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

 

EPISODE #113 (Wednesday, 4/10/02)
A Few Days Later
March, 1936 - Afternoon

WALB-RADIO - BROADCAST STUDIO B

"Excuse me, but you can't go in there," the guard said as he held out his hand to stop Patterson Monroe in his tracks.  "There's a broadcast going on."

"I know that," Patterson explained, "but I'm...well...looking for an actress from one of the serials."

"Don't tell me that you listen to those things?" the guard laughed.  "I only thought those things were for some dopey housewives."

"No, it's not like that," Patterson sighed.  "She's a friend of mine.  We've both been busy for the past couple of days and I haven't had a chance to talk to her.  I've been having mid-terms in school and she's been busy with the show.  Her name's Stephanie Lake.  She's new and..."

"Well, you can't go in there until after the show," the guard said again.  "It should be over in a few minutes.  I think that they're in the last commercial right now."

At that moment, Willis Lowell came walking down the hallway and Patterson immediately saw him.

"Mr. Lowell!" Patterson called out.  "Could you go in and tell Stephanie that I'm here?"

"Hello, Mr. Monroe," Mr. Lowell smiled as he reached out to shake his hand.  "I wish that I could, but I can't."

"Well, why not?"

"Mr. Monroe, I'm very disappointed.  I had such high hopes for Stephanie and I...well, guess that she just wasn't cut out for this," Mr. Lowell sighed with a shake of his head.

"Huh?"  Patterson furrowed his brow as he tried to understand what Mr. Lowell was saying.  "What do you mean?  Why can't you get tell Stephanie that I'm here?"

"She's not here," Mr. Lowell explained.  "And I'm very disappointed."

"Not here?  But...I thought that she had a show to do today."

"She did!" Mr. Lowell exclaimed.  "She never showed up.  In fact, she hasn't shown up for her last few shows.  We had to grab an emergency replacement for her.  I'm just very disappointed."

Stephanie hadn't been showing up for work?  Patterson shook his head in confusion as he tried to understand what he was saying.  But that...was impossible!  She'd been so excited about her new job.  She wouldn't just quit without saying anything to anyone.  True, he hadn't spoken to her in a few days---that in and of itself was a little odd, but he'd simply attributed it to the fact that they'd both been busy---but to find out that she'd simply not shown up for work?  Something just wasn't right.  Not right at all!

THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE - LIVING ROOM

"So, are you ready to go?" Charles Callison asked as he nervously paced around the room.

"Just let me put on my hat," Francis Callison smiled warmly as she paused to look in the mirror.  "I still don't understand why you won't tell me where we're going for lunch.  The Gardens is right downstairs.  Where else could we go?"

"Let's just say that I've got a big surprise for you."  He nodded slyly as he walked over and put his arms around her.

"I think that I've had enough surprises for one lifetime," she sighed.  Although the current mood was rather light hearted, the preliminary court hearing that had been scheduled for the next day was weighing heavily on her mind.  As she thought about the hearing, she bit her lip with worry and then took a deep breath.  "Charles, what if...what if the hearing doesn't go well?  What if they determine that there's enough evidence to warrant a full fledged trial?"

"But there isn't!" he reassured strongly, not entirely sure that he even believed what he was saying.  "The only thing that connects you to Annabelle's murder is that blasted scarf."

"And Reginald and that waitress," she reminded.  "They both can place me there right before the murder.  Both of them insist that no one else went into the lounge after I left and before Reginald went in.  I'm sure that even I wouldn't believe that I was innocent if I were to look at the evidence as someone who wasn't accused."

"Darling, let's not think about that today."  He paused and turned her towards the mirror so that they were both staring at their reflections.  "Look at that.  What do you see?"

"Us," she smiled.  "Together."

"And that's just the way it should be."

"But, what if...I have to go to trail and..."  The words caught in her throat.  "And the jury decides that I'm guilty of murder---whether I did it or not!  They'll...take me away from you and...our family and..."

"Tomorrow," Charles muttered softly and then kissed her lightly on the cheek.  "We'll think about that tomorrow at the hearing.  Today, I only want to think about us."

"But, Charles, how can I do that when..."

Gently, Charles pressed his index finger against her lips to silence her.  They'd already spent too much time going over the "what ifs".  Now what the time for them to focus on the "what will bes".

"Have I told you today how madly in love with you I am?" he asked with a flirtatious grin.  "How you're the greatest joy in my life?"

"Yes," she nodded coyly, "but I'd love for you to say it again."

"Why don't I just show you?"  And with those words, he kissed her tenderly and lovingly and she welcomed it with every fiber of her being.

"I love the way you put things," she laughed and then turned to, once again, gaze at their reflections in the mirror.  "You know, being in your arms almost makes me think that we can have everything back that Annabelle took from us---all the joy and happiness and..."

"We can!" Charles exclaimed.  "We can have all of it back and more.  In fact, that's part of this little surprise I've got planned."

"I'd still like to know what you're up to."  Francis eyed him suspiciously.  He'd never been extremely good at keeping secrets from her, but this one definitely had her stymied.

"Honestly, I'd wanted to wait until later, but...well...with the hearing tomorrow, I thought that you might need something to lift your spirits."

"Can't you at least give me some kind of clue?"

Charles furrowed his brow as he thought and then took her hand and began to lead her towards the door.

"I've got a picnic basket in the car."

"A picnic basket?"  Francis paused to consider what he meant.  "Are we...going to Baily Park?  Is that the surprise?"

"No," he laughed.  "We're not going to Baily Park for a picnic.  We just need the basket because there's no food where we're going."

"Now I'm completely confused!"  She stopped and looked at him again.  "Just one clue?"

"Oh, all right," he sighed with a slight laugh.  "But just one!  Be it ever so humble...."

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"God, I can't wait until mid-terms are over!" Dane Manchester grumbled loudly as he came storming through the front door.  "This semester is going to kill me yet."  He paused and he stood in the doorway of the library and watched his wife as she paced around the room.  "Sara?"

"Oh...um...what?" Sara Manchester asked and stopped in her tracks to turn and look at him.  "Oh, Dane, you're home.  I...didn't hear you come in."

"Well, I can see that," he remarked as he walked over to the sofa, sat his books down on the coffee table, and took a seat.  "Is something wrong?  You look...worried."  He furrowed his brow as he considered what could be on her mind.  "It's not that girl, is it?  She hasn't made some sort of ridiculous demand again, has she?"

"No, it's not...Naomi," she muttered in reply and then bit her lip.  "It's...well...I'm worried."

"Obviously."  He stopped to consider what could possibly have her so upset.  "So, why don't you tell me what's on your mind."

"Stephanie," she explained.  "We haven't...seen her in days and..."

"And these have been the most gloriously peaceful days that I can remember," he sighed joyously as he kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the sofa.  "Why in the world are you getting yourself all worked up?"

"Weren't you listening?  I said that we haven't seen Stephanie in days!  We haven't seen her, we haven't spoken to hear, nothing!"

"And the problem with that is?"

"Dane, I'm serious!"

"So am I," he laughed.  "Look, she hated being here and I hated having her here.  Maybe she just took off for greener pastures.  Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth."

"Dane, what if something's happened to her?"  Sara bit her lip in nervousness as a million possible tragedies began to run through her mind.

"You know how irresponsible and flighty Stephanie is," he reminded as he rose from his seat and walked over to take her into his arms for reassurance.  "Maybe she just got tired of being here and just ran off.  Knowing her, it's not that unlikely.  For all we know, she took off and joined the circus.  Ah, I can see it now---come see the girl with the biggest mouth and the talent for tall tales!"

"That's not funny!" Sara snapped.  "If she did just take off, she would have at least said something to me or...or to Patterson."  Considering that option, she began to tap her chin with her finger as she thought.  "Maybe I should give him a call and see if he's heard from her."  She quickly walked over to the telephone and picked up the receiver.  "Certainly he'd know where she is!"

"Unfortunately," Dane grumbled.  "I don't understand that entire relationship, anyway.  What in the world could Paddy see in her, of all people?"

"Shhhh," she muttered as she held the telephone receiver to her ear and motioned for him to be quiet.  "It's ringing."  And ringing, and ringing, and ringing...  "Hmmm, no answer."

"Maybe they ran off and got married!" he laughed with a roll of his eyes.

"I'm calling the police."

"Sara, I think you're making a big deal out of nothing.  So, Steffi took off.  What's the big deal?"

"Um...hello?" she said when the police station answered.  "Um...yes.  This is Mrs. Dane Manchester and I'd like to report a missing person."

Just then, the doorbell rang and Dane, still convinced that his wife was about to make a fool out of herself, immediately rose to answer.  He found it extremely ironic to find Patterson, himself, standing on their front step.

"Paddy!" Dane smiled as he reached out to shake his hand.  "Come right on in.  You have no idea how glad I am to see you.  Now, maybe you can set my wife straight about a few things."

"Well, actually, I did come to see Sara," Patterson nodded as he stepped into the foyer.  "I need...to talk to her about Stephanie."

"Sara!" Dane called out as he walked back to the doorway to the library.  "Hang up that blasted phone.  Paddy's here!"

"Oh, Paddy, thank god!" Sara sighed with relief as she came rushing into the foyer to greet him.  "I just tried to call you and didn't get an answer.  Have you seen Stephanie?"

"No," Patterson replied as he grew more and more uneasy.  "In fact, that's what I wanted to ask you."

"W-what?" she gasped.  "You haven't seen her either?"

"No," Patterson sighed.  "I haven't talked to her in days.  I thought that it was just because I was busy with mid-terms and she was busy with her new job, but...well..."

"Well, what, Paddy?"  She eyed him with anxious nervousness.

"I went to the radio station so that I could surprise her and take her to lunch," he explained as he began to pace around the room.  "But...well...when I got there, the producer told me that she wasn't there!  In fact, she hasn't been at work in days!"

"Oh, god," she gasped.

"I was hoping that you could tell me what was going on," Patterson continued.  "Is she avoiding me?  Why did she just quit her job?  I'm...I'm confused.  Did I do something wrong?"

"Patterson, I don't know how to tell you this, but..."  Dane paused and took a deep breath.  "We haven't seen Stephanie, either.  She hasn't been here in days."

"W-what?"  Patterson's eyes darted from Dane to Sara as he tried to comprehend what they were saying.  "What do you mean you haven't seen her?"

"Paddy," Sara spoke up, more worried than she'd been before, "Stephanie's missing."

THE DAVIS HOME - DOUGLAS & LORRAINE'S BEDROOM

"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?"

"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?"

"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."

AN VACANT ESTATE BY SPRING LAKE

"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, but...well...how 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?"

"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."

"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 again...in 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.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"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."

"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?"

"I...um...not 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?"

"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."

"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."

"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?"

"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 but...it 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!"

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Sara makes a starling realization.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions