JOE'S CAFE

Joe's Cafe"You know I miss you when I don't get to see you very often," Helen Van Dyne cooed as she snuggled up against Mark Linford's arm.  "Ever since your wife's father died, we haven't really gotten to spend a lot of time together."

"Helen, you know that the house has been completely turned upside down because of this," Mark reminded.  "Judith just wants to wall herself off from the rest of the world---as she always does when something bad happens---and her mother and sisters are just completely out of sorts.  I know that my marriage is just in name only, but I have to fulfill my family obligations.  No matter what's between me and Judith, I do care about her family."

"I know that, but..."  Her voice trailed off as she looked away uncomfortably.

"What is it?  What's wrong?"  He turned so that he could face her more directly and immediately saw the look of worry and concern on her face.

"Well, considering what Jillian is going through right now because of what happened to her father and what's going on with Reginald's mother, I...well...feel bad about what we're doing."  She paused and bit her lip.  "I mean, don't get me wrong, I love what time we get to spend together, but I just feel so guilty about carrying on behind their backs.  I feel like I'm betraying my own best friend."

"That's nonsense!" Mark replied flatly.  "What we share has nothing to do with Jillian or her family.  It's just between us.  That's what makes it so special.  It's our own little secret, our own private world that no one else has to know about."

"But, Mark, what if...someone else did know about it?"

"That's impossible," he laughed.  "I certainly know that I wouldn't tell anyone.  It would cause no end of trouble if Judith ever..."  He paused and stared at Helen intently.  "Darling, you haven't told anyone, have you?  I asked you not to say anything to anyone!  You know what kind of woman Judith is!  I can't believe that you'd..."

Helen Van Dyne"No!" Helen interrupted.  "I didn't tell anyone.  I would never say anything that would ruin our special time together."

"Then what happened?" he demanded.  "How did someone find out?  Who knows about us?"

Helen turned away, unable to meet his penetrating gaze and bit her lip in nervousness.

"Stephanie Lake," she muttered softly, embarrassed by her failure to keep their relationship a secret.

"Stephanie Lake?"  Mark paused for moment and rubbed his chin as he tried to place the name.  "It sounds familiar but I...wait!  Isn't that the girl that Reginald cheated on Jillian with?  Wasn't her mother the woman that was murdered at that party?"

"Yes, that's her," Helen nodded.  "It seems that we weren't as careful as we thought we were.  She...saw us together.  Here, in fact.  She...knows what's going on between us."  She hesitated for a moment and let out a worried sigh.  "Oh, Mark, she's a spiteful, horrible, hateful girl!  She...threatened to go to your wife and tell her everything!"

"Now, now, there's no need to get all upset," he sighed as he pulled her tighter into his arms and began to comfort her.  "Judith's family really doesn't hold that girl in very high regards after what she did to Jillian.  Surely, you know that.  I sincerely doubt that they'd believe a single word that came out of her mouth.  They'd just think that she was pulling some sort of stunt to cause trouble again.  I wouldn't worry about it.  I don't think that she has much credibility---even if this time she would be telling the truth."

"You don't...think that they'd...believe her?"

"No, I don't," he smiled as he gently wiped away a tear that was beginning to creep out of the corner of her eye.  "But, since we're having this moment of revelations, I think that there's something I need to tell you."

"W-what is it?"  She looked up at him with worry.  He sounded so serious.

"I've...taken a position with a law firm in New York," he announced.  "Judith and I will be moving by the end of the month."

"Moving?" she gasped, completely stunned by the news.  "But...but...what about us?  What about me?"

Mark Linford"Helen, darling, you know that this could never have been a permanent arrangement.  I'm a married man and I can't just give up my marriage no matter how awful it is.  I'd stay here in Albanyville for you, but...well, I have to think about my career and this is an excellent opportunity for me."

"Oh, Mark, I..."  Her voice caught in her throat as a new wave of tears began to flow.  "I love you.  I just don't...know what I'd do without you.  You can't leave me."

"Well, honestly, I was thinking about that."  He lowered his head slightly and took a deep breath.  "The spring semester will be over soon and...well...you could..."

"I could what?" she asked.  "You're not...asking me to go to New York with you, are you?"

"In a way, yes, I am," he confessed.  "You could transfer to a school in New York and we could...continue to see one another just like we have been."

"I...don't know," Helen stammered and shook her head, the idea being almost too difficult to understand.  "Wouldn't it seem...odd that you and I would wind up in the same place?  Wouldn't that draw some kind of suspicion from your wife?"

"Helen, darling, New York is big place---much, much larger than Albanyville."  He reached down and took her hand into his.  "Judith would be so involved with her society dealings that she wouldn't even know you were there.  Please say that you'll consider it."

She looked up at him intently as she thought about what he was offering.  True, she loved him deeply and didn't want to lose him, but could she just disrupt her entire life---change schools and pack up and move to New York---just because of him?  He had no intentions of ever divorcing his wife.  That much he'd made perfectly clear.  No matter how she felt about him, would the disruption to her life be worth it?


ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - TALBOT'S OFFICE

Albanyville General Hospital"And how is my darling husband today?" Corinne Campbell asked as she breezed into the office.

"What are you doing here, Corinne?" Dr. Talbot Campbell asked as he momentarily looked up from the files that he was working on.  "It's the middle of the day."

"I had an auxiliary meeting this morning," she explained, rather annoyed by his less than glowing reception of her arrival.  "Since I was here in the hospital, I thought that we could go out to lunch together."

"I've already eaten.  I grabbed a quick bite in the cafeteria."

Corinne stood across the room and folded her arms across her chest as she eyed her husband intently.  "Talbot, I'm waiting."

"Oh, yes, dear," he muttered with realization and quickly rose from his seat to walk over to her and give her a warm kiss on the cheek.  "I was just...caught up in some work."

"Ah, now that's much better," she smiled warmly, but then her expressed grew dark again.  "So, you're saying that you won't have lunch with me?"

"I told you that I've already eaten."

"Talbot, darling, you spend way too much time stuck in this hospital," she cooed softly as she stroked his cheek.  "You never seem to be home anymore.  Darling, I need you.  Eliza needs you."

Dr. Talbot Campbell"Corinne, you knew that this position would require long hours when I took it," he reminded as he took a step away from her, putting some distance between them.  "I told you that it would mean that we wouldn't have as much time as a family, but you insisted that the promotion would be beneficial to us and our family.  What were the exact words that you used?  Um...the security and prominence of the chief of staff position will make us one of the most important and respected families in town?"

"And I was right!" she said firmly.  "You are highly respected in this community and I get invited to participate in all of the grandest functions.  I don't see why you're trying to risk all of that with your silly, juvenile behavior."

"Excuse me?"  His jaw dropped slightly in response to what she'd said.  "What in the devil are you talking about?  What 'juvenile' behavior?"

"I mean this...this thing you have going with Judith Linford," she replied in a hushed tone as if she were frightened that the walls would overhear.  "To do this to me is one thing, but do you have to parade it around in front of the entire hospital?  I would think that you'd want to protect your reputation!  How could you do this to me?"

"Now, see here, Corinne.  I thought that I'd explained to you that there is nothing going on between me and Judith.  She was my patient and we're just friends.  This irrational jealousy of yours is getting entirely out of hand!"

"Would you keep your voice down?" she said as she swiftly grabbed his arm and led him away from the door.  "It's bad enough what you're doing to me, but do you have to announce it to the entire world?"

"I'm not doing anything to you!"

Corinne Campbell"Are you trying to deny that you were seen in this hospital with Judith Linford wrapped in your arms?"  Corinne glared at him incredulously.  "People saw you!  People saw you being...inappropriate with her.  Is that how you treat your patients?  I believe that's taking professional concern a bit far."

"W-what?" he stammered, not sure of what she was talking about.  "When did this supposedly happen?  Who says that they saw me being inappropriate with Judith?  If they did, it's a damn lie!"

"I'm talking about the night of that accident out on Andersonville Rd.," she explained calmly, "the night that Judith ran her car off of the road."

"Well, if you know so much about what happens here at the hospital, than surely you know that her father was killed in that accident!" he countered.  "In fact, Judith had just been told about her father's death and she was nearly hysterical.  The only thing that I was trying to do was provide some comfort and sympathy for her.  It's what any good doctor and friend would do."

"From what I hear, that kind of comfort should have come from her husband."

"But he wasn't here!" he snapped.  "Or didn't your sources bother mentioning that?  The rest of her family was as devastated by Nelson Stokes' death as she was and were in no condition to give her the comfort and support that she needed."

"And you so graciously offered to fill that void, didn't you?"

"Corinne, I'm not going to stand here and let you make these wild and unfounded accusations against me," Talbot said before quickly turning and heading for the door.  "Do yourself a favor and go home and stay out of my professional business!"

As Talbot walked out of the room, he nearly ran into Nurse Fay Rutledge who was bringing him a stack of patient records to review.  Without saying a word, he merely glared at her before storming off down the hallway leaving the nurse's jaw hanging open with surprise.  Once she'd recovered, she quickly noticed an emotional Corinne still inside his office.

Fay Rutledge"Corinne, dear, are you all right?" Fay asked as she hurried in, closing the door behind her.  "What happened?  You two didn't have another fight, did you?"

"Y-yes," Corinne nodded as she struggled to fight back her tears.  "Oh, Fay, he's having an affair with that woman.  I know he is!  Sure, he's denying it, but I'm not stupid.  He defends her too strongly for there to be nothing going on between them."

"How could he?" Fay sighed with a shake of her head.  "After everything that you've done for him, how could he do this to you?"

"I...keep asking myself that same question," Corinne muttered and then sunk down into a chair.  "I just can't stand by while he foolishly throws away everything that we've worked for---our lives...our family...his career---just for that horrible woman."

"Is there...anything that I can do?"

Corinne paused and took a deep breath as she looked up at Fay.  "Yes, dear.  Yes, there is.  I need you to continue to keep a close eye on my husband for me.  I want you to tell me every move that he makes.  If he even sneezes in Judith Linford's direction I want to know about."

"Of course, Corinne, I'll do anything that I can do to help."

"Apparently one husband isn't enough for that shrew," Corinne seethed.  "She has to have mine, too!  Well, I'm not going to let that happen.  If she thinks that she can steal my husband without a fight, she's sadly mistaken.  I'll do whatever it takes to save my marriage---even if it means ruining her and her entire family!"


CALLISON PUBLICATIONS - DOUGLAS'S OFFICE

The Offices of Callison Publications & the Daily Post"I'm sorry, detective," Douglas sighed, "but the only person that I can allow to open this envelope is Stephanie Lake, herself."

"But...that's going to be impossible and I have to know what's that envelope contains," Jim explained with a sense of dire urgency.  "You don't understand how important this is."

"What do you mean that it's going to be impossible for Stephanie to open it?"  Douglas furrowed his brow as he tried to figure out what the detective was saying.  "Is there...something that you're not telling me?  I still don't understand what this might have to do with Francis Callison's case."

Jim hesitated, unsure about revealing all of the details about his investigation.  However, he quickly realized that if he had any chance of learning anything from Douglas, he had to explain to him exactly what was going on.

"Miss Lake is...missing," he confessed.  "From what we've been able to gather, she's been gone for over a week now."

"Missing?  Stephanie?"

Jim Fitzpatrick"Yes, and...apparently it has something to do with her father."  Jim paused and slowly began to pace around the room.  "It looks like Stephen Lake isn't dead, after all."

"W-what?"

"Yes.  And it seems that there's a witness who can...place him at the Callison party the night that Annabelle Lake was murdered."

"A...witness?  Who?"

"Sara Manchester," Jim explained.  "She swears that she saw him in The Grand Sunset Room that night.  She discounted it, at first, but once evidence came to light that he might not be dead, after all, she realized that it was him that she saw."

"And...you think that he might have killed his wife instead of Francis?"  Douglas covered his mouth as the revelation began to sink in.  "My god!  If you think that she's innocent, why didn't you say anything?  Why didn't you go to the D.A. with this?"

"Mr. Davis, so far this is all circumstantial," Jim replied.  "We have no concrete proof."

Douglas Davis"But you do think that it's possible, don't you?"

Jim hesitated.  "Yes, I do think it's possible, but I can't go to the D.A. with just speculation.  I need hard proof.  I told you that the investigation into Mrs. Lake's murder is officially closed.  However, the investigation into her daughter's disappearance is ongoing.  We're looking at it as...a possible kidnapping.  Now, if any information in this case can be applied to Mrs. Callison's case then...I wouldn't hesitate to turn it over to the D.A. for consideration, but I...need your help.  I need to establish a motive for Stephen Lake in the murder.  I need to see what's in that envelope."

Douglas looked down at the envelope that he held in his hands as he considered what the detective was saying.  Should he honor the wishes of a dead woman and only deliver the envelope to Stephanie---who, incidentally, was missing---or should he follow his conscience and turn it over to the police in the hopes that a greater good---namely Francis' possible freedom and Stephanie's possible return---might be achieved?

Finally, with a deep sigh, he hung his head and handed the envelope over to Jim.

"I thought that you'd be able to understand how important this is," Jim said as he took it from Douglas and then stared at it intently.  Written on it in Annabelle's own handwriting were the words "To my darling daughter."  After taking a deep breath, he spoke again.  "Well, let's see what's in here."

Jim ripped the envelope open and discovered that it contained a letter.  As he furrowed his brow, he slipped it out and carefully unfolded it before inhaling deeply.  With a look of determination, he began to read...



To my daughter,

If you're reading this, Stephanie, then surely something horrible has happened.  I can only hope that this has been opened after I've led a long and fulfilling life.  However, in any case, there has been something weighing heavily on my mind for some time and I couldn't think about going to my grave without finally coming clean.  In short, I have a confession to make.



 


TOMORROW

What was Annabelle hiding?




 


produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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