For Now and Forever
EPISODE #90 (Friday,
In the back corner of the cafe sat Helen Van Dyne and a very handsome mystery gentleman. Stephanie Lake stared at them intently and felt herself growing deeply angry at the sight of a giggly Helen enjoying herself in the company of the man. How dare Helen have so much fun after she'd worked so hard to ruin Stephanie's life? As she began to seethe, Stephanie couldn't help but find the gentleman oddly familiar. She was just sure that she'd seen him somewhere before.
"Um, excuse me," Stephanie spoke up as she grabbed the attention of a nearby waitress. "That couple sitting at that back table..."
"Yes," the waitress asked as her eyes darted to Helen and her date. "Cute couple."
"Who is he?" Stephanie leaned in closer as if she were about to hear a very intriguing secret.
"Well, I'm not one to gossip," the waitress smiled slyly, "and I must add that I'm not one to pry, either, but..." She glanced around for a moment as if she were checking out the security of the area and she was about to deliver top secret information. "Well, I do manage to overhear things when I'm pouring coffee and serving food."
"I'm sure you do," Stephanie nodded, eager for the waitress to continue. "Who is he?"
"Well..." the waitress' voice trailed off into a whisper, "his name is Mark Linford...."
KITTY'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"I wish you could stay longer," Kitty Benedict cooed as she slowly draped herself with her lush peignoir. "We only got started."
"I wish that I could," Dane Manchester muttered with an impish smile, "but I do have other things I have to do today. Actually, I've been here longer than I really should have."
"That wife of yours sure keeps you on a short leash." She frowned intensely, not at all happy that she had to share the dashing Mr. Manchester with anyone.
"For your information, I'm on nobody's leash!" he snapped angrily, "least of all my wife's!"
Kitty paused for a moment, slightly stung by his sharp reply. "When...will I get to see you again?"
"Soon," he grinned, "very soon."
As Dane left her apartment, Kitty sunk down onto the couch and lit a cigarette. Her random encounters with Dane were quickly beginning to grow old. However, she knew that she'd gotten her foot in the door...exactly what she needed to do. A loud knocking at the door pulled her from her thoughts.
"I'm coming!" she shouted as she pulled her peignoir tightly closed and headed for the door. "Who....oh!" she gasped when she saw who was on the other side. "What...are you doing here?"
"I take it that Manchester guy was here?" the man said as he eyed Kitty up and down.
"Yes," she mumbled. "I wasn't...expecting you until later---for dinner."
"I can see that!" Kitty let out a deep breath and followed the man as he walked into the apartment and straight to the liquor cabinet. "Sammy, what's the big deal with Dane, anyway?"
"Don't ask questions, Kit," Sonny Benedict, Kitty's older brother said with a throaty growl. "You know that you've got a job to do."
"I just...don't understand it." Kitty bit her lip as she tried to understand exactly the reasoning behind what was going on. "I mean, I don't exactly mind getting so close to Dane, but...well...why? Why is your boss so intent on using me to get close to Dane Manchester?"
"It's not Manchester, babe," Sonny muttered after taking a long swig of his drink. "I don't know exactly how it all fits together, but it all has somethin' to do with his wife."
"Look, don't ask questions." Sonny turned and walked over to the couch to sit down. "Just do what you're supposed to do and there's going to be a nice fat roll of dough at the end."
"Oh, all right," Kitty muttered with a sigh as she sat down next to her brother on the sofa and silently began to wonder exactly what she'd gotten herself into.
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"Well, dear, what did Dane say he had to do that was so important?" Joyce Preston asked as she sat at a table with her daughter Sara.
"I don't know," Sara Manchester grumbled as she glanced down at her watch. "He just muttered something about having to be somewhere and left. Honestly! My own aunt's memorial service and he can't even stay for the entire thing."
"Well, this is Annabelle we're talking about," Joyce commented with a thin laugh. "From what I've gathered, she and Dane didn't necessarily get along."
"Hardly! Aunt Annabelle just couldn't stand Dane and always thought I could have picked a better husband." Sara winced slightly when she realized that she'd brought up a topic of conversation that she really didn't want to have with her mother in light of recent discussions.
"My lord, I can't believe it," Joyce exclaimed with a dramatic and overly pronounced gasp, "I actually agree on something with that old barracuda! I think Dane's beneath you, too!"
"Momma, don't start."
"What, dear?" Joyce smiled innocently. "I'm only saying these things because I'm your mother and I care." About causing trouble.
"Well, if you care so much, can we please change the subject. I really don't feel like discussing my marriage with you today."
"Okay," Joyce nodded, more than a little pleased with herself that she'd managed to strike a nerve. Taking a deep breath, she decided to broach another topic. "So...what's going on between you and Stephanie?"
At the sound of her cousin's name, Sara winced. It was a reaction not lost on Joyce who quickly realized that there was yet another avenue to be explored.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sara muttered as she tried to avoid the question.
"Now, don't give me that! I've got eyes and ears!" Joyce paused and took a sip of her wine. "Remember, I was there! I saw all of those nasty looks between the two of you...the ones you were giving when you thought she wasn't looking!"
"Momma, I'm not discussing Dane and I'm not discussing Steph with you!"
"But you girls were always so close when you were little." Joyce reached across the table and grasped her daughter's hand tightly. "I just don't know what could have happened to change all of that."
"Let's just say that Stephanie doesn't know how to keep her nose out of my relationship with Dane," Sara snapped angrily. "And you can take that as a little advice!"
As Joyce leaned back into her chair, she exhaled slowly in an attempt to fight off the quick retort that was wanting to jump off of the tip of her tongue. No, a vicious argument with Sara would definitely not keep her in her daughter's good graces. Joyce fully realized that that was exactly where she needed to be if she were going to be able to succeed in her plans.
Meanwhile, across the table, Sara again glanced down at her watch and began to franticly wonder what was keeping her husband.
"Mark Linford?" Stephanie repeated the name as she carefully rubbed her chin in thought. The name sounded oddly familiar, but she just couldn't place it. "I'm not sure I know who that is."
"Oh, he's some big shot attorney from....hey! Wait a second!" the waitress exclaimed with a touch of surprise. "I know who you are! You're the daughter of that woman who was murdered! You're Stephanie Lake!"
"Uh...um...yes, I am," Stephanie winced slightly from being reminded of her mother's horrible fate. "I...um...I'd rather not talk about that."
"Oh, I understand," the waitress replied with a more serious tone. "I...hope I didn't offend you. I was just...well...I kinda feel connected to the whole murder."
"How do you feel connected?" Stephanie eyed the woman curiously.
"I was there!" she exclaimed before pausing to stick out her hand for Stephanie to shake. "My name's Stella Wagner. Usually I'm stuck here waiting tables, but sometimes I pick up some other jobs at the hotel for some extra money. I was working in The Grand Sunset Room the night of the Callisons' big party---the night your mother died. So...I kinda feel connected to it since I was there and all. I'm...so sorry about...what happened."
"T-thank you," Stephanie muttered softly, quite uncomfortable with the attention. Quickly, however, she returned her focus to Helen and Mark. "So, you say that you overhear things?"
"Oh, yes!" Stella laughed. "Now, I'm not one to eavesdrop, but you just can't help but hear more than you care to know. For example, I know that Mark Linford is married and..."
"Married?" Stephanie fought to contain her gleeful shock. Helen Van Dyne was cavorting with a married man? Oh, the scandal! "Go on."
"The funny thing is, I remember seeing you at the Callison party, but I also saw Mr. Linford and that girl, too."
"They were at the party together?" Stephanie struggled to suppress a gasp.
"Now, I don't think that they were together together. I kept seeing them sneak off. They looked like they didn't want anyone to know what was going on." Stella leaned in closer. "I bet it's because his wife's sister was there."
"How do you know all of this?" Stephanie looked at her with much suspicion.
"Oh, I read a lot!" Stella laughed. "The gossip and society column in The State Examiner is just the best! There was even a picture of Mr. Linford and his wife Judith in the paper back when they first moved to town. I even saw her in here once. Just once, mind you. I don't think she was too keen on this place."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because she passed out as soon as she walked in the door! I've never seen her back in here since. I think that's why he comes in here with that other woman. Because he won't run into his wife."
"Very interesting." Indeed! Stephanie was growing more intrigued by the minute.
"You know that his wife's sister is engaged to marry the man that the papers say killed your mother, don't you?"
"W-what?" Stephanie's eyes grew wide. Surely she didn't hear the waitress correctly. His wife's sister? Why, that would be....
"Jillian Stokes," Stella spoke up, finishing Stephanie's thought. "You wouldn't know her would you? That's his wife's sister. Anyway, she's supposed to marry that Reginald Callison. I know the police think he's the one that killed your mother, but---truth be told---I really don't think he did it."
"Um, I'm not too sure he did it, either," Stephanie commented carefully, making extra sure not to tell the overly talkative waitress too much information. "But, why do you think he's innocent?"
"Weren't you listening?" Stella snapped with a tone of annoyance. "I told you I was there! I saw Reginald Callison go into the lounge right before they found your mother. But...he really wasn't in there long enough to do anything to her. I personally think that it was the other woman."
"Yes! Before he went into the lounge, there was a woman that went in. I didn't get a very good look at her, though. All I really remember was that beautiful scarf she had on. I saw one just like it at Lerner's back before Christmas, but it cost way too much. I wanted one, but I couldn't get it."
"Um...yes..." Stephanie interrupted in an attempt to keep Stella on topic. "As you were saying about the woman..."
"Oh! Yes! Anyway, I was right by the lounge working when the woman went in. It happened real quick, like, and I didn't get a good look, but, boy, did I hear what went on."
"You did?" Stephanie leaned closer.
"Yes! Oh, my goodness, they were having a huge fight!" Stella's hand fluttered up to her collar as she remembered the events that had happened. "I...I heard them screaming and yelling and...and then...well, it just stopped."
"Yes," Stella continued. "It got real quiet and suddenly this woman---you know, the one with the pretty scarf---just ran right out and into the crowd. I...I was a little embarrassed for having overheard so much."
"When...when did Reginald Callison go in?"
"Not for a bit after that."
"Oh, I'd say maybe ten or fifteen minutes. He sure wasn't in there very long before I saw you come walking up. That's when you went into the lounge and the next thing I knew everybody was just rushing in and I'd heard that there'd been a murder. It all just happened so fast and I... Oh, gee, I've been talking your ear off for way too long."
"Oh, Stella, that's okay," Stephanie muttered as her mind began to race. Reginald couldn't have done it!
"I really have to get back to work." Stella glanced down at her watch. "The boss gets kinda upset when we bother the customers."
"Oh, it was no bother at all," Stephanie smiled warmly. "In fact, you've helped me a great deal!"
"Well, you have a nice day," Stella nodded before picking up a few dirty dishes and quickly scurrying away.
As Stephanie's mind begin to fill with a myriad of thoughts, she turned to glance at Mark and Helen again, but was disappointed to discover that they'd slipped out while she was talking to Stella.
"Steph, I'm sorry I took so long," Patterson Monroe sighed as he came back to the table and sat down. "I stopped by the pay phone to call home and check on Todd. Mrs. Oliver said that she thought he was coming down with a cold and..."
"Oh, that's okay," Stephanie muttered as the gears inside her head began to turn. "Um...look, Paddy, I've got to go see Reginald."
"O-okay," he replied, more than a little curious about what she was up to. "What's so important that..."
"I don't have time to explain," Stephanie snapped as she grabbed his hand and pulled him from the table. "But I've got to tell him something that he's going to thank me for later."
Although still unsure about what was going on, Patterson realized that he had no choice but to go along and quickly followed Stephanie out of the restaurant. Little did either one of them know that a pair of mysterious eyes was watching them from a table in the back of the restaurant, not that far away from where Stephanie had been focused on Mark and Helen.
THE DAVIS HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Trevor, thank you for coming," Douglas Davis muttered awkwardly as he shook Trevor's hand. "I know that this has to be a difficult enough time for your family considering what they're going through because of Annabelle."
"Well, I thought it was important that I be here for Grace," Trevor Callison nodded. "I know that's your mother's death is extremely difficult for her."
"It's difficult for all of us," Douglas sighed. "I just...can't believe that she's gone, but...well, I have to hold on to the feeling that she's in a better place. She suffered so much during her life that I can only believe that where she is now is much better for her."
"Um...where is Grace?" Trevor asked as he casually glanced around the room.
"She was just here a second ago." Douglas furrowed his brow slightly as he, too, turned to look for his sister. "Lorraine, where did Grace go?"
"She said that she needed to get some air," Lorraine Davis spoke up as she walked over to take Douglas' arm. "Hello, Trevor."
"Lorraine," he nodded politely. Being in the same room with her and her husband was still a little uncomfortable for Trevor considering their own previous relationship.
"I told her that you were here and she just turned white as a sheet," Lorraine explained as she silently tried to understand Grace's actions. "She said that she needed to get some air and that she'd be back in a few minutes."
"She's just so upset about Momma's death," Douglas sighed as he and Lorraine sat down on the sofa and Trevor sat down in a neighboring chair. "I'm just thankful that she had a chance to see her right at the end."
"W-what?" Trevor questioned with confusion. "I thought...that your mother passed away the night of that big snow storm. How did Grace get to Manor Hills in the middle of all of that?"
"She didn't tell you?" Douglas' eyes grew wide with surprise. He was certain that she would have told him about her final visit with their mother. "Grace had this crazy idea that Momma needed her and slipped out in the middle of the night. She took my car and drove to Andersonville."
"On those roads?" Realizing how risky it had been, Trevor let out a slight gasp of shock.
"I felt the exact same way," Douglas nodded, "but in retrospect, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since Momma died not long afterwards. I'm just thankful that Grace wasn't hurt in the accident, I..."
"Accident?" Trevor was growing more and more confused. "What accident?"
"She didn't tell you about that, either?" When Douglas saw Trevor shaking his head with a mixture of disbelief and bewilderment, he let out a heavy sigh. "Well, you know how bad the roads were. She hit a patch of ice and slid off the road and into a tree---banged my car up pretty badly and it's still in the shop. I'm just glad Dane was there to..."
"Dane was there?" Trevor sunk back into his seat, utterly stunned by everything that had happened---everything that Grace had failed to mention to him! "Dane Manchester?"
"Yes!" Douglas laughed with a slight sense of awkward amusement because of Trevor's complete ignorance concerning the events that happened the night of his mother's death. "Dane just happened to be driving by when Grace wrecked. He stopped to help, but got stuck in the snow. He and Grace stayed in his car together until I finally went out looking for her. I'm just glad he was there because I know she would have been panicked without him to calm her down."
"Dane Manchester," Trevor muttered, mostly to himself.
As Douglas continued to talk, Trevor's mind began to spin and wander. Ever since her mother's death, Grace had slowly become more and more distant. Now, however, knowing about what had happened the night of the snow storm, Trevor began to wonder if there were more to Grace's behavior than grief. Clearly remembering Grace's past crush on Dane as well as Dane's not so sterling reputation, Trevor immediately began to wonder if Dane's assistance was completely noble. He also began to wonder exactly how susceptible to Dane's charms Grace still was.
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"I just don't understand what was so important that you couldn't leave the memorial service with us!" Sara muttered under her breath.
"I had something to take care of," Dane snapped in a voice just about a whisper.
"It really was a beautiful service," Joyce smiled as she eyed each of them carefully. The mood was quite tense and she was quick to notice. She was also quick to pay close attention to every word that was being said...and not said.
"It better have been. It cost us quite a bit of money," Dane grumbled.
"I think it was quite honorable of you to pay for the entire service." Joyce took a calm sip of her wine as she turned her focus onto her son-in-law. "I know that you and dear Annabelle didn't always see eye to eye."
"I did it for Sara," Dane commented, his mood slowly becoming more at ease. "She knew that Stephanie didn't have the means to pay for a proper service, so she suggested that we take care of it."
"I'm sure Stephanie is very grateful," Joyce nodded.
"She doesn't know," Sara spoke up awkwardly. "We...fixed it so that Stephanie thinks that her mother had already made arrangements and had money put aside."
"Dane, that's so wonderful," Joyce cooed as she reached across the table and took his hand. "I just can't believe that my daughter was lucky enough to marry such a kind and thoughtful man like yourself."
At the sound of those words, Sara quickly turned to look at her mother with a mixture of shock and confusion. She was actually complementing Dane? After days of proclaiming him a horrible husband? Exactly what was she up to?
"Well, I just wish Sara could see all the wonderful things that you can, Joyce," Dane grinned broadly, quite taken in with her flattery. "Have I ever told you that I can clearly see where my darling wife gets all of her beauty? Why you two could almost be sisters."
"Dane, you are a dear!" Joyce giggled softly. "Why, if you weren't my son-in-law, I'd..." Suddenly, her voice trailed off as she caught a glimpse of a surprising face. As her jaw dropped from shock, she took a deep breath and tried to compose herself.
"Momma, is something wrong?" Sara asked as she watched her carefully. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"N-not a ghost, dear," Joyce muttered as she felt her cheeks burn with a rising fury. "Just an old, dear friend. If you'll both excuse me."
Slowly, Joyce rose from her seat and she made a careful, deliberate walk across the restaurant.
"Hello, Judith," Joyce spoke up calmly as she came face to face with a person from her past.
"J-Joyce!" Judith Linford exclaimed, more than a little taken aback. "What...are you doing here...in Albanyville?"
"Let's just say that it was a family emergency," Joyce replied icily. "I could ask you the same question. Did you run out of people's lives to ruin in New York?"
"Surely you're not going to hold that against me?" Judith smiled coyly as she quickly regained her composure. "That was ages ago."
"There are some things you don't forget."
"Mother should be her in a moment." Judith casually looked around for a glimpse of her. "We were out shopping earlier but she had to run home. We're meeting back here for lunch. I'm sure she'd love to see you. It has been ages."
"At least since the funeral," Joyce nearly spat. "Speaking of which. How's that sister of yours? Is she still bouncing around inside that padded cell?"
"Actually....," Judith's voice trailed off as she contemplated how to respond to the question. "Let's just say that she's a little indisposed."
"I see." Joyce nodded calmly while she fought to suppress the anger that was building. "You'll just have to send Janet my warmest regards."
"I'm sure she'd be thrilled to receive them," Judith didn't fight to hide the sarcasm in her voice. "I'll be more than happy to pass them along to her. In fact, I just can't wait to tell her that I saw Joyce Scott today!"
TO BE CONTINUED
Joyce eyes a new target.
For Now and Forever
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