23 Green St."Well, you're looking much better," Lorraine Davis smiled as walked into the room carrying a large tray from the kitchen.

"I'm feeling much better, too," Douglas Davis replied as he propped himself up in bed.  Upon seeing the tray, he cocked an eyebrow and looked at her curiously.  "What's that?"

"I brought you some soup for lunch," she smiled, sat the tray down on the bed, and lifted the tea towel that she'd used to cover the bowl to hold in the steam.  "It's chicken noodle---your favorite."

"Do I have to eat more soup?" he grumbled.  "You've fed me so much so that I think I'm going to turn into a chicken noodle."

"Oh, stop complaining and eat."  She paused when she spotted the papers that were strewn across the bed and eyed them curiously before picking one up to look at.  "What are you working on?"

"Just going over some things before Francis' hearing tomorrow," he sighed as he rubbed his head.  "I've got to be fully prepared going into this hearing.  Hopefully, I can convince the judge that the D.A. really doesn't have enough evidence against her to warrant a full trial."

"You don't sound so sure that he won't send the case to trial," Lorraine observed and then reached down to give his hand a reassuring squeeze.  "It's not looking good, is it?"

Douglas Davis"Honestly?"  His shoulders slumped with the weight of worry.  "No, it doesn't.  That D.A. is relentless.  I'm almost certain that he's trying to get a judgeship and this is the exact kind of high profile case that he'd latch onto.  He's not going to give up without a solid conviction."

"Douglas, I feel so sorry for Charles and Francis and their family," she sighed.  "They've been through so much this past year because of Annabelle.  I just don't know what they'd do if..."

"Don't think about that," he spoke up before she could express her fears.  "We've got to stay positive.  Even if this does go to trial, a sound jury is going to see that..."

"Oh!" Lorraine grimaced as a look of shock covered her face and she grabbed her stomach.  Pausing to take several deep breaths, she sat down on the edge of the bed to steady herself.

"Lorraine, are you all right?" Douglas asked urgently as he bolted upright, nearly sending the serving tray and bowl of soup hurtling to the floor.  "Is it the baby?  Nothing's wrong, is it?"

"No, nothing's wrong," she smiled and then took another deep breath.  "It's just that...well..."

"It's not..."

"No, not yet," she laughed.  "But almost.  I think this baby is almost ready to make his grand appearance, but just not quite yet."

"He?"  Douglas was quick to notice her use of the masculine pronoun.  "Are you saying that you think it's going to be a boy?"

Lorraine Davis"Well, no...but...well, I kind of have a feeling that it might be."  She reached out and gently stroked his cheek.  "A woman knows these things, you know.  Just like I knew that the only thing that would make you better was lots of bed rest."

"I know, I know," he laughed, more than willing to admit how right she'd been.  "Just one more day in bed and I'll be as good as new and reading for that hearing tomorrow."

"Darling, you do have Dr. Jackson's number, don't you?" she asked.  "After everything he did to save me and the baby, he's the only doctor I want to deliver our child."

"I've got it right next to the phone, here."  He reached over by the telephone that sat on the nightstand next to their bed and pulled out the slip of paper with the doctor's telephone number written on it.  "And I've also got it by the phone downstairs, and by the phone at the office, and..."

"Okay, okay, I get the picture," she laughed.  "You sure do like to be prepared."

"Which is exactly why I'm going to have to ask you to leave me alone for a while so I can get ready for this hearing."  He reached down and picked up a stack of papers so that he could go over them while he ate his soup.

"I'll just go downstairs and finish the ironing and leave you alone for a while."

"Don't over do it!" he ordered sternly.  "I told you that I don't want you over exerting yourself and you've already rearranged the baby's room 3 times, washed all the drapes, and did enough laundry to clothe this family for a month!  Take it easy."

"I just want everything to be ready," she explained.  "You want to prepare for this hearing and I want to prepare for this baby.  I'll leave you alone to do your work and you leave me alone to do mine.  Now, I'm just going to turn on the radio for you so that you've got something to listen to and I'll check in on you later."

"Oh, all right," he sighed before returning his focus to his work.

As she left the room, he heard the radio announce begin to speak...

"This has been Woman Courageous--brought to you by Easy Clean!  Stay tuned for A Brighter Hope, next over most of these ALB stations."

"Great," he grumbled to himself.  "She would have to turn it to a soap opera.  Now I'll never get anything done."


63 Mapleton Way"Darling, I don't understand," Francis said as Charles, carrying the picnic basket, led her through the large doors and into the foyer.  "What are we doing here?  We can't have a picnic here!"

"And why not?" he laughed as he directed her into a large, empty room.  "This place is just as good as any."  He sat the basket down and pulled out the blanket that he'd packed before spreading it out on the floor.  "I think this is perfect.  Now, why don't you sit down here with me?"

"Charles, what if someone comes in here?" she asked, more than a little nervous about being inside some stranger's house.  "I know that the place looks empty, would we explain being here?"

"Honey, there's nothing to worry about.  Nobody lives here right now."  He paused and looked around the room and inhaled deeply before speaking again.  "You remember the Carringtons, don't you?"

"Malcolm Carrington?" she asked as she furrowed her brow.  "Wasn't he the head of the Chamber of Commerce several years ago?"

Charles Callison"Yes, and he retired.  Well, he finally decided to move to Florida to be near his daughter after his wife died."  Charles began removing the lunch that he'd packed for them along with a bottle of champagne and two crystal glasses.  "He put the whole estate up for sale last fall and it's been empty ever since."

"I didn't know that.  I guess that since I don't go to that many Ladies' Auxiliary meetings at the hospital, anymore, I don't get all of the good gossip from Corinne."  She grimace slightly from the mention of that name.  "But what does all of this have to do with us?"

"Francis, this house has been for sale for months now and no one has even made an attempt to buy it---until now."

"W-what?"  She eyed him curiously.  "Charles, what are you talking about?"

"Darling, I want to make a commitment to you and our future," he said softly as he took her hand into his.  "I want us to put everything that's happened this past year behind us.  I want us to have a fresh start."

"I don't understand what you're trying to say."

"Francis, I pooled together all of the spare funds that I could manage and I bought this estate for you---for us!"  He nearly beamed as he revealed his news.  "I wants us to live here, together, as a family.  I want to put everything bad that's happened behind us so that we can start new...fresh.  This house is going to be a symbol of our hope for the future and a lifetime together."

Francis Callison"Oh, Charles," she gasped, naturally stunned by the news.  "But...what about our house?  What about our home?  Surely you're not going to sell the house that your father built."

"Of course not," he laughed.  "Reginald and Jillian are going to need a home of their own once they get married.  We'll just give it to them.  It'll be just like my father wanted---that house passed down through the generations."

"So, this entire estate is...ours?"

"Every inch of it."  He stopped to pop the cork on the champagne and then carefully filled their glasses.  "We can move in whenever we want.  Personally, I'd prefer sooner than later.  I don't want to wait another moment to begin the rest of our lives together."  After taking a sip, he paused and took a deep breath before speaking again.  "Francis, I want you to come home.  I want us to live together this house."

"I...I..."  Looking around at what would be her new home, she hesitated not because of apprehension of a complete reunion with her husband, but because of the overwhelming sense of renewed hope that had come over her.  Yes, this house would be a symbol of the future---of the hope for a joyous new life with Charles.  As a warm smile washed over her face, she took a deep breath before speaking.  "Yes.  I'll...move into this house with you.  I'll bring our family back together again."

"Darling, you have no idea how happy that makes me."  Charles immediately took her into his arms and held her tightly.  "This is only the beginning of our future.  I promise you, Francis, all of our bad days are over.  There are only clear skies ahead."

Feeling the tender love and support that his arms provided, Francis finally, for the first time in what seemed like forever, was filled with a sense of renewed hope.  She was convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that her family would be whole again and nothing in the world would ever change that.


54 Spring Lake Dr."I don't know why you had to call them here," Dane whispered in annoyance as he watched the police who were carefully searching the room for any indication as to where Stephanie might have gone.  "You're over reacting.  She just ran off.  It's no big deal!"

"Dane, this just isn't like her," Sara muttered sternly.  "I'm worried!"

"Me, too," Patterson sighed as he nervously raked his fingers through his hair.

"So, Mrs. Manchester, when was the last time you saw your cousin?" Detective Jim Fitzpatrick asked as he and Officer Russ Leeds searched the room.

"Um...a few days ago," she explained.  "I was about to go out to dinner with my mother.  In fact, that's the last time any of us saw her."

Jim Fitzpatrick"I see," he nodded as he rubbed his chin.  "Did you all have any kind of discussion or argument that might give any indication, in retrospect, as to where she might have gone or why?"

"No, nothing," Sara shook her head.

"Honey, she did tell us how unhappy she was here," Dane pointed out.  "She was determined to move out of this house as soon as possible."

"But she wouldn't have run off without saying anything to anybody!" Patterson spoke up.  "At the very least she would have said something to me."

"And what is your relationship to Miss Lake, Mr. Monroe?" Jim asked curiously as he walked over to him.  "Are you two romantically involved?"

" exactly," Patterson stammered awkwardly.

"Not exactly?"  Jim furrowed his brow as he tried to understand the answer.  "Either you are or you aren't, Mr. Monroe.  Which is it?"

"No.  We're...just friends.  But...but...we're very close and she wouldn't have just left without saying anything to me!"

"Has she ever kept anything from you before?"

Patterson Monroe"Well...yes, but..."  Patterson's shoulders slumped as he realized what the police detective was trying to say.  "But this is different!"

"That remains to be seen," Jim muttered before turning his attention to Sara.  "So, Mrs. Manchester, if you've been so worried about your cousin, why did you wait so long to notify the police?"

"I...well...I thought that maybe she had just taken off," Sara confessed as she hung her head.  "I mean, my husband is right about her not being the most rational of people, sometimes.  She does...sometimes do things without thinking, but...well...for her not to say anything to anyone?  The more that I thought about it, the more worried I got."

"Detective, she just started a new job that she was really excited about," Patterson explained.  "I can't believe that she would just leave that behind.  It doesn't make any sense."

"Miss Lake is the daughter of Annabelle Lake, the murder victim, right?"

"Y-yes," Sara replied.  "What does that...have to do with anything?"

"Just making sure I've got everyone straight."  Jim slowly began to pace around the room.  "So, her mother was tragically murdered and she moved in here.  From the way your husband sounds, they didn't exactly get along."

Dane Manchester"That would be an understatement!" Dane laughed.

"Mrs. Manchester, it looks like it's very likely that your cousin did, in fact, just take off.  She is an adult and come and go as she pleases."

"But...but..." Sara stammered, still not convinced that something horrible hadn't happened.  "But when I got home from dinner with my mother, the house was empty, but the lights were all on like someone was home.  I found...this table turned over.  Doesn't that sound suspicious to you?"

"Yes, it does," Jim muttered.  "But if it sounds so suspicious to you, why didn't it alert you that something had happened?"

"Well, I...I just didn't think about it at the time," she sighed.  "I had no reason to think that maybe something horrible had happened.  I'd planned to ask her about it when she came home but...well...she never did.  My husband just convinced me that she'd run off and that...she'd come home eventually."

Russ Leeds"Um...Jim, come here for a second," Officer Russ Leeds spoke up as he knelt down on the floor beside the sofa.

"What it is, Leeds?" Jim asked as he walked over to him.  The officer picked up a small object, nearly entirely hidden under the sofa, and handed it to Jim.  "Very interesting.  Mrs. Manchester, do you recognize this?"  He held it out for Sara to see.

"I...I'm not sure," she muttered as she looked at it closely.  "It looks like a cufflink."

"That's exactly what it is," Jim confirmed.  "Have you ever seen it before?"

"That's not one of mine," Dane explained as he, too, examined it before turning to look at Sara.  "Do you know where it came from?"

Sara Manchester"I...I'm not sure."  She kept her eyes focused on the cufflink as she began to search her memory for some hint of recollection.  "It...looks familiar can't be what I..."

"What?" Patterson asked nervously.  "What is it?"

"I think I know exactly whose cufflink that looks like, but..."

"But what?"

"It can't be."  Sara paused and took a deep breath, more confused and worried than ever.  "Because he's dead!"



Sara makes a starling realization.


produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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