- Give Me A Steele
- By Ilsa
- Part Two
- Disclaimer, rating etc. in part one.
At 8.40am, Bernice Fox pushed open the suite doors and emitted
a contented sigh. She sat at her desk and savoured the scene.
No phones ringing, no press or police insisting to see the boss,
no mad stampede of desperate clients, no
"Ah! Good morning! Good morning Miss Wolfe! Lovely day,
eh?" The immaculately groomed man boomed at her.
"Oh no! This isn't happening! This can't be happening! You've
finally taken away the last bit of pleasure I get from my working
day! What are you doing here at this time?" she cried.
"I'm here because I live and breathe the intoxicating adrenaline
rush of detective work. However, taking away the last bit of
pleasure you get from your working day is a huge bonus too! Miss
Holt in yet?"
Bernice responded glumly. "I'm the only one here. Apart
from you that is."
Steele could barely contain his glee. He'd beaten Laura to work.
Perfect for his little scheme. "Would you be so kind as
to bring me a cup of tea and my morning paper in five minutes?"
"Anything to get you out of my hair."
"I'll take that as eagerness to please, Miss Wolfe."
Steele entered his office and opened the connecting door to Laura's.
He stealthily made his way to her filing cabinet for the drawers
containing current cases. Getting up at the crack of dawn - comparatively
speaking would be worth it if fortune smiled on him. He could
see it now: white sands, clear blue sea, scorching sun, Laura
in an outrageously tiny bikini that she wouldn't be wearing for
very long! Then they'd bring one of his fantasies to life and
re-enact the most celebrated scene of `From Here To Eternity'
he'd take the Burt Lancaster role, she'd be Deborah Kerr. The
warm water would wash over their naked forms as they rolled around
on the beach. Smirking lewdly to himself, Steele rushed back
into his chair ready to receive his morning ritual.
"Good morning!" Laura sang. What a wonderful day! The
sun was shining, the traffic had been light, it was Friday and
she'd also finally find out exactly who her charming con-artist
"Not any more it ain't!" Bernice sipped her coffee.
"What have I done to deserve this Laura? It was bad enough
having him around in the afternoons but now he's here early in
the mornings too!"
"Mr Steele's here?" She couldn't keep the shock out
of her voice.
"Here where? In this office or on this planet?"
"Not in yet," her secretary responded.
Laura paced, brow furrowed, deep in thought. "He's up to
something. I can feel it. But what? Have you taken any calls
for him from shady characters?"
"Irate loan sharks?"
"It was his former profession." Laura explained.
Bernice shrugged, "No."
"FBI? CIA? Interpol?"
"Sorry no calls of that kind. Unfortunately."
"Friends of his in trouble?"
Laura pondered every possible scenario and came up with an unwelcome
idea. "Okay. I'm going for a touchdown. A woman named Felicia?"
"An English lady rang yesterday and she wouldn't leave her
name. But that was yesterday Laura! I've taken no calls for him
today and he didn't act like he was expecting any either. He
came in, gave me a headache and asked for a cup of tea and his
"There has to be a reason! This is the Superbowl of possibilities.
Has Daniel Chalmers called here for him? Or a Leighton St Clair?
Eric Gunar? Colonel Reginald Frobish?"
"No, sorry! None of the above."
Laura paced in frustration and then resigned herself to her fate.
"I'll be in his office. Tell Murphy I need him as soon as
he gets in." She walked purposefully towards the door, composed
herself, knocked briefly and entered.
A sipping Steele peeked above his paper. "Ah, there you
are Miss Holt! I was just about to send out a search party!"
She exhaled deeply. "Bit early in the day for you isn't
it Mr Steele?"
"Laura, it was only a matter of time before some of your
more endearing traits rubbed off on me! Speaking of rubbing,
what brand of sun tan lotion should I buy for you? Wouldn't want
that delicate skin of yours burnt in the Caribbean sun before
I sample it!"
She crossed her arms, "Don't get cocky Mr Steele! That's
the best way of ensuring you fall flat on your face!"
"Rest assured that the only thing I'm aiming to fall flat
on is a rather slender brunette!" He flashed her a flirtatious
glance over his paper.
"Well, when you find her, give her my best." Laura
"With any luck Miss Holt, she'll be giving me her best!"
He folded the newspaper and smiled warmly into her eyes.
There was no answer to that. "Mr Steele, we have business
to conduct so while I'm discussing the Jennings matter with Murphy"
"Shouldn't I be included in that discussion? I'm already
helping with the case, coming up with suppositions, bouncing
my theories back and forth"
"Yes Mr Steele you are and I'll fill you in if we come up
with anything in the meantime. But right now I'd appreciate it
if you could work on your speech forthe `Save Poopsie's Poodle
"Really Laura! The Remington Steele agency dragged into
a canine concern? Isn't that rather beneath us?" He couldn't
disguise his disdain.
"Think laterally Mr Steele. Those pampered poodles are owned
by some of the wealthiest people in LA. It's good PR for the
agency, so go along, say your little speech, flash your visage
and those pearly whites for the cameras and press the flesh.
I'm not asking you to do something you haven't done before."
"Oh if only you would Laura. If only you would!" He
fiddled with the knot of his tie. "Press the flesh, you
say?" She silently nodded as he sighed. "I suppose
there's no harm getting some practice in before we go away. Must
I really do this?"
She walked over to him and patted his shoulder. "Yes, Mr
Steele. You must."
"The travails I put up with for the sake of the agency!
He was interrupted by a knock on the door. Murphy popped his
head around and immediately addressed Laura. "I heard it
but I didn't believe it so I thought I'd check for myself. I
told Bernice that a pig would fly first, that hell would freeze
"Good morning to you too Murphy." Steele pointedly
remarked. "You don't look awake yet. Out late last night
were we?" He was fully aware of Laura's warning glare but
he ignored it.
"No, we weren't. I was."
"Don't be bashful Murphy! Regale us with a summation of
your evening. Do anything in particular?"
Murphy answered him evenly but directed his remark at Laura.
"I paid a visit to a very special lady."
"Really? Anyone I know?" Steele quietly winced as he
felt the bruising kick on his shin.
Laura jumped in quickly. "While I'm sure this is all very
interesting, business awaits so let's catch up on each other's
social activities later. Murphy, come into my office and let's
talk Jennings! Mr Steele, you should get started on that speech.
They're counting on us. Or rather, on you."
She motioned to Murphy who followed through the connecting door
into her office. He stole a quick look at her: as usual her vibrancy
and energy could power an entire state. In contrast, he felt
lousy. It killed him to admit it but the miscreant in the other
room had keen observation skills. He'd slept fitfully. Something
about his evening with Laura didn't feel right but he couldn't
put his finger on it.
"So partner, did you catch up on your sleep last night as
"Eventually. Thanks for the flowers and for keeping me company."
She briefly touched his arm.
"Hey, anytime. I enjoyed it. It's been ages since we've
spent any time together. I hardly see you at the office these
days. I was beginning to forget what you look like!"
Laura smiled at him fondly. "Okay, Jennings! Hold on Murph
while I dig out the file." She opened the top drawer of
her cabinet then quickly closed it.
Frowning, she moved downwards and repeated the exercise. Not
believing her senses, she cracked open the top drawer again.
Surely not? Yep! That's why he got in so early! That Machiavellian
"Murph, I've just got to brief Mr Steele on something. Would
you excuse me for a moment?"
As she entered Steele's office again, he looked up from the rough
notes he was busily composing.
"How does this sound to you?" Theatrically clearing
his throat he pronounced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we at the
Remington Steele detective agency are very proud to act in this
capacity today, lending our support to your wonderfully worthy
cause. They say that man's best friend is-"
Steele flicked through his papers then returned his attention
to Laura, who stood before him, arms crossed. "Actually
I was going to say that man's best friend is a member of the
canine family." He stalled for time. "Do you want this
changed to man's best friend is some chap named Loe Dupont instead?"
"You sneaky, wily"
"Laura, if you don't like my speech all you have to do is
"I knew you were up to something! You got here early specifically
to creep into my office and spray L'eau Dupont in my filing cabinet
didn't you? Because you know how much I love that scent. Two
nights ago I told you it was my favourite cologne of yours when
I waswhile you werejust before we you know! And now you're using
it to stimulate me like a Pavlovian dog, that's just your style!"
"Doggy style, eh?" Steele crossed his legs and rested
them on the desk. "Oh come now Laura! I just wanted to remind
you of my presence. That's all."
"My filing cabinet needed to be sprayed with L'eau Dupont
to remind me of your presence when you're right next door? Nothing
to do with a certain bet we made last night I suppose?"
"Thought never crossed my mind," he grinned.
"Fine. I was prepared to win honestly but you went too far
Mr Steele. If you want to play dirty, we'll play dirty, no holds
barred! Consider yourself warned. You now have no grounds for
complaint when I too go below the belt!"
"How marvellous that sounds especially when you say it with
that lilting voice of yours!" He paused and stared at her.
"Ah yes! A mouth-watering prospect indeed, Laura Holt going
below the belt!"
For once, the bawdy spin he put on her words irked her. She let
out a cry of frustration and stormed out of his office.
"If I didn't know he was here, I sure know it now! Door
slamming already partner? And what kind of air freshener are
the cleaners using in here these days? It smells like aftershave!"
Murphy observed with a sniff.
"That creep! That sly, crafty-" she fumed.
"Anyone I know? Let me guess."
"I'm sorry Murph! Let's get to the matter at hand. Jennings."
"Laura, I think this case is closed. Accept it, there's
nothing going on here. It was an accident not murder. Miss Jennings
is wrong about her brother's death. All the evidence so far points
to a tragic accident."
"And that's why I say we keep going. It's all too neatly
packaged up to be `file
under tragic accident' - we're missing something somewhere, I
can feel it. We must be. Keep on it Murph. This is starting to
get very serious. If we don't come up with something soon, the
Remington Steele agency will flunk its first case. I'm not having
that happen to us. We have a reputation to uphold. Go over the
paperwork we've amassed so far, dissect the autopsy report again
while I accompany Mr Steele to Poopsie's Poodle Parlour. After
that I have an appointment but when I return, we'll compare thoughts."
"PR for the agency. We're saving an establishment threatened
with closure by putting on our caring, sharing face. Or rather
Mr Steele is."
"He's putting on two faces? That's appropriate! I'll get
on with Jennings. Pity these windows don't open, that air freshener
is really starting to get up my nose." He strolled into
his office and shut the door firmly behind him.
Laura hesitated for a moment then approached the filing cabinet
with the kind of caution one would display towards a wild animal.
She slowly opened it, inhaling deeply. A collage of images flashed
before her as she remembered the last time she'd smelt it: Mr
Steele's couch. Chianti. L'eau Dupont. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. What was the damn year
and who was the distributor? Laughter. The rise and fall of Mr
Steele's chest. Dimmed lights. Fire blazing. L'eau Dupont. Temperature
rising. A soft kiss. A warm caress. Tongues dancing. Hands wandering.
L'eau Dupont. Bodies fused. Swelling. Hardening. Fervour.
She closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair with
a dreamy sigh but started guiltily as her door suddenly opened.
"Laura, how do you spell `Palaeolithic'?"
"Huh?" she said blankly, striving to appear composed
as the star of her erotic fantasy nonchalantly scribbled away.
"You know, the early period of the Stone Age, Palaeolithic?"
Steele stated with his eyes still on his notes.
She fought her raging hormones and the impulse to grab him. "P-a-l-a
-wait a minute! What has the Stone Age got to do with poodles?"
Steele walked over and put an arm around her shoulder. It was
a casual, friendly contact but she flinched. He noticed it.
"Visualise Miss Holt! This speech will be a majestic epic
on a Cecil B DeMille scale celebrating man's relationship with
the poodle." He removed his arm and in a grand gesture,
illustrated a panoramic sweep. "Think of it Laura, a symbol
of affection and trust from time immemorial! Who fetched the
wood when man invented fire? His devoted poodle! When he hunted,
who accompanied him? His faithful poodle! And when man valiantly
fought the sabre-toothed tiger, where was little Fluffy? Right
beside him, wagging his tail in support! By the time I finish
this speech, they'll be beating a path to our door for our services!"
"Cecil B DeMille?" she queried.
"The director. You know, `The Greatest Show On Earth,' `The
Ten Commandments,' movies with gigantic production, enormous
crowd scenes, lavish spectacles"
"Mr Steele, your speech is to the owners and clientele of
Poopsie's Poodle Parlour not Twentieth Century Fox!"
"If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing properly. What
time do I have to leave?"
Laura checked her watch. "Very shortly. I've decided to
accompany you. I need to run an errand so I'll sneak out during
the opening speeches but I'll be back to hear yours."
"Delighted to have you along. Shall we, Miss Holt?"
The connecting door opened. Murphy leant against the jamb shaking
his head wryly. "I think you've finally found your true
calling. Saviour for Poopsie's Poodle Parlour where you'll discover
that there's more to dogs than just betting on them!"
The comeback was swift and immediate. "You're wasted as
a detective Murphy. You should put that comedic flair to use
and warm up the audience for `Happy Days' instead."
"Happy Days? But that show hasn't been funny in years!"
"Then you're a perfect match!" Steele beamed at the
scowling detective. "Well! I can't stand here shooting the
breeze with you all day Murphy. As you correctly pointed out,
I've got a poodle shop to save. Come along Miss Holt!"
Steele bade Murphy a cheerful farewell before shooing Laura into
the outer office.
"Would you wait for me in the limo while I have a word with
Bernice please? It's girl stuff."
"Girl stuff? Say no more. I'll go over my notes." He
put a hand on a suite door then turned back to Laura. "Y'know
Miss Holt, if I'm to continue with this PR angle, speeches and
the like, you really ought to think about providing me with some
" `As God is our witness, as God is our witness, they're
not going to lick you! Please pardon the pun!' Bracket; pause
for hysterical laughter from audience before continuing with
speech. Close bracket. `We're going to live through this, and
when it's all over, your poodles will never be shaggy again -
no, nor any of their litter! If we have to lie, steal, cheat,
or kill! As God is our witness, they'll never be shaggy again!'
" Laura stopped reading and looked out of the limo window,
watching the world go by for a moment.
When she believed she had command of her temper, she turned to
the object of her exasperation. He was giving her that damn crooked
grin. The one she had sarcastically renamed his `get-out-of-jail-free'
"Mr Steele! What on earth were you thinking? Even I know
this is all paraphrased from `Gone With The Wind!' It's one of
the most famous parts of the film!"
Steele yanked his notes from her. "I thought it was a stirring
rendition myself and did you hear that applause for me? I'm sure
they heard it all the way in London! I've never been hugged by
so many women in my life! Granted most of them had blue hair
but the principle's the same."
"Next time, you're going to keep movies out of your speeches
and stick to the pertinent points!"
"Do you have to take the fun out of everything? And by the
way, where did you sneak off to?"
"Well, since you're so certain that you're going to win
our bet, I was shopping for our trip to the Bahamas and-"
She delved into the bags containing her purchases.
"You were? Is that what all that is?" he pointed in
She continued as if she hadn't heard him. "I'm divided between
this black bathing suit which is just a little, tiny thing really.
It won't cover much. It's just string with material covering
my front but-"
She held both items against her and put on her most provocative
voice. "I need you to visualise intently Mr Steele and be
honest with me. Imagine my figure enveloped in one of these,
my skin damp from the surf, my body wet from-"
"Laura" he held up his hands wildly gesturing for her
to stop but she continued babbling.
"-letting the water wash over me. They're both so pretty.
I wonder if I should buy another one? I saw it in red too and
that's always been a good colour on me. Then again, I can work
on my tan by just wearing this white bikini. It kind of reminds
me of that one the blonde woman wore when she emerged from the
sea in that James Bond movie except it's way smaller so what
do you think?"
"You mean Ursula Andress in Dr No? Oh no! Every schoolboy's
fantasy at that time! Sean Connery, United Artists, 1962. Now
Laura, this isn't-"
"Then again, why waste the opportunity to get an all over
tan? I could just leave my bathing suit at home and go swimming
in the sea as nature intended. Free of the constraints of elastic
and material. What do you think Mr Steele?" She blinked
at him sweetly, too sweetly.
"I need some air! I think you should sit as-" The car
phone interrupted his train of thought and Laura lunged for it.
"Hello?Oh hello Barbara! How are you?I'm fine, thank you....Now
I want you to make sure you water my plants while I'm gone...The
Bahamas. I'm sure I told you, didn't I?..Oh, well I'll tell you
now. I'll be going with a good friend...Yes, it is meant to be
a rather romantic place..Yes, he's male...Well, you never know!...Naked
you say?...I've been considering that myself. The thought of
being wild and free on a tropical island is bringing out a strange
urge in me to let-"
Steele had had enough. "Give me that!" he yelled and
grabbed the phone. "I'm sorry but Miss Holt can't possibly...hello?
Hello? There's no one on this phone Laura! What's going on?"
"I beg to differ. If you listen very, very carefully Mr
Steele, I think you'll find that Darlene's on the end of that
Comprehension spread across his features. "You made it all
up! There is no Barbara, is there? This is just your underhand
method of winning our bet!" He crossed his arms. "Is
that what your little `girl stuff' talk to Miss Wolfe was all
about? Getting her to ring at a certain time to make it convincing?"
"I haven't forgotten that you made up Darlene to make me
jealous Mr Steele. I made up Barbara to make youhow can I put
this delicately?--amorous! That's for
the L'eau Dupont in my filing cabinet too!" She tossed her
head with a smile of supreme satisfaction. It wasn't very often
that one got the opportunity of killing two birds with one phone.
"Y'know, my method of gaining a slight advantage was evocative,
serene, tranquil even. I tried to appeal to your sense of whimsy,
your sense of romance. You? You're as subtle as a sledgehammer!
Straight for the jugular! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Shame on you, Miss Holt.
I thought you had more imagination than solely appealing to my
Laura passed off his admonishment with a dismissive wave of her
hand. "Mr Steele, this isn't about methodology. This is
about winning and that's what I'm going to do! I'll have that
year of your life I didn't get on the Donovan case and I'll have
your real name by any means necessary!"
"Speaking of that Donovan case, I seem to recall a romantic
trip away that I was within a whisker of getting. This isn't
over yet. I'll have you right where I want you Laura!"
"Don't bet on it!" she snapped indignantly.
"We did, remember?"
"I haven't forgotten!"
"Pity. Am I correct in assuming that the swimming costumes
are merely an appetiser and that there's more to come?"
"The gloves are off Mr Steele!"
"Don't stop there, Miss Holt!"
"And you wonder why I'm appealing to your baser instincts?
Hah! This is almost too easy!"
Fred pulled up outside a smart little bistro. "Here we are
Miss Holt. Buona Sera's restaurant."
"Thank you Fred. Take Mr Steele back to the office please."
"Where are you going?" he queried.
"I'm meeting someone. It's business. I'll see you and Murphy
in a couple of hours and we'll talk over our strategy for the
Jennings case. Could you please hand my bags to Bernice Mr Steele?"
She checked the contents of her purse and straightened her grey
tailored trouser suit.
"Meeting who? On what business? And why without me? We're
a team, remember? Holmes and Watson, Batman and Robin, Steele
and Holt. We're starting to do our best work together!"
"Steele and Holt? I'm second?"
"Really Laura, this preoccupation with semantics!"
"I haven't got time for this. I have a meeting and we also
have the Jennings case to solve otherwise you face the prospect
of telling our client that we've failed her."
Steele raised his hands in consternation. "Failed? The Remington
Steele agency on the brink of ignominious defeat? How could you
allow this to happen to us Laura? Remington Steele is never wrong!"
"Bear up Mr Steele! The Jennings deadline is Monday morning
so I still have time to save our reputation!"
"I don't ask for much Laura. A superior cut to my suits,
my professional standing in this city unblemished, a decent cup
of tea. On a good day, all three. I'm not greedy." He straightened
his tie and winked at her.
Laura eyed him wearily. What to do with such an incorrigible
man? She sighed and climbed out of the limo waiting for Fred
to drive out of sight before walking into the restaurant.
Buona Sera's was coolly and tastefully decorated in pastel shades,
framed pictures of Impressionist art hung on the walls and all
offset by the copious amount of ferns the owner insisted on.
It was a discreet setting for the news Laura had to impart to
her sculpture classmate. She marched confidently to the small
reception desk situated in a cosy alcove and announced crisply.
"Miss Valerie Rees' table please."
"Si signora." The mâitre d' scanned his bookings
and duly announced, "This way, per favore."
He led her down a small flight of steps right to the back of
the restaurant where Valerie was seated and already scanning
a menu. As Laura approached, she stood up to her full five foot
nine inches of height. Her thick, black, hair was fashionably
wavy and her eyes were almost as dark as her mane, fringed by
thick lashes. People often mistook her for `Charlie's Angels'
actress Jaclyn Smith as they were around the same age. She greeted
her lunching companion warmly with a light embrace.
"Laura! Thank you for coming."
"Hello Valerie. How are you?"
She wrung her hands in response. "Nervous. Very nervous.
Shall we order? The pasta here is wonderful."
"Wouldn't you rather hear what I've discovered?"
"Good news or bad Laura, we're eating first. I know you're
on a tight schedule but I owe you lunch at the very least for
all the trouble you've gone to. Come on, humour me. Order. Please.
Let's at least pretend this is just a normal lunch."
They both smiled.
In the limo, Steele surveyed the array of shopping bags. He was
more piqued with Laura than he cared to admit. First she'd cosseted
with Murphy about the Jennings case while he'd been stuck with
bloody poodles and now she'd gone off somewhere meeting someone
without him. Who the hell was she seeing? He tried to dampen
his jealous impulses by coming up with sagacious, rational reasons
to explain her behaviour.
Obviously Murphy wanted to pay homage to him, to express subordination
by planning a surprise party for him, that's why he couldn't
be involved earlier on. Yes, that was it! Murphy had colluded
with Laura about the gift and had asked her opinionGod, not plaid
shirts!and she'd stopped off at that restaurant to sort out the
catering details and so theno. That wasn't it. He dismissed his
first theory and promptly arrived at another. During the morning
tête à tête Laura must have finally confessed
a few things. Yes! That's why he'd been omitted! Steele brightened
as he imagined how Laura would have broken the news to Murphy.
He could see it now; she'd held a hand and said:
`Murph, it is written that fools rush in where wise men fear
to tread. Never a truer word has been spoken but the heart has
a wisdom of its own. Mr Steele and I have decided today to reverse
the fall line of our aloneness by hopping in the sack and screwing
each other's brains out as hard and as often as we can. Now let's
talk about the Jennings case.' Murphy had probably started wailing
and Laura had promised copious amounts of tiramisu from Buona
Sera's as compensation forno. That wasn't it either. He wracked
his brain but the logic behind her actions escaped him.
"Fred. Turn the car around please mate. Buona Sera's restaurant."
The chauffeur cocked his head slightly. "My instructions
were to take you back to the office sir."
"And you shall Fred. And you shall but you're taking me
to Buona Sera's restaurant first."
Over coffee, Valerie broached the difficult subject. "Okay.
I've put this off long enough. Tell me what you found out."
Taking a deep breath that wasn't missed by her companion, Laura
slipped into her business mode and began at the beginning. "Do
you know a woman named Rebecca Collins?"
"No. No, I don't."
Carefully she stated, "Alex does Valerie."
"I see. And how well does he know her?"
"Very well. Well enough to have a set of keys to her apartment."
"Laura. Is there something going on between my Alex and
She hesitated for a brief second. "I'm afraid there is.
I staked out her place. I have visual evidence. Solid visual
Valerie scanned Laura's countenance before taking a sip of her
coffee. "Well," she said, just for the sake of saying
At that moment, Steele was vainly trying to locate Laura's table.
He intended to find out exactly whom his stubborn little missy
was eating with. "Are you sure there's no booking for a
Miss Laura Holt?"
"Si signor. I look but see no Signora Laura Holt."
The mâitre d' looked at Steele affronted that his word
had been doubted.
"It is rather important. Urgent. Please, could you try once
He shrugged. "I look again."
"Thank you." Steele turned away and promptly began
pacing up and down, brow furrowed, deep in thought. The next
minute he'd hit the floor, landing on his stomach, winded.
Overcome with emotion, Valerie Rees had suddenly declared a need
for the ladies room announcing that she'd return presently. Concerned,
Laura immediately offered to accompany her but understood when
Valerie insisted on going alone. The news, in all its Technicolor
gory, was probably just starting to sink. It was the worst aspect
of the job, giving people hurtful information, but it came with
the territory and there was nothing Laura could do to change
it. She watched the retreating figure of her classmate until
it was out of sight, then sighed deeply.
Valerie dashed towards the stairs and ran up them but in her
haste, tripped on the top step and collided into the back of
Steele. Her momentum caused them both to fall to the ground,
scattering the contents of her purse in the process.
"Signor! Signora! Che cosa posso fare per lei? I help you."
The mâitre d' pulled her to her feet.
"I'm okay. Really, I'm okay, thank you." Valerie said
as she swatted and straightened her clothing. Reassured, the
mâitre d' discreetly departed.
She looked at the handsome man she'd accidentally felled. "I
am so sorry! Are you alright?"
Steele stood up and immediately waved away her concerns, "I'm
fine. I'm fine. These things happen. Here, allow me." He
bent down and assisted her in the task of gathering up her possessions.
Valerie wiped the tears from her eyes. "What else can possibly
go wrong this afternoon! I am so sorry."
He smiled tenderly. "Not to worry. Every now and then, a
man likes to be swept off his feet by a beautiful woman!"
She sniffed, then gulped, then laughed. "That's the nicest
thing I've been told today."
"Rough day, eh?"
"Rough past few months."
Steele paused for a brief moment before saying, "We've all
been there. It gets better."
She stared at him. Something about his manner suggested his remark
had come from the heart. "Do you really think so?"
"I know so," Steele responded enigmatically. He patted
her hand sympathetically and resumed collecting her items.
The mâitre d' returned and announced firmly, "Excuse
me signor. I look but see no booking for Signora Laura Holt."
He departed for his desk.
Valerie shrilled excitedly, "Laura Holt? You're a friend
of Laura Holt?"
Steele hesitated. "Errrr.yes, I am. Yes. You know her?"
"We met in sculpture class. I'm Valerie Rees and Laura's
here, lunching with me. The booking's in my name. That's probably
why the mâitre d' wasn't able to locate her. What a small
world! I'll take you to her, Mr?"
"AhPearson. Ben Pearson. But I can't go to her nowyou see,
I'm a surprise, I mean, it's a surprise. I wanted to surprise
her." Steele was desperately trying to extricate himself
from the web he'd unintentionally woven. Laura would kill him
if she found out he had spiedfollowed, if she found out he had
followed her. Steele dug his hands deep in his pockets.
"A surprise?" Valerie queried.
"Yes! Yes. You see, I thought she was lunching alone and
I had planned to surprise herwith my totally unexpected presence.
Call it a romantic whim, if you will. But knowing Laura as I
doand I do, very well, I should stress, I am positiveabsolutely
certain, that she will want to be there for you to act as a rock,
as it were, for you at this precise moment. So perhaps it's best
not to mention seeing me. I'm on my wayright now, this very minuteto
the Remington Steele agency and I'll catch up with her there."
He resisted the urge to run out of the restaurant.
"Oh. If you're sure?"
"Never surer Miss Rees. Never surer."
Valerie nodded. "Well, Mr Pearson, in that case let me just
say thank you for being so kind, I really appreciate it and don't
worry, I'll keep quiet so that Laura can get her surprise at
the office. There's no point ruining romance for everyone."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Don't mind me, I'm just thinking
"It's been a pleasure meeting you Mr Pearson. I'm so glad
I collided into you!"
"Likewise Miss Rees. Likewise. Remember, a happy tomorrow.
"I'll remember and don't worry, I'll keep our secret to
Steele watched as she calmly walked back down the small flight
of stairs. She turned back and waved, he returned her gesture
adding a confident smile. Smooth mate, keep it smooth Steele
told himself. As soon as she was out of sight, he pulled out
his handkerchief and dabbed his forehead. Time to go, quick,
now, while he was ahead in the
"Mr Steele? It's me Alan Howe! The waiter from Chez Piaf.
I work under Claude! Wait! Mr Steele, meet my wife Marsha! It's
our wedding anniversary today so we're celebrating here! Marsha,
meet Mr Remington Steele! The famous private detective! It's
always a pleasure to serve you at Chez Piaf Mr Steele and may
I say, you have great taste in cuisine?"
"Aha! Well, this is an unexpected sur" Steele desperately
tried to leave but his hand was held in a vicelike grip by a
woman overcome with emotion.
"Mr Steele? I've never met anyone famous before. Oh my!"
Mrs Howe was dumbstruck.
"Marsha, you won't believe how generous Mr Steele is with
his tips compared to some of the other people I have to serve.
Mr Steele, you have no idea how bad I felt that night I had to
tell you that your account was closed and your credit card refused."
Steele couldn't believe this was happening. "Really I don't"
"You had to tell him that? Oh poor Mr Steele!" Mrs
"Marsha! It wasn't my fault. I had to do what I was ordered
"And deprive Mr Steele of his credit card? Oh dear! Poor
The man under siege felt a tap on his shoulder. "Signor
Remington Steele?" the mâitre d' asked.
"Huh? Ohahyes? Yes, I'm Remington Steele."
"This way, per favore? Telephone call."
"For me?" he couldn't keep the stupefaction out of
"For signor Remington Steele."
"For me," he sighed heavily. With more politeness than
he felt, he excused himself from the Howes and followed the mâitre
d' to the phone at the small reception desk.
Wearily he uttered, "Steele hereFred? Is that you?Why are
you calling me here?What?What are you doing there?A sandwich?Okay.
Fine but I need you to pick me up from Buona Sera's restaurant
forthwith!Get here as soon as you can and don't show the traffic
lights too much respect!"
He replaced the phone in a fluster. Good intentions. He had pursued
Laura out of good intentions, concern for her. Okay, concern
for himself too
but it all seemed to be blowing up in his face! Unbelievable.
Steele thanked the mâitre d' and took a deep breath. The
best course of action now would be to wait for Fred outside,
somewhere discreet, somewhere
"YOU! What are you doing here? You're supposed to be at
Steele immediately threw his hands in the air in a gesture of
conciliation and surrender. Doom too.
"Now Laura! There's a very good reason for my surprise appearance
and as soon as I think of it, you'll be the first to know. I
promise!" It occurred to Steele that he needed to get her
away before Valerie Rees appeared.
Addressing the mâitre d' he requested breathlessly, "Would
you be so kind as to inform Miss Valerie Rees that Miss Holt
has had to leave on urgent business please?"
The mâitre d' smoothly acquiesced. What a story he had
to tell his family when he got home!
Laura could feel her blood pressure rising with every passing
minute. "I beg your pardon? I told her that I was going
to powder my nose and how did you know whom I was lunching with?"
Steele took her left arm and pulled her towards the exit. "Let's
not stand here
In this exquisite establishment arguing like fishwives, eh?"
She shrugged him off as soon as they stepped outside and oblivious
to the passers by, vented her fury. "How dare you! You followed
me, didn't you? Admit it!"
"I admit, the situation looks incriminating"
"Try insulting!" she screamed stomping further up the
street. Steele caught up with her and forced her to stop.
"What did you expect me to think? You announce that you're
going somewhere on business, you don't tell me why, you don't
tell me with whom, you leave"
"I don't tell you?" she repeated incredulously, "I
don't tell you? Mr Steele, in
case you didn't know, in case you weren't aware, this is the
twentieth century! We've moved on from the days of Neanderthal
man dragging women into caves by their hair!"
"What are you saying? That what I did was sexist? That it
was male chauvinism? Is that it?"
"If the sabre-tooth tiger skin fits!" she barked placing
her hands on her hips.
Steele tried to keep a lid on his own formidable temper despite
the fact that he was face to face with a woman who never shrank
from a fight.
"I'm trying to understand here Laura. How does what I did
make me a male, chauvinist pig? Enlighten me."
"You would have never acted that way if it was Murphy, if
he'd told you he was meeting someone on business at Buona Sera's!"
"Murphy wouldn't have the class to meet someone there in
the first place!" he
gave her a dynamite smile but she refused to be placated.
Between gritted teeth she announced, "I had to take care
of this alone. It was a very specific request."
He put his hands in his pockets and leant forward. "Why
didn't you tell me that before?"
"I did tell you!" she yelled.
"No you didn't!" he bellowed back. "You kept it
all covert, hush-hush, like you were going undercover on some
secret government mission!"
"Might I remind you that Remington Steele Investigations
is my agency! That I run it? That I own it? That I handle"
"That again? Good grief! You're beginning to sound like
a broken record on the subject Miss Holt!"
"Well I'm sorry if the facts of the matter are so dis"
she broke off and gave him a look he was becoming familiar with.
"What did you say?" she queried.
He frowned, puzzled. "I said, covert, hush-hush, government
She motioned with her hands. "Not that! The bit that followed!"
"You mean, when I accused you of sounding like a broken
record?" There it was again, that gleam in her eye the one
that usually preceded an epiphany about a case.
Her features became adorned with the most beatific grin. "Of
course! That's it! That's the key to the Jennings case! It must
"Laura, I don't follow. What's the key?"
"Mr Steele, David Jennings was the head of a company worth
millions of dollars through the installation of home security
"Right," he conceded with a shrug of his shoulders.
"So, based on that, would such a man secure homes across
this state and beyond but leave out his own?"
"Broken record? A record of his death?" Steele snapped
his fingers, " `Blow Out'. John Travolta, Nancy Allen. Filmways,
1981. John Travolta plays a sound-effects recorder. He inadvertently
captures on tape incriminating evidence which could prove an
accident was in reality, murder."
"Precisely. If our theory is correct, the relevant camera,
no doubt very well hidden, will probably provide a record of
how he died."
"Do you have plans for the next couple of hours Miss Holt?
Something tells me that we're going to have to have our wits
fully about us to complete this case."
"Where's Fred? We need to get to the Jennings residence
Steele hedged. "He'smomentarily indisposed."
"Let's call him on the car phone and find out how long he's
going to be," Steele suggested.
Laura beamed with happiness "And then the indomitable Remington
Steele can find the missing jigsaw piece! Mr Steele, do you realise
what this means? We're not failures! Our reputation is still
intact! You've done it again!"
At Buona Sera's, the mâitre d' passed on Steele's message
as soon as he encountered Valerie Rees. She thanked him and stepped
out into the warm sunshine, taking a minute to bask in the heat.
Casually strolling up the street, the sight of familiar figures
stopped her dead in her tracks. She could see instantly that
it was Laura and Mr Ben Pearson: it was impossible to miss a
man who looked like that! People were walking around them so
she stood to the side to observe in relative security.
Their body language suggested that they were in the middle of
a heated quarrel. Valerie turned away but concern compelled her
to watch: they pointed at each other, hands waved exasperatedly
in the air, arms slapped thighs in frustration and feet stomped.
Then stillness, a celebratory gesture from both and finally,
Laura threw her arms around Mr Pearson and kissed him enthusiastically.
Valerie smiled and ran in the opposite direction for a taxi.
At ten past six in the evening, Valerie Rees puffed with the
effort of hauling her gift around. She'd carried it through the
lobby and into the lift; barely managing to press the buttons,
but not one man had offered to help her. Dismissing it as totally
typical of their rotten, lousy, inconsiderate sex, she staggered
towards suite 1157 and backed into the doors to open them. Heaving
a sigh of relief, Valerie rested her sculpture on the reception
desk. She looked around but the office seemed quiet. Had everybody
"Hello? Anyone here? Hello?"
A door opened and she took in the tall, fair-haired man wearing
a brown plaid shirt and tan slacks. "Can I help you, Miss?"
he said, slowly approaching her.
"Rees. Valerie Rees. And you are?"
"Murphy. Murphy Michaels. I'm a detective, an associate
of the Remington Steele agency Miss Rees."
"Valerie," she stated with a smile.
"Valerie," he repeated. They shook hands.
"I'm looking for Laura Holt. Is she around?"
"I'm sorry, she's not here. She's out on a case. Can I help
"I've brought this for Laura, my way of saying `thank you'
to her. Giovanni thinks it's my best yet and I want her to have
Murphy glanced at the piece of art and strove to conceal his
feelings. This wasn't his forte. To him, it looked like lumps
of metal moulded together.
"It's very interesting. I'm sure Laura will appreciate it.
Is that where you met? At sculpture class?"
"Yes, we started on the same day. Admittedly, our ideas
on art differ but we
get on really well. We go for coffee after class and talk."
Valerie smiled at the memory of some of their conversations.
"I remember another class mate of Laura's. Marian"
"Travis. You're thinking of Marian Travis. Such a sweetheart.
I know Laura was a huge help to her and Teddy. Teddy Bennett,
I should say. I was hoping to get as lucky as they were."
"I'm sorry. I don't follow."
Valerie let out a deep sigh. "Alex, my boyfrAlex started
coming home late, smelling of someone else's perfume, giving
me a thousand excuses for it and not touching me. I put up with
it for five months and in the end, I decided I'd had enough.
I asked Laura to look into it for me. She was so wonderful, she
broke it to me in exactly the right way; if there is a right
way to be told that your boyfriend's a lying son-of-a-bitch and
that he's screwing another woman."
Murphy spoke gently. "Valerie. I'm sorry. For us, it's part
of the job. The unsavoury side of people, what they're capable
"Yeah, well. Them's the breaks. What can you do, y'know?
Look, I don't mean to unload on you. It's not your problem, it's
mine." She bent her head as if suddenly weighed down by
the enormity of her predicament. Then raised it to look him square
in the face.
"I think I understand now why people bellyache to bartenders.
Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger, to bare your soul
Murphy understood her point of view all too well. "Yes.
Sometimes it is."
She managed a wry smile. "It's not all bad. I can be happy
for Laura even if I'm miserable for myself. So okay, I didn't
get Marian and Teddy's ending but at least there's"
"Excuse me. Happy for Laura?"
"Uh-huh. I bumped into this nice man. I mean, literally!
Everything went everywhere and he helped me. Anyway, it turns
out that he's a close friend of Laura's! A Mr Ben Pearson. Small
world, isn't it? He was planning on surprising her butwellI guess
I got in the way of that. She's bagged herself a gorgeous one:
blue eyes, English accent. I've always been a sucker for English
accents ever since I fell in love with Davy Jones in `The Monkees.'
God, I used to think he was so cute! Anyway as I was saying,
I saw Laura with her Mr Pearson: one minute they looked like
they were having a fight, the next they'd kissed and made up.
It really reminded me of how things used to be with Alex. We
were always fighting and making up but the tramp was a bridge
too far. I couldn't forgive him for that and whosay, are you
alright? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
Like a video cassette recorder, Murphy's mind was playing back
his evening with Laura. He recalled her frantic cry of being
in the shower and yet three minutes later when she'd invited
him in, her hair had been bone dry. Then there was the pizza
episode; it was an order for two people. Not one. Her claim of
hunger from aerobics class was fast thinking, he'd give her that.
She had always been resourceful. However, it hurt. She'd lied.
No, that was too harsh. Perhaps in some misguided way, Laura
had felt a need to protect him from the truth, to massage his
ego, to keep up a pretence that things were as they had always
been in the past. The reality was that things had changed from
the very minute, no the very second, the jewel thief had breezed
in as Ben Pearson.
So while a part of Murphy recognised Laura's consideration, another
part reeled at the fact that she still couldn't be completely
honest about her feelings for him. He thought back to
the night they'd staked out Morrie Singer's apartment. He'd challenged
her directly, backed her onto the ropes but she still hadn't
admitted it. Now Murphy finally accepted that her silence at
the time spoke volumes. She wouldn't confirm his suspicions but
she didn't deny them either.
As a detective, there were numerous occasions, situations thrown
up, which necessitated relying on wit, trusting gut instinct
he'd had a hunch that Laura was with him that night. Why
had he been so reluctant to listen to it? Stubbornness? Unwillingness?
Fear? Denial? All four reasons? He took a deep breath and faced
cold reality. It was over. The fat lady had sung, received her
bouquet of flowers and was leaving the building for a Big Mac.
He now found himself wondering how long it had been going on.
How far had he got? Valerie's exact words were `kissed
and made up' which by anyone's way of thinking, implied intimacy.
And yet, they came into the office every day and acted asas what?as
if nothing was going on. As if they were only employer and employee.
Murphy eventually realised that Valerie was addressing him. "I'm
Concerned, she reached an arm out to him. "I said, you look
as if you've seen a ghost."
"No. No. I've just laid one to rest, that's all. You know
that feeling when you've
been in limbo for a long time and there's no need to be anymore?"
It was her turn to be perplexed. "Huh?"
"Never mind. Why don't I help you put this in Laura's office?
It looks heavy."
Valerie shook her head in agreement. "It is heavy! Can you
believe that not one man tried to help me as I struggled along
"Hey, don't blame us! You women have put us in such a quandary.
If we offer assistance you get offended and tell us in no uncertain
terms that you can manage, that we're being sexist, that"
"Listen wiseguy, stop with the lecture already and grab
the other end!"
They lifted the figure into Laura's office and cleared a space
on her desk for it. Valerie tore some sheets of paper from a
pad and wrote a note expressing her gratitude and hope that Laura
would like her present. Murphy watched as she stopped and started
her message several times. Finally pleased with the result and
the sentiments conveyed, she pinned it to her gift. He escorted
her into the outer office. So much could have been said but both
were silent, lost in their own thoughts, thinking of their empty
houses. Valerie sighed and turned to face him with a smile, offering
her hand in a gesture of farewell.
In light of his recent revelation, Murphy resolved to do something
about his nights alone. Even if Laura stopped seeing their mythical
leader tomorrow, she wouldn't turn to him for romance. He knew
that now. All that time, that longing for her through Havenhurst
and beyond. Some things were just not meant to be. Bernice would
be proud if she could see him now.
"Are you doing anything in particular tonight Valerie? I
know this nice little place where they do the best pasta. We
can go to a friendly bar afterwards and have a drink and swap
Relief flooded through her. She could do with some company. "Sad
stories? What sad stories could you possibly have? No, I'm through
with all that. Let's have that pasta, down some alcohol and talk
about a happy tomorrow instead."
" `A happy tomorrow'? I'll drink to that."
She glanced around the office. "It must be so exciting,
the life of a detective I mean. Lot's of hair-raising moments
He placed a comforting arm around her as they headed for the
"It has its moments. In fact, there was one particular case
which foxed the best minds in the business and"
"Even your boss? Mr Steele? I've heard so much about him
Murphy raised a wry smile. "Yes. Even Mr Steele. It was
a hot day in July. We were called to the house of a wealthy industrialist
by his wife. She met us at the front door and escorted us into
the study. There, lying on the floor was her husband, shot dead."
He pushed open a suite door and motioned for her to step through
as they walked companionably towards the lifts.
"That's the case which foxed criminal minds? I don't"
"Valerie, I've saved the best for last. Ballistic tests
conducted several days later proved that the path of the bullet
began inside the industrialist's chest and travelled outwards."
"The bullet travelled from his insides out? But how?"
she asked, amazed.
Murphy pressed the buttons and smiled cheerfully. "I told
you it foxed the best minds in the business, didn't I?"
Approximately half an hour later, the lift swung open. The detective
and her apprentice stepped out. He was carrying her shopping;
she had a small box of cassettes in her arms. From the moment
Fred had picked them up, dropped them off at David Jennings'
house and deposited them back at Century City Plaza, she'd gabbed
on non-stop about the vagaries of the case too preoccupied to
notice her partner's silence.
"And I'll have to make sure that Murphy is available tomorrow
too. We'll all watch the tapes together" she opened a suite
door and stood aside for Steele to enter then headed for her
office. "here. I'm sorry if you had plans for tomorrow but
I don't anticipate making a habit of us all working weekends.
You don't mind do you? Of course you don't! When I think how
close we were to failOh! Good lord! What's this?" Her attention
was caught by the figure resting on her desk. Steele dropped
the bags and stood beside her.
Laura read the note, smiled and announced, "This is a gift
from my sculpture classmate Valerie Rees to thank me for my help.
Care to tell me how you knew I was lunching with her?"
Steele surveyed his fingernails. "A good detective never
reveals his modus operandi Miss Holt." He pointed at the
piece of art. "What is it?"
Pendulum like, they both slowly swung their heads to the left
and then to the right.
"Wellit's an, errrexpression offeeling." Laura began.
"Isn't it though?" her companion answered.
"And the way it's been designed evokes"
"Doesn't it though?"
She pressed on. "Lest we forget, art is in the eye of the
She caught the spark in his eye and laughed. "Oh heck! It's
the thought that counts!"
Steele rummaged around in one of her bags and sat on the desk.
"I may not know what that is but I do know what this is
Honey." He held up the white bikini and waved it in the
"Honey? Term of endearment?" she queried.
"Name. Honey Ryder. Remember? `Dr No' and the majestic body
of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea clad in a skimpy, white"
"Laura, you're spoiling me. `Dr No', `From Here To Eternity',
`Deep Throat' - so many films to ape, so many fantasies to bring
to life when we get to the Bahamas!"
The bomb dropped. Her eyes widened in dismay. "The bet!"
"The bet. And if memory serves correct, French kissing does
not qualify as avuncular conduct. Hence, I wear my crown as the
truly irresistible one in this partnership with immense pride.
I take my hat off to you Laura for your exquisite taste and I
also take you first to the Bahamas and then"
"You know Mr Steele, I could stand here and argue extenuating
circumstances for the fact that I lost my head"
"You may have lost your head Laura but you didn't lose your
She ignored his crowing, "Maybe the thought of telling a
client that we'd failed them was preying heavily on my mind and
the surge of joy I felt"
"That wasn't the only thing you felt!"
"pushed all other considerations aside. However, I'll concede
that you won fair and square. Just one thing Mr Steele"
She stood directly in front of him and ran a finger down his
chest. "As I recall, the exact terms of our bet was that
if you won, your prize was `a weekend away' not a dirty weekend
away, not a naughty weekend away not even a romantic weekend
away. Just `a weekend' away."
"Aha." He put on his best bluffing mask, aiming to
display more self-confidence than he felt.
"Rest assured Mr Steele that our weekend away in the Bahamas
will be so chaste, you'll wish you were with a nun instead! We'll
have separate bedrooms, I'll wear a T-shirt the entire time,
I won't sunbathe and you'll be very lucky if you get so much
as a peck on the cheek."
"However, I propose a compromise."
Laura smiled. "It's quite simple. You have a choice. I can
either give you more action tonight than you'll get in the Bahamas
or you can collect your prize from our bet. What was it again?
Something about me working on the `hide and seek' aspect of our
association and also a platonic, wholesome, sinless trip away
to the Caribbean. Choose, Mr Steele." She moved her hand
languidly across his chest over both nipples.
"This is the perfect example of how to win and lose at the
same time!" he sighed ruefully.
Her hand sensuously travelled downward. "Choose, Mr Steele."
"Dinner and a movie tonight Miss Holt?"
Laura strolled dreamily to her front door. As she put the key
in the lock, the telephone began ringing. Was it him? Eager to
grab the call, she flung open the door, slammed it, dropped her
purse on the floor and ran to the phone fearing he'd hang up
before she got there.
"Hello?" she cried hopefully. The voice on the other
end was not the one she most wanted to hear and she couldn't
hide her disappointment.
"Oh, hello motherOf course I'm happy to speak to you, I
just thought you were someone else that's allI'm not expecting
anyone in particular mother, I just wasn't expecting youOf course
you can call me anytime mother, I'm not trying to say that I
don't want you to callHow are you?I'm not changing the subject,
I'm asking after your healthI'm fine too motherWork is fine,
it's going to be a goodMr Steele? He's fine tooYes I know I'm
lucky to work for such an understanding bossYes I know you view
him as quite a catch. You tell me that every time we speakYes,
I agree. He is very good lookingAm I seeing anyone? Errm, no.
No I'm notIs Mr Steele seeing anyone? Errrm, no. No. Not as far
as I know anywayMother, how many times do I have to tell you
that Mr Steele and I, well, we have a professional relationshipFor
heaven's sake! It's the 1980s not the 1880s. Women don't have
to think like that anymore!Have you spoken to Francis recently?I'm
not trying to change the subject, I'm asking after my sisterReally?
Well I'm pleased for herYes, it would be nice to see you again.
I look forward to thatYes mother, I'll pass on your regards to
Mr Steele when I see him at the officeBye."
Laura hung up with a sigh. She walked into her kitchen for a
glass of water reflecting on the conversation she'd just had
with her mother. Their cranky relationship was not helped by
endless comparisons the woman insisted on drawing between her
and her older sister Francis.
No matter what the reason for the initial call, it always boiled
down to the same tiresome theme: Francis was happily married
to Donald, Francis was a good wife, Francis had adorable children,
Francis was a wonderful mother, Francis was not a loser in love.
Increasingly, Laura had to force herself to bite back the retorts
she was dying to make. How she'd love to shut her mother up by
telling her that she was seeing someone. Well, kind of. Sort
of. Almost. Virtually.
Laura waited by the phone for five minutes before deciding that
there was work to be done. She potted around her house straightening
cushions, dusting and cleaning. Finally, she turned off the living
room light and headed for the bathroom. As the water beat down
on her she reflected on yet another exciting day. Since her charming
con man had arrived on the scene, life had completely turned
upside down. Goodbye, ordered routine! See you later, humdrum
existence! Hello, emotional instability! Take a seat, rampant
desire! Make yourself at home, fearful doubt and distrust!
As she stepped out of the shower, the phone rang. Dashing to
answer it, she heavily breathed a greeting. "Hello?"
"Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!" that familiar voice tutted. "Why
go home if you're panting so much for me Laura?"
"For your information Mr Steele, I ran for this call. I've
just come out of the shower."
"Really?" He lowered his voice and seductively asked,
"What are you wearing?"
She smiled to herself and sat on the bed. "A towel. Very
small. Barely covers me."
"This is a first. I'm actually jealous of a towel!"
"Now who's panting?" she asked archly.
"Touché Miss Holt."
She laughed. "You deserved that!"
"Want to know what I'm wearing?"
"No" was the immediate response but natural curiosity
got the better of her and after a pause she piped up, "What?"
"What, what?" he queried.
"You asked me if I wanted to know what you were wearing,
"Ah yes, so I did. So I did." There was silence for
"Well?" Laura prompted.
"In the best of health Miss Holt, thank you," he answered
with a smirk.
"No Mr Steele" she said wearily, "That's not what
He suppressed an urge to chuckle. "I'm waiting for you to
"This is ridiculous! I'm not going to ask again. I've already
asked and you chose not to hear!" She fiddled with her hair
determined not to give in. Her resolve lasted just over ten seconds.
"Okay, fine. Mr Steele, what are you wearing?"
"A lascivious grin Miss Holt," he announced.
She was incredulous. "A grin? That's it? You put me through
a protracted cat-and-mouse game just to tell me you're wearing
"Shame on you Laura!" He stretched out on his bed.
"It's not `a grin' per se. How ordinary! How pedestrian!
How mundane! No, no, this is more than `a grin' it's a lascivious
grin at the thought of you emerging from the shower, hair dripping,
skin damp and just a towel covering your "
"I get the picture Mr Steele!" she hastily cut in.
"A picture's a poor substitute for the real thing Laura."
He sighed. "Good job I've got an active imagination, eh?"
"Over-active is what springs to mind."
"Have you removed it yet?" His question was light,
"The towel. Have you taken it off yet?"
Laura injected firmness into her voice, "Where is this conversation
going Mr Steele?"
"Where do you think it's going Miss Holt?" he bantered
"You are incorrigible!"
"And you are hell to spend an evening with." Steele's
mind replayed a specific aspect of their night together. Shortly
after returning to his flat, their after-dinner drink turned
yet again into a torrid session on his couch. One minute they
were laughing at a joke - the next, arms and legs were fiercely
entangled and deep kisses hungrily exchanged. His hands had wandered
freely and possessively over her body coaxing rather than demanding
a reaction. The fervour of Laura's response had pleased him and
encouraged the belief that she would finally succumb. But just
as their ardour reached a critical juncture, she broke away.
Again. Still, she'd promised action and she'd delivered.
"What are you talking about? What's so hellish about dinner,
a movie and back to your place for coffee? It reminded me of
a first date."
"Yes but I was hoping for rather more than coffee. Oh well!
If our evening together reminded you of a first date, at least
I know you kiss on one!"
She had to giggle at his rueful tone, "Are you calling me
just to get a sympathy vote? Because tomorrow you, me and Murphy"
"Laura" he chided, "No shop talk. It occurred
to me that you never did spell out `Palaeolithic' so I'm calling
for my answer."
She smiled. "Nothing to do with seeing that I got home safely,
I suppose? Rest assured that I'm fine but I need to get ready
"Perfect!" he enthused brightly, "I'll be there
in twenty minutes."
"I can still smell your perfume Laura."
"And I know for a fact that you couldn't wear a bra tonight.
Back-less dresses are a big clue Laura."
"You're not playing fair."
"Fair? What's fair about this? All I've got of you is an
image in my mind! But what a lovely image! It's of your body,
naked of course, and in this fantasy, I'm naked too and we're"
Laura stopped dead in her tracks as a picture of his earlier
caresses popped into her head. She interrupted him, "I don't
think this topic is doing either of us any good."
"Compared to one of your hot and steamy Charlotte Knight
novels, it's positively tame! What say we re-enact all the scorching
chapters of `Bated Breath' tomorrow night, eh?"
Laura was embarrassed. She'd inadvertently revealed an occasional
penchant for bodice-rippers on a past case and since then, he
abused that knowledge mercilessly. "I hate it when you do
that," she muttered between gritted teeth.
He laughed softly before saying, "You know, there's one
particular part of you that I'm dying to kiss."
"Mr Steele, it's late and I'mwhat part?" Puzzled, she
looked at her reflection in the mirror.
"You don't know where I'm referring to?"
Her breath caught in her throat. "No" she managed to
"What a dilemma! Do I tell or not?" he pondered the
"Spit it out Mr Steele! What part of me are you dying to
He aped her earlier admonishment, "Where is this conversation
going Miss Holt?"
"You brought it up!"
"And you didn't let it go."
"Fine. Don't tell me. I can live without knowing,"
"Believe me Miss Holt, you won't have to. When I kiss you
there tomorrow night, you'll know exactly where I mean and that's
Laura felt her pulse quickening. She closed her eyes and tried
to get command of her raging hormones. "This really isn't
doing either of us any good," she repeated breathlessly.
"On the contrary, I'm enjoying myself immensely." Steele
gloried in the knowledge that his words were having such an obvious
effect. He was massively turned on by the power he had over her
despite the distance between them. A cold shower was already
a necessity so further arousal would make no difference. Besides,
he reasoned, if he had to go to sleep deeply frustrated and unfulfilled
so should she.
"Actually, now I consider the matter, I haven't devoted
enough attention to that part of you. How remiss of me! Rest
assured Miss Holt, I plan to make it up to you thoroughly. So
tomorrow night after I rustle up one of my gourmet creations,
we'll sit on my couch and watch a movie. Then I'll move in for
a kiss and circle that area very slowly with my tongue and I'll
lower my lips for another leisurely kiss before I gently"
Laura was ready to explode. "Stop!" she begged.
"Stop?" he asked innocently. Too innocently.
"Yes!" she exclaimed.
"Stop that!" she implored.
"Stop what?" he pressed her.
"You know very well what!" she reproached.
"You mean, stop talking about my mouth and your"
She closed her eyes. "I know what you're doing."
"You do? Do you like it?"
She ignored the question. "You're trying to get me to change
my mind. I only kiss on a first date, remember?"
"Ah but what kisses! Long, lingering, passionate."
She sighed at the memory, "Goodnight Mr Steele. Sweet dreams."
"Correction Miss Holt. Tortured dreams. Tortured dreams
of you and me."
"Try and sleep well. We've got a busy day ahead of us."
"And a busy night too, I hope."
"Get some rest Mr Steele."
"You too, Miss Holt. You too."
"You wanted me to spell `Palaeolithic'. Remember?"
"Ah yes! Invaluable information, thank you. Laura?"
"What exactly is that piece of art in your office?"
"Good night Mr Steele."