For Now and Forever
EPISODE #62 (Tuesday
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
Sara Manchester set quietly in the library as she kept her eyes firmly focused on Douglas Davis who sat behind the large wooden desk that had belong to Thornton Preston. As she bit her lip in nervousness, she glanced over to a stony faced Helga Grimm who met her gaze with eyes filled with hatred. Sara wrung her hands nervously as she thought about her reasons for being there.
"Douglas, when is this going to be over with?" she asked as she turned away from Helga. "I-I still don't understand why I'm here. Why am I mentioned in Mr. Preston's will?"
"Because you talked your way into it!" Helga snapped as she sprung to her feet. "And then you talked Mr. Preston into his grave!"
"Miss Grimm, that's enough!" Douglas barked as he leaned across the desk. "Let's just get this over with without fighting." He exhaled slowly and then leaned back into his chair. As he strummed his fingers on the desk, he quickly glanced at his watch. "Sara, do you have any idea where Dane is?"
"N-no, I don't," she muttered as she remembered the horrible argument they'd had earlier. He'd been none too pleased with her deception concerning her employment for Mr. Preston. Sara feared that their marriage was now damaged beyond repair.
"Well, I guess we can wait for him," Douglas sighed. "We're still waiting on Mrs. Preston to arrive, as well."
"Ah, looks like we have a full house," the voice echoed in the room.
In unison, Douglas, Helga, and Sara turn to see Dane Manchester, eyes still filled with anger, standing in the doorway.
THE SUNSET HOTEL - JILLIAN & JANET'S SUITE - LIVING ROOM
"I can't believe you just let her disappear!" Reginald Callison shouted as he paced around the room.
"I didn't just let her! She ran out, upset over the fact that I found out who she really was. I went after her, but I couldn't find her!" Burt Lamont was beginning to let the stress get the better of him. He'd been worried sick about his girlfriend Janet ever since her sister Judith had revealed Janet's true identity and past mental instability.
"Well, she has to be out there somewhere," Jillian Stokes muttered as rested her chin in her hands. "She just couldn't have vanished into thin air."
"She has to be okay! She has to be!" Burt sank down onto the sofa and buried his head in his hands as he thought about exactly how much he loved Janet and how his feelings for her would never change.
"Actually, I'm glad to finally meet you, Burt," Jillian said as she sat down next to him. "I know that you must mean a lot to her. I just wish the circumstances were different."
"Why are you all acting like this is such a big deal?" Judith Linford spoke up as she folded her arms across her chest and glared at them. "It's not like the little twit hasn't run off like this before!"
"And if I recall, you had a hand in that, too!" Jillian shot her and angry look as she remembered the roll she'd had in Janet's elopement with Gordon Scott.
"You are all making entirely too much out of this! She's just run off to have a good cry. She'll be back in no time." Judith paused and smiled slyly. "Unless you think she's way crazier than you're letting on."
"That will be enough!" Reginald spoke up as he grabbed her arm and gave it a painful twist in an effort to silence her. "Shut up!"
"Ouch!" she winced and quickly pulled away. She eyed him angrily and took a deep breath. "The only reason I haven't slapped you is because I've grown to respect you very much, Reginald...despite Daddy's feelings about you!"
"Judith, shut up!" The entire situation had been very difficult on Jillian's nerves. She'd had to endure months of Judith and Janet at each other's throats as well as the stress of trying to keep Janet's sordid past a secret from Reginald. Maybe, if she'd just confided in him sooner...
"Well, we've called the police and told them to search for her," Reginald said as he turned his back to Judith. "But they said there's really nothing they can do...not yet, at least."
"What if you tell them about how nutty Janet is?" Judith tapped her lips with her finger as if she were actually trying to think of ways to help. "I'm sure that they might throw out the dragnet for her then in fear of public safety!"
"I think we should just go out and look for her ourselves," Burt spoke up as he struggled to completely ignore Judith's remarks. "We should search every inch of this city until we find her. We've got to make sure she's okay."
"She's fine!" Judith grumbled slightly. Why in the world was Janet drawing so much concern? She was fine, after all. She'd only run off to have a good cry. As soon as she got over her embarrassment, she'd come home safe and sound. It's not like anything was going to happen to her! Well, at least Judith hoped not.
"Well, Burt, you can come with me and Jillian and we'll take my car and do a sweep of the area by the stables." Reginald turned to eye Judith carefully. "You can stay here!"
"Can I ask what in the devil is going on here?" Mark Linford's voice boomed from the doorway. "Judith? I've been stuck up in that blasted penthouse all night while you've been traipsing around town! Do you know how boring it gets with only your maid to talk to?" Of course, he was conveniently forgetting the several hours he'd spent having dinner and exploring both Albanyville and its attractive female population.
"Janet's missing, Mark," Jillian tried to explain. "We're just getting ready to go search for her again."
"Missing? I don't..." Suddenly, Mark's eyes grew wide from shock as he finally spotted Burt sitting on the sofa. He immediately recognized him and quickly turned to shoot his wife an angry look. With a slight shake of her head, Judith silenced him. She didn't need to have everyone discovering her connection to her sister's boyfriend. At least, not yet.
"Mark, maybe you can keep your wife entertained until we get back," Reginald said as he slipped on his jacket and began to herd Burt and Jillian toward the front door. "With any luck, we'll have Janet with us."
As Burt passed Mark, his eyes filled her nervous apprehension. He hadn't forgotten the threats that Mark had made in New York. Now that they were all together again, he prayed that Mark wouldn't follow through on them.
"Now, I see what's been going on!" Mark snapped as he spun around to face Judith once the front door had clicked shut. "Now, I understand exactly why you've been so insistent on remaining here in Albanyville!"
"I...I don't get what you're trying to say," Judith stammered as she turned her back to him in an effort to hide her fear.
"You've been hanging around because of Burt Lamont...your lover!" His eyes drilled holes in the back of her head and Judith felt every searing stare. Mark and Burt had come face to face. Now, what would she do?
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"It's about time you got here," Douglas grumbled as he rose from his desk and quickly approached Dane. "If you'll just have a seat, here, next to Sara, we'll get started in a little bit."
As Dane sat down next to his wife, he glared at her angrily. "I'm still very upset with you for lying to me," he muttered to her as he folded his arms across his chest. "This is something that I'm not going to forget any time soon!"
"Dane, please!" Sara's eyes filled with heartbreak and anguish. The last thing she'd ever wanted to do was betray her husband. She'd only wanted to help them get out of their financial mess. A situation that was, more or less, the result of their marriage.
"I don't feel like discussing this with you now," he replied. "We'll talk about this later...alone."
Sara nodded her agreement and then turned back to look at Douglas. "When are we going to get started? Why are we still waiting? Can't we just read Mr. Preston's blasted will and get it over with?"
"I still don't understand why he put us, of all people, in his will!" Dane looked at Sara curiously as he silently wondered what else she might be hiding.
"That's a very good question, Mr. Davis," Helga spoke up from her seat on the sidelines. "Why in the world would he name her, let alone her husband, in his will! She lied to him and betrayed him! She doesn't deserve anything!"
"I see you've made lies and betrayal a hobby now?" Dane smirked angrily.
"We'll start in just a little while," Douglas said as he tried to cut through the tension in the room. "We're just waiting for one more person to arrive." He glanced down at his watch and nervously noted the time. "She's already late, as it is. I would have expected that she'd want to be on time for this."
"She?" Sara looked at Douglas questioningly. "Who's, she?"
"I believe Mr. Davis is referring to me," the voice came from the door of the library.
Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. Sara was quick to notice the look of shock and anger on Helga's face. Who was this woman who was briskly striding into the room?
Pulling off her gloves and jacket and draping them over a nearby chair, the woman took a seat at the front of the room, directly next to Douglas. "Hello, Helga. I hope you don't mind that I let myself in. After all, this is my house, now," she smiled rather falsely. "For those of you who don't know who I am, I am Mrs. Thornton Preston!"
THE LAKE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
Stephanie Lake sat on the couch with her chin resting in her hands. She should have been studying for an English exam, but she couldn't pull her mind away from thoughts of Clark Saxon and his evil threats. As she let out a heavy sigh, her mind drifted to thoughts of Dane Manchester and the information about his cheating that she'd uncovered as well as thoughts of her mother's wicked scheme to drug Charles Callison in order to lure him into an affair.
"Too much information," she muttered to herself as she shook her head in an attempt to pull herself loose from her troubling thoughts. "How could I even think about betraying my own mother?"
"Stephanie, dear, did you say something?" Annabelle Lake asked as she walked into the room and sat down a tray of hot chocolate. "I made you some cocoa. I thought it might help you study."
"Thanks, Momma," Stephanie murmured as she glanced down at her open text book. She'd been trying to read Mark Twain for hours and had barely even gotten through a chapter of Connecticut Yankee. Finally realizing that she would be getting no studying done, she quietly closed the book and slid it to the edge of the couch.
"Stephanie, dear, is something troubling you?" Annabelle asked as she paused to light a cigarette. She examined her daughter closely and was quick to realized that something was wrong. "You haven't quite been yourself, lately."
"I...um...I'm fine, Momma." Stephanie just couldn't tell her about Clark and his vicious scheme with Helen Van Dyne. She was embarrassed enough as it was that she'd fallen for his charms and lies. Her mother would be so disappointed in her.
"Hogwash!" Annabelle took a lengthy draw off of her cigarette and sat down next to her daughter. She wrapped her arms around Stephanie and pulled her closer. "I haven't spent almost nineteen years of my life with you to not know when something's wrong. Now, are you going to tell me what it is or am I going to have to drag it out of you?"
Stephanie looked up at her mother with awkward confusion. Could she really confide in her about Clark's threats? Could she trust her not to make matters worse? Stephanie wasn't sure, but realized that her mother would find out the truth, one way or another!
THE SUNSET HOTEL - JILLIAN & JANET'S SUITE -
"I have no idea what you're talking about!" Judith said as she turned her back to her husband. "Burt Lamont is Janet's boyfriend!"
"Cut the act, Judith." Mark quickly approached her, grabbed her by the shoulder, and spun her around to face him. "I know that Burt is the man you were having that affair with in New York...that trashy little bartender!"
"You're talking nonsense!" She bit her lip in nervousness. Did he really know that Burt was her mystery lover or was he merely fishing for information? Judith wasn't sure and was determined not to give herself away.
"Judith, Judith, Judith," he sighed with a sneer in his voice. "How big of a fool do you really think that I am? I know all about your whoring around."
In an instant, Judith spun to face him and delivered a sound slap across his face. "You son of a..."
"I don't think so!" Though momentarily stunned by her violent outburst, he recovered quickly and refused to give her the upper hand. "You see, I knew all about that little nightclub...your bartender lover...your bastard child!"
"Oh, Mark, don't be silly." She allowed her tone to soften as she realized she needed to use a different tactic. "All you have are insecure assumptions. You know this child is yours!" She placed a loving hand on her quite expectant stomach. It wouldn't be much longer until they were the proud parents of a bundle of joy.
"I've always known about your affairs, Judith. I've told you that I've known." Mark strolled over to the bar and poured himself a gin and tonic. "I've known that this child wasn't mine from the very beginning. I've always known about Burt."
She felt a knot begin to form in her throat as she tried to evaluate what he'd said. Did he really know everything? "Well, if you're so convinced that this is they way things are," she began cautiously as she attempted not to display her hand, "why are you so insistent in remaining in this marriage?"
"The same reason you are! Propriety. That and the fact that having you as my wife opens me up to an entirely new world, professionally, that I wouldn't have access to any other way. Your father has been very supportive of my law career."
"Yet another one of Daddy's foolish notions!"
"You listen to me, Judith," Mark began as he took a lengthy sip of his cocktail. "Give up any designs you have on Burt Lamont. I know that's the real reason you've stayed here in Albanyville. It has nothing to do with your inability to travel. And don't even think about naming him as the real father of that baby."
"Why would I do a thing like that?" Her hand flew up to her chest in a false display of shock. "This is your child!"
"And you better not forget that!" He reached out and grabbed her by the arm and held it tightly. "For all intents and purposes, this child is mine! I don't need you causing some foolish scandal because you're lovesick for some stupid bartender."
"He's a horse trainer!"
"Whatever!" Mark gritted his teeth in annoyance. "If the truth about this baby ever got out, it could ruin me professionally. If you think I'm about to let that happen, you're as loony as your sister!"
Judith's eyes narrowed into tiny slits as she felt her face flush in anger. How dare he, of all people, order her around? How dare he tell her what she could and could not do?
"And I'm sure I don't have to remind you about what a scandal like that would do to your social standing and reputation." Mark let out a malicious laugh. "Don't push me, Judith, or I'll make sure your name is on the first line of every gossip column in newspapers across the country. You'll be ruined!"
Judith silently seethed as his threats rang in her ears. She knew he wasn't bluffing. She also knew that if she ever had any hopes of ending her disastrous marriage, she had to find some way to ruin him first. How was the question.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"I presume that you're Mr. Davis?" Mrs. Preston asked as she looked at Douglas. She turned towards Dane and Sara and furrowed her brow slightly. "And who, prey tell, are you? What are you doing here?"
"I...um...worked as your husband's assistant right before he died," Sara muttered as she quickly turned to see her husband's reaction. "I'm Sara Manchester and this is my husband Dane."
"Oh, well, whatever," Mrs. Preston sighed before returning her focus on Douglas. "Can we just get this over and done with?"
"Um, yes, Mrs. Preston. We were actually just waiting for you to get here before we started." Douglas took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and carefully began to read Thornton's will. "I, Thornton Preston, being of sound mind and body..."
"Well, that remains to be seen," Mrs. Preston muttered as she rolled her eyes. "The only thing sound about my husband was his bank account. Mr. Davis, can we just skip all of this legal mumbo jumbo and just get to the point? I really don't have all night."
"Oh, um...yes, alright." Douglas cleared his throat again as he looked at Thornton's widow curiously. It was clear that he hadn't exaggerated in his description of her demeanor in the slightest. "Okay, well...." Douglas carefully scanned the will until he got to the appropriate place. "To my faithful and loyal housekeeper, Helga Grimm, I bequeath $20,000..."
"Oh, my lord!" Helga gasped as she covered her mouth in shock and then began to fan herself.
"With certain provisions," Douglas continued. "To receive this sum, Helga must remain in the employ of the recipient of my home in Albanyville."
"Well, Helga, I'm sure you're going to love working for me!" Mrs. Preston flashed Helga a wicked grin. "I just know we'll get along famously. You really won't have much choice!"
"I wouldn't count on that," Helga muttered through clinched teeth.
"B-but, Douglas, how can he leave this house to anyone?" Sara asked curiously. "I thought he was only renting it while he was in town?"
"Actually, Mr. Preston purchased this house a couple of weeks before he died," Douglas revealed. "This house is included in his estate."
"Yes, yes, I already know all of that!" Mrs. Preston snapped. "Can we just get on with it?"
"Ahem, um, yes," Douglas took a deep breath as he got to the next passage in the will. "All of my residences, excluding the home in Albanyville, are to be sold and the proceeds included in my remaining estate. This estate, including the home in Albanyville, all of my authorship rights, money, and business holdings, I leave to Dane and Sara Manchester..."
"W-what?" Sara gasped. "Douglas, what in the world are you talking about?"
"Mr. Preston has left both you and Dane everything," Douglas explained as his eyes darted form Sara to Dane and then to Mrs. Preston. "Mr. Preston has left his entire estate to you!"
"That's impossible!" Mrs. Preston shouted as she jumped to her feet. "What about me? What did he say about me? I'm his wife!"
"Actually, Mrs. Preston, there is a section dealing with you," he took another deep breath and began to read. "To my wife, I leave not a penny. You are a lying, manipulative witch who deserves nothing. Find some other rich sucker to marry."
"Oh, my god, I cannot believe this!" Rage burned in Mrs. Preston's eyes as she turned her furious gaze on Dane and Sara. "Why you? Why do you deserve my husband's money? What did you do?"
"I...I...didn't do anything!" Sara insisted as she quickly looked at Dane who was still clearly in shock.
"Apparently, Mr. Preston was not as fooled by your shenanigans as you thought he was," Helga muttered with a touch of glee as she looked at Mrs. Preston. "But, I can't fathom why in the world he'd leave his estate to you, of all people!" She turned to focus on Sara. "You lied to him and betrayed him! What did you do to deserve any of this?"
"I...I don't know!"
"I'll tell you what this little tramp did!" Mrs. Preston snapped. "She was having an affair with my husband! That's what she did!"
Sara's jaw dropping in shock from the accusation. "N-no! I did not!"
"Why else would my husband leave you a cent? You were sleeping with him and you conned him out of his fortune!"
Sara didn't know what to say in her defense. She knew the truth. She knew that she and Mr. Preston had not been having an affair. She quickly turned to Dane, but was stunned to find him looking at her with curiosity. Surely, he didn't believe Mrs. Preston's rantings. Surely, he didn't think that what she was claiming was true.
TO BE CONTINUED
Stephanie makes a confession.
For Now and Forever
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