For Now and Forever
EPISODE #80 (Friday,
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
As Burt Lamont held Janet Stokes in his arms, he caught sight of Jasper St. John as the maitre d' approached the table. "Mr. St. John! Miss Stokes has cut herself."
"Oh, dear!" Jasper gasped in shock. "I...I am so sorry, Mr. Lamont. Please, let me take care of it." He grabbed Janet's hand and started to inspect it. "It doesn't seem to be too bad, but you can never tell. Just let me go into the back room and I'll get a bandage."
"And take this stupid knife with you!" Burt urged sternly. "It's way too sharp. Anyone could cut themselves."
"Knife?" Jasper eyed him curiously. "What knife?"
"The knife that's on the table next to the cake. It's the one she cut herself with and..." Burt turned to grab the knife so that he could hand it to Jasper, but was stunned by what he found. It was gone! He furrowed her brow in confusion. He was certain he'd lain the knife right there. Where on earth could it have disappeared to?
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Now, where could she have disappeared to," Mary Albany muttered to herself as she walked through the crowd of guests in search of daughter. Francis Callison had been deeply upset by Annabelle Lake's actions and had set out to find the wicked home wrecker in order to give her a piece of her mind. However, instead of finding her daughter, Mary came upon her daughter's date, Dr. Fred Rutherford, as he stood at the buffet table filling his plate with hors d'oeuvres. "Where's Francis?" she asked sternly.
"Mrs. Albany, I've been wondering that, myself," Fred said in between bites. "In fact, I haven't seen her since she went looking for Mrs. Lake earlier."
"Well, I've at least seen her since then," she sighed with worry, "but she's run off to look for that woman again."
"Apparently, Annabelle Lake has been up to some far more nefarious schemes that any of us could ever have imagined."
"W-what do you mean?" Fred quickly sat his plate down as his hands began to shake from nervousness. What could Francis have learned about Annabelle? Surely, she didn't know about...
"I don't know how she found all of this out, but Francis discovered that the only reason Charles betrayed her with that horrible woman was because he'd been drugged!" Mary shook her head in disbelief over it all.
"D-did you s-say drugged?" His voice caught in his throat and he immediately felt his legs begin to grow weak.
"Yes! Can you imagine? From what Francis said, Annabelle drugged Charles that night so that he wouldn't be able to resist her. If it hadn't been for that, he would never have been unfaithful to her and they would still be together!"
"M-Mrs. Albany, this is very hard to believe." He turned away from her and quickly began to look through the crowd in hopes of spotting either Francis or Annabelle.
"I agree, but it clearly explains how he got mixed up with that woman." She carefully watched Fred and was quick to notice his nervousness and preoccupation. "Dr. Rutherford, is something wrong? You've just turned as pale as a sheet."
"Oh, n-nothing," he stammered awkwardly and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I'm...just worried about Francis now. Maybe I should go look for her." Or more accurately, maybe he should go find Annabelle and make sure she didn't reveal his own roll in the drugging of Charles.
"You've done enough running around for one evening!" Mary snapped as she grabbed his arm. "I thought you were just going to go get a drink? You've been gone forever!"
"Well...um...I..." He glanced around the room again in an attempt to see his partner in crime. "I got caught up in talking to some colleagues of mine from the hospital. Look, I really need to find Francis. I'm sure this is very upsetting to her."
"That's an understatement!"
"If...If I find her, I'll tell her you're worried and looking for her."
"Just one word of advice for you, Doc," Mary smiled with a smirk. "You better be prepared for this little relationship you've got going on with my daughter to be rather short lived."
"W-what do you mean?" he questioned as he turned to face her.
"If what she's learned turns out to be true, once Charles finds out there's going to be a very happy reunion in store for them." She smiled warmly at the thought. "That pretty much means that you'll be left out in the cold."
"We'll see what happens when the time comes," he muttered firmly. "We'll see." And with those words, he quickly hurried away from Mary to find Annabelle before it was too late.
No sooner had he disappeared out of view, Mary immediately spotted Francis, shaken and emotional, walking towards her. Mary was instantly startled by her daughter's disheveled appearance and rushed to meet her.
"Francis, darling, you look a wreck! What happened? Did you see Annabelle? What did she say?" Mary took a sobbing Francis into her arms and tried to calm her down.
"Oh...M-Momma," Francis cried as she rested her head on her mother's shoulder and tried to stop her body from shaking. "I...I..."
"There, there, dear," Mary said softly as she lead Francis over to a nearby table and sat her down into a chair. "It's going to be all right. We know exactly what kind of horrible things that woman has done and, soon, everyone is going to know--including Charles!"
Mary eyed her daughter with great worry. Francis was nearly hysterical! Surely she must have had a confrontation with Annabelle. What had she said to have upset her so terribly? In light of what truths had been revealed, Francis should be nearly overjoyed at having all of the wrongs committed by Annabelle Lake soon to be righted. However, Francis was now in a worse emotional state than before.
"Francis, what happened?" Mary continued to hold her in her arms as she sobbed on her shoulder. After a few moments, it became clear that Mary would get no clear answers from her daughter any time soon. She was way too upset. Mary immediately began to grow angry with Annabelle for having caused so much pain and heartache for her family. She needed to find out what that vile woman had done and she needed to find out right then! Catching sight of her granddaughter Maggie, Mary quickly waved her over.
"Nana, w-what's wrong with Momma?" Maggie Callison asked as she rushed to their sides.
"I can't explain right now," Mary said as she stood up straight and threw her shoulders back with determination. "But I need you to sit her with your mother. She's clearly had something terrible upset her."
"W-where are you going?" Maggie questioned.
"There are a few things that I need to take care of," Mary stated firmly. "Just sit here with your mother and I'll be back shortly." As her jaw tightened, Mary spun around and hurried off to find Annabelle Lake. She was determined to make sure that that woman never hurt her daughter or anyone else in her family ever again.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Neither of you have seen Annabelle, have you?" Charles Callison asked as he walked over to Burt and Janet. "I've been looking all over for her and can't find her anywhere."
"No, Mr. Ca...Uncle Charles," Burt replied with a shake of his as he pulled his attention away from Janet's wounded hand. "I've been a little preoccupied. Janet's hurt herself on a knife."
"What?" Charles said with surprise. "I would think that Jasper would be a little more careful as far as his patrons were concerned. Here, let me take a look at it."
Janet held her injured hand out for Charles to see and winced slightly under his inspection.
"Well, it doesn't seem to be a bad cut," he muttered as he held her hand up to the light. "Granted, I'm not a doctor, but I think with a tight bandage and some time and it'll be as good as new."
"That's exactly what I said!" Burt nodded.
"I see that great minds think alike," Charles smiled warmly as he released her hand and turned his focus onto his nephew. "In fact, I'm glad that I ran into you both."
"Please, sir, let's not talk about changing my name again," Burt sighed, immediately uncomfortable about the thought of taking on the Callison name.
"Actually, that's not what I was going to say," Charles laughed and then looked at Janet. "I was just curious about whether you and Janet might make it a Callison/Stokes double wedding. Reginald and Jillian are getting married next month and...."
"Honestly, sir, Janet and I haven't even talked about marriage yet," Burt blushed. "However...."
"Father!" Trevor Callison shouted as he ran up to Charles. "Father, I need to talk to immediately!"
"Yes, Trevor, what's wrong?" Charles asked as he turned his focus onto his son. "What's the commotion about?"
"It's Mother and that...that woman!" Trevor scowled.
"Please don't tell me you're going to start in on Annabelle again!" Charles snapped with anger. "Why can't we all just get together for one enjoyable evening without all of you ganging up on her. Really, I don't..."
"No, Father!" Trevor interrupted. "Just listen to me. Mother told us that she found out some things about Annabelle tonight."
"Mother said that the night of the engagement party, Annabelle secretly drugged you. That's why you were so susceptible to her!"
"What?" Charles shook his head in disbelief. What in the world was Trevor talking about? Drugged? "Son, I don't appreciate you spouting off with these ridiculous stories about Annabelle. I know that you're not especially fond of her, but nothing is going to change. I hurt your mother terribly and it's just best if both of us...."
"No! Don't you understand?" Trevor grabbed his father's arms in attempt to force him to listen. "Annabelle drugged you! She slipped something into your drink that played with your head. If it weren't for that, you would never have betrayed Mother. You and Mother would still be together! None of this would have happened!"
"S-she slipped something into my drink?" Charles stammered as he began to think about the night that had changed his life...
She smiled at him seductively. "See, Charles? See what I can do for you? I can lift you up when you're feeling down. I can make you feel better about yourself. You need me, Charles." She leaned in to kiss him, but he swiftly dodged her advances.
"No, Annabelle! I love Francis. She's my wife. I will not allow you to worm your way into my life!" He crossed his arms and took a step backward.
She looked at him and sighed. How much longer would he stay true to a wife who had long outlived her usefulness to him? "Okay, Charles," she cooed softly. "But at least let me get you a drink. It will help calm your nerves."
He thought for a minute and nodded. What harm could a drink do?
"I wonder where Francis has gone," Charles spoke up. "She went to find Maggie and send her home, but I haven't seen her since. She must be off gabbing with her mother." He took a few steps away from the bar to make a quick survey of the ball room for a glimpse of his wife. "Annabelle? What's going on? Can I have my drink?"
"Oh...why...yes, of course. Here you go, Charles."
"Father?" Trevor spoke up when he noticed Charles' preoccupation.
"Oh...s-sorry," Charles muttered as he quickly glanced around the room in hopes of seeing Annabelle or Francis. "Look, I'm going to go find Annabelle and get to the bottom of this."
"And what are you going to do if you find out it's the truth?"
"Well..." Charles' jaw tightened and he felt his face flush with anger. "If what you say is true, if Annabelle did the horrible things that you've claimed, then heaven help her by the time I'm finished with her!"
As Charles stormed away, Trevor looked awkwardly at Burt and Janet who were merely standing there in shock over the entire revelation. With a look of determination, Trevor quickly walked away. There were a few things he needed to say to Annabelle Lake, as well.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Burt, I want a word with you," Mark Linford said sternly as he walked over to him.
"Hello, Mark," Janet smiled sweetly. "I saw you from across the room earlier and I intended on saying 'hello', but I just didn't have the chance." She quickly looked around and let out a worried sigh. "I take it that you couldn't convince Judith to come?"
"No, she felt more like staying in tonight," Mark muttered as he kept his eyes focused on Burt. "Staying home is all she feels like doing since...the accident."
Burt winced at the reference to Judith Linford's tumble down a flight of stairs that resulted in the loss of the baby she'd been carrying...Burt's baby!
"I feel so horrible for her," Janet responded. "I just can't imagine the pain she's going through. It must be so awful to loose a child."
"You have no idea what your sister and I have been going through," Mark nodded, still focused on Burt. "But, Janet, if you'll excuse us, I need to speak with Burt in private."
Janet nodded as Mark led Burt off to a corner. As she watched them walk away, she kept her eyes locked on them. What in the world would Mark have to discuss with Burt? Unless.... Her! They were going to talk about her! Janet was certain that she had to be the topic of their conversation. Were they still dwelling on her disappearance after...after... She furrowed her brow slightly as she thought. She remembered running away but she couldn't remember why. What had been so horrible as to cause her to run away from her family and the man that she loved?
She shook her head in confusion. There were huge holes in her memory that she just couldn't explain. She couldn't remember anything about the night she disappeared or the night that Judith fell, even though she knew that she was in the house at the time. She'd racked her brain trying to remember, but she'd avoided telling anyone about her lapses in memory. Surely they'd think she was loosing it again! Surely they'd want to put her back into the hospital. Janet refused to let that happen and worked on her own to fill in the blanks. Maybe Mark and Burt were going to talk about her. Maybe they knew something that she couldn't remember. Desperate for some clue, she carefully slipped over to near where they were standing and began to listen....
"What's the meaning of this?" Burt asked in a low whisper as he eyed Mark with trepidation. "What's going on?"
"I've been meaning to discuss this with you for some time, now, but I've put it off." Mark chose his words carefully as he kept his eyes locked on Burt. After a few moments, he took a deep breath and spoke again. "Burt, I know the truth about Judith's baby."
"T-truth?" Burt took a few steps backward, afraid of what was to come. Did Mark really know the truth?
"Yes, I know that the baby Judith lost was actually yours and not mine."
The revelation hung in the air for a moment as Burt's jaw dropped in shock. Silently, Burt wondered how he should react. Should he confess that he knew about the true paternity of the child? Should he feign ignorance in the entire matter?
"I can tell from your shocked expression that this comes as news to you." Mark lowered his voice and inspected Burt closely. "Mainly, I want to insure that you don't have any plans on renewing your sordid relationship with my wife again."
"Mark, I can assure you that what Judith and I had is very much in the past. You can imagine how stunned I am concerning Judith's baby." Burt didn't have to think of how he should react; Mark willingly gave him an out. "However, I love Janet very much. The last thing on earth that I'd ever want is to see her hurt again."
"I like the sound of that," Mark muttered slyly. "You see, now that you've miraculously discovered that you're a Callison, your social standing has been upped a bit. You're no longer quite so beneath her."
"Who my family is has nothing..."
"Oh, doesn't it?" Mark let out a thin laugh. "It means everything to Judith. If you'd known all along who you really were, she would have run away with you in an instant. However, we all thought you were some pitiful bar hack. She should never have condescended to speak to you let alone...."
"Now, wait a second!" Burt was quickly beginning to grow angry. "I am still the exact same person as I've always been, Callison or not!"
"For once, I have to agree with you. I guess it's that old question of nature versus nurture." Mark paused and made sure to look Burt right in the eyes to ensure that he understood him perfectly. "In any case, I want to you leave Albanyville. I want you to stay as far away from Judith as you can and never tell a soul the truth about that child. As far as anyone will ever know, the baby that she lost was mine!"
"And...if I don't?"
"Then I'll be forced to tell poor, sweet Janet all about your past with her sister and the dead bastard child that you shared!"
Burt gasped in shock. Surely Mark wouldn't do anything as horrendous as tell Janet the truth about the baby! She'd suffered through so much in the past from the death of Gordon Scott as well as the discovery of his long over affair with her sister. Burt was certain that the shocking truth of Judith's baby would be too much for her to bear.
Meanwhile, not far away, Janet strained to hear what they were talking about. However, the music that was coming from the orchestra was drowning out a great deal of the conversation. From her vantage point behind a large fern, she could clearly see that the discussion was an unpleasant one and she leaned in closer so that she could make out what they were saying. What she managed to hear stunned her.
A look of confusion covered her face as she heard them discuss Judith's baby. What about the baby? Was Burt offering his condolences about the loss of the child? Why was Mark acting so angry? A large knot began to form in the pit of her stomach as the color began to drain from her face.
In an instant, a collection of random, jarring memories began to flash inside her head--the staircase at the mansion...Judith's angry face...the sound of Judith's blood curdling scream...the sight of her sister tumbling head over heals down the stairs...
Janet immediately began to feel light headed and sick to her stomach. What did it all mean? Why was she having these visions? Had she been there when Judith fell? Had she seen it all? As a sense of panic began to set in, Janet ran away. It began to feel like the walls were closing in on her and she had to escape.
As she pushed her way through the crowd of guests, she searched for any place to hide. Hide? From what? She wasn't sure, but she knew she had to get out of there. The flashes of memory kept coming and they terrified her. Oh god, what had she done? Looking for a place to be alone so that she could collect herself, she saw the doors to the empty lounge and promptly ran for them.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"I just wish I knew where Aunt Annabelle was," Sara Manchester grumbled as she stood next to the buffet table and scowled. "I just want to say 'good-bye' and get out of here."
"Why the rush?" her husband Dane asked cavalierly as he munched on an hors d'oeuvre. "The night's still young!" He turned to look at her slyly. "Have you wished Stephanie a happy birthday, yet?"
"You know full well that I don't even want to be here let alone have to deal with her!" she snapped. "I will never forgive her for trying to use you to get Jillian away from Reginald so that she could have him. She has got to be the most self-centered..."
"Hey, hey, just calm down," he laughed and then took a sip of his cocktail. "Look, if it will make you feel any better, as soon as we find Annabelle, I'll take you home."
She looked up at him and eyed him suspiciously. "Why are you being so nice, all of a sudden? You've been unbelievable short with me for months, but now you're being all gracious and charming."
"Um...well..." he stammered, unsure as to how to respond. As he paused to think of a reason, he caught sight of Trevor and Grace together on the dance floor and grinned with a sense of self-satisfaction. Grace Davis was every bit as lovely as she'd always been.
"Dane? Aren't you going to answer me?" Sara asked as she tapped her foot on the floor and folded her arms across her chest. "Or are you just going to stare off into space for the rest of the night? Honestly, I..." She immediately froze as she followed the line of her husband's gaze a quickly noticed what had drawn his attention. "Oh, don't tell me you're still toying with that!"
"What ever do you mean, dear?" he asked with a feigned innocent grin.
"Oh, don't think that I've forgotten you're little game with Grace Davis! Remember, I know you better than anyone else. I know all about you, Dane Manchester. You promised me that you'd given up on this silly playboy routine after we got married!"
"That was long before your...shall we say 'dalliance' with Mr. Preston!" He stared at her coldly. How dare she criticize him for his own flirtations when she'd already done far, far worse?
"Honey, I've tried to tell you that there was nothing more than a working relationship between me and Mr. Preston," Sara sighed as she grabbed onto his arm in hopes that he would finally believe her. "Nothing happened! You are my husband and I love you. I would never do anything to..."
"And why should I believe you?"
"Because it's the truth!"
"Sara, it's the only thing that makes any sense! Why else would he leave you his entire estate?"
"Us, Dane, us! He left it to us!" Why wouldn't he believe her? Why was he so insistent on thinking that she'd been unfaithful to their vows? "And he only did it to spite my mother!"
"That's another thing," he sighed with a roll of his eyes. "Did you really have to ask that woman to move in with us?"
"Oh, Dane, she's my mother! What else could I have done?"
"Whatever," he grumbled. "Look, you're right. Let's just forget about Annabelle and get out of here." He tugged on her arm as he prepared to head for the door, but found her to be reluctant to follow. "Sara? I thought you wanted to leave."
"I...I do..." she stammered as she searched through the crowd of guests in hopes of catching a glimpse of the person she'd just spotted. It couldn't be! Could it? No, that didn't make any sense. What would they be doing here? "I...I'm coming." With a sudden sense of nervousness and worry, she quickly followed Dane to the foyer.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
Stephanie Lake maneuvered her way through the assortment of guests as she wrung her hands nervously. Where in the world could her mother be? Stephanie just had to find her and tell her what she'd done. Stephanie had told Francis Callison everything about what her mother had done to ensure that Charles Callison would succumb to her charms. Now, however, Stephanie was feeling unbelievably guilty for betraying her mother.
As she craned her head to look for any sign of her mother, Stephanie let out a deep sigh. She just knew that once the entire Callison family found out, there would most definitely be trouble. She just had to find her and warn her so that she could be prepared for the fallout.
"Oh, J-Jasper," she stammered as she walked up to the maitre d' who was busy chatting with several partygoers, "h-have you seen my mother?"
"Miss Lake," he smiled thinly, "what is it? What can I do for you?"
"I asked you if you've seen my mother." She glanced down at her hands that were clasped tightly in front of her. "I need to find her. It's an emergency."
"Ah, yes, your mother." He let out an exaggerated sigh and rolled his eyes. "I try to see that woman as little as possible--no offense, dear girl. She can be the most difficult of people and...."
"Yes, I know that!" Stephanie snapped before she could catch herself. The events of the evening were beginning to wear on her and she was beginning to grow frightened about the ramifications of what she'd done. "Just tell me if you've seen her!"
Jasper's lips narrowed into a thin slit as he eyed her coldly. "The last time I saw your mother," he nearly spat, "was earlier in the evening. I believe she was going into the lounge. Of course, that was some time ago. I haven't seen here since, thank god."
"Well, t-thank you," she nodded before allowing him to return to his conversation and turned to head for the lounge. If that had been the last place she'd been seen, it should be the first place she should start to look.
"Stephanie! There you are!" Patterson Monroe called out as he rushed over to her. "I've been looking for you forever! Where have you been?"
"I...I can't talk about it right now," she muttered as she stopped at his side, yet looked in the direction of the lounge.
"Well, okay," he smiled and took her hand. "Would you like to dance?"
"Oh, Paddy, I'd love to, but...but..." She bit her lip and looked away. "I have to find my mother."
"Steph, honey, this sounds important."
"It is! I...I..." She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "I told Mrs. Callison everything about what my mother did at the engagement party."
"You did?" Patterson's eyes grew wide with shock. "W-why? What made you tell her? I thought you said that you couldn't...."
"Paddy, I can't talk about this right now! I told Mrs. Callison everything and I have to find Momma and warn her! I have to tell her what I've done so that she can be prepared."
"Well...would it help if I looked for her, too?"
"Oh, yes, Paddy! That would mean so much to me!" She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly as she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You go look for her and I'll go look for here and whoever finds her can warn her about the Callisons."
"I'll do my best." He nodded to her and turned to head into the crowd, stopping long enough to look back over his shoulder at her. She seemed so worried. Patterson knew that revealing the truth was the best thing in the long run, but he was seriously concerned about what betraying her mother would do to Stephanie. With a slight shake of his head, he decided that that was something that could be dealt with later. Right then, he had a job to take care of. He had to find Annabelle.
As Patterson walked away, Stephanie turned and again headed for the lounge, pausing every few steps to turn and scan the crowd again. When she reached the doors to the lounge, she inhaled deeply and reached out to push them open. What she saw chilled her to the bone and stopped her dead in her tracks.
"O-oh, my god," she stammered as her body began to shake. "O-oh, my god!" She reached out for the frame of the door in order to steady herself as tears began to stream down her cheeks. She stood speechless, unable to say another word. She was clearly in shock from what she'd seen. The scene in the room made her blood run cold. It was the sight of her mother's cold, lifeless body sprawled out onto the floor in a pool of blood, and kneeling over her was none other than Reginald Callison.
TO BE CONTINUED
A murder mystery begins.
For Now and Forever
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