind of devil. “The point was that you didn’t know, that no one in that life would ever know.”

Brent takes advantage of the distraction to force an elbow into the gut of the man holding him. He is promptly rewarded with a thick fist to the head. A sickening smack fills the air; its sheer brutality robs Claire of what breath she has left.

“Now leave them in there,” Loretta says. The goons manage to do so in an instant, slipping out of the enclosure and closing the door. One of them snaps a padlock shut.

“Wait,” Claire says, with one eye on the dogs, who are quivering in anticipation of their orders. “I didn’t want my father to die. But he kidnapped my son. He was going to kill my husband--”

“The husband you later left for his own brother? He truly must have been worth it.”

“You can’t get away with this,” Brent interjects, spinning to face Loretta. “Two people killed at your party? Everything will come out. You’ll be ruined.”

Loretta unfolds her arms and takes a step closer to the fence. “Quite the contrary. Two intruders found torn to shreds on my grounds... guard dogs doing their job... it’s the perfect killing, actually.”

One of the dogs lets out a low, guttural growl.

“You are demented beyond all reason!” Claire says, desperation swelling within her. “Let us out of here. This won’t bring my father back. He’s gone.”

“Because of you!” The voice that tears out of Loretta is wild, utterly without control. It sounds little like the measured, calculated woman Claire has encountered thus far tonight.

And then she gives the order: “Now... attack!”


As he watches the New Hampshire night through the window of the moving vehicle, the man cannot help but notice how black the sky looks. It seems unnatural, too clear, too dark, as if foreshadowing some horrible end to this night.

“How much longer?” he asks.

“Only a few minutes,” comes the response from the front seat.

The man shifts in the back seat, but he still cannot get comfortable. He is too antsy. He would prefer to sit up front--actually, he would prefer to be driving, faster than this. Much faster. Anything to get to the house.

He has to get there. Time is running out.


In Loretta’s study, Molly Taylor carefully sets a framed photograph back on the mantle. As she does so, she cannot help but continue to stare at it--in particular, at the man pictured with Loretta and a college-aged Philip.

“He has one of those very familiar faces,” she says, but something continues to nag at her.

She turns around and, once she is facing Philip, immediately feels the tension between them. The ghost of their kiss lingers in the air. Her brain pumps words to her mouth, determined to quell the awkwardness.

“Spencer must have been just a baby when your father passed away,” she says.

Philip nods. “My parents were in the process of adopting a son when my father died suddenly. The adoption was hardly complete when my father went on a business trip, and...”

“What happened to him?” she asks softly.

“There was an explosion at a plant he was visiting in South America.” Philip pauses and draws a deep breath; the gravity of the loss shows on his face, causing his features to constrict. “It was... devastating. My mother nearly fell apart. If she hadn’t had Spencer to raise, especially with me being almost an adult at that point...”

Molly’s instinct is to reach out, take his hands, embrace him, anything to show her compassion, but in light of what just happened between them, contact of any kind seems inappropriate.

“I’m so sorry,” she offers instead, making sure to meet his eyes.

Philip moves to the desk, his gaze sweeping over the room as if trying to soak in all the history and memories. He picks up another photograph, this one in an elaborate frame that has the phrase “Happy Anniversary” etched in cursive along the top border. The photo shows Loretta and her late husband in happy times.

“I know how terribly she misses him,” Philip says. “Part of me has always hoped that she would find someone else, but I suspect that for her, he was it.”

That face. Even from a distance, the familiarity of it plagues Molly. Something about that man...

All at once, Philip sets the photograph back down. “I’m sorry. I didn’t bring you here to muse on my father’s death. Or to cause problems in your marriage, I suppose. This has really been quite the party, hasn’t it?”

“We just needed a time-out.” She goes to the desk and reads the words along the bottom border of the frame that Philip was just holding: James and Loretta.

“Your father’s name was James?” she asks.


In a rush, it comes to her. It makes no sense at all, but it all makes sense. Suddenly she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Brent and Claire have been right all along.


Brent remembers all too well being in the basement of the Fisherman’s Pier restaurant when Nick Moriani detonated the bombs scattered over the property. Whenever the blast flashes before his eyes or, worse, haunts his nightmares, he is always overcome by the sense that the world is caving in around him. Not just the building--the entire world. It is as if his consciousness is folding in upon itself in the most violent manner possible.

That is, strangely, exactly how it feels when the pit bulls attack. Nothing outside the fence matters anymore, and the enclosure itself seems to collapse in on him and Claire.

“Stay!” he shouts, but the dogs are already leaping toward them.

Brent pushes Claire behind him and assumes a stance: his good leg in front for balance, one arm held up in front of his neck.

“Down! Down!”

The dogs are less than a foot away now, their glowing eyes locked upon their targets as if daring them to make a single move. Brent remains as still as he can, in light of the shaking that has overtaken his body. His good foot quivers against the ground as he tries to hold it in place. He has been in some hairy situations over the years, facing off with criminals, lunatics, desperate people with dangerous weapons, but this ranks up there with the most fearful he has ever been. At least you can attempt to reason with a person.

“I should be going,” Loretta’s voice trills from outside the fence. “As much as I would love to savor this, it wouldn’t do for me to be present at the site of the ‘accident.’” She sounds so calm, almost serene.

One of the dogs growls and inches closer. It circles around them, and Brent tries to rotate accordingly, keeping Claire behind him. He shuffles his weight, trying to maintain his balance on the soft ground.

“Stay!” Brent commands.

The dog takes no heed and instead lunges at him. The next thing he knows, its teeth have made contact and are clamping down like he were a piece of meat.


Molly’s stomach turns over on itself, queasiness mounting within her in the wake of her realization. She didn’t want to believe that Brent and Claire’s theory about Philip’s mother had any basis in reality--simply put, it made no sense. But Loretta’s late husband was James Robbins. Now the whole thing is crystal-clear.

How could Claire not have known about Loretta? Is Philip Claire’s brother? Hundreds of similar questions pound on her brain, but at the moment, she knows that she needs to play it cool.

“Is everything all right?” Philip asks, noticing her distraction.

“Oh, um, yeah.” She forces a faint smile. “I’m just a little out of sorts from earlier.”

He is still wearing his mask from the party, and it occurs to Molly how fitting that is: she might have no idea who this man is. Has he been using her along, using her to get to her family on his mother’s behalf? She tries to recount the times they have spent together, whether she can pick out signs of Philip having had an ulterior motive.

“I should find Brent,” she says. “I can’t stay for a party now, not with what happened.”

“I’m so sorry,” Philip says contritely.

She stops to examine him once more. He seems sincere. Then again, if he is working with Loretta, he must be a skilled liar; he has been doing it for months and months, and never once has she been the least bit suspicious.

She pulls out her phone and calls Brent. It rings once, twice, three and then four times before the voicemail clicks in. He might be ignoring her--he has every right to--but what he said about having to find his friend before leaving...

“I need to go,” she says before bolting from the room and toward the front door of the house.


The ringing of the phone in Brent’s pocket only makes the dogs wilder. The one that is clamped onto his prosthetic leg digs in even deeper, with such force that Brent can feel the thing about to pull off. For the first time since he lost his leg several years ago, he is a bit grateful for the loss.

“Down! Stop!” Claire screams at the dog.

“Stay behind me,” he tells her. The words come out as a sort of guttural growl. He uses one arm to hold her back.

From outside the fence, Loretta’s voice floats through the air: “Please see to it that the job is completed. I don’t want any loose ends being left around.”

The other dog joins the first in tearing at Brent’s leg. In a matter of seconds, they have torn his prosthetic loose.

“You aren’t going to get away with this!” he screams in Loretta’s general direction. She offers some kind of rote answer, but he is too busy trying to maintain his balance on one leg. Claire tightens her grip on him and hooks a hand around his waist to help.

Suddenly, beams of light come flying at them. Even the dogs pause momentarily.

“Police! What’s going on back here?” comes a male voice from some distance away.

Only now does Brent realize how hard his heart is beating, how ineffective and shallow his breaths are.

“Claire! Brent! Where are you?”

The voice is immediately familiar, but it is so out-of-place that its identity does not immediately register for Brent.

“Mrs. Ragan?” the first man’s voice asks.

“Claire!” shouts the other voice again, and this time, Brent recognizes it as belonging to Tim.

“What the hell is going on?” Tim asks as he runs up to the fence. “Open this door!” he screams at one of Loretta’s men.

But before anyone heeds his orders, the dogs drop the prosthetic leg and lunge at their victims again.


What is Tim doing there?
Will Brent and Claire escape from the dogs unscathed?
Is Molly right to be wary of Philip?
Come talk about this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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