For Now and Forever
EPISODE #115 (Friday,
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"I hope that you'll let me bring you some kind of happiness. I hope that you'll let me turn this tragic time into something good," Dr. Fred Rutherford said as he tried to select his words carefully.
"Good?" Leticia Stokes eyed him with a mixture of shock and offense. "What good could possibly come out of my husband's death?"
"I...um...well..." he blushed, immediately realizing that he'd chosen the wrong words. "Maybe I should have phrased that differently. I didn't necessarily mean to imply that his death was a good thing, but..." C'mon, Rutherford, take your foot out of your mouth. "Well, I know you've been unhappy with Nelson for a long time. His treatment of you brought you great pain and sorrow. He's gone now. It's time for you to move past that. It's time for you to look towards a brighter tomorrow." A little soapy, but it'll do.
"I...don't understand what you're trying to say." She furrowed her brow slightly as she tried to grasp the meaning behind his words. "Yes, the last few years of my life with Nelson were difficult, at best, but...well...I don't see how I can forget that."
"I'm not saying for you to forget," Fred smiled warmly as he held her hands and pulled her closer to him. "All I'm saying is that now is the right time to finally close that chapter of your life and start a new one---a happier one." He hesitated for a moment as he gazed down into his eyes. "Let's both begin a new chapter. While we're in New York, I want you to...marry me."
KITTY'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"A'right, Kit, what's eatin' you?" Sammy Benedict asked before taking a long drag off of his cigarette. "You been mopin' 'round this dump all day."
"I just don't...like what we're doing to Dane," Kitty Benedict sighed as she slumped back onto the couch. "He's been so nice to me and...well..."
"Ah, Kit, don't tell me that you're startin' to have feelings for the chump!" He shook his head in disbelief. "I thought you understood that this was all just a job. You just hold up your end of the plan. By the time this is over, we're gonna be rollin' in the dough."
"I wished you'd tell me what all of this was about. Why does your boss want us involved with Dane and his wife, anyway?"
"I told you not to ask any questions." Sammy took another long drag. "Let's just say that the boss is doin' a favor for a friend."
"A...friend?" Kitty furrowed her brow as she tried to figure out what he was saying. "But...well...why did we have to involve her? What does she have to do with this?"
"Look, she's the ticket to the whole thing!" he replied. "If it weren't for her, all we'd have goin' was your stupid affair. That's just a small part of the plan. She's the main thing."
"Well...where is she, anyway?" Kitty rose from her seat and began to nervously pace around the room. The further she got into this "plan" the less she seemed to like it. Using Dane was one thing, but using someone so innocent was completely another. "She was supposed to be here by now."
"Don't know," he shrugged. "You know how she is. She's always late. I hope she ain't havin' second thoughts 'bout all this."
"I just don't understand how you could do this to your own..." A knock at the door interrupted Kitty's sentence.
"Shhhh," Sammy said as he motioned for his sister to be quiet. Cautiously, he inched over to the door and pressed his ear against it, hoping to hear some sort of tell-tale sound from the other side. "Who is it?"
"It's me, you creep!" came the voice from the hallway. "Let me in!"
After taking a deep breath to prepare himself for their expected guest, Sammy flung the door open and clinched his teeth tightly. No matter what their plans were, he hated dealing with her. She was definitely one mistake that was intent on coming back to haunt him again and again.
"Get in here!" he ordered as he grabbed her by the arm and drug her into the room. "You didn't let nobody see you, did ya?"
"Of course, not," Naomi Jackson laughed coolly as he closed the door behind her. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Sammy folded his arms across his chest and glared at Naomi and her baby whom she carried in her arms. "I see ya brought the kid."
"Yes, I brought Aubrey. He goes everywhere I go," Naomi grumbled. "I can't have a moment alone, now, thanks to you!"
"I done told you, that ain't my kid!"
"I think I know who the father of my baby is!" Naomi shouted back. "And it sure as hell ain't that old geezer."
Listening to Sammy and Naomi bicker, Kitty slumped down onto the couch and buried her face in her hands. Every time they got together it was the same thing---fight, fight, fight. Kitty knew it was going to be a long afternoon.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"Fred, I...I..." Leticia stammered as she awkwardly looked away from him. "This just isn't...the right time. It's too soon. My husband just died and you...you're asking me to marry you?"
"I..." Fred let out a weary sigh. Maybe his anxiety was forcing him to push his plans ahead too fast. "I'm sorry. You're right. This really isn't...the time. It's just that...well...is there ever really a perfect time to be in love? Can we schedule love like we would schedule an appointment on the calendar?"
"No, of course not!" As the shock of his proposal began to wear off, she took him by the hand and led him back over to the sofa so that they could sit down. "But...well...he was my husband!"
"Leticia, darling, I know that." He patted her hand gently. "But you were separated from him. You were planning to divorce him. Are you trying to say that if he hadn't died, then you would have gotten back together with him?"
"N-no," she stammered. "I...I would still have divorced him. It's just that..."
"Sweetheart, don't let Nelson's death change how he really was." Fred carefully lifted his hand to stroke her cheek. "Don't turn him into some kind of saint just because he's dead. He treated you horribly and you deserved better than that. Just because he's dead doesn't change that."
"I...I know," Leticia muttered and hung her head. "He was...horrible to me. It's just that...well...now that he's gone I can't help but think about all of the lost chances---the missed opportunities to make things right between us."
"I understand that," he nodded. "But it's too late for 'what ifs'. Neither one of us could go back and change the past if we wanted to. The only thing that I'm asking you to do is look towards the future---our future. Don't let Nelson's death accomplish what he tried to do in life. Don't let him still control you and manipulate you."
"I know you're right," she sighed deeply. "I know that I have to move on with my life, but it's just...too soon."
Fred looked at her cautiously. He was clearly making headway, but he still had to play his cards right. "Maybe I shouldn't go to New York with you. Maybe you need this time to be alone."
"No!" she insisted firmly. "Oh, Fred, I need you. I don't think that I...could make it through this without you. You have to go to New York with me to put Nelson to rest. Maybe then I...can consider what you're asking."
"Are you sure?"
"Darling, I'm very sure," she smiled as she looked up into his eyes. "I need you, Fred. In fact, I need you now more than ever."
As he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly, Fred smiled slyly. He was playing her like a fiddle. Leticia might be going to New York as a widow, but he was certain that he would be able to convince her to return to Albanyville as a new bride.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"What do you mean you saw Stephen Lake?" Patterson Monroe asked as he eyed Sara Manchester intently. "How? Where?"
"Sara, that's impossible!" Dane Manchester said firmly. "That man's dead!"
"No, Dane, he's not," she sighed with a slight shake of her head. "When I said I saw him, I meant that I really saw him. I didn't...think it could've been him at the time, but now..."
"Where?" Dane asked as he tried to understand what she was saying. "Where did you see Stephanie's father?"
"Do you remember the night of the party?" she asked as she began her explanation. "The night that Annabelle died. Remember, we left before everything happened---before Stephanie found her."
"Do you remember what happened right as we were leaving?"
"Let's just forget about Annabelle and get out of here." Dane tugged on her arm as he prepared to head for the door, but found her to be reluctant to follow. "Sara? I thought you wanted to leave."
"I...I do..." she stammered as she searched through the crowd of guests in hopes of catching a glimpse of the person she'd just spotted. It couldn't be! Could it? No, that didn't make any sense. What would they be doing here? "I...I'm coming." With a sudden sense of nervousness and worry, she quickly followed Dane to the foyer.
"Dane, right as we were leaving, I saw Stephen!" Sara exclaimed. "Of course, I knew he was dead, so I just brushed it off. It couldn't have been him, after all, but now...that there might be proof that he's alive..."
"So, you're saying that you saw Stephen Lake at the scene of the murder?" Detective Jim Fitzpatrick spoke up, startling Sara who was unaware that she was speaking loud enough for him to hear. "That makes things much more interesting."
"I...um..." Sara stammered awkwardly.
"Sara, are you sure that it was him?" Patterson eyed her carefully, almost unable to believe such an outrageous idea.
"It was only for a moment, but I'm sure."
"Exactly where was he when you saw him?" Officer Russ Leeds asked as he carefully wrote down every word.
"Dane and I were leaving the party," she explained. "We'd been looking for Annabelle so that we could say good-bye, but we couldn't find her. I was...hoping to see her in the crowd, but...well...I caught a glimpse of him instead. It was only for a second, but he was coming in from the terrace. I was sure that it couldn't have been him because...well...he was supposed to be dead. When I turned back around to get a better look, he'd disappeared into the crowd. Maybe, it wasn't him. Maybe it was just someone who looked like him or it was a trick of the light, but..."
"But considering what we know, now, it's very possible that it was him." Dane cradled his chin in his hands as he considered her story.
"Jim, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Russ asked quietly in an aside to the detective. "If Annabelle Lake's husband isn't dead like everyone thought and he was at The Grand Sunset Room at the time of the murder..."
"And if he had an axe to grind..." Jim paused as a slew of new theories began to formulate inside his head.
"Maybe Francis Callison didn't do it, after all," Russ completed the thought. "Jim, we could be helping to put an innocent woman on trial."
"Even if he was there, we don't have a specific motive," Jim commented.
"Unless, Stephen was trying to get his daughter back and Annabelle was standing in his way," Patterson spoke up after catching the last bit of the policemen's conversation. "And now it looks like Stephanie is in the hands of a potential murderer."
It was that fact that made both Patterson and Sara increasingly worried.
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE - FRANCIS'S
"Francis, dear, what are you doing?" Mary Albany asked as she stood in the doorway and watched her daughter packing. "Where are you going?"
"Mother, I'm going home," Francis Callison beamed with joy and excitement. "I'm going home to my husband."
"W-what?" Mary asked in shock. "When...did you decide this? This is...wonderful!"
"Oh, mother, I just knew that you'd think so," Francis smiled as she rushed into Mary's arms and hugged her tightly. "I don't think that I've ever been happier than I am right now."
"Does Maggie know, yet?"
"No, not yet," Francis replied. "I'm going to tell her when she gets home from school. I know she's going to be just as happy as I am."
"Does this...have anything to do with the trial?" Mary was hesitant with her question, but it was a concern that she had and felt that it needed to be asked. "I know that the hearing didn't go well the other day, but..."
"No, it didn't go well," Francis sighed and then returned to her task of packing. "The judge refused to dismiss the case. He said that...the D.A. had enough evidence to warrant a full trial."
"Has Douglas told you about any specific court date?"
"No, but he did tell me that the D.A. is wanting the trial to be as soon as possible." Francis neatly folded a skirt and placed into her suitcase before wearily sitting down on the edge of her bed. "It seems that the D.A. is trying to get a judgeship and is trying to ruin the good Callison name to do it. He doesn't want to wait for a long, drawn out affair. Douglas mentioned that it could be as soon as June."
"June?" Mary gasped with shock as she quickly slumped down onto the bed next to her daughter. "Oh, dear. I was just sure that hearing would have turned out..."
"Mother, let's not worry about that now."
"Is this why you've decided to go home?"
"Partly," Francis confessed. "I know that the only way I can hope to make it through this is with the love and support of my family---my husband and my children."
"Darling, don't move back in just for the sense of security and support," Mary advised. "You know that I want you and Charles to put your marriage back together more than anything in the world, but it can only happen when you are finally ready to put Annabelle in the past and..."
"Mother, I am ready," Francis assured and reached over to take Mary's hand. "I'm not going home because I need to, I'm going home because I want to. I love Charles. You know that. At home with my husband is where I want to be."
"I glad to hear that," Mary smiled warmly but then took on a more solemn expression. "It's just that...well...I've gotten so used to having you and Maggie here. I know that children have to grow up and leave home and start their own lives and families---you'll be finding that out soon enough for yourself---but having you here...well...it's been almost like it was when you were a little girl. It's felt good having my baby under my roof again."
"Well..." Francis grinned slyly and bit her lip as an idea popped into her head. "You could come to live with us. I know that the children would love to have you around and I can always use that extra voice of reason with Maggie."
"Oh, dear, I couldn't!" Mary laughed. "Granted, you and Charles have a wonderful home, but there just wouldn't be room for all of us. I mean, Dorothea would have to come with me and..."
"Mother, there's more news that I haven't told you."
"Yes," Francis smiled. "There'll be more than enough room for both you and Dorothea once we move into the new house."
"New house?" Mary eyed her daughter curiously. "What are you talking about?"
"Charles wants us to have a fresh start. He wants us to put every horrible thing that's happened to us this past year behind us," Francis explained. "To do that, he bought us a house out by Spring Lake. Once we move in, there'll be more than enough room for everyone."
"But what about your house?" Mary asked, still in shock over the announcement. "Surely you're not going to sell it! I thought that his father..."
"No, we're not selling the old house," Francis laughed. "It'll stay in the family. After all, Reginald and Jillian will need a home of their own once they're married."
"Oh, darling, that's wonderful!"
"You should really see this house," Francis smiled. "It's beautiful. There's a large flower garden in the back with a little gazebo and a path down to the lake where there's a boat house and...well, you're just going to love it." She paused for a moment as a realization struck her. "Now, don't say anything to anyone about this. Charles wants to keep it a secret. He wants to make a few changes to the new house and it's not ready for us to move into, yet. He wants this all to be a surprise wedding gift to Reginald and Jillian."
"Don't you worry," Mary laughed. "I won't say a word. My lips are sealed!"
"Oh, mother, this is going to be a brand new start for us." Francis sighed as she threw her arms around Mary again. "I know that, no matter what, everything's going to be all right."
As she hugged her daughter tightly, Mary silently prayed that she was right. However, she couldn't completely erase the looming specter of her daughter's impending trial from her head. Was she filling herself with false hope? Mary wasn't sure, but immediately realized that false hope was better than no hope at all. She could only pray that this just wasn't the calm before the storm.
KITTY'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"Sammy, do you think this is a good idea?" Kitty asked nervously. "I mean...this entire scheme? Did you really have to get your own baby involved to..."
"It's not my kid!" Sammy snapped angrily. "I done told you that!"
"He is too your son!" Naomi shouted back.
"Just stop it! Both of you!" Kitty shouted before gently massaging her temples in response to the twinge of a headache that was starting to appear. "I know that we're trying to get our hands on this old man's estate, but why? Why does your boss want it so much? Why did I have to make that phone call and pretend to be a nurse and..."
"Kit, would you just shut yer trap!" Sammy tried to keep his temper in check, but it was increasingly difficult. There were things that neither Kitty nor Naomi knew and he didn't need either one of them spouting off. "That has nothing to do with this."
"I just want to know what kind of mess you've gotten me into!" Kitty folded her arms tightly across her chest.
"You know all that you need to know and just leave it at that." He pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and took and drag before returning his attention to Naomi. "So, you doin' what you're supposed to be doin' at the Manor?"
"I hate that place," Naomi grumbled. "Everyone's always watching every move I make. I mean, Mrs. Manchester is nice enough, but that husband of hers and her mother...well, you can keep both of 'em for all I care. And that maid! I swear that woman's been hovering over me like a vulture. Every time I turn a corner, it's like she's there waiting for me."
"Then you've just got to play your role and play it well," Sammy sighed. "You can do that can't you? Just keep up yer act. For all anyone knows, that kid is the old man's and he's the ticket for us gettin' everything that we've ever wanted. By the time were done, we're all gonna be richer than we could ever imagine."
And that was exactly what Naomi was counting on. When Sammy had come to her months earlier in New York, she'd nearly slammed the door in his face. However, no matter what animosity existed between them, she could still be vulnerable to him. As big as her dreams were, his were bigger and he was just slick enough to know how to achieve them. His plan to use her baby---their baby, a fact that he still refused to accept---to get their hands on the Preston estate had seemed like an easy one at the time. Now, however, she was beginning to realize that it was much more complicated than she'd first thought.
Suddenly, there was another knock at the door.
"W-who's that?" Naomi asked nervously as she nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Sammy, I didn't know we were expecting someone else," Kitty spoke up as she rushed over to his side.
"We're not," he muttered and quickly reached for his gun. "Quick, get her outta sight. We can't let anybody see her here or..."
Too late. Before Sammy could say another word, the door swung open.
"Oh, god," Naomi gasped as she felt her heart begin to pound loudly inside her chest.
"I thought that I'd find you here," the unexpected visitor smiled slyly.
"L-look, I can...e-explain," Naomi stammered as she looked into the eyes of Joyce Preston.
TO BE CONTINUED
Naomi is busted...or is she?
For Now and Forever
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