For Now and Forever
EPISODE #124 (Friday,
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
Judith Linford stood facing the large French doors that led to the terrace and casually sipped her tea. With an expectant smile, she pushed the doors open and stepped out onto the terrace, allowing the warm spring breeze that was blowing in off of the lake to caress her face. Today was the day.
Glancing down out her watch, she realized that her husband, Mark Linford, was late---as usual. She'd telephoned him, telling him that she needed to speak to him, but that had been hours earlier. Granted, Judith was used to Mark never being where he was supposed to be. She'd always assumed that he was out having one of his notorious romantic dalliances. Today, however, she realized it was different. Today there would be no clandestine romantic interlude for him. Judith had seen to that.
As she took one, final long sip of her tea, she heard movement from inside the house and then a familiar voice.
"Judith?" Mark called out. "Judith, where are you and what's so damned important that you had to drag me home in the middle of the afternoon?"
Another sly smile crossing her lips, she threw her shoulders back and took a deep breath before turning to head back into the house. As she reached the doors, she saw her husband---back turned to her as he scanned the current edition of The Daily Post---and allowed her body to tense up in expectation of what was to come. "It's show time."
CALLISON PUBLICATIONS - DOUGLAS'S OFFICE
"Mr. Davis," came the voice of his secretary over the intercom, "Detective Fitzpatrick is here to see you."
"Great," Douglas Davis grumbled to himself as he leaned forward onto his desk and buried his face into his hands. Whatever could the annoying detective want now? "Thank you, Myrtle," he said into the intercom in a less than enthusiastic voice. "Send him in."
"Mr. Davis, I'm sorry to just barge in on you like this," Jim Fitzpatrick said as he came through the office door a few moments later, "but I just wanted to stop by and congratulate you on a job well done. You did some great work on Francis Callison's defense."
"Detective, I would have assumed that you would have been less than thrilled with the outcome of that hearing," Douglas responded as he looked up at him, suddenly quite interested in what he had to say. "After all, you're the one primarily responsible for getting my client charged with murder in the first place."
"Yes, I was," Jim conceded. "And, to be honest, I had doubts in my mind almost from the moment I had to interrupt that wedding and arrest her. However, I couldn't ignore the evidence. Everything that we had point to Mrs. Callison as being the killer."
"But that was all circumstantial..."
"Yes, I agree," Jim nodded, "but, truthfully, I'm not really here to rehash the investigation or your brilliant defense of your client."
Douglas kept his eyes trained on the police detective and cocked an eyebrow in interest. "So...?"
"Actually, I'm here to talk to you about Mrs. Lake's daughter, Stephanie," Jim explained and shoved his hands deep into his pockets as he moved closer to the desk.
"Well, I don't see..."
"Mr. Davis, let me cut straight to the chase."
"I wish you would."
"I want to talk to you about that letter," Jim paused, giving enough time for Douglas to comprehend what he was referring to, "the one that Mrs. Lake left for her daughter."
"I know what letter you're talking about!" Douglas leaned back into his chair and folded his arms across his chest as he tried to figure out exactly what interest the detective had in the letter. "So, why are you interested in it? You know as well as I do that my client has been cleared of murder and that the district attorney has declared this case closed. Stephen Lake killed his wife. I don't see any need to...."
"Mr. Davis, if you'd let me finish." He paused and took a deep breath. "What I'm try to ask you is if...well...you were going to follow through on Mrs. Lake's wishes and give that letter to her daughter. As you said yourself, this case is closed and I...don't know exactly what good could come out of...."
"Well, Detective, if I didn't know better, I'd say you really had a heart underneath that gruff exterior," Douglas laughed at the irony. "You sound almost like you don't want me to give Stephanie that letter."
"Look, to be honest, I don't see what it would accomplish. As you said yourself, this case is closed and..."
"Detective, as I'm sure you well know, I'm legally bound as Mrs. Lake's attorney to follow through with her wishes," Douglas explained calmly, "including delivering that letter."
"Mr. Davis, let me absolutely frank." Jim moved closer and looked Douglas right in the eyes. "Now, if you ever breathe a word of this to anyone else, I'll flat out deny it, but...well...I think that my department completely bungled this investigation."
"Yes, it's true," Jim muttered and hung his head. "I think that with the pressure from the D.A., we were a little over zealous in our case against Mrs. Callison and...well...a little short sighted when it came to the investigation into what turned out to be Miss Lake's abduction." He paused as he tried to collect his thoughts. "Personally, I would just like to forget that this entire mess happened. I want everyone involved to be able to get their lives back to something that resembles normal. Miss Lake has been through a horrible ordeal these past few months---her mother's murder, her father's unexpected return, her abduction---and I'm not sure what, if anything, showing her that letter would accomplish. She knows that her father murdered her mother. Does she really need to know that her mother tried to murder her father?"
"You do have a heart!" Douglas couldn't fight the surprised and amused grin that spread across his face.
"Let's keep that between us," Jim laughed weakly. "I know that the decision about what to do with the letter is ultimately up to you, but---as the only other person alive who knows about its existence---I thought that I needed to add my 2 cents, whatever it's worth."
"You're right, Detective," Douglas nodded. "That decision is ultimately up to me. In fact, I've known what I was going to do with it long before today." He rose from his seat, signaling that the meeting was over. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have quite a bit of work to finish."
Jim nodded and turned to head towards the door.
"And don't worry, Detective," Douglas smiled slyly, "I'm keep this little display of compassion between us. I wouldn't want to ruin your reputation."
Jim turned around to face Douglas again and nodded with a grin before closing the door behind him.
As Douglas returned to his seat, he let out a weary sigh and pulled open the top drawer of his desk before reaching in to pull out the letter in question. Eyeing it intently, he shook his head as a look of determination washed over his face. Yes, he had known for some time exactly what he would do with the letter and there was no time like the present to carry out those plans. Why put it off?
Reaching back into the drawer, he pulled out a lighter and then determinedly held the letter over the open flame until it ignited. No, there was no reason for Stephanie to ever see it---no reason for her to ever learn of her mother's true deviousness. No matter what horrible things that Stephanie might have done in the past, she'd been through too much as it was. Maybe it was finally time to put everything in the past and move on.
As the flames traveled up the letter, fully engulfing it, Douglas dropped it into the metal waste basket beside his desk and patiently watched as it turned into a pile of unrecognizable ashes. With a smile of satisfaction, he knew that it was finally time to put the nightmare of Stephen and Annabelle Lake in the past.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"So, are you going to tell me what was so all fired important that you had to drag me home in the middle of the afternoon?" Mark asked as he folded his arms across his chest and glared at her. "I told you that I had some research to do down at the university's law library for that new job in New York. You know that we're moving in less than a week and I have to be prepared for my first big case."
"Actually, that's what I wanted to discuss with you," Judith replied coolly and then casually strolled into the room. "I want to talk about this big move you have planned."
"There's nothing left to talk about," he responded firmly and walked over to the bar to mix himself a martini. "Everything's already set. We'll be arriving in New York on Monday morning, just in time for my first meeting. I've already signed the contract for a beautiful penthouse apartment overlooking downtown Manhattan and our things should arrive in just a few days."
"I hope the penthouse is a cozy one," Judith commented smugly. "No sense in having too much room for you to get lost in."
"Cozy?" He let out a hearty laugh. "Well, isn't that a shock! You're the one who's always said 'the bigger the better.' I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were from Texas."
"Enough with the witty comments," Judith grumbled with disdain. "Besides, they've never been exceptionally witty."
"Okay," Mark sighed with annoyance and took another sip of his martini, "so, what's so important about this move that you had to set up this special little meeting?"
"I'm not going to New York," she replied calmly. "I'm staying right here in Albanyville."
"What?" he asked in shock as he spun around to face her. "Don't be stupid, Judith. You can't stay here! We're going back to New York!"
"No, we're not!" She clinched her teeth tightly and tried to hold back her anger. "I told you that you're going to New York and I'm staying here. My family is here and I...I can't just leave with my mother married to that two-bit quack of a doctor!"
"I can understand your concern about your mother's sudden marriage." Mark's tone softened as he tried a different approach. In an attempt to soothe the savage beast, he quickly began to turn on the charm. After all, it had been known to work in more than one instance. "But your mother is a very determined woman. That's where you get a lot of your own strength. If she's determined to be married to Fred, there's nothing that you're going to be able to do to change her mind. You'll be spinning your wheels by even trying." He walked over to her and gently put his hands on her shoulders. "Give up this foolish idea. Your mother's life is not your responsibility."
"There's more to it than that," Judith responded sternly as she forced his hands off of her. "Mother is only a part of the reason."
"Ah, I see," he nodded with a disgusted smirk. "It's your little bar tender slash stable boy, isn't it? You don't want to leave poor Burt Lamont! That's the real reason!"
"You leave Burt out of this!" she snapped angrily. "This has nothing to do with him!"
"Oh, doesn't it?"
"What Burt and I...had is in the past," she said calmly and then walked back over to the French doors to look out at the lake. "He's with Janet, now. There's nothing that I can do about that."
"And I'm supposed to believe that that's how you really feel?" he laughed. "Judith, you forget. I know you! I know you better than anyone else. In fact, I probably know you better than you know yourself."
"You don't know anything!"
"I'm your husband!" Mark reminded sternly as he quickly walked over to her so that he could grab her forcibly by the shoulders and spin her around to face him. "Your place is with me. By my side! As your husband, what I say goes. We're moving to New York and that's final!"
"You're gotten rather comfortable in that role, haven't you, darling?" Judith asked coldly. She pulled herself out of his grasp and briskly walked over to the mantle of the fireplace where she picked up an envelope and held it tightly in her hands. "Too comfortable."
"Quit playing games, Judith."
"Oh, this isn't a game, darling," she cooed and then threw the envelope at him. "In fact, I'm very serious."
"W-what's this?" he asked as he caught the envelope in his hands. He stared down at it as a feeling of both curiosity and nervousness overtook him. The envelope was plain. No name. No address. No indication of what might be inside.
"Well, open it and find out!"
Mark awkwardly did as she'd asked and then slid out the thick collection of papers so that he could examine them. As he carefully scanned the documents, his brow furrowed betraying his worry and confusion concerning what he was reading.
"I...I don't understand," he muttered nervously. "What...is this? What the devil do you think you're doing?"
"You really are an idiot, aren't you, darling," she smiled. "You're a lawyer. Surely, you can figure it out. Those are legal documents."
"Yes, they are." Judith walked over to him and stood on front him, so close that she could feel his warm breath on her neck.
"They look like..."
"Divorce papers?" she cooed as she leaned in to him so that her lips could brush his ear. "They are. I'm divorcing you, Mark. This sham of a marriage is over."
KITTY'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"Sammy, why are you in such a hurry?" Kitty Benedict asked as she watched her brother who was quickly throwing his clothes into a suitcase. "What's so important that we have to leave, now?"
"I told you, Kit, the boss is dead!" Sammy Benedict snapped angrily and then began to pack another suitcase. "We gotta get outta here!"
"I don't wanna go!" she cried out and then ran over to him to grab his arm. "I don't wanna leave!"
"It's that Manchester guy, ain't it?" He suddenly stopped packing as a look of realization covered his face. "Well, is that's your reason, you can forget it! That was just part of some stupid plan that broad came up with. That ain't any of our business, anymore."
"It's...not that," she muttered in response and then turned away from him. "It's not Dane. I just...don't think we should leave."
Sammy hurried over to the desk and began riffling through the drawers. "Damn it. Where is it?" he mumbled to himself.
"What are you looking for?" She walked over to him and stood by the edge of the desk.
"It doesn't look like nothing," she commented and then looked at him curiously. "So, why is it so important that we leave town? Why now?"
"That's why!" he snapped as he picked a copy of The State Examiner up off of the desk and flung it at her.
Kitty caught the paper and carefully examined the headline---"Wife of Prominent Publisher Cleared of Murder"---and furrowed her brow. "But...this paper is a week old! I don't see what..."
"The boss is dead! I told you that!"
Sammy clinched his teeth tightly and then nervously lit a cigarette. "Stephen Lake! My boss was Stephen Lake!"
"O-oh," she stammered as she immediately recognized the name from the numerous newspaper articles and radio news broadcasts. "My god! What the hell have you gotten me mixed up in?"
"Look, he's dead, but the police are still interested in where he's been and what else he's been up to." Sammy began to pace around the room. "The situation's just too hot here for us. We gotta get outta here!"
"But...what's about Naomi?" Kitty asked. "We can't just..."
"The hell we can't!" he snapped. "Let her deal with that dame. That ain't none of our business, anymore."
"But what about the baby?" She grabbed his arm tightly and tried to force him to listen to her. "What about your kid?"
"That ain't my kid! I done told you that." He jerked his arm away and let out an angry sigh. "I got no reason to think that kid is mine. Just because she said it's so don't make it the truth. That girl lies as easily as she breathes!"
"We can't just leave her with that woman. I don't...trust her."
"It's none of our business!" Sammy walked back over to his suitcase and resumed packing. "All I'm thinking about is us. If the police were to ever trace the boss back to us, we're gonna be in deep trouble."
"We're leaving, Kit," he ordered firmly, "and that's it!"
Stressed to the limit, Sammy placed his hands on the edges of the suitcase and leaned forward as he took several deep breaths. He'd been so careful, so diligent, in making sure that he'd followed the boss's orders to the letter. He'd taken every file detailing all of the boss's activities and burned them. However, there had been one file that had been conspicuously missing and Sammy didn't have the first clue as to where it might be. It was that fact that worried him. What if the file ended up in the wrong hands? What if the police ever discovered it? Sammy wasn't sure what was in the missing file, but realized that it would put someone in hot water. He was determined that he and Kitty wouldn't be anywhere around when that happened...for their own sakes.
THE DAVIS HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Honey, I'm home!" Douglas called out as he came through the front door.
"Douglas, w-what are you doing here?" Lorraine Davis asked her husband as she hurried in from the kitchen with their newborn son cradled in her arms. "I wasn't expecting you home from work for another hour. I haven't even managed to finish dinner."
"Well, I just couldn't wait to get home to my family," he smiled and kissed her lovingly on the cheek before leaning down to kiss their son. "Ever since this little guy's been born, every minute I have to spend away from the both of you seems like forever."
"I know the feeling," she nodded as she gazed down at the baby. "Sometimes, when he's sleeping in the afternoon, I'll just stand by his crib and watch him. It's like I can't believe how much I can love someone I just met, but...I do. Our son." She looked up at her husband, nearly beaming with pride and joy. "Oh, Douglas, I just can't believe how happy we are. If someone had told me a year ago that I could be this happy, I would have thought that they were crazy."
"It really is a miracle." He pulled her into his arms and held her tenderly, their son held by both of their intertwined arms. "So, where's your mother? Grace?"
"Mom's in the kitchen helping with dinner," Lorraine replied. "Grace just got home from class. She's upstairs in her room."
"Did she say how her day was?" Douglas asked casually as he walked over to the desk and began thumbing through the mail. "I think she mentioned something about a big biology test that she was supposed to have today."
"She didn't say anything about it," Lorraine sighed with a shake of her head. "In fact, she didn't really say much of anything. She just ran right up to her room." She paused and knitted her brow with concern. "Douglas, I'm...worried. Grace really hasn't been acting like herself lately. She doesn't want to talk to anyone or see anyone. She spends all of her time in her room. She won't even see Trevor when he stops by."
"I'm worried, too." Douglas paused and rubbed his chin as he considered what could possibly be troubling his younger sister. "I just don't know what could be on her mind. I know that she's had a difficult time dealing with our mother's death---it's been hard on all of us---but I just can't get over the feeling that there's something else wrong. I was trying to write it all off as maybe some stress with school or, maybe, just her age like your mother said, but..."
"But you don't think that's all it is?"
"I'm not sure," he muttered. "I just know that there's something bothering her."
Before they could say anything else, the conversation was interrupted by Mikey's soft cries.
"I think he's ready for his nap," Lorraine smiled as she looked down at the baby and gently stroked his cheek. "I'm going to take him upstairs to the nursery and put him down."
"All right," Douglas nodded. "And I think I'm going to see if your mother needs any help with dinner."
Lorraine carefully climbed the stairs and then turned to head down the hallway. As she neared the nursery, she passed Grace's room but stopped when she heard the faint sound of her sister-in-law crying. Concerned, she hurried on to the baby's room, put the baby down for his nap, and then returned to Grace's door. Still hearing the sound of Grace's tears, Lorraine took a deep breath and rapped lightly on the door.
"Grace?" she spoke up softly. "Are you...all right?"
"I'm fine," Grace called out weakly.
"You don't sound all right." Lorraine paused and listened closely. "Can I...come in?"
"I...guess so." A few moments later, Grace opened the door and Lorraine immediately noticed her red-rimmed eyes, proof that her sister-in-law had, in fact, been crying. "W-what is it?"
"Grace, honey, what's wrong?" Lorraine asked as she stepped into the room, pushing the door closed behind her. "And don't tell me that nothing's wrong, because I can tell you've been crying. What is it? What's wrong?"
"N-nothing," Grace replied and quickly turned away to hide her face. "I'm...fine."
"No, you're not!" Lorraine came up behind her and grabbed her gently by the shoulders. "Look, your brother and I are worried about you. You just haven't been...acting like yourself. You're spending all of your time in your room. You barely say two words to anyone. You won't even take Trevor's calls and..."
"I said I'm fine!"
"Grace, dear, look at me." Lorraine took her by the hand and led her to the bed and motioned for her to have a seat. "No, you're not fine. It's written all over your face." She shook her head and sighed and then sat down next to Grace. "Why won't you tell us what's wrong? Are you sick? Are you having problems with school? Is that it?"
"N-no," Grace muttered as her voice caught in her throat. "It's...nothing like...that."
"Then what is it? Why won't you talk to us?"
"Why do you care?" Grace snapped angrily. "Why are my problems so important to you?"
"Because you're family, that's why!" Lorraine grabbed Grace's hand and held it tightly. "When I married your brother, I became part of this family. You became part of my family. Families care about each other and worry about each other." She paused and looked at Grace intently. "And I care about you. Please, tell me what's wrong. Maybe...there's something I can do to help."
"No." Grace shook her head vigorously. "There's nothing you can do. There's nothing anyone can do!"
"You don't know that. Maybe...if you tell me what's wrong, you can help me to understand. Maybe I can think of a way to help."
"No, there's n-nothing..."
"You'll never know unless you tell me." Lorraine kept her eyes firmly focused on Grace as an awkward silence fell between them. Then, slowly, Grace lifted her head so that her eyes---brimming with tears---met her sister-in-law's.
"L-Lorraine, I...I..." A knot began to form in the pit of Grace's stomach. After several long moments, she took a deep breath and began to speak again. "You're right. I...have to t-tell someone. I don't know if I can...go on like this m-much longer."
"Then tell me."
Grace looked down at her hands, thankful that Lorraine was still holding them tightly because it kept them from shaking, and took a long, labored breath. "All right," she muttered softly. "I'll...tell you."
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"A divorce?" Mark gasped in shock. "Judith, have you lost your mind? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard!"
"I don't find it the least bit silly," Judith responded calmly. "And you better believe me that those papers are real. I'm divorcing you, Mark. Our marriage is over!"
He held the divorce papers in his hands and stared at them, still reeling from shock. "On what grounds? What legitimate reason can you possibly give a judge to justify this? I'll tell you what! Nothing! You've got no reason for this!"
"Oh, I've got every reason!" she snapped. "I don't love you, Mark. I've never loved you!"
"That's not a reason," he laughed. "It wasn't reason enough to keep you from marrying me, was it?"
"That was different." She folded her arms tightly across her chest and turned away from him.
"A judge is going to hear that and laugh in your face. That's no reason for a divorce."
"Maybe not," she conceded as a look of steely determination covered her face, "but adultery is."
"Adultery?" He laughed again. "So, that's what this is about. You want to be free of any marital entanglements so you can go chasing after your little stable boy, don't you?"
"I've already told you; Burt has nothing to do with this."
"Really? Tell that to someone who doesn't know you." He quickly downed his drink and walked back over to the bar to mix himself another one. "I'd really like to know how you're going to use your own affair to justify a divorce."
"I'm not using my affair," she said through clinched teeth. "I'm using yours!"
"Mine?" He quickly spun around to face her, nearly sloshing his drink out onto the floor. "You've got no proof. You've been the adulterous one in this marriage. I've been one hundred percent faithful to our vows."
"Oh, please," she laughed. "You keep coming off with lines like that and you'll be ready for vaudeville in a week! You've been running around on me almost since we walked out of the church!"
"Judith, we've had this discussion over and over and...."
"And I've known all about those other women all along!" She slowly walked over to him, shoulders thrown back as if prepared for a fight. "Remember that little waitress at that bistro in Manhattan?" She lifted her finger to her chin in exaggerated thought. "Lois, I believe it was? Or how about that secretary---Delores? Or maybe..."
"All right, all right." Mark waved his arms in an attempt to silence her. "I get the picture. But...those are just names. You have no real proof. You, on the other hand..."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Judith, Judith, Judith," he grinned with a shake of his head. "How easy would it be for me to prove your affair with Burt? You were carrying his child and...."
"You can't prove a thing!" She smiled knowingly, fully aware that the cards were stacked in her favor. "The baby died." A fact that still haunted and troubled her, but she couldn't allow her momentary pang of grief affect her stern demeanor. "There's no way you can prove that it was Burt's. And do you honestly think that you're going to be able to convince Burt to testify in court about our relationship?" She laughed wickedly. "That will never happen! He would never do that to Janet. You know how fragile she can be. He knows how that would upset her and..."
Mark's jaw tightened with the realization that she was right. He couldn't count on either Burt or Janet to reveal Judith's relationship with Burt in such a public manner and, without their testimony, there was no way he would have concrete proof of the affair.
He paused and slowly sipped his martini as his mind began to whirl with possible defense plans.
"If you go through with this, I'll ruin you, Judith," he warned. "I'll make sure that this divorce is spread across every gossip column from here to New York. How do you think all of those society ladies at the country club are going to react when...."
"Maybe you missed that part of the conversation. I told you that I'm not going back to New York. I don't give a damn what those old bats think!"
Mark felt the muscles in his neck begin to tighten. Why did she have to be so difficult? Why was she attempting to ruin a perfectly fine marriage? They each had their own lives. What was the point in upsetting everything? Of course, he immediately knew what the point was. She refused to leave Burt no matter what she'd claimed. Even though Burt had moved on with her sister, Judith was still convinced that she could win him back. Accepting that any possible negative social ramifications wouldn't thwart her plans for divorce, he decided on another tactic.
"You do realize that if you go through with this, it's going to be messy and ugly," he pointed out. "Like I said, you have no proof that I've done anything out of line. This is going to be a long, drawn out matter. Certainly all of the society columns are going to pick up on this. And, when it's all over, the judge is going to laugh in your face. He's going to think that you're only some unruly socialite who needs her husband to settle her down. He's going to tell you to go home and take care of your husband and..."
"I don't think so," she interrupted calmly. "I think that he'll agree with me completely. I have no doubt in my mind."
"Have you stopped to consider the great financial loss you'll receive if he does?"
"W-what do you mean?" She eyed him curiously, not quite sure where the change in conversation was taking them. "What financial loss?"
"We're married Judith," he reminded. "What's mine is yours and, more importantly, what's yours is mine." He swirled his martini around in his glass and listened as the ice cubes clinked against one another. "If the judge does grant this divorce, I'm going to receive quite a hefty chunk of your inheritance." He paused and eyed her sternly. "Is it really worth you losing all of that money---your daddy's money--- just to end this marriage?"
"Actually, yes, it is," she replied matter-of-factly. "However, you're not getting a dime out of me! Do you hear me? Not. A. Dime." She paused and smiled broadly before turning on her heel and walking quickly towards the foyer. "Because I have one thing that you don't have. I have one thing that will convince the judge to grant this divorce and leave you with nothing!"
Mark shook his head again and rolled his eyes in response to Judith's dramatics. "And what might that be?"
"Proof," she turned and grinned slyly. "You can come in here, now!"
"W-what?" he asked in confusion. "There's...someone else here?"
Then, at that moment, Mark received the shock of his life as a more than familiar figure stepped into the living room from the foyer. That person was Helen Van Dyne.
TO BE CONTINUED
Two lives could change forever.
For Now and Forever
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