THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM

The Grand Sunset Room"Dane, where have you been?" Joyce Preston asked as she briskly walked up to him and grabbed him by the arm.  "I've been looking all over for you."

"Well, I don't know where you've been, but I've been right here."  Dane Manchester lifted his martini glass to her in a mock toast.

"Don't be glib," she chastised.  "Do you know what your wife was talking to Trevor Callison about?"

"No, I don't."  The mention of Trevor's name immediately grabbed Dane's attention.  "Were you eavesdropping on them?"

"Of course I was, Dane!  Someone's got to be looking after the state of your marriage since you clearly have no intention of doing it yourself."

"I hope your not trying to insinuate that I've got a reason to be concerned about Sara's friendship with Trevor."  He took another sip of his drink.  "They've been friends for years.  That's all it is."

"Are you trying to convince me of that or are you trying to convince yourself?"  A smug grin spread across her face.  She was certain that Dane was acting more unconcerned than he really was.  "Besides, my daughter does have a history of betraying you -- or have you forgotten her little affair with my husband?"

"Joyce, we've gone over that before.  I really don't think there ever was anything between Sara and Thornton Preston."

Joyce Preston"Your a fool, Dane.  A blind fool!  And that foolishness is going to cost you everything you have."

He paused for another moment to take another sip of his drink, but more accurately to give himself time to consider what his mother-in-law had said.  "So....  Did you overhear what they were talking about?"

"Not everything," she confessed, pleased that she had his full attention and interest.  "But I got the distinct impression that they were discussing all of the manuscripts that Thornton had finished but hadn't published.  I think that the young Mr. Callison was trying to make an arrangement with Sara so that they could finally publish those works."

"That makes sense to me," Dane nodded.  "He was under contract with Callison Publications when he died."

"But do you understand what this means?"  She reached out and grabbed hold of his arm.  "Because of Thornton's will, Sara has the rights to those works -- my husband's work!  That is one of the only things that he bequeathed to her and her alone!  That little gold-digger has full rights to my husband's work!  She's gotten her hands on everything!  Do you have any idea how much money she could make once those books are published and if they're best sellers?"

"Joyce, you're talking about your own daughter," he reminded, alarmed by the severity of her reaction.  "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were more concerned about what you perceive Sara stole from you than from any sort of concern for her and the state of our marriage."

Realizing that she might have overstated her case, coming horribly close to revealing her true motives and intent, Joyce began to backtrack and stammer.  "Well...um...naturally, it's still a sore spot for me.  She did sleep with my husband in an attempt to get her hands on his money and convinced him to change his will, completely cutting me out of it."

"There you are, Dane!" Patterson called out as he hurried over to the scheming in-laws -- thoroughly interrupting their conversation, much to Joyce's relief -- with Stephanie on his arm.  "Where's Sara?  Steph and I have some wonderful news to share with you."

"She was talking to Trevor Callison earlier," he replied, his eyes moving immediately to Joyce.  "I haven't seen her since."

"Oh, Paddy, there she is," Stephanie spoke up, catching sight of Sara who was walking across the room towards them.  "Sara!  Oh, Sara, come here!"

Sara Manchester"What is it, Stephanie?" Sara Manchester asked as she hurried over to them.  "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong!"  Stephanie practically beamed with the anticipation of her news.  "Everything's wonderful!  Paddy and I have some exciting news to tell you."  She bit her lower lip nervously and looked up at Patterson.

Stephanie Monroe"Well...?"  Sara looked at both Patterson and Stephanie with curiosity and then over to her husband who shrugged and shook his head to indicate that he didn't have the faintest idea what the news could be.

"We wanted you to be the first to know...."  Stephanie paused and took a deep breath.  "We're going to have a baby."

"A...baby?" Sara gasped and then immediately flung her arms around her cousin.  "Oh, my goodness, that's wonderful!  A baby!  But...but are you sure?  It's so soon!"

Patterson Monroe"Yes, we're sure," Stephanie nodded.  "We just found out today.  I'm so excited.  I've been dying to tell someone all day."

"Paddy, my good man, congratulations."  Dane stuck out his hand and gave his good friend a hearty handshake.  "You two sure haven't wasted any time."

"I admit that we weren't planning on having kids so soon," Patterson confessed sheepishly.  "But I actually think this is going to be the best thing for all of us.  This baby is really going to make all of us a family."Dane Manchester

In the midst of all of the congratulatory good wishes, Dane's attention was drawn towards Joyce who'd quietly slipped away and moved across the room.  As he watched her, he saw her chatting with a waiter -- getting another drink, perhaps?  He wasn't sure, but by the tone of her earlier conversation, he was well aware that she was up to something and he was certain that he didn't like that idea at all.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN DANCE FLOOR

The Grand Sunset Room"That was simply beautiful," Leticia Rutherford said as she broke away from her husband Fred, with whom she'd been dancing, and applauded the orchestra's performance.  "I really have to hand it to Francis and her Ladies Auxiliary.  They've really managed to pull together an amazing benefit."

"I agree," Dr. Fred Rutherford nodded.  "They've raised quite a bit of money tonight for that new children's ward at the hospital."

"Dear, do you think you'll be all right for a few minutes while I go talk to Francis?  I want to tell her what a good job she's done."

"I can take care of myself," he laughed and then finished his drink.  "I'll just go over to the bar and get another cocktail."  He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.  "I'll see you in a few minutes."

Leticia Stokes RutherfordAs Leticia left and disappeared out of sight into the crowd, Fred inhaled deeply.  All the cooing and fawning he was having to do over his wife was beginning to wear him down.  Sure, Leticia was genial and loving enough, but even a blind person could see how stuffy and prim she could be.  In a word, Fred found her quite dull and he loved excitement.  However, the immense size of his wife's bank account went a long way in making her more attractive to him.

He approached the bar and lifted his hand to catch the attention of the bartender, but was startled to find another hand land gently on his shoulder.  The touch was familiar and he spun around in shock to face the hand's owner.

"Donna, what the devil do you think you're doing?" he asked in a severe whisper.  "We shouldn't be seen together here."

"Don't be silly," Donna Allison laughed.  "You're a doctor.  I'm a nurse.  This is a hospital fundraiser, after all.  There's nothing unseemly about two professional colleagues talking socially about the successes of the night concerning the children's ward."

Fred paused to consider what she'd said and realized that she did have a point.  However, he also knew that their relationship was far more than professional.  He had a lot a stake and didn't need any sort of public slip-ups to threaten everything that he'd worked so hard to achieve.

"Business -- that's all we can talk about.  Hospital business."  His eyes darted around the room checking to see if anyone were watching them, paying attention too closely.

Donna Allison"Well, you sure are jumpy tonight."  Donna lifted her hand to carefully caress his cheek.  "Perhaps we should get together later.  I bet I know a few ways to relax you."

"Stop it, Donna," he snapped, grabbing hold of her hand and forcing it away.  "Someone could see you.  I told you that what goes on between us is private.  It stays behind closed doors and we don't need to make a public spectacle out of it.  If my wife were to find out...."

"I know.  I know," she muttered and hung her head.  She'd made so much progress with him and now was afraid that she'd pushed things too far.  "I...can see you again, can't I?"

"Of course, you can," he smiled, both his tone and manner loosening up slightly.  "But only when we can be alone.  What we have is just between us.  You know that I have...um...special circumstances that...."

Fred was cut off mid-sentence by a very loud clearing of the throat definitely meant to politely, yet definitely, interrupt their conversation.

Jasper St. John"Dr. Rutherford?' Jasper St. John, the manager of the ballroom, spoke up.

"Mr. St. John, yes?" Fred asked as he turned away from Donna to face him.  Jasper's carefully raised eyebrow and knowing smirk belayed the suspicions that were swirling inside the man's head.  "Nurse Allison and I were just discussing the fundraiser and the children's ward."

"Yes, I can see that," Jasper responded dryly.  "Perhaps you should be discussing the...um...fundraiser with your wife?"

"She's busy discussing it with Mrs. Callison."  Fred's jaw tightened.  The last thing he was in the mood for was the snooty manager's insinuations.  "You wanted something?"

"Oh, yes, I almost forgot."  Jasper reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope.  "One of our waiters found this at the front door and it was addressed to you.  I'd assumed you'd dropped it on your way in and I thought I'd return it."  Jasper handed the envelope over to Fred, making sure to keep his hand extended for the customary tip.  When, after several long moments, his hand remained empty, Jasper pulled it away and scowled at the good doctor.  "If I see your wife, I'll be sure to tell her where you are."

Dr. Fred Rutherford"Oh, um, yes," Fred muttered, immediately realized what Jasper was getting at and then dug deeply into his pocked for some change and handed it over to him.

"Oh, thank you, sir!" Jasper exclaimed with false gratitude as he examined his handful of coins.  "Now I can continue to pay for my dear gray-haired old mother's medical bills."  With a roll of his eyes, he deposited the coins in his own pocket and then turned to walk away.

"Fred, what is it?" Donna asked as she watched Fred as he held the envelope out in front of himself.  "Who's it from?"

"I'm afraid I don't want to know," he muttered, half to himself.  Unable to contain his nervous suspense any longer, he ripped it open and pulled out a carefully typed letter -- it was from his blackmailer!

And whoever it was was there at the fundraiser and watching his every move.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM

The Grand Sunset Room"Married," Judith Linford grumbled to herself as she wove her way through the crowd of guests.  "How dare she?  How dare she trick Burt into marrying her?"  She paused long enough to finish off the last gulp of her drink and then immediately flagged down the nearest waiter.  "Get me another vodka martini -- straight up."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And make it a double!"

As the waiter hurried off to fill her order, Judith continued to silently fume.  She loved Burt with all of her heart, but he'd been vulnerable to her younger sister's wide-eyed and innocent act.  However, Judith knew Janet for the cunning, manipulative, nutcase she really was.  Judith knew that she'd used her "vulnerability" to ensnare Burt.  She knew that Janet had managed to wrap the kind-hearted and sincere Burt Lamont around her little finger and had used every trick in the book to convince him to run off and get married.  Well, Judith wasn't about to stand for it -- not at all!

But what could Judith do?  She'd fought for months to show Burt Janet's true colors to no avail.  If only she could remember every little detail about the night she'd fallen down the stairs and lost the baby she'd secretly shared with Burt.  If only she could remember the role that Janet had played in that tragic night.

Corinne Campbell"I guess you're proud of yourself," came the cold voice of Corinne Campbell from behind her.  "You made quite the public showing earlier with that donation.  I'm sure you scored a lot of points with my husband."

"Corinne, I really don't feel like being social with you right now," Judith snapped, refusing to even turn to look at her.  "I have a lot on my mind."

"Really?"  Corinne walked around Judith so that she could face her.  "Your head wouldn't happen to be filled with thoughts of my husband, would it?"

"Honestly, Corinne, Talbot is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment."

"Forgive me if I find that hard to believe."  Corinne folded her arms across her chest and glared at her presumed rival.  "I'm not blind, you know.  I've seen the way you behave around my husband.  I've seen the way you bat your eyes at him and coo at him.  I've seen the way he looks at you.  If you think I'm going to just stand idly by while you get your overly manicured claws into my husband, you've got another thing coming."

"I'm not having this discussion with you, Corinne," Judith muttered sternly as she pushed past her in an attempt to get away.  "I've got far more important things to deal with right now than you and your joke of a marriage."

"You listen to me, Judith Linford," Corinne spat as she grabbed her by the arm and spun her around, "You think I don't know about you?  Well, you're wrong!  I know all about the type of woman you are!  You're a pathetic, miserable woman and you're not happy unless everyone else is as miserable as you are!  Well, I'm not going to let you have Talbot!  Do you hear me?"

Corinne grabbed Judith forcibly by the arms, pushing her slightly backwards and causing the heel of Judith's shoe to catch in a crease in the carpeting.  Thrown slightly off balance, Judith stumbled backwards and against the wall, but caught herself before she could fall.

"You're headed for a fall, Judith!  A big fall!"

Just then, Judith's eyes grew wide with horror.

"I won't let you do this!" Janet screamed as she began to shake violently.  "I won't let you ruin my life like you've always tried to ruin my life!"

"There's nothing you can do about it."

Janet's eyes began to burn with rage.  All of her life, Judith had tried to take away everything that had mattered to her.  She'd fought tooth and nail to make sure that Gordon wouldn't love her and tried to convince him to stay with his wife.  She'd been the one to convince their father to send her to the institution...a place Janet knew she didn't really belong.  Now, Judith was determined to take away the one man who could finally make Janet truly happy.  Well, Janet wouldn't let her!  Janet would fight her to the end.  She would never let her have Burt!

In an instant, Janet's rage began to boil over as she balled her hands into fists.  Keeping her eyes focused firmly on Judith, Janet lunged at her.  A stunned and horrified Judith turned just in time to see Janet's face, twisted in anger and fear, coming at her.  Judith moved to the first step at the top of the staircase in an attempt to move out of her way, but Janet crashed into her, sending her precariously off balance.

As Judith's ankle turned, her foot slid from the first step down onto the second step.  Her weight shifting dangerously, she reached for the banister but only succeeded into completely losing her footing.  As a terrified scream tore from Judith's chest, she tumbled head over heels down the long staircase until she landed in a crumpled heap at the bottom.

"Oh, my god," Judith gasped, her eyes wide with horror and shock.  "Oh, my god."

"What's the matter with you?" Corinne asked full of discomfort.  The mere look on Judith's face told Corinne that something wasn't right.  "Have you taken ill?  Or...or are you just faking it so you can garner some sympathy from my husband?"

Judith Stokes Linford"Oh, my god," Judith muttered again, utterly terrified by the myriad of thoughts and memories that were flooding back to her.  She dug her nails deeply into the wallpaper behind her to steady herself as the color drained from her face and her legs grew weak.  "Oh, my god.  I...I remember.  I remember."

Everything.



 


NEXT TIME

Fred's night goes from bad to worse.




 


produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions