THE SUNSET HOTEL - RM. 336
can't believe that you managed to get away from your family," Jillian cooed
softly as she rested her head on Reginald's shoulder while he twirled her around
the room to the strains of Bing Crosby's latest record as it played on the
radio. "I know that today was a big day for them."
"It wasn't easy," Reginald Callison
smiled and pulled her tighter into his arms. "I almost didn't want to
leave. It's so good to have this entire mess over. Mom's cleared of
murder and now we can all put this horrible ordeal behind us."
"I guess that Janet's testimony really came
through, didn't it?"
"Um, well..." His voice trailed
off and he pulled away slightly.
"Reginald?" She looked up at him
curiously, immediately aware that something wasn't quite right. "What
is it? It was her testimony that proved your mother's innocence, wasn't
"Actually, no," he confessed with a
sigh and then walked over to the bar to pour them both a drink. "It
seems that the D.A. had a field day with her mental history. He called her
an 'unreliable witness' and said that 'anything that she claimed to remember
should be discounted as false and prefabricated'. The judge was...inclined
to believe him."
"Well, if it wasn't Janet's testimony, than
who..." She furrowed her brow slightly as her mind began to race
through all the possibilities. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide with shock and
realization. "It wasn't..."
"Stephanie," he nodded as he handed her
a drink. "It seems that before her father died, he told her how he'd
killed her mother."
"She was the big mystery witness?"
nodded silently and then took a long sip of his drink. "She came
forward with the information while she was in the hospital recovering from her
abduction. She...wanted to testify to what her father had told her so that
Mom's name would be cleared. Paddy knew what kind of publicity this entire
mess has generated and asked Father to have the courtroom cleared for her
benefit. She told the judge everything. I guess that testimony from
the daughter of the victim against her own father in behalf of the woman charged
with the crime was rather convincing. The D.A. had no choice but to drop
all charges once he realized that there was no way a jury would be able to find
Mom guilty considering Stephanie's testimony of her father's confession."
"This is just
too...unbelievable." Jillian sat down on the edge of the bed, clearly
stunned by the news. "Stephanie Lake, of all people, did the right
"Yes, I know," he laughed awkwardly as
he sat down next to her and wrapped his arm around her. "I wouldn't
have believed it either if I hadn't witnessed it first hand, but I was
there." He took a deep breath and swallowed hard. "I hate
to say it, but my family really owes her a lot."
"Maybe Paddy's right about her after
all," Jillian muttered, almost to herself. "Maybe she has
Reginald laughed with amusement. "I don't think she'll ever
change. One good deed doesn't erase everything that she tried to do to you
and me. So, she had a fit of conscience. Or maybe Paddy managed to
talk her into it, somehow. A leopard just doesn't change it's spots.
It'll take more than just this to convince me that she's made some grand transformation."
"But, Reginald..." she paused for a
moment and bit her lip as she looked up at him. "This isn't the only
good deed that she's done, lately. Remember, when the police thought that
you'd killed Annabelle, she came forward with that witness who saw someone else
go into the lounge and..."
"And that witness identified my
mother!" he reminded bluntly.
"Well..." Jillian winced
slightly. "Granted, it wasn't the best thing that could have
happened, but she was trying to help."
"Don't tell me that you've turned into a
cheerleader for Stephanie!"
"I wouldn't exactly put it like that,"
Jillian responded with a shake of her head. "I don't see myself ever
becoming best friends with her or anything, but...well...maybe Patterson really
has had an influence on her. He does bring out the best in people
and...well...there's something that I never really told you."
Reginald looked at her intently and nodded,
signaling for her to continue.
"Well, you remember our wedding?" she
began carefully. "Actually, our almost wedding?"
"How could I forget!" he grumbled.
"Anyway, before the ceremony started,
Stephanie paid me a little unexpected visit in the bride's room and..."
"She what?" he barked angrily.
"I swear if that little witch did anything to..."
"Honey, would you just listen to
me?" Jillian grabbed onto his arm in an attempt to calm him
down. "She wanted to see me so that she could apologize."
"She said that she was sorry for everything
that she did to come between us and that she realized that we loved one another
and belonged together." She paused and took a deep breath and waited
for the stunned reaction she knew he was going to have.
"Surely, you don't think she was serious, do
"At first, I was convinced it was just
another one of her games," Jillian confessed, "but she seemed so
sincere and so...well...remorseful. I think she really was being honest
with me. Maybe she has changed. It would make sense since Paddy
seems to be in love with her."
"Paddy seems to have lost his mind,
too!" Reginald shook his head in disbelief. "Next thing I
know, you're going to tell me that you want to invite her to the wedding."
"You can't be serious! After
everything that she's done?"
exactly why," she explained calmly. "She's really come through
for your family and...well...she seems genuine in her attempts to put whatever
bad things happened in the past behind her. Maybe we should do the same
thing. Maybe we should just let go of the past and move on. Inviting
Stephanie might just be the thing to show the fates that we're not afraid of
them. Besides, you know Paddy's going to want to bring her and..."
"You really want to invite her?"
He eyed her closely, still not sure he was in favor of the idea.
"Well, I'll make a deal with you. You invite Stephanie and I'll
"Oh, I don't think so!" she answered
quickly. "I don't want Dane Manchester within fifty feet of my
wedding! Have you lost your mind? That's the most ridiculous idea I
think I've ever heard!"
"Well, if you really want to laugh in the
face of fate...."
Jillian let out a weary sigh of resignation and
slouched forward, resting her chin in her hands. "It would be a way
to show him that, no matter what he's done or ever might do, we'll be
"And we can keep an eye on him,"
Reginald smiled slyly.
"Lord, Dane Manchester an invited guest at
my wedding," she grumbled.
"Don't forget Stephanie!" He
grinned impishly. "If you're really intent on putting everything in
the past, you could make her a bride's maid."
"Don't press your luck! I said that I
wanted to laugh at fate, not tempt it."
"Speaking of weddings," Reginald
muttered softly as he took the glass out of her hands and set it on the floor
before nuzzling her neck tenderly, "you said something about a June
wedding? There's still time to..."
"Oh, I like the way you think, Mr.
Callison," Jillian giggled warmly.
"And I like more than they way you think,
soon-to-be Mrs. Callison."