Friends of Steele
Part 4

"Bingo!" she said softly as she found what she was looking for, only to fall silent as the door to Laura's office opened. "Did I just hear Daniel's voice out here a few minutes ago, Mildred?" she asked, looking around.

"He and Mr. Steele just left for lunch," Mildred told her. "I'm going to order something in- do you want me order something for you?"

"I'm not really hungry," Laura told her. "I'll just- go finish the paperwork."

"Miss Holt, you have to eat something."

"Ham on rye," Laura said, disappearing back into her office.


Daniel watched his former protégé as he examined the menu with feigned enthusiasm. "Trouble making up your mind, Harry?" he finally asked with a smile. "There was a time when you would have simply ordered one of everything."

His remark drew the glimmer of a smile. "And I would've eaten most of it," he agreed. The smile faded. "Just not very hungry, I suppose." Having said that, he ordered the veal, baby peas in butter sauce, and salad, causing Daniel to laugh softly and shake his head.

"I'll have the same," he told the waiter. Once the man vanished, Daniel said, "What's wrong, Harry?"

Harry looked at him. "Either you still know me too well, Daniel, or you've been talking to Mildred."

"A bit of both, actually." He paused to take a drink of wine. "Do you know why I sent that loathsome Hoskins to Remington Steele's doorstep, Harry?"

"Because you knew I'd help you?" Harry guessed.

"Oh, I could have taken him down in London. The reason I came here was because I wanted to meet the young woman who had captured your attention- and your heart- so quickly." Seeing Harry's confused frown, Daniel continued. "Do you remember your call to tell me that you had assumed Remington Steele's identity?"

"Yes. I explained how it had happened."

"Which took five minutes of a thirty minute call," Daniel reminded him. "For the other twenty five minutes, you proceeded to tell me about Laura Holt. Not one word about her associate- Michaels, wasn't it? - Or the enchanting Miss Wolfe."

"Foxe," Harry corrected automatically. "Did I really do that?"

"You did. I think I knew at that moment that you'd never return to the life. You sounded happy. And settled. Quite content to remain here, in Los Angeles, playing at being a world famous detective."

"Yet you still made the offer of- one last romp across the Continent, I believe it was."

"As I explained the other day, that was merely a ploy to test your determination to change. To find out if you were truly serious about finally putting down those roots of yours in firm ground. Now, do you want to talk about whatever's troubling you?"

Harry sighed deeply. "I don't know, Daniel. I love Laura. And I know she loves me. But there are times when her bloody insecurities make me wonder if I shouldn't just pack it all in."

"Mildred mentioned something about Abigail."

Harry nodded, then waited until the waiter served them and left again before answering. "Laura and I had a wonderful evening. Dinner, champagne. We were just starting to discuss setting a date for the wedding when the bloody phone rang. Abigail had tracked Laura down, insisted on talking to her. I really thought they could talk long distance without any repercussions. Not much she could do from Connecticut, right?" He took a bite of the veal. "She started badgering Laura to set a date as soon as possible, especially since it appeared that Laura was living with me. I could tell Laura was becoming upset, so I took the phone, intending to try and defuse the situation. But while Laura paced the apartment like a caged animal, I found myself unable to get a word in edgewise. All I could do was agree with Abigail's various plans. Before I knew what I was saying, I told her that Laura was going to be moving to my apartment. The next thing I knew, Laura was grabbing her coat and was gone before I could hang up. I followed her home, she refused to open the door."

"Did you try to call her?"

"She wouldn't answer the phone."

"Having seen Abigail in action, surely you realize that- from Laura's point of view, you're a traitor. She doesn't get on well with her mother."

"That's an understatement. I've seen Laura face down a cold-blooded killer without so much as a tremor of nerves showing. But five seconds with her mother, and she's a basket case."

Daniel studied Harry, watching him eat. "Do you want my advice?"

"Of course."

"I think Laura was upset with the idea of giving up her life to move in to your apartment. From what I've seen, she's a very independent young woman. She'd be giving up everything, while you would give up virtually nothing."

Harry smiled at last, sighing with relief. "I came to the same realization earlier. And I've already set a plan into motion to resolve that little difficulty. Nice to have it confirmed. Oh, Daniel, I'm glad you're here. I hope you can stay on for awhile."

"Actually, my boy," Daniel said slowly, watching Harry's reaction as he continued, "I've been giving quite a bit of thought to settling here in Los Angeles myself."

The blue eyes widened with delighted surprise. "Really? Thinking of retiring again?" he asked pointedly.

"Permanently this time," Daniel assured him. "I'm getting a bit long in the tooth to be trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities. I'm sure I could find a modest little place on the beach. You don't think Laura would object to my being here full time, do you?"

"No. Speaking of Laura," he said, glancing at his watch, "I'd better return to the office." He dropped his napkin onto his empty plate. "Care to tag along? I might be able to give you another reason for staying in Los Angeles."

"What might that be?" Daniel asked.

Harry's grin was laced with mischief. "I think I'd rather it be a surprise."

If Daniel had known what the surprise was, he would have hightailed it back to the hotel. But, like Harry, curiosity had always been his downfall.


Laura finished her sandwich and picked up the Styrofoam container to toss it into the trash, only to pause as a well dressed, middle aged blonde woman entered the office. "May I help you?" she asked.

"I have a one o'clock appointment with Miss Laura Holt and- Mr. Steele," the woman informed her in a voice that revealed her British origins.

Mildred glanced at her appointment book, then met Laura's questioning gaze before shaking her head. Laura moved forward. "Mr. Steele isn't here at the moment," she informed the woman. "I'm Laura Holt. How can we help you?"

"Oh, I think the question is how can *I* help you," the woman said.

"I beg your pardon?"

Mildred wasn't sure when it clicked, but it did. She KNEW this was Mr. Steele's peace offering even before the woman extended a business card toward Laura. "This might explain things. At least I hope it will."

"Charlotte Miller," Laura read. "Realtor?"

BINGO! Mildred thought.

"Mr. Steele came by to see me before lunch- explained that you and he were looking for a house in which to live once you're married- Congratulations, by the way. I hope you'll both be very happy. I know he certainly deserves to be."

"You know Mr. Steele?" Mildred asked.

"From London," she said. "I came to America some years ago, and started a real estate business." Her green eyes moved from Mildred to Laura. "Believe me, it's quite legitimate, Miss Holt. My agency was the one who found him his present place of residence."

"I thought I'd seen the name before," Laura mused. "You said something about a- house?" she asked, and Mildred wondered about the expression on her face.

"Yes. Harry asked me to drop by and show the two of you some houses, discuss what you're looking for. Do you think he'll be much longer?"

"I don't know, Daniel," Mr. Steele was saying as he pushed open the glass door. "You might be right-" His eyes moved from Charlotte Miller to Laura, suddenly wary. "Laura."

"A house?" she questioned, moving slowly toward him. "You want to buy a HOUSE?"

"It seemed like the best solution," he began, and Mildred stifled a laugh as Laura threw her arms around his neck and gave him a big kiss. "I take it you approve, Miss Holt?" He turned to the realtor. "Hello, Charlie."

But Charlotte Miller wasn't looking at Mr. Steele, Mildred noticed. Her jade green gaze was fixed on the man who now stood between Mr. Steele and the desk, looking as if he would rather be anywhere except where he was at that moment. "Daniel."

"Charlotte. I'm- surprised to see you here."

"Me too. I had no IDEA that you were in Los Angeles. Shame on you, Harry, for not telling me."

Daniel looked at Mildred, but she ignored his pleading expression. "You two know each other?" she asked.

"Oh, Daniel and I go way back," Charlotte said, moving closer to Daniel. Mildred found herself noticing how thin Charlotte was. How her tailored business-like suit fit her perfectly, its dark green color matching her eyes and setting off her red hair. "We had some wonderful times together, didn't we, Daniel?" she asked, sliding her arms to his shoulders. "It's been such a long time."

"You're looking well, Charlotte," Daniel said nervously, not taking her up on her obvious offer. "Los Angeles apparently agrees with you."

"It's not Cannes, or Monaco, but- I've done rather well," she assured him. "Why don't have dinner tonight?" she suggested in a breathless voice, pressing herself closer still. "We can discuss- old times."

Here it comes, Mildred thought. Dumped for the old girlfriend. Someone he has more in common with than a plump receptionist. Oh, well, he'd have hated bowling anyway.

"I'm sorry, my dear, but I have a previous engagement," Daniel said, lifting her hands from his shoulders and bringing them to his lips in a salute.

"I'm sure whoever it is would understand your wanting to - renew an old acquaintance," Mildred pointed out, then instantly regretted her words as they drew not only Daniel's attention, but Mr. Steele's as well.

"Nonsense," Daniel informed her, his eyes on hers. "I'm looking forward to what I have planned." She could see that he meant it. There was a sincerity on his face that caused her to look away for a moment.

"Tomorrow, then?" Charlotte pressed.

"Why don't I call you?" he suggested. "I might be in need of your services- as a realtor," he quickly amended.

Mildred's eyes lifted to his face again as Laura asked, "Why, Daniel? Are you thinking about moving to Los Angeles?"

"I'm- considering it," he admitted, looking at Mildred again.

"Do you PROMISE to call me," Charlotte pouted. "Although why I would trust your promise. You never called before."

"Ah, but I'm a changed man," Daniel said, and glanced at Mr. Steele, sending a silent message.

"Why don't we go into my office?" Mr. Steele suggested, taking Charlotte's arm. "This way, ladies."

Once the door closed behind them, Daniel turned to the desk as Mildred said, "She's very attractive."

"She's an old friend," he said. "But I don't want to talk about Charlotte Miller. I'd much rather find out if our bowling date is still on."

"Daniel, you don't have to-"

He reached across the desk to take her hand. "I WANT to," he insisted.

"We DO need to talk," she agreed. "And not about the red head, either. Although I'm sure that's not her REAL hair color." When he would have responded to her cattiness, she lifted a hand. "I don't want to know. You didn't tell me everything did you?"

"About what?" he asked, and she could see the wariness in his expression.

"Your brother. About why you and he argued and you left again." She held out a paper. "I found this."

Daniel read the words and paled slightly. "Where?"

She waved toward the computer. "It's there. If you know where to look."

He sighed. "You're right. We do need to talk."

But Mildred wasn't watching him. Her attention was on the woman sailing through the doors into the office. "Trouble at six o'clock," she warned Daniel beneath her breath.

Daniel turned, and immediately wondered what ELSE could possibly go wrong as he smiled brightly at Abigail Holt…
To Be Continued...

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Original content ©2000 by Nancy Eddy