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

 

EPISODE #120 (Friday, 5/31/02)
A Few Days Later
March, 1936 - Early Evening

THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM

As the shadow of dusk began to climb through the window and stretch across the floor, Janet Stokes lay asleep on her bed, the novel that she'd been reading cast aside next to her.  Although the book had been about nothing but magnificent romance, her dreams were not nearly as bright.  In fact, they were as dark as the evening shadows.

As she tossed and turned, her slumbering mind raced through confusing images and memories of the past.  One moment, she was standing at the top of the stairs...

"O-oh, my god.  Oh...my god.  W-what have I done?  Oh, my god.  I've done it again, but this time I've killed my own sister!"

The next moment, she was kneeling on the floor of a hotel room, staring at the lifeless body of her lover Gordon Scott...

"G-Gordon?  Gordon, speak to me?  Oh...god, Gordon!  I-I'm s-sorry!  Oh, god, w-what have I...done?"

But suddenly, the scene inside her head changed.  No longer was she at the top of the stairs or in a grand hotel room.  Instead, she was staring at a closed door and she felt her heart racing.  She just had to get away!  Away?  Away from what?  She wasn't sure.  She couldn't remember.  However, as she reached for the door knob, she had the strongest sense of foreboding that she'd ever felt before.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - FOYER

"I really don't know if this is gonna work," Naomi Jackson said as she followed Joyce Preston down the stairs.  "Do you really think that your daughter is just going to turn over her entire inheritance to me?"

"She's not turning it over to you," Joyce snapped.  "She's turning it over to me so that I can give it to you.  Which I'm not going to do, of course."

"What?  But what about my money?  I thought that you were..."

"You'll get your share of the money!" Joyce barked through clinched teeth.  "But the bulk of it is mine.  All you have to do is..."  She stopped mid-sentence and furrowed her brow before pressing her index finger to her lips to silence Naomi.  "Shhh.  I thought I heard something."

"Probably that old bat," Naomi grumbled.  "That woman lurks around her like she's involved in top secret espionage."

"Helga's been a thorn in my side since Thornton and I met," Joyce commented before leading Naomi across the foyer and to the library.  "Let's go in here so we can have some privacy."

However, as Joyce slid the large wooden doors open, she realized that they wouldn't be alone---Patterson Monroe was seated on the sofa, nervously thumbing through one of her daughter's movie magazines.

"Oh, Mr. Monroe," Joyce gasped nervously, "I...didn't know that we had company.  Dane and Sara went out to dinner, so I don't know what time they'll be home."

"I know.  The housekeeper told me," Patterson explained as he tossed the magazine aside and rose to his feet.  "Actually, I'm not here to see them."

"Y-you're not?"  She hesitated briefly and then turned to quietly address Naomi.  "Dear, would you...leave us alone for a moment?  We'll...chat later."

With a silent, yet curious, nod, Naomi agreed and quietly slipped out of the library, pulling the doors closed behind her.

"So, Mr. Monroe, what are you doing here if you're not here to visit them?" Joyce asked curiously as she kept a careful eye on him.

"I'm waiting," he replied calmly.  "I'm waiting for...Stephanie to come home."

"Mr. Monroe, pardon me if I laugh," she chuckled, "but that silly little niece of mine doesn't have good sense to come in out of the rain."  She paused and her tone grew more serious.  "I...know that you're worried about her, but...well...I'm sure that it's just like Dane and Sara have suspected.  She's probably just run off with her father and they're enjoying a tender reunion.  It's nothing more than that.  Considering everything that I've heard about some of the things that she's done, I really don't suspect that she'd even want to come home."

"Stephanie did not run off!" Patterson insisted firmly.  "She's been kidnapped by her father.  If, by some miracle, she manages to get away from him, I think she'll come back here, first, and I want to be here."

"Why in the world do you think that Stephen would kidnap his own daughter?"

"Well, anyone capable of murder is certainly capable of kidnapping."  Patterson began to slowly pace around the room as his worries again began to build.

"M-murder?" Joyce gasped.  "Stephen?  I really find that hard to believe."

"The police don't seem to think so," he replied.  "In fact, I have every reason to suspect that they're trying to prove that he was the person that murdered Stephanie's mother."

"Stephen killed Annabelle?"  She covered her mouth in shock.  "Oh, my!  I..."  Her voice trailed off and she shook her head slightly, almost as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing.  "But, he couldn't have killed Annabelle and he couldn't have kidnapped Stephanie.  I refuse to believe it.  He never said..."  She froze mid-sentence, seeming to appear as if she'd caught herself before she'd said more than she should.

"What...did you say?"  He eyed her curiously, her verbal miss-step not slipping past him.

"I...said that I find it hard to believe that..."

"No, not that."  He walked closer to her, keeping his eyes carefully trained on hers.  "When you said that Stephanie's father never said something to you, you sounded like you'd actually spoken to him."  He paused and eyed her closer.

"Well, when Mort and I were married, I spoke with Stephen rather often.  He was my brother-in-law, after all."  She turned away, unable to meet Patterson's eyes, and nervously fumbled with the collar of her blouse.

"No, you sounded like you've spoken to him recently."  He reached out and grabbed her by the arm and forced her to look at him.  "Have you talked to him?  Did you know he was alive?"

Joyce took a deep breath and swallowed hard as she found herself unable to avoid Patterson's penetrating glare.  After taking several moments to formulate exactly how she would respond and what she would say, she spoke again.

"I...guess that in light of recent events, some things make much more sense than I thought that they did," she sighed.  "M-maybe I was wrong."  She paused again and looked away.

"W-what are you trying to say?"

"Mr. Monroe," she began carefully, "I think that there's something that I need to tell you.  I...have a confession to make."

AN ABANDONED FACTORY
RIVERSIDE

"Sammy, have you got everything ready?" Stephen Lake asked as they walked down the long, dark hallway.  "Time's running out and we need to get out of this pathetic town as soon as possible.  The longer we stay, the more chance we've got of them finding us."

"I got everything set up just like you wanted, boss," Sammy Benedict replied and then took a lengthy drag off of his cigarette.  "I can't wait to get outta here, too."

Stephen stopped in his tracks and then turned to look at Sammy.  "You're not going with me.  It's just going to be me and my daughter."

"W-what?" Sammy asked in shock.  "What do you mean I'm not goin' with you?  You ain't gonna leave me behind, are you?"

"I've got no choice," Stephen muttered as he hung his head.  "If I take you and your sister along, it's going to slow us down.  It's best if Stephanie and I go alone."  He paused and took a deep breath.  "Sammy, I appreciate everything that you've done for me.  I can honestly say that I wouldn't be standing here, right now, if it weren't for you."

"Gee, boss, it was nothin'.  When I saw what those guys did to you, I just couldn't..."

"Nothing?"  Stephen let out a hearty laugh.  "Sammy, you saved my life!  In my opinion, that's a pretty big something.  When those guys shot me and threw me in the river, you're the one who dragged me out.  You're the one who helped convince the cops that I really had died."

"You offered me a lot of money," Sammy reminded.  "Any guy faced with that kind of money would have done it."

"But it just wasn't any guy.  It was you and I'm more grateful than you'll ever know.  Now...well, it's time to move on."

"Boss, what are you gonna do about Rutherford?" Sammy asked curiously.  "When he pays up, how am I gonna get the money to you?"

Stephen paused and rubbed his chin as he thought.  "You're not," he finally replied.  "I've got my daughter back with me and that's the only thing I'm concerned with.  My business dealings in this town are done.  I want you to take all of my personal files and destroy them.  You can't leave any proof that I might still be alive.  Nothing can be left behind that can trace anyone to me."

"So, do you want me to just let the doc off the hook?"

"Of course not," Stephen laughed heartily.  "Even though I don't really need the money that he owes me, I'm not letting him completely out of his debt.  He needs to learn that his actions have consequences."

"I...don't think I'm followin' you."

"Sammy, it seems that the good doctor's time has run out," Stephen smiled.  "Once he gets back from that little trip he's on, I want you to finish him off.  Show him that I'm not one to trifle with."

With a silent nod of his head, Sammy agreed to his boss's orders.  "I'm...gonna miss you, boss," he spoke up, trying valiantly to cover his own emotions.  "It just ain't gonna be the same with out you around."

"You'll do fine.  You did fine before we met and you'll do fine after I'm gone."  Stephen paused as they reached the doorway to his office.  "Now, go.  It's almost time for us to leave and there's still a lot to take care of."

"All right, boss," Sammy nodded again before turning to walk back up the hallway.

Once Sammy had turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, Stephen took a deep breath as he pulled the key out of his pocket and unlocked the door.

"Princess, it's almost time for us to go," he said as he swung the door open.  "We have to get out of here."

"Oh, Daddy, please don't do this," Stephanie Lake cried as she bolted from her chair and ran into his arms.  "Please.  I love you, Daddy, but I don't want to leave.  Why can't we stay?  Why are you doing this?"

"I've told you, already," he explained calmly as he held her tightly in his arms. "It's for your own good.  There are too many people that might harm us if anyone ever found out that I'm still alive.  The only way we can finally be together is if we leave.  I can't stay here."

"Daddy, I don't want to go!"

"You have to, Princess," he said sternly as he pulled away from her and grabbed her tightly by the shoulders in an attempt to force her to listen to him.  "You don't have a choice.  I've waited too long to have you back in my life to just let you slip away from me again."

"B-but..."

"No, 'buts'.  No one will ever keep us apart again."  He turned and carefully closed the door, locking it behind him.  "And I'll kill anyone who tries to."

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"What are you talking about?" Patterson asked again as he eyed Joyce intently.  "You sound like...you know something about what happened to Stephanie.  What is it?  What are you trying to say?"

"Mr. Monroe, I..."  She took a deep breath and looked away as if she felt unable to meet his stern glare.  "I...know I should have said something sooner, but..."

"But what?"

"Well, I..."  She paused again and took another deep breath before turning back to face him directly.  "You have to believe me when I tell you that I had no reason to suspect anything.  Stephanie has always been a little impulsive, even when she was a little girl and..."

"How do you know anything about how Stephanie is?" Patterson asked pointedly.  "You disappeared out of Sara's life years ago.  How do you anything?"

"I...guess I deserve that," she nodded reluctantly.  "True, I haven't been around in their lives for quite some time, but...well...I know what Dane and Sara have said about Stephanie and...well...she's not exactly the most responsible of individuals."  She wrung her hands tightly as she tried to stop them from shaking.  "But that's not what I'm trying to say.  I didn't mean to...cast doubt on my niece's judgment.  I'm just trying to..."

"Just spit it out!" Patterson demanded.  "What are you trying to say?"

"What I'm trying to say is that I've...seen Stephen.  I've talked to him.  I know for a fact that he's alive."  She turned away from him, appearing embarrassed by her revelation.  "I knew...that he wanted to make contact with Stephanie."

"W-what?" he gasped as he recoiled in shock.  "You've...seen him?  Why...didn't you say anything?"

"I didn't have any reason to suspect that he was up to anything unsavory!" Joyce tried to explain franticly.  "He...just phoned me out of the blue.  I don't...know how he knew where I was or how to get in touch with me.  He...must have been watching Stephanie for quite a while.  He wanted to meet with me.  He wanted to find out about Stephanie and how she was doing and..."  She let out a heavy sigh.  "He wanted to see her again---face to face.  He said that he knew that Annabelle's death must have been difficult for her and he couldn't bear to leave her an orphan.  He told me that he only wanted to get her alone so that he could have a private reunion with her and I..."

"What did you do?" Patterson barked angrily.  "What did he ask you to do!"

"I...I got everyone out of the house," she confessed softly and hung her head.  "The night that Stephanie disappeared, I gave Helga the night off and I took Sara out to dinner.  I knew that Dane would leave because he'd have been stuck alone with Stephanie.  I arraigned it so that Stephanie would be alone so that Stephen could see her in private."

"My, god," he muttered in response and shook his head, not truly able to believe what he was hearing.  "But...but when you and Sara left, I was still here.  Stephanie wasn't alone when everyone left!"

"I knew that you wouldn't be with Stephanie all evening," she explained.  "Stephen was simply determined to wait until after you'd left to make his presence known."

"Do you mean that you helped him kidnap her?"  The more Patterson thought about it, the more outlandish the idea seemed.  However, her explanation was putting together a few missing pieces of the puzzle.

"I didn't know he was going to kidnap her!" Joyce insisted firmly.  "All I thought that he was going to do was talk to her---reunite with her.  I didn't...know that he was planning something so...horrible."  She bit her lip and again looked away, seemingly distraught and upset by the outcome of her actions, before speaking again.  "I...know what it's like to be separated from your child.  Sara and I spent too many years apart.  I know the kind of loss that Stephen feels from having missed out on so much time with his daughter.  My heart went out to him.  I...just wanted to bring him and Stephanie some of the happiness that I've felt in getting to know my own daughter again."

Patterson eyed her suspiciously, not knowing exactly how much of her claims he should believe.

"That's the truth, Mr. Monroe," she insisted.  "If I had known what Stephen was really planning, I would never have gone along with it.  He only told me that he wanted to reunite with her.  He never said anything about kidnapping her!"

Patterson nodded silently and rubbed his chin as he tried to keep his rising anxiety in check while he picked apart everything that she'd revealed to him.  Finally, after several long moments, he spoke.

"You said that he'd asked to meet you?"

"Y-yes."

"Did you meet him?"  He carefully watched her every movement and expression in order to evaluate what she was telling him.

"Y-yes, I did," she answered.  "He was at some old warehouse or...or factory over in Riverside.  I thought it was an odd place to meet, but I guess when you're trying to hide out from the mob, you can't be too choosey."

"Or if you're trying to hide your abducted daughter," Patterson commented dryly.  "Do you remember exactly where this place is?"

"Yes," she replied.  "It's...on the south side down by the river.  Not in the newer industrial district, mind you, but...further on down."

"Could you draw me a map?"

"Why, yes, I'm certain I could, but..."  She paused and hurried over to the desk so that she could pull out a pencil and a piece of paper and quickly scribbled down a rough map of directions.  "But aren't you...going to call the police?  If Stephanie really has been kidnapped and is in danger, shouldn't they be notified?"

"There's not time for that, now," Patterson muttered as he snatched the map out of Joyce's hands and then glanced at it quickly before shoving it into his pocket and heading for the door.  "They really haven't been much help, so far.  What's to make me believe that they'll be of any help now?"

"W-where are you going?"  Joyce was starting to grow increasingly panicked and she immediately went after him.  "W-what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to this warehouse and I'm going to find Stephanie and bring her home," he replied flatly.  "And heaven help that man if he's done anything to hurt her!"

As the door slammed behind him, a worried and anxious look covered Joyce's face.  Patterson's steadfast determination and conviction had not been something that she'd counted on.  Clicking her nails nervously on the top of the credenza in the foyer, she eyed the telephone carefully.  Patterson's foolhardy devotion to that twit Stephanie could ruin all of her plans.  She had to get Stephen out of the way.  He knew entirely too much about her plans.  After taking a long breath to gather her thoughts, she reached for the telephone receiver and placed what she knew would be a very important phone call.

"Hello?" she said politely after the call had connected.  "Y-yes.  This is Joyce Preston.  Yes, I'm the aunt of Stephanie Lake.  You know, the girl that's missing?  Yes, I thought you would.  I have a statement to make.  I need to speak to Detective Fitzpatrick."

THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM

As Janet tossed and turned in her bed, her subconscious mind began to flash back to past events.  Inside her head, she could clearly see the doorknob to a room and furrowed her brow, unsure of what she was seeing.  As she slept, she saw herself reaching out for the knob as if compelled to enter the room; but, she tried to resist the urge.  For some reason she couldn't explain, she knew that there was danger on the other side of the door.  However, the pull of the room was too great and she carefully turned the knob, opened the door, and slipped inside.

Where was she?  Why was she there?  Janet squirmed nervously in her sleep as the details of the room started to come into focus.  Stepping further into the room, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye that nearly made her jump out of her skin.  Once she realized that she'd only seen her own reflection in a large mirror that she'd passed, she let out a sigh of relief.  Turning to examine her reflection more closely, she noticed that she was dressed in a rather elaborate party gown with a delicate scarf tied around her neck.

She furrowed her brow again and turned away from the mirror to look at the rest of the room.  Instantly, she realized where she was and what was going on.  She was at Burt's party!  She'd been having uncomfortable flashes of memory about the night Judith had fallen and Janet, nearly panicked by what she was remembering, ran away to calm herself.  She'd taken refuge in the lounge to hide herself from Burt.

Although that realization should have eased the questions in Janet's subconscious mind about her fitful dream, she was becoming more anxious than ever.  Why was she there now?  What unseen force had drawn her back into the room?  Suddenly, an unexpected noise startled Janet and pulled her from her thoughts.  She wasn't alone!

Nervous and frightened, Janet slipped into a darkened corner to avoid being seen.  She just couldn't let Burt see her in the distraught state that she was in.  She just couldn't let Gordon find her and hurt her again.  Gordon?  Why did she suddenly think of Gordon Scott?  He couldn't be of any emotional threat to her anymore.  He was dead after all.

Janet shook her head again as she struggled to push thoughts of Gordon Scott out of her mind and crouched down behind the bar as a somewhat familiar voice echoed through the room.

"Hello?" came the voice from the darkness.  "Is someone there?"

Janet peered over the top of the bar and immediately saw that the speaker was none other than Annabelle Lake.  Still feeling panicked and frightened, she sunk back down and kept her presence hidden.  She just couldn't let anyone find her.  Suddenly, she heard the large doors of the lounge swing open and quickly realized that there was someone else present.

"I want a word with you!" came a different, yet still familiar, female voice.

"I believe I've said everything that I need to say to you!" Annabelle barked angrily.

"Oh, that may be true, but I still have plenty left to say to you!  I know about what you did the night of Reginald and Jillian's engagement party.  I know how you drugged my husband!"

Janet gasped slightly and peered back over the bar to see the confrontation.  The other person in the room was Francis Callison!  Janet rung her hands anxiously and swallowed hard before sinking back down into her hiding place.

"I did nothing of the sort," Annabelle laughed nervously.  "Where in the world did you come up with such a preposterous notion?"

"Your daughter told me!"

"W-what?" Annabelle gasped, quickly turning away in an attempt to hide her reaction.  "T-that's impossible!  Stephanie wouldn't...tell such a vicious lie about me."

"Of course, she wouldn't," Francis smiled confidently, "because it's not a lie!  You drugged Charles so that he would succumb to your advances and then you arranged to have my own daughter lead me to discover the two of your together!  And you've been playing on his guilt for months to keep us apart!"

"This is just preposterous," Annabelle replied as she slowly began to regain her composure.  "Your husband willingly turned to me because you bore him to tears.  I bet you've run straight to Charles with this pathetic attempt of yours to hold onto him like a vise."

"Actually, I haven't said anything to him yet," Francis confessed as she tried to maintain a tight grip on her rising emotions.  "I wanted to have a word with you, first."

"Well, well, well," Annabelle smirked and crossed her arms confidently across her chest.  "I would have suspected that with this 'news,' you'd have gone straight to him.  Maybe you didn't because you know that it wouldn't matter.  This lie that you've convinced yourself is true will have no affect on Charles' plans to marry me."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that!"

"You're pathetic!" Annabelle spat.  "You're clingy and weak and boring and..."

"And you're a jealous, vengeful shrew!" Francis countered.  "Everybody knows how you are!  You had to resort to lies and deception and drugs to destroy my marriage.  You're the pathetic one!"

"Oh, you're so sure of yourself, aren't you?" Annabelle chuckled.  "You think that once you tell everyone this lie that my daughter has clearly told in an attempt to hurt me, you're going to drag Charles back into that pitiful little marriage of yours!  We'll it won't happen.  Do you hear me?  It won't happen!  Why in the world would Charles want to be trapped in a marriage with poor, pathetic, mousy, boring Francis?  He's had a taste of a life of passion and excitement with me!  Just look at you.  You try to be all glamorous and exciting, but you're nothing but an over-glorified housewife.  Why, you might as well be the maid."  She grinned wickedly.  "By the way, where did you find that lovely scarf?"  She reached and and grabbed it, yanking Francis closer.  "Off of the bargain rack at Lerner's?  Of course, I wouldn't expect anything else out of a woman like you!"

"I hate you!" Francis snapped as she jerked herself out of Annabelle's grasp, pulling the scarf loose from around her neck, and reared back and struck Annabelle sharply across the face.  "I wish that you were dead!"

"Now, now, now," Annabelle smirked, unfazed by the attack, as she gently stroked her tender cheek, "you wouldn't want to hurt the baby."

"T-the b-baby?"  Francis slowly backed away, startled and unsure about what she'd heard.  "What...are you talking about?  I don't..."

"Oh, I'm sure you do understand," Annabelle smiled victoriously.  "You see, whether I drugged Charles or not is irrelevant.  There's no way that he'd leave me and return to you.  Not now."

"I..."

"I think everything is finally becoming clear in your mind."  Annabelle paused and took in the entire experience of Francis' shock and realization.  "You see, dear, I'm carrying Charles' child.  Of course, I haven't shared this thrilling news with him, yet, but you know how important family is to him.  Do you honestly think that he'd let this child go?"

"N-no!"

"He'll never leave me and return to you because if that were to happen, don't think that I couldn't fix it so that he'd never see his child!"  Annabelle smiled again, even more confident than before.  "You've lost, Francis.  I win.  Charles is mine."

"No!" Francis cried out, her eyes filling with tears, and then quickly turned and bolted from the room.  "No!"

As the stunning revelation echoed through out the room, Janet carefully peered back over the top of the bar.  She inhaled deeply and swallowed hard again, nearly embarrassed because of the scene that she'd witnessed.  She had to get out of there, that much was certain, but Annabelle was still in plain sight.  She couldn't make it to the door without being seen.  Realizing that she was trapped, she sunk back down behind the bar and wrapped her arms tightly around herself, fearful of what might happen if she were discovered.

"Beautiful performance," came another voice, followed by the sound of clapping.

Janet's ears pricked up when she heard the unfamiliar, masculine voice and she furrowed her brow curiously.  Who else could be there?  How had they gotten in?  She hadn't heard the doors open.  Swallowing hard and taking in another deep breath, Janet slowly peered back over the top of the bar.

"W-who is it?" Annabelle asked nervously as she turned in the direction of the voice.  "Who's there?  What do you want?"

"Ah, how soon people forget," the man laughed as he slowly moved forward, yet still remained mostly hidden in the shadows.  "I would have thought that you would have at least remembered the sound of my voice."

"I...I..."  She felt her own voice catch in her throat as the man's words rang in her ears.  He did sound familiar; however, it couldn't possibly be...  "N-no," she stammered awkwardly.  "It can't be...you?"

"But, yes, it can, Annabelle, dearest," Stephen Lake smiled smugly, finally stepping into the light.  "Alive and kicking, I might add."

"No!  You're...dead!"  Her hand flew up to cover her mouth as she recoiled in horror.  "You were killed on the docks in Chicago!"

"To invoke an old cliché, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."  He paused and casually lit a cigarette before allowing the resulting smoke to drift up and encircle is head like a twisted halo.  Then, slowly, he began to move closer to her.  "Of course, I'm sure that this does come as quite a shock to you."

"I...I..." she stammered, still overcome with shock.  Pausing to take a deep breath, she slowly began to regain her bearings.  "Oh, Stephen!  You have no idea how long I've dreamed about this!"  A false display of happiness washed across her face and she flung her arms open wide and rushed to him.  However, he was not at all fooled by her joyous display.

"Do you really think that I'm that stupid?" he barked angrily as he pushed her away from.  "Don't you think I know exactly what you did?"

"W-what?" Annabelle responded nervously.  "I...don't know what you're talking about."

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," he spat.  "I know all about how you set me up.  You wanted me killed!"

"How could you even think such a thing?  You're my husband!"

"Lay off that syrupy goo, Belle.  This is me you're talking to.  I know exactly what kind of woman you are!"  He turned away from her and slowly walked back into the shadows only to throw open the heavy drapes that concealed the doors to the terrace.  "You'd sell your own daughter's soul if there was something in it for you!"

"You leave Stephanie out of this!" Annabelle snapped angrily, a fire returning to her eyes.  "Everything that I've ever done has been for her.  You were determined to destroy us with your shifty schemes and your dirty dealings.  Did you honestly think that I was going to let you cause something to happen to her?"

"You know damn good and well that I would never have let anything happen to her!"

"I know nothing of the sort," she countered, but hesitated before speaking again.  "How...did you survive the attack?  What are you...doing here?  What do you want?"

"I'm here because of Stephanie," he explained calmly as he, again, began to move closer to her.  "I've spent too much time away from her.  I want my daughter back!"

"You can't have her!  I refuse to let you destroy her like you've destroyed everything else that you've touched---our home, our family, our marriage..."  Her heart.

"Our marriage ended when you set me up to be murdered."  He moved closer to her so that he could look deep into her eyes and gently traced a line along her cheek with his finger.  "Haven't you learned that the past always catches up to you?"

"I...don't know what you're talking about," she muttered as she jerked away from him as if his touch had burned her like a hot poker.

"You know, Belle, being dead isn't such bad thing," he chuckled softly.  "After all, you get to move about and no one ever notices.  You can do a million different things and no one would ever suspect you because, well, you're dead."

Annabelle felt her heart pounding loudly inside her chest and instinctively took a step away from him.

"I don't...know what you're trying to say."  Her voice caught in her throat again as she found herself staring into his dark, soulless eyes.

"Oh, I think you do," he smirked.  "Like I said, you can't escape the past."

As her own heart began to beat faster, Janet peeked over the top of the bar in time to see a quick flash of light.  No, not light, but...a reflection---the moonlight, streaming in through the doors to the terrace, bouncing off of the surface of...a knife!

"Stephen!  No!"

Janet gasped sharply as she fought the urge to scream out in terror.  However, no matter what she might have done, it was too late.  Stephen plunged the knife deep into Annabelle's chest and she crumpled to the floor.

Standing over her lifeless body, Stephen grinned victoriously.  "I told you that you can't run away from the past."  Then, in almost an instant, he hurried back to the doors of the terrace and quietly slipped out, making sure to pull the drapes tightly closed behind him.

Meanwhile, a trembling Janet sunk back down into her hiding place, the image of blood running through her mind.  It was Annabelle's blood...or was it Gordon's?  Gordon's blood!  She'd killed Gordon!  Her mind again started to spin.  Why was she there?  What was she running from?  Why was her head in such a fog?

"Janet, Janet," came the faint echoic voice which intruded on her fitful slumber.  "Janet, wake up.  Janet!"

"W-what?"  Janet jolted herself awake and bolted upright in bed as she gasped for air.  "I...I must have...fallen asleep."  She turned and looked up at her sister Jillian who was gazing down at her with intense confusion and concern.  "I...was reading and I...must have...dozed off."

"You were having a nightmare," Jillian explained softly as she inspected her sister closely.  "You...were crying out."

"I...was?"

"Yes," Jillian nodded and then furrowed her brow as if she were confused by something.  "Actually, you were...talking in your sleep."

"I...don't..."  Janet squinted her eyes as she tried to clear the fog from her mind and refocus her attention on her current surroundings.

"Yes," Jillian nodded again, "and I...I'm not sure I understand what you were saying."

Janet took a deep breath as she tried to remember her dream.  Slowly, it started to come back to her.  The lounge.  The argument.  Annabelle.  "What did I...say?"

Jillian bit her lip and kept her eyes locked on her sister.  "You said 'He did it.  He killed Annablle.'"  Jillian took a deep, nervous breath.  "What were you talking about?  Who killed Annabelle?  Surely, you didn't mean..."

"Oh, my god," Janet gasped as it all came flooding back to her.  "He did do it!"

"Who, Janet?  Who?"

"Her husband!"

AN ABANDONED FACTORY
RIVERSIDE

Patterson quietly slipped through the hallways of the factory, making sure that he kept himself hidden in the shadows so that he wouldn't risk being caught.  However, from what he'd witnessed thus far, the entire warehouse seemed to be completely deserted.  Ducking into a corner, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the hastily scribbled directions that Joyce had given him and furrowed his brow as he examined them again.  He was certain that he was in the right place and silently prayed that he wasn't too late.

He turned another corner and carefully crept along, stopping every few moments so that he could pause and listen for any indication that he was not alone.

"I'm coming Stephanie," he muttered softly, yet determinedly.  "You just hold on.  I'm coming."

After turning another corner, he froze in his tracks and let out a knowing sigh of success.  Off in the distance, near the end of the long hallway, a faint beam of light was streaming out from under a door.  He wasn't as completely alone as he'd feared!  Pressing himself tightly to the wall, he listened very closely in an attempt to hear if there were any voices coming from the room, indicating that someone was, in fact, there.  As he heard the faint echo of a conversation, he smiled broadly.  He knew that he'd found exactly what he'd been looking for.

~~~~~

"Daddy, don't do this!" Stephanie pleaded as she held his arm tightly.  "Please don't make me leave Albanyville.  Why...are you doing this to me?"

"I told you, Princess, that this is for your own good!"  Stephen placed his hands firmly on her shoulders as he tried to force her to listen to him.  "We've spent too many years apart, as it is.  I'm not letting you go again.  You're my daughter and you belong with me."

"No!" she cried out and then jerked away from him.  "I'm not going!  Why, Daddy?  Why are you doing this?  Why did you drag me out of Sara's house and then lock me up in here?"

"It's for your own good!"

"You...k-kidnapped me!"  Her bottom lip began to tremble as tears began to flood her eyes.  "Daddy, if you really loved me, you wouldn't do this to me!"

"You listen to me, I will never let you slip out of my life again.  I've done too much to protect you and keep you safe to let you go again."  Stephen's hands balled up into fists as he tried to fight his own feelings of frustration.  "I've killed to protect you and I will do it again if anyone tries to keep us apart."

"You...told me about...Clark," she muttered shakily, her own sense of fear and apprehension starting to build.  "But...he wasn't trying to...keep us apart."

"I'm not talking about that Saxon boy."

"D-do you mean that you...killed someone...else?"  Stephanie's eyes grew wide in horror.  What kind of man had her father turned into?  "W-who?"

"She shouldn't have done what she did," he muttered, almost more to himself than in response to his daughter's question.  "She shouldn't have tried to keep you from me."

"D-Daddy?  Who?"

"Your wretched mother!" he spat angrily.  "She tired to hide you from me.  She didn't want me to have anything to do with you.  I couldn't let her keep us apart any longer!"

"W-what did you...do?"  A knot formed in Stephanie's throat and she became filled with a sense of terror.  "Daddy!  What did you do?"

"I killed her, Princess," Stephen replied matter-of-factly.  "And I'll kill anyone else who tries to keep us apart."

"Oh, Daddy, no!"

"Come on, Princess," he smiled and held out his hand to her, "it's time for us to go.  We've been here for too long.  It's time for us to get out of town.  The longer we stay here, the greater the risk of us being discovered.  It's time for us to finally be together the way it should have been before your mother...tore us apart."

"You're not taking her anywhere!" Patterson shouted angrily as he broke through the door.  "Let go of her!"

"Paddy!" Stephanie cried out and tried to run into his arms, but Stephen grabbed her tightly by the wrist and pulled her close to him.  "Oh, Daddy, please!  Let me go!"

"You heard her; let her go!" Patterson ordered.  "It's over.  She's not going anywhere with you!"

"She's my daughter," Stephen reminded calmly as he held her tighter.  "She belongs with me!"

"Daddy, no!  You're...hurting me!"

"Let her go!"  Patterson clinched his fists tightly and took an offensive stance as he prepared to fight for Stephanie's freedom.

"You're nobody to me," Stephen seethed.  "and you won't keep me from leaving with my daughter."

"Over my dead body!"

"That can be easily arraigned!"  With one swift movement, Stephen reached inside his jacket, pulled out a gun, and leveled it at Patterson, easily putting the young man in his sight.  "Now, move out of the way!"

"No, Daddy, don't!" Stephanie cried out in a panic.  "Please, don't shoot him!  Oh, Paddy, run!"

"I'm not leaving you, Stephanie!"  Patterson slowly began to move closer as he searched for just the right moment to strike safely.  "And I'm not letting him get away with everything that he's done."

"Stop right there!" Stephen ordered as he slowly pulled back the hammer of his gun.  "If you think that I won't shoot, you're a fool."

"D-daddy, p-please," she muttered tearfully.  "P-please...d-don't..."

"I will do anything that I have to do to keep you safe and us together," Stephen said firmly as he glanced down at her.  However, that one, brief moment proved to be just the opportunity that Patterson had been searching for.  Seizing the moment, Patterson lunged for Stephen.

In an instant, Stephanie saw her father's finger move on the trigger.

"No, Daddy, don't shot!" she cried out and instinctively reached out for the gun.

"Stephanie, let go!" her father ordered as he tried to wrest the gun from her grasp.  "Let go!"

"No, Daddy!" she cried as they began to struggle over the gun.  "You can't!  You can't!"

"Stephanie!"

Suddenly, a mind numbing shot rang out punctuated only by Stephanie's shrill screams.

"Daddy!  No!"

TO BE CONTINUED

ON MONDAY

The aftermath.

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

©2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions