A Cup of Tea
Between seasons one and two...
By Gilmoradict
Send feedback to: 12nostalgia77 @ gmail.com (without the spaces)
"Well, let's see. Ah, we prevented a man from committing suicide, although trying to commit suicide actually saved his life." Mr. Steele cocked his head to one side as he thought about the weekend's events.

"And we broke into a bank," added Laura.

"And we helped to see that nearly two-and-a-half million dollars was properly destroyed."

"Come on, I'm serious!" Bernice exclaimed.

"Well, I'd like to elaborate, Miss Wolfe but right now," Mr. Steele said, placing an arm around Laura, "Miss Holt and I have a pressing conversation to complete."
"Well, should I even bother to make the coffee?" asked Bernice.

"Ah, no thanks. We'll be having 'tea'." Laura smiled up at Mr. Steele as she said this. "Bernice, I'll fill you in later. I should be back by early afternoon. Can you hold down the fort until then?"

"I guess I'll manage." Appraising the pair in front of her, a grin slowly spread over Bernice's face. "Go for it Laura. Don't worry about me....I've got a conversation to catch up on myself. It seems it was a productive weekend all around."
"Call Fred, if you would please, Miss Wolfe, and ask him to meet us in front of the Towers." Steele guided Laura through the office doors with his hand comfortably secured at her waist. Laura's eyes flirted with Steele's, her smile she wore the one usually reserved for her more private contemplations of her enigmatic 'superior'.
"Good morning Miss Holt, Mr. Steele." If Fred was surprised to find his employers leaving the office so early on Monday morning, still wearing what he would have described as their 'basic black' - and disheveled at that - he kept his observation to himself. Fred opened the door of the limo for Mr. Steele and Laura, who settled themselves, and again, not Fred's to notice, companionably close to one another. Mr. Steele and Miss Holt seemed in fact, rather oblivious to Fred's presence behind the wheel. "Excuse me Mr. Steele - where to?"
"Hi, Bernice," Laura sailed into the office several hours later. "Sorry to leave you hanging earlier."
"No skin off my nose, Laura. How was tea?" Bernice grinned lewdly at Laura.
Laura looked confused for a minute, then smiled sheepishly. "We both fell asleep before we got to tea - When Fred dropped me off at home Mr. Steele was fast asleep in the back of the limo. I couldn't very well have Fred drag him into my house, could I? As far as I know he fell into bed at home. Thought I had better get back to the lost fish."
"Ah, the distraught Mr. Cutler - he called earlier this morning to check on your progress. Was there any?"
"On the fish? No." Laura said laughing. "But I've got some thoughts. I'll get to work. Is Murphy in yet?"
"Um, I had the sense we shouldn't expect Murphy back today. What's with him and the blond? Want to fill me in?"
"She was something, Bernice - I think she surprised Murphy. Film student, psychologist, part time construction worker - you name it! Her name's Sheri - and she was incredible. We may need to put her on the payroll."
"Laura, I meant about her and Murph - it's the first time I've seen that look on his face NOT directed at YOU."
"Oh, I hope there's something there Bernice. You know I love Murphy, but...." Laura went to fill a mug with hot water and grab a tea bag.
"But it's our Mr. Steele rattles your teeth!" Bernice's eyes were sparkling.
"Well, maybe just a little."
"Common Laura, those eyes, that hair, the smile...not to mention the killer accent? There was a time I'd have had a go at him myself, but you're the one he uses all his 'smarm' on."
"Yeeaayaah." Laura breathed out slowly. "I'm pretty sure there's something there, but it seems either he's deliberately annoying the heck out of me, or I'm pushing him away, and then this morning - we fall asleep before we can move past flirting. Every time we get close, something always derails us."
"You just need to hold still, Laura, trust me, he'll come to you. He's as crazy about you as you as you are about him."
"I don't know Bernice. Crazy pretty much defines the whole thing. Anyway, I'd better check into who might want to snag some golden koi before both the fish and me end up in the frying pan. I've got to come up with something for Cutler. Call me if Murphy comes in. "
"Sounds like a plan. How about over dinner I tell you about MY weekend." Bernice's deep brown eyes sparkled coyly at Laura over the mug of coffee she held.
"Oh Bernice, I'm sorry - didn't even ask. Was the trombone player a boom or a bust?"
"Uh uh, I'll give the whole story later - with sound effects."
"That gives me something to look forward to." Laura closed the door to her office and picking up the Cutler file, began examining the possibilities. All business, she disciplined herself not to pick up the heart stopping photo of Mr. Steele that was hidden under a file in the top drawer of her desk.
"Hello!? Laura?" Mr. Steele's elegant voice echoed through the empty reception area of Remington Steele Investigations.
"In here Mr. Steele..." Laura hastily smoothed her cream colored blouse into the pleated trousers she wore, even as her toes sought the heels that had been kicked under her desk hours ago. The door swung open.

"I can't believe you're here burning the midnight oil! What happened to our tea and conversation Miss Holt!?"
"I think the moment was abandoned in favor of sleep - and I did need to get back to Mr. Cutler's matter. The missing koi, remember?"
'Yes, but Laura, what about dinner? Surely even you need sustenance - come, I have a reservation in 30 minutes at Andres."
"Sorry, but Bernice brought take-out back here. We caught up on her weekend while we ate. She met a jazz saxophonist down the street at the J club Friday night, and went back Saturday for another set. I think Sunday's was a private performance. Almost as interesting as Murphy and Sheri - Murphy never made it back here today either by the way." Steele listened to this recitation with a bemused expression on his face.
"Ahh, Miss Holt, Murphy and I find ourselves once more on the same page, taking a much needed break, while you, conscientious to a fault, are working as usual. Did you get any sleep this morning?" Steele walked next to where Laura was putting papers into a file folder and reaching out to Laura, used a gentle thumb to caress the smudge under one of her eyes.
"Just on the limo ride," Laura moved away from Steele's hand imperceptibly. " But I'm almost done now. I think I have a couple of leads to pursue tomorrow."
"Of course you do. And tonight?"
"I really need to catch up on things at home." Lack of sleep was beginning to fog Laura's brain, and she felt entirely unprepared to parry with Mr. Steele.
"If you won't join me for dinner at least allow Fred and I to delver you safely home, Miss Holt. I promise to be a perfect gentleman."
"I don't want to leave the Rabbit here Mr. Steele - I'm completely capable of driving home. I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing. Please don't let me make you miss your dinner reservation. Maybe you can find someone else to join you. How about the girl from the parking garage - Karen?"
"Afraid she's not my type. Tell you what, I'll drive you home in your car, let Fred go, and take a cab back to my place. Come now Miss Holt, no arguments for once. Just let me call Fred..." Taking the file from Laura, and depositing it into her brief case, Steele dialed the limo before the slightly flustered Miss Holt could protest. Steering her by her elbow to the door, Steele turned and locked the agency door behind them, and hit the button for the elevator.
"Mr. Steele, not that I don't think your motives are pure, but do you mind telling me what you're really after here? You could have called at anytime today to make plans for dinner, and I don't recall getting that phone call."
"Ah Miss Holt, perhaps you have forgotten, but our activities this weekend kept us sleepless for nearly 48 hours. Finding myself alone this morning, I determined I would continue the pleasant dreams begun on our shared ride home. I had hoped you were doing the same in your own bed. I actually did attempt to call, but you failed to answer at home, and when I called here I got only the machine." Steele's jaw flexed as he spoke to Laura, an edge of irritation sneaking into his voice. 'What had happened to the rapport they had share last night as they sat buried in millions of shredded dollars? Why did things always seem to be difficult with this woman?'
"Oh - it must have been after Bernice left. I guess I don't even hear the phone when I'm concentrating on work; besides, it isn't a great idea to let people know I'm here late." Stepping into the elevator ahead of Steele, Laura held her brief case in front of her with both arms, closing her eyes for a moment in an effort to clear her head. 'What had happened to the pleasant expectations they had left the office with this morning? Why did things always seem difficult with this man?'
A glance at the fatigue evident on Laura's face dissipated Steele's frustration. He softened his voice. "Home it shall be. I want you to arrive there safely so we can spar another day. Last night held more than its share of excitement, eh Miss Holt?"
"Thank you, Mr. Steele. Home sounds good just now. We all have limits, and I think I have reached mine."
"Pursuing fish shouldn't involve dangling from great heights, or rolling in millions of dollars, but when we work together we always manage some kind of thrill.. Perhaps you will give me a rain check on this morning's missed tea and conversation Miss Holt?"
"I would like that Mr. Steele." Laura offered with a tired smile.

"So, about that conversation our schedule didn't allow time to explore."
"And that we later fell asleep and missed?" Laura smiled without looking at Steele, her eyes trained on the back door of a small light industrial site just off Grand.
"Hmm." Steele allowed his shoulder to lean into Laura's, his pulse quickening as he made even this subtle contact. "Our line of work - if I can be presumptuous enough to include myself in that - is fraught with risks, never know what moment might be our last. Each minute we spend together must be lived to the fullest."
Laura sobered a bit at this line of reasoning, the familiar pucker appearing above her right brow. "No one said you have to stick around Mr. Steele. It isn't my intention to place you at any risk you might prefer not to take."
"Laura." Steele slipped an arm around her slender frame. "Surely you remember that I relish a challenge. Risk has been my middle name whatever the rest of the moniker. Can't imagine anyone I'd rather take a chance on than a certain brown eyed, freckle faced, Los Angeles detective! One who happens to be within kissing distance just about now..."
Placing his free hand under Laura's lowered chin to turn her face toward his, Steele bent in to claim the lips that had tortured his dreams for months. Laura suddenly jerked her head back toward the door of the building they were watching.
"Mr. Steele! Look! I think those are fish on the move." An plain black truck cut it's lights as it drove into the dark drive. Swinging around to back up to the now open door, the driver jumped out to help maneuver a low wheeled cargo cart into place behind the truck's rear doors. On the cart was a large container, clearly heavy based on the effort it was taking two men to load it into the truck. A second container laboriously followed the first, and when the men headed inside once more Laura sprang to her feet. "Come on, Mr. Steele...let's see what's in those tubs."
"But..." Since Laura was already half way to the truck, Steele sprang to follow. By the time he was able to catch up to her, Laura had slipped into the truck, just as another container was pushed to the opening, slid heavily in, and the doors slammed to.
"That's it, Mitch. Safely aboard. Drive carefully - that's a quarter million riding in those tanks. See you in Ventura later tonight." The driver climbed back into cab of the truck, while the other man turned to the building to lock the door. Steele was caught in the open, his only cover the truck itself. As it began to pull away from the building Steele sprinted along the far side, and then in a move born of desperation, sprang cat like to grab the top of the truck, bracing his feet above the wheel well. Seeing the second man turn to walk around the corner, Steele worked his way to the rear of the truck, gaining purchase on the bumper, as he carefully opened the door. With a final superb effort Steele thrust himself against the momentum of the vehicle and landed in the back, sprawled on top of one of the containers that had been stowed inside. He turned to grab the door and quietly pull it shut, just as the truck began to gain speed.
"How nice of you to join me, Mr. Steele. Still in the mood for risks I see." Laura grinned sheepishly at the panting Mr. Steele.
"Couldn't very well leave you alone to face the outcome, could I?" Mr. Steele hissed with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Do you have any idea where we're going?"
"Help me open one of these containers." Laura whispered without answering Steele's question.
"Well, a successful fishing adventure Miss Holt." Steele acknowledged looking at several large multi colored carp swimming nervously around the sloshing water. Steele cringed and drew back as water splashed out on his clothes. "Mr. Cutler's codfish - if these are indeed his, have no manners whatsoever."
"Carp, or koi if you prefer, Mr. Steele. I imagine they're frightened by all the motion. Let's get the lid back on. Come sit over here where it's dry, and help me come up with a plan for when the truck stops. I think we're headed to Ventura - there's an exotic fish breeders convention there this weekend. If the thieves can sell the fish at the convention, there won't be any way to trace them back to Mr. Cutler and these two will have turned a pretty fair profit on some overgrown goldfish."
"I believe I heard them mention Ventura, Miss Holt." Steele plucked his wet trousers away from his leg, trying to ignore the fishy odor he had acquired. "Did you ever consider following these fish nappers from the safety of the Rabbit? Are you even certain these are Mr. Cutler's cod?"
"The man who owns the building where these fish were stored once worked for Mr. Cutler. Cutler fired him because of a disagreement over bookkeeping. Mr. Jenkins tried to sue Cutler for breach of contract, but there wasn't any real basis for the lawsuit, and it was dismissed. He's out an overpaid job, a lost bonus, and the money he spent on the law suit. Pretty good motive for fish theft, considering the value of the cod...I mean koi."
"Any idea what sort of fellows we're dealing with? How are they going to feel about a couple of uninvited guests riding with the fishes?"
"I'm counting on the Duke of Deception to come up with a distraction, so that we can get some proof that these two stole several dozen carp from our client Mr Cutler. Come up with anything yet?"
"This is definitely not the conversation I had hoped we'd be having just about now, Miss Holt." Steele said sadly. "I wish you had been a bit less zealous."
"Look on the bright side, Mr. Steele. It's at least an hour until we reach Ventura. We've got plenty of time to come up with a plan." Laura leaned in to place an apologetic kiss on Steele's cheek. "Think of yourself as "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," starring Don Knotts, 1965 or thereabouts. Maybe you'll be our secret weapon."
"I don't even want to ask what kind of movies you were watching in 1965 Laura. I'm feeling slightly queasy just now as it is."
"Bear up Mr. Steele. Once we reel in our fish-nappers there's a cup of tea with your name on it waiting for you. In the meantime, would you like to hear about Bernice and her saxophone player?"
"Hey Bernice - where's Laura? I've got some info on that guy she wanted me to check out - not exactly a model citizen." Murphy was reading the file as he spoke.
"She took Skeeziks on a stake out last night - neither one has come in or called in this morning." Bernice was tapping out a soulful rhythm with one foot, and crooning a wordless melody, all while applying deep red polish to her nails. She glanced up surreptitiously at Murphy to gauge his reaction to the information she had just shared.
"She'd tracked this guy to a building on Grand - that where they went?" Murphy looked worried.

"I seem to remember something like that. You think they could really be in trouble?"
"I wouldn't rule it out. Not that I don't have the highest regards for Laura's abilities, but she takes more chances than I would, and this guy has a a couple of weapons charges, along with extortion and petty theft, none of which Laura knows about. I don't think Steele's charm is going to be much help on this one. Call Laura's house, and Steele's apartment too - make sure they're not either place." Murphy's jaw tightened a little as he made the request, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Bernice.
"You still care about her, don't you Murph."
"I'll always care about Laura Bernice. She's very special to me, even if I don't agree with all of her decisions. She's got incredible instincts about people too - with a few notable exceptions. It's what makes her so good at what we do. I'm just more comfortable when we work as a team - that's all."
"The team seems to have added some new players lately." Bernice set her nail polish aside and held both hands aloft as she waited for Murphy's response.
"Huh? Uhh, yeah, well, I think I'll try to find Laura and give her this stuff. Make those calls Bernice, while I grab an address."
"You know they might not be answering the phone...."
"Laura's not that irresponsible Bernice - now call!" Murphy's voice carried from his office as he scrambled through the yellow pages.
"So much for my powers of persuasion." Steele said ruefully, rubbing the knuckles of his right hand. "We don't appear to have slowed our fish nappers down much, but at least we're not guests in their rather smelly accommodations any more."
Laura giggled quietly. "That was an epic blow, Mr. Steele; it did the job. I can't imagine why they didn't buy your story about needing a ride to the convention. You sounded like a fish lover to me. Of course we still don't have any real proof that the fish are Mr. Cutler's. We're just miles from home, and no farther along on the case."
"What do you say to a trip to the beach Miss Holt? Chuck the case, purchase some beach wear and..."
"That's it Mr. Steele! Brilliant!"
"Why do I have the feeling we have different thoughts in mind?"
"Come on - we'll become fish aficionados - disguise our appearance so they won't recognize us, and fly beneath the radar just like Mr. Limpet! We'll ask for information about their fish, and gather enough details to trap them in their own fish tales."
"Oh, back to the fish movie are we? Really Laura, is that the best you can come up with?" Steele protested as Laura dragged him away from where they had been watching the koi's new keepers setting up their display.
Steele had to admit that Laura made a pretty convincing flower child. Dampening her hair, and fluffing it dry created a halo of loose curls. Wire-rim colored glasses, jeans from a resale shop and a scarf halter top were the perfect finishing details. He found himself wondering if a free love attitude went along with the disguise. Glancing down at his own get up his good humor slipped a bit. "Don't you want me by your side, Laura, helping to pump these two felons?"
Laura smiled. "They'd recognize your accent in a second, Mr. Steele. As a janitor, pushing a broom, you can hover close by, and keep an ear and an eye on things. This way you'll be there if I need you, without arousing suspicion. O.K. Show time! " Laura wandered casually up to where Mitch Jenkins was displaying Cutler's carp.
"Wow...those fish are so psychedelic. They'd look great in my place. Have you raised them since they were little?" Laura's voice was breathless and slow, she smiled sleepily as she spoke.
"I don't think you'd be interested, Doll. These fish go for more money than you've got beads." Jenkins said derisively.
"Oh...Daddy will pay for them. He almost always gives me everything I want - he tries to make up for being gone so much on his business trips." Laura continued to press Jenkins for information about the fish as Steele hovered as close as he could, sweeping the same area of the floor with an exaggerated attention to detail. "How do you get the pretty colors in the fish?"
"These are prize winning koi, Honey. They've been bred for generations to get these colors."
"Ohhh - look ! He's swimming up to my fingers! He likes me! Do these fish have pedigrees like dogs?"
"Yeah but I don't think you'd be interested in that kind of information..." Mitch was bored with Laura's questions.
"Where did they come from?" Laura continued dreamily.
"These came from Los Angeles...just brought them up yesterday for the convention."
"How do they travel?"
"In buses and they wear seat belts....listen Doll, do you want the pretty fish or not?" Jenkins was starring at Steele, and rubbing his bruised chin as he did. "Hey, you..."
"No comprender..." Steele began to sweep his way away from Jenkins, who swung his gaze to Laura.
"You're the other stowaway - what are you two trying to pull?" Jenkins grabbed Laura's wrist only to have Steele turn and shove his broom at Jenkins feet, knocking him off balance.
"Shall we, Miss Holt?" Steele pulled Laura's arm away from the teetering Jenkins, only to turn and run full tilt into Mr. Cutler, who was standing with Murphy in the aisle next to Jenkins' display.
"Mr. Cutler arrived at the office just when I was leaving to come check out this fish pow wow...." Murphy relayed quickly to Laura as she helped Mr. Cutler to his feet, "I assured him you were hot on the trail."
"Wonderful work, Steele, you found them!" Culter exclaimed. "Jenkins, I should have known it was you. This time you won't get off so easily."
Murphy grabbed Jenkins and twisted his arm behind his back, just as Steele spotted his accomplice staring at them from a short distance away. Steele and Laura sprinted towards the driver of the fish-napping truck. Steele leaped, tackling him near a display of aquatic plants. A tank tipped pouring water and plants over Mr. Steele and the driver. Laura skidded to a stop at the edge of the puddle.
"Great work, Mr. Steele - the wet look works for you." Laura couldn't resist laughing at a sputtering Steele.
"And I thought finding fish would have fewer thrills than our last case."
Murphy came up with Jenkins in tow, observing, "I told you, Laura, there's something fishy about that guy."
"Mmmm. That's incredible. I could sit here and listen to this all day." Laura's eyes were closed, listening to the taped velvet smooth saxophone tones rolling across her patio. Bernice sat near her with an even more deeply contented expression on her face.
"And the music is only the beginning of his talents." Bernice grinned as she swallowed a mouthful of ice cold beer.

"Bernice you are sinful." Laura smiled back, without opening her eyes. She was still catching up after too many missed nights of sleep over the past several days, but she was relaxed and content in the warm darkness of the evening and the soothing sounds of the music. The remains of dinner were on a plate next to her chair; the scent of the charcoal over which Steele and Murphy had argued over how to grill chicken and hamburger left a pleasant tang in the air.
"He's the real deal, Laura. I don't know how I know that, but there's no question in my mind. It's the most amazing feeling I've ever had in my life."
"Like you almost can't breath when he looks at you?" Laura sighed serenely, lost in her own thoughts, then shook her head slightly, and turned to look at her friend. "We've got it bad, girl. What happened to us?"
"Whatever it is, I hope it keeps on happening. I would follow that man anywhere, just to keep hearing that music." Bernice's eyes smoldered as she looked across the yard at the tall, slender man whose eyes were locked on her. As he watched Bernice, the musician exchanged occasional remarks with a petite blond. "Sheri really is amazing Laura. How could someone who's so capable be so ordinary, and well, nice?"
"She is, isn't she? Did you know she skis too? She's so perfect for Murphy."
"Is that wishful thinking, Laura?"
"Well, a girl CAN wish. He seems to like her Bernice. We haven't exactly had a conversation about it. I want Murphy to be happy."
"And to stop following you around with those puppy dog eyes?"
"Hush, Bernice...he'll hear you." Murphy and Steele were glancing over at Laura as they engaged in a somewhat antagonistic if hushed conversation. "What do you suppose they're arguing about now?"
"You." Bernice laughed, as she rose, and picked up her own plate as well as Laura's. "I need another beer. How about you?"
"Sure, Bernice, thanks." Laura slid further down in the chaise lounge she was sitting in, and eyes closed, lost herself in the music. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Scoot up, so you can lean back on me." Steele gracefully slipped a long leg across the chair, sliding in behind Laura. He pulled her back against his chest, wrapping his arms loosely around her. Her head rested next to his. "This is nice, isn't it? Good friends, good music, good food?"
"It is nice." Those little words didn't begin to express how good Laura felt at this moment, but perhaps words weren't all that important just now. When Bernice returned with two cold beer, she veered toward Chaz, her saxophonist, rather than intrude on Steele and Laura, but truthfully, Laura wouldn't have cared. They were all part of this moment: Bernice and her beau, Murphy and the wonderful Sheri, as well as her Mr. Steele. An eclectic collection of characters, who had somehow come together in a perfect night. Wordlessly, Laura loved them all. She shivered.
"Cold?" Steele pulled her a little closer in his arms.
"No, just completely happy."
"Bodes well for our future?"
"This may surprise you, Mr. Steele, but I'm enjoying tonight too much to think about the future."
"Why, Laura, that's a seminal admission on your part. Just enjoying the night and the music?"
"Mmmm." Was all Laura could muster in reply.
"Hey, Partner." Murphy grunted dropping into the chair next to Laura and Steele. "I think Sheri and I are gonna take off. Great barbecue - at least the burgers. Your salad was good too, Laura."
"Aww, do you have to go so soon?" Laura sat up, and reached across to put her hand on top of Murphy's."Thanks for following us up to Ventura. You and Mr. Cutler had perfect timing."
"We've always made a great team Laura." Murphy looked down at the beer in his hands, just as Sheri walked up.
"Hey you two, the evening was perfect. You have a great backyard Laura." Sheri smiled down at Murphy. "We're heading over to Santa Monica for some rappelling tomorrow, so we want to make it an early evening, but everything was great."
"Rappelling? Sheri, you are an amazing woman!" Steele said with awe.
"She is." Murphy acknowledged standing up to take Sheri's hand. He grinned, adding. "See you Monday, if I survive."
"Hey guys - we're going to follow Murphy and Sheri out. Thanks for a great night." Bernice said with a warm smile.
"It was good." Laura stood to hug Bernice. Taking Chaz' hand she said "Thanks for the tape of your music. It's wonderful. I plan to catch one of your sets soon."
Steele stood to shake Chaz' hand as well, and he and Laura walked the two couples to the street and their waiting cars.
"And now, Miss Holt?" Steele pulled Laura close to his side as they watched their co-workers drive away. Out of nowhere Laura's cat Nero appeared and began to twine around their ankles.
Bending down to scoop Nero up in her arms Laura buried her face in his sleek coat and said softly "Let's have that tea, Mr. Steele."
The End

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