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

 

EPISODE #154 (March 12, 2012)
Same Day
July 1936 – Afternoon
SPRINGHILL MANOR – LIBRARY

“Helga, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d like to be alone for a while,” Dane Manchester said to his housekeeper, Helga Grimm, as he stared at the mysterious envelope he held in his hands.  It had just arrived by messenger and his gut told him that it was something best opened in private.  “You can finish your work in here later.  Why don’t you go ahead and start on dinner?”

“Yes, Mr. Manchester,” she replied as she headed for the door.

“Oh, and Helga….”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Please close the doors behind you.”

After Helga had gone and the large wooden doors of the library were securely closed, Dane tore open the envelope and pulled out the contents for examination.  His gut instinct had been more than accurate.  Inside the envelope were a series of photographs – photographs of him and one Kitty Benedict, portraying them in very compromising situations.  Included with the photographs was a note –

“Some affairs are best kept private, don’t you think?  Instructions to follow…”

ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL – EMERGENCY ROOM

“D-Dr. Campbell, how… how is she?” Reginald Callison asked as he felt his heart doing flips inside his chest.  He, his sister-in-law Judith Linford, and close friend Lorraine Davis had been waiting for what had seemed like hours for news – any news – on the condition of his expectant wife, Jillian.

“Well, I have good news and I have bad news,” Dr. Talbot Campbell sighed.

“Oh, Talbot, how is she?  How’s Jillian?  Is she all right?  The… baby?”  Judith pushed past Reginald and grabbed the doctor’s harm, pleading with him for any small piece of information.

“Judith, dear, perhaps we should leave Dr. Campbell and Reginald alone so that they can talk.”  Lorraine carefully took Judith’s arm and tried to lead her away.

“No, it’s okay.”  Reginald motioned for Lorraine and Judith to remain and then returned his attention to Dr. Campbell.  “How are Jillian and the baby?  You said ‘good news’ and ‘bad news.’”

“First of all,” Talbot began to explain, “both your wife and the baby are all right.  The fall wasn’t that severe and, from the best that Dr. Hardy and I can determine, neither one of them have suffered any lasting trauma.”

“Oh, thank God,” Judith heaved a sigh of relief while she clung to Reginald’s arm for support.  “I can’t tell you how terrified I was.  After all, it’s so much like what….”  She paused, lowered her head, and swallowed hard as she became overcome by painful memories.  “It’s so much like what happened to me.”

“You heard Dr. Campbell.”  Reginald smiled at Judith and patted her hand.  “He said both Jillian and the baby were fine.  Everything’s going to be all right.”

“But… you said there was bad news, too,” Lorraine spoke up as she remembered the doctor’s earlier statements.  “Is there something else wrong?”

Talbot’s eyes landed on Judith before quickly moving to Reginald.

“To be honest, I’m not sure yet,” he sighed.  “Dr. Hardy has noticed some… irregularities in some of the tests he’s performed and he wants to keep Jillian in the hospital for a few days so that he can do some more tests.”

“Tests?  What kind of tests?”  The sense of relief that Reginald had felt was quickly slipping away from him.

“Reginald, there’s nothing to be alarmed about,” Talbot attempted to reassure.  “A lot of these tests are strictly routine, but….”

“Yes, Doctor?” Lorraine asked as she leaned closer, hanging on every word.

“By our preliminary findings, both Dr. Hardy and I feel that Jillian might be in for a rather difficult time with this baby.  I can’t be absolutely certain yet, but it could be very imperative that Jillian take things as easy as possible.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, Dr. Campbell,” Reginald spoke up with a tone of fierce determination.  “If I have anything to say about it, my wife won’t so much as lift a finger until this baby is born.”

THE STOKES MANSION – LIVING ROOM

“Will Patience be able to forgive Jean-Claude’s latest untruth or will she finally see his true colors?  And what about Naomi? Tune in tomorrow for another dramatic chapter of – The Trials of Prudence!  Here on WALB!”

As the organ music began to swell, Leticia Rutherford reached over from her chair and switched off the radio just as the telephone across the room began to ring.

“I don’t know why I ever let Francis talk me into listening to those programs,” she muttered to herself as she rose from her chair and walked over to answer the phone.  “Hello?”

“Leticia, dear, I hope you’ll forgive me for calling unexpectedly,” the familiar voice came from the other end of the line, “but I felt it was important that I talk to you at once.”

“Mark!  How good to hear from you,” she smiled, instantly recognizing the voice of her son-in-law, Mark Linford, “Judith isn’t here right now, though.  Surprisingly, she’s doing some volunteer work at the hospital and….”

“I’m not calling to talk to Judith, Leticia.  I don’t have much to say to her anyway and I’m fairly certain she has even less to say to me.”

“Mark, darling, I know things have been difficult since Judith lost the baby, but if you and Judith could simply talk through your problems, I’m sure you could….”

“Leticia, this isn’t a social call.  This is business.  You know that I appreciate how, despite the way things are between Judith and me, you’ve continued to let me handle your legal matters.”

“And why wouldn’t I?  You know I still think the world of you and you know how much I value your skills.”

“Yes, thank you, but….”   There was a distinctly uncomfortable pause on the line.  “I received a phone call earlier from your accountant, Mr. Crosley.  It seems that there have been several large withdrawals lately from your personal bank account – withdrawals that have been signed for by your husband.”

“Fred?” Leticia gasped, unable to believe her ears.  “Are you sure?”

“I went to Mr. Crosley’s office and double checked.  It turns out that since you and Fred got married, he’s been making tiny withdrawals from your account, a little at a time, a couple of times a week.  However, over the last few weeks the amount he’s been pulling out his greatly increased.”

“How much money are you talking about?”

“These last few withdrawals?  Several thousand dollars each.  Honestly, Leticia, why you ever set up a joint bank account with that man and gave him free access to your money….”

“He’s my husband, Mark.  I’m supposed to trust him.”  Or at least she thought she could trust him.

As the weight of the situation pressed down upon her, Leticia sat down in the chair next to the telephone table and began to consider the ramifications and implications of Mark’s information.  She wasn’t so lost in her own thoughts, however, that she didn’t hear the front door open and the all too familiar fall of footsteps on the marble tile in the foyer heading towards the living room.

“Leticia, what do you want me to do?” Mark asked after several long moments of uncomfortable silence on the line.  “What should I tell Mr. Crosley?”

“Don’t do anything right now,” she replied, looking up from her seated position at her husband who had just arrived home from his job at the hospital and was now standing right in front of her, “at least not until after I’ve had a chance to get some answers of my own.”

SPRINGHILL MANOR – LIBRARY

Dane sat in stunned silence, the incriminating photographs and ominous note still laid out in his lap, as his mind reeled from realization that he was being blackmailed.  Had it been a set-up all along?  Had Kitty used him as a mark in some grand extortion plot?  Before he could even begin to seriously analyze all of the possible theories, the voices of his wife and mother-in-law in the foyer brought him back to the situation at hand and the extremely awkward situation in which he would find himself if those photographs were ever seen.

Upon hearing the large wooden doors to the library slide open, Dane nearly leapt out of his chair, stuffing the envelope, photographs, and letters down into the space in the chair between the seat cushion and the arm rest in one swift motion.

“Well, I see you two are back already.”

“Trevor and I have a lot of the same ideas about Mr. Preston’s work,” Sara Manchester smiled as she went to her husband and kissed him on the cheek.  “To be honest, I would’ve been home even sooner if I hadn’t run into Momma at The Gardens.  She wanted me to go shopping with her and….” 

“Lerner’s is having a lovely sale,” Joyce Preston interrupted as she tossed her shopping bag down onto the sofa, “and since I can only afford to buy things on sale these days….”

“Mother, please.”  Sara felt her muscles begin to tighten.  The topic of money had become a very sensitive subject between the two of them lately.

“All right, all right,” Joyce sighed with a roll of her eyes before she turned her firm gaze towards Dane.  “Did anything exciting happen while we were out?”

“Exciting?”  Dane fidgeted anxiously as he fought the instinctive urge to glance in the direction of the envelope.  “No, nothing to speak of.  I’ve mostly just been sitting here reading the paper.  The Post says that the temperatures in some places could reach as high as 110° today.  From the way it looks outside, it could very well be that hot right now.”

Dane’s eyes moved from Joyce to Sara and back again.  He knew he had to find some way to get them out of the room so that he would have enough of a chance to hide the incriminating photographs someplace where neither one of them would be able to find them.

“I think I heard Helga mention something about preparing a cool, refreshing salad for dinner and, perhaps, some gazpacho.  We might want to check to see if….”

“You’re in an awfully big hurry for dinner all of a sudden, Dane.”  Joyce’s eyes filled with suspicion as she began to inspect her son-in-law’s demeanor thoroughly.  “Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to rush us out of here.”

Dane let out an awkward chuckle.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  All I’m saying is….”

“Dane, sweetheart, what’s this?”

Because his attention had become so focused on drawing Joyce’s attention away from any sort of suspicions she might have regarding his motives for ushering them out of the room, his own attention had been drawn away from his chair where he’d stuffed the envelope containing the incriminating photographs, giving an unwatched Sara an opportunity to find them.  As Dane turned to see what his wife was referring to, his eyes grew wide with panic when he saw the envelope in her hands.

“They’re… They’re nothing,” he quickly replied and snatched the envelope out of her grasp.  “Just some… notes and research one of the guys in my history class dropped off for a project we’re working on. “

“O-Oh…,” Sara stammered, slightly taken aback by reaction.  Although it did seem a tad extreme, she had no reason to doubt him.

“Mr. and Mrs. Manchester, Mrs. Preston,” Helga spoke up as she appeared in the doorway of the library.  “Dinner is ready.”

“Then I suggest we eat before the soup gets warm.”  Dane began to usher everyone out of the room and into the foyer before heading towards the stairs.  “I’ll just put these notes away before we sit down to eat.”

As Dane disappeared up the stairs, Sara couldn’t help but think that her husband was acting rather peculiar.  Meanwhile, Joyce struggled to hide a gleeful and self-satisfied grin.

JOHN HAYNE RAINEY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL – CENTRAL NURSES’ STATION

Dr. Calvin Jackson hurriedly signed his name to the bottom of a form before closing the file and setting it aside.  It was one of the last duties he had left to perform before starting his final rounds and leaving the hospital for the evening.  He was looking forward to a quiet night and dinner with Ruby Thomas, his steady girl.  Unfortunately, when he looked up from his paperwork, he saw his younger sister, Naomi Jackson, walking briskly towards him with her infant son, Aubrey, clutched in her arms.  The sight of his sister let him immediately know that dinner might need to be delayed.

“Naomi, what is it?” he asked as she approached him.  “Is it the baby?  Is he sick?”

“I ain’t here about Aubrey,” she snapped.  “I just gotta take him everywhere I go.  I came to talk to you.”

“So nothing’s wrong with him?”

“What did I just say?”  Naomi glared at her brother.  He always seemed to act like he was suspicious of her about something.  “I said he’s fine.  I came to talk to you.”

“Well… let’s go to my office where he can talk privately.”  Calvin picked up his files and tucked them under his arm before gently putting his free hand on Naomi’s back to lead her down the hallway.  “From the tone of your voice, this sounds important.”

“I believe it is.”  She shifted Aubrey’s weight in her arms as she followed Calvin into his office and waited for him to shut the door behind them.  “It’s about Ruby.” 

“Now, Naomi,” he sighed wearily, “I’ve told you time and again that I’m tired of you going out of your way badmouthing Ruby.  She’s only got your best interests at heart and….”

“I’m not here to badmouth Ruby!” Naomi snapped.  “Why do you always got to think the worst of me?  You and Mama both.”  She paused in order to take a moment to collect her thoughts.  “I’m actually here to… tell you that I might’ve been wrong about her.”

“Really?”  His eyes grew wide with a sense of shock and disbelief as he leaned back against the edge of his desk.  “May I ask you what’s brought on this sudden change in attitude?”

“Nothin’ really,” she muttered, unable to look him directly in the eye.  “I was just thinkin’ that maybe I haven’t really been fair to her.  I can tell you really like her and it’s pretty clear that ain’t gonna change whether I like her or not so… maybe I should give her another try.”

Calvin stood silent and carefully eyed his sister as he looked for any tell-tale sign – any non-verbal clue – about her sincerity.

“I shoulda known you’d think I was up to somethin’,” Naomi snapped.  “I don’t even know why I tried.  You and Mama’s the only family me this baby’s got and she’s off runnin’ around with Mary Albany.  All I wanted to do was….”

“All right, all right.”  Calvin waved his hands in the air as he tried to get her to calm down.  “I’m sorry if it seems like I don’t trust you.  It’s just that… you and Ruby have never exactly gotten along.  To be honest, I’d almost given up hope that you two ever would.”  He paused and rubbed the back of his neck.  Naomi’s unexpected visit was beginning to give him a headache.  “So… you really do want you and Ruby to get along?  You honestly want to try?”

“That’s what I said!”  Why did he always have to doubt every word she said?  “I know I ain’t given either one of you a reason to believe me.  I ain’t exactly been too pleasant to her.  Maybe we can just start over….  Dinner out together or somethin’?”

“I… don’t see where that would be a problem.”  Calvin paused again, eyeing his sister carefully once more.  “I think it would be a good idea for all of us to start over.” 

“Good,” Naomi smiled broadly.  “I promise you that the only thing I want is for Ruby and me to become the best of friends.”

THE STOKES MANSION – LIVING ROOM

“Who’s that on the phone?” Fred asked as watched his wife return the receiver to its cradle.  “From the look on your face, it looks like you just got some bad news.”

“Not really ‘bad’ news, exactly.  Just… confusing.”  Leticia rose from her chair by the telephone table and followed Fred into the living room where she watched him approach the bar and begin mixing himself a martini.  “Did you… have a good day at the hospital?”

“The hospital?”  He froze.  Although he was supposedly just arriving home from work, in truth he’d left early and had spent the past several hours in the company of one Nurse Donna Allison.  “I suppose you could say it was all right – just an ordinary day like any other.”  He swirled his martini around in the shaker before straining it out into a cocktail glass.  “You never told me who that was on the phone.  You said something about it being confusing?”

“Yes, I did,” she nodded as she began to anxiously wring her hands together while she watched his every move closely.  She walked farther into the room and approached the bar where Fred was standing.  “That was Mark on the telephone from New York.”  She paused and examined his face for any kind of reaction.  “He said that he’s been talking to Mr. Crosley, my accountant.  It seems like there’s a bit of a… discrepancy in funds.”

“A discrepancy?”

“Yes,” she continued without giving Fred much of a chance to either react or respond.  “From what Mark told me, there have been several large withdrawals from my – our – personal banking account in the last few weeks that total several thousand dollars – all made by you.  Would you care to explain that to me?”

A stunned and panicked Fred took a lengthy sip from his martini to give himself a chance to hurriedly fabricate a logical response and nearly choked on an olive in the process.

“I… um… c-can explain,” he stammered and coughed through a mixture of anxiety and olives.

“I’m waiting.”

“You see, I… um….”  Fred paused and exhaled slowly to calm himself.  “I admit I borrowed the money.”

“Borrowed?”

“Yes, darling, borrowed!  It was only meant to be a temporary loan.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I found myself in a bit of a… um… cash flow problem.  I… needed the money and I didn’t have enough on hand so I… um… borrowed it from our account.  I assure you that I had every intention of paying that money back.  Surely you don’t think that I would….”

“To be honest, Fred, I’m not sure what I think.”  Leticia walked past him and towards the large French doors that lead out onto the terrace overlooking the lake.  “I only put your name on that account because I trusted you.  You’re my husband, after all – I should be able to trust you, but….”

“You can trust me!”  He rushed up behind her and pulled her into his arms.  Unfortunately for him, she refused to be taken in by his charms and firmly pulled herself out of his grasp.  “Darling, I… love you.”

“You don’t steal from the people you love, Fred.”

“I didn’t steal from you!  I borrowed!  I told you that I only borrowed the money because I needed it.  I promise you that I was going to pay it back!”

Leticia continued to stare out the window at the lake.  She had to focus her eyes somewhere; she couldn’t bear the sight of him.  Even worse, she couldn’t bear for him to see the pain that must have clearly shown in her own eyes.

“Why did you need it?” she asked softly as she tried to make some sense out of the entire mess.  “For what reason did you feel the need to steal… I mean borrow… so much money from me?”

“It was for a… a surprise.  It was for… well….”  Fred’s voice trailed off as his mind began to race through every possible reason he could fabricate for taking the money.  And then….  “Just let me show you.  I… I wanted to wait and let this be a surprise but…  Just wait here and I’ll be right back and you’ll understand.”

Fred raced out of the living room, into the foyer, and up the stairs, leaving Leticia to silently worry and fret that every facet of her marriage had been little more than a sham.  How could she have been so blind?  How could everyone – especially Judith – been so right about….

“I… I told you I wanted this to be a surprise but….” Fred spoke up as he hurried back into the room carrying a small velvet box in his outstretched hand.  “Here.”

“W-what?”  Leticia’s eyes narrowed as they focused on the box while she tried to process what he was saying.  After several long moments, she took the box out of his hand and slowly opened it, revealing a beautiful and sparkling sapphire ring.  “Fred, I… I don’t understand.”

“I saw it in the widow of the jewelry store and knew I had to buy it for you,” he began weaving his story.  “I didn’t have enough money on my own all at once to purchase it so I… gradually borrowed money from our joint account so that I could get it for you as a token of my love and devotion.  I had every intention of paying all of the money back before our sixth month anniversary – when I was originally intending to give you the ring.”

“Oh, Fred, I…  I don’t know what to say.”

“Just say that you love it – and that you forgive me.”

Fred took Leticia into his arms as she held the ring up to the light to admire its beauty.  Maybe it was her willingness to overlook Fred’s faults or her deep need not to believe he was capable of such treachery, but if she’d really been looking at the ring with a clear mind, she should’ve been able to readily tell that while the ring was indeed valuable, it was in no way expensive enough to account for the full amount of money missing from their account.  Meanwhile, Fred heaved a sigh of relief that the crisis seemed to be averted and said a silent prayer of thanks that he’d seen fit to hold on to Annabelle Lake’s ring after Stephen Lake had thrown it back at him.

Even more fortunately for Fred, before his wife had a chance to question either the ring or him further, the telephone rang, interrupting the moment, soon followed by their housekeeper, Ruby Thomas, coming into the room.

“Mrs. Rutherford, it’s Mr. Reginald on the telephone,” Ruby announced as she stood in the doorway.  “He says it’s urgent.”

A perplexed and concerned Leticia quickly pulled herself out of Fred’s arms and hurried to take the phone call.

“Yes?” she said as she held the receiver up to her ear.  “The hospital?  But I….”  She exhaled slowly and sunk down into the chair beside the telephone table.  “I… I see.  How… is she?”  A pause.   “I… see.  We’ll be right there.”

“Leticia, darling, is everything all right?”  Seeing the distressed look on his wife’s face, Fred rushed to her side.  “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Jillian,” she replied, slowly rising from her chair.  “There’s been an accident.”

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

Reginald has a surprise for Jillian.

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

©2001- 2012 Classic Soap Productions