A night watchman makes his rounds. Unseen, a thin blonde man waits until the guard moves on, then goes to work with some wire cutters to open a chain link fence. Once inside the fence, he skulks past the guard shack, and enters a small door close to the ground.
Inside a metal walled building, the man locates a light switch and turns it on. He's standing at a railing, and his eyes light up as he sees a herd of pigs in the pen before him. The man smiles, chewing on his tobacco.
Steele is standing at the window of his office. His tie is loosened, collar unfastened, as he says, "Someplace to entertain clients, that's what we need. Someplace to relax, an open setting. Sea breezes, perhaps." He leans down beside Laura, who's sitting in the chair at his desk. She seems distracted by something. "But where?" Steele muses, glancing at Laura as she doesn't respond to his words. She sighs. "A boat. Of course." Laura does look at him as he moves off, enthusing over his "brainstorm". "Yes, yes, a boat. Sailing on a tranquil sea, days from civilization," he says, sitting down in front of the desk. "You arise, go topside in the salt fresh air and settle down to read your newspaper in the morning sunshine," he suggests, biting on his finger as he considers the idea.
Laura is looking at him. "How do you get it?" she asks.
"If you're days from civilization, how do you get a newspaper?" she asks.
"Well, you can read a book, can't you? Hmm?"
"What are you babbling about?"
Steele swallows and sits forward, as if he's not sure how to continue. The door behind him closes, drawing his attention.
Mildred sees his look. "Am I interrupting something?"
"It's hard to tell," Laura says, looking confused.
Mildred turns back to the door. "I could come back later."
Steele looks at Laura, as if prepared to continue what HE was talking about, but Laura stands up and indicates that he should wait. "Mildred, is it important?"
Mildred stops and turns around, looking nervous. "New client."
"What kind of case?" Steele asks her.
"Multiple kidnapping?" Mildred says uncertainly.
"By all means, Mildred," Laura insists, waving. "Send them in!"
While Mildred goes to get the client, Steele rushes around to stand behind the desk, pushing Laura aside. "There you go. Move over. Come on, come on." She glares at him as he straightens the papers that she had been looking at. When Mildred returns with a man and a woman, he steps around the desk, fastening his collar and pulling the knot on his tie up.
"Miss Karen Spears, she's an attorney, and Mr. Carlos Perez, a very fine oral surgeon."
Steele shakes their hands. "Remington Steele. My associate, Laura Holt." He sits down as Laura shakes hands as well.
"How do you do? Are you relatives of the victims?" Laura asks.
Carlos laughs at her question, but Karen answers. "Very funny, Miss Holt."
Laura looks at Steele, who asks, "No offense intended, I'm sure. Tell us about the victims."
"What's there to tell?" Carlos asks. "They're pigs."
"Pardon me," Laura begins, "but if this is your attitude about these people, then-"
Mildred tries to stop her, but Carlos says, "No. They really are pigs. Didn't Miss Krebs fill you in?"
Laura and Steele both look at Mildred, who is worried. "Umm," Steele says.
"Apparently not," Laura confirms.
"Dr. Perez and I are part of an investment syndicate sheltering income in Progressive Farms," Karen informs them coolly, "an experimental pig-breeder in Grainville, Iowa."
"But two days ago, the pigs were stolen," Carlos informs them. "The entire lot, worth two million dollars."
Laura and Steele are impressed by the amount. "That's a lot of pork," Steele comments.
"It's not the quantity, Mr. Steele," Carlos says. "It's the quality. The R & D that's gone into the quest for the perfect sow."
Steele looks away as Laura tells them, "Well, well, I'm sure this must be quite a blow for you two, but- this isn't the kind of case our agency normally handles."
Steele stands up. "If I might offer some impolitic advice, avoid colourful tax dodges, they attract an awful lot of suckers."
Mildred tries to stop him, shaking her head.
"Yes," Karen agrees smugly. "One more than you think, apparently."
Steele and Laura suddenly get the picture. "That sounds suspiciously like a pointed reference," Steele says.
"Well, you told me to diversify our portfolio," Mildred reminds them defensively.
"Wait," Laura says, smiling nervously, "You're not telling me that these are OUR pigs."
"Oh, they were such a great buy six months ago," Mildred admits. "I dipped into the discretionary fund."
Steele looks worried. "How big a dip?" Laura asks.
"Fifty-five thousand dollars," Mildred tells them under her breath.
Steele moves behind Laura to Mildred. "What?"
"Fifty-five thousand dollars," she repeats.
Steele has gone pale. "Mildred, that's a BATH," Laura declares.
"I know," Mildred mouths, looking as if she might start crying.
Karen tells them, "We expect you, as the only private investigators in our group, to clear this thing up."
"If there was something wrong with the pigs' teeth," Carlos assures them, "I would go myself, gladly."
"What about the Iowa police?" Laura asks.
"Nada," Carlos says.
"If these animals aren't recovered in the next forty-eight hours, the scientific basis of their breeding will be destroyed," Karen informs them.
Steele grabs Mildred's arm and pulls her to the windows. "To be painfully clear," he begins in a quiet voice, "we have no liquidity, only swine in an undisclosed location?" She nods her head sadly. "Hmm? Hmm? So a check written on the discretionary account right now would be, um, inappropriate?"
"It would bounce to Mars, if that's what you mean."
She jumps as Steele clamps a hand on her shoulder. He looks at Karen and Carlos. "Suppose we were to rescue these animals. How quickly could we sell them?"
"I would be delighted to buy your share," Carlos assures him, "once they're secured."
"Then by all means, let's secure them," Steele says, coming forward to shake their hands as Laura voices her reservations.
"Mr. Steele, I-"
"We'll expect a full report on your return," Karen tells him.
Steele herds them toward the door. "Good, good, good, good. Soon, we shall all be living high off the hog again. Good-day, gentleman. Good-day madam."
"Mr. Steele, I-" Laura begins again, but Steele closes the door and stands there.
"Miss Holt, can this Agency withstand a fifty-five thousand dollar write off?"
"No. I suggest we start packing and save the bloodshed til later," he says, kissing her hands. He motions to Mildred to get going.
"You're right," she agrees, then frowns at him as she heads toward her door. "Pigs?" she says again, going to her office.
"Uh huh. Pigs," Steele repeats, hurrying to the telephone and dialing a number. "Hello, Marty? . . . Uh, Steele here . . .Good, good . . . Uh, about the boat-have you put that check through yet?" He looks relieved. "Oh, good . . .Good, good . . .No, no, nothing, uh- just- transferring some funds, that's all . . . Give me a day, and everything will be smooth sailing, I promise you . . . Yeah . . . Ciao. Bye." He hangs up, putting a hand to his mouth, worried.
A road sign reads "Entering Grainville." Inside a battered old pick up truck, Steele drives as Mildred asks, "Why did we have to rent a pickup?"
"To blend in, Mildred," Steele tells her, dressed very casually. "You know, get into the spirit of things?" Laura sneezes. "Anyway, it's very chic to be a farm woman. Look at Jessica Lange, Sally Field, Sissy Spacek. These days, you've gotta be able to milk a cow to get an Academy Award nomination."
"I don't want an Academy Award," Laura tells him. "I don't wanna milk a cow."
"Oh, come now, Laura, it's not that bad. I mean, we're among farmers. The salt of the earth. Proud, independent, cheerful," he adds with a smile.
A crowd of people are gathered on the town square across from the bank. One of them, holding a big hammer calls, "Willard! We're putting up one cross for every farm you've foreclosed on!" The others all call out their agreement.
"Yeah!" a blonde woman who's standing with the man agrees. "You can try, but you can't drive us out!"
"Save our farms!" the crowd begins to chant. "Save our farms!"
The rented pick up pulls into a parking spot on the square, and the trio observes the protest. "This is OUR land!" a farmer yells.
"How are we supposed to feed our kids?" another woman asks.
"Bloodsucker!" yet another man yells.
"Proud?" Laura questions Steele. "Independent? Cheerful?"
"Not to worry, Miss Holt," Steele assures her. "Based upon extensive viewing, it's an obligatory component of rural life. The bankers may oppress, but the people will prevail."
The crowd begins to boo as a man comes to the upper floor bank window and looks out. He slams the window shut.
A young woman wearing a business suit flinches at the force of his action. "I know," he says. "I should leave the window open. Let them know I'm at least listening to them. Demonstrate I'm sensitive to their needs."
"I'm not gonna tell you how to run your bank, Mr. Willard," she says.
"Hell's bells, Jess, you've been telling me how to run this bank for two years!"
"I just think it's politically insensitive to refuse loans right now!"
"Refuse? I haven't refused loans to one of those people out there! That's the problem! They all OWE us! I can't keep approving all these extensions you bring in."
"If you could just refinance a few of them . . ."
"I'm TIRED of it, Jessica! Your big heart would sink this institution, then where would any of us be?"
"The small farmer is the backbone of America," Jessica insists.
"Spare me the violins. The small farmer is a dinosaur, and I'm not responsible for his extinction. Hell, I'm doing these people a favor by- stopping them from getting any further over their heads." He listens to the crowd again, then opens the window to yell out, "Go home, all of you! The only way you'll save your farms is by harvesting your crops!"
The crowd boos again, and as Willard turns around, Jessica tells him, "Mr. Willard, one day you're gonna stick your head out that window, and you're not gonna have anything left to pull back in!"
Laura, Steele, and Mildred walk up to one of the farmers. "Hello, my good man," Steele says, smiling. "We're looking for directions to Progressive Farms." Laura fights a sneeze.
The man spits and walks off without answering him. "Salt of the earth, huh?" Mildred questions.
A middle aged man in a sheriff's uniform approaches. "Howdy. I'm Sheriff Clifford. Progressive Farms has been closed down. There was a theft."
"We know," Laura says. "We'd like to speak with the owner."
"Well, that would be Agri-tech. You still interested?"
"Uh, why shouldn't we be?" Steele asks.
Dwight chuckles. "No reason, I suppose. Take Main Street here for two miles, take a left, make your first right. You can't miss it." He smiles at Mildred. "Howdy."
"Howdy," she replies with a smile.
"You with them?"
"What I'm about to say is for your own good. Now, you watch your backs around here if you got business with Agritech." He taps his hat as he turns to leave.
Mildred turns to Laura and Steele with a little smile.
At Agritech, Steele and Laura are prestened by a secretary to a man around Steele's age with a boyish face and light brown hair. "Mr. Hayes, these are the investors from Los Angeles. Remington Steele and Laura Holt."
"Laura Holt." He gets up to go to Laura. "Remember me?" Laura's at a loss. "Preston Hayes."
"Oh," Laura says, but she clearly doesn't recall him. Steele is studying her reaction.
"Stanford." Still no recognition. "Kappa Sig? You wouldn't go out with me?"
Laura giggles nervously. "Oh, yes. You're the senior who tried to kiss me in the quad that night," she recalls. Steele looks off.
"It's a- Stanford tradition," Preston tells Steele.
"Rah," Steele says without much enthusiasm.
"So," Laura begins nervously, wanting to change the subject. "What keeps you here in Iowa?"
"Well, Agritech recruited me right out of B school. How're you doin'?" he asks.
"Well," Laura starts to answer, only to end with, "AH-CHOO!"
Steele frowns at her. "Mr. Hayes, as much as I hate to interrupt this touching reunion, we're private investigators. We also happen to be major investors in Progressive Farms. We're here to help locate our swine."
"Oh, great!" Preston says, delighted by the news. "I don't think pigs top our sheriff's list of priorities. Agritech isn't exactly popular in this county," he tells them, going to sit at his desk.
Laura and Steele take the chairs in front of the desk. "We noticed," Laura comments. "How come?"
"Well, the bank's been foreclosing on a lot of small farms around here, and we've been buying them up. So the farmers sort of blame Agritech, too."
"We got the impression it was a little bit more than that," Steele says.
"Well, they'd like to think so. Everytime there's an accident of nature, the farmers point the finger at us."
"Accidents of nature?" Laura questions.
"Yeah, well, there've been a couple of fires, some floods. Nature." He sees the look that passes between Laura and Steele. "We don't have to drive the farmers under. Simple economics is taking care of that. It's sad. I feel for them. But agri-business is the future of farming."
"Absolutely," Steele agrees without agreeing. "About the swine?"
"We figured some disgruntled farmer probably stole them as revenge against us. They're still around, that we know. Bout the only thing the Sheriff could do right after the theft was to set up roadblocks. So we're confident the pigs are still somewhere in the county."
"And the clock is running down," Steele notes.
"Yeah. In twenty-four hours, you can kiss those porkers goodbye." He laughs.
Laura laughs, too, standing. "Maybe you can afford to, Preston, but we can't. We need to start at the scene of the crime."
"It's locked up," he tells her. "But I'll give you the key." He laughs again and gets the key out of his desk. Bringing it around, he asks, "Are you busy for dinner tonight, Laura?"
Steele grabs the key. "Swine before pearls, Preston," he says quickly, saving Laura from having to answer. "Rah," he says again as Laura waves a nervous goodbye and they leave.
At Progressive Farms, Steele kneels beside the hole in the chain-link fence as Laura sneezes. "Gesundheit."
"Am I really investigating an experimental pig breeding farm?" she asks.
"Courage, Laura. Think of those swine as rotund sacks of hundred dollar bills. Does wonders for the spirit." He examines the chain link.
Mildred comes up. "The thief drove the pigs out through the back, then loaded them into a trailer about a quarter of a mile past the fence. Tracks like you wouldn't believe."
"Good work, Mildred," Laura says.
"I'm gonna take a look inside again. No pig is gonna get the better of Krebs."
Steele stands up. "Mush on, Mildred, mush on!" He and Laura follow her around the corner.
"The thief broke in there," Laura recaps, "But according to Preston's description, the guard would have seen him before he GOT to building." They pause at a corner.
"Hmm," Steele muses. "Unless he didn't go right to the building," he suggests, indicating the small doorway that the thief did indeed use.
They enter, and find themselves in a feed bin. Laura sneezes again, and sees something in the pig pellets. She picks it up. "Look at this."
Steele takes it. It's an empty Amsterdam Chewing Tobacco pouch. "Perhaps our culprit had a little chew before continuing." The door closes, and Steele goes over to it, banging on it. "Hey! Open up! Open up! There's somebody in here! HEY! Open up!"
"Now what?" Laura asks.
Steele looks up at the top of the bin nervously. "Witness. Harrison Ford, Kelly McGinnis, Paramount, 1985." Feed begins to pour through the opening at the top of the bin. "Ford disables a renegade policeman in a silo by filling it with grain!" he yells over the noise as he and Laura huddle against the wall.
"How did the policeman in Witness survive?" Laura yells back.
"He didn't survive!"
"He was killed!"
"You're a great help!" she yells.
They're up to their necks in feed when the flow suddenly stops. "I guess they were low on feed," Steele notes, coughing at the dust. Laura sneezes into the pellets. "Gesundheit," Steele says.
"Now, what makes you think you can walk into this county and stick your noses wherever you want?" Sheriff Clifford asks, obviously angry.
Mildred looks at a dusty Steele and Laura. "Dwight has a point," she says.
"Thank you, Mildred."
"We just want to recover the swine, Sheriff," Steele tells him. "Something you seem unable- or perhaps unwilling to do."
"I am one man. I got two part-time deputies, and I'm sitting on a powder keg. I walk softly when I can, Mr. Steele. Now, the way I see it, a few stolen pigs aren't gonna ruin Agritech."
Mildred looks at him. "But they could ruin us, Dwight. We have all our money in that livestock. We just wanna take the next day or two to find them. Will you let us do that? Hmm? Will you help?"
Dwight shakes his head. "Shoot. I never could turn a pretty woman down." Mildred smiles. "Alright. But you're gonna play by my rules." Laura sneezes. "God Bless. Let's get you into some clean duds. There's no motel in town, but Buck and Mary Shepard might take you in."
At the Shepard place, the woman and man who lead the protest at the Bank greet them. "Lord knows," the woman says, "We sure could use the money. But we don't deal with Agritech."
"We're not with Agritech," Laura assures Mary, glancing at Steele. "We're from the Undermayer Agricultural Institute, researching the plight of the small American farmer."
"Yes," Steele agrees, playing along. "We wanted to start with Agritech to get a sense of scale, you know?"
"Well, that's a different story. I'm Mary Shepard."
She offers her hand, and Laura shakes it. "Hi."
"This here's Buck," she says, indicating the man sitting on the tractor beside her. "We'll be glad to put you up."
"Well, I'm Dr. Laura Lou Holt, and this is Millie Krebs, and this is Mr.- Jed Steele, he's a colleague of ours from - Sydney, Australia," she explains. Steele watches, looking a bit amazed at her prevarication.
Buck opens a canteen. "You're a bit dusty there, Jed."
"Yes, but, we- uh, we have to immerse ourselves in our subject, you know?" Laura sneezes.
Mary hands Buck a small ice chest. "Well, grab your stuff and come on in."
Later, Steele is putting on some work boots, having changed clothes, when Laura comes out of the house, also having changed. He tells her, "Uh, Dwight lent then to me."
"I don't like lying to these people," she frets. "If it's Agritech and the bank versus the small farmers then we're on the wrong side of this battle."
"On the contrary. We've lost our agricultural assets," Steele points out. "We're going broke. We're in precisely the same boat as the farmers. And, uh, speaking of boats-"
"I don't think it's the same thing at all. These farmers are losing their livelihoods. If we lose our investment, we just cut out a few luxuries. Lunches at Café le Trec, Italian suits, - penthouse condominiums?"
"Luxuries?" Steele questions. "Laura, you're talking about food, clothing and shelter. Do you understand?"
"Mary said there's an auction in town this afternoon." She pulls the tobacco pouch from her pocket. "It will give us a chance to see who uses this kind of tobacco."
"Well, let's hope we haven't bitten off more than we can chew."
Household good and farm implements cover the square as people mill about. Steele is in a phone booth, on the phone. "Hello, Marty? . . .Yes, Steele here . . . Hi, how are you? . . . Very well, good . . . uh-Listen, mate, could you hold that check a little longer? . . . I had to go out of town to clear up a little financial- snag . . .What? . . . Oh, it'll only be a few hours . . . Yes . . . Where am I?" He sees an old man spit some tobacco juice. "Uh, I'm in Zurich." He hangs up and leaves the booth. The old man is examining some of the items for auction, and Steele approaches with a smile. "Hello, my good friend. Listen, I seem to have misplaced my tobacco. Could you spare a plug?" The old man takes out his, opens it for Steele. It's not Amsterdam brand. "Oh, thank you. Really. Thank you," Steele says, looking sick as he reaches inside and puts some into his mouth. "Hmm. Delicious," he declares. "? yet, assertive. Great." He's about to destroy the stuffed animal he's holding.
Laura approaches a young man. "Good afternoon. I'm conducting a survey for the Tobacco Mastication Institute, what brand do you chew?"
He grins at her through a cheekful of tobacco. "Say, you're a sturdy little thing, aren't you? New around here, darlin?"
"What brand, please?" she asks, pen hovering over a notepad.
"Big Boy," he tells her.
"Big Boy," she repeats, writing.
"Just remember now, I saw you first."
Laura grins as he spits.
Steele approaches another man. "Spare a little chew, there, neighbor?"
The older man takes out his pouch. "Oh, sure. Here, go ahead. I got plenty."
Steele looks at the pouch and then takes some. "Oh, thank you." He stuffs it into his mouth and pretends to enjoy. "Hmm. Hmm, That is chewing, isn't it? But I wish I had a little Amsterdam brand, you know?"
The man looks at him strangely. "Amsterdam? You're kidding. That stuff is disgusting."
"You mean relative to this?" Steele questions.
"The only one who chews that stuff is old Mel."
"Mel Brundage," the man says, pointing to the bandstand. "That fella right up there. This is his auction. Poor guy."
"Really? Well, thank you very much," Steele says, backing away. "Good day, now," he says, offering his hand
"Oh, sure. Anytime."
Steele joins Laura near the edge of the crowd. "Well, Laurie Lou. Laurie Lou, How are you?" He ducks his head behind her. "Stay there, will you?" He spits the tobacco out. Laura glances at it, then up at him. "I think I found our thief." He points to the bandstand. "Mel Brundage. Perfect candidate. Embittered by the loss of his farm, he steals our pigs, the swine."
Laura shakes her head. "I feel sorry for the man."
On the bandstand, the Sheriff bangs a gavel on the podium. "All right, folks! Now, we're here to auction off the farm equipment, household goods of one Melvin Brundage. You've all had a chance to look the stuff over. It's in good shape. Maybe a little smoke damaged, but all in good working order."
Mel, the man who stole the pigs, looks over at the bank and yells, "It would be perfect if it wasn't for you and Agritech, Willard! You set that fire! You oughta be burned at the stake yourself!"
Mildred is sitting behind the Sheriff. The Sheriff goes over to Mel. "Mel, sit down and shut up," he says. "This isn't the time and place. We got a job to do, let's get on with it."
Mel backs off.
Laura, leaning against a tractor as Steele sits on one of the front wheels, frets, "This isn't right."
"Oh, don't worry, Laura. This is the scene where the rural community hang together and refuse to bid, closing down the auction."
"The first item's gonna be the tiller attachment," Dwight says. "I'll start the bidding out at eighty dollars. Do I hear eighty? Who'll give me eighty dollars?"
"Eighty!" the young man Laura spoke to says.
"I got eighty, who'll give me eighty five?" Dwight asks.
"Eighty-five!" the man who told Steele about Mel says.
The bidding goes to one twenty, and Laura's upset. "Swine, Laura," Steele reminds her. Preston gets out of his car and comes toward them. "Think swine."
Laura meets Preston halfway. "Laura. How're you making out?" he asks.
"Better than Mel Brundage over there," she points out. "It looks like Agritech will soon have the whole county consolidated. You must be very proud!"
"Well, I'm saving the champagne for Buck and Mary Shepard's place. When I get that, it'll be promotion city."
"Oh. And what makes you sure you'll get it?" she asks.
"Economics, Laura. Simple economics. Would you like to meet the bank president? I have an appointment with him."
"I'd love to." She takes his arm and gives Steele a sign as they pass him.
In Willard's office, he tells her, "I wish you luck, Miss Holt. But don't expect any cooperation in this town. Those farmers are convinced they're the victims of some- great conspiracy."
"Mr. Willard," Jessica says, "those poor farmers-"
"ENOUGH, Jessica! What about us poor bankers? Every bank in this area is on the verge of disaster thanks to those- poor farmers."
"About this- conspiracy theory," Laura begins, but Willard gets up from his chair.
"Miss Holt, why would I burn down anyone's farm? Everytime a farmer goes under, there isn't a chance in hell that he'll pay my money back. I'd be out of business right now, if it wasn't for Agritech."
Preston winces, as if he's dreading delivering bad news. "Uh-"
"What is it, Preston?" Willard asks.
"Frank, I just got the word from good old HQ, once we consolidate the valley, they want me to do all our banking through Chicago."
Willard's eyes narrow. "What? Let's have a little chat, Preston," he says, indicating that they should go into another room."
Jessica smiles at Laura, embarrassed. "Mr. Willard, he tends to be a bit excitable."
"Is the bank really in trouble?" Laura asks.
"Oh, we'll pull through," Jessica assures her. "Mr. Willard isn't from this area. He doesn't know how hard it is for a farmer to make it."
"Sounds like you're talking from experience."
"My family's farm went under when I was twelve," Jessica confides. "I know what poverty feels like."
Willard and a chastened Preston return. Willard is smiling. "Great news, Jessica. Agritech is gonna continued to do business with us- after all."
Steele, Laura, and Mildred arrive at the Brundage farm, or what's left of it. The house is heavily damaged by smoke. "Dwight wants us to be tactful," Mildred reminds them. "If Mel hasn't done anything, we don't want to offend him."
As they get out of the truck,. Steele leans against the side nearest the house. Mel appears in a window, shotgun in hand. "What do you want?" Mel asks.
"You're right," Steele mutters to Mildred and Laura, who are safely on the other side of the truck. "Let's not offend him." He smiles at Mel.
"Mr. Brundage," Laura calls. "We'd like to talk to you about the theft at Progressive Farms!"
"Git!" Mel says.
Steele looks back at Mildred and Laura. "Is that bacon I smell cooking?"
"I don't think it would be polite to ask," Mildred warns.
"We don't care who did it," Laura tells him. "We just want the pigs back!"
"What do you care about them pigs?" Mel asks.
Laura sneezes. "Less and less, actually, but we happen to own part of them."
"They belong to Agritech, and I don't know anything about em!" Mel declares as a little boy appears, chasing a pig. "Get off my land!" he tells them
Steele watches the boy follow the pig, and steps away from the truck. "Mr. Brundage, I just want to-" Mel fires into the ground, and Steele jumps into the truck, as do Mildred and Laura. Mel fires twice more before they get out of there.
At the Sheriff's office, Steele says, "What do you mean you can't do anything? The man almost killed us!"
"If Mel wanted to kill you, he would have. You were on his land. Did you have permission?"
"No," Steele admits.
"Mr. Steele, we have a quaint tradition around here. It's called the LAW."
"He has our swine!" Steele insists.
"Let him keep the pigs!" Laura says, drinking from a coffee cup.
Steele glares at her. "He's got nothing else," Mildred adds.
"Ladies, if you could just staunch your good heart for a moment, we're talking about a man who's stolen our property and tried to bury us in pig pellets!" Laura laughs. "Did I say something funny?" he asks. "Hmm? Hmm?"
"No, you're right. You're absolutely right," Laura agrees airily.
"I can't march onto Mel's land with no reason, Mr. Steele. You only saw one pig. You can't be sure he's got Agritech's animals. But I think I have a compromise."
Later that night, Steele and Laura are parked in the truck, keeping an eye on Mel's house. The CB radio flares into life. "Breaker two-niner, breaker two-niner, this is Big Mama calling SteeleMan." Laura finds the microphone.
"Mildred?" she asks, uncertain about the countrified voice that Mildred's using.
"That's a big 10-4. Any action, SteeleMan?" Mildred is in Dwight's truck.
"No, nuthin' yet," Laura responds, trying to mimic Mildred.
Mildred shakes her head in frustration. "You don't say no, you say 'Negatory, Big Mama'," she instructs, looking at Dwight.
"I'll try to remember that," Laura promises.
"Amateurs," Mildred tells Dwight.
Laura smiles as she and Steele watch Mel's house. "I think the country's gone to Mildred's head," Steele comments.
Laura smiles, and takes a deep breath. "Mine too. Have you noticed? I think I licked my hay fever. Oh, there is something wonderful about this country air I've never been able to sense before."
Back in Dwight's truck, he says, "You know, Millie, I haven't enjoyed a woman's company like this for- well, a long time."
Mildred smiles. "That's nice."
"My wife- my ex-wife, I should say- she ran off to the big city about a year ago. Des Moines. Said she was bored with the country. You're not bored, are you, Millie?"
"Uh uh," Mildred assures him, still smiling. "Not at all." They lean toward each other for a kiss, but Laura's voice comes over the CB.
"On your toes, Big Mama. We got Mel driving a truck and trailer out of a barn. Looks like he's moving some pork on the hoof."
Mildred sighs. "Darn! Now I know how THEY feel when I do it to them," she says.
"Yep." Dwight nods, disappointed, and starts the truck.
Lights off, they follow Mel down the road to Fallworth Farm. Somewhere they lose Mel, and all of them get out of their trucks. "Great strategy," Steele comments to Dwight.
"Wait a minute," Laura says, placing a hand on his arm as she hears something. "Listen to that."
All of them hear pigs squealing, and take off. Steele rushes to the end of the trailer, delighted. "Oh, you, you beautiful swine!" he says. Turning, he finds Laura, Mildred, and Dwight staring at something beside the trailer. Joining them, he sees that Frank Willard is lying on the ground, dead, with Mel Brundage kneeling beside him.
A crowd is gathered outside the Sheriff's office as Laura paces inside. "Let it go, Laura!" Steele insists, leaning against a file cabinet. Mildred and Dwight look on.
"No, I will NOT let it go!" she tells him. "This just doesn't add up. Mel has been framed, Sheriff."
"He was all alone out there with Willard's body. Willard was killed by Mel's hammer with Mel's fingerprints on it. Now, I don't know what you call that out in California, but out here, we call it evidence."
"Anyone could have stolen one of Mel's hammers from the auction!" Laura declares.
"Aren't you taking this a little personally, hon?" Mildred asks.
"You're darned right I am. I don't like being Agritech's tool. We found their pigs, now maybe we can do something to help the people around here!"
"And admirable sentiment, Laura, but you've lost sight of the salient point here," Steele reminds her. "They're our swine, too. Now, let's go home, sell them, mission accomplished."
"Not quite yet, Mr. Steele. I'm gonna have to impound those animals until this is cleared up," Dwight tells them.
"What? They can't testify," Steele says.
"Material evidence," Dwight reminds him.
"I would like to speak with Mel again," Laura says.
"I've got a phone call to make," Steele announces, moving away as Laura and Mildred stare after him.
"There was a man's voice on the phone," Mel tells Mildred and Laura. "Said he knew I had the pigs, wanted to buy them that night. To meet him out at Fallworth Farms. I got there, and Willard was dead."
"Who else knew you had the pigs?" Laura asks.
"Hell, lady, I ain't never been too good at keepin' a secret. Most of the town knew about it, but they'd never tell Sheriff Clifford, they're my friends. Look, I hated Frank Willard. And I know I got a mean temper. But I didn't kill him."
Laura looks at Mildred. "We believe you."
From outside the barred window, the crowd is getting louder. "Well, you're about the only ones around here who do. There's been a crowd out there since six this mornin'."
"A lynch mob," Mildred tells Laura. "Ugly scene."
"Lynch mob?" Mel repeats, and goes to the window. Once they see his face, the crowd starts calling out to him.
"We're behind you, Mel!"
"Way to go, Mel!"
"We love you, Mel!"
"You saved the valley, Mel!"
Mel turns to look at his visitors. "Frank Willard wasn't a real popular fella. They think I'm some kinda hero for killin' him." He points to a table where pies and home canned goods are sitting. "See that? From the ladies in town. Each pie is like another year on my sentence."
"We'll do what we can to help," Laura promises.
"Lady, I don't understand you, but- thanks."
As Steele leaves the jail with Mildred and Laura, he sneezes. "Bless you," Laura says, thinking about the case. "Who were you talking to on the phone?" she asks.
"Ah, just a friend," he says. "Laura, Mel has the perfect motive. I mean, why are you so determined to turn this into Billy Jack saves a pig thief?"
"It doesn't make sense. Why would Willard arrange to buy the pigs from Mel? And where was the car that Willard arrived in?"
"Oh, Laura, Laura. You're always gettin' bogged down in details."
"I will not help send an innocent man to prison," Laura insists.
Mary Shepard comes up, pie in hand. "Good morning. I brought a little pie for Mel. It's not much, but I had to do something for our hero." Laura looks at Steele, recalling Mel's words. Suddenly Mary looks up and screams as she seems smoke in the sky. "Oh my GOD! That's comin' from my place!" She drops the pie and takes off, as do most of the rest of the crowd.
At the Shepard place, once the fire is out, Buck tells Dwight, "I was way out in the field, Dwight, but I managed to get back in time keep the fire from spreadin'."
"Good thing, Buck," Steele tells him. "It could have been a lot worse, mate."
"Well, this is it for us, Jed," Buck declares. "Agritech can take over the entire valley as far as I'm concerned." Jessica is behind them, watching.
Mary looks at her husband. "Now you hold on right there, Buck Shepard. We ain't quittin'!"
"Yes, we are," he says.
"This is my family's land, and I'm stayin'!"
"Then you'll stay by yourself," he tells her. He looks around at everyone, and then walks away. Mary is near to tears.
Dwight brings some wiring over. "It could have been faulty wiring," he tells her.
"In a pigs' eye," Laura says.
"Aptly put, Laura," Steele agrees. "Nevertheless-,"
But Laura's not there. She goes to the truck and gets in. Steele goes to the truck as she starts it. "Laura. Laura, just a second-Can I just say one- one thing?" he asks. She puts the truck in gear and takes off.
She goes to Preston's office. "You're not making any sense, Laura!" he tells her.
"No? You told me yourself you were planning to buy up Buck and Mary's place," she reminds him. "And now let's talk a moment about Frank Willard."
Preston's wary. "What about Willard?"
"What did Willard have on you to make you change your mind about banking through Chicago?"
"Nothing. He just convinced me a local bank could do more for us."
"Come off it, Preston! Somebody set up Brundage. Somebody clever enough to use local hatreds as a smokescreen. Where were you last night?"
"I was out."
"I don't have to tell you!"
"You're right. Because I'm gonna find out anyway, and then I'm gonna nail you to the wall!" She leaves the office.
At the Shepard place, Steele is walking past a barn when he stops to sneeze. Recovering, he sees Jessica and Buck inside the barn. "I'm sorry. Excuse me."
"Uh, Jed," Buck says, "Jed, this is Jessica Swenson from the bank. Jessica, this is Jed Steele, from-"
Jessica smiles and steps forward to take Steele's hand, explaining to Buck, "From Los Angeles. He's a private investigator."
"He's what?" Buck questions.
"Miss Holt told me," Jessica confirms.
"Buck, uh-I'm sorry for any deception, mate. Really."
"I was just telling Buck how sorry I am about his loss," Jessica tells Steele.
"Yes, yes, it is a tragedy," Steele agrees. "Is the bank gonna help 'em rebuild?"
"Oh, if only we could. I just came from a board meeting, and it looks like Frank Willard was as bad a banker as he was a good citizen. The bank is close to failing," she tells him.
Steele's surprised. "How unfortunate."
"I really should be getting back to pick up the pieces," she says.
"Yeah, I'll walk you back," Buck tells her, taking her arm.
Jessica shakes Steele's hand as they pass. "Nice meeting you, Mr. Steele."
"Yes, yes, the pleasure's all mine." Steele watches them go, a speculative look on his face.
He goes to the jail and asks Mel, "Tell me about Jessica Swenson," as he opens a jar of something that's been left for Mel.
"Terrific gal. We all went to high school together.
"Attractive woman," Steele notes.
"Yeah. She could've had her pick of the lot," Mel tells him. "She and Buck Shepard were steadies for a long time, but- she didn't want to tie herself down to Grainville. Funny, huh? So she ends up bein' a banker here."
"Yes. A very generous banker, from what I understand."
Mel sits up. "Yeah. Not like that skinflint Willard. Jessica's always been there with the money. Always encouraging us to take out loans, try new farming techniques- hydroponics, stuff like that. That girl has tremendous faith in the American farmer."
"Yes," Steele agrees. "It's almost unbelievable."
Later, Steele and Laura are on a road through a corn field. The hood of the truck is up, and Steele tells Laura, "Someone's put sugar in the gas tank. The engine's completely fouled."
"I wonder who?" Laura says, looking around. "What a place to be stranded, huh?"
They start walking. "Uh huh. Reminds me of something," he says.
"So you're not gonna tell me your theory about who killed Willard?"
"Not until you tell me yours first."
"I want more evidence," Laura tells him.
"So do I. There's something- so familiar about all of this," Steele insists. Looking around, he sees a crop dusting bi-plane turn to spray the field. "That's it," he says.
"What?" Laura asks.
"North by Northwest. Cary Grant, James Mason, M-G-M, 1959."
"I never saw it," she tells him.
"Laura, sometimes you're very difficult to talk to. Grant's attacked in the middle of a cornfield by a crop duster." The plane gets close, and Steele grabs her arm. "Dive! Dive!" he says, pulling her into the field. They run down a row, trying to escape the plane. He finally pulls her to the ground.
The plane makes a turn, beginning to spray. Laura stands, watching it, but Steele pulls her back down. "Stay down, Laura," he warns.
"Don't worry, I'll decoy him," Steele tells her, taking off. Laura watches him go, then looks at the plane.
Steele reaches the road as an orange truck comes along. "Hey!" Steele yells. "Stop!"
The driver pulls out a shotgun, and seeing it, Steele ducks and heads back toward Laura. He grabs her and they take off running through the cornfield, holding hands. "Come on, Laura!" he tells her. "Right idea, wrong movie! It was Easy Rider! Come on!!"
Laura protests, saying, "Ohhh!!" but he merely tells her, "Come on!"
They walk on through the cornfield. Then hearing a car, Remington jerks her back down to the ground. She stands back up and he tries in vain to jerk her back down. "Stay down, Laura, it's a trick," Steele whispers.
"It's a pretty good one," she tells him, smiling. "It's Mildred." Mildred gets out of the Sheriff's truck.
Steele stands up, looking embarrassed. "Oh, hi," Mildred says when they get to the road. "I saw the truck and the tracks leading here, and-What are you doing?"
"Mildred, have you seen North by Northwest?"
Laura glares at Steele. "Avoid it." She walks toward the truck.
Steele shrugs, smiling at Mildred, and follows.
In the truck, Laura tells Steele, "We'll be at Preston's office in a few minutes. Are you sure you don't want to be in on this?"
"Mildred and I have our own errands to run."
"Where are we going, Boss?"
"But the bank is closed for the day," she points out.
"Best time to visit, Mildred. No lines." He glances at a curious Laura.
"Oh," Mildred says.
Laura tells Preston, "I'm giving you one more chance to explain yourself before calling the Sheriff to arrest you for the murder of Frank Willard and the attempted murder of two Los Angeles detectives."
"Laura, you've got it all wrong," Preston insists. When Laura picks up the phone and starts to dial, he jumps to his feet. "Okay, okay. Okay." He looks past her to the door, then lowers his voice. "You wanna know where I was last night, I'll tell ya." She keeps the phone in her hand, ready. "I was in Des Moines with Sheriff Clifford's ex-wife." Laura hangs up the phone. "I'm the reason she left him. I'm the reason she left Grainville for the big city."
"Des Moines?" Laura asks in disbelief.
"Well, it was a case of opposites attracting. My sophistication, her country charm. My youth, her experience. My salary, her love of clothes."
"THIS is the secret Willard was holding over you?" Laura asks, sitting down.
"Laura, rural communities are very close-knit. I could never survive out here if this came out. For one thing, Sheriff Clifford would kill me."
Laura looks away. "Well, I can see your luck with women hasn't changed. About these accidents, Preston- are you honestly telling me Agritech isn't responsible?"
"Laura, I know big business is an easy target, but I swear to you. We're innocent."
"I don't suppose you own an orange pick up either, with headlights on the roof?"
"No." He shakes his head. "That sounds like the town's one and only emergency vehicle."
Laura sits up. "Who owns it?"
"Oh, but only one person drives it, though. Buck Shepard."
"Preston, may I borrow your car?"
"Sure." He gives her the keys.
"Thanks," she says, leaving the office.
At the bank, Steele picks the lock as Mildred keeps a look out. "How am I gonna learn if you don't let me practice?" she asks.
"Some other time, Mildred," he says. Slowly, he turns the knob and it clicks. "Shall we?" he asks.
"What are we looking for?" Mildred asks as they move to Jessica's office door.
"Loan records," Steele tells her, kneeling before the door preparatory to picking the lock. "Unless I miss my guess, two distinctive sets." He's putting the picks in the lock when the door opens and he's knocked over by Buck, who drops some of the papers he's holding and takes off.
"So much for avoiding the crowd," Mildred comments, picking up the books.
Buck runs across to the orange pick up and takes off. Steele and Mildred follow in the Sheriff's truck.
Laura arrives at the Shepard's, and runs into the house. "Mary?" she calls, then sees the woman's head over a counter. "It's Laura Lou Holt."
Mary's face is half covered by a handkerchief.
"Mary?" Laura asks again, then comes closer to see that Mary's tied up. "Don't worry, Mary, we'll have you out of this in no time." Mary's eyes widen, warning Laura that Jessica has come from the closet behind her, arm raised, a gun in her hand. Laura pushes Jessica back into the closet and takes off.
She runs to the barn, Jessica in close pursuit.
Steele and Mildred follow Buck down a dirt road. "Oh, Boss," Mildred said, looking at the papers. "You were right. Oh, that sweet thing. She was keeping double books. What a scam. She would give a farmer a loan of say, fifty thousand, but put it in as seventy-five. Then she'd pocket the difference."
"Then she has Buck torch the farmer's place and she tidies up the paperwork," Steele finishes.
"And the bank would be none the wiser," Mildred agrees.
Steele sneezes, barely managing to keep his eyes on the road.
He forces Buck off the road at a pile of dirt and gets out of the truck at the same time as Buck. Buck lifts the shotgun again. "Come on, Buck, make it easy on yourself!" he calls, then leaps behind the dirt pile to avoid being shot. The shotgun's empty, and Buck takes off. "Mildred! Get the Sheriff, will you?" Mildred leaves.
Jessica cautiously enters the barn, hearing something on the other side of some hay bales. Slowly, she approaches to find a cow there. Suddenly Laura swings down from the loft on a rope, knocking Jessica into a pile of hay and making her lose the gun. Laura grabs the gun and holds it on Jessica. The cow moos. "My sentiments exactly," Laura tells it.
Steele chases Buck through a tomato field, losing him- until a huge tractor breaks through the doors on a barn and heads right for him. Steele turns and starts running, but can't stay ahead of the faster vehicle. Buck lowers the disc implement on the back of the tractor, tearing up the ground behind him.
Steele can't outrun the tractor, and falls to the ground on his back. Grabbing ahold of the tractor's undercarriage and letting it pull him along, bare inches from the sharp blades.
Buck stops, looking behind him, then under the tractor. Steele climbs up behind him and pushes Buck off into some tomatoes. Jumping down, Steele knocks him unconscious with a right to the jaw. "You say tomato, I say tomato," he tells the man, wiping his hand on his jacket.
Outside the jail, Mel is with Steele and Laura. "So it was Jessica and Buck, huh? Hard to figure. Why'd they kill Willard?"
"Jessica needed the bank to fail to permanently cover up her embezzlement," Laura explains. "Willard was taking measures to save the bank. She couldn't afford that."
"Okay, well, then but- how come Buck set fire to his own place?"
"Ah, well, it gave him a legitimate reason to divorce Mary without raising any eyebrows," Steele tells him. "Buck and Jessica were secretly gonna link up somewhere and live in luxury for the rest of their lives."
Mel shakes his head. "Here I thought it was Willard and Agritech against us, and it turns out to be two of our own. Guess I was really wrong about them business folk," he says, only to frown as Preston comes around the corner.
"Hi, gang!" he says brightly.
"Course, that still don't mean I gotta like 'em," Mel says. "Thanks again." He turns to leave.
Preston reaches Laura and Steele, and calls out, "Top of the morning, Mel!" Mel doesn't respond. "I think I'm slowly winning them over," he tells Laura and Steele. "Hey, just to show that Agritech has a heart, we want you to have this for recovering the pigs," he says, holding out a check.
"Oh, that really isn't necessary," Laura begins, but Steele grabs the check.
"Uh, but much appreciated, Preston," Steele says, putting it into his pocket with a smile. Laura looks up at him.
Preston looks up at the jail. "Ah, well, there's the Sheriff. Howdy, Dwight!" he calls as Dwight and Mildred come from the building. "I guess I'll be going," Preston decides, and leaves quickly as Laura and Steele smile.
Dwight looks at his hat as he says, "Can't convince you to stay, huh, Millie?"
"What's stopping you from visiting LA?" she asks.
"I'm not born to that life, Millie," he tells her.
"Oh," she says.
"So. You're the second woman I've lost to the city. You come back and see me sometime."
Mildred nods. "I will," she promises, and they kiss.
A deputy opens the door, and hesitates to interrupt. "Uh, Sheriff Clifford?"
"Duty calls," Dwight says, stepping back. "Good bye, Millie."
"Good bye, Dwight," she says, and goes down to join Steele and Laura.
"Tough, huh?" Laura asks, placing a comforting hand on her arm.
"Let's just get out of here," Mildred tells them.
The jail doors open again, and Dwight calls, "Mr. Steele! You've got a phone call. Some guy from Los Angeles named Marty." Steele's starting to shake his head. "Wants to know if you still want that boat or not!"
Laura turns to look at Steele. "What boat?"
Steele's trying to come up with an answer- but all he can do is sneeze.