Mildred Krebs hurried through the open office door with a worried frown. "Whoa, hon, what are you talking about?"
Laura fanned out the credit card receipts. "THESE!" she said, tossing them into the air. "Hes impossible! I dont care how many times I remind him that were to go over all expenditures beforehand, he doesnt LISTEN! And its gotten WORSE since we got back from Ireland!"
Mildred picked up the slips of paper. "Mrs. Steele- it cant be that bad."
Laura grabbed a slip. "THREE new tailored suits- that he doesnt need. The mans got two closets FULL of suits! Diamond CUFFLINKS, for Gods sake! And this one- THIS one is the last straw!" she said, waving it in front of Mildreds nose. "A downpayment for a helicopter! A HELICOPTER, Mildred! Not to mention all the roses and jewelry hes bought me over the last month and a half!" She tossed the neatly stacked slips into the air again. "Its GOT to stop, Mildred. But Im afraid that Ive lost control of the situation."
Mildred watched her for a moment, trying to make up her mind about something. "Mr. Steeles gonna kill me for this, but theres something I think you need to see, Hon."
Laura looked up, her expression glum. "What? More evidence of embezzlement?"
"Depends on how you look at it," Mildred said. "Come here." She led Laura back into the reception area, then sat down at the computer.
"Mildred, WHAT are you trying to tell me? That you have proof that Remington has been stealing money from the Agency?"
"Not stealing, exactly, Mrs. Steele," Mildred said as her fingers flew over the keyboard. "More like borrowing."
"Theres a very fine line there, Mildred, and I think he's crossed it."
"Right after I started here, you asked me to get the Agencys finances in shape, remember?"
"Well, I found several large expenditures beginning about the time Mr. Steele- well, BECAME Mr. Steele."
"I know all about those, Mildred. Theyre the reason I cancelled his credit the first time."
"The first really big one was on a race horse," Mildred explained.
"Dannys Dessert," Laura recalled with a sour expression. "I remember. Something about a consortium to turn the horse out to stud or something. I didnt know hed gone through with that. Probably lost his shirt is why he never mentioned it," she was saying as the printer attached to the computer began to work. "What I dont understand is how he covered it up."
"He didnt. He payed it back," Mildred told her, tearing off the first part of the printout. "Every penny, WITH interest."
"What?" Laura asked, blinking as she looked from the smiling receptionist to the figures on the paper before her.
Mildred nodded. "Every time he borrowed money from the agency, hed pay it back at the current rate of interest."
"Whats he been DOING with all that money?" Laura questioned, looking more closely at the figures.
"All kinds of things. And theyre all legit. Nothing even remotely shady or illegal. Hes a real whiz at knowing a good investment, Mrs. Steele. Best Ive ever seen."
"Then- his investments have been- paying off?"
"Big time. You wouldnt believe how well hes doing."
Laura had a bad taste in her mouth. "Whats the bottom line, Mildred? How much has he made from these- investments?" It couldnt be more than a few hundred, Laura told herself. At most a couple of thousand. Mildred tore the final paper from the printer as it finished and handed it to her. Aware that Mildred was watching her closely, Lauras eyes moved to the last figure, automatically counting the places. "Seven figures?" She felt a bit light headed, and sat down on the edge of Mildreds desk. "Seven figures?" She shook her head as a thought struck her. "Hes worth that much money and was STILL using agency funds?" Forget the fact that he hadnt bothered to tell her about this. That he was still letting her think that he was letting her "keep" him. "Why that-."
Mildred laughed. "Mrs. Steele, hes not using Agency funds."
"Hes not? Then how do you explain those credit card receipts, Mildred?" Laura asked, pointing toward her office.
"Thats just a - cover, Hon. So you wont get suspicious." Mildred sat back down at the computer and brought up a screen. "See this charge? That was the ring he bought you when you and he got back from Ireland."
"Yes, and its on the Agencys account," Laura pointed out.
Mildreds finger moved to a deposit in the exact amount of the rings cost. "He transferred that amount back into the Agencys account that day."
"He did?" She felt light headed again.
"Every time the Agency pays rent on the condo, or for his suits or anything, he repays it from his personal account."
"Everything?" Laura asked in a weak voice.
"Everything. And a portion of what hes getting from the hotel at Ashford is being diverted to the Agency account as well," Mildred told her.
"I dindt know he was getting ANYthing from the Castle."
"He retained ten percent of the profits. The other ninety percent is divided between Mickeline and the others."
"Are you all right, Hon?" Mildred asked. "Mr. Steele didnt want you to know. Said hed tell you when the time was right."
But Laura wasnt listening. Seven figures. He was supporting himself, really. He didnt need to continue the pretense of being Remington Steele. But he was still here. He could be anywhere else in the world, living a life of luxury, never having to worry about being shot at, or chased. But he was still here.
The doors opened, and Remington entered the office. "Hello, ladies," he said with a bright smile that faded when he saw Mildreds worried expression and an expression that he couldnt quite read on Lauras face. "Have I done something wrong?"
Laura blinked, then held out the printout that Mildred had given her. "Ill be in your office," she told him, wandering in that direction as he glanced at the figures.
His eyes widened as he realized what they meant. "Mildred, I thought we agreed-," he began.
"Sorry, Chief. I didnt have any choice. She was threatening to cut off your credit. She got to the mail before I did this morning and opened the credit card statement. Did you really buy a helicopter?"
He grinned at her, like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "How much does she know?" he asked with a nervous glance at the door to his office.
"I had to tell her everything," Mildred confessed. "Im sorry, Mr. Steele. I didnt know what else to do."
"I guess she had to find out sometime," he said, patting her arm gently. "Guess Id better go in there and face the music, eh?"
"Want a hat to toss if first?" Mildred asked.
"Thanks anyway." He crossed warily toward his office, peering around the doorframe in an attempt to make certain of Lauras location. These last weeks since their return from Ireland had been both wonderful and troubling. Wonderful because he and Laura were finally together physically. But on a deeper level, he was troubled by her continued distrust of him, her fear that she was going to look up one day and hed be gone. She refused to give up the loft, although she had moved most of her things into the larger apartment theyd taken in the same building.
Hed known for some time that she wasnt going to be pleased when she learned that hed used Agency funds to build a tidy little nest egg for them. So hed continually put off telling her the truth, instead simply repaying the Agency for the loans and any other funds it paid out to him.
She was standing by the window, looking out, and he moved cautiously to join her, his hands in his pockets. "I guess the helicopter was a bit much," he admitted slowly.
"Yes. Yes, I guess so," she agreed absently. "Why didnt you tell me?" she asked.
"I wanted to surprise you? Honestly, Laura, I never meant for it to go this long. It just took on a life of its own. I made a small investment here, another there, and before I knew it-," he looked at her. "Can you forgive me?"
"Forgive you? Dont you realize that you dont even NEED the Agency or Remington Steele anymore? You could go anywhere, do anything-," her voice trailed off.
Remington realized why she seemed upset. She was afraid. "But Im here, Laura. And all the money in the world isnt going to change one simple fact." He lifted her chin with a finger. "Would you like to know what that fact is?" She looked up at him, those dark eyes filled with worry. "That I love you."
"What did you say?" she asked.
"That I love you," he repeated, feeling easier with the words now that they had finally been spoken aloud. Hed showered her with gifts, flowers, tokens of his love, but none of them had brought that light into her eyes that those three words had. "That money wasnt just for me, Laura. It was for both of us. A little nest egg-."
"Nest egg?" she questioned. "For an ostrich, maybe."
He grinned. "So Im forgiven?"
Lauras smile was a bright as the sunshine outside as she nodded and went into his arms. "I love you, too, you know."
"Thank goodness for that. Id feel a total fool if youd said you didnt," he teased gently, as his lips met hers. When they came apart, he looked down at her. "So, can I keep the helicopter?" he asked hopefully.
Lauras soft laughter filled the room.
In the reception area, Mildred Krebs returned to her chair upon hearing that sound, smiling as she picked up the rest of the mail. Things were going to work out between her two "kids" after all.