For Now and Forever
EPISODE #81 (Monday,
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Helga, dear, do you have to do that while I'm trying to read the paper?" Dane Manchester asked as he swatted away the flurry of dust that the housekeeper was stirring up.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Manchester," Helga Grimm said with a smile.
"That's quite all right." He chuckled to himself as he thought about how he and Helga had gotten off on the wrong foot when he'd first moved in. They'd since come to an understanding and had developed quite an odd repartee. "Can you believe all of this about Sara's aunt?"
"It's just tragic!" she exclaimed as she walked over to him and peered over his shoulder at the late edition of The State Examiner.
"What are you two talking about?" Joyce Preston asked as she walked into the room.
"Annabelle's murder," he replied with a sideways glance in her direction. "I just can't believe it. Even more so, I can't believe that they say Reginald Callison did it!"
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"Oh, this just all has to be some big mistake!" Leticia Stokes exclaimed while she paced around the room as she wrung her hands. "There's no way that Reginald could have killed that woman!"
"Apparently the police don't think so," Judith Linford sighed as she sat on the sofa and flipped through The Daily Post. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Callisons' own newspaper makes absolutely no mention of his arrest. Poor Jillian. She's not handing any of this too well."
"Well, of course she isn't! My lord, she's barely left his side since that night." Leticia walked over to the bar and poured herself a snifter of brandy.
"At least his father posted his bail right away and he didn't have to spend more than one night in jail." Judith casually scanned the society page. Even The Post's society column failed to mention anything about the murder. With an exaggerated sigh, she flung the paper aside and reached onto the coffee table to retrieve the latest edition of The State Examiner. "I bet they aren't ignoring this."
"Would you just put that away," Leticia grumbled. "Why are you so interested in what some scandal rag has to say about all of this, anyway?"
"Considering everything that's going on, I would expect that you'd be interested in this, too, Mother." Judith cocked an eyebrow and gave her a curious look. "It looks like Daddy might have been right about Reginald all along! Maybe he is nothing but trouble for Jillian."
"Oh, nonsense!" Leticia waved her hand in the air as if to brush away the absurdity of her daughter's comment. "I have faith in Jillian's judgment and I have faith in Reginald. He's a fine young man and I refuse to believe that he had anything to do with Annabelle Lake's murder. The entire idea is just preposterous!"
The conversion came to a halt as the tinkling chimes of the doorbell wafted through the house.
"Now, I wonder who that could be?" Leticia muttered and sat her glass down before walking towards the door.
"Mrs. Stokes, Mrs. Linford," their housekeeper Ruby Thomas said as she led a distinguished gentleman into the room, "Dr. Campbell is here."
"Ah, yes, Ruby, send him in," Judith smiled and tossed her newspaper aside.
"Judith, you're looking much better today," Dr. Talbot Campbell said with a warm smile as he walked over to her. "You should be back to your old self in no time."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Leticia mumbled to herself.
"Did you say something, Mother?" Judith asked with a wry glance.
"I...um...said that we've been so worried about you." Leticia walked over and turned her attention to the doctor. "She is going to back to normal, isn't she?"
"Why, as far as I can tell, Judith is as good as ever right now!" Dr. Campbell reached down and patted his patient on the hand. "There's no reason for her to stay locked up in the house all the time."
"That's what I keep saying!" Leticia sat down on the sofa next to her daughter and took her other hand. "Now, Judith, you need to stop this moping around the house and get out some. You haven't left this house since..."
"No, Mother, I don't want to talk about it!" Judith snapped and yanked her hand away. "I will start getting out when I feel like it and I just don't feel like it!" She folded her arms across her chest defiantly and turned away to hide the constant emotional pain she'd been suffering since the loss of her child.
Her daughter's display forced Leticia to turn her attention to Dr. Campbell and she looked at him with eyes full of questions and worries. His only response was to solemnly shake his head. It appeared that no amount of reassurance or coercing was going to return Judith to her formerly active self until she was ready to let go of the emotional hole she'd buried herself in.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Well, I don't know this Callison fellow," Joyce said as she walked over to the bar and poured herself a scotch, "but if I know Annabelle, I'm sure she deserved whatever she got!"
"Mrs. Preston!" Helga gasped in shock over the comment. "How could you say such a thing about your own sister-in-law?"
"Ex-sister-in-law, Helga," Joyce reminded before taking a sip of her drink. "And, believe me, there was never any love lost between myself and Annabelle. When Sara's father and I were married, we could barely stand the sight of one another. That woman had to be the most opportunistic person I've ever met!"
"Takes one to know one," Helga muttered into Dane's ear as she leaned over to him. It was all he could do to restrain himself from bursting out into laughter.
Sensing that the housekeeper was up to something, Joyce turned to shoot her an angry look. "Don't you have some high chandeliers to dust or something? I'm sure we can find some very tall ladders for you out in the storage shed."
"Actually, I just dusted those last week," Helga replied with a smirk.
Joyce took in a deep breath as she tried to find the strength to deal with the overly opinionated housekeeper. "Whatever," she grumbled before turning her focus onto Dane alone. "So, Dane, no one ever told me how my darling daughter wound up with such a handsome husband."
"Let's just say she made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"Sara sure wound up with quite a catch." Joyce flashed him a sly smile and slowly walked over to him.
"Trap would be more like it," he muttered to himself as he began to read the newspaper again in an attempt to ignore his mother-in-law.
Catching only a bit of what he'd said, Joyce looked at him curiously. She was certain that she noticed a touch of dissatisfaction coming from him in regards to his marriage. In fact, she'd gotten that impression almost from the moment she'd met him! Her eyes narrowed and she began to inspect him closely. Maybe that was something she could use to her advantage.
"Dane, darling, we all must go out for the evening, sometime," she smiled coyly as she stood next to him and lightly ran her fingers along his shoulder. "I'd so hoped that you and Sara would have taken me along to that wonderful party, but..."
"I thought you said you couldn't stand Annabelle." He glanced up from the paper to look at her. "Why would you want to go to her party?"
"Well, apparently, I missed all the fun!"
"I don't consider murder fun," he replied flatly and returned to reading. "Though I have to admit that it is something I've considered on occasion."
"I'm sure you have," she smiled.
As Helga continued to dust the knickknacks, she kept her ears very tuned to what was being said. She didn't trust Joyce Preston at all and was certain that she was up to something.
"Keep your eye on that one," she whispered to Dane as she again leaned into him. "She's got more venom than a cobra."
"I'll keep that in mind," he replied with a sly smile.
"I'm getting quite tired of your little side conversation!" Joyce snapped angrily. "Don't you realize that it's very rude to have such private talks while there's someone else in the room?"
"Then leave," Helga said flatly.
"I am so glad classes are over for today," Sara Manchester exclaimed as she breezed in through the front door and into the room. Quickly noticing the atmosphere in the library, she looked alternately at her husband and mother. "Am I missing something?"
"Ah, my exit cue," Dane muttered to Helga with a grin before rising from his seat. "Actually, Sara, no. You're not missing in thing. In fact, I was just going out and..."
"I thought we were having a conversation!" Joyce glared at him angrily.
"Well, your daughter will be more than happy to fill in for me." He hurriedly took his hat and coat from Helga as she brought them into the room. "I really have to go. I have so many things to do." He turned to smile and wink at Helga. "Have fun with those two," he whispered.
"Oh, don't worry," was her muttered reply.
THE CALLISON HOME - CHARLES' OFFICE
"Douglas, I'm so glad you agreed to take Reginald's case," Charles Callison exclaimed as he paced around the room.
"Well, I usually only do business law," Douglas Davis replied, "but how could I not take care of his defense?"
"Well, whatever the case, we appreciate it." Charles turned to look at Reginald who was sitting on the settee next to his fiancée Jillian Stokes. "Don't we, Reginald?" Charles furrowed his brow in annoyance when no response came. "I said 'Don't we, Reginald'!"
"Yes, sir," Reginald muttered as he kept his eyes straight ahead and refused to look at anyone. "Thank you, Douglas."
Jillian eyed him with anxiety and worry while Douglas only looked at him with confusion. Ever since the police had arrested him for Annabelle Lake's murder, Reginald had hardly uttered a word. He wouldn't even tell the police what had happened! They'd been left to analyze and figure things out on their own.
"Well, Reginald, the District Attorney hasn't handed down a formal indictment, yet," Douglas began as he joined Charles in his pacing, "the police are still working on the investigation."
"That's a good sign, isn't it?" Jillian asked as she looked from Reginald to Douglas. "If they're still investigating, that must mean that they aren't convinced that Reginald is guilty."
"Or that means that they're searching for more evidence to solidify whatever evidence they do have so that they can give a thorough presentation to the D.A." Douglas paused to look at Reginald who was still refusing to look at anyone. "In as high a profile case as this, I'm sure that they want to have all of their "I"s dotted and their "T"s crossed. We have to be just as thorough if not more so."
"Honestly, I don't know how the police can make much of a case out of this," Charles grumbled. "He is innocent after all. There's no way he could have murdered Annabelle!"
"Unfortunately, the police aren't exactly seeing it that way." Douglas let out a weary sigh. "He was found alone in the room with the dead body..."
"That doesn't mean anything!" Jillian shouted. "He...he just walked in and found her like that! S-she was already dead!"
"That's most likely what happened," Douglas nodded, "however, it doesn't explain why he was holding the knife that killed her in his hand!"
"Reginald, why on earth would you do something as stupid as picking up that knife?" Charles questioned with a shake of his head. "Common sense should have told you to..."
Douglas threw up his hand to calm Charles down. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Reginald, why don't you just start at the beginning and tell us exactly how you found Annabelle and why you were holding the knife."
As they sat in silence and waited for Reginald to explain, he said nothing. His eyes remained straight ahead, refusing to look at any of them, and he refused to speak.
"Oh, Reginald, say something!" Jillian pleaded as she grabbed his arm and shook him. "Tell us why you had that knife! I know it's not because you killed Annabelle. You couldn't have!"
Jillian's cries apparently had no affect on him. Despite the urgings of everyone in the room, he still refused to speak about what had happened.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Well, I wonder where Dane hurried off to," Joyce said with a laugh as she sipped her scotch. "We were having a lovely conversation until you come home." She paused and eyed her daughter suspiciously. "You two aren't still having problems, are you?"
Sara sat on the sofa and took a deep breath. "It seems he still believes that silly garbage about me and Mr. Preston. Honestly, can't you just tell him that it was all a mistake? Can't you make him understand that you were wrong and had just assumed?"
"Oh, dear, I've tried!" Joyce replied as she joined her daughter on the sofa. Of course, it was a lie. She hadn't even made the slightest attempt to correct Dane's false assumptions. In fact, Joyce still wasn't convinced that her assumptions weren't true! She was still almost certain that Sara had had an affair with her late husband. "It's just that, well, your husband can be quite pig headed."
"Don't I know it!" Sara shook her head with the thought of exactly how well she knew. "He just grabs hold of an idea and refuses to let it go. He can be quite obsessive."
"Yes, I've noticed." Joyce eyed Sara slyly and rubbed her chin in thought. "S-Sara?" she said hesitantly.
"I just wanted to tell you how very thankful I am that you've seen it in your heart to look past...all of the mistakes that I've made." Joyce glanced down at her hand as she reached over and held Sara's. "I know that I haven't been the best mother. Hell, I haven't even been a mother to you at all! I...I left you when you were so very young and..."
"Mother, that was a long time ago." Sara looked at her earnestly.
So much time had past. True, she'd spent her entire childhood missing the mother who'd abandoned her, but what good would it do to hold on to old hurts and resentments? She'd been given a second chance with the mother that she'd always loved and had never forgotten. Sara would certainly be a fool to throw that chance away.
"I...I know, but..." Joyce's voice trailed off and she looked away as she held a handkerchief, conveniently placed in her pocket, up to her eye to dry her "tears". "I just feel so horrible. I was so young and I just couldn't handle the responsibility of being a mother. I know I was selfish, but...but I didn't think I had any other choice. I just pray that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for all of the horrible things that I've done."
Helga, who'd been busy dusting the books on the shelves in the corner popped her head up from her chores and peered curiously at Joyce. Although she'd been intent on appearing unconcerned with the conversation, she'd been carefully listening to every word. As she glared at Joyce, she clinched her teeth tightly. Surely Sara wasn't going to be fooled by that woman's crocodile tears! No matter what Helga thought of her, she was certain that Sara had to be smarter than that.
"Oh, Mother, there's nothing left to forgive," Sara smiled warmly. "I've already forgiven you. Who's to say that I might not have done the same thing in your situation. If I'd lived your life, who knows what I might have done."
Helga shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes. Apparently Sara wasn't quite as bright as she'd thought.
"Darling, you're just too kind and too generous." Joyce leaned over and wrapped her arms around her daughter to pull her into a hug. "I just don't know what I've done to deserve to have a girl as wonderful as you for a daughter."
As Joyce and Sara embraced, Helga completely stopped her chores and watched them. She honestly couldn't stand either one of them and relished the thought of playing them off each other for fun. However, she greatly suspected that Joyce Preston was up to far greater amounts of no good than she'd originally thought. As Helga kept her eyes trained on the Widow Preston, one thing was certain. She didn't trust her. Not at all!
THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE
"Knock knock," Dane smiled as he wrapped lightly on the counter. "Are you too busy to help me?"
"Oh! Um...Dane!" Grace Davis blushed as she turned around to face him. "I...I didn't see you come in. I was...uh...busy sorting this shipment of new arrivals."
"Must be some pretty interesting reading," he laughed as he leaned against the counter. "You wouldn't happen to have a good historical novel in there, would you?"
"Um...." She sifted through the stack of books and ran her finger along the spines as she read the titles to herself. Discovering that none of the books in the new shipment were historical, she made a slight frown. "No, sorry. Nothing historical. I do have a brand new murder mystery. The author has been very popular."
"Trust me, if I want to read a murder mystery, all I have to do is read the local paper." He rolled his eyes as he thought about Annabelle's unexpected demise and fought to suppress a chuckle. Ahhh, Reggie, what a fine mess you've gotten yourself into this time!
"Please, Dane, the less I have to think about that horrible night, the better!" She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered at the memory of the party that had ended in murder. "I just can't believe that I was actually there!"
"Well, the party wasn't all bad," he smiled slyly as he leaned closer to her. "I did get to spend time with the prettiest girl in the room."
"I'm sure Sara would be flattered to hear you talk like that."
"I wasn't talking about her," Dane grumbled as he thought about his wife. "I was talking about you, Grace."
"Me?" Her jaw dropped from shock and her hand flew up to her chest. "Why...oh...me?"
"Yes, you, silly." He cleverly flashed his trademarked grin and lowered his head to look at her impishly. "I think you had to have been the most gorgeous woman in the room."
"But...but, there were so many girls there much prettier than me." Grace quickly turned away to hide her embarrassment and pretended to be occupied with her task of sorting books. "Why, there was Sara and...and Jillian..." Dane winced. "and...and Stephanie..." He winced even harder.
"Look, I don't care who else was in the room." He reached across the counter and grabbed her hand, forcing her to look at him. "The only girl I really saw was you."
The touch of his hand made Grace's heart skip a beat. As she felt her pulse began to race, her face flushed a deep crimson. She was more than a little embarrassed because of her reaction. Grace had sworn that she'd gotten her deep crush for Dane out of her system months earlier. Her belief that he'd had an integral part in Stephanie Lake's underhanded schemes to ruin Reginald and Jillian's relationship had almost cinched it. However, now that she was seeing him again, she was beginning to have second thoughts.
Could he really have been involved like Trevor had insisted that he'd been? Could he really be that horrible? As she looked up into his piercing eyes, she found herself growing less and less certain. Surely someone as dashing and charming as Dane couldn't have been involved with such wretched plans.
"So, Grace," Dane spoke up again after a few moments of silence, "I really do have a confession to make."
"Yes," he said with a laugh. "I really didn't come here to buy a book."
"Then what's the point of coming into a bookstore?" She looked at him with confusion.
"You really are that naive, aren't you?" He grinned broadly at Grace's resulting blush. "Silly, I came to see you. I had a hunch that you'd be working here today, so I just stopped in to see you."
"I...I'm flattered." Her breath caught in her throat as she felt her heart skip not one beat, but two.
"In fact, there's a question that I wanted to ask you." He paused and looked her dead in the eyes. "Actually, I was going to ask you at the party, but I didn't get a chance."
"I was just wondering if...." He looked away as if he were a tad embarrassed by what he was about to ask. Of course, he wasn't, but it was a nice routine. "Well, I was wondering if you still had that little crush on me like you did last year."
As he kept his eyes locked on her, Grace felt her knees grow weak. Did she still have a crush on Dane after all that time? Were the feelings that she'd once felt not quite as in the distant past as she'd once thought? Now that she found herself cornered by his blatant question, she wasn't sure what to answer.
TO BE CONTINUED
Stephanie feels responsible.
For Now and Forever
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