Custodial Steele
Part 3

Laura unlocked the door of the condo and entered, Johnny's hand in hers, as Remington and Fred followed them with the luggage. Fred, of course, was carrying the lion's share of the bags, weighted down with almost twice as many as Remington was carrying.

Tossing her hat onto the credenza below the movie posters, Laura ran her fingers through her hair, watching Johnny wander cautiously around the room as Remington led Fred into the bedroom to put down the luggage.

Johnny found the movie posters and stood looking at them, his head tilted to one side. "Cor," he said, and Fred chuckled along with Remington.

"I'll be taking off now, if you don't need anything else," Fred told them. "I'm glad you're home, Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele," the chauffer said, and then smiled at Johnny. "And it was a pleasure to meet you, Johnny," he said, holding out a hand to the boy.

His face serious, Johnny shook Fred's hand. "Thank you, Mr. Fred," he said.

"Just Fred," the driver told him. "See ya around."

Johnny nodded as his attention returned to his new surroundings. "We'll see you tomorrow, Fred," Laura told him. "Bright and early, okay?"

Fred looked toward Remington for confirmation of Laura's words. "You heard Mrs. Steele, Fred. She's the boss," he said with a wink as he removed his jacket and tossed it carelessly over the back of the sofa. Johnny looked up at Remington with a frown upon hearing the words, but then quickly forgot his apparently confusion as he looked around the art deco room.

"Bright and early, then," Fred agreed, and then left.

Remington watched Johnny for a minute. "I bet you're hungry, eh, Johnny?"

Johnny turned to look at him. "Starvin'," he said, and then reached out cautiously to touch a crystal vase as he asked, "Are you rich?"

"I can't really complain," Remington told him, holding out a hand. "Why don't we go see if there's anything in the cupboard, eh?"

Johnny took his hand, then looked at Laura when she stayed where she was. "Aren't you comin' with us?"

" I'm going to take a long, hot bath," she told him. "I need to unwind a little after that long trip."

"A bath?" Johnny asked, looking uncertain, and Laura halfway expected him to remind her that it wasn't Saturday night. But instead, he asked, "You're not 'ungry?"

"I'm sure Rem- Harry will find enough for all of us," she assured him.

Once in the kitchen, Remington lifted Johnny up onto one of the stools beside the counter and surveyed the contents of the pantry with a frown. Not much here, he realized. He and Laura had been gone for almost two weeks. Then, on a top shelf, he found some packets of noodle soup that he'd hidden away for emergencies. If this wasn't an emergency, he wasn't sure what it was. A hungry child, - and he was hungry as well, he realized. "How about noodle soup?" he asked the boy, who nodded, smiling.

"I love noodle soup," Johnny said, nodding eagerly, his blue eyes alight.

"Good. Then noodle soup it shall be." He put some water into a pan and turned on the burner to wait for it to boil.

"Why does Laura call you Remington?" Johnny wanted to know, resting his chin on the counter as he watched the flames under the pan.

"It's my name," Remington answered easily. "Remington Steele."

"But- mum said your name was 'arry."

"Harry's my middle name," Remington told the boy easily, giving voice to an idea that had occurred to him while they'd been in London as he watched the water. "Remington Harrison Steele."

Johnny grinned. "That's *my* middle name," he told Remington. "John Harrison Castlemain," he announced proudly.

"Such a big name for such a little boy," Remington teased.

"I'm not little," Johnny said. "Mum said I was big for my age."

"A little taller than most five year olds," Remington agreed as the water started bubbling gently, and he pushed at Johnny's ribs. "But too thin. We'll have to see about putting some meat on those young bones." He tore open both foil packets and poured them into the water, stirring with a wooden spoon.

"I ain't never seen a man cook before," Johnny said.

"You *haven't ever* seen," Remington corrected gently. Time enough later to pick up the dropped "g" and "h". "And I enjoy cooking. At least it means that I don't go hungry anymore. Not like when I was a boy."

The blue eyes widened in surprise as he looked at Remington. "*You* 'ad to go 'ungry? Livin' 'ere?" he looked around the bright, shiny kitchen with its dark counters and white cabinets.

"Oh, I haven't always lived in places like this," Remington assured the child, stirring the soup. "When I was your age, I was living in Ireland with strangers. But you know what?" Johnny looked at him expectantly. "I got through it. And I've a sneaking suspicion that you will, too." He put the spoon down and opened another cabinet to retrieve soup bowls and then found some saltines. Since there was no bread to be had, the crackers would have to do, he supposed. Then he found three spoons, and placed them into the stacked bowls. Lifting Johnny from his perch, he held him up to the sink to wash his hands. Putting him back onto the floor, Remington held the bowls out to him. "Why don't you carry these out to the table for me?"

Johnny looked uncertainly at the china bowls, then slowly took them and carefully carried them through the door.

Grabbing the saltines, Remington picked up a ladle and the soup, and followed. Johnny had placed the three bowls around the table, setting the spoons inside the bowls. "Why don't we do it this way?" Remington suggested gently, putting the saltines down to place the spoons to the side of the bowls on top of the napkins at each place setting. "There. Isn't that better?" he asked. Johnny studied the table, then nodded, but Remington noticed the way he kept looking at the pan of soup. "Get into the chair," he told the boy, nodding toward the one to the right of the end. "There you go," he said, ladling the soup into the bowl, then putting the pan down to open the saltines. "Enjoy. I'm going to go find out how much longer Laura's going to be."

Johnny nodded; too busy tucking into his soup to speak.

Remington watched him with an amused, tender smile for a moment, feeling as though he were looking through some kind of mirror into his own past. At least Johnny had memories of his mother, though. Remington had none. And if it was within his power, Johnny would have lots more good memories to look back on that would eventually overshadow the first five years of his existence.

At last he turned toward the bedroom, and went to the bathroom door, tapping once before opening it. Leaning in against he jamb, he smiled at Laura, who was laying back in the oversize tub filled with bubbles, her towel-wrapped head against the porcelain, her eyes closed. "Hmm," he sighed. "You look relaxed."

She didn't open her eyes. "I am. Nothing like taking a bath in your own tub," she sighed.

"At least you're starting to consider it yours," Remington noted, moving over to sit on the edge, dragging his fingers through the bubbles. "That's a start, anyway." She did open an eye then. "Not missing the loft?" he asked.

"That tub's barely big enough to sit in, much less take a proper bath," she said. "I've always envied you this bathtub." She looked up at him. "What's Johnny doing?"

"Inhaling some noodle soup, last I saw," he told her.

"Noodle soup?" she asked, and he wondered if she were recalling the lsat time that they had shared noodle soup after her house had been blown up.

"It's all I had, I'm afraid. The larder's a bit bare. But I don't think Johnny's too fussy about what he eats at the moment. As long as it doesn't bite back-"

Laura smiled. "Like you, hmm?"

"In my younger days, perhaps. As I got older, my palate became a bit more refined-" he ran a finger up her arm toward her shoulder. "Now, I prefer tender, succulent morsels-"

"We have a problem," Laura told him, and Remington stopped, his finger just above the curve of one breast where it was hidden by the white bubbles.

"A problem?"

"Sleeping arrangements. Where's Johnny going to sleep?"

"Umm. You're right. I suppose we're going to have look for a larger place-"

"*If* he stays," Laura pointed out, and Remington looked at her. "Have you asked him? Maybe he'd prefer to go back to London. I'm sure Trina had family other than her father."

"Laura, he's five years old. He can't make that kind of decision. And until we know for certain that he's safe from Ian Colverson-"

"We're halfway around the world from Colverson," Laura pointed out. "I think you should find out what Johnny wants to do, and not just assume that you know what's best for him because you *might* be his father." She pointed toward a towel rack. "Hand me a towel."

Remington grabbed the towel as Laura rose from the water, and then wrapped it around her. "You're right," he agreed quietly, watching as the water started draining from the tub. "If we don't give him the choice, then we're no better than anyone else he's stayed with over the last five years. We can talk to him about it while we're having our soup," he told her.

"Where's he going to sleep tonight?" she asked, reaching for the terry cloth bathrobe she'd hung on the door. She removed the towel from her hair and picked up a comb, only to have Remington remove it from her fingers and start easing through her brown hair.

"We'll figure it out," he promised, dropping a kiss onto her bare shoulder.

Johnny's bowl was empty of soup when they returned to the dining room, but there was no sign of the boy either there or in the kitchen when Remington went in to look for him. He was going back to the dining room when he saw Laura standing and looking at something in the living room, and went to join her. "He's not-"

She nodded toward the sofa, where Johnny was curled up in one corner, his arms around a pillow and Remington's jacket over him as a blanket. "I think he's found his place to sleep," she told Remington. "I'll get him a blanket."

Remington nodded and went over to settle the sleeping child against the cushions at a more comfortable angle. "Poor little lad," he said softly. "He's exhausted," he told Laura when Johnny barely stirred.

"I don't doubt that he is," Laura agreed. "Being left with strangers, losing his mother, and then being dragged halfway around the globe to a strange city." She felt a tug at her heartstrings as she laid the blanket over Johnny, tucking it in. But she fought it, unwilling for some reason she couldn't completely understand to open her heart to the little urchin who looked so much like Remington. Smoothing his dark hair, she said, "Goodnight, Johnny."

He mumbled something and turned over, his face against the back of the sofa.

Remington pulled Laura to her feet and led her toward the dining room. "I'll heat the soup again," he said, leaving her to pick up the remains of Johnny's meal and follow him into the kitchen.


Downstairs, George stood leaning against the lamp post, staring up at the light coming from Steele's apartment. He blinked, trying to stay awake, not having slept much on the airplane. He didn't like to fly. Mr. Colverson, on the other hand, had slept the entire flight- and was even now sleeping in a comfortable bed in the suite he'd taken at a local hotel.

Suddenly George found himself pinned against the post by an arm around his neck and the feel of something hard pressing into his side. "What-"

"Quiet," the man said. "I'm asking the questions. What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm not doing anything. Just- standin' here. Minding my own business."

"Jamaican?" the man asked.

"I was born there. Live in London now. You're messin' with the wrong man, mate. My boss isn't gonna like-"

"Who's your boss?"

"Ian Colverson," George said when the arm tightened.

"Colverson? He's in LA?"

"Come here to get his kid back from a detective."

"Steele?" the man asked, releasing George at last. "Why does Remington Steele have Ian Colverson's son?"

"The boy's mother left him in Steele's care before she died," George said, turning around to look at the other man at last. Curly brown hair and brown eyes, dimpled chin. "Who are you?"

"Tony Roselli," Tony said, extending a hand. "Sorry about- but I've been waiting for Steele to get back from London for a week now."

"What have you got against Steele?" George asked.

"Steele's got something I want, too," Tony said, slipping an arm around the bigger man's shoulders. "Tell you what, why don't we have a little chat and maybe we can help each other get what we want. Hmm?"

"I don't know. Mr. Colverson's a private man."

"Why don't you introduce me and let him make the decision?" Tony said, and then nodded toward the bedroom window, where the light had just gone out. "They'll be easy to find tomorrow. Trust me."


Colverson turned his hardest dark gaze upon the other man, angry at having been awakened from a sound sleep to attend this meeting. "Why aren't you keeping an eye on Steele, George?" he asked.

"Steele's not going anywhere," Tony told Ian. "He's home. He thinks he's safe."

"What's your interest in this?" Ian asked, lighting a cigar.

Tony shrugged. "Like I told your man, Steele's got something I want."


"His wife. I figure, between the two of us, we can take Steele out. Then you get the kid, and that will leave Laura alone- with no one to turn to but her old friend, Tony Roselli."

"Roselli," Ian mused thoughtfully. "Ah, yes. Suspected of being a double agent- till Steele and Daniel Chalmers cleared you."

"Old news."

"You owe Steele. Why should I trust you?"

"If you want that kid, you've got no choice."

"Won't your employers frown on your association with someone like myself, Mr. Roselli?" Ian inquired, staring at Tony through the cigar smoke.

"They're not my employers anymore. I quit. Figured if they weren't willing to back me up when I needed them, I didn't them after all. So I'm- working free lance at the moment. I need Steele out of the way. Permanently."

Ian smiled. "I think perhaps we might be able to come to some kind of- arrangement, Mr. Roselli."

Tony smiled. "My friends call me Tony."


Mildred looked surprised when she saw the Steeles entering the office the next morning - with Johnny between them. "Hello, kiddo," she said, giving her employers a curious look.

"We didn't have anywhere else to leave him," Laura explained.

Johnny wandered around the reception area, touching the plants and sitting on the sofa- well, bouncing on the sofa, until he saw the frown of disapproval on Remington's face. Seeing it, he sat down on the cushions, hands at his sides. "I thought maybe we could set up some place for him here- temporarily, of course," Remington said. "Just until we get things resolved."

"I think we can find something," Mildred said, handing them each several message slips to look through. Then she pulled several sheets of typing paper from a box and found some colored highlighting pens. "Johnny?"

He came over to her. "Yes, Aunt Millie?" he asked, and Remington smiled.

"Why don't you take these and we'll find you a place to color, okay?"

"Can I draw a picture of the airplane we flew from London on?" he asked as Mildred led the boy toward the store room.

"She certainly knows how to handle him, doesn't she?" Remington asked, watching.

Laura studied her messages. "Hmm. She's had enough practice with the older version," she said. "I have ten messages to return," she told him. "Five of them from people that I *know* are curious about our marriage."

"I have one of those as well," Remington said, holding that one up. "From Estelle Becker."

"Estelle?" Laura questioned. "What happened to Miss Lynch?"

"Estelle's back on the case," Mildred answered as she returned, leaving the door partially open. "Seems Miss Lynch is stamping passports in Encino or something like that."

"How did you find that out, Mildred?" Laura asked.

"She called this morning right after I got here. Said she'd had a report that we came into the country last night."

"At least she's a friendly face," Remington pointed out. "I'll go give her a call. Uh, Mildred, what's on the schedule for this morning?"

"Well, Mr. Templeton has an appointment for ten. And there's an eleven -"

Laura touched Remington's arm as he gave Laura a worried look. "You can handle Mr. Templeton," she told him. "Johnny and I won't be long. We'll probably be back before you finish flashing your pearly whites and putting him at ease."

"Where are you and Johnny going to be?" Mildred asked.

"Getting him some new 'togs' as he called them," Laura explained. "Considering that his mother didn't leave him any clothes, he needs something other than those faded jeans and tee-shirt to wear." She looked at Remington. "Go call Estelle while I take care of a few of my calls."

Remington nodded, and turned toward his office. Mildred watched him, grinning. "So, how'd it go last night?"

"It was -different," Laura said, moving toward her office.


After the third call in which Laura had been forced to endure yet another of her old college friends raving about how "lucky" she was to have made such a "catch" as Remington Steele, Laura was in no mood to make another one. She slammed down the telephone as the connecting door between the offices opened. They were all as bad as her mother. Men weren't *fish*-

"Difficult client?" Remington asked, and Laura stared, for a moment seeing him with a fish head above his elegantly cut suit.

"Former college friend," Laura corrected as her vision cleared. "With a stress on the *former*. If I have to hear one more person tell me how lucky I am to be married to you, I'll-"

"Be forced to agree?" Remington asked, smiling.

"Ooooooh," Laura moaned in frustration. "I give up. What did Estelle Becker have to say?"

"She'll be here at three-"

"Three?" Laura asked.

"I cleared it with Mildred," he told her. "We had a free hour this afternoon. Are you sure you wouldn't rather that I take Johnny shopping, Laura?"

"And have you bring him back in a three piece suit, looking like a miniature Remington Steele?" Laura teased. "We'll be fine. You just worry about Mr. Templeton," she said. "Let me worry about Johnny for awhile."


Laura called Fred and asked him to meet them in the garage. As she and Johnny were going from the elevators to the limo, someone stepped out of the shadows to block her way.

"Hi, Laura."

She stopped short as she recognized the curly brown hair and dimpled chin. "Tony!" Her hands fell on Johnny's thin shoulders, sensing that he was looking up at her. "What are you doing here?"

"You mean in Los Angeles? Looking for a job," he explained. "Had a slight disagreement with my old bosses after things got sorted out."

"I meant *here*," Laura asked, and pushed Johnny on to where Fred had the limo door open. "Go and get into the limo, Johnny. I'll be right there." She watched him get into the car and knew that he was watching her.

"Who's the kid?" Tony asked.

"A client," Laura answered. "His mother was killed, and we're trying to protect him from the man responsible."

"Didn't take you long to find another case. You've only been home since last night, haven't you?"

"How did you know that?" Laura asked him.

"I've still got a few friends in Immigration," he told her with a shrug. "Bet Steele's happy that Estelle Becker's back working his case. Little more sympathetic than Gladys was. Shouldn't have any trouble with anyone questioning the legality of your marriage."

"Tony, I have to go," Laura said, and started to move away, only to stop as Tony put a hand on her arm.

"Look, Laura, I said some crazy things last time we talked. I know you're married to Steele, and that you say you love him. I can accept that. I just thought we could be friends."

"Of course we can, Tony," Laura said. "Listen, come by the office later, and we'll talk. Right now, I really have to go."

Tony nodded, waving at Johnny, who, Laura noticed as she got into the limo with him, didn't wave back. "Let's go, Fred," she told the driver.

"Who was that man?" Johnny asked.

"An old friend," Laura said.

"I didn't like 'im," Johnny declared.

Laura met Fred's eyes in the mirror and saw that he agreed with the child's assessment of Tony Roselli. But the man's voice was as calm and placid as ever as he asked, "Where to, Mrs. Steele?"


Tony watched the limo pull out of the garage as a smile crept over his face. Colverson hadn't told him everything. The kid was the spitting image of Steele. This was going to be easier than he'd ever dreamed it would be.

To Be Continued---

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Original Content © Nancy Eddy, 2002