Chapter 37

A small dress shop was first in the line of shops along the promenade where Diane Jennings strolled. It made her smile and reminded her of the little ‘mom & pop' stores in her hometown. The shop was barely wide enough for more than two customers to browse at one time. And it probably had a small inventory several years old, Diane mused, looking at it from the sidewalk.

Mannequins in each of the three narrow display windows were outfitted in very beautiful, but quite different styles: a platinum satin jeweled jacket with matching skirt, a black bias-cut dress with spaghetti straps, and a stylish white chiffon cocktail dress with a fuschia strap. Diane peered at the labels at the foot of each mannequin. Pamela Dennis, Badgley Mischka, Christina Perrin . . . Okay, so this shop was definitely not like those at home!

Shaking her head ruefully, she continued down the quaint promenade. The next store was called Rubinsteins. It was slightly larger than the small dress shop, and filled with men's clothing.

Diane took a close look at the ties on display in one of the outer windows. Those that were brightly adorned with cartoons and designs grabbed her attention right away, but she quickly eliminated them from the possibilities. Such brilliant splashes of color would be far out of the norm for him. No, Justus Ward was just not the type to wear a tie covered with dancing chickens.

Ah, there. She saw just the perfect one. It was black, with a thin, discreet pattern of purple and silver just along one edge. It was somber enough to wear in the corporate boardrooms he frequented, but unique enough to signal his own individuality. That was the gift she would give him as a small token of her appreciation for all the kindness that he had shown her.

Rubinsteins. Just the sound of it was pricey, Diane thought. Still, she took another look at the tie she'd settled on and realized how nice it would look on Justus.

Back up the street there was an ATM machine. The small local bank she used at home did not have any branches in Port Charles, so Diane had managed by occasionally withdrawing small amounts of cash from her savings account. She really hadn't had to do so often. Justus had insisted upon her staying at his family's hotel free of charge. That included unlimited room service. She hated to think about the cost of her stay there thus far.

Punching in her account code, she withdrew one hundred dollars. Diane hoped that her gift to Justus would not cost anywhere near such a price, but since her arrival in Port Charles she had learned not to take anything for granted. Beside, this was a one-time spending spree. She would go back to being frugal with her savings once his gift was bought.

Absently Diane glanced down at the atm printout in her hand. What she saw there made her stumble and do a double take. Her account balance was now listed with a figure six-digits in length. Someone at the bank had made a major mistake!

Diane's heart began to pound. A mistake of that proportion could lead to significant confusion with her local banking authorities. She recalled the one time they'd sent her two Christmas Club checks. It had almost caused a national incident in her small hometown. A mistake of this size would probably bankrupt the city!

She looked around furtively before catching herself. What was she doing? It wasn't her fault that some poor teller had made the biggest mistake of his/her short career! All she could do was contact the bank before any more time passed.

But first she was going to go into Rubinsteins and buy Justus that tie.

Justus allowed his gaze to drift around the room to the board members present. Beside the Quartermaine clan, Sonny Corinthos, Jasper Jacks and Lee Baldwin were in attendance. In short it was the regular lineup of suspects, so to speak. Yet the regularly scheduled ELQ board meeting seemed different for some reason.

The silence that followed the recap of today's agenda regained his attention. Justus began to fill his briefcase with the legal papers he had strewn all over the desk before him. This was the point at which he made his departure from the meeting. All that was left was for the voting stockholders to discuss their ideas for the future direction of the company.

“Justus, my boy…” Edward's cheerful voice halted his progress. “Don't leave yet.”

Something in the tone of the old man's voice filled him with foreboding. Warily Justus placed his briefcase back onto the table. “Edward-”

“Patience, Justus, patience.” Edward Quartermaine addressed the other members of the board. “This announcement is merely a formality,” he began. “Effective as of this moment,” he paused long enough to scribble his signature to a document on the table before him, “my grandson Justus Ward is now a voting member of the ELQ board of directors, with all the shares and rights due him as a member of the Quartermaine family.”

Unlike the outcry which greeted Edward's announcement during the private family meeting, this one was met with silence. The members of the Quartermaine family seemed to have no reaction to the statement, except for Ned, who sat glowering at his grandfather's side.

“Congratulations, Justus.” Sonny gave a single nod to his former counselor.

Justus did not seem to hear him. His gaze was fixed upon his grandfather, who stood beaming paternally before him. “Why?”

Justus could see that Edward did not understand the question. “Why now? What has changed to make me deserving of something that should have been mine all along?”

Alan and Monica Quartermaine exchanged looks. Justus' reaction was not what they had expected. Frankly, they had assumed he would be speechless with gratitude.

“My paternity hasn't changed,” he said, “ so…? I ‘m curious. Just what brought on this great act of generosity on your part?”

“Don't accept the shares if Grandfather's gift offends you so,” Ned challenged sullenly.

Justus ignored his cousin as though he had not spoken. “I really want to know, Grandfather . Just what did I do?”

Lila's voice broke the silence that lingered after Justus' question. “We were wrong, my dear.” Her soft spoken admittance was enough to break the gaze Justus had locked onto his grandfather. “These shares should have been yours from the moment we realized you were a part of this family.” She beckoned him to her side. “I know that this all comes very late, but we are trying to make amends.”

Justus crouched down beside Lila's motorized wheelchair and took her hand. It felt warm, but frail within his much larger one, and he was filled with a fondness for this woman who had put up with Edward for so many years. “It means the world to me to hear you say that, Lila. Truly . . . But your acceptance of me has never been the problem. I felt as though you accepted me into your family even before you knew that I was Edward's grandson.” He gave a short, bitter laugh. “You had the least reason to accept me, and still you did. And I will always be grateful for that.” He gently released her hand and stood.

“But I owe you no gratitude for this.” Justus spoke to Edward as though no one else were in the room. “You hand me these shares as though they were some sort of prize for good behavior, as though I've passed some sort of test. I suppose your giving them to me is some sort of proof that I have earned the right to be your grandson. Well, no thanks. I'll pass.”

Diane shook the contents of her shopping bag onto the clear table. Wrapping paper, bows and scotch tape all slid noisily onto the smooth surface. The store had offered to gift-wrap the tie she had purchased, but Diane preferred to take care of that particular task herself.

The receipt for her purchase also slid from the bag and fluttered to the floor. As she picked it up, Diane was reminded of the need to get in touch with her bank at home.

She took a seat on the plush sofa, pulling her legs beneath her. While the operator made the connection, Diane removed her passbook from her purse and noted the account number. “Yes, hello,” she addressed the cheerful teller. “This is Diane Jennings and I need to correct a mistake in my account.” She rattled off the account number and then settled back to wait as she was put on hold.

Just what she needed, Diane grimaced, a bank with a sense of humor. Song after song played in her ear, each with a money theme. Pennies from Heaven, 3 Coins in the Fountain, We're in the Money, etc…

“Miss Jennings,” the teller's pert voice startled her, “we cannot seem to find any error with the particular account that you have referenced. Could you be more specific as to the nature of the problem you perceive?”

“More specific?!” Diane's voice rose several octaves. “My savings account is off by a quarter of a million dollars! Give or take a few cents,” she added a little sarcastically.

“Miss Jennings, there has been no mistake. As of the close of banking hours yesterday, the correct balance of your passbook savings account is two hundred eighty-three thousand, six hundred and fifty-six dollars.”

“Did you just hear yourself!”

The teller tried to calm the excited young woman down. “Perhaps you should speak with our manager,” she soothed. “I will transfer your call . . . Here he is.”

“Miss Jennings, Daniel Thomas here. I've been advised about your concerns, but I assure you that there has been no mistake. The balance you were quoted is correct.”

A sense of disbelief surrounded Diane as she tried once more to point out the absurdity of the situation. “Mr. Thomas, I work at the little tourist center on Magnolia Tree Lane. I assure you, there is no way I could have saved over a quarter of a million dollars!” She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. “ There has been a mistake .”

“According to the paperwork before me,” the sound of shuffling papers could be heard, “a cash deposit of two hundred fifty thousand dollars was wired directly into your account on the first of this month.”

“What! By whom?”

The bank manager hesitated. “The donor wished to remain anonymous. But you have my guarantee that this transaction was completely above board and legal.”

“I see.” Realization began to dawn as Diane slowly leaned back against the sofa cushions. “This could only be the work of one person.”

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*