Episode #605

- Alex discovered that Jason was taking sleeping pills to help with his insomnia following Courtney’s death.
- Philip’s brother, Spencer, called him in a rage to report that all the Ivy League schools that had admitted him for the fall had, in the wake of Loretta’s arrest, suddenly rescinded their admission offers.
- Diane discovered that her sister is engaged to Julian St. John, who was arrested years ago for running the Objection Designs drug ring with Nick Moriani. Natalie and Julian wanted Vision Publishing to publish Julian’s memoirs about his crimes and prison time, but Diane refused.


Alex Marshall awoke this morning with a tank full of gas. He happily got out of bed as the sun was still climbing into the sky, made a quick trip to the gym, returned home to shower and dress, and then stopped at a bagel shop to purchase a few items to undo whatever he accomplished at the gym. Still riding this wave of energy, he drove over to his friend Jason’s house, as planned, and now he stands on the front porch. Unfortunately, this is where he loses his momentum.

He rings the doorbell once and waits. No answer. He tries again. Leaning in closer to the door, he swears that he can hear a faint wailing from inside.

A third ring of the doorbell produces no results. With his heart pounding a little harder, Alex leaves the paper bag of bagels on the front step and goes into the backyard to try the back door. Unsurprisingly, it is also locked. His concern escalates into panic as he realizes that the sound from within the house is definitely Sophie crying.

He freezes in the driveway, caught between the backyard and the front door. Then he recalls that he has a spare key to Jason’s car on his key ring, from when they lived together. Thankfully, the car is parked in the driveway; the garage is occupied by Courtney’s car, which Jason still has not brought himself to sell. Alex hurries to unlock the car and finds Jason’s remote control for the garage door clipped to the sun visor.

Within moments, he is sprinting into the house. “Jason!” he calls out, even as he follows the sound of Sophie’s crying up the stairs and into her room. He finds the little girl in her crib, perfectly fine except for the tears streaming down her face and the flushed cheeks that indicate she has been screaming for some time.

“Come here, honey. It’s okay,” he says, scooping her into his arms. She quiets almost immediately, and his nose tells him that she simply needs a diaper change. I’ll deal with that in a minute, he thinks, still troubled by one factor:

Where the hell is Jason?

Carrying Sophie, he rushes to Jason’s room. The sight of his friend unmoving in the bed spikes Alex’s nerves. He races to the side of the bed.

“Jason! Jason, wake up.” He uses one hand to nudge Jason, while holding Sophie in the other arm. She tries to wriggle out of his hold and climb onto her father.

“Can you hear me?” Alex demands of the still body. He can hardly force out the words as a thousand horrible possibilities rage through his mind.

Blessedly, Jason turns over and opens his eyes. The lids are heavy, his vision unfocused, but he is awake and seemingly okay.

“Alex?” he says, his voice croaky and lethargic. “Soph? Come here, baby.” Alex sets Sophie down on the bed, and she giddily crawls over Jason’s chest.

“What’s going on?” Alex asks. “Are you okay?”

“What are you doing in here?”

Alex is about to answer when his gaze travels to the nightstand--and the bottle of sleeping pills standing upon it.


“Sir, you can’t bring this in with you,” says the guard with a stern glare.

Spencer Ragan looks with exasperation at the blown-glass pipe that has just been removed from his jeans pocket. “It’s for medical purposes. I have a card.”

The guard, a lady in her fifties who has the lines etched in her brow to indicate that she has seen through much sounder stories, frowns at him. “Still can’t bring it in. You can pick it up at the desk with the rest of your stuff when you leave.”

Deciding that the pipe is not worth the argument at the moment, Spencer watches it be placed into a small plastic bin with his iPhone, money clip, and Burt’s Bees lip balm. He checks in at a dingy window in this even dingier place. He swears he can see the residue of a thousand disgusting people’s saliva spattered over the grimy glass as he waits for his visitor’s pass.

A male guard with a close-cropped beard leads him into the visiting room, where apparently only family and attorneys are permitted. Somehow the openness of the room reassures Spencer; he had visions of having a piece of glass between him and his mother, having to talk to her on one of those creepy plastic telephones. He settles at a rickety table that looks like it was once used for picnics in Hell--or New Jersey, or something--and waits.

When they bring in Loretta, clad in a jumpsuit so stereotypically orange it makes Spencer want to throw up, a few minutes later, all he can see is how tired she seems. And how old. He wonders when the last time was that he saw his mother without makeup.

Spencer rises, and they share a mechanical hug. They have never been much of a hugging family, anyway, but with the guards and a few other prisoners watching them, the act feels even more foreign and stilted to Spencer.

“It’s wonderful to see you,” Loretta says as she sits down across from him. The words sound weary. There are lines at the corners of her mouth that he has never noticed.

“How is it?” Spencer asks, careful to measure out each syllable.

She sighs. “I’d be lying if I said it were pleasant... but at least the attorneys will have me out of here soon enough. I’m sure of it.”

A flame that has been burning in his chest ignites into a full-blown fire. “You’d better hope not.”

“Excuse me?”

“You really fucked things up, Mother.” He doesn’t blink, just stares at her, lets the weight of it hit her. “Princeton revoked my admission. Suddenly none of the other schools want me in, either. They all say they’ve ‘had to reconsider.’ Convenient that this happens right after you’re busted for being a--I don’t even know--crime boss? What the hell is all this?”

He expects her to snap back at him, but instead she sits back in her chair and observes him. She knots her fingers together and, when she finally responds, her voice is softer and slower than anything he heard in his head.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m sorry all this has happened. I’ve only wanted to protect you and Philip. I hope you know that.”

He does know that. It doesn’t change the fact that he is suddenly without a university to attend.

“That didn’t exactly work, did it?” he says. “I’m screwed, and Philip ran back to that place in Washington to see Molly and that--our sister.”

Something flares inside Loretta and threatens to burst through her skin. It scares Spencer in a way that his mother has not scared him since he was a little boy.

“Do not call her that!”

“But she is--”

“I want you to listen to me carefully. I’ve made some mistakes, certainly, but this is not my fault.” Loretta leans in, as if physically driving the words into his body. “The person to blame is that woman--Claire Fisher.”


“Sorry to make you come all the way down here,” Diane Bishop says as she bustles about, unpacking her things for the workday, “but I have too crazy a day to do a breakfast or anything.”

Sarah Fisher stands at the entry to her friend’s office, maintaining a safe distance as she watches Diane buzz about. “No, it’s fine. I have a meeting downtown a little later, so it works well. Besides, this definitely calls for an in-person discussion.”

“My thoughts exactly. Can you believe my idiot sister? Julian St. John?”

Despite having had nearly an full day to digest the news, Sarah’s eyes still bug out of her head at the mention of the name. “I can’t believe he’s in the picture. I can’t believe he’s anywhere near any picture I’m even vaguely associated with.”

“Maybe he’ll bash Natalie over the head with the frame and run away,” Diane muses whimsically.

“I don’t get it,” Sarah says, coming further into the office. “Why does your sister think it’s a good idea to marry a guy who just got out of jail for drug trafficking?”

“Because she thinks he’s misunderstood. Or so she’s convinced herself. Mostly she wants attention.”

“And I don’t know why Julian would decide to stick around King’s Bay. It’s not like he’s going to be able to get a job here.”

“No, but he can try to peddle his memoirs. Which is where I come in.” Diane looks to the bookshelf, where a number of bestsellers that she oversaw--including Ryan Moriani’s personal story--sit on display. “It’s his only chance at making any money off his mess of a life.”

“Has Natalie really not considered the possibility that he targeted her because of her connection to you?” Sarah asks.

Diane plugs her Blackberry into the charger waiting on her desk. “Natalie isn’t capable of considering that things might not be about her. It’s our parents’ fault. Everything was always about her and her gymnastics and her schedule and--” She interrupts herself and shakes her head. “If you’ve been a brat for that many years, it becomes impossible to change.”

Sarah stands back and observes Diane as she continues getting settled for the day. Rarely has she seen Diane be as plainly overtaken by emotion as she seems to be when discussing her sister. Usually she is much more in control, much more measured and biting. But where Natalie is concerned, Diane appears to be on the verge of snapping at all times. It reminds Sarah of how she feels when Molly gets too involved in her business.

“So you’re not considering his book, right?” Sarah says.

“No, no, no. Not even close.” Diane’s eyes, already pronounced thanks to dark, dramatic makeup, flare even wider. “I have half a mind to make that jackass pay for the Manolos and Donna Karan skirt his Rottweiler destroyed.”

The memory of their stakeout adventure brings a smile to Sarah’s face, even as she says, “I could still strangle him for setting me up the way he did. I spent weeks investigating his wife to find out if she was cheating on him, and then it all turned out to be some phony manipulation.”

“At least you figured him out in the end,” Diane says. “I have a feeling my sister isn’t going to be so lucky.”


Even through his haze of lingering sleep, Jason tracks Alex’s attention to the bottle of sleeping pills on the nightstand. Alex glances back at him, and the silent questioning--accusing--is like a shot of adrenaline to the barely-awake man.

“You know I’ve been having trouble sleeping,” Jason says. “The doctor prescribed them for me. They just knock me out really hard sometimes.”

“How many of these did you take?”

“Two.” Jason tips his head to the side. “Don’t start acting like I’m some out-of-control pill addict, Alex. I took two.”

Alex swipes the bottle from the nightstand; he isn’t sure why, exactly. Gripping it in his hand, he says, “Sophie was screaming her head off when I got here. You didn’t hear her?”

Jason’s mouth flaps open, but no words come out. He reaches for the baby monitor and fiddles with its dial. “The battery must have died during the night. Oh, God.” He picks Sophie up off the bed and cradles her close to him. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. I’m so sorry. I didn’t--”

Alex watches the scene, uncertain of how to feel. On one hand, he feels terrible for Jason, who is clearly horrified by what just happened. On the other, he knocked himself out with sleeping pills and didn’t hear his daughter crying loud enough to wake half the neighborhood.

“You can’t keep doing this,” Alex says.

Jason’s focus snaps back to him. “Doing what?”

“Trying to do everything. You’re exhausted, Jason. You’re killing yourself at the office, you’re handling Sophie all by yourself, and you’re still... It’s a lot to handle, that’s all.”

“I know. But I’m fine, I swear.” He clutches Sophie tightly to him.

“Maybe we can get someone in to help. A nanny. And you know your parents, and Don and Helen, would be happy--”

“No. I’ve got it under control. Seriously.”

“I don’t think you do.”

The two men stare each other down. Seconds pass; ten of them feel like a minute, twenty of them feel like an hour.

“You should go,” Jason finally says.


“Go. I have a lot to do today. And I have to change my daughter.”

Realizing that he is not going to win this battle right now, Alex retreats from the room. He doesn’t want to leave them like this, knows he can’t let this go on, but confronting Jason directly is clearly not going to yield the necessary results. On his way out, he remembers the bagels and leaves them on the kitchen counter.


Spencer does not think he has ever seen his mother as angry as she becomes at the mere introduction of this Claire woman into their conversation. Loretta is usually such a reserved woman, letting her emotions pool beneath the surface, as if she is saving something for later; now, however, the venom is on display for all to see.

“Claire is the reason all of this is happening,” she says.

“She didn’t force you to do the things you did.”

“That’s what you think. Spencer, dear, you never knew your father. But he was a loving man. He prized family above all else. And Claire, she--” Now she pauses, as if needing to recalibrate. “She played on his devotion and then tossed him aside for a man. When it came time to choose, she opted to kill her own father rather than lose her place in that family she had married into.”

Spencer has heard murmurs of this in recent weeks, but none of it quite seems real. For as long as he can remember, the story was that his father died in an explosion shortly after Spencer’s adoption became final. To learn that he was killed...

“How did she kill him?” he asks.

“She shoved him off a scaffold. She had the choice to help him, and instead she pushed him. She watched him plummet to his death and then went back to her happy little life in Washington without remorse.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Because she’s a sociopath. Would you like to know something else? This man she married--this man who was so important that she murdered her own father for him--when he died, she turned around and became engaged to his brother.”


“That’s right. She’s cold and uncaring and she played upon your father’s love for her. She used him for years and then discarded him when she was tired of him.”

Spencer attempts to process all this. He only saw this Claire woman for a few minutes at the party, as his mother was being loaded into a police car, and she seemed harmless enough. Then again, so did Loretta. Anything is possible, he is learning.

“Why are you telling me this?” he says.

“Because I love you. And I understand that you’re angry with me for all of this becoming so public. I’m deeply sorry for any embarrassment this is causing you. But if this is what it takes to keep you safe from her--to make sure you know what kind of evil that woman is--then perhaps it will all be worthwhile in the end.”

“Maybe,” is all Spencer can mutter. Too many thoughts are darting around in his head.

“We’ll do what we can to resolve this university situation,” Loretta says. “With any luck, I’ll be released shortly, and then we can begin reassembling our normal lives. In the meantime, though, I need you to trust me. I need you to understand that the real villain here is not a woman who fought to protect her sons and the memory of her husband, but the woman who killed her own father in cold blood and then went merrily on her way. If you need to blame anyone for what’s happened, blame her.”

Spencer finds himself nodding along. His mother might have screwed up by getting caught, but Claire Fisher brought this on by murdering their father years ago. If anyone needs to pay for making a mess of their lives, it is her.


Will Loretta’s brainwashing of Spencer work?
What should Alex do about Jason’s troubling situation?
Can Diane be rid of Natalie and Julian that easily?
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