Knit One, Steele Two

(Don't own the characters, have no rights to them, just love them, and enjoy adding to the story)
Part 1

'Do that to me one more time, once is never enough, with a man like yooouuu,' crooned the Captain and Tennille through the speakers of a state of the art tape deck.
A woman sat reclined, eyes closed in euphoric rhapsody, as a handsome young man massaged her shampoo-laden scalp in rhythm to the music. Across from the row of sinks three women plopped down in succession into three rose-colored salon chairs, under three raised pink dryer hoods. Following them in perfect rhythm were three smocked attendants who lowered the dryer hoods over the women's roller encrusted heads.
The mirror behind the dryers revealed two women at salon stations having rollers whisked from their hair by briskly competent stylists. The women in the chairs chatted companionably as their coifs were perfected, over the smooth sounds of Toni Tennille and the soft whoosh of the hair dryers.
"Oh, you've gotta go sometime. The views are gorgeous!"
"I'd love to see it, but Harvey is so close with the dollar…I'd never be able to talk him into it." The woman held up her knitting to examine her work, then returned to her stitches, not really even needing to watch her hands as they flew at their task.
"I tell you what. You just go and stay at our little cabin. Leonard wouldn't mind at all. We're off to visit our kids for the next couple of weeks," gushed the freshly blonde, curled and hair sprayed sixy-ish woman. "You and Harvey can just make yourselves at home."
"Well, aren't you sweet! At that price, Harvey won't be able to say no! How I'll ever return the favor?"
"Don't be silly! It'll just be sitting there empty if you don't go, Eunice! You're doing us a favor keeping an eye on the place."
"Some sweet talking guy comes along singing his song, Don't mess around, You got to be strong, Just Stop, 'cause I really love You Stop, I'll be thinking of you, Look in my heart and let love keep us together."
As the taped Captain and Tennille concert rolled on, the women gathered their belongings, stood up simultaneously, and patting their hair, sauntered confidently out of the salon.
"This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message, I'll get back to you."
Mildred settled back on her sofa in front of a rerun of 'The Rockford Files,' needles and yarn in hand.
"Jimmy, old buddy! It's Angel! You know how they allow you one phone call? Well, this is it.'
Snick, Snick, Snick. Stitch upon stitch, Mildred laid down rows of pale yellow yarn. There was a baby on the way! She smiled just thinking about it. She had about given up hope that Miss Holt would ever stand still long enough to let the Boss rub two sticks together and start a fire, but well...
The whole thing had been classic farce. Mr. Steele planning to marry Clarissa, Miss Holt so mad she couldn't see straight, a little mud wrestling, Clarissa picked up for solicitation and suddenly, it was Miss Holt as the blushing bride.
OK, so she hadn't exactly looked bride like, nor had theirs exactly been the wedding every girl dreamed of but, hey - Mr. Steele and Miss Holt belonged together, even if they were too pig headed to go about things in a regular way. At least, they were married - and together. Miss Holt - er, Mrs. Steele - ending up in a family way was proof of that!
Apparently, once they extricated themselves from Tony and the British Intelligence and the Boss's inheritance and made up their minds to, uh, honeymoon, they must've forgotten all about biology. Best thing that coulda happened, as far as Mildred was concerned.
Mildred held her knitting up to the light to get a better look as she passed two stitches behind for a cable and then glanced down at her pattern book for a moment.
Miss Holt began having morning sickness a few weeks after the pair got back from Ireland. She'd needed Mildred to spell things out for her. Some detective! On the other hand, Mildred thought as she grinned a little wickedly, maybe Laura was distracted by the Boss and all the things they were finally enjoying together. Mildred knew she would be!
Dropping a stitch, Mildred grunted as she focused on her task for a few moments.
Of course, the newlyweds were a little rattled about the whole baby thing. Oh, Mr. Steele was strutting around like the only rooster in the barnyard with a goofy smile on his face; but at the same time, he never took his eyes off Laura afraid she might go to pieces if he wasn't watching her.
Mrs. S. was a little queasy and pasty, so she could understand the boss hovering, but Laura was tougher than anyone Mildred knew. She wasn't gonna let a baby slow her down - not much, anyway.
"Come on, Angel, you know I can't do that!" Jim said shaking his head.
Mildred sighed happily and stretched. Setting her knitting aside and turning off the television, she reached for the phone. "Hello - Eunice? Yeah - it's Mildred. You're not gonna believe this! Mr. Steele and Miss Holt - I mean, Mrs. Steele - are havin' a baby! . . .Yep, just married a couple of months now. I'm making them that sweater I made Bernard when he was a baby. Could you look up the blanket pattern you always make? It's only ten rows or so, isn't it? . . . No - that's fine. Just call me back when you find it."
Unlocking the door bearing the silver letters Remington Steele Investigations, Mildred flicked on the lights and setting her knitting bag to the floor next to her desk, walked purposefully through reception toward the workroom to get coffee going. She jumped when she heard a strangled sound coming from Laura's office. She looked through the open door to find Miss Holt slouched at her desk, head propped up on one hand, reading in the dim pool of light cast by her Correia lamp.
"Miss Holt! What are you doing here?!" Mildred gasped with one hand at her throat. "And looking like something the cat dragged in!"
"Thanks, Mildred," Laura answered dryly. She blanched a bit at this point and turned to heave unproductively over the trashcan that she had pulled close. She smiled wearily. "Nothing in my stomach. Couldn't sleep, so I figured I might as well get some work done"
"Stay right there. I'm gonna make you some tea." As Mildred hurried back into the workroom to heat water, the insistent ring of the phone shattered the early morning silence of the office. Grabbing the wall phone, she pulled her earring off to hold the phone against her shoulder as she stood at the little sink and said briskly, "Remington Steele Investigations."
"Mildred, I can't seem to locate Laura! I'm hoping she ran by her loft to pick something up, but you know she's been a little under the weather. She isn't picking up the phone, and I'm a bit worried. I'm going to have Fred run me by the loft, but…."
Steele rattled on so frantically that it took Mildred several tries to break in to his worrying. "Mr. Steele! Hold it! Mrs. S. is here at her desk working, safe and sound," Mildred assured Steele. She decided not to mention how ill Laura looked. "You know how she likes to get a jump on the day."
"She's there? And she's OK?"
There was only silence for a long moment as Mildred finished filling the coffee carafe with water and stretched the cord across the room as she poured it through the coffee maker to heat it. "Mr. Steele?" she finally said.
"Yes, Mildred. Well. . . excellent. I'll be in shortly myself and catch up with Laura then. Thank you, Mildred."
"Sure thing, Mr. Steele." Mildred hesitated, then asked, "You want me to put her on the phone, Boss?"
"No, no. I'll talk to her in person when I arrive. "
Mildred sighed as Mr. Steele hung up. Were these two ever going to learn to talk to one another? She poured hot water into a mug, grabbed a tea bag and headed into Laura's office.
"Mrs. S., that was the boss. You must' a forgotten to leave him a note - he was afraid something had happened to you."
Laura sighed with frustration. "So now that we're married, I can't make a move without clearing it with HIM first?"
"Well, now, I don't know about clearing every move with Mr. Steele; maybe just let him know where you are. He worries about you. You gotta admit, you aren't exactly doing great just now." Mildred searched Laura's face as the younger woman struggled with her emotions, finally settling on merely exhausted. Mildred laid an encouraging hand on Laura's shoulder. "Sip that tea. I've got some crackers in my bag. Eunice says the best thing is to keep nibbling on saltines."
Laura groaned as the busy receptionist/secretary/apprentice detective hurried back to her desk. She raised her voice to carry into the reception area, saying, "Mildred, I appreciate your concern but I think what would help is if I could just focus on business for a while!"
"Sure, Miss Holt...Mrs. Steele. Here are the crackers just in case you want 'em. I got another lead on a bureaucrat in Dublin who might be able to help me with that search for Mr. Steele's records. Should I keep working on that?"
"Perfect. It would be nice if we could come up with a birth certificate for Mr. Steele before we need a name to put on… anyone else's." Laura's voice trailed off as she waved vaguely.
Steele pushed through the agency door within the half hour of his phone call. His clipped 'Good Morning Mildred' as he strode purposefully into his office felt like anything but. The closed doors did little to muffle the raised voices that soon echoed from within Laura's office.
"Is it asking too much to have my bride beside me in our bed when I awaken in the morning? Or for you to at least leave some clue alluding to your whereabouts?"
"I couldn't sleep. I always work when I can't sleep. How can you not know that after working with me for four years!?"
"Laura. We're supposed to be married. I confess I don't know a great deal about that sacred institution, but doesn't being married mean some things change?"
"What are you talking about!? Everything's changed! I'm living in YOUR apartment; I'm using your name!"
"And I'm using yours - the one you gave me, remember? The apartment is OURS, Laura; not MINE."
"Then why is half of MY stuff still at MY loft!? Using the name 'Remington Steele' was YOUR choice - anytime you're ready to go back to Michael or Mick or Dougie, just say the word!"
For being as puny as she was, Miss Holt could sure crank up the volume! Mildred sat perfectly still waiting for the next volley, but silence fell heavily over the office. With a sigh she placed a call to a friend of hers in the Washington DC Department of Immigration, hoping to bypass some of the snafus Mr. Steele's lack of documentation presented.
Learning that Daniel Chalmers, an American citizen by birth, had been Mr. Steele's father gave Mildred some thoughts on how to obtain legal records for the boss. While she sat on hold, the always efficient Miss Krebs pulled out her knitting to occupy her fingers. She held up the growing front panel of the little yellow sweater. There was something so satisfying about watching a project come together!
Suddenly the door from Mr. Steele's office swung open, and Steele's head popped through. "Mildred … Oh, sorry. Didn't realize you were on the phone."
"I'm on hold, Chief. What can I do for you?"
"When you have a minute, could you come in here? I think I've persuaded Laura that we need to consolidate our living situations. I thought maybe you could help us procure an agent, a list of what we want in a house, possible locations...whatever it takes to buy a home."
With a quick clunk, Mildred hung up the phone. Trading her knitting for a pen and notepad, Mildred, charged ahead of her amused employer into his office. "I'll try my call later. It's about time you kids settle some things."
Part 2
Mildred sat propped up in bed, her needles flying, staring at the phone resting next to her and willing it to ring. There was some comfort in the lengthening rows of stitches that fell from her needles. The little yellow arm of the sweater Mildred was working on was nearly complete. Only shaping the shoulder remained. As Mildred re-read the pattern, the sharp ring of the phone made her jump and the needles fell to the floor as she scrabbled to pick up the receiver.
"Hi, Aunt Mildred - It's me, Bernard!"
"Oh - Hi, Bernard! How is the graduate coursework abroad going?"
"Great, Aunt Mildred. Austria is fantastic. We see different parts of the country every weekend and different parts of the city every day. I hope I didn't call too late."
"No, Bernard, this is fine. I'm always glad to hear from my favorite nephew. I'm so glad you're enjoying your studies there." Mildred hesitated. "Bernard, by any chance have you heard from your parents lately?"
"Last weekend, I think. Why? Is something wrong?"
"No - just wondered if they'd said anything to you about taking a trip."
"No way - you know my folks - it took a minor miracle to get them to Santa Barbra for my graduation. And even then, Dad drove straight through on the way home so he wouldn't have to pay for another night in the hotel!"
"Right, right. That's your dad! I must have misunderstood what your mom said when I talked to her a couple of days ago. Did I tell you Mr. Steele and Miss Holt got married?"
"That's great, Aunt Mildred. Hey, I've got to go. Some of the guys are heading off to the one of the local… uh, restaurants."
"Okay, buddy - have a great time. Send me a post card. Love you, Bernard!"
"Love you too, Aunt Mildred. Tell Mr. Steele congratulations from me."
Mildred hung the phone up and leaned over the edge of the bed in search of the errant knitting needle that had rolled under the bed. "Where is Eunice?" Mildred muttered out loud as she struggled to right herself again. "She shoulda called by now with that pattern, or at been home when I called! She and that tightwad Harvey never go anywhere."
Steele glanced across to where Laura lay reclined in the passenger seat of the Rabbit. He reached to tug her coat more snugly up over her shoulder.
"I'm awake." Laura opened one velvet brown eye to return her husband's gaze. "Just resting my eyes. Where are we?"
"We went through Redding about fifteen minutes ago. I would guess that we're about half way to Seattle. Ready for something to eat, or to stretch your legs?"
"I'm OK, Mr. Steele. Thanks." Laura peered over into the back seat where Mildred was snoring softly, her knitting lying forgotten in her lap. "Mildred seems to have fallen asleep."
"I'm glad. She's been so worried about her sister and brother-in-law these last few days, I don't think she's gotten much rest." Steele looked at Laura rather pointedly and asked, "Mr. Steele?"
"Well? 'Remington' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. It sounded much better as the fictitious head of the agency. I have to admit, I've never felt entirely comfortable calling you Remington." Laura smiled a little sheepishly. "Harry. I thought 'Harry' suited you, even before I found out that was the name Daniel called you. How did he come to call you Harry?"
"I'm not sure. On more than one occasion when introducing me, Daniel would smile and tell people I was just some 'Tom, Dick or Harry' he'd run into, and gradually 'Harry' stuck. Personally, I was always rather fond of names from the films." Steele was quiet for a bit. "It was a Chalmers family name, you know - Harrison. I'm really not sure how Daniel came to the conclusion I was actually his son. I would love to have heard more of that story."
"Me, too." After resting one hand comfortingly on Steele's leg for a bit, Laura sat upright, pulling a map open to study it. "Why don't we stop in Weed, at the foot of Mount Shasta? There ought to be plenty of places to stay there, 'Harry.'"
"I like the sound of that, Laura. Now that Mildred's had a bit of a nap, we could all benefit from a good meal. And later, for dessert…?" Steele smiled, wiggling his eyebrows at Laura, whose blush was appealingly evident even in the dim light of the car.
"Mr. Steele!" Laura hissed reprovingly at Steele. Glancing back at Mildred who was still sound asleep, she added "That's the kind of attitude that got us into this trouble in the first place."
One of Steele's most winning smiles slid across to light his face. "Trouble? I prefer to think of it as the kind of attitude that finally won you over."
The Steeles and Mildred were soon ensconced in rooms in at small bed and breakfast. Steele and Laura left their drapes open wide in order to look out on the majestic snow-covered peak. Steele sat propped against the headboard, Laura's hair spread across his chest where she lay secure in his arms.
Steele was profoundly content to be simply holding Laura. His chin rested on the top of her head, his arms lightly on her belly and their as yet undetectable child. In these moments when they ceased worrying about which of them was most vulnerable in their relationship, each found the other to be the perfect answer to all they needed and wanted.
Somehow the differences in their pasts and their temperaments made them fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Where Laura was impulsive, Steele was cautious. Where he was impolitic, she was insightful. Where she was naïve, he was worldly. And where she was now at her weakest, for the first time in her life not able to depend on her body's usual strength and grace, he found himself feeling strangely strong.
Impending fatherhood wakened in Steele fiercely protective feelings he had not suspected himself capable of. If he could always stand between Laura and anything that might harm her, he would. He was hardly able to bear the thought that acting on their love had resulted in her being so ill over the past weeks.
"Hmmm?" she responded languidly.
"Are you alright with being 'Mrs. Steele'?"
"You mean being married? To you?" Laura looked up at Steele's solemn face, illuminated only by the dim light of the moon reflected into the room by the snowy mountain. Slowly smiling, she said, "It's been a little crazy, the way we backed into marriage, the chaos of our honeymoons, trying to suddenly fit our lives into 'your' place, or 'mine,' and then throwing morning sickness into the whole mix, but …yeah, it's alright. I haven't been able to picture myself being with anyone but you for a long time now."
"Thank you, Laura. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but under the circumstances . . ." Steele swallowed. " . . . I'll take it."
"Thoughts on how we ought to proceed once we get to Mildred's sister's place?"
"Hopefully, we'll find them happily watching their favorite television program in their den, all of Mildred's worry for naught."
"Mildred's an ace worrier," Laura said with a smile. "But her instincts are pretty good. We'll all feel better once we figure out what's going on. Tell me - as useless as I've been over the last few weeks, why didn't you and Mildred go to Seattle without me to check on her family?"
"Laura, it took me four years to consolidate our partnership. I'm not about to let you find out you can manage without me. Besides, Mildred doesn't smell nearly as good as you do." Steele inhaled deeply as he whispered into Laura's ear.
Laura snuggled into Steele's embrace with a sigh. "As much as it pains me to admit it, I've come to depend on your support, Mr. Steele… Harry."
Part 3
"Turn here - their house is the deep red one on the left, the one with the hedge along the side," Mildred said, directing Steele from the back seat.
"No lights. Doesn't look as if anyone's home," Laura observed, glancing at her watch. "Do Eunice and Harvey have any hobbies like bowling or square dancing that would take them out of the house at night?"
"Harvey collects coins and Eunice knits. They're homebodies. I can't tell you the last time I called and she didn't pick up the phone, Mrs. S."
"Well, let's knock and see if they answer." Steele pulled the seat back forward and offered Mildred a hand out of the cramped back seat of the Rabbit.
She groaned a little as she unfolded herself and walked stiffly toward the house and knocked.
"No answer," she said.
The three looked at one another and without discussion Mildred and Laura formed a screen with their bodies while Steele swiftly dispensed with the lock.
"Eunice? Harvey?" Mildred called out as they entered the house. "Anybody home?"
A swift search the house confirmed the occupant's absence. Laura and Steele met Mildred in the master bedroom, where the apprentice detective was contemplating the open closet. She turned and took in the rest of the room. Wordlessly, she led her employers down the hall to the bath, where she opened cabinets and drawers. The group continued into the living room, where Mildred silently opened the coat closet and stared. The three turned and Mildred slowly and carefully examined this room. Pursing her lips, she continued through the kitchen toward the family room in the back of the house. Steele and Laura looked at each other and then silently fell in step behind her.
Mildred finally sat down on an overstuffed sofa facing a large console television. The Steeles separated to sit on either side of her. The plump blond seemed lost in thought and her companions were loath to break her concentration. Slowly she rose and walked to the wall behind the television, reaching out to touch a small brass nail that protruded from that smooth surface. Her hand wandered to three more nails. As she walked to the next wall, she touched two other small brass nails. The wall behind the sofa boasted an additional three.
A slow smile crept across Mildred's face, Laura and Steele smiled in response.
"I like that gleam in your eye, Mildred," Steele said.
"OK, Mildred. Spill," Laura encouraged.
"You know how I said Harvey collects coins? Unless I miss my guess, those nails used to hold some of his framed collections." Mildred was thoughtful. "Eunice always has a knitting bag sitting around the house. Bupkis, no bag. Her favorite blue coat is missing from the closet, there aren't any toothbrushes or toothpaste in the bathroom, and the trash cans are all empty."
Steele's grin widened. "She's got the makings of a superb detective, doesn't she, Laura?"
"I'm sorry, Mildred." Laura shook her head. "All that's good, but there are still a few holes here. Like, where are Eunice and Harvey?"
"That part's still a little fuzzy. But even though Harvey hasn't willingly spent a dime on travel in thirty years of marriage, it sure looks as if they just went away for a few days. Eunice is friends with the lady next door. Let's see if she's talked to them," Mildred suggested.
"Mildred! What are YOU doing here?!" A shocked voice interrupted Mildred's suggestion.
"Eunice - Oh!" Mildred flew to wrap her arms around her shocked sister. "I've been so worried! I've been trying to reach you for days! The Boss and the Mrs. came with me to check on the two of you!" In her joy at having Eunice appear, Mildred missed Laura's pained expression at being referred to as 'the Mrs.'
"How did you get into our house?" Harvey asked as he suddenly appeared behind the two sisters, dropping several small suitcases to the floor as he glared at the Steeles. "And where are my framed coins that were on the wall behind you when we left here three days ago!"
Harvey continued to stare suspiciously at Steele across the small kitchen table, apparently not swayed by the detective's most disarming smile. Steele found himself sliding closer to Laura and taking cover behind her earnest personage.
"So you went to your friends Arlene and Leonard's lake cabin for a few days?" Mildred asked.
"Well, I've never met Leonard, but Arlene and I go to the same beauty shop. She's been raving about the views at Crystal Lake and offered to let us stay at their place. They weren't going to be there anyway since they were visiting their kids, so she dropped the keys and a map off here, and away we went." Eunice chattered on, saying, "It was wonderful! Guess I never imagined you'd worry about us. We'd just talked, after all, and I figured it would be a few weeks before you called again."
"Probably would have been, except I was waiting to hear from you about that knitting pattern - remember?!"
"Oh, yeah! Congratulations, you two, on the baby! Sorry, Mildred. It just flew right out of my head."
"Thank you. How long have you known Arlene, Eunice?" Laura asked in her most professional manner.
"Oh, quite awhile now. We get our hair done at the same time every Friday at the Cut 'n Curl. Such a nice place - and real reasonable, too! We get plenty of time to talk during those visits. I've heard all about her kids, her grandkids, her bursitis . . ."
"Do you have her home phone number or address?" Mildred asked.
"Come to think of it, no, I don't think I do. They might have it at the Cut 'n Curl, but Arlene's gonna be gone a few weeks visiting the grands."
"We'll head over to the beauty shop in the morning, Eunice, and see what we can come up with. I think you'll need to talk to the police, as well," Mildred continued earnestly as Laura looked down, smiling. "Harvey, check around and make a list of everything that's missing."
"Well, you two, we're delighted to find you safe at home. We've spent a rather long day traveling. Perhaps you could direct us to a motor lodge of some sort," Steele said, backing farther away from Harvey's antagonistic glare as he spoke.
"Don't be silly. You can stay here. Mildred can stay in Bernard's room, and we've got a real cozy fold out sofa in the family room. You two will be snug as two bugs in a rug," Eunice chirped cheerfully.
"Sorry, Chief," Mildred said apologetically as she, Steele and Laura contemplated the newly made-up sagging sofa bed with its decided slope to the center. "We'll get this wrapped up tomorrow pronto and hit the road back to LA. You'll be back in your own bed in no time."
"No problem, Mildred." Laura assured her with a smile. "You did a great job tonight putting all the clues together."
"Yes, top notch work, Mildred," Steele added with a grimace as he bounced a bit on the squeaky edge of the fold-out couch. He leaned in toward Laura and whispered, "Remind me never to get us involved in family matters in the future, Laura."
"Isn't it a little late for that warning, Mr. Steele?" Laura said, raising one eyebrow as she tapped both of her hands on her stomach.
"What's that, Mrs. S.?" Mildred asked.
"I said it's getting a little late. Tomorrow morning we'll try to find those missing coins for Harvey."
"Right - O. Night, kids!" Mildred said as she wandered back toward Bernard's room.
"I'm a little disappointed. I thought she might be planning to kiss us good night." Steele settled back on the bed only to fall into the pit in the center, just as Laura did the same from the other side. Giggling as they settled unavoidably against one another, Steele wrapped his arms around Laura and leaned in to kiss her, murmuring, "Then again, perhaps we'll be able to manage on our own."
Part 4
"Oh, my back," Steele groaned. "That wasn't a bed we slept in; it was an instrument of torture."
"That's one way of making sure houseguests don't overstay their welcome," Laura said with a wan smile, still not quite recovered from her early morning queasiness. She climbed out of the car and leaned back against it for a moment as if to steady herself.
"Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Steele," Mildred offered. "Eunice means well."
"She's lovely, Mildred, really, and it's nice to get to meet more of your family." Laura gave Steele look of chagrin. "Fabulous work getting this address from the shampooer at the Cut 'n Curl!"
"Yes, Mildred. Wonderful work. Particularly returning from the salon to rescue us from Harvey's suspicions. I think he really wanted to turn me over to the officer who came to the house to make out the burglary report."
"Isn't it great that the coins were the only thing missing from Eunice and Harvey's house? Don't take it personal, Mr. Steele; Harvey's just a little suspicious of strangers."
"Yes, Harry, and they don't come any stranger than you," Laura grinned as she slipped her arm through Steele's .
"It does seem awfully convenient that Harvey and Eunice get robbed the first time they go away overnight in years." Mildred led the three down the sidewalk, double checking the scrap of paper she clutched in one hand. "This is it - Arlene and Leonard's town house. Sure looks quiet."
"Shouldn't take us long to check them out," Steele said cheerfully.
When no one answered the bell, they entered through a back door. A thorough search of the dwelling revealed nothing that suggested Arlene and Leonard were anything other than the loving grandparents Eunice had described. The trio left, no closer to understanding how Harvey's coin collection had been targeted for theft.
Steele turned toward their detective in training. "Well, Mildred, you're leading the investigation on this one. Where do you suggest we go from here? Is it time to pack our bags and head back to the sunny skies of LA?" Steele asked hopefully.
As they turned the corner toward the street a shot rang out, hitting the brick wall behind them. All three ducked, then cautiously raising their heads to look around as a second shot sent them sprawling into the bushes along the walk.
"Stay here - both of you!" Steele pleaded as he crept cautiously back around the corner of the townhouse.
"Where do you think you're going!?" Laura asked indignantly. When she received no answer from Steele, she whispered, "Keep down, Mildred."
Mildred clung desperately to Laura as the younger woman moved to follow Steele out from their hiding place. A third shot pinged against the wall above them.
"Ohhh, Mrs. Steele - don't forget about the baby!" Mildred exclaimed as Laura squirmed out of her grasp to dart down the narrow alleyway in the direction from which the shots seemed to have come.
Mildred wrung her hands as Laura leaped awkwardly to take cover behind a retaining wall. Another shot blasted the pavement where Mrs. Steele been seconds earlier. A figure dressed in dark pants and a hooded sweatshirt which covered his face raced down the alleyway, stopping near Laura. In a panic, Mildred stood and fluttered her hands.
She called out tremulously, "Hold it, dirt bag!"
The gunman turned toward Mildred and as he did, Steele tackled him in a flying leap, the gun flying as they landed. One more shot punctuated the previously quiet neighborhood.
Mildred scurried over to grab the gun as Steele struggled briefly with the shooter. Growling in anger, Steele forced the man's hands behind his back and roughly pushed him to the ground, holding him there with one knee.
"Laura!" The word came from Steele's throat as a sob as he looked over to where she lay huddled on the ground.
Mildred looked over at Laura, as well. Holding the gun in both shaking hands, Mildred kept it trained on the man Steele held as she walked in a wide circle around them toward the inert figure of Mrs. Steele.
"I've got him, Mildred; just check on Laura!" Steele urged.
Mildred set the gun down, well away from anyone, and knelt to gently pull Laura's hair back from her face.
Steele jerked their assailant to a seated position and used the man's own belt to secure his hands behind his back. He then moved to join Mildred, carefully lifting Laura to assess her injuries.
"Mrs. Steele?" Mildred asked gently, placing a warm hand on Laura's pale cheek.
Laura drew in a slow, shuddering breath, and moaned softly.
"Get help, please!" Steele begged.
Mildred rose and ran as fast as her short legs would carry her toward the street, where she started to flag down a passing motorist. Then spotting a pay phone, she rushed to place a call for the police and an ambulance.
"Wake up, love!" Steele murmured into Laura's hair as he held her close.
Her breathing shallow, Laura lay unresponsive in his arms.
Steele's long fingers traced imaginary lines between the freckles on Laura's cheeks as he spoke to her. "We've got things to do, Mrs. Steele. We need to find Harvey's coin collection. We need to find someplace better than Eunice's sofa bed to sleep on tonight. We need to pick out a house together - a house with room for your piano and my movie posters. We need to paint a nursery for our little souvenir from Ireland - or maybe wallpaper the nursery with little green shamrocks or leprechauns. And somehow, we need to make sure we never ever have to dodge bullets again."
Tears trickled down Steele's face as he spoke, though his words were quiet and reassuring.
Mildred walked quietly up behind the pair, hearing the last part of his one- sided conversation with Laura. "I'm so sorry I got you two into this, Chief," Mildred said, her voice catching as she spoke.
"Nonsense, Mildred. Your sister was missing. Besides, if you hadn't distracted the gunman . . . Well, you're the hero in this, Mildred." Steele looked down at Laura again, in time to see her eyes flutter open.
"Mr. Steele…" Laura managed to croak as she sat up unsteadily within the circle of her husband's arms. "I'm fine. Just got the wind knocked out…"
"Back to formal names again, are we, Mrs. Steele?" Steele whispered as he nuzzled Laura, wiping his tears on her hair.
"Thank goodness, Miss Holt - you had us worried there for a moment," Mildred said with relief. A siren wailed in the distance. "Hopefully, that'll be the cavalry. I'll get 'em and bring them back here!"

"Are you sure you've got that creep tied up?" Laura asked, nodding at the struggling man.
Dragging his eyes unwillingly away from Laura, Steele fastened a hard stare on the person who had been responsible for hurting her and endangering all three of them. He walked over and knocked the man's hood back, grabbing his hair roughly and forcing his face upwards.
"Well, it's not Leonard unless Arlene married a much younger man," Steele told him. "That's my wife you were taking shots at, you bugger - along with our associate and me. What the bloody hell did you think you were doing?"
"I was not going to hurt anyone. My shots were over your heads - I just wanted to frighten you off before you figured out that…" The sullen man then clapped his mouth shut, thinking better about sharing more.
"Hans!" Mildred declared as she hurried back toward the Steeles leading a small army of emergency personnel. "What on earth!? He's the shampooer at the Cut 'n Curl!"
"Well, I'd say his days at the Cut 'n Curl are down the drain. Assault with a deadly weapon, probable theft. What will the police find when they search your home, eh?" Steele grimaced at the man, giving him a final, angry shake as he turned back to his wife and the emergency crew surrounding her. "She's pregnant - not quite three months," he told them. "This 'man' took a number of shots at us. My wife was dodging him when she was injured."
"We'll check her out, sir. Any pain, miss?"
"Just the occasional one in the backside," Laura said with a smile as she eyed Steele lovingly. "Really, I think I'm OK; just had the breath knocked out of me. It isn't the first time."
Eunice hugged Mildred tightly as Harvey shook Steele's hand. Steele's left hand was unconsciously massaging the ache in his back, the result of another night on Eunice's 'comfy' sofa bed.
"You all come back for a real visit some time - or maybe we'll come see you in Los Angeles," Eunice offered warmly. She leaned in to kiss Laura on the cheek. "I'm gonna knit you my special bunting, pink or blue, as soon as I hear whether you've had a boy or a girl!"
"That sounds wonderful, Eunice," Laura smiled. "I'm sure you'll be among the first to know. Come visit Mildred soon - don't let your last trip discourage you! How were you to know that while he was shampooing, Hans was listening in on your conversation with Arlene and would come looking for Harvey's prized coins?"
"I guess Hans was looking for two different kind of tips at the Cut 'n Curl - the ones he overheard, as well as the ones he earned with his scalp massages!" Mildred added.
"I'll miss his magic fingers, but I have a great story to share with Arlene when she gets back from visiting her kids. The owner of the Cut 'n Curl is so proud to have a photograph of the famous LA detectives to hand on the wall in the shop!" Eunice grinned. "And thanks to you three Harvey has his coins back!"
Mildred, Steele and Laura climbed into the Rabbit, waving at Eunice and Harvey as they settled in for the long drive back home.
"Now, the three of us are going to have a conversation," Mildred began as she pulled out some fresh skeins of lemony yellow yarn and began the blanket pattern Eunice had promised to call her about. "I've got the two of you corralled all the way back to LA and by that time, we're going to have figured some things out."
Steele and Laura looked at one another, a bookend pair of raised eyebrows.
"We make a great team, the three of us. I can't imagine life without the two of you, and I think you need me, too. HOWEVER, I don't ever want to lean over one of you lying on the pavement again, and I'm getting too old to keep chasing after you and keeping you out of trouble. That little one you're expecting needs a quieter life than you two have led in the years that I've been with you, and we're gonna figure out how that's gonna happen." Mildred's fingers flew as fast as her words, an even row of stitches growing under her competent fingers.
"Mildred…" Steele began.
"I don't want any arguments, Chief. And Mrs. S., I don't care how much you love excitement -getting shot at and diving around alleys to avoid gunmen is no way to bring a baby into the world."
Laura dropped her eyes into her lap, before turning to smile at Harry. "Of course not, Mildred."
"And another thing…"
Laura's hand slipped into Steele's. As Mildred droned on, the couple in the front seat smiled broadly. The car radio, only faintly audible over Mildred's harangue, was playing a plaintive song recorded by the Captain and Tennille.
"Well, then, what's to be the reason for becoming man and wife?"
The End

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