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

 

EPISODE #105 (Friday, 3/29/02)
Same Day
February, 1936 - Evening

THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER

"Nelson, please stop doing this to me!" Leticia Stokes begged as she tried to fight back her tears.  "Why can't you just let me go and let me by happy?"

"Look what you're doing to her?" Dr. Fred Rutherford ordered sternly.  "Look!  I think it's time for you to leave."

"W-what?" Nelson Stokes stammered in shock.  "You're throwing me out?  Of my own wife's home?"

"I don't think that I stuttered!" Fred spat.  "You're not wanted here.  Now get out!"

"I am not leaving!"

"Oh, please, Nelson, just go!" Leticia sobbed.

"You heard the lady," Fred said firmly as he grabbed Nelson by the arm and began to drag him towards the door.  "Get out!"

Stunned and incredulous, Nelson came to a stop outside as the door slammed loudly behind him.  Fred had the gall and the audacity to throw him out!  As he spin around to glare at the closed door, his face burned with a mixture of rage and jealousy.  There was no way in hell he was going to let that low class doctor woo Leticia and scam her our of her money.  With steely determination, Nelson vowed that it would be a cold day in hell before he ever let that happen.

Meanwhile, inside, Fred took Leticia into his warm and supportive arms.  Although he was giving her tender support and reassurance, his own head was filled with intense thoughts.  He was quickly beginning to realize that Nelson Stokes would prove to be a much more formidable adversary than he'd once thought.  His effect of Leticia was clear evidence of that.  Maybe it wasn't going to be so easy to get his hands on the Stokes fortune as he'd once thought.  Maybe he had to step up his plans and take more drastic actions.

THE MONROE HOME - DINING ROOM

"You have no idea how much of a relief this is," Stephanie Lake sighed with a warm smile as she took the bowl of mashed potatoes.  "I was nearly ready to pull my hair out from being stuck at the Manor."

"I can't believe that you're actually living under the same roof as Dane," Patterson Monroe laughed and then scooped out a large spoonful of green beans.  "He's one of my best friends, but I know that he can be a little difficult."

"Difficult?  Dane?" she chuckled.  "Joan Crawford is difficult.  Dane Manchester is next to impossible!"

"You and Dane in the same house," he muttered with a shake of his head.  "The concept boggles my mind."

"I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of a nightmare and I can't wake up."  She paused and took a sip of her tea.  "The only good thing is that Sara and I are at least talking again."

"So, how is that going?"  Patterson paused and turned to momentarily address his younger brother Todd.  "Eat your carrots.  They're good for you."

"Don't like carrots," Todd grumbled.

"Well, how about your peas?"

"Don't like peas."

Patterson rolled his eyes slightly and took a deep breath.  "Well, you have to eat your vegetables.  They're good for you."

"Don't like veg'tables," Todd stated firmly and then folded his arms defiantly across his chest before sinking down into his seat to pout.  "Don't like veg'tables and don't like Fanny."

"Todd!" Patterson chastised sternly.  "That's not nice!"

"Young man, straighten up this instant," Mrs. Oliver ordered sternly as she walked in from the kitchen carrying a large serving tray.  "You'll eat everything on that plate and you'll like it!"

"Yes, ma'am," Todd muttered with a frown and then slowly picked up his fork.  With a look of utter disgust, he speared a carrot and plopped it into his mouth.  After several chews, he swallowed and made a horrible face.  "Yuck!"

"Steph, I'm sorry," Patterson apologized as he reached across the table and took her hand.  "I don't know what gets into him sometimes.  He's usually the most even tempered guy you'd ever want to meet, but when he's in one of his moods....  Well, I guess you can see what he's like."

"Yeah," she grumbled and then bit her lip as she eyed the little boy with apprehension.  "He seems to be in one of these moods whenever I'm around."

"He's very smart for his age," Mrs. Oliver commented rather bluntly as she refilled Stephanie's glass.  "He's going to be the brightest boy in his class when he starts school in the fall."

"I bet you're really looking forward to first grade, aren't you, Todd?" Stephanie asked sweetly as she tried to make headway with the child.

"Hate school," he grumbled and then stuck out his bottom lip in a pout.  "I hate school and I hate..."

"Well, we can talk about that later," Patterson spoke up, instinctively cutting off the end of Todd's sentence.  "Right now you have to clean your plate because it's almost time for you to go to bed."

"Don't wanna go to bed."

"Todd, there are a lot of things in life that we might not want to do, but we have to do them anyway," Patterson said as he tired to reason with the child.  "Now, if you don't want to finish your dinner, then I'm going to have to put you to bed with an empty stomach.  I don't want to have to do that, but it's your choice."

"Todd," Stephanie spoke up in soft, even tones.  "If you'd like, I'll read you a bedtime story.  Do you like the one about Jack and the beanstalk?"

"Don't wanna story!  'Specially from you!  I hate Fanny!" he shouted and then proceeded to pick a carrot from his plate and fling it at Stephanie.

"Todd!  That's enough!" Patterson scolded as he jumped to his feet and pulled his little brother from his chair.  "You're gong to bed this instant!  I've had all that I'm going to listen to for one night."

Just then, the doorbell rang and Mrs. Oliver immediately went to answer it.

"Well, well," Mrs. Oliver called out warmly.  "It looks like we have a visitor.  Todd, you'll never guess who it is."

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" Lorraine Davis' voice came from the front door..

"Rain!" Todd beamed and then bolted from his chair to run into the living room and into Lorraine's waiting arms.

"Great," Stephanie grumbled slightly as she sunk down into her seat.  This dinner was definitely not going quite like she'd hoped and it was immediately obvious that it was going downhill by the minute.

THE GARDENS RESTAURANT

"So, are you having a good time?" Fred asked as he leaned across the table and took Leticia's hand.

"I'm having a wonderful time," she smiled.  "I was...afraid that Nelson might have put a damper on the evening.  He can be so obstinate."

"Well, I can definitely understand his reluctance to let you go."  He flashed a charming grin.  "Any man with an ounce of common sense would be a fool to let a woman like you slip out of his life.  But...well...I guess that's his own fault for not appreciating you."

"You're much too kind," Leticia blushed and then lowered her head.  "Truthfully, though, Nelson has a good heart.  True, he's opinionated and irascible and difficult, but I know that it all comes out of a sense of love and devotion to his family."

"Those sound like very admirable qualities," Fred nodded, rather disappointed to hear her speak so highly of her husband.  "If he's so wonderful, than why are you divorcing him?  Why are you here with me instead of with him?"

"I...well..."  She fidgeted in her seat and looked away.  "As devoted as Nelson is---as loyal as he is to his family---he's also the type of man who has to control everything and everyone in his life.  In his mind, he's the only one who's right and everyone has has to automatically agree with him.  And I...well...don't always agree with him."

"I've seen those aspects of his personality."

"It just finally got to the point where I was feeling smothered," she continued with a sigh, "and unappreciated.  I stopped being a wife to Nelson a long time ago and became just another possession---another thing in his life that he had to control."  Taking a deep breath, she thought back to an earlier, happier time.  "Of course, it wasn't always like that.  In the beginning, he was charming and romantic and..."  She blushed.  "I really shouldn't be going on about him like this.  Nelson is part of my past.  I'm here with you, now."  Leticia looked up at Fred and smiled.  "Tell me about yourself.  Tell be about the real Fred Rutherford."

"I...um...well..." he stammered uncomfortably as he kept a plesant smile plastered to his face.  "There's not much to tell, really.  Born to good parents, worked my way through medical school, came to Albanyville to take a position at General..."

"You must have some kind of social life."

"Not really," he replied softly.  "The hospital keeps me rather busy.  I haven't had much time for socializing or romance in a long, long time."  He paused and grinned flirtatiously.  "But I hope to change that."

"So, how's Francis doing?" Leticia asked as she changed the direction of the conversation.  Although Fred's obvious attention and romantic interest thrilled her greatly, it also made her more than a little uneasy.  It had been so long since she'd received that kind of attention from a man that she wasn't exactly sure how to act.  "I haven't had a chance to talk to her since before the wedding.  It's just dreadful what that family is having to go through."

"Yes, it is," he nodded, less than thrilled to have to discuss the other woman in his life.  "But...well...I haven't really had a chance to see much of her, either."

"Oh?"  She eyed him curiously.  "From the way you've talked before, you and Francis have become very good friends.  I would think that she'd need her friends around her at a time like this."

"She's been spending a great deal of time with her family," he muttered in response and fought to keep his annoyance about that hidden.  "They're what she needs right now.  I'm only a friend and it's a family crisis.  Family comes first."  He winced slightly as the last sentence came out of his mouth.  He really didn't need to remind Leticia of the importance of family when he was trying to separate her from her own.

"That's so true," Leticia nodded, not noticing the faint lines of worry that crossed his face and the sudden appearance of beads of nervous perspiration on his forehead.  "If you do have a chance to see her, tell her that I'm thinking about her and that I'm behind her 100%.  If she needs anything at all, all she has to do is call."

"I'm sure that she'll be very relieved to hear that," Fred nodded and then gave Leticia's hand a slight squeeze.  "But enough talk about Francis Callison.  I'm here with you, not her, and I want to talk about you."  He smiled warmly as he eyed her intently.  "Leticia, darling, I find you immensely fascinating.  I want to know everything there is to know about you.  I want to discover the woman that you really are underneath that facade of regalness and sophisticated beauty."

"Oh...well..." she blushed, more than a little flattered by his comments and his attention.  "There's not a lot to tell.  I was raised in Manhattan.  Two older brother---I was the only girl and the baby.  My father owed Wentworth Textiles."

"Ah, yes, I'm familiar with that company," Fred nodded, both shocked and pleased with that revelation.  "Didn't he sell the entire company to Hallowell Brands?"

"Yes," she nodded.  "And father had unbelievably good timing.  He sold everything lock, stock, and barrel right before the crash.  Our family was almost completely unaffected.  I loved that man dearly.  It was devastating for me when he died."

"A man that successful must have left you quite a bit of money."  Fred was struggling to chose his words carefully as he fished for information.  He couldn't appear too overly concerned about the true nature of her finances.

"Well, mother died many years ago while the girls were still little so everything was divided between me and my brothers."  She paused and smiled warmly.  "Let's just say that I won't be standing in line at a soup kitchen anytime soon."

"I understand," he nodded as he fought to suppress his glee.  A hefty divorce settlement from Nelson and her own fortune?  Leticia Stokes was looking more and more attractive by the minute!

"Excuse me, Dr. Rutherford," restaurant maitre 'd Jasper St. John spoke up as he approached the table, "I hate to interrupt, but..."

"What is it, Jasper?" Fred asked with annoyance.  He was making such wonderful progress with Leticia that he didn't want anything to ruin the momentum.  "Can't you see that I'm trying to enjoy a quiet evening with this lovely lady?"

"Well..."  Jasper rolled his eyes.  "If you can halt your climb up the social ladder for just a moment, you've got a phone call."  His eyes then narrowed as he stared at him intently.  "You can use the house phone at the bar."

"Thank you, Jasper." Fred muttered as he shot him and angry look because of his comment.  He didn't need anyone placing ideas inside Leticia's head that might make her doubt his sincerity.  Jasper's offhanded comment was definitely something she didn't need to hear.  "Darling, if you'll excuse me," he muttered apologetically as he rose from his seat.  "I'm sure this will only take a minute."

"Oh, of course, dear," Leticia replied.  "Hurry back and maybe we can take a spin around the dance floor."

"I'd like that very much," he grinned.

As Fred walked across the restaurant and towards the bar, his head became filled with thoughts about who could possibly be calling him.  He hadn't really told anyone where he was going to be or...

"Hello?" he said as he picked up the receiver.  "Hello?"  Odd.  There was no one there.

"All right, Rutherford," came the voice of Sammy Benedict from behind him.  "The boss wants to see ya.  Just hang up da phone an come wit me."

"W-what?" Fred muttered in confusion as he turned around the face the hired thug.  "You can't be serious!  I'm...I'm in the middle of dinner.  I can't just walk out on her.  You can tell your boss that we'll meet later."

"He wants to meet now," Sammy said sternly and then discreetly pulled open his jacket to reveal the gun hidden underneath, "or else."

"I...see," Fred muttered as he began to feel drops of sweat starting to appear on his forehead.  "Just let me...tell my companion that I've...been called away."

"Just say that you've had an emergency at da hospital," Sammy suggested with a sly smile.  "Because if you don't come with me, that's where you'll end up---right before the morgue."

"I...u-understand," he nodded and then took a deep breath.  "I'll...I'll meet you by the door."

Sammy nodded his agreement and then quietly turned and walked away as Fred made a quick trip back to his table.

"Leticia, darling, I've got some bad news," he sighed as he approached her.  "That was the hospital on the phone.  I've...got an emergency.  I have to go."

"Oh, no!" she gasped with disappointment.  "And we were having such a lovely time.  Well, at least I was."  She smiled.

"Now, we can still have a wonderful evening," he explained as he subtly glanced towards the door where Sammy stood waiting.  "This shouldn't take very long and I can be right back.  That is if you'll wait for me."

"I think I can manage that," she grinned.  "I understand that a doctor's work is never done.  You go take care of your patient and I'll be here until you get back."

"You are just too wonderful for words," he smiled and then leaned in to kiss her tenderly on the cheek.  "I promise you that this won't take long."

After another smile, he turned to leave and his face took on a more anxious appearance.  Why in the world would the main man want to see him personally?  What could possibly be so important that he had to be pulled away so suddenly in the middle of dinner?  Fred wasn't sure of the answers to those questions, but the myriad of possibilities that flooded his head greatly worried him.  As he reached the door, he said a silent prayer that he actually would be able to return for dinner.

THE LAMONT HOME - KITCHEN

Burt Lamont took a bite out of his dinner and chewed slowly as he watched his younger brother Randy who sat in silence across the table.  After taking a sip of his soda, Burt paused and took a deep breath.  He was finding the unspoken conversation that was occurring between them to be almost deafening.

"Aren't you going to say anything?" Burt finally spoke as he sat his fork down.

"About?" Randy replied without even looking up from his plate.

"Anything!  You haven't even said two words to me since you got home."  Burt paused and took another bite.  "Is there anything going on at school that's bothering you?  You act like something's on your mind."

"Nothing's going on," Randy muttered as he kept his eyes focused on the half-eaten pork chop that lay on his plate.  What little appetite that he'd had was quickly leaving him.  "Just the same stuff as every day."

Burt shook his head and sighed.  He was certain that there was something troubling Randy in spite of his brother's protestations.  Concerned about what it might be, he decided to take another approach.

"Eliza called for you earlier."  Burt pushed his overly lumpy mashed potatoes around on his plate.  Thankfully, their mother had taught him how to cook.  Unfortunately, Burt wasn't nearly as accomplished in that area as she was.  "You weren't home yet.  I tried to take a message, but she just said that she'd call back later."

"Yeah, okay," Randy muttered in reply.

"You don't sound too interested in her call," Burt observed.  "I thought that the two of you were dating.  From the way she sounds, you two are pretty serious."

"From the way Eliza sounds, everything is pretty serious."  Randy rolled his eyes.  "She and I are just friends and we spend a lot of time together.  It's not that big of a deal."

"Okay..."  Burt leaned back into his seat and folded his arms across his chest as he kept his eyes focused on his brother.  After several minutes of waiting for Randy to continue the conversation, Burt realized that there wasn't going to be anything else said and took a deep breath.  "Randy, it's obvious that there's something bothering you.  If it's not school and it's not Eliza then it has to be..."  He paused, unsure of whether he should say what was really on his mind.  "Are you having trouble dealing with...well...the fact that we found out that I'm really a Callison?  Are you upset because I'm only...your half-brother?"

"I don't want to talk about it," Randy replied flatly, quickly pushed his chair away from the table, and began to rise from his seat.

"That is it, isn't it?"

"I said I don't want to talk about it!" Randy snapped as he stormed out of the room.

With a shake of his head, a determined Burt sighed and began to follow his brother into the living room.

"We have to talk about this," Burt continued as he walked over to Randy who was now sitting on the couch and trying to occupy himself by reading the evening edition of The Daily Post.  "Even though I'm the one who found out that I'm not who I thought I was, this really affects both of us."  He paused and raked his fingers through his hair.  "Look, we've always been close.  You're...you're my little brother!  I've...always tried to look out for you and..."

"I'm a big boy now, Burt," Randy muttered, never taking his eyes off of the paper, "I can handle myself."

"That's besides the point!"  Burt took another deep breath and sat down in the chair across from Randy.  "We're family.  We're supposed to look out for one another."

"Don't you mean half-family," Randy countered as his head popped up to shoot Burt a look that was filled with a mixture of anger and disappointment.  "You've got this whole other family to look after, now!  You've got this whole other life to live."  He looked away out of awkwardness and his voice grew softer.  "Now, you've got and aunt and an uncle and cousins and...."  Randy paused and lowered his head.  "And I've got nobody.  Ma's dead and...and we don't have any idea where the hell Pa is and..."

"You've got me!" Burt reminded as his voice rose out of frustration.  "I'm still your brother!  I've been your brother ever since the day you were born and I'm always going to be your brother---real father or not!"

"It's not the same."

"Yes, it is!  This doesn't have to change a damn thing between us!"

Randy turned to look at Burt again.  Would everything stay the same as before?  Did the fact that they didn't share a father truly mean as little as Burt was trying to make him believe?

"So, are you...changing your name?" Randy asked apprehensively.  "Are you going to become Burt Callison?"

"That's what all of this is about, isn't it?" Burt questioned with a nod as he realized exactly what the root of Randy's concern was.  "You think that if I take on the Callison name then we can't be real brothers."

"I...um...well..." Randy stammered and again looked away.  "It would mean that I would be the only Lamont.  The only person in our family!  I'd be..."  Alone.

"Randy, I can assure you that I am not changing my name."  Burt leaned over and grabbed his brother firmly by the shoulder.  "I might no longer be a true Lamont by birth, but I sure as hell am one by spirit.  Besides,  I just couldn't imagine changing my name.  It would be like...like abandoning you and Ma and everything that you both mean to me."

"Do you really mean that?" Randy asked as he looked at him with eyes filled with confusion and sadness.  "Can you really give up everything that having the Callison name would mean?  We've done without for so long, I just can't imagine that you'd...want to give up the chance to actually be somebody who..."

"But I am somebody!"  As the words came out of Burt's mouth, a look of realization and contentment washed over his face.  He'd always wanted a better life for himself and his family than they'd always had.  He remembered how jealous he was of the Callison family and their money and social standing when he first came to Albanyville.  Now he was a Callison.  However, it didn't seem quite as wonderful as he'd always imagined it to be.  "Randy, I'm your brother.  Callison or not, the fact that I'm your brother makes me somebody."

"I just...can't understand how that could be enough," Randy muttered.  As a new wave of nervousness and awkwardness filled him, he threw the newspaper aside and jumped up from his seat.  "And I just can't...can't talk about this anymore!"

Immediately realizing that the entire situation was much harder for Randy than he'd previously thought, Burt knew that it would take a lot of time for him to sort everything out.  He also knew that Randy could only come to terms with the change in their lives in his own time.  Because of this, Burt fought his initial urge to chase after him and slumped back into his chair to think about what a whirlwind that their lives had become.  As he furrowed his brow in thought, he began to worry that the truth of Burt's real paternity was something that Randy might never be able to accept and get past.

THE MONROE HOME - LIVING ROOM

"So, how have you been?" Lorraine asked Todd as she sat down on the sofa.  "I've really missed you."

"I've missed you, too," Todd replied as he attempted to climb into her lap.  Suddenly realizing that there wasn't as much room there as he remembered, he made a face and looked up at her in confusion.  "You're getting fat.  Where'd your lap go?"

"Todd!" Patterson chastised as he came into the room just in time to hear his brother's observations.  "Lorraine, I'm really sorry about that.  Todd can be a little..."

"It's okay," she laughed as she carefully shifted so that the little boy could have more room.  "Todd, I'm not getting fat.  I'm going to have a baby.  I'm going to have my own little girl or little boy just like you."

"A...a baby?"  Todd scrunched up his nose and stared at her swollen stomach before looking up at her again.  "Is that...why you don't love me anymore?"

"What?" Lorraine laughed with surprise.  "Whatever made you think that I don't love you anymore?  Todd, I'm always going to love you.  You're my special little man!"

"But...but..."  He frowned as he curled up in her lap.  "But you never come to see me anymore.  You're...never here.  Now Fanny's here all the time.  I don't like her!"

Lorraine glanced up at Patterson with a mixture of shock and awkwardness just in time to see Stephanie walk into the room.

"Hello, Lorraine," Stephanie spoke up as she stood by Patterson's side.  "How are you?"

"I'm fine," she nodded curtly.  Interrupting an evening between Patterson and Stephanie definitely had not been in Lorraine's plans for the evening.  "I...um...was just sitting at home and thought I'd stop by for a visit.  Douglas is over at the Callisons' talking with Francis about...well, you know...and Trevor stopped by to see Grace, so I thought I'd get out for a bit."  And she'd clearly traded one uncomfortable situation for another.

"It's good to see you," Patterson smiled and walked over to join Lorraine and Todd on the sofa leaving Stephanie to stand alone feeling increasingly out of place.  "Todd was just asking about you the other day."

"Well, I think about him all the time," she smiled as she held him in her arms and gently stroked his hair.  "Especially since it's getting so close to the arrival of the baby."

"Are you really happy?" Patterson asked softly as he covered her hand with his.  "Truly happy?"

"Yes," she nodded and then smiled.  "Happier than I once thought I could be."

"We were just preparing to get Todd ready for bed," Stephanie spoke up as she walked over to them.  "I was planning on reading him a bedtime story."  She narrowed her eyes as she looked directly at Lorraine.  "Isn't that right, Todd."

"Don't want no story!" he shouted angrily.  "'Specially from you!  Don't like you!"  He hugged Lorraine tighter.  "'Rain, make her go away.  Don't like Fanny."

"Now, Todd, that's not a very nice thing to say," Lorraine said firmly.  "You know better than that."

"Y-yes, ma'am," the little boy muttered.  "'Rain, would...you read me a story?"

Lorraine glanced up to look at Patterson who responded with a silent nod.

"I've love to," she smiled as she took his hand and led him towards the stairs.  "And I'll get you ready for bed, too."

"Great!" Todd beamed as they ascended the staircase.

After watching them disappear out of sight, Patterson turned to look at Stephanie and immediately noticed the solemn and forlorn expression on her face.

"I...I'm sorry," he said softly as he walked over to her.  "I didn't...know that Lorraine was going to stop by."

"There's nothing to be sorry for," she smiled in an attempt to put on a brave face.  "She and Todd have a wonderful relationship.  It would be...horrible for him to have to give that up because...because you two weren't involved anymore."

"This night really didn't turn out quite like I'd intended," he muttered as he hung his head.  "I mean, Todd was a little difficult and then Lorraine showed up and..."

"It's...okay," Stephanie sighed and then glanced towards the clock on the wall.  "Anyway, I...better go home."

"Already?"  He eyed her curiously.  "I'd...hoped that we could spend some time together and..."

"No, it's...getting late.  I...better go."

"O-okay," he stammered in disappointment as he slowly began to walk her towards the door.  "Can I...call you tomorrow?"

"I guess," she muttered, "if you...really want to."

She turned to look at him again before walking out of the house.  Once the door had closed behind her, she struggled to put on a brave face, but found it to be increasingly difficult.  She'd had such high hopes for this warm family dinner with Patterson but it had turned out to be a disaster.  Todd couldn't stand her.  How could she ever make Patterson even consider her as more than a friend if she'd failed one of his highest criteria---Todd.  She was certain that Paddy would never think of her romantically now---or ever!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, Patterson let out a weary sigh.  He, too, had had such high hopes for his dinner with Stephanie.  In fact, after dinner, he'd planned to tell her that he'd wanted to move their relationship beyond friendship.  He'd wanted to tell her that he really wanted to see her romantically.  However, Todd's misbehavior had completely ruined that!

He walked back across the room and sunk down onto the sofa and rested his chin in his hand.  Why would anyone like Stephanie even consider becoming involved with a guy who already had a child to raise?  True, Todd was only his brother, but he was still his responsibility.  More so, Todd could be a little terror when he wanted to be.  Why would any girl in their right might want to get involved him?

AN ABANDONED FACTORY - OFFICE
RIVERSIDE

"Was it really necessary to drag me all the way across the bridge to Riverside?" Fred asked with annoyance as he followed Sammy down the long, dimly lit corridor.  "Couldn't this wait?"

"The boss said he wanted to see you," Sammy said again without looking at Fred.  "That means now."  They came to a stop outside an office door and Sammy banged on it loudly.  "I got Rutherford here."

"Ah, good," came the voice from the other side.  "Send him in."

Fred eyed the door nervously and glanced in Sammy's direction.

"You heard him," Sammy ordered as he pushed Fred towards the door.

Taking a deep breath, Fred opened the door and walked inside for his first meeting with the cause of the majority of his current problems.

"Where's my money?" the man said as he got up from his seat behind his desk and walked around to the front so that he could look at Fred more directly and be more of an ominous presence.

"I...I don't have it yet," Fred stammered nervously.  "Almost, but not...yet."

"Almost isn't good enough."

"But I..."  Fred swallowed hard and looked down at the floor.  He couldn't force himself to keep eye contact with the man whose eyes seemed to be as cold as ice.  "I'm working on a plan that will give me enough money to pay you in full and...and make sure that I don't wind up in this kind of situation...again.  I'm...about to come into a lot of money."

"You said you were coming into money months ago!"  He slammed his fist down onto the desk.

"I was, but...but there were...some complications."  Francis Callison's lingering love for her husband, for one.

"What's to assure me that there won't be more 'complications', as you call them?"

"I just...well...there won't be," Fred stammered as he tried to fight his own nervousness.  "Everything is going along just like I've planned it."

"When are you giving me another partial payment?"

"I...um...I don't have it right now, but I could..."  Fred shoved his hands into his pockets as he checked to see how much cash that he had on him.  He swallowed hard when he realized that $20 wasn't exactly going to do the trick.

"And I don't mean some stupid piece of jewelry, either!"  He pulled the ring that Fred had given him months earlier as a partial payment on his gambling debts and threw it at Fred.

"But, I..." Fred muttered as he caught the ring in his hands---Annabelle's ring that he'd blackmailed her out of so that he could hold off his debtors.  "It was the best that I...could do at the time."

"It's not good enough."  He moved around to the back of the desk and sat down again.  "I held onto it as, well, insurance.  It's served it's purpose and I don't need it anymore."  He took a deep breath and leaned back in his seat.  "Now you better pay up, or you'll find out exactly what happens to people who cross me."

"I just...need more time!"

"You know, Rutherford," he smirked, "I like you.  You should be thankful for that."

"You...you do?"  Fred looked at him in shock.

"Yeah, I do.  That's why I'm giving you one month to come up with the full amount that you owe me."

"A...a month?"

"Yeah, a month."  He smiled and then reached forward to pull open the top drawer of the desk.  "You've got a month to pay up---with interest, I might add---or I'll have to collect in another way."  He pulled out a large revolver and carefully laid it on top of the desk in full view of Fred.  "I'm sure that we don't want that, now do we?"

"N-no."  Fred reached up and loosened his tie which was starting to feel like a noose that was tightening around his neck as he felt the perspiration breaking out on his forehead.  "I'll...I'll get you the money.  I'll do whatever I have to do to..."

"You damn well better make sure of it."  He paused and leveled his gaze at Fred.  "Or else!  Sammy, get in here!"

"Yeah, boss?" Sammy said as he came rushing through the door.

"I'm done with Dr. Rutherford," he smiled.  "We've come to an understanding.  Now, get him outta here."

"Yes, boss," Sammy nodded and quickly grabbed Fred's arm and pulled him towards the door.

"One month, Rutherford!" he called out.

As the door slammed behind Sammy and Fred, the man returned the gun to its home in the top drawer and then lit a cigarette before rising to walk around the room.  Only a few brief moments had passed when another knock came at the door.  Immediately realizing who his next visitor was, he smiled broadly.

"It's about time you got here!" he called out.

"Well, I would have been here sooner, but I got detained," Joyce Preston smiled slyly as she sauntered into the room.  "You really shouldn't be calling the house.  Someone might overhear and..."

"Just as long as you're here," he smiled and then walked over to her to take her into his arms so that he could kiss her passionately.  "Just as long as you're here."

TO BE CONTINUED

ON MONDAY

The pieces start falling into place.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions