For Now and Forever
EPISODE #95 (Friday,
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
An unsteady Judith Linford slowly stepped away from the wall that she had propped herself up against during her dizzy spell and tried to compose herself enough to enter the living room and Burt and Janet's conversation. Just then, she was distracted by the delicate chimes that wafted through the house announcing a visitor at the front door.
Still slightly unsteady, she took a deep breath and carefully made her way across the foyer. Pausing just long enough to massage her temple, her head still slightly spinning, she opened the door. She was not physically or emotionally prepared for who she found on the other side.
"Hello, Judith," Joyce Preston smiled snidely as she pushed past her and into the foyer, "I hope that you don't mind an impromptu visit from an old and dear friend."
ALBANYVILLE UNIVERSITY - STUDENT CENTER
"What the devil do you think you're doing?" Helen Van Dyne snapped as she tried to catch her breath. "You could give a person a heart attack by sneaking up on them like that!"
"Sorry," Clark Saxon muttered with a roll of his eyes. "I really didn't mean to scare you. I just need to talk to you."
"Where in the world have you been?" she asked angrily as she glared at him. "You dropped off the face of the earth! What's the big idea of running off and leaving me holding the bag? Stephanie knows everything about what we were planning and that little witch is out for blood!"
"Yeah, I know," he sighed with a scowl. "If it weren't for her and that mother of hers, I'd still be here at school!"
"Huh?" Helen looked at him curiously. "What do you mean? What do they have to do with you getting thrown out of school?"
"Steffi and her mother ran straight to the dean!" Clark explained with an angry sneer. "They made up a bunch of lies about me and how I was---let me see if I remember the words---'preying on the innocent co-eds'!"
"Oh, my god!" she gasped as her hand flew up to her mouth. "You can't be serious!"
"I wish I weren't," he muttered and hung his head. "I wouldn't have known a thing about it if my dad weren't such good friends with a couple of the school regents." He paused for a moment as a cold and callous look filled his eyes. "I'm glad that old woman is dead!"
"Clark, that's a horrible thing to say!"
"Well..." Clark took a deep breath. "That's how I feel. She got exactly what she deserved for trying to ruin my life!" The cold, vengeful look still filling his eyes, he stared at Helen intently. "And I couldn't help but overhear how our little miss Steffi was planning on ruining yours, too! We've got to stop her!"
"I...I don't know..." Helen folded her arms across her chest and shivered slightly, more than a little uncomfortable with Clark's tone and manner. "I'm a little...tired of trying to get back at Stephanie because of what she did to Jillian." And more than a little worried about what further retaliation might force Stephanie to do. Helen was quite nervous about what the fallout about the revelation of her relationship with Mark might be.
"I'm not letting you back out of this!" he snapped and reached out to grab her arm to give it a sharp and painful twist. "You're into this mess up to your pretty bobbed hair! Stephanie Lake did everything she could to ruin Jillian's life! She and her mother all but destroyed any chance of a future that I might have. Now, she's out to wreck your life, too! Surely you're not going to let her get away with that?"
"I...I don't know!" His fingers dug into her arm and she winced in pain. "Owwww! Stop it, Clark! You're hurting me!"
"Would you keep your voice down!" he growled. "Do you want everyone to know what we're up to?"
"N-no," Helen stammered, slightly shaken by a side of Clark that she'd previously never seen.
"You're in on this with me, whether you like it or not!" He leveled his cold eyes at her. "We're in this together and I'm not letting you back out of it!"
"I...I..." She paused and swallowed hard. "Okay."
"Good," Clark smiled slyly. "Steffi's mother got exactly what she deserved for ruining my life. Now it's Steffi's turn to get exactly what's coming to her."
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
"Well, the 'old' part is pretty accurate," Judith grumbled flippantly, "but the 'dear friend' part is a gross exaggeration!"
"Don't be snide, dear," Joyce cooed with false politeness as she casually surveyed the opulent surroundings of the Stokes home, "it's not too befitting of someone of your supposed breeding."
"What do you want, Joyce?" Judith eyed her sternly as she fought to regain her composure after her earlier spell of dizziness. She knew that she had to be on her toes where Joyce Scott was concerned.
"Oh, I just wanted to visit and catch up on old times." Joyce smiled slyly as she continued to subtly glance around the room. "That darling little sister of yours wouldn't happen to be home, would she?"
"Jillian's out with her fiancé making some last minute arrangements for her wedding."
"Not that sister!" Joyce rolled her eyes. "I mean the husband stealer! You know, the murderer!"
Judith's jaw tightened as she glared at Joyce. "Janet's not here! You know that!"
"Ah, still locked up in the nuthouse?" Joyce let out a thin laugh. "Honestly! I can't believe that that dolt of a father of yours managed to con the judge into letting the little brat off with only a slap on the wrist! Temporary insanity my eye! That little urchin knew damn well what she was doing when she clobbered Gordon on the head!"
"If all you want to do is rehash the past, then you can leave!" Judith quickly strode over to the front door and swung it open, hoping that her unwelcome visitor would take the hint. "I have no desire to deal with a part of our lives that's best left forgotten."
"Of course you don't want to remember." Joyce calmly and casually walked over to Judith, carefully pushed her out of the way, and slammed the door closed. "However, it's something that I've had to think about every day of my life! Because of you and that sister of yours, my life was completely destroyed!"
"Still prone to melodramatics, I see." Judith inhaled deeply and let out a heavy sigh. There would clearly be no getting rid of Joyce so easily.
"You listen to me," Joyce spat as she reached out and grabbed Judith's arm tightly, "I had the greatest life and the greatest marriage in the world until you and that tramp sister of yours came along! My Gordon was the sweetest and most loving husband I could have ever hoped for."
"And rich! Don't forget rich!" Judith smirked slightly. "That was the primary draw, wasn't it?"
"You don't know a damn thing about my marriage!"
"All I know is that Gordon Scott was a louse!" Judith pulled away and folded her arms securely across her chest. "And he's one of the worst mistakes I've ever made with my life!"
"You sure didn't think so when you were sleeping with him!"
"Joyce, dear, must you be so vulgar?" Judith began to slowly circle her rival. "You're allowing your gutter roots to show."
"You did your damnedest to take Gordon away from me but it didn't work!" Joyce paused and let out a bemused laugh. "But I guess that you weren't quite everything you were cracked up to be. He did throw you over for that sniveling little twit of a sister of yours."
"That's not what happened and you know it!" Judith's eyes blazed with fury. "I admit that I was rather stupid where Gordon was concerned. However, once I realized what a horrible human being he truly was, I sent him right back to you. He was just the kind of old letch that you deserved! Of course, you couldn't keep him in line so he had to find something better. Poor Janet was just too young and too naive to see him for what he was!"
"And you just had to do whatever you could to save her!"
"Yes, I did." Judith's voice softened slightly.
She had done everything in her power to convince Janet of Gordon's true colors. However, a history of animosity between the siblings resulted in Judith's warnings falling on deaf ears. Of course, the revelation that Judith, herself, had been involved in a tawdry affair with Gordon hadn't endeared Judith's opinion much, either.
"Did you know that Gordon had cut me out of his will?" Joyce questioned as she fought to maintain control of her anger. "Apparently, he did it right before he ran off with that nitwit. I still can't understand how she managed to convince him to run away and marry her! He was my husband!"
"She didn't know he was married!"
"Right," Joyce laughed sarcastically. "And the grass is green in Nebraska!"
"Look, I don't know what kind of fantasy of Gordon that you've got painted inside that empty head of yours, but it has nothing to do with the truth of how he really was." Judith clinched her teeth tightly. Why couldn't Joyce get it through her thick head how her late husband was? Why couldn't she see him for the horrible man who chased after pretty young girls behind his wife's back?
"My husband was a kind and loving man who was entirely too trusting! He fell for your charms and bought every smooth lie and compliment that you fed him! Once you'd used him for your cheep thrills and had thrown him over, he was left broken and vulnerable for that idiot sister of yours!"
"I can't believe this," Judith muttered as she buried her face in her hands and shook her head.
"When Gordon realized what an evil girl Janet was, he knew that he'd been a fool! He knew that he was making the biggest mistake of his life!" Joyce took several short, deep breaths as she fought back her emotions. "He loved me! Not her! She couldn't handle that so she killed him in cold blood!" She lifted a quivering hand up to her mouth as if the retelling of such horrible events was nearly too much to bear. "Only then did I completely understand the cold cunning that was hidden behind her simple facade. She convinced him to change his will! She convinced him to completely cut me out of his life!"
"Joyce, we went through all of this in court," Judith muttered as she began to grow even more tired of reliving the past. "Janet gave up her inheritance from Gordon as part of the deal with the judge. Look around you! Does it look like she needed his money? I would have thought that his estate would have gone to you. You were his wife!"
"Oh, that would be a natural assumption," Joyce murmured softly, "but, no! I tried to get reinstated in the will! I tried to fight for what was mine! But, no! The judge decided to let Gordon's foolish decision to cut me out of his will stand! All of that money went to his second beneficiary!" She paused and inhaled deeply as she clutched at her chest. "A home for wayward girls!"
"Well, that figures," Judith muttered dryly with a roll of her eyes.
"You find this funny, don't you? You find the devastation that you two have made of my life amusing!" Joyce felt her face flush with anger. "If it weren't for you two tramps, I wouldn't have been left with nothing! Do you hear me? Nothing! When Gordon died, I was left without one slug nickel! Only a few months after Gordon's death, I was thrown out onto the street! I lost everything because of you two whores!"
Suddenly, the heated exchange between Joyce and Judith was interrupted by the presence of a new player whose voice pierced through the shrill shouts.
"W-what's going on in here?" came the voice from the doorway.
"You!" Joyce spat as her eyes blazed as she pointed in the direction of the voice. "You're the one responsible!"
"Oh, dear lord," Judith gasped as she turned to follow the direction of Joyce's outstretched hand straight to the wide-eyed shock of her sister Janet.
Larry Rawlings propped his elbow on the edge of the table and carefully examined his notes. Taking a deep breath, he furrowed his brow slightly. There were just too many unanswered questions as far as Annabelle Lake's murder was concerned. The police had some good evidence on Reginald Callison---his presence at the scene of the crime while holding the murder weapon being the most important---yet all they'd done so far was arrest him for questioning. None of it made sense!
He took a lengthy sip of his coffee and turned the page in his notebook. There just had to be something he was missing. He'd found Reginald back at the scene of the crime and acting very nervous. Why? Why was he there? Larry was certain he was hiding something.
"More coffee, mister?" the waitress, Stella Wagner, asked as she stood at Larry's table.
"Yeah, fill 'er up," he muttered, never taking his eyes off of his notebook. "I have a feeling that I'm going to be up late."
As Stella poured the coffee, she casually glanced at the papers that were strewn across the table. A copy of The State Examiner with the headline "Police Still Quiet About Lake Murder" immediately caught her attention. Even more interesting for her was the numerous underlines through the article along with random notes jotted down in the margins.
"I see that you're fascinated by that murder, too," she finally spoke up as she craned her head to see what he was writing. "I've been following it in all the newspapers." She paused and scrunched up her nose. "Well, in The Examiner, at least. The Daily Post doesn't seem too interested in reporting too many details. I guess that's natural since the guy who runs the paper is a suspect in the murder."
"Well, The Post can act a little high and mighty," he grumbled, still not bothering to look at her as he spoke. "If you want the real story about what's going on, you've got to read The Examiner."
"Oh, that's what I think, too!" Stella exclaimed. "In fact, I read it every day so that I can see what's going on with the murder. I read that article there twice! I think that The Examiner is doing a great job covering the murder. The Post seems to think that it's not worth covering, but how can it not be? This town doesn't exactly have a very high crime rate. A murder's big news! I guess that The Examiner is the only paper we can rely on to print the truth."
"Well, thank you," Larry smiled broadly as he finally looked up at her. "You know, I wrote that article."
"You did?" she gasped with surprise. "You mean that you're a reporter?"
"Yes, I am," he nodded and took a sip of his freshly poured coffee. "In fact, the Lake murder is my exclusive story at The Examiner."
"Oh, gee!" She paused for a moment and bit her lip with giddy nervousness. "This is such an honor! You wanna know why I'm so fascinated by this murder?"
"Because I was there! Well, not exactly there in the room where that woman was murdered, but there in The Grand Sunset Room that night."
"Oh, really?" Larry eyed her closely as ideas for a new angle on the story started to churn inside his head.
"Yes! And, to be honest, I really don't think that that Callison guy did it."
"You don't?" His eyes grew wide and he leaned closer to her. "And why is that?"
"Because of that other woman."
"What other woman?" This was getting better by the minute!
Stella let out a long sigh and went into her story. "Well, you see, I pick up extra waitressing jobs to help pay the bills. I'm always working those big parties. Times are tough and a girl's gotta eat. Well, anyway, I was working at the party that night. Oh, I saw everybody! Everyone was there in their fancy dresses and monkey suits. I try to read all of those fashion magazines, so I know that all of those clothes must have cost a pretty penny."
"Um...yes..." He looked away for a moment and rolled his eyes. Was there really going to be a point to this story? Maybe he'd gotten his hopes up a little too high.
"Anyway, I know that it couldn't have been Reginald Callison that did it."
"And why is that?"
"Because of the other woman!" She looked at him in annoyance. "Weren't you listening?"
"Oh, yes. The other woman." He paused and took a deep breath. "What other woman?"
"I was working right by the lounge---you know, where the body was found---and I saw Reginald Callison go in. It must have been about the time of the murder. Well, actually, I know it was! I read about what time it supposedly happened in the paper. I remember the time exactly because it was about time for me to take my break and I was watching the clock. I'd been on my feet all day and I sure was tired..."
"About this other woman..." Larry spoke up, trying to keep her on topic.
"Oh! Oh, yes," she nodded, realizing that she still hadn't fully explained that. "You see, before Callison went in, there was this woman who I saw go on. She was in there for quite a while. I heard some horrible yelling---I was right by the door, so that's how I could hear over the music---and then it got real quiet. Then she just ran out! It was right after that when Callison went in. He was only in there a few minutes before that poor woman's daughter found him with her mother. Oh, that poor girl's scream! I can still hear it!"
"So you don't think Callison did it?"
"No! He couldn't have," she replied, seemingly confused as to why it wasn't all obvious to him. "He wasn't in there long enough. There wasn't enough time. It had to be that other woman!"
"I see." Larry leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin as he thought. Now, this was an interesting new piece of information. "Do you know who that other woman was? Would you be able to recognize her?"
"Well, I really didn't get a good look at her," Stella sighed. "All I really remember about her was that beautiful scarf she was wearing."
"Yeah! I might not be able to recognize her, but I sure would know that scarf anywhere! You see, I saw one just like it at Lerner's before Christmas and...."
"Yes, yes," he nodded, not really wanted to hear any more of that story.
"You know, I'm really surprised that I haven't read anything about what I saw in your paper," she spoke up curiously. "I mean, after I told everything to her daughter, I thought I'd at least get a visit from the police or I'd see my name in the paper, but nothing!"
"What do you mean that you told everything to her daughter?" She had his full attention again. "You mean Annabelle Lake's daughter? Stephanie Lake?"
"Yeah! That's her!" Stella nodded. "I waited on her in here one day. We started talking about her mother's death and I told her everything that I just told you. She was just as interested in what I saw as you are. I was sure that she'd go straight to the police with what I told her. You see, she doesn't think that Callison guy did it either."
"No! She thinks he's innocent!" She let out a bemused laugh. "I was sure that after I told her that I didn't think he did it either, she'd go running right to the police. You'd think that she'd want to make sure that they found out who killed her mother."
"Yeah, you'd think."
As Stella continued on with her rambling, Larry began to tune her out. He'd heard all that he felt he needed to hear from her and her amateur analysis of the murder---with its many detours---was growing increasingly uninteresting. However, the revelation that there had been someone else in the room with Annabelle Lake immediately before the body had been found was quite a scoop. Even more so, the fact that Stella could identify the woman because of what she was wearing was an intriguing piece of information. Surely, Stephanie Lake had gone straight to the police with the information. This just had to be further proof that they weren't being as forthcoming with the press as they were claiming. Also, the existence of the mystery woman only reinforced his growing suspicion that Reginald Callison was covering for someone. Now, the only question that remained was "who?"
THE DAILY POST - REGINALD'S OFFICE
"Hey, there you are," Trevor Callison said as he walked into the office. "Have you had a chance to look over that article that I put on your desk this morning?"
"Um...no, Trevor," Reginald Callison muttered as he walked behind his desk and sat down, "I've been in and out of the office all day and haven't had a chance to do much of anything. Maybe now that everything's finally set for the wedding, I'll be able to get some work done these next few days."
"And then it's off for the honeymoon!" Trevor laughed and then caught himself. "Oh...I, um, guess that you and Jillian won't be able to go anywhere, huh?"
"No," Reginald sighed with disappointment. "The police have politely 'asked' me not to leave town because of the investigation." He grumbled slightly and shook his head. "So much for giving Jillian the honeymoon that I wanted to."
"You can't even talk them into letting you go away for the weekend to the cottage in Davenport?"
"In their exact words 'I am not allowed to set foot outside of Albany County'." Reginald made another face. "I guess that Jillian and I will just have to spend our honeymoon in a suite at the Sunset Hotel. That's really not going to make for a special honeymoon since she used to live there."
"Well, the honeymoon is what you make out of it," Trevor laughed, "not where you spend it. Besides, I'm sure that the two of you won't be spending too much time out of the room, anyway."
"I guess you're right." Reginald couldn't help but smile in spite of himself.
Trevor took a long look at Reginald and sighed with worry. "I guess the police still aren't any closer to proving that you didn't kill Annabelle?"
"Look, I'm not talking about this with you and..."
"Reginald, you're not talking about this with anyone! Why?" Trevor eyed him curiously. "Why won't you at least say something in your defense? Mom and Dad are worried, Jillian's worried, Maggie's beside herself, I don't know what to think..."
"Trevor, why don't you just let me handle this, okay?" Reginald glanced up at him in annoyance. Why did everyone seem so persistent in their attempts to get him to explain something that was much better off left alone? Why couldn't they just trust his judgment?
"Well, if I thought you were handling it the right way, I would!"
"I said 'drop it'!" Reginald clinched his teeth tightly. Couldn't he understand that he was doing what was best for everyone?
"Reginald, I think that you know a lot more about what really happened that night than you've told anyone," Trevor stated flatly as he stared at him, "and I also think..."
"Um...excuse me," Artie Green, Daily Post photographer, muttered hesitantly as he rapped on the open doorframe, "I...I really don't mean to bother you, Mr. Callison, but..."
"No, Artie, it's no bother at all!" Reginald smiled as his vocal tone changed to a more plesant and professional one. Shooting Trevor another angry look, he rose from his seat and walked over to the door. "What can I help you with?"
"Well...I..." Artie glanced back and forth between Reginald and Trevor. He was certain that he'd interrupted something, but knew enough not to pry. "I was just wanting to know what you wanted to do with these extras pictures."
"Yeah, I took at least 3 or 4 rolls of film at that party." Artie handed the thick envelope to Reginald. "We only used a couple of them on the society page and a couple for that first story about the murder." Such that it was, but Artie knew that editorial decision weren't his business. "I've got all of these left over. What do you want me to do with them?"
"Burn them for all I care," Reginald grumbled as he slipped a few out and hurried thumbed through them. After a few moments, he paused and took a deep breath. The resulting tension surrounding the murder investigation was starting to get to him. He was beginning to snap at people like Artie, Trevor, and Jillian---people who really didn't deserve it. "Actually, just file them. You never know if we can use them later as a file picture."
"I thought that's what you'd say," Artie smiled and took the envelope back, "but I just wanted to check."
"Nope, sir. That's all I needed." And with a nod, Artie shoved the envelope back under his arm and headed out of the office. He would just file them away and let them collect dust. There wasn't a lot of use for a stack of pictures of a bunch of people all dressed up.
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
"You!" Joyce screamed again as her eyes blazed. "You're the one who destroyed my life!"
"I...I...didn't m-mean to," Janet stammered awkwardly as she slowly began to move away.
"Now, Joyce, there's no reason to act like this," Judith muttered as she threw up her hands and maneuvered her way between the women. "That was all a long time ago and it's something better left forgotten."
"Forgotten?" Joyce let out a surprised laugh. "Do you honestly think that I'm going to forget what you two have done to me? I thought that you said that she wasn't here? I thought you said that she was still locked up like she should be!"
"I...I never said anything like that." Judith quickly glanced in Janet's direction and saw the confusion and fear in her eyes. "And I don't know how you can think that we're responsible for whatever hardships you might have faced. Whatever Gordon did wasn't our fault!"
"Oh, and I guess that I'm supposed to believe that you two were mere innocents---two poor naive girls who fell under the spell of a dynamic and handsome man!" Joyce slowly stepped around Judith and approached Janet. "I supposed you'd like for me to believe that his death was his fault, too!"
"But I...I didn't..." Janet felt her bottom lip begin to quiver. "I didn't mean to do it! It was...an accident! I didn't...mean to...kill him!"
"And I guess that your having an affair with him was an accident, too? I guess that your sister having an affair with him was an accident!"
"W-what?" Janet turned to look at Judith curiously. "What is she talking about? What...what does she mean you had an affair with Gordon?"
"What in the devil is going on out here?" Burt Lamont asked as he rushed into the room and took Janet into his arms. "I step out for just a moment and come back to hear the start of World War II going on!"
"Well! I guess that the village idiot has found a new sucker to latch onto!" Joyce spat.
"Oh, Burt," Janet sobbed as her mind began to spin, "I...I..."
"Would you please tell me who the hell you are and what right you have to come in here and talk to them like that?" Burt questioned as he grew more and more angry.
"Who am I? Who am I?" Joyce clinched her teeth tightly as her hands balled up into fists. "I'll tell you who I am! I'm the wife of the man that she murdered!"
"Oh, god," Burt sighed, fully realizing the intensity of the situation.
"I'm the wife of the man that these two tramps slept with," Joyce continued without missing a beat.
"Judith, you...you..." Janet muttered as she turned to face her. "You and Gordon had... You and Gordon..."
"Janet, why are you acting like you're just finding out about this?" Judith asked softly as if she were trying to keep Joyce from overhearing. "You've known for a long time about my past with Gordon."
"But I..." Janet quickly glanced from Judith to Joyce and then to Burt. "But I didn't... I don't..."
Burt eyed Janet closely and quickly saw the look of confusion and pain that showed on her face.
"Janet, are you all right?" he asked with concern.
"I...I don't..." Janet muttered as her head began to spin and a searing pain pierced her temple. "I...I..."
"I won't let you do this! I won't let you ruin my life like you've always tried to ruin my life!"
"There's nothing you can do about it."
"Janet, what's wrong?" Burt questioned as he grabbed her by the shoulders in an attempt to get her too look at him. "Janet, are you okay?"
"I...I..." Janet muttered as her eyes glazed over.
"Isn't it obvious?" Joyce growled. "That little simpleton is just as loony as she ever was!"
"Janet?" Judith looked at her sister closely, unsure as to what was going on inside her head.
"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!"
And as those words echoed over and over inside her head, she screamed, tore out of Burt's arms, and ran out of the room.
TO BE CONTINUED
For Now and Forever
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