Remington was frozen in place as he looked at the dark haired little boy with big blue eyes and a sad face- too sad a face for his young years, he thought, wondering if his own face had been the same way. He couldn't look at Laura. Not yet. It was one thing for an old flame to suddenly reappear- but a child- "Oh dear God," he said again.
Answering Johnny's question, Laura said, "Well, I'm Laura, and that's-" but Johnny was walking across the room until he was standing in front of Remington.
"Are you 'arry?" he asked.
"I used to be, yes," Remington told the child, his voice roughened with emotion. "A long time ago, when I - knew your -mother."
Johnny pulled a folded piece of paper from the pocket of his faded denims and held it out. "This is for you."
Remington unfolded the envelope carefully, seeing the name "Harry" scrawled across the white surface. His fingers clenched tightly around the envelope. "How- How old are you, Johnny?"
Johnny held up five fingers. "Five."
"Do you- do you know when your birthday is?"
"Christmas," Johnny answered. "Mum says I was 'er Christmas present," Johnny told him proudly.
"And a wonderful Christmas present you were," Laura said, coming forward to steer the child to the sofa with her.
"'What's your name?" Johnny asked, showing no sign that he was afraid of being around so many strangers.
"My name is Laura. Johnny, do you know why your mommy left you here?" she asked.
Johnny's little face darkened, and he nodded. "But I'm not s'posed to tell anyone."
"Well, I think your mommy would say it was okay to tell us, don't you- Harry?" she asked pointedly.
"She said for 'im to read the letter. That'd 'e'd understand and take care of me til she came back for me. She always comes back, you see."
Laura looked at Remington, then pointedly at the note in his hands. "Why don't Johnny and I go into the other room while you look at that?" she suggested, rising from the sofa and holding out her hand to the little boy. "Care to join us, Mildred?" she suggested more than asked.
Mildred looked torn between wanting to stay and take care of Remington or joining Laura. But Remington looked at her and nodded. "I'm okay, Mildred. Go on. Help Laura look after the lad."
She nodded and followed Laura and Johnny into the bedroom, closing the doors behind them as Remington's attention turned to the letter in his hand. He rose slowly and went to the writing desk across the room, where he picked up a letter opener and slit the flap to remove two sheets of paper. Sitting in the chair at the desk, he started to read.
Laura sat on the edge of the bed with Johnny. "Where's your father, Johnny?"
"Got no father," he told her, looking at the magazine that she'd given him to occupy him.
Laura looked up at Mildred. "What about the man your mother- your mother's husband?"
Johnny pointed to a picture of a fast car. "Oooh."
"It's a nice car, isn't it?"
"Vroom," he said, pretending to be the car in the picture. "Vroom vroom."
Laura glanced at the doors, and told Mildred, "Keep an eye on him, Mildred."
"Sure. The kid and I were getting along pretty good before you and the Boss came in," Mildred assured her, and Johnny looked up at her.
"Why did you call 'arry 'boss'?" he asked, sounding frightened for the first time.
Mildred laughed. "I work for him. And for Mrs. Steele-"
Johnny nodded and went back to pretending to be a car as Laura slipped out of the bedroom and into the living area of the suite. Remington was standing before the window, Trina's letter in one hand, the other in his pocket. He glanced up when he heard the doors open, then returned to contemplating the view of the street below- on the opposite side of the building from where Trina had been killed earlier.
Laura got halfway across the room and stopped, arms folded across her chest as she waited for him to say something. "Well?" she finally asked, unable to bear the silence any longer. "Is he?"
"Is he what?" Remington asked, still not looking at her.
Frustrated, Laura crossed the room to ask quietly, "Damn you, is that little boy in there your son?"
"Even Trina didn't know for sure," he told her. "She took up with the man she married just before we met- and during that month, she told him she was busy with work, and went back to him after I left for awhile before running away when she found out she was pregnant. He found her six months after Johnny was born and insisted they marry."
"So he could be yours," Laura said.
"Yes, he could be," Remington said, finally looking at her. "Laura-"
"Don't," she said, moving away as he reached out to touch her. "Don't apologize. Don't make excuses. At the moment, the most important thing is seeing to it that he's taken care of. Did she happen to say why she left him here?"
Remington held the letter out to her. "Read it. Go on."
Laura took the paper and read the square handwriting. "She was married to a-"
"Loan-shark, bookie- back when I was living in Brixton, Ian Colverson was the toughest street tough in the area. You either paid him protection or you lost it all. Sometimes including your life. He's branched out a bit. I never knew she was involved with him. If I had-" he shook his head, knowing that it probably wouldn't have made any real difference.
"She says here that she's been trying to leave Colverson for the last three years, but he's always brought her back- but that-" she held the paper to the light. "But that she fell in love with someone six months ago that she thought could help- He was a reporter, looking for information about Colverson for a story. She gave him the information, hoping he would help her and the boy get away. But Colverson killed the reporter and now wants to get his hands on Johnny to teach her a lesson about loyalty. He knows Johnny might not be his son-"
He took a deep breath. "Johnny's in danger the longer he stays in London, Laura," Remington said, looking toward the bedroom, keeping his voice low so it wouldn't carry.
"But why kill him now?" Laura asked. "Trina's dead- hurting Johnny won't hurt her."
"No, but it would hurt me. And I've a pretty good idea that Colverson knows that I'm the man Trina was with six years ago while he was trying to convince her to marry him."
"I can't believe this man would kill a little boy that might possibly be his son."
"You don't know Ian Colverson," Remington said. "Ruthless doesn't begin to describe him. He's a cold hearted son of a bitch with a God complex. He likes hurting people. Took every opportunity he could to beat up on a scrawny little Irish lad- when he could catch up to him. Daniel had a couple of run-ins with him-"
Laura paced across the room. "If we could find a way- do you think he'd be safe in Los Angeles?" she asked.
"Possibly. At least we'd be on home turf," he told her.
"Okay. The first thing we'll do when we get home is have a paternity test-"
She stopped pacing to look at him. "But-"
"It doesn't matter. Even if he's not mine, he's still Trina's son. And I'll be damned if I let that bastard get his mitts on him."
"As Trina's husband, he has custody-"
"Not as long as I have this letter," Remington pointed out, showing her the second peice of paper that was legally notarized. "Trina's last act before she died was to give me full custody of her son, Johnny." He stopped as the door to the bedroom slid open and Johnny stood there, his blue eyes full of disbelief and anger.
"Mum's dead?" he asked, looking at Remington.
"Johnny-" Laura began, moving toward the boy as Mildred came into the room after him, but Johnny flew past her, throwing himself at Remington.
"Take that back! She's not dead! She'll be back. She always come back!" Remington knelt to take the child into his arms, ignoring the blows as he tried to hold on. "She'll come back!" Johnny cried.
"I'm sorry, Johnny," Remington said gently when Johnny finally ran out of steam. "Your mother had an accident earlier. She was trying to get away from a bad man when she ran in front of a lorry-"
Mildred gasped at the news and Laura put an arm around her shoulders.
"No!" Johnny cried. "She's not dead!" He struggled until Remington had no choice but to release him, and then ran toward the door. "Mummy!"
Remington followed, catching up with him at the elevators, grabbing the boy's shoulders and pulling him into his arms as he began to sob. "She 'as to come back. She 'as to," he kept muttering.
Laura watched as Remington carried the crying child back into their suite and followed as he went straight through to the bed and sat there, rocking back and forth, "I know, Johnny. It's hard, bein' on your own," he said in a soothing voice. "But you're not on your own, mate." Johnny looked up at him, hiccupping. "I'll be here. And so will Laura, and Mildred. We're not going to going to leave you."
Johnny looked over at Laura and Mildred, who were both wiping tears from their eyes. "You promise? You won't make me go back to 'im?"
"Never," Remington swore, pulling Johnny even closer. "How would you like to take a trip, hmm?"
"A trip? Where to?" Johnny asked, his attention partially diverted at last by the idea of going somewhere.
"Oh, have you ever heard of Los Angeles?"
"Where they make the movies?" Johnny asked, and Remington smiled at the question. "Some of them, yes. You like the movies?"
"Indiana Jones is my favorite," he said. "Mum took me to see it three time," he told Remington, his face falling as he mentioned his mother again. "She's not coming back, is she?"
"I'm afraid not, Johnny," Remington said. "Oh, you're going to love Los Angeles," he said.
"Just one- tiny problem," Laura pointed out, and three pairs of eyes turned toward her. "Just how are we going to get him there?"
Remington looked thoughtful. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," he told her. "How do you feel about chartered jets?" he asked.
"How do you feel about the word bankruptcy?" Laura countered darkly.
"Okay, then, as much as I hate to do this, Mildred, do you still have that contact where you got me that little present?"
Laura started shaking her head as Mildred answered. "Sure. At least, I think he's still around. He was really Daniel's contact-"
"Wait a minute," Laura said. "You're talking about doing the same thing that got us *here* to begin with," she reminded him.
Remington winked at Johnny, who tried not to smile as Remington put him onto the bed. "Why don't you rest for a few minutes while Laura and I have a little chat eh?" he suggested. "Mildred will stay with you, if you like."
Johnny smiled as Mildred approached the bed. "I like Aunt Millie. She's nice."
"And I like you, too, kiddo," Mildred replied, taking Remington's place on the edge of the bed.
Laura turned and left the bedroom, followed by Remington, who closed the doors.
"Have you lost your mind?" Laura questioned, starting to pace the floor.
"Laura, what else do you suggest? If we go through the regular channels, we'll be tied up in the English bureaucracy for months! Not to mention that we'll be exposing that child to who know what kind of dangers if they courts decide to leave him with Colverson."
"It just seems the height of foolishness to try to sneak a child *into* Los Angeles using a fake passport when you're already under the scrutiny of Immigration yourself!" she declared, and gave a frustrated sigh as Remington signaled for her to lower her voice.
"He doesn't need to hear us arguing about him, either," Remington added. "Laura, I know you're disappointed in me, but-"
"I'm not disappointed in you- you had no way of knowing that you had a son. If he *is* your son. His own mother didn't even know-"
"That doesn't change the fact that he's in trouble and he needs our help. Tell you what, why don't you and Mildred go on ahead and I'll bring Johnny along as soon as I have everything ready?"
"Oh, no. You're not going to-"
"If something goes wrong-"
"Then he'll end up right back here, with Colverson," she reminded him. "And you'll be in jail. And so will I. Hell, we might all end up in jail for kidnapping," she said.
Remington grabbed her shoulders and forced her to look at him. "Please, Laura. We have to do something- Trina said that she couldn't trust the police to take care of the boy- But she trusted me. I can't let her down, Laura. Anymore than I could let you down in similar circumstances. Will you help me?"
"D. they always argue that way?" Johnny asked Mildred as he lay on the bed, looking at the door to the other room.
"Oh, they're not arguing, honey," Mildred said, trying to reassure him. "They're just discussing things."
"My mum and *'im* used to discuss things that way. Yellin'. I didn't like it," he declared. "You 'ave any kids?" he asked.
"No. Well, not unless you count those two out there. They're like my kids. Only they're all grown up."
"What's Los Angeles like?" Johnny asked.
After a few minutes, Remington called Mildred out. "I need you to go and find that contact, Mildred. Have him work up a passport for Johnny as quickly as he possibly can."
"What about a picture?" Mildred asked as she grabbed her purse.
"Uh-" Remington said, putting a hand to his head.
"Oh, wait a minute!" Milred declaured, digging into her oversize purse and finally pulling out a small camera. "I've got a couple of pictures left on this roll. I can take them of the little guy and get it developed, and let my contact use that."
"Ah, Mildred!" Remington said, smiling. "Wonderful! Let's get the photo and get started. We haven't a second to lose," he told her, following her into the bedroom where Johnny was lyaing down.
Laura followed, shaking her head in disbelief that she was letting this happen.
Johnny was eager to let Mildred take his picture- but then he wanted one of himself and 'arry. Once the pictures were taken, Mildred departed, assuring them she'd be back with passport in hand, and Laura tucked Johnny back into bed to get some rest before the flight ot Los Angeles.
As she gave the blanket a final pat, Johnny looked up at her. "You're a nice lady," he told her, causing Laura to pause for a moment and look at him.
"You're a nce little boy," Laura said, dropping a kiss onto his forehead. "Get some rest."
She joined Remington out in the other room, where he was reading Trina's letter again. "He's a resilient little boy, I'll give him that. Most five year olds would be terrified t being left alone with virtual strangers."
"I have the feeling that it's not the first time it's happened," Remington told her. "Look, I have to go somewhere."
"Where?" Laura asked, following him to the door.
"To see Trina's father. To let him know where Johnny will be so he wont' worry." He pulled her close for a kiss. "Lock the door after I go. And don't open it unless it's me or Mildred."
She nodded and watched him down the hall before closing the door, locking it, and then fastening the security chain for good measure.
George looked up from his newspaper when the lift opened to deposit an old biddy. She looked at a camera in her hand and approached the desk. "Do you know of anyplace where I could get some film delveoped?" he heard her ask the clerk, who directed her to a photo shop the next street over.
Probably some American tourist her with a group of old folks, Geroge decided, then perked up as the lift doors opened once mre and Remington Steele himself appeared, looking like he'd just stepped off the cover of a gent's magazine. Steele moved toward the doors. George watched him for amoment, then looked back to the lift, wondering where Johnny might be. Probably with Steele's wife. He hadn't asked what room Steele might be in, not wanting to attract undue attention. Staying within view of the lift, George went to the nearest phone to check in with the boss.
Remington got out of the taxi and stood before the Blood and Bull pub, surveying the run down exterior. It needed a coat of paint- and the neon in the window was flickering badly. And it looked exactly as he remembered it when he'd last been here, six years ago.
Entering the dark, smoke filled room, he smelled the stale ale and for a moment was taken away to his youth. A group of men stood around the dart board, having a game while good naturedly discussing the latest football matchups.
He moved toward the bar, where he easily recognized David Castlemain. The publican had grown a bit heavier and his hair was thinner- and more gray than black, but it was him, alright. "Evenin," Castlemain said somberly as Remington sat down on the squeaky stool. "What'll you 'ave?" he asked.
"Give us a pint," Remington said, looking around. "I'm a little surprised to see you here tonight," he said as the man handed him a mug of dark ale. "After what happened to Trina today."
Castlemain stopped as he was about to turn away, his pale blue eyes fixed on Remington. "And just 'oo might you be?" he asked, "comin' in 'ere, questioning me about my daughter? You with the police?" He slapped the rag in his hand onto the counter. "I'll tell you like I told the rest of 'em. I 'and't see the girl in almost six years. Tossed her out when she got herself knocked up."
"Tossed her out?" Remington questioned, the mug halfway to his mouth. "Then you've never seen your grandson?"
"She brought 'im round once, coupla years go," Castlemain said. "Tried to give me some sad story, I told 'er to turn round and walk right back out the door.
Remington put the mug down very slowly and very carefully. "You turned your own flesh and blood out onto the street without a second thought?"
"That I did. And I'd do it again. Whatever 'appened to 'er this afternoon, I figure it was God's punishment for 'er 'avin' done the things she did."
Remington decided that enough was enough and reached across the bar to grab the man's shirt, pulling him forwad. "You bastard. She needed you. She, and the boy. And you turned your back on them like they were so much rubbish." The men playing darts turned and started in that direction, and Remington released the man, stepping back, hands in the air. "Just havin' a friendly discussion here, lads. No harm done." The men looked at Castlemain for instruction, and he waved them away. They returned to the dartboard, but Remington knew that they were listening in on the conversation.
Castlemain's eyes widened as he recognized Remington. "I know 'oo you are," he said. "That guy she was 'angin' out with six years ago. 'arry. 'arry Todd, she called you. You were one of the ones that - you've got a lot of nerve, mate, accusin' *me* of abandonin' 'er, when you-"
"Big difference, Castlemain," Remington said. "I didn't know. I'd gone before she found out she was pregnant. And she had no way of getting in touch with me. You might have told me when I came back a few months later-"
"I didn't know then," Castlemain said. "She just up and left one day about a month after you took off. Didn't even leave a note. Next time I saw 'er she 'ad a babe in her arms- and wouldn't tell me who the father was."
"So instead of welcoming her home and helping her to raise your grandson, you just- disowned the both of them, eh?" Remington shook his head. "At least I would have helped her, tried to do the right thing by her. I wouldn't have turned her away, left her to fend for herself with a child to think of."
"Why are you 'ere? She's dead. It's finished!"
"Oh, no. It's not finished. There's still the boy to think of. I thought maybe you'd want to know that he was well and being taken care of-"
"I thought 'e was with 'er 'usband."
"And that thought didn't trouble you in the least? Knowing what you do about Ian Colverson?" Remington questioned.
"Trina made her bed," Castlemain declared. "It was up to her to lie in it."
"And you made damn sure she did, didn't you? Even if it meant her dying because of it. Oh, I shouldn't have come here. You don't care anymore about your grandson than you did about your daughter." Remington turned and started for the door.
"Where is he?" Castlemain asked. "The boy?"
"He's safe. That's all you'll need to know." He left the pub and took a deep breath as he stepped out onto the street, clearing his lungs of the stale air- and his mind of the anger. No wonder Trina had left as she had. Johnny wouldn't be welcome here either, Remington decided, his mind totally made up. The only thing left to do now was get the boy safely to Los Angeles.
After that- well, he'd do what he always had: play it by ear.
Laura knew not to question Remington when he returned to the hotel. His dark expression had told the tale as well as any words- Trina's father hadn't wanted his grandson around. She watched as Remington went into the bedroom to check on Johnny, pulling the covers gently around the little boy's thin shoulders.
"Probably the first real night's sleep he's had in days," Laura told him. "He woke up after you left, and we talked a little. You wre right about Trina leaving him before. Seems his past is almost as checkered as yours probably was by that age. I think she's been trying to hide him away from her husband for years to keep him from using Johnny as hostage against her."
He glanced out of the window, nodding. "Any word from Mildred?" he asked.
"Not a peep. And if she's not back soon, I'll have to reschedule our flaight- again." She put a hand on his arm, then slid it across his back. "Was it rough, seeing her father again?"
"He tossed her out when he found out about the baby," Remington told her. "Cold heartened old-" he glanced toward the bedroom. "Hard to believe someone like that could have been Trina's father."
Laura could feel the anger in him, anger directed not only at the people who had dismissed the little boy now sleeping in the next room, but another little boy so long ago, in not so very different circumstances. "He's very smart," she said now. "Talking ot him is more like talking to an older child."
"He's never had the chance to be a little boy," Remington told her.
"Well, he will now," Laura promised, and Remington smiled down at her, touching her cheek before pulling her into his arms. "Youv'e been an absolute brick about this, you know. And I just want you to know that I- really appreciate it."
He lowered his head to hers as there came a knock at the door. Remington sighed. "That's probably Mildred," he told her, moving away from her to open the door enough to look out.
"It's me, Boss," Mildred said.
Remington took the chain from the door and opened it, letting her inside. "We were getting worried," he told her.
"It took me a while to track the guy down," Mildred explained.
"Did you get it?" Laura asked.
Mildred dug into her purse and withdrew the passport. "One British passport for John Castlemain."
Remington put an arm around Mildred's shoulders, smiling at last. "Now, all we need to do is get to the airport without any interference. I think we'll skip alerting management that we're checking out until we get downstairs. Mildred, call a cab, please." Mildred went to the telephone and picked it up. "Laura, which would you prefer, carrying Johnny or the luggage?"
"Johnny," Laura decided. "It might look better. And I think he needs a woman around at the moment, after losing his mother."
Remington gave her a grateful look as Mildred hung up. "They'll be here in ten minutes," she told them.
"Okay," Remington said, rubbing his hands together, then patting his pockets to make sure he had all the necessary papers to get them out of London and off the plane in Los Angeles. "Let's go get the luggage and Johnny."
George hid behind the newspaper as he saw the Steeles and the older woman who had been looking at her camera earlier exit the lift and head toward the front desk. Mrs. Steele was holding Johnny, and George considered - just for a moment, grabbing the boy and taking off. But the fear of being caught didn't stop him as much as the fear of failing again and having to face Mr. Colverson. He'd never known anyone as cold as his employer.
He kept his face hidden with the newspaper as the Steeles passed, knowing that Johnny would recognize him. Once they moved out the door, George jumped up and followed, watching as they got into a waiting taxicab.
He pushed a couple away from the next taxi and jumped into the back, instructing the driver to follow the vehicle in front of them, promising him a good tip if he did it.
As the Steeles and Johnny and the older woman got out of the taxi at the airport, George's driver asked about his tip. Smiling, his white teeth gleaming in the rear view mirror, George said, "Always see the money up front, mate," and drew the switchblade across the man's throat before getting out of the car and hurrying inside to watch Steele's party board a flight bound for Los Angeles, California.
George went to the nearest bank of telephones and dialed his employer's number. "What have you got for me, George?" Ian asked.
"They have the boy. And they all just boarded a plane going to Los Angeles."
"Stay there, George," Ian said. " London's so cold and dreary this time of year. I think you and I are going to go soak up a bit of California sunshine," Ian said with a smile.
Johnny sat beside Mildred, wide eyed as he looked around the cabin of the 747. "Cor. I've never seen anything like this," he told her.
She pointed out of the window, "You've got the best seat in the house," she said.
Remington turned and looked over the seat. "Everything okay back there?" he asked.
"Great!" Johnny said with a grin that tore at Remington's heart as he turned around.
He took Laura's hand in his. "Thank you."
"I haven't done anything," she said. "But I still think you should at least consider a paternity test. If it's positive, then at least you'll have the backing of the courts- as it is-"
"And if it's negative, that leaves Johnny at the mercy-" he lowered his voice with a glance behind them to make sure Johnny's attention was focused elsewhere- "of that bastard Colverson. I can't take that chance. Not until he's safe, anyway."
"And once he is? What if you find out that he's not your son?" Laura asked.
"As I said before, it won't matter. We can adopt him- if he's agreeable." He looked at her. "And if you're agreeable as well." He turned to face her. "Laura, I know we haven't even gotten near to the point of discussing children, but- I can't turn my back on him."
"And I won't ask you to," Laura promised.
"As I said, Thank you," he told her again, leaning close to give her a kiss as the fasten seatbelts light came on. Turning to look at Johnny, Remington said, "Make sure your seat belt is fastened, Johnny. Here we go."
George met Ian at the curb several meters down from where the police were gathered around another taxi. "What happened down there?" Ian asked.
"Some cabbie got his throat cut, is what I heard."
Ian shook his head. "You fool. Let's get out of here before someone connects you to him."
Ian handed George a passport as they approached the ticket counter. "I need two reservations for your next flight to Los Angeles," he told the young woman.
"Will that be tourist or first class?" the asked.
"Why, first class, of course," Ian responded, as if he thought the girl silly for even asking such a foolish question.
To Be Continued---