For Now and Forever
EPISODE #114 (Tuesday,
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"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?" Detective Jim Fitzpatrick 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," Sara Manchester 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 Manchester 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 Monroe asked nervously. "What is it?"
"I think I know exactly whose cufflink that looks like, but..."
"It can't be." Sara paused and took a deep breath, more confused and worried than ever. "Because he's dead!"
THE STOKES MANSION - MARK & JUDITH'S BEDROOM
"Judith, you have to get out of bed sometime," Mark Linford said calmly as he leaned forward in the chair that sat beside the bed. "You can't hide from the world forever."
"And why can't I?" Judith Linford replied softly and clutched the covers more tightly under her chin. "Daddy's dead. I killed him. There's no...reason for me to..."
"Would you just stop it!" he barked as he jumped to his feet before reaching down to rip the blankets off of his wife. "Stop hiding yourself away from the world like a coward! You're doing the exact same thing that you did when you lost the baby. Are you going to tell me that you're going to wall yourself up in this house for months now that you've lost your father?"
"You have no business talking to me like that!" she barked angrily. "Daddy's dead!" She paused and wrapped her arms around herself tightly as her tone softened. "I'll grieve any way that I see fit."
"You're pathetic," he spat and then threw the blankets back down on top of her. "Your father dies and it's all about you. It's all about how you feel and how you want to grieve. What about your mother? What about your sisters? Don't you think that they're grieving, too?"
"It's not the same," she muttered. "I...I was driving the car. I'm the one who caused the accident. I killed him, they didn't."
"You listen to me, Judith! You did not kill your father. It was an accident---a horrible, tragic accident!"
Judith turned her head slightly and looked up at her husband. She wanted to believe what he was saying. She wanted to believe that her father's death wasn't her fault, but she couldn't. How could she not shoulder the blame when she knew, in her heart, that her carelessness had been the true cause of the accident? She shouldn't have been speeding! She shouldn't have...
She closed her eyes tightly and buried her face into her pillow as if to block out the voices inside her head that had tormented her since she'd heard the devastating news about her father. However, no matter what she did, she couldn't escape them. She was to blame and she knew it.
"I just...don't understand why...the hospital called and told us that mother had been hurt," she mumbled. "Why did they tell us to come right away when she obviously hadn't been in an accident?"
"I...don't know. Maybe...someone just made a mistake."
Judith rolled over again and looked up at her husband. "Mark, where were you that night? Why weren't you at the hospital with everyone else?"
"I...well...um..." he stammered awkwardly and then began to nervously pace around the room. "I had a business meeting. I...didn't find out about the accident until...until everyone came home. I told you that."
"But that...doesn't make any sense." She let out a thin, weak, sarcastic laugh. "Why would you have a business meeting? You haven't done any kind of work since we've been in Albanyville. You've just been content to live off of me and my family and..."
"That's part of the reason I had the meeting," he tried to explain as he fought to keep the real reason for his absence---a clandestine rendezvous with his mistress Helen Van Dyne---a secret. True, he'd had a meeting---a telephone meeting, in fact---but that wasn't where he was at the time of the accident. "I'm tired of just sitting around, not doing anything. I want to get back to work. I want to practice law again and I...well...I've had an offer from a firm in New York to..."
"A job offer?" Judith furrowed her brow as she tried to piece together what he was saying. "In New York? What kind of...offer?"
"One of the top law firms in Manhattan has offered me a position. They want me to start as soon as possible." He paused and bit his lip, unsure about the timing of the news. "I told them I'd take the job."
"What?" she gasped in shock. "Without even talking to me?"
"It's my career," he reminded. "And I'm your husband---whatever that means to you---and it's my decision. We'll be moving back to New York by the end of the month. It's about time we finally got out of this pitiful little town."
As Judith eyed her husband with a mixture of confusion and surprise, she silently wondered how she could leave Albanyville. Her entire family was here, now, her father died here, Burt was here... No, she couldn't leave now. Somehow, she had to find some way to stop Mark from dragging her back to New York. As she sunk back down under her covers, she carefully began to plan.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"So, you have seen this before?" Jim asked as he carefully watched Sara's actions.
"I...well..." Sara stammered. "It looks like one that I've seen, but...well...it can't be the same one."
"You mentioned something about the owner being dead?" Russ furrowed his brow in confusion as he carefully held his pen in preparation to write down anything that she might say.
"Yes, Sara, what do you mean?" Dane looked at his wife curiously.
"Here, look at this," she said with a sigh as she walked over to the end table and picked up a photograph and handed it to the detective. "What do you see?"
"I see a man holding two little girls," Jim replied as he stared at the picture. "I would assume that the girls in the picture are you and Miss Lake. Truthfully, Mrs. Manchester, you haven't changed much."
"Thank you," she blushed. "That is me and Stephanie."
"Who's the man?" Patterson asked as he peered over Jim's shoulder to get his own look at the picture.
"That's Stephen Lake---Stephanie's father." She paused and took a deep breath as she waited for them to see what she was talking about.
"I...don't think I understand what you're getting at," Jim muttered with a shake of his head as he continued to eye the picture closely. "What does this have to do with anything?"
"Look!" Sara ordered firmly and then snatched the picture out of his hands before holding it up in front of his face. "Look at his arm! It's around us! Look very closely."
"Oh, my god," Jim gasped as he suddenly saw what she was talking about. "He's wearing cufflinks that..." He held the mystery cufflink close to the picture as he tried to make a comparison. "They looks exactly like this one."
"That's what I'm trying to say!" She took another deep breath and slowly began to pace around the room. "Stephanie and I gave those cufflinks to Uncle Stephen for Christmas that year. That's one of them! I'm certain of it, but..."
"Mrs. Manchester, I was under the impression that Miss Lake's father died several years ago." Russ took the picture and the cufflink from Jim and continued to examine them.
"He did," Sara sighed. "Well, at least we think he did. He just vanished without a trace. Daddy and I were living in Ohio at the time and he wouldn't tell me the whole story and Stephanie has never really wanted to talk about it much, but...well...for all we've known, he died." She paused and looked directly at the detective. "That's why that cufflink can't be his!"
"Maybe Stephanie had it as a keepsake of her father," Patterson rationalized. "Annabelle's death brought back the pain she felt over losing her father and she was looking at the cufflink because it reminded her of him. Maybe she just dropped it."
"That's impossible," Sara replied flatly. "Those were the only cufflinks that Uncle Stephen ever wore. When we gave them to him, I remember him telling us that he would always wear them because they would remind him of his little girl. He was wearing those cufflinks when he disappeared!"
"But I thought you said that your father didn't tell you a lot about what happened to Stephanie's father?" Dane spoke up, not sure he was completely following his wife's story.
"He didn't," she explained. "I didn't find that out from my father. Annabelle told me. Right after I came here to live with her and Stephanie, we were looking through old pictures and talking one day and I asked her whatever happened to the cufflinks. She told me that they went to the grave with Stephen. At the time, I'd assumed that she meant he was buried with them, but Stephanie told me later---in one of the few conversations where I could get her to open up about her father's death---she told me that he had been wearing them when he disappeared. That's one of the things they told the police when they were looking for him. Of course, they never found him."
"Leeds, call the station and have them get in touch with the Chicago police department," Jim ordered. "Have them send us everything that they have about Stephen Lake."
As Sara sunk down onto the sofa, she took the picture back from Officer Leeds and stared at it. The more she thought about it, the more confusing everything seemed to be. Stephanie was truly missing and it had something to do with Stephen Lake. Sara just wasn't sure what it could all mean.
"I'm really glad that you've started opening up to me," Trevor Callison smiled before taking a sip of his coffee. "Surely you know how much I love you and want to be there for you. I know that it hasn't been easy for you to deal with your mother's death."
"You really...shouldn't be so concerned," Grace Davis muttered softly as she tried to avoid looking him in the eyes. "I'll be all right. I'll get past Momma's death eventually."
"I'm concerned because I love you," he said again. "I just want to be there for you and support you." He reached across the table to take her hand, but she swiftly pulled away. "Grace, is there...still something that you're not telling me?"
"No," she replied with a gentle shake of her head. "Nothing. It's just that...well..."
"I just...don't deserve all of the devotion that you have for me." She rested her hands in her lap and kept her eyes focused only on the half-eaten chocolate cake on her plate. "You deserve so much more than me and I...I don't understand why you seem to love me so much."
"Grace, darling, I love you because you're you!" Trevor insisted with a surprised laugh. "They way you smile, the way your hair glimmers in the sun, the way you stand up for yourself when backed into a corner---the way you look at me. These are all things that make me love you. Most importantly, they way you make me feel makes me love you. You deserve my love just because you're you."
"I...just don't understand that." Her eyes moved from the plate down to her hands which she nervously wrung as they rested in her lap. "I'm...nobody. You're...too good for me."
"Stop this absurd talk right now!" he spoke up as he rose from his seat slightly so that he could put his finger under her chin and lift her head so that their eyes met. "I thought we got past all of this months ago. I thought that I finally made you understand that you have no reason to be insecure where my feelings for your are concerned."
"I...know, but..." As her voice trailed off, Grace felt her face flush as a knot began to form in her throat. Suddenly, she slumped over onto the table and buried her face in her hands.
"Grace?" Trevor asked as he quickly rose from his feet and rushed around the table to her side. "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
"I...I'm fine," she muttered weakly and then slowly lifted her head before easing back into her seat. Beads of perspiration were beginning to dot her forehead. "I just feel a little...queasy. I don't think that chowder I had is setting well on my stomach."
"Should I take you to a doctor?"
"N-no," she replied. She attempted to shake her head, but discovered that that simple action only made her dizzy. "I'll be...fine. Maybe I'm just catching that bug that both Lorraine and Douglas had."
"Well, let me at least take you home and put you to bed so that you can get some rest." Trevor carefully helped her to her feet and took her hand as he prepared to lead her to the door.
"Y-yes," she stammered. Although whatever ill feeling that she'd felt come over her was starting to pass, she realized that it was an excellent excuse to end her lunch date with Trevor...and the conversation. "Just...take me home."
As he led her out of the cafe, Trevor kept casually glancing over at her to see how she was doing. Although she had looked quite pale, her color was starting to return. Was she being truthful about her sudden "illness", or was she merely manufacturing an excuse to keep him at arms length? If the later were true, Trevor couldn't help but wonder why. Was there really more going on with Grace than she was willing to let on?
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"I still don't understand what this cufflink or that picture has to do with Stephanie's disappearance," Patterson spoke up as he raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. "Why are we even here talking about it when we should be out looking for her?"
"Paddy, where would we start?" Dane asked pointedly. "This is the only thing that we've got that might tell us where Stephanie could have gone. Maybe her father wasn't wearing them when he disappeared and she had them. Maybe her mother's death made her start to think about her father."
"Well, she always did have a difficult time accepting that he was dead," Sara nodded as she considered her husband's theory. "Maybe she did just run off in search of him in some valiant attempt to prove that he was alive, after all. It would make since that she'd want to find him if she still believed that he wasn't dead."
"Jim, the station said that the Chicago police were going to send all of their information on Stephen Lake to us in the morning," Russ spoke up as he hung up up the telephone. "In fact, they spoke directly to the detective who was in charge of the investigation."
"Really?" Jim's eyed grew wide with interest. "Did they tell you if he said anything about the Lake case?"
"Well, from the sound of it, he was rather surprised that we were investigating a man who'd disappeared years ago," Russ revealed. "In fact, their department pretty much considered it a closed case after a witness turned up who saw a man fitting Lake's description shot and dumped into Lake Michigan. With the evidence they had, they wrote it off as a mob hit and just filed it away for future use. He said there wasn't much need to press the issue once Annabelle Lake succeeded in having her husband declared legally dead."
"I guess we'll see about that once we get a look at those records," Jim nodded as he rubbed his chin in thought.
"So, do you think that Stephanie's father could really be alive?" Patterson muttered softly so that the police officers couldn't hear. "I mean, with all of the evidence to the contrary, it really doesn't seem possible."
"Of course it's not possible!" Dane insisted firmly. "People don't just pop up fresh from the grave. If the police were certain that he's dead, then he's dead. This idea that Stephen Lake is still alive is just one of Stephanie's idiotic fantasies. I don't care if his body were never found or not. I won't believe that man is alive unless I see him with my own eyes."
"Oh, my god," Sara gasped suddenly as her hand flew up to her mouth.
"What is it?" Dane asked as he turned to look at her curiously. "What's wrong?"
"Uncle Stephen is alive! I know it!"
Dane and Patterson exchanged doubting glances before Dane turned his wife to face him directly.
"Sara, what the devil are you talking about? How in the world can you be sure that he's alive?"
"Dane, you said that you wouldn't believe that Uncle Stephen was alive unless you saw him with your own eyes," Sara explained, still slightly overcome by shock from her realization. "But I have!"
"I've seen him!" Sara insisted. "I know he's alive because I've seen him!"
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"It really was a beautiful service," Dr. Fred Rutherford said softly as he placed a reassuring hand on Leticia Stokes' shoulder. "I think that Nelson would have felt honored."
"That was the most difficult thing that I've ever had to go through," she replied softly as she stared at the urn that held her late husband ashes. "I just never expected...this."
"No one ever expects a tragedy like this one," he sighed and then sat down next to her on the sofa. "I just hope you'll let me be here for you during this difficult time."
"Fred, you don't know how much your support has meant to me these last few days," she muttered with a weak smile as she turned to face him before returning her focus to the urn. "I don't know if I could have made it through the service without you."
"Your daughters seemed to act like they didn't want me there." His eyes followed in the direction of Leticia's gaze until he found himself, too, staring at her husband's urn. "Of course, under the circumstances, it's understandable."
"I'm glad that you were there. I needed you," she replied softly and then rested her head on his shoulder before taking a long pause. "I...I'm not sure what I should do with Nelson's ashes. I don't exactly feel comfortable keeping them here at the house. Maybe...I should check with a mausoleum in town so that we can inter him."
"Here? In Albanyville?" Fred quickly pulled away from her and eyed her with worry.
"Well, yes," she nodded. "After all, our entire family is here, now, and..."
"I'm not sure he would approve of that." He awkwardly glanced at the urn. "I mean, I didn't really know him, but he didn't seem to enjoy Albanyville that much. Do you really think he'd want to make this city is final resting place?"
Leticia paused and bit her lip as she considered what he was saying. "No, I...guess you do have a point."
"Wouldn't a mausoleum in New York be much more appropriate? I mean, he was from New York and I'm sure that the rest of his family is buried there." Fred nervously glanced at the urn again. Having Nelson Stokes' remains so close by as a constant reminder to his widow wasn't something that Fred could enjoy.
"You're right, I guess," she sighed. "That would be something that Nelson would have wanted. It's just..."
"Well, it's going to be so difficult to have him so far away." She bowed her head in mournful reverence. "I mean, for the girls. I'm sure that they'd want him to be close by so that they could at least visit him."
"But this is truly your call," he reminded. "After all, you are his legal widow---separated from him when he died or not."
"You're right." She rose from her seat, picked up the urn, and carefully carried it over to a side table before setting it down again. "He belongs in New York. It's what he would have wanted. Surely the girls can understand that."
"Would you...like for me to call and make the arrangements for you?"
"No," she replied softly. "That's something that I need to do for Nelson. I'll call New York in the morning." She paused and turned to look at Fred. "You will fly with me to New York, won't you? I...don't think I could go through this alone."
"Darling, I'll be right by your side every step of the way," he smiled as he stood and walked over to take her hand. "I'll be there for you in any way that I can." He paused and took a deep breath as he tried to formulate his words carefully. "In fact, I hope that you'll let me bring you some kind of happiness. I hope that you'll let me turn this tragic time into something good."
"Good?" Leticia eyed him with a mixture of shock and offense. "What good could possibly come out of my husband's death?"
"I...um...well..." he blushed, immediately realizing that he'd chosen the wrong words. "Maybe I should have phrased that differently. I didn't necessarily mean to imply that his death was a good thing, but..." C'mon, Rutherford, take your foot out of your mouth. "Well, I know you've been unhappy with Nelson for a long time. His treatment of you brought you great pain and sorrow. He's gone now. It's time for you to move past that. It's time for you to look towards a brighter tomorrow." A little soapy, but it'll do.
"I...don't understand what you're trying to say." She furrowed her brow slightly as she tried to grasp the meaning behind his words. "Yes, the last few years of my life with Nelson were difficult, at best, but...well...I don't see how I can forget that."
"I'm not saying for you to forget," Fred smiled warmly as he held her hands and pulled her closer to him. "All I'm saying is that now is the right time to finally close that chapter of your life and start a new one---a happier one." He hesitated for a moment as he gazed down into his eyes. "Let's both begin a new chapter. While we're in New York, I want you to...marry me."
TO BE CONTINUED
A surprising alliance is revealed!
For Now and Forever
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