For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

 

EPISODE #102 (Tuesday, 3/26/02)
A Few Days Later
February, 1936 - Early Evening

ALBANYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - MAIN SQUAD ROOM

"Well, the way I see it," Officer Russ Leeds began as he slowly paced around the office, "is that Francis Callison probably didn't intend to kill Annabelle Lake.  My theory is that she went to confront her and then Lake started to taunt her and provoke her."

"That would be consistent with what we know about Lake so far," Detective Jim Fitzpatrick nodded.  "By all accounts she was a very antagonistic woman."  He paused and furrowed his brow in thought.  "So Callison went to confront Lake about the drugging of her husband.  Lake taunted her about the continued affair after the fact.  We know that Lake had already revealed Mr. Callison's plans to marry her once his divorce was final.  That could have been enough to send her over the edge.  We know that Francis Callison has an intense devotion to her family.  If she felt that Mrs. Lake was a threat to that family, it might provoke her enough to take matters into her own hands and..."

"That's an awful lot of speculation for a department that claims to have all the answers," Larry Rawlings laughed as he walked into the room.

"Just trying to solidify the case for the district attorney," Jim muttered with a sigh.  He was less than thrilled with the prospect of being forced to deal with the annoying reporter again.  "What do you want?"

Larry looked at Jim and Russ and smirked slightly.  "Well, since you boys were so helpful with giving me the scoop about Francis Callison's arrest, I thought you might help me out with another case."

"And what might that be?"  Russ eyed Larry suspiciously.

"Oh, just a dead body that turned up on our side of Blue River."  Larry grinned broadly.  "No I.D. yet, but our boys seem to think that the victim was from Albanyville."

"Great!" Jim grumbled as he sunk down into his chair.  "Just what we need.  Another dead body."

THE CALLISON HOME - LIVING ROOM

"Douglas, I want to thank you for everything that you're doing," Francis Callison smiled weakly as she sat on the sofa, the stress of her arrest still bearing down upon her.  "I just...wish I could be more help."

"Francis, I'm going to do everything in my power to prove that you couldn't have killed Annabelle," Douglas Davis replied as he leaned forward on the sofa and took her hand for reassurance. "Anyone in this town who knows you can't believe that you could be guilty of such a thing.  I don't care what she did to you and your family, you wouldn't resort to murder."

"I...I just don't understand it," she sighed with a shake of her head.  "Y-yes, we fought---horribly, in fact---but she was alive when I left the lounge.  I...I can still see that smug little smirk of hers.  She told me that it didn't matter that she'd drugged Charles.  He would marry her anyway because she...she..."

"Darling, it's all right," Charles Callison whispered softly as he sat down next to her and put her arm around her.

She paused and inhaled deeply before speaking again.  "She said that he would still marry her because I was a cold and worthless wife.  She said that I was used up and that...that I couldn't fulfill his needs and...desires."

"The nerve of that woman," Charles grumbled angrily.  "How I could have been so blind?  I...I knew what kind of woman she was.  I knew that she was a lying schemer of the first order, yet...yet..."

"Charles, stop torturing yourself like this," Douglas insisted firmly.  "Trust me, I knew Annabelle quite well.  She was my secretary.  I was well aware that she could be less than honorable in personal matters, but she was very bright and very astute.  She was probably the best secretary I ever had."  He paused and focused his attention directly on Charles.  "She wasn't stupid.  She knew exactly what your weaknesses were and she zeroed in on them.  She knew that you felt extreme guilt about what happened at the engagement party and she used that guilt against you.  Annabelle knew how to play her game and knew how to bend all of the rules to her advantage."

"I just feel so damned stupid!"

"Oh, Charles, I fell for it, too," Francis nodded.  "I played right into her hands with my own jealousies and insecurities.  While she was using your guilt to convince you to push me away, she was using my own pain against me.  She very cleverly convinced me to give up on you---us---without my even realizing it."  She looked away and bit her lip.  "And now...now she's still playing with our lives---even from the grave!  Even in death, she's working her evil to keep us apart; but, this time, it's going to be because I'm locked up in a...in a..."

"Francis, don't think things like that," Charles muttered as he held her tightly.  "We're going to get through this.  You heard Douglas.  No one in their right mind could possibly believe that you had anything to do with her death."

"Dad's right," Reginald Callison spoke up as he came in from the kitchen carrying a tray of fresh coffee with his fiancée Jillian Stokes at his side.  "Mom, you have a sterling reputation in this town.  No one's going to believe that you killed Annabelle."

"I agree," Jillian nodded as she took the coffee pot from Reginald and carefully began to pour everyone a cup.  "I bet it's no time before the police realize how ignorant they're making themselves look by charging you with murder.  For goodness sakes, you're a direct descendant of this city's founder!"

"That won't matter," Francis sighed weakly and hung her head.  "That just makes me an even more popular subject for public scandal and humiliation.  I've been avoiding the telephone for days.  Every time it rings, it's another blasted reporter wanting to get the big scoop from 'the socialite killer!'  I can only imagine what Corinne Campbell has been saying about all of this at the hospital."

"Darling, you can't think about things like that now," Charles said reassuringly.  "Once the truth comes out---once everyone knows that you're innocent---they'll be the ones looking like fools."

"And besides," Reginald spoke up before taking a sip of his coffee, "I don't think anyone would really blame you for killing Annabelle.  In fact, I think that some people might view it as justifiable homicide because of the way she'd tortured you this past year!  She was asking for something to happen.  You couldn't help it if she knew all the right buttons to push and just happened to push one a little too hard.  I think that if Douglas can claim self-defense then..."

"Self-defense?"  Francis looked at her son curiously.  "W-why would I claim self-defense?  I'm innocent!  I didn't kill Annabelle Lake!"

"You're not...saying that you think your mother actually did it, are you?"  Charles eyed Reginald with astonishment.

With all eyes wide open with shock and bearing down upon him, Reginald swallowed hard and quickly looked to Jillian for support and reinforcement.  However, he immediately discovered that her eyes matched every other pair in the room.  Perhaps he'd misspoken.  Perhaps he'd revealed too much of his own theory.  He quickly knew that he'd opened his mouth too far and would find a difficult time explaining what he really believed. 

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Helga, would you get the telephone?" Joyce Preston barked in annoyance as she sat on the sofa and thumbed through one of her daughter's movie magazines.  After a few more rings, she glanced up at the housekeeper who was continuing her daily chores without so much as even acknowledging her request.  "Helga!  I said answer the damn phone!"

Helga Grimm paused in her tracks, feather duster still in her hand and in mid-air, and turned to look hatefully at Joyce.  Then, without saying a word, she simply turned and continued as if nothing had been said.

"Well, fine, then!" Joyce shouted angrily.  "I'll just get it myself.  I swear, you have to be the worst excuse for a..."  She paused mid-rant as the receiver met her ear and promptly changed gears as her voice took on an uncharacteristically sweet tone.  "Hello?"  Her eyes grew wide from shock when she heard the voice on the other end.

"You really shouldn't have called me here," she whispered as she turned her back to Helga.  "What if it had been Sara?  We can't risk....  I see."  She glanced over her shoulder to see if Helga was listening.  However, Helga was much too swift for the merry widow and covered her eavesdropping expertly.  

"Look, sweetheart, I really can't talk right now," Joyce continued with a hushed voice.  "No, I'm not alone.  That stupid maid is hovering like a vulture.  I swear that she's just waiting for me to...I see.  Yes, I do think it's about time to put our plan into motion.  Well, I've been working on Dane and I...I see."  She glanced back at Helga again.  "I know it was rather surprising to run into you in Chicago like I did and...well, that's ancient history now, isn't it?  Well, after everything that I'd heard...oh, I do hear things."  She let out a small girlish giggle in spite of herself.  "You're welcome, dear.  Trust me.  This arrangement is going to be beneficial to both of us.  We're both going to finally get everything that we've ever wanted."  She furrowed her brow slightly and glanced over to the large grandfather clock in the corner.  "Now?  Well, I don't know if I can...I see.  I'll...be there as soon as I can."

As Joyce continued with her cryptic conversation with the mystery caller, Helga had her keen ears finely tuned to hear every word.  "I knew you were up to something," she grumbled to herself as her face took on a rigid and stony expression.  "Joyous reunion with your daughter my eye!"

THE CALLISON HOME - LIVING ROOM

"Reginald Charles Callison, what the devil are you trying to say?" Charles exploded as he jumped up off of the sofa and approached his son.  "You sound almost like you think that your mother is guilty!"

"I...um...well..."  Reginald took a deep breath and swallowed hard as he looked away to avoid his father's penetrating glare.  "I was just saying that anyone who knew Annabelle would know how she could drive a person to murder and...well..."

"I can't believe that I'm hearing this," Francis muttered awkwardly as she shook her head in disbelief.

"What you should be saying is that anyone who knows your mother would know that she would be incapable of harming anyone---including Annabelle!"  Charles' jaw clinched tightly as he slammed his fist down into his hand.

"Darling, you should be ashamed of yourself," Jillian muttered under her breath as she grabbed his arm out of concern.

"Look, I was there!  I was going to confront and threaten Annabelle myself, but I saw Mother coming out of the lounge.  I saw how out of sorts and upset she looked."  Reginald paused and took a deep breath.  "I tried to followed her to see if she was okay, but then I decided that I needed to have it out with Annabelle once and for all.  There wasn't time for anyone else to have done it!"

"Do you honestly think that I would commit murder and then just keep quiet while my own son was arrested as the prime suspect?" Francis questioned matter-of-factly.  "Reginald, how could you?"

Reginald took another deep breath as he tried to sort out his words.  Nothing that he was saying was coming out quite the way that he'd intended.  "Mom," he spoke again, "isn't it possible that you and Annabelle got into a fight and she threatened you?  Isn't it possible that you thought you might be in mortal danger from that crazy, vindictive woman and then just lashed out at her without thinking?  Maybe it's just been so traumatic for you that you've blocked it from your memory."

"People just don't conveniently forget things like murder!" Francis argued as she felt her face flush with embarrassment and frustration.  "Annabelle Lake was very much alive when I left that room!  I did not kill her nor did I ever intend to kill her!"

"But, what I'm saying is..."

"All right, all right," Douglas broke in as he waved his hands in an attempt to settle everyone down.  "This has all gotten a little out of hand."  He paused and waited for everyone to become quiet.  "Now, I don't agree with Reginald on this, but I can see how some people might view things exactly in the way he's explained things.  This is something we have to remember if this makes it to trial."

"A trial?" Francis gasped in shock.  "Oh, Douglas, I can't go on trial!  I just can't!"  Her hand flew up to her mouth as her eyes began to tear and her lower lip began to quiver.  "I didn't do it!  I didn't kill Annabelle!"

"Darling, it's all right," Charles said softly and sat down next to her to take her into his comforting arms.  "No one thinks you killed Annabelle.  No one!"  He quickly turned to shoot Reginald a sharp and threatening look.  "We are your family and we support and believe in you 100%---don't we, Reginald?"

"Yes, sir," Reginald muttered softly as he watched his mother's intense display of emotion.  However, he couldn't get his own suspicions out of his head.  He knew what he'd seen.  He knew that there couldn't have been any way anyone else could have gotten into that room.  At that moment, he became terribly frightened.  If he couldn't get past his own doubts about his mother's innocence, how could they ever expect a jury to?

ALBANYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - MAIN SQUAD ROOM

"Okay, so who's the stiff?" Russ asked rather nonchalantly as he tried to cover his own curiosity.

"Our boys haven't identified him yet," Larry replied as he slowly began to walk around the room with the slight hope that he would catch a glimpse of something important that might pave the way for a good story.  "There was no wallet on the guy or anything.  Only a receipt that I found for a dive down by the docks on your side of the river."

"So the victim is male?" Jim questioned as he tried to listen attentively to everything that Larry was saying.

"Yep," Larry nodded and paused to light a cigarette.  "Looks like you boys are starting to really slip.  You've got one murder you couldn't solve without my help..."  He paused to let out a snicker.  "And now you're sending your corpses over to us because you don't know how to deal with them."

"Is it our fault that the trash seems to drift towards Riverside?" Russ snapped.  "How did they find the body?  On one of their daily dredgings of the river?"

"Actually, it just washed up."  Larry paused and flashed a sly grin.  "Kinda like your department."

"Rawlings, I outta..."

"Settle down, Leeds," Jim ordered sternly as he threw up his hand to silence the angry officer before taking a deep breath.  "As if we don't have enough to worry about with the Lake case."

"Yeah, two murders in the span of a couple of months don't look too good for you boys."  Larry grinned again.

"Rawlings, no one said this was a murder," Jim reminded firmly.  He was beginning to grow more and more annoyed by the irritating reporter's presence.  "This could just be a simple drowning.  Whoever this guy is could have just fallen into the river and drowned."

"Or jumped from the North Bridge," Larry pointed out and rested his chin in his hand as he thought.  "Either way, it doesn't reflect well on your fair city."  He paused again and eyed them closely.  "You guys got any new information for me about the case against Francis Callison?"

"You've gotten everything out of us that you're going to get!" Jim snapped.  "Now why don't you head back over the bridge to Riverside where I'm sure there's plenty of news for you to get your crummy little hands on."

"All right, all right," Larry replied as he threw up his hands and slowly backed out of the room.  "One of these days your boys are gonna appreciate me."

"Don't count on it," Russ grumbled.  Once Larry had gone, Russ turned to look at Jim who was clearly deep in thought.  "You thinking about this drowning victim?"

"Yep," Jim nodded and rubbed his chin.  "I want you to get a list of anybody that's been reported missing in the last few days.  Maybe something will turn up that might link this guy and this receipt."  He pulled out the only clue---the cheap hotel receipt that Larry had produced.

"H-how did you get that?" Russ asked in shock.  "Rawlings had that and..."

"He's not as slick as he thinks he is," Jim smiled.  "I just slipped it out of his pocket while he was roaming around the room.  He was just too distracted with trying to scope out a story to pay attention."

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"So, who was that on the phone?" Dane Manchester asked as he stepped into the room just as Joyce was hanging up.

"Oh, it was just...um..." she stammered awkwardly as she tried to guess exactly how much, if any, of the conversation that he'd heard.  "It was just an old friend from New York calling to see how I was doing.  It's been ages since we last spoke and she just found out about poor Thornton.  She wanted to send her condolences."

"I see," he nodded, not quite sure he believed her.  "I never really took you for the type to have close female friends."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Joyce smiled warmly.  "When Thornton and I were living in New York, there was a group of us ladies who'd get together every Thursday night for a lively game of bridge."

"Right," he muttered, still not sure if he believed her.

"So, Dane..." she began tentatively as she slowly walked over to him.  "Have you thought any more about what we discussed the other day---about Sara?"

He quickly shot her a look of warning and the turned to look at Helga who was busy organizing the large collection of books along the far wall.  Of course, she had her ears tuned into the entire conversation, too.

"Helga, would you please go upstairs and get my jacket?" Dane asked curtly.  "You know, the blue one.  I think I'm going out and it looks too nice outside to wear my heavy winter one.  I swear, this Illinois weather is something else.  It was a blizzard just a few weeks ago and now it almost feels like spring."

"Yes, sir," Helga nodded and hurried out of the room, but not before turning to eye Joyce suspiciously.

"Now, that's better," Dane sighed once Helga was gone.  "We really don't need to be discussing this with her hovering about."

"You're right," Joyce nodded in agreement.  "Anyway, have you given any further thought to separating Sara from her ill gotten gains?  You know that as long as she has all of that money, she'll never be the kind of wife you need and want."

"I'm beginning to see that," he muttered.  "She's gotten a little too full of herself and I'm tired of her trying to dictate my life."

"Really?"

"I mean, first she forces me to marry her knowing full well that it's the last thing that I want.  Then she goes behind my back to take this job for your husband when I explicitly forbid her to work.  Of course, we know what that led to!"

"My husband," Joyce replied icily.  "And she conned him into taking me out of his will so that he could replace me with you two.  Now, she thinks that you owe her.  Because of her, you have all of this!"  She spread her arms wide to gesture to the large expanse of the home that represented their wealth.

"And now she's moved that wretch of a cousin of hers in behind my back!"  Dane's teeth clinched as he thought about how he was forced to live in the same house as Stephanie Lake.  "I swear, I don't know how anyone as bright as Sara is supposed to be can be so stupid as far as Stephanie is concerned."

"Oh, that daughter of mine is bright," she observed with a nod, "clever, too.  After all, she did manage to scheme her way into my husband's will and she has managed to put you right where she wants you---trapped in a marriage you didn't want and right under her thumb.  It's clear who wears the pants in this family."

Dane's jaw tightened upon hearing his mother-in-law's assessment of the situation.  Sara did seem to have all the control and that didn't set well with him at all.  In fact, she was making him look like a buffoon and a fool.

"It's time my wife was brought back into line," he muttered as his eyes took on an intense glare of determination.  "She's the one who wanted this marriage.  It's time she was forced to accept everything that goes along with it."

"I agree," Joyce smiled.  "And once Sara has taken on her rightful role as a dutiful wife, it shouldn't be any problem getting Stephanie bounced out on her ear.  I swear, from everything I've seen and heard, that girl is just like her mother!  I should have known that that rotten apple wouldn't fall far from the tree.  Of course, what do you expect from a girl who had Annabelle as a mother?"

"So, you think you can help me get my wife under control?"  He eyed her closely.

"She'll wind up obedient beyond your wildest dreams," she assured with a wicked grin, "and Stephanie will be out of your lives forever."

"I like that sound of that."  Dane smiled slyly and took a deep breath as he thought about how wonderful the idea sounded.  "Joyce, I think you have a deal."

"I was sure you'd see things my way."

"Here's your jacket," Helga spoke up as she walked into the room and handed it to Dane.

"Joyce, I have a few things to take care of in town," he said as he slipped his jacket on and headed for the door.  "We'll continue this discussion later."

"I'll be looking forward to it," she smiled and then went back to the sofa to continue with her leisurely reading.  

Once she'd heard the front door close, she grinned with glee.  It wouldn't be long before she finally got everything that was rightfully hers.  There was just one more little plan to set into motion.  Just then, the doorbell rang and filled the house with its regal chimes.  Joyce remained on the sofa and continued with her reading as the doorbell continued to ring.  Finally looking up from her magazine she made a disgusted face.

"Helga!  Would you get the damn door?" she barked angrily.  Why did she have so much trouble getting Helga to obey orders?  After a few more intrusive chimes, Joyce took a deep breath to ease her rising temper.  "Helga!  Get the door!"

"Yes, ma'am," Helga muttered with a smirk as she sat her feather duster down and began to do as requested.  "Anything for you.  After all, you are the---ahem---lady of the house."

After stepping out into the foyer, Helga rolled her eyes and let out a frustrated growl.  She simply couldn't stand Joyce Preston and was finding it harder and harder to deal with her.  Sure, Dane was nice enough, but she loathed Joyce and Sara.  And now that brat Stephanie had moved in?  The manor was becoming a veritable three ringed circus!  Helga wasn't sure how much more she could take.  Thank god it couldn't get any worse.

"Hello?" Helga muttered as she opened the door to find an unfamiliar face.  "Can I help you?"

Naomi Jackson smiled broadly as she shifted little Aubrey's weight in her arms.  "Yes, you can," she replied matter-of-factly and pushed her way into the house.  "I'm here to see Thornton Preston and I'm not leaving until I do!"

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Naomi's plan is set into motion, but is she biting off more than she can chew?

For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

©2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions