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- Danielle struggled with her grief after marrying Ryan on his deathbed and then losing him. 
- Cameron reluctantly agreed to record an Objection meeting for Trevor, who had to go to Portland for the day to handle an in-store crisis.
- Brent sent Sarah to Iowa to investigate the real Sabrina Gage, and he was shocked by what she told him about Sabrina’s move to King’s Bay. 

Anger pounds a tribal beat in the man’s ears as he steps off the elevator. He has hated waiting to deal with this, but given everything that has been going on, he had little choice. The wait, however, has only intensified his rage, stuffing it into a pressure cooker until it is ready to blow. Now he moves with determination down the hallway and pounds on the heavy metal door.

Brent,” Philip Ragan says with confusion as he slides open the door to reveal his visitor. “What can I do for you?"

“I want to know what the hell you’re up to,” Brent says.

Philip’s eyes narrow. “I’m afraid I don’t understand."

“Hiring Sabrina Gage? What kind of game are you playing, Ragan?"

“Game?” Philip takes a step back, placing one palm against the exposed brick wall to steady himself. “What does my assistant have to do with anything?"

“Don’t try and play dumb. You set all of this up, didn’t you? My only question is: why?"

“Brent, I don’t…"

  Brent Taylor

“What is going on?” comes another voice, a female one, from inside the loft. An instant later, Claire Fisher appears behind Philip at the door.

“What are you doing here?” Brent asks, genuinely startled by her sudden appearance.

“I'm having coffee with my brother,” she says. “What are you doing here?"

Brent’s jaw clenches. "Trying to put an end to whatever game this joker is playing."

Philip scoffs, his befuddlement of a moment ago giving way to righteous indignation. "I truly have no idea what you're ranting and raving about."

"There's a woman in town going by the name Sabrina Gage," Brent explains to Claire, watching as her face lights up in shock at the name, as he knew it would, "and she just happens to be your brother's new assistant."

Claire turns to Philip. "Is that true?"

"Yes," he says, sputtering, "but I still don't understand what this has to do with anything."

"Don't try and act like you don't recognize the name," Brent says. 

"Of course I recognize the name. She works for me," Philip says as he looks to Claire for help. 

"Sabrina Gage was the woman who killed Courtney," Claire says. 

"I thought that was Shannon something-or-other."

"Sabrina Gage was the name she was using after her cosmetic surgery," Brent says, itching with irritation at this entire drawn-out dog-and-pony show. 

Philip inhales sharply. "I had no idea. I was new in town at the time -- everyone called her Shannon by that point. It does sound vaguely familiar, but I never made the connection."

"Bullshit. I want to know what your angle is," Brent says. 

"Angle? I hit Sabrina's rental car as she was going to the airport. We spoke, and she told me she had an interest in photography and would be willing to move for a job. You can check with my insurance company about the accident--"

"That's some driving record you've got there," Brent cracks. 

Philip's features harden. "Brent, I don't know what sort of convoluted scheme you're trying to accuse me of, but you're thoroughly mistaken."

"I don't think I am," Brent says. "I just need you to fill in the blanks for me. Now start talking."


“Don’t forget to practice this week!” Danielle Taylor calls out the front door to her student and his mother. She waits until their SUV starts up and, after a final wave goodbye, goes back inside the house. Only once the door is closed does she release a loud sigh of exhaustion.

“Thanks for your help,” she tells Jimmy Trask as he sets his guitar back in its case. 

"It's fun," he says with a half-shrug.

"I'm glad it's not total torture for you. I appreciate the help, really." She falls quiet and feels a wave of thoughts rising over her; it takes her a few seconds to push them far enough down so that she can breathe again, let alone speak. 

"How're you holding up?" Jimmy asks. 

"I'm okay." She utters the simple phrase with as much conviction as she can muster, but even as she does, it sounds -- and feels -- hollow. I'm okay. And she is, if she thinks about it. She's here, she has a future, she has employment to tide her over. She has her life. It should be enough. 

"I don't know much about all this stuff," he says, "but I know you don't have to be okay just yet. It's fine if you're not."

"I guess. Yeah." She sits down on the staircase. "I have to figure out what to do with Ryan's house. Put it on the market or whatever. I don't even want to think about it."

Jimmy latches the guitar case closed. "I'm sure Molly or her mother would do it for you if you asked for help."

"You're right. They would." Danielle knows that she is being stubborn, maybe even stupid, but she feels so mired in all of this right now that she cannot imagine acting any other way. Sure, Ryan's family would relieve her of the burden of selling his house, but what kind of testament would it be to their relationship if she cannot even be bothered to handle what is effectively his last piece of business? 

"I thought we would live there," she says, so quietly that she isn't even certain at first whether she said it aloud. 

But Jimmy responds by coming over and taking a seat next to her.

"Would you wanna live there now?" he asks.

"No. Absolutely not. No way. But I thought we were going to, you know? We had a conversation that day about how I could make it work with still looking after the boys but also move in with Ryan. And by that night, we were married. And not even an hour later, he was dead."

She looks over at Jimmy, whose pain is evident in his face. 

"I wish there was something I could do to make this better for you," he says. 


"It's good you have the twins to help with, and your lessons to give. Being busy is good at times like this."

  Danielle Taylor

"I know." But the contradictions are already spilling out of her. "The twins aren't going to need a nanny forever, though. What am I going to have to show for myself once they can drive? Not a lot."

"Two nephews who turn out to be great men because you helped raise 'em."

"Fingers crossed." She rakes her fingers through her blonde hair. "I'm sorry to dump all of this on you. You only came over to pick up some extra cash--"

"And teach a lesson, 'cause I like doing it. And spend time with you, 'cause I like doing that. You don't have to apologize for anything."

She forces a smile at him but then goes back to staring at the wall directly in front of them, where a portrait of Caleb and Christian as infants hangs. There is something so pure, so unspoiled, about them there, and she finds herself wishing with all her might that she could somehow reset her to that state-of-being -- that she could be a person who believed the whole world was truly ahead of her and hers for the taking. 


Brent and Philip stand there, caught in a tug-of-war with an invisible rope. Claire stands by until she cannot bear it any longer. 

"Excuse us for a second," she says to Philip, and then she takes Brent by the arm and leads him several feet down the hallway. 

"What is going on with you?" she asks.

Brent grits his teeth as he watches Philip retreat inside the loft, though the door remains open. 

"It's too weird to be a coincidence," he says. "This woman turns up here, scares the crap out of Jason, and just happens to be working for Philip?"

"Crazier things have happened. Who is she? Why is she using that name?"

"That's the thing. She says she's the woman who was in a coma in Iowa -- the woman whose identity Shannon stole. I've done enough digging to be pretty sure I believe her."

Thin lines spider out from Claire's eyes as she squints, thinking this through. "And why would she be in King's Bay?"

"She showed up at the arena wanting Jason to, I don't know, sign some affidavit saying she wasn't the person who killed Courtney. Said she was having all sorts of problems finding work and things because Shannon had made such a wreck using her Social Security Number."

"Okay," Claire says. "So she came to town independently, wanted something specific, and then ran into Philip and took his job offer." She pauses, clearly hoping he will concede. When he doesn't, she adds, "It does make sense."

"It seems really weird to me," Brent says stubbornly. 

"The whole thing is weird. It doesn't mean Philip is up to something. And it's possible you're a little prejudiced on that front, isn't it?"

He rolls his eyes. "Maybe a little."

"I'm not saying you're wrong for considering the possibility," she says. "That's why you're so good at your job. But if you ask me, this looks like a false alarm."

Brent lets out a loud huff. "I'm still going to keep an eye on this."

"As you should. Hey, how about that dinner we keep saying we're going to get? What are you doing tonight?"

"Trying to distract me, huh?"

"Possibly. So: dinner plans?"

"I have the boys this week," he explains, "but they have their basketball camp all day long. They need to be in bed early. If you want, you can come over, I'll grill, and once they turn in, we can have some peace and quiet."

"That sounds good. Let me know what I can bring." She looks back toward the loft. "Want to go tell Philip that you aren't going to arrest him for hiring a potentially weird woman?"

"I'll leave that up to you," Brent says, as annoyance and embarrassment scuffle for dominance of his emotions. "I'll call you about dinner later."

"Great. Looking forward to it."

Claire goes back into Philip’s loft, and Brent returns to the elevator, not wanting to admit that he might have allowed his personal bias toward Philip cloud his judgment in this particular situation. 

Objection Designs

"Molly Taylor's office. Hold please," Cameron Kelley says with forced perkiness, before he punches a button to switch back to line 1.

"I think 12:30 next Tuesday will work well," he says into the small microphone attached to his headset. "Great. I'll mark it down. Thanks again."

With a loud exhale, he switches back to line 2. The morning has been relentless, especially because Molly has not been in today, so everyone who might normally waltz in hoping for a moment of face-to-face time has taken to the phones instead. Cameron is relieved that he will be able to send their phones to voicemail once he goes to meet his boss at their offsite meeting -- though, of course, that will mean making sure he uses Alex's stupid digital device to record the meeting for Trevor, and even the idea of doing a work-related favor for that washed-up model makes Cameron's blood boil.

"Sorry about that," he says to the caller, who has been waiting on hold for maybe 30 seconds total. "How can I help you?"

"Cameron, it's Brent," the voice on the other end announces. "Is Molly in?"

"She isn't, sorry. Would you like me to try and reach her for you?"

As he finishes his question, one of the summer interns -- a girl with an impossibly slim waist and an impossibly annoying laugh -- walks through the door with a large basket covered in pink cellophane. 

"This was just delivered for Ms. Taylor," she says at full volume, despite registering that Cameron is on the phone. 

"Is she in a meeting?" Brent asks. "I don't want you to pull her out of anything."

Cameron motions for the intern to leave the basket on the credenza against the wall, which she takes a maddeningly long time to do before scurrying out of the office again. 

"She's actually visiting a vendor this morning. There's an offsite meeting this afternoon -- I'm going to meet her in a little bit. I'd be happy to give her a message for you." 

"I'll try her on her cell later," Brent says. "But thanks. Take care, Cameron."

"Thanks. You, too."

Cameron ends the call, and then there is, after all the chaos, beautiful silence. He eyeballs the high-end gift basket on the credenza, with its various cheeses and chocolate bars and a bottle of red wine that is no doubt expensive. He rises from his chair, intent on checking the note that came with it, but then the phone sounds its shrill demand once more. 

"Ugh," he groans as he reaches out a finger to field this latest call. "Molly Taylor's office."


"Thank you for handling that," Philip says as he and Claire return to the dining table, where their coffee cups await. "I'm relieved you were here to help."

"Happy to do it." Claire slides into her chair. "Brent is under a lot of pressure right now."

"That's no excuse for barreling in here like a wild animal and accusing me of god knows what."

"I know. And I think he knows that, too. He had just built up a head of steam about it."

"I swear, I never made the connection between Sabrina and that other woman," Philip says as he picks up the pristine white mug. "Sabrina is-- she's very sweet. Very naive. I don't think I could use her as part of some nefarious scheme even if I wanted to."

Claire grins. "I'm trying to figure out what Brent thought you would be doing."

"I truly have no idea.” He sighs and takes a sip of his coffee. “I suppose we know this is really about Molly."

“I’m sure it is, in some way, even if he doesn’t realize it."

Claire wraps her hands around her mug. “Have you seen her lately? What’s going on?"

“To tell the truth, I’m not sure,” he says. “I’ve run into her once since Ryan’s funeral--"

“You guys seemed awfully close there."

“Yes, but she was grieving. And I didn’t have any ulterior motive aside from paying my respects and offering my support. Of course, I was hoping it might bring us closer again, but I can’t exactly control that.” 

  Claire Fisher

“Especially not by hiring a woman who has the same name as the lunatic who murdered her sister-in-law…"

Philip lets out a wry snicker. “Don’t forget ramming my car into hers first."

“That, too. I know it seems crazy from our side, but Brent is really trying to leave no stone unturned when it comes to these murders. I can’t say I blame him."

“Now that Helen Chase has been arrested, maybe things will calm down.” 

“I still can’t believe that happened,” Claire says. “But yeah -- maybe we can all breathe easier if the killer really has been caught.” 


After Jimmy leaves, Danielle noodles on her own guitar for a bit. She feels that familiar itch inside, the uneasy shuffling of thoughts and sensations eager to be unleashed in the form of a song, but as her fingers test out different notes and chords, nothing clicks. She has always been fairly confident in her songwriting when it begins with either a lyrical phrase or a snippet of music, but this way — with something so abstract, a feeling that she needs to find a way to release — has never been her forte.

It is almost a relief when the doorbell rings. 

Danielle sets down her guitar on the couch and heads to the foyer. She pulls open the door and finds Cameron standing there with a messenger bag over his shoulder and a large, wrapped gift basket in his arms.

“Hi,” he says. “I have a few things to drop off for Molly."

“Come on in.” Danielle takes the gift basket from him and sets it down on the nearby sideboard.

Cameron roots around in his bag and produces a thin black binder. “Could you make sure that she gets this? She said she isn’t coming back to the office after the meeting, and I wanted her to be able to look this over tonight or tomorrow before work."

“I’ll keep it safe,” Danielle says, setting it down beside the gift basket.

“The gift basket came this morning, so I thought I’d bring it by, too,” Cameron says as he zips up his bag. “Looks like a great bottle of Cabernet in there."

Danielle catches herself glancing toward the basket, but even doing so for a split-second sends guilt radiating through her being.

“Thanks, Cameron,” she says. “You’re headed to meet Molly now?"

“Yeah. We have this visuals meeting up north."

“Well, enjoy. Or good luck."

He grins. “Thanks. I’m sure it’ll be a blast."

He goes, and Danielle returns to the family room. She picks up her guitar and attempts to get back into a groove, though she is quickly reminded that she was not in a groove at all, but rather desperately in search of one that has yet to materialize. She slumps back into the couch, the guitar propped up on her lap.

“What am I even doing?” she mutters. Her voice sounds uncomfortably loud in the otherwise silent house. 

A different sort of itch pushes down the phantom of a song that has been trying to force its way out of her.

This is it, she thinks. All these years of hard work and trying her best, and she’s sitting in an empty house, attempting to write a song that no one will ever hear or care about. 

The itch intensifies. She knows this feeling well: it’s as if a black cloud is enveloping her, blocking out anything good, making sure she sees only darkness.

And even though she knows that, it still works. She found Ryan, they wasted far too much time, and now he’s gone. Elly is off at law school, pursuing her own life — and Danielle blew the chance to have all those years with her in the first place. The twins are going to be old enough to drive in just a few years. Then they won’t need her, either. Molly and Brent keep her employed out of pity. And she hasn’t written anything worthwhile in years.

With that cloud swirling around her, she sets down the guitar again. Her feet carry her to the foyer, and then her fingers are undoing the cellophane. That familiar, excited, nervous anticipation twitches inside her chest and stomach as she carries the bottle to the kitchen and finds the corkscrew.

This is wrong, she tells herself, but she is over the edge now. No amount of logic matters.

It’s just like playing the guitar. She hasn’t done this in years and years, but her hands have not forgotten. When the cork pops out, it sounds like exactly what it is: freedom.

“Just one glass,” she tells herself, fingers trembling as she reaches for a wine glass, then opts instead for a plastic tumbler so that there won’t be any evidence.

She places the tumbler on the counter — and then she stops. This is insane. All these years of sobriety can’t just be bought back. She has worked too hard to throw them away.

Yeah, you’ve worked hard. And what do you have to show for it? a voice asks from deep inside her.

No one has to know.

“Just one glass,” she repeats quietly. 

But she knows that is a lie as soon as she takes that first, glorious sip, the wine stinging her throat and washing away the shame.


Will Danielle realize that she’s making a mistake?
Could Sabrina be playing Philip?
Will Cameron actually do what he promised Trevor?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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