Friends of Steele
Part Eight

"My-father, Daniel?" Harry questioned.

Daniel indicated the envelope. "These papers are from a London solicitor. And they prove- to the solicitor's satisfaction, at least-that you are the son of the late Lord Winston Marlowe, and sole heir to his title and estate."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief, but it was Laura's voice that filled the room. "I KNEW it!" she declared. "Didn't I tell you that he was planning something, Harry?" she asked, her brown eyes flashing as she glared at Daniel. "Another con! Just like the last one that almost cost you your life!"

Harry placed a hand on her arm to quiet her as he fixed Daniel with his eyes. "Daniel, I thought I'd made it clear that I don't do that anymore."

"Harry, in all the times I've suggested this con, have I ever tried to sell it to you as the real thing?" Daniel asked. "Told you that you were REALLY the heir?"

Those blue eyes searched Daniel's face. "No. I can't say you have. He has a point, Laura."

She stared at him. "You sound as if you think he's on the level!"

Daniel met that brilliant blue gaze, hoping his inner trepidation wasn't visible. "I think he is," Harry told her, and when she would have continued her tirade, he took her hand. "It won't hurt to hear him out," he said quietly. "Go on, Daniel."

Taking a deep breath, Daniel said, "Before I continue, Harry, I want to ask you a question. Why did you suddenly decide that you wanted to find your father? I seem to recall you once telling me that-"

"That I never cared if I found him or not," Harry finished, repeating his declaration from long ago. "Said a few other things on the subject as well, as I recall. None of them very nice." He looked thoughtful. "There were several reason, I suppose. First of which was Laura. She was determined to find out my real name- and I wanted to be able to give it to her. But the real reason came a couple of years ago, when I thought that I might be able to continue as Remington Steele. I wanted a name. A real name, not just something I'd pulled out of a hat or an old movie," he said with a self-depreciating grin. "Something concrete that I could present to Laura, tell her, 'This is who I am'."

Laura took his arm. "That doesn't matter now," she told him. "Because I know who you are. You're Remington Harrison Steele."

Daniel watched them for a moment. "And does that mean you've given up the search, Harry?" he asked.

Harry looked at Laura for a moment, then shook his head. "No. I still want to find out. But for myself. I want to know where I came from. Why my parents didn't want me, left me to fend for myself."

The white envelope felt suddenly very heavy. He would have simply handed it over, let Harry read through the various papers and information, but he glanced up to see Mildred outside the doorway, watching him. Clearing his throat, Daniel began. "Winston Marlowe was the elder son of Lord Andrew Marlowe. He entered an arranged marriage at the age of 21, and five years later, his father died, making him Lord Marlowe. Winston invited his younger brother to live on the family estate. During the next year, Winston Marlowe became heavily involved with a young Irish housemaid. Winston's wife, Carole, usually overlooked his liaisons, but this one she found herself unable to ignore. The girl found herself with child. Winston wanted to provide for the child and his mother, but Carole refused to consider it. She had lost one child during the first year of their marriage, and had been reluctant to try again. So she threatened the girl's life if Winston didn't dismiss her and send her back to Ireland."

"Threatened?" Laura questioned. "Threatened how?"

"Lady Marlowe was extremely unstable," Daniel explained. "Winston knew that she was more than capable of killing the young woman and the child she was carrying. So he had no choice except to let her go. He gave her some money, sent her off, thinking that her family in Ireland would take care of her, that he would be able to provide for the child at a later date, once Carole had forgotten the matter."

"But her family didn't take her in, did they?" Harry questioned.

"Oh, they didn't turn her out, but she had shamed them by being pregnant and having no husband. You have to remember that back then, such things weren't talked about. They were swept under the rug. The poor girl had nowhere to turn- until Winston's younger brother arrived."

"Why did he follow her?" Laura asked.

"He was infatuated with her. Had been since her arrival at the Manor. But she had only thought of him as a friend, little more. His arrival made things even more difficult with her family. They all thought that he was her child's father, and he didn't disabuse them of that notion. Instead, he asked her to marry him, to give the child the family name, and a father who wouldn't turn his back on him the way his had." Daniel's eyes searched Harry's distant expression, then he turned to the window before continuing. "When they married, her family did disown her- simply because he was English. He wanted to keep Winston's money for the baby, so he tried to find work- there was none to be had."

"Why didn't he just call his brother," Laura wondered.

"Pride," Daniel told her. "Stubborn pride. His departure from the Manor hadn't left he and Winston on the best of terms. Winston probably didn't even know where he was. Some friends talked him into trying to help them rob a bank- they were caught, and he ended up doing a year in jail."

"And what happened to the girl?" Harry's question was spoken in a soft voice, but Daniel could hear the pent up emotion in it.

"She had nowhere to go. Her family wouldn't take her in, she had no money. So she turned to a convent that specialized in women in her condition. Her son was born there." Daniel met those blue eyes again. "She-died within hours of her son's birth, long enough to insist the sisters fill out a birth certificate with the correct information."

Laura's arm slid around Harry. "And then?"

"The baby was placed in foster homes- to be adopted, but no papers were ever filed, no adoption recorded. He- slipped through the cracks in the system. Record keeping in Ireland even as recently as that wasn't very good. The birth certificate was never filed, it was kept at the convent, in the child's records."

"His- uncle- father," Harry said, his voice roughened by deep emotion, "What happened to him?"

"Well, after he was released from prison, he tried to find her. Even managed to track her down to the convent. The nuns were surprised to discover that he was real. They had thought she had simply made up her husband to keep from being ashamed- and they did try to locate the boy. But in the six months after his birth, the boy was placed in several homes- and was already untraceable."

"So he gave up?" Laura suggested. "Just walked away like his brother had?"

"No," Daniel said, then noticed the strange look Laura was giving him. Had she guessed the truth? "No. He kept looking. Spent the better part of the next year combing Ireland, trying to find his brother's son." He took a deep breath. "He did call Winston, to tell him what was happening, to take him even more to task for having sent the girl away, and only succeeded in furthering the breech between them. Winston still insisted that he couldn't look for his son- that Carole was pregnant again- and he couldn't' risk another miscarriage. She lost the child and another before they gave up trying. The brother informed Winston that the birth certificate at the convent listed HIM, not Winston as the boy's father, and that Winston didn't deserve a child. Not after abandoning this one." He saw Harry wince, saw Laura's heightened interest in the story.

"So this- brother, continued the search?" she asked, her eyes meeting Daniel's in silent communication. Harry was too caught up in his memories to be thinking clearly. But Laura- Laura had figured it all out.

"He tried. But with no money, he was ultimately forced into merely inspecting the face of every little boy he saw. Finally, about ten years later, Winston summoned him to the Manor. Winston was dying, and begged his brother to take up the search again. That his son had to be found. He also said that letting the boy and his mother go had been the single greatest mistake of his life."

"What about his wife?"

"She died two years before he did."

"So Lord Marlowe died and left the entire estate to his nephew- or son," Harry commented.

"The will says nephew. It had to so that the line would be legitimate. But the paperwork with the solicitor clearly states that the next Lord Marlowe will be Winston's son."

"And what makes you think that *I* am that son?" Harry asked. "Why me? I'm sure there were several babies born in Ireland during that time. I'm sure any cousins would be only to willing to find some way to disprove this, Daniel."

"There are no cousins," Daniel informed him. "There's no one that stands to gain or lose from your claiming your rightful inheritance."

"What about the uncle?" Laura wanted to know.

"He'll make no claim on the estate other than the trust fund that was set up for him by his brother's will."

Harry's eyes found him again. "Then you've met him."

"You- might say that," Daniel hedged. "He'll make no trouble. His only wish is that you step into your place as his brother's heir."

"There's still no proof, Daniel," Harry insisted. "Nothing concrete, no rock solid evidence that says I'm Winston Marlowe's son."

Daniel turned, and saw Mildred again. He couldn't put it off any longer. He would have to confess everything. "Your uncle has identified you, Harry," he explained, watching Harry's reaction as he spoke. "He says that you are your mother made over."

"Daniel, are you trying to tell me that *I* have met this man? When? Where?"

"The first time he saw you was in Brixton," Daniel replied. "And you tried to lift his wallet." He saw the wariness come over Harry's features. The disbelief. "He took one look into those blue eyes and KNEW without a doubt that you were Winston's son. Over the course of time, he became even more convinced, as he realized that you were a great deal like her. Generous, kind hearted, willing to give a friend the coat off your back, even if it meant you'd be shivering in the cold. You were Harriet made over, Harry."

Remington sat back, "H-Harriet?" he repeated. "Harriet?"

Daniel held out the envelope. "It's all in here, Harry," he said, and when Harry didn't move to take it, Daniel placed it on the table between them. With a glance at Laura, he said, "I'll go now. If you want to get in touch, I'll be at the hotel until tomorrow morning. If I haven't heard from you by then, I'll go back to London." When Harry still didn't move, he turned and left the office.

Mildred caught his arm as he crossed the lobby. "Daniel…"

"Not right now, Mildred. He needs you."

"And what about you?"

"I burned my bridges twenty odd years ago," he told her. "When I decided not to tell him the truth. It's up to Harry now." He patted her hand on his arm and leaned forward to place a light kiss on her lips. "Take care of him."

Mildred watched the door close behind him and found herself torn between following him and going into the main office. At last she turned toward Mr. Steele's office. It was time for some serious damage control…

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Original content ©2000 by Nancy Eddy