A bank teller counts some money as a man watches. "Eight hundred, nine hundred, nine thousand dollars. And how would you like your traveler's cheques, Mr. Wheaton?"
Mr. Wheaton, a middle aged, attractive man with graying hair and a mustache, smiles. "Oh, five hundred dollar denominations, please."
"All right, then," the teller says, reaching for the cheques.
At Lloyd's Bank, another teller says, "Why don't you get started signing these while I fill out a receipt?" He pulls a pen from his pocket. "Do you need a pen?" he asks.
Mr. Wheaton pats his pocket. "No, I've got one, thanks."
"If you like, you can use the desk over there, Mr. Van Adams. Signing nine thousand dollars in traveler's cheques is going to take a little time."
Wheaton/Van Adams smiles, picking up his briefcase and the cheques. "All right."
At the First Mercantile American Bank, yet another teller says, "I don't think I've ever sold nine thousand dollars in traveler's cheques before." She watches as the man signs his name. "Did you know that if someone buys ten thousand dollars worth in cash, we have to fill out a special form for the IRS?"
Wheaton/Van Adams smiles. "Really? I wasn't aware of that," he tells her with a laugh.
"Bureaucracy," the teller sighs.
He picks up the cheques. "Well, that does it. Thank you."
"Have a nice trip, Mr. Blackthorne."
The man goes down a hall in an office building and unlocks the door to an office with "The Wheaton Company" on the door.
Inside the austerely furnished office, he places the briefcase containing the cheques on the desk and opens it. Opening a desk drawer, he takes out a bottle of wine and a glass, then lighter fluid and some matches.
Picking up the briefcase, he dumps the cheques into a metal trash can, douses it with fluid, and lights them. Then he calmly pours a drink and sits in the chair. He lifts his glass in a silent toast, smiling as the cheques burn.
At Remington Steele Investigations, Steele enters the office. "Morning Mildred," he says as another woman, this one wearing a fur coat, rises from the waiting area.
"Morning, Boss," Mildred replies. "Oh, Mr. Steele?"
"You have a client-"
Steele takes the distraught woman's hand. "Martha Ryan," she tells him. "My husband is-"
Steele lifts his hand. "Say no more, Mrs. Ryan," he tells her. "Why don't you go thru to my office and we'll talk about the whole thing in there?" he suggests, gently turning her toward the office door. "Straight thru. Here we go. Make yourself comfy, okay?" He turns back to Mildred and whispers, "Where's Miss Holt?"
"Redondo Beach? Putting the finishing touches on that security contract?" she reminds him.
Steele is thoughtful. "Oh, she is, is she?" He grins. "So good with paperwork. Hold all my calls, will you, Mildred?" He continues to his office, where Mrs. Ryan is standing before his desk, waiting for him. "Mrs. Ryan, please." He pats a chair. "Do sit down." Removing his overcoat, he tosses it across the room onto a chair. "Now. Mrs. Ryan," he begins, sitting down behind his desk, "What seems to be the problem?"
"My husband James just retired, Mr. Steele. He was an executive in an aerospace firm. For the past thirty-five years, we have been building up a nice little nest egg, which he is now throwing away on some hair-brained investment scheme!"
"And what is he investing in?" Steele questions. "Stocks? Real estate?"
Mrs. Ryan calmly unzips her purse and pulls out a cloth doll, which she stands up to display to him. Embroidered on the doll's dress is the name "Courtney". "THIS!" she declares, and hands him the doll,
Steele looks at it. "Forgive my ignorance, Mrs. Ryan, but what exactly is this?"
"A Courtney doll," Mrs. Ryan tells him, a sour expression on her face.
"Ah, yes. Of course it is."
"Our granddaughter's name is Courtney, Mr. Steele. My husband has met someone who has convinced him that she would make a terrific model for a new doll."
"And he's put all his money into manufacturing this doll?" Steele asks as she sits down.
"That jerk! Now, the way I see it, Mr. Steele, under the community property statutes in the state, half of that money belongs to me. And my husband is flushing it down the TOILET!" She takes a deep breath. "Excuse me."
With the doll still in hand, Steele asks, "How much money are we talking about here?"
"Approximately half a million dollars," Mrs. Ryan tells him.
Steele is stunned. "Half a million?"
"My husband is being bilked, Mr. Steele! He has been pouring money into the Courtney Doll Company for six months now. And all we have to show for it are prototypes? My husband's not going to do anything about it, because he trusts his business partners." Her face hardens in anger. "It's up to ME to make sure we're not being swindled!" She stands up and moves toward the desk. "Now, he won't even tell me the names of his partners. But I swiped this stationary." She hands him a paper, that he opens up and looks at. "It has the company address on it."
Steele stands up. "All right, Mrs. Ryan," he says, pocketing the paper. "I assure you, if there's any fraud going on here, the Remington Steele Agency will expose it, okay?"
"I'm counting on it," she snaps, picking up her fur coat and going toward the door.
"Uh, Mrs. Ryan, you forgot your doll!"
"Keep it!" she yells back without turning around or pausing.
Steele looks at the doll, then stuffs it into a desk drawer.
The limo pulls up outside a warehouse. The sign above the door reads "The Courtney Doll Company". Inside, Steele finds an almost deserted room. One woman is sitting at a sewing machine, working. "Excuse me," Steele says. "Excuse me," he says again, when she doesn't respond.
She looks up, startled. "Que?" she asks in Spanish.
"I'm looking for whomever's in charge," he says.
She gives him a blank look in return. "Que?"
"Uh, por favor ah- donde esta el bossman, hmm?"
"AH," the woman says, smiling. "El jefe! Por ? puerta," she tells him, pointing toward a door.
Steele smiles. "Gracias," he replies, and heads off as the woman resumes her work.
Steele knocks on the door a couple of times, and hears noises from beyond, but no one answers it. So he opens the door. "Hello? Is anybody there?" he asks, looking around the door to see someone climbing out of the window into the alley.
Steele jumps out of the window and starts to chase the man, but stops as he gets a better look. The man gets into a white Cadillac convertible and tears off. Steele smiles and goes back to the warehouse.
In an office building at Hollywood and Vine, we see an office door with the lettering, G.E.M. Productions, Inc. George Edward Mulch President.
Below that, a newer sign reads, "The Courtney Doll Company, A Wholly-owned Subsidiary of G.E.M. Productions, Inc. George Edward Mulch President."
George Mulch approaches the door tiredly and pulls out his key to open it. Inside the cluttered office, he pauses, catching his breath, then moves closer to the desk, only to stop as Steele says, "George Edward Mulch." He's sitting at the desk, his feet up, reading a book.
"Remington Steele, right?" George says. "The detective?" Steele keeps flipping through the book in his hands. "Well, how are ya? Long time. Busy for lunch?"
"I thought I recognized that rapidly retreating bulk," Steele notes grimly.
"That was you at the factory?" George asks, surprised.
Steele closes the book and looks at him. "Who'd you think it was?"
The door opens and a malevolent looking man comes in. "Him," George says nervously.
"Hello, George," the man says.
Steele quickly gets to his feet. "Uh, sorry, mate," he is saying, glancing at George and getting between George and the other man. "Mr. Mulch is otherwise occupied." As he turns, the man pulls a gun from his coat and whaps Steele in the head, knocking Steele to the floor.
"Damn right he's occupied. With me."
Steele has a nasty cut on his left temple as he shakes his head to clear it. George has used the distraction to make his way to the window. He jumps out as the other man notices and follows.
Steele gets to his feet and goes to the window, intending to follow them onto the fire escape, but is forced to pause a moment to fight a wave of dizziness before continuing.
He gets to the alley, and sees that George is being held against some boxes, with the other man's hands around his neck. "I want my money, George. You understand, George? I want my money!"
"All right!" George cries out in a strangled voice.
Steele comes closer, finding a two-by-four which he brings down across the other man's back, freeing George. "Now you're occupied with me," he tells the man.
The man straightens, and notices that a crowd has gathered outside of the alley. "We'll continue our talk when it ain't so crowded, George," he promises. Looking at Steele, he says, "And I'll catch up with you later, pally." He turns and leaves the alley.
"Who was that, George?" Steele asks.
George rubs his shoulders. "Oh, him?" He laughs nervously. "He's just a- business associate. He's got this idea he wants me to get behind. You know. Uh, I'm not really interested, but- he's so enthusiastic! So. Um, what- brings you to the neighborhood?" he asks conversationally.
Steele looks at him, then grabs him and turns him back toward his office.
Back at his own office, Laura is putting a bandage on Steele's head as he winces. "Why didn't you wait for me?" she asks him.
"Sorry," she apologizes.
"You were busy. I was only going to investigate a doll company. I didn't anticipate Blood Alley. Terrific-" He stands up, and is dizzy again. "Oooh," he moans, bracing his arms on the desk and lowering his head.
Concerned, Laura tells him, "I think we should have you examined for a concussion."
"Nonsense," he tells her, sitting down again. "Just a little dizziness." He picks up the phone. "Mildred, send in Mr. Mulch, will you please?"
In the reception area, Mildred tells George, "You're up, Mulch!" He struggles to rise from the low sofa and takes a few steps toward Steele's office.
Laura grabs the phone. "Mildred, hold Mr. Mulch."
Mildred whistles to stop Mulch. "You're down, Mulch!" George turns to look at her.
Laura tells Steele, "I don't care how innocent it appeared, you don't pursue cases without me."
"Really, Laura, you're making far too much of this," he tells her, reaching for the phone again. "Mildred, send in Mr. Mulch, thank you."
In the reception area, George hears him and turns to look at the office.
"Mildred, HOLD Mr. Mulch," Laura says once again.
George looks frustrated.
"One of the advantages of working as a team," Laura reminds Steele, "is that we back each other up. Look at you. You run off by yourself and you come back with a cracked skull! Am I getting THROUGH to you?!"
"I'm not sure which is worse," Steele says. "The ringing in my head or the rasping in my ears."
"Just as long as we understand each other for the future," she says, going to the phone. "Mildred, send in Mr. Mulch."
Mildred points toward Steele's door again. George slowly gets up. "It's about time," he tells her. "I'm a very busy executive."
"Get in there!" Mildred yells.
He enters Steele's office, to find Laura leaning against the front of the desk. Steele is seated in his chair. "Sit down, Mulch," Laura orders in a no nonsense voice.
He sits, looking at them. "What did I do?" he asks.
"Guilt by association, I'm afraid," Steele tells him.
"When last we met," Laura recalls, "You were trying to market a line of household products based on Hollywood stars. Virginia Mayo Mayonnaise, the Marilyn Monroe Modern Slicer- remember?"
"Yeah," George agrees. "Great idea. But- just a little ahead of its time."
"Now, why don't you tell us how you became involved with the Courtney Doll Company?" Laura suggests, perching on the desk again.
"Oh. Now, well, one day, I'm walking down Hollywood Boulevard, my senses open, the antenna are out, a man on the brink of inspiration, right? When- BAM!"
"You got hit by a bus," Steele suggests in a deadpan voice.
George starts to point that he's right, then stops. "No, no." He stands up, excited. "No, no, no. It comes to me. The idea. A new doll that both children- AND parents will love. Are you ready for this?" he asks.
"I've got goose-bumps already," Laura tells him, glancing at Steele.
"I know what you mean, I get chills when I think about it!" George declares. "Look, you're a parent, right? Your little Sally or Susie wants a doll. You love the kid, you buy her the doll, the kid is happy, right? For five minutes. Then, she wants more clothes for the doll. She wants a stroller for the doll. She wants the dolly's friends, Skippy and Cricket. Not to mention Bruce. And all of THEIR accessories. All of a sudden, what started out as an innocent bribe for your child's affections has turned into a - a conglomerate of extortion."
Laura looks at Steele. "It does remind me of my niece," she admits.
"Now,- I wish I had a doll here to show ya," George says.
Steele opens his desk drawer and pulls out the doll that Mrs. Ryan left, slamming it onto the desk before sliding it over to him. "It's your lucky day, George."
Laura's surprised that he's got the doll, and gives him a questioning look. "All right!" George says, picking the doll up. "Hey, where did you get-? Never mind. Never mind." He turns to Laura. "Okay. The Courtney Doll. Cute, right?" he asks Steele. "Simple, right?" he asks Laura, who nods. "What does it do? Nothing. What comes with it? Nothing. But the kid wants the doll's stroller. There IS no stroller! The kid wants the doll's friends. She don't HAVE no friends! THIS is it! What you see, is what you get!" Laura takes the doll from him. "You buy this doll, you come away clean! Parents will be dancing in the streets! I'm gonna make a million!" he declares.
"George-" Steele says, trying to bring him back to earth.
"Wait a minute," George says, taking the doll back from Laura. "Wait a minute. You gotta hear the sales pitch. You're gonna LOVE the sales pitch. Simple, but elegant. The Courtney Doll. All she needs is your love and imagination."
Laura pushes him back into his chair. "Mrs. Ryan thinks you're cheating her husband out of his money!" she tells him.
"James Ryan sunk half a million dollars into your company. Now, when I visited the factory, it was hardly working at capacity. Where's the money going?" Steele wants to know.
George is hugging the doll. "Hey, I handle the creative end. The dollars and cents I leave to my junior partner, Pete Gillespie."
"Where is he now?" Steele asks.
"Well, he's probably out lining up business," George tells them. He gets up. "You see, let me explain." He sits on the front of Steele's desk. "About six months ago, I told Gillespie my doll idea, which he flipped over. SO, about three weeks later, he calls me up, he says he found a backer, James Ryan. They used to be friends or something. So, I make Gillespie a junior partner, I name the doll after Ryan's granddaughter, and the rest, as they say, is gonna be history."
"George," Laura says, "We'll need to see the books."
"Hey, the sooner the better," George agrees. "I have nothing to hide."
Laura grabs his arm and starts for the door. Steele rises. "George, my dolly." He takes the doll. "Thank you."
"I'll handle this, Mr. Steele," Laura tells him. "You rest."
"Really, Miss Holt," he begins, but Laura turns to him.
"Stay," she orders.
Laura and George are in his Caddy. "How do you like the wheels, Miss Holt?" he asks.
"I'm surprised you can afford them."
"Hey, I put my own money into this baby," George tells her. "After all, a successful businessman has to present an image, right?"
"What about an unsuccessful businessman?" Mildred asks from the back seat.
Laura smiles, and Georges grimaces. "You had to bring her, right?"
"Mildred is our financial expert," Laura tells him. "Before she joined Remington Steele Investigations, she was a crack investigator for the IRS Fraud Squad."
George swerves the Caddy in surprise. Once he's calmed, he glances into the mirror. "You, uh, comfortable back there, Miss Krebs?" he asks.
He pulls the car up to the curb near a small hole in the wall called "Tommy's Diner". "This is it," George tells them.
"Tommy's Diner?" Mildred questions.
George gets out of the car as do Laura and Mildred. "Yeah. My brother in law runs the joint. He's the math whiz in the family, so I put him on the payroll to keep the books."
"Looks like a first class operations, Mulch," Laura says facetiously. Her sarcasm is lost on George.
As they start for the diner, a Camaro pulls up nearby. The driver, a nervous, younger man gets out and goes to a nearby payphone. He deposits a coin and dials a number. "It's Gillespie," he says. "He left the detective agency with two women. And they're at his brother in law's diner right now . . . . Well, yeah, I'm a little nervous, okay? . . . Okay. I'll wait to hear from you . . . All right." He hangs up the phone and leaves.
Inside the diner's storeroom, George and Tommy watch as Mildred takes a shoebox stuffed to overflowing with receipts from equally stuffed shelves. "You're kidding, right?" she asks.
"What?" George asks.
"These documents haven't been posted? Ledgers," she says, when Tommy gives George a blank look. "Double entry book-keeping? Does ANY of this ring a bell, gentlemen?"
"Those black books with the red corners and lined pages and all?" Tommy asks.
George laughs, patting him on the back. "The egg-head in the family."
"I was gonna get some of those next week," Tommy tells Mildred.
Mildred and Laura exchange a look.
The three of them leave the diner, each holding boxes of papers. "Don't worry, Miss Holt," Mildred assures her. "I have seen worse cases. Believe it or not."
"I don't," Laura declares, trying to stuff her box down some more.
"I should have a profit and loss and a balance sheet for you in a day or two."
They look over to see the Caddy being driven away. "My car!" George cries out. Laura and George drop their boxes and take off running. The car makes a u-turn as Laura reaches the curb. She runs across the street and jumps onto the hood of the car, grabbing the top of the windshield.
"Are you crazy, lady?" the driver yells. He loses control of the car and runs it onto the curb, sending Laura flying onto a patch of grass nearby. She gets up and goes back to the car. "You could get killed doing that!" the driver tells her, removing his sunglasses. "We both could get killed!"
"You should have thought of that before you tried to steal this car!" Laura says, grabbing the keys as George and Mildred join them.
"Oh, man," the driver says, and starts to open the door.
Mildred pushes it shut again. "Oh, ho, you're in trouble plenty, compadre. You have any idea what grand theft auto brings in this state?"
"I don't believe this," the man says, looking up at them. "Blatant prejudice in the 1980's. You assume because I'm Hispanic I'm stealing the car. Next thing you know, you'll be asking me for my green card."
"This is not YOUR car, Mister!" Laura insists.
"I know that." He opens the door. "Permiso," he says, getting out. "When is the last time you saw a car thief wearing a three piece suit?" he asks, straightening his jacket. He lifts a foot. "Check it out. Florsheim."
"You stole those, too?" George asks.
"I'm a businessman," he tells them, handing Mildred his card. "Juan Esteban Castro."
Laura reads the card and frowns.
Back at the office, we see the card as Steele reads it. "Repo Man to the Stars No Job Too Hot No Lead Too Cold." George looks on, slightly abashed. "And he actually took the car?"
"He had the right papers," Laura tells him. "George was- considerably behind in his payments."
"I wasn't behind," George insists "I hadn't started 'em yet. I guess the bank never read my letters explaining-"
"Ah," Laura nods.
"Here's the background check on Pete Gillespie," Mildred says, entering with some papers.
"Thanks, Mildred." Laura takes the papers from her.
"George, this gentleman that I met at your office, um, Ross Buckner- he wouldn't happen to be a loan shark, would he?" Steele asks.
"A- A financial services- broker," George admits slowly. "But, uh-he doesn't have anything to do with the Courtney dolls," he insists.
"How much are you into him for?" Laura asks.
George is thoughtful. "Well, allowing for fluctuations in the prime rate, and Buckner's interest is 55 points above that, compounded daily, like, uhm, five grand?"
"George," Steele says, aghast. "You soaked James Ryan for half a million dollars. How can you be in debt?"
"I haven't drawn a penny in salary yet," George tells them. "You see, Gillespie explained to me that our start up costs are a little above what was projected."
The phone rings, and Mildred answers. "Remington Steele Investigations."
"Mr. Steele," Laura says, "I think it's time we drop in on Pete Gillespie."
He grabs his coat. "We'll go together. I'm feeling much better now, thank you very much," he's saying as Laura gives him an uncertain look.
Mildred puts her hand over the phone. "It's James Ryan," she tells Steele. "He wants to see you."
Steele is surprised, and looks at Laura.
The limo sits before the Ryan's house. Inside, Ryan, who is the man who burned the traveler's cheques, tells Laura and Steele, "So, when my wife informed me of your investigation, I felt I had to call. You see, Martha's very- nervous about financial matters. She doesn't understand it takes money to make money," he tells them with a laugh. Martha enters the room, with a little girl at her side. "Well," Ryan says, getting up to go to the little girl. "Look who's here."
"Hi, Grandpa," Courtney says, smiling
"Hello, Princess," he replies, pulling her closer. To Steele and Laura, he says, "This is Courtney. My granddaughter."
Laura and Steele have risen to their feet, and Steele bends down to shake the little girl's hand. "Hello, Courtney. My, you are a living doll." Laura laughs softly.
Courtney turns to Ryan. "Mommy and Daddy are on the phone," she tells him.
"Oh, well, then, would you please excuse us?" he tells them, and goes to the nearby telephone with her.
"Courtney's parents are on vacation," Martha tells Steele and Laura. "They haven't been away together since she was born, and like all parents, they have to call home every few hours to make sure that everything's all right." She smiles, watching Courtney and Ryan.
"Yes. Alright, then. Enjoy yourselves," Ryan says into the phone, and starts to hang up.
"I wanna say goodbye," Courtney tells him.
Ryan quickly puts the phone to his ear again. "Hello? . . . Yes. Hold on just a second. Somebody here wants to say goodbye."
He hands the phone to Courtney, who says, "Bye, Mommy and Daddy." She puts the receiver beside the phone to hang it up, then leaves the room as the adults laugh.
"She hasn't quite got the hang of that yet," Ryan says, hanging the phone up correctly. "Anyway, what I wanted to sayis that I'd be very happy to pay you for your time up to now," he says as all of them stand up. "And there really isn't any point in continuing. I'm sure everything is gonna be just fine," he says, putting an arm around his wife.
"Um hm. How well do you know Pete Gillespie, Mr. Ryan?" Steele asks.
"He was a bartender at the club we both belong to," Ryan tells them. "I always found him a very bright, amiable young man. Why?"
"Are you aware that he was dismissed as part of that bridge scandal a few years ago?" Laura asks.
"Yes, but I thought the case against Pete was very, very shoddy. In fact, I tried to get him reinstated."
"I think it might be prudent not to drop the case, Mr. Ryan," Steele suggests. "Especially when there's so much at stake."
"Well, you're the experts," Ryan agrees. "I think you're wrong, but- go ahead."
"You won't regret it, Mr. Ryan," Laura assures him.
He glances at Martha as he says, "I hope not."
Later, Gillespie is putting a kettle on in his apartment when the phone rings. He answers. "Yeah?"
On the other end of the line, Ryan says, "Now, don't panic, Pete, but you'd better disappear for a few days."
"Look, you said you'd handle everything."
"And I will. I just- need a little time to straighten things out."
"But it wasn't supposed to be like this," Pete reminds him.
"Well, if my wife hadn't hired those private detectives, it wouldn't be. But we can adjust. Now, pack a bag, find a motel, and call me." He hangs up.
Laura and Steele arrive at Pete's apartment building in the Rabbit. They knock on the door to the apartment, and Laura listens. "I hear something," she tells him.
Steele pulls out his lock pick and sets to work. Inside, they find the kettle whistling. Laura turns it off. Steele notes the open closet and the empty space inside. "Hm. Have a look at this. It appears our Mr. Gillespie left in a bit of a hurry," he says, sucking on one of the lock picks as he gets the case.
"Innocent men don't run," Laura notes.
"Sounds like a Raymond Chandler novel," Steele says, smiling as he puts up the pick.
They're on their way back to the car when several men appear out of no where, grabbing them. One of them holds Laura as the other two beat up on Steele pally. As he falls to the ground, Buckner comes around the corner in his Porsche. "Hey,!" he calls out. "Tell that fat friend of yours I'll be expecting his payment. Tomorrow." He motions for his thugs to leave. Before they do, one of them delivers a final, vicious kick to Steele's already bruised ribs.
Released, Laura rushes to Steele's side, clearly frightened and worried.
At Laura's loft, a bare-chested Steele sits on the arm of her sofa as she stands behind him, wrapping an Ace bandage around his bruised ribs. She is upset, and he is having trouble breathing.
"Well," he says. "Forgetting about the bellicose Mr. Buckner for the moment, it would appear that Pete Gillespe is the man we're after. I mean, he put James Ryans money and George Mulch's idea together. It would appear that he was the only one to make a profit from the while arrangement."
Laura finishes wrapping his chest as he talks, and then takes the safety pin from her mouth and fastens the bandgae with it.
He gasps, then breathlessly instructs her, saying, "Just a little tighter, Laura."
She removes the safety pin, pulls the bandage tighter, and then fastens it again with the pin, causing him to scream, "Ohhh, ohhh!" Finished with her task, she walks in front of him and pauses, her back to him; it's obvious she's upset about his injury.
Remington picks up his shirt and painfully and slowly begins putting it back on. "You are truly- an angel of mercy, Laura," he tells her between breaths.
"I've been getting a lot of practice lately," she tells him.
"Well, perhaps we should increase our medical coverage," he quips as he fiddles with his his shirt, his cuffs, and his watch.
"That's right," Laura says, near the kitchen now. "Joke about it."
"Well, I'm sorry-if my various bruises and abrasions annoy you. The next time I'll go to the emergency ward."
Laura looks at him. "Buckner's men could have just as easily *killed* you."
The calmness of his reply makes her mad. "Is *that* all you have to say about the subject?" she asks angrily." 'True'?"
Remington is still sitting on the arm of the couch, his shirt still open so that we can see the Ace bandage. He is surprised by Laura's anger, and just sits there, speechless, for a moment.
Finally, he says, "Uh, Laura, this Remington Steele you invented- I mean, he isn't a plumber." He gets up and walks behind the couch so that now he is directly behind her. "Look, I mean, if I am to continue playing the part, I run the risk of running into people like Buckner. Sporadically, I hope."
"I just don't like seeing you *get hurt*," Laura sighs, pacing away from him as he fastens his cuffs.
"Well, in *that* area, I agree. It's, uh, better to, uh, give than to receive," he agrees, placing a hand to his chest and then leaning on the counter.
Laura sighs, her back still to her. "I want to put my *arms* around you... hold you... comfort you..." she tells him.
He moves even closer to her, saying hopefully, "Uh, it sounds a lot better than a bandage."
"But I *can't*," she insists as she turns, confused and looks at him.
"Oh?" he asks excitedly, but patiently. "Why? What's stopping you?"
They're facing each other now as she says, "Me...< sigh> You...<she sighs and rolls her eyes>"... Us."
"Ah, yes! The south of France! That *wonderful* agreement we made- about not mixing business with pleasure."
Laura sits down on the arm of a chair. "I *know* it was my idea, but, uh, I'm having a hard time living with it," she admits.
"We've just become so -*distant* lately. So, so..." She struggles for the right word, but cab't find it.
"Professional?" Steele quickly suggests.
"Ah," he says. "Well, ah, look, Laura-um- I realize I've been a bit standoffish lately, but, uh, I mean, I thought that's the way you wanted things. I mean, ever since we came back from France, I've tried to respect your wishes. I mean, granted, I've - I've overstepped the *mark* at times, but then again, uh <he grins> you know, I'm only human," he reminds her with a charming smile.
She responds to the smile with one of her own, saying, "Thank God for that."
They laugh softly, and then the laughter fades as they sit there silently for a moment.
Finally, he says, "Our little agreement hasn't really *solved* anything, has it?"
Laura looks away as she stands up. "It's just, uh, made things more- confusing. We don't-go forward... and we *can't* go back! So we just sort of - stand here, frozen in place." She sighs deeply. "Uh."
They look deeply into each other's eyes. He leans closer to give her a couple of light kisses, then pulls her closer as the kiss deepens.
"The beginnings of a thaw?" he asks hopefully.
Another kiss, and the telephone rings, causing both of them to look disgusted.
"Of course, you really should think about getting an answering service," he tells her as she picks up the phone, remaining in his arms, just lips are mere millimeters apart.
Laura reluctantly answers. "Hello? . . . Oh, hello, Mildred," she says in a faraway voice, still looking into his eyes.
Steele is nodding constantly.
"Um hum . . . Oh, all right," she says, almost laughing aloud as Remington cuts his eyes to the ceiling and makes a pouty face. "We'll be right there."
Laura hangs up the phone and tells Steele, who is still in her arms, "That was Mildred. She just finished the work on Mulch's financial records."
"Uh huh," he mumbles, nodding.
"Says it's *very* important," she explains further.
"Um..." Steele sighs. "Ah, sometimes that woman's efficiency can be highly exasperating."
Laura puts her arms around his neck again. "Um, for once, I have to agree with you, Mr. Steele," she says, giving him another kiss. They turn together and move away, leaning against each other for support.
In Steele's office, Mildred tells Laura, George, and Steele, "Over the last six months, the Courtney Doll Company took in four hundred ninety six thousand dollars from James Ryan. In that period, the Courtney Doll Company has paid out four hundred ninety six thousand dollars in start up costs."
"Well, hey, look," George tells her. "We have to bring the foam stuffing all the way from Taiwan. And- get this- we're trying to sign Abba to sing the Courtney Jingle. Do you have any idea what it costs to call Stockholm?"
Laura looks at Steele.
"Moving on to the balance sheet," Mildred continues, "As far as I can see, the Courtney Doll Company has inventory worth approximately-eight hundred dollars. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is its total asset."
"What about the factory?" Steele asks.
"Yeah," George chimes in. "What about that?"
"So let me get this straight," Laura says. "The Courtney Doll factory spends four hundred ninety six thousand dollars and only has eight hundred dollars worth of goods to show for it?"
"You got it," Mildred says.
"Well, where did the money go?" George asks.
"Ah," Mildred says, "Now that's interesting." She consults her papers again. "All of the money was paid out to only three firms. The Wheaton Company, a manufacturer; the Blackthorne Corporation, a sales group; and Van Adams Enterprises, a distributor."
Laura rises from her place on the arm of the sofa next to Steele. "Great work, Mildred. Tomorrow, you and I will check out those companies. I'll bet they'll lead us straight to Gillespie. My guess is he's been getting hefty kickbacks for arranging fraudulent billing."
Mildred's delighted. "You mean, I'm gonna get to do some real gumshoeing?" she asks.
"Absolutely," Laura tells her, smiling. "You've been chained to that desk long enough!"
Mildred beams at Steele. "Yahoo! Oh, I guess you have more important things to do, huh, Boss?" she asks.
Steele's gaze is focused on Laura, fully aware of what she's trying to do. "Apparently."
"The street is no place for the "Boss'," Laura tells Mildred. "He'll be right here, supervising the entire operation, collecting data, assembling facts, formulating theories," she says, rubbing her hands together.
George smiles at Steele. "You're a born leader, Steele."
Steele glares at him.
In Steele's apartment, Steele is spreading a blanket over the sofa as George drops the throw pillows onto the floor. Remington cringes each time one hits the floor.
"It's awful nice of you to put me up tonight, Steele," Mulch says.
"Yes, well, we can't have a man like Buckner getting his hands on an enterprising entrepreneur like you, George," Steele assures him. "You're a dying breed."
"I guess I am at that," Mulch realizes. "You probably won't believe this, 'cause I know I come across as so unflappable, but I..I..I'm getting a little perturbed about the ways things are going lately."
"Yes, well, that's a good sign, George," Steele points out. "It shows you haven't lost your sense of reality."
"You know, Tommy, my brother-in-law, he's got that diner," George explains. "He always wants me to come in with him, you know? But I said, 'Tommy, I gotta be true to myself! I gotta follow my star!' You know."
Steele retreives the pillows from the floor.
"I don't know," George sighs. "Maybe I should... go in the diner, you know," he mutters.
"Yes, well, I'm sure the whole thing will look a lot different in the morning," Steele says as he takes the pillows to the window seat by the hearth.
"Yeah," George says. "You know, my old man used to say, 'You win some and you lose some, and some days you get rained out. But you dress for every game'."
Steele looks a bit confused. "Someday you'll heave to explain that to me, George. For now, get some sleep, okay?" He turns toward the bedroom.
"Yes?" he answers, leaning his head back into the living room.
"You know, you're, um, something that I haven't seen very much of in my life. A square shooter."
Steele smiles, touched. "Good night, George," he says, lifting a hand and going on into his room.
George sits down on the couch.
The next day, Laura and Mildred are at the offices of the Wheaton Company. "Watch for traffic, Mildred," Laura tells her as she takes out her picks.
"You're covered," Mildred assures her.
They enter the office, and noting it's lack of furnishing, Laura's surprised. "This is the headquarters of a company that's been taking in a couple hundred thousand dollars?"
"Looks like a dummy corporation if ever I've seen one," Mildred agrees.
Laura searches the desk, and finds the remains of a fire in the trash can. "Somebody's had a nice little bonfire," she tells Mildred, and kneels to inspect the ashes. She pulls something out.
"What is it, Miss Holt?"
"Traveler's cheque," Laura tells her. Mildred is surprised, and Laura is curious.
Back at the office, Steele is sitting at Mildred's computer as George, computer manual in hand, talks. "Nicaragua. I could go there. I betcha Buckner don't have NO contacts in Nicaragua. I hear the climate is very nice, too. A few internal difficulties, maybe-"
Steele snaps his fingers behind him to get George's attention. "The instructions, George."
George puts his coffee down and reads. "Once the modem is engaged-"
"I've done that," Steele tells him.
"Punch in your access number."
"Yes, I've done all that, but the blasted machine won't GIVE!" he exclaims in frustration. George looks things over as Steele continues to rant. "Bloody computers. The most useless bit of hardware I've ever encountered. I've always said-" George reaches over and presses the "enter" key. The screen changes, and Steele turns to look at George.
"You didn't press ENTER," George tells him.
Steele smiles at him, then turns back to the keyboard and begins to type. "All right, Einstein. Let's see what you can cough up on the Wheaton Corporation, the Blackthorne Corporation, Van Adams Enterprises."
"The Falkland Islands," George says. "Now THERE is an out of the way place. Hardly anybody goes there anymore."
Ryan parks his BMW beside Gillespie's Camaro at a motel and knocks on the door to a room. "Yeah?"
"It's Ryan," he says. Pete opens the door for him. He's holding a gun. "Getting kinda jumpy, Pete?"
"They're onto us, aren't they?"
"Relax. And put that thing down." Pete tosses the gun onto the bed. "There's an easy way out of this thing," Ryan says. "Only Steele and his assistant suspect anything is wrong. There are no police involved at this point. And Mulch- is the perfect patsy. So, if we can just remove those two detectives from the picture, all our problems will be solved."
"You're talking about murder, Ryan," Pete says nervously.
Ryan smiles at him.
Laura and Mildred return to the Agency, where Steele is looking at some papers at Mildred's desk. Excited, Laura tells them, "The companies that took in all of Ryan's money? They're dummies."
"Just rented office space," Mildred continues. "With a name and address and nothing more."
"Great," George says. "What does that mean?"
"Well, it looks like Gillespie set up these companies for himself," Mildred says.
"In other words, using George's company as cover, Gillespie was taking money from Ryan and paying it himself?" Steele clarifies.
"Right," Laura confirms. "We found the remains of some burned traveler's cheques in one of the offices."
"Why would somebody burn traveler's cheques?" George wonders.
"We haven't figured that out yet," Mildred says.
"The checks were signed in three names," Laura informs them. "Arthur Wheaton, Harold Blackthorne, and Roger Van Adams."
Steele and George look at each other in surprise as the names.
"Those are the guys who supposedly run these dummy corporations," Mildred tells them.
"This is unbelievable," George tells Steele.
"What is?" Mildred asks.
Steele turns to the computer printer and grabs some papers. "Yes, well, we got the computer to render some background information on those three corporations," he tells them, tossing the papers onto the desk.
Mildred's amazed. She comes around the desk to him. "You did, Boss?"
"Yes, it was very simple, Mildred," Steele lies, and glances at George, who's hiding a smile. "Just a little bit of patience, and uh- ANYWAY, we found out something very intriguing about those three gentlemen."
"Yeah?" Mildred asks.
"They've all been dead for over twenty years," Steele tells them.
They all look at each other, dismayed.
They're all pacing the reception area, when Mildred says, "I don't get it!"
Mulch chuckles and replies, "Welcome to the club."
"The heads of all three dummy corporations are dead men," Laura adds, as though still unable to believe it.
Suddenly Steele says, "The Day of the Jackal. Edward Fox, Michael Lonstad, Universal, 1973!"
George's eyes light up. "Yeah!"
"Whaddaya mean 'Yeah'?" Mildred asks.
"Edward Fox plays this assassin who creates false passports by getting the birth certificates of dead men who were born the same year he was!"
Steele is smiling, delighted at George's recital. "Good Lord," Laura sighs. "Another movie buff?"
Steele grabs George's hand. "Oh, Georgie, I knew we were kindred spirits, mate!" he says.
"Yeah, well in my business, it pays to see a lot of movies, because you never know when an idea will leap off the screen at ya!"
"But, what does this Jackal have to do with Pete Gillespie?" Mildred wonders.
"Gillespie set up the false identities so he could skip the country without leaving tracks," George explains.
"The traveler's cheques we found would support that theory," Laura agrees.
"They would?" George asks.
"Sure," Mildred agrees. "Gillespie could withdraw all of his money from the three companies in cash and then buy travelers cheques."
"Why traveler's cheques?" George asks.
"Because you can destroy them and have them refunded later," Mildred tells him. "If Gillespie flies the coop with the money from the checking account, he leaves a paper trail."
"On the other hand," Laura points out, "Trying to travel with five thousand dollars in cash creates quite a suspicious bulk."
"But with traveler's cheques, he can carry that amount in his coat pocket in the form of receipts," Mildred says.
"He could go anywhere in the world, turn in his receipts for refunds, and slowly reconstitute his fortune without anyone being able to trace it," Laura finishes.
"Mildred," Steele says, "call the Ryans and tell them we're about to wrap this thing up."
"You got it," Mildred says, going to the phone.
"What a brilliant, wonderful, ingenious little plan!" Steele declares. "Just think of it, Georgie, the man had a pile of money-"
Laura puts her hand on his arm. "Mr. Steele, I think you should go home and rest those ribs of yours. Perhaps I'll come by later with some Ben-Gay," she tells him.
Steele smiles at her. "Oh, yes, I think they might need a bit of- massaging and everything like that," he agrees.
"Hey, what about me?" George asks. "I mean, Buckner's still after me. I mean, what about MY physical well being?"
"Oh, Georgie, I'm sure we'll be able to arrange your accommodation with Mr. Buckner," Steele assures him.
Mildred hangs up the phone as she tells them, "Busy."
"We'll try again later," Laura says.
"Brilliant day's deduction, everybody," Steele praises. "Brilliant! Come along, Georgie!"
Steele, with George in the passenger seat, pulls the Auburn up outside of a gated estate. "Stop worrying, George, will you?" Steele admonishes as George sinks down in the seat, wearing dark glasses and a hat. "I have a plan that will wipe out your debt."
"What are we doin' here?" George asks. "That's Buckner's house!"
Steele is wearing sunglasses as well. "Of course it is. Where else do you think he keeps his car?"
"Why are we interested in his car?"
"We're going to steal it," Steele informs him calmly.
"Are you crazy?"
"Buckner's car is a Porsche. 928s. I'd say I know about- half a dozen- dealers, shall we say?, who could get it out of the state and into the hands of a new owner in a matter of hours. And, at a handsome profit for us- in cash." He laughs softly, and smiles, thinking about what he's about to do.
George doesn't look too happy.
Steele climbs the fence and then gets to the house, climbing a wall and moving stealthily toward the garage.
George pulls the Auburn into the drive, looking at his watch. He gets out and takes a long pole that's bent the end from the back of the car.
Steele gets into the garage, as George uses the pole to set off the alarm inside the gate. Then he gets back into the car and pulls it away as the gates begin to open.
Steele gets into the Porsche. Buckner and his men come out of the house. He sends one of them down the drive to close the gates.
Steele hotwires the ignition and pulls the Porsche out of the garage. Buckner and his men see the car and head for it. Steele stops, tosses out smoke canisters from the sunroof. He drives through the smoke, toward the closing gates.
As one of his thugs lift his gun to fire, Buckner grabs his arm. "Are you crazy? That's a ten thousand dollar paint job!"
The Porsche gets through the gate and turns onto the street before vanishing.
Laura and Mildred are at Laura's desk, going over something when the phone rings. Mildred answers. "Remington Steele Investigations . . . Mr. Steele isn't in right now. Can I take a message?" She listens, then covers the receiver to tell Laura, "It's Pete Gillespie!"
Laura takes the call. "This is Laura Holt."
"Where's Steele?" Pete asks.
"You're in a great deal of trouble, Mr. Gillespie."
"Why do you think I called?" Pete says, talking from the warehouse office.
"I suggest you find yourself the nearest police station and turn yourself in."
"What if I made restitution?" Pete asks.
"You mean, give back the money?"
"Will you and Steele go to bat for me with Ryan?"
"I'll need more than that," Pete says.
"So will we."
"I've got most of it stashed at the factory," he tells her. "I just need Steele's word that Ryan won't press charges."
"Mr. Steele will be in a much better position to give you that once he has his hands on the money," Laura tells him.
"I'll be waitin' for both of you."
"We'll be there," Laura tells him.
Pete hangs up and looks upset as he tells Ryan, "They're comin'."
Laura gets up and goes to the file cabinet. "You're not gonna meet that bum, are you?" Mildred asks.
Laura takes out the Agency gun. "He wants to make a deal. The money for his freedom."
"I'll get my coat," Mildred says.
"You stay right here," Laura tells her. "This is just a precaution."
"Shouldn't you call Mr. Steele?"
She drops the gun into her purse. "I think he's had enough excitement for one day." She nods and leaves the office.
At Buckner's, he's on the phone. "Well, can't you put more men on it? . . . Well, what do we pay our taxes for, Lieutenant? . . . I want my car." He hangs up, angry. "Police," he says to his thug. "You know, I'll tell you something. If I had that kind of man-" he breaks off as Steele and George enter the room. "Well, well. Hey. Cisco," he points to Steele. "And Pancho," he says to George. "Huh? You got my money, George?" he asks. "Or am I gonna have to play taps on your head again?"
George pulls a bundle of money from his pocket. "Oh, no, no, no. Here you are, sir."
Buckner counts the money. "What's the extra grand for, pally?" he asks.
Steele smiles. "This." He plants a fist in Bucker's gut, elbowing the man behind him on the return, then hits Buckner again, knocking him out to lay over the desk. George hides behind a chair. Steele grabs Buckner's shirt. "Now we're even, pally. Com'on, George."
George stands up to join him as they walk out. "I was behind you all the way," George assures him.
"A great comfort, George," Steele says, wiping his hand and polishing his watch. "A great comfort."
Laura arrives at the factory in the Rabbit and goes inside.
In the limo, Steele is on the phone with Mildred. "What do you mean she went there alone?" he asks
"There was nothing I could do to stop her," Mildred says. "I've been trying to reach you for over an hour."
Steele looks upset and worried. "Alright, thank you, Mildred." He hangs up. "The Courtney Doll Factory, Fred. And let's not linger a lot at the lights."
The limo speeds up.
Laura enters the deserted factory. "Gillespie?" she calls. The lights go out. Laura pulls the gun from her purse.
Gillespie stalks Laura in the darkness. He makes some noise by bumping a box, and Laura grabs a coffee pot, tossing it across the room. He sees it, and then finds Laura. He's got a bead on her as the limo pulls up outside.
Steele's getting out of the car when he hears two shots. "Laura!" he calls, running for the door and opening it.
Inside, he and George find Ryan and Laura standing over Gillespie's body. Ryan still has a gun in his hand, and looks shaken by the experience.
Back at Steele's office, George says, "So Gillespie called Ryan too, huh?"
Steele nods, and Mildred says, "Natch. He's gonna eliminate anyone who could finger him."
Laura sits on the desk, quiet.
"He didn't call me," George points out as Laura gets up to pace restlessly across the office.
The phone rings. "Remington Steele Investigations," Mildred answers.
Steele leaps up to join Laura, examining her somber expression. "What's wrong? Still in a bit of shock?"
"No, it's not that. Something's nagging me."
"Ah, yes. Well, I've learned to respect your nags."
"If Gillespie had all of Ryan's money, why didn't he just leave town? Why kill us off if he could escape without a trace?" Steele looks thoughtful. "There's another thing. You know those three dead men whose names appeared on the traveler's cheques? They were born fifty-five years ago. Gillespie was 32 years old. Why would he choose to impersonate older men?"
"All right," Mildred is saying into the phone. "We'll get back to you." She hangs up and tells Laura and Steele, "That was Mrs.. Ryan. She's got another job for you. She wants you to locate any hidden assets Mr. Ryan might have."
"Why?" Steele asks.
"He just filed for divorce," Mildred tells them. "You know, in a way, Ryan really got a break in all of this."
"What do you mean, Mildred?" Laura asks.
"Well, it's a strange way of looking at it, but, because he lost everything, he doesn't have to pay his wife one penny in a divorce settlement."
Laura and Steele look at each other as something clicks.
Mildred notices the look. "I just said something incisive, didn't I?"
Back at the Ryan house, Laura and Steele are confronting Ryan. "That's what this was all about from the start, wasn't it, Mr. Ryan?" Laura accuses. "A way to divorce your wife without splitting your hard-earned money."
"But it soured when she hired us," Steele continues. "But you found a way out. Kill Gillespie. That way you'd wind up a hero and tie up your own loose ends."
Ryan continues to laugh. "Even if I could accept your little fantasy, where's your proof? Hmm?" Steele's frustrated by his coolness as Ryan rests an arm on the fireplace mantle. "Traveler's cheques? IN the names of dead men? That's hardly conclusive evidence."
"You told the police that Gillespie called you to come to the factory," Laura recalls. "About- what time was that?"
"Four o'clock," Ryan tells them.
"You're sure?" Steele questions.
"I looked at my watch," Ryan says.
"You're wrong, Mr. Ryan," Laura tells him. "Dead wrong."
"The phone was off the hook all afternoon," Martha says, coming into the room. "Courtney left it that way. Her parents tried to reach us since one o'clock. I didn't notice the phone was out of order until- after six."
We couldn't reach you, either, Mr. Ryan," Laura says. "That's why we checked with your wife before we came here."
Courtney runs into the room and looks up at Ryan. "I love you, Grandpa," she says. Ryan's control breaks and he starts crying as the little girl hugs him.
In Steele's apartment, Mildred hands George a drink while Laura and Steele set the dining table for dinner. He's putting out plates, she's laying out the silver.
"I didn't want to mention this until now, Laura, but- when you went off to that doll factory, alone, I was, uh, deeply troubled. Not to mention a little disappointed." They meet alongside the table.
"Disappointed?" she questions.
"Yes, well, you know how seriously I take your instructions, and yet, there you were, alone, working in complete violation of your own rule that we work as a team."
"Yes, well, as with any rule, there are- extenuating circumstances, extraordinary conditions, under which-"
"I got it!" George calls out. "My next project," he says to Mildred. "Steele! I know what we can do the extra cash!"
"What extra cash?" Mildred asks.
"The extra cash we got for selling- Buckner's- car," George finishes slowly as Steele desperately tries to wave him off saying the words. George, realizing what he's done, winces and bites down on his finger.
Laura looks at Steele. "Is there something that you haven't told me?"
The oven timer goes off. "Dinner's served!" Steele announces, smiling at her nervously as Laura looks at George.