Molten Steele
From the episode written by:
Richard Collins

The LA freeway system at night, leading to an exclusive residential area. As we home in on an expensive home, a telephone is ringing. Inside the house, a woman is sitting, terrified, watching as the telephone as it continues to ring.

Finally, unable to take it any longer, she picks up the receiver and listens. "Stop it," she hisses. "Stop it!" She stands. "Leave me alone. You're insane. You should be locked up!" She hangs the phone up and grabs her coat, running from the room and outside, looking around as if afraid she's being watched.


The next day, she's in the offices of Remington Steele, telling them, "For over twenty years, I've been a faithful, devoted, wife. Sometimes, I think that's all I've ever been. Mrs. Charles Dumont - the oil magnate's wife. If I so much as THOUGHT of making love with another man, I told myself I was- hallucinating."

Laura asks, "What changed that, Mrs. Dumont?"

"Time. Too many years. Too many hours," she says, pausing. "Loneliness. I wanted to be touched by somebody other than my masseuse." She removes her coat.

"And that someone-?" Steele asks.

"Walter Mueller," she tells him, angry. "A young auto mechanic. He makes house calls in Rancho Santa Luisa, servicing our cars." She looks uncomfortable as she looks at Laura. "It -It was an- arrangement."

"Go on, Mrs. Dumont," Laura prompts quietly.

"He-He charged me for work he didn't do. You know, tune ups, carburetors, that sort of thing. And then two weeks ago, he told me he needed ten thousand dollars for new equipment."

"Blackmail," Laura says.

"Exactly. I wouldn't pay him."

"That took courage," Steele tells her.

"Well, somehow it offended me more to pay a blackmailer than to pay a lover. Unfortunately, Mueller's come up with a rather imaginative form of persuasion," she says, taking something from her purse and handing it to Steele.

He unfolds the newspaper and reads the name. "The Swinger's Street Journal." He looks at an article. "The True Wealth of the Senses."

"The classified ads," Mrs. Dumont tells him. "On the back." He turns it over. "That circled item?" He reads it. "That's ME." Laura leans across the desk, and he hands it to her. "Emily Dumont, with my unlisted phone number and a description of me and my- specialties." Laura and Steele look at each other for a moment. "As a result, every pervert and sex maniac in the dialing area has given Flaming Emily a jingle."

"Have you thought about changing your telephone number?" Laura asks.

Emily turns to look at her. "Yes. Yes, of course. But my husband would want to know why."

"Does he know about this?" Steele asks.

"NO. And right this moment, he's at the White House in Washington, lunching there. But he's due back in Santa Luisa this evening for a cocktail party he's insisting we give."

Steele is looking at the paper again. "This - Mueller seems very determined."

"I hope you can prove he's behind this harassment," Emily tells them. "And I want you to put a stop to it. Miss Holt, Mr. Steele, I made a mistake. Just one. I regret it. I wouldn't do it again. But I live in a world where you can pay for that kind of mistake forever."


As Laura drives the Rabbit, Steele is perusing the paper. "Hmm," he says. "Fascinating." Laura frowns, uncomfortable. He clicks his tongue. "Extraordinary."

"How long are you going to linger over that catalogue of curves and kinks?" she asks.

"Laura, I'm researching the case," he tells her, smiling.

"Do you always smack your lips when you research?"

"I'm marveling at the uh, the uh, - the creativity of the human animal," he tells her.

She glances at the paper. "Animal, yes. Creative? I don't know. Why is it so amazing that the world is filled with twisted, lonely people?" she asks.

"Well, if some of the people in here can provide what they promise, they won't be lonely for long," Steele tells her with a leering smile.

"Mr. Steele, I don't mean to-to ground your flight of fancy, and I'm sure it's VERY fancy, but can we take a moment to discuss our M.O. on this case?"

He folds the paper and takes a metal briefcase from the back seat. "Precisely my agenda, Laura," he tells her. "I suggest that once we reach Rancho Santa Luisa, you uh, shield Mrs. Dumont from further harassment," he says, taking a clip board from the case, "while I nail young Mueller for this shabby and tawdry business," he says, holding up the paper then putting it back down. He takes out a pen and looks at the clipboard.

"How do you plan to do that?" Laura wonders. "Don't these filthy rags guarantee their - clients confidentiality?"

"I intend to beat the publisher at his own game," he tells her with a smile as he starts writing.

"Careful," she warns. "Among that sort, beating may be considered- foreplay."

"Oh Laura," Steele looks her up and down not quite sure what to say, "Yes." They continue driving, passing through an affluent strip of shops.
"Does it tell you something about this community that every other office is a stockbroker's," observes Laura.
"Yes. I think our friend's publisher should be around the next corner."
"Stockbroker here, porno shop there," Laura laughs, "Work hard, play hard."

They pull up to a building on a dirty side street, the area filled with expensive cars. Several well dressed men enter and leave something called the "Love Library" as Laura comments, "High class clientele."

"Um hmm," Steele agrees. "High class community." He opens the door.

Laura grabs his arm, stopping him. "Don't get lost in your work," she tells him, then smiles as he gets out of the car and goes to the store. She drives off.

Steele enters the building cautiously. He comes into a room where men are reading and examining various books. He's donned a monocle and pipe, and stands in the doorway for second before taking out his handkerchief and mopping his face. "Gentlemen pray continue with your activities," he says, then moves farther into the room.

He pauses beside a table containing various "toys", picking up a whip as a man comes from a back room. Steele turns to him, and says, "Mr. Vishuva?" in a very proper British voice. The man nods. "Lord Marchmane," he says.

The man looks him over. "You a wrestler?"

"Only with great ideas," Steele says, looking around. "Excellent restraints and leathers, Mr. Vishuva."

"What can I do for you, Lord?"

"I, sir am an author," Steele tells him.

"Don't need no author. I don't even need a writer. I do the whole damn paper myself."

"Remarkable," Steele comments. "But I require neither employment, nor a publisher. I've already sold my book." He takes the pipe from his mouth. "The Sexual Exploits of an English Nobleman," he tells the man.

Vishuva is unimpressed. "English noblemen are out of date. I mean, that's last year's filth."

"I intend to eliminate the middle man," Steele says, "And sell my book directly to its special- uh- constituency." Vishuva looks more unimpressed. "Therefore, I'm prepared to offer you a handsome fee for your list of classified advertisers in your magnificently prurient publication. A thousand dollars and five percent of the profits on the book."

"My advertisers count on me to protect them, Lord. It's a sacred oath. You know, like a Doc and his patients?"

Steele looks frustrated momentarily. "I can see you're a straight arrow, Mr. Vishuva. What would you say to ten percent? Hmm?" He puts his case on the table.

"It's ten percent of zip, Lord," Vishuva says, starting to turn away. "Okay? The book ain't gonna sell."

Steele opens the case. "Yes, well, before you decide, Mr. Vishuva," he pulls out the clipboard. "Just have a glance at this, I pray." He presents the clipboard to the man, who takes it. "Just a glance. This paragraph, for instance," he says, pointing it out with his pipe. Vishuva's eyes widen.

"My Lord, that's disgusting."

"Thank you. I did attempt to reach the heights of depravity with that one. Do you think it has a chance?"" he asks.

"It's GOLD," Vishuva declares. "I mean, I've worked for some of the biggest talents in this business. Uh, Countess Perverse, Jack Lance. You dwarf `em, Marchmane." He looks at the story again, laughing. "You dwarf `em."

"I do?" Steele questions, somewhat surprised.

"Fifteen percent?"

"Twelve and a half," Steele offers. They shake hands.


At the Dumont housemaids prepare for the afternoon festivities as the telephone rings and a short-haired woman answers it. "Dumont residence. No, no you have the wrong number, there is no Emily here." She starts to put the telephone down and then quickly listens as a look of horror appears on her face, "No, I'm not interested either." She hangs up the telephone but it immediately rings again. She takes a moment and then picks it up. "Dumont residence."

Laura and Emily come downstairs. "I've told people you're a Vassar alumna," Emily tells her as they enter the living room to find a harried looking woman with the telephone in her hand as a Hispanic maid dusts the room. "I'm on the board of trustees. This is my social secretary, Miss Hopkins," she introduces. Miss Hopkins carefully replaces the receiver. "She's been an absolute pillar through this whole mess."

Miss Hopkins looks up with a nervous smile. "Mrs. Dumont!" The phone starts ringing again. "I've enjoyed working for you," she says quickly. "But I can't stand this sudden rush of activity." The maid picks up the phone. "I can't answer one more time." She puts her hands to her temples. "I have such a headache." She rushes off.

"Miss Hopkins?" Emily calls after her as the maid drops the vase of flowers in her hand.

"Madre de Dios!" she cries out, hanging up the phone and turning to Emily. "The world is ending!" she declares. "Senora Dumont. For THIS you make me learn English? I go back to Bolivia." She leaves the room.

"Ophelia," Emily calls. The phone rings, and Emily looks terrified.

Laura stops her from moving forward, holding up her hand and going to the phone. "Hello?" she answers. "Oh. Um." She laughs as she sees Emily's concerned face, then frowns as the caller continues to talk. "Oh. Sounds like fun," she says at last. "But I can't. Mother's here." She hangs up, looking at Emily, who smiles. It rings again. Laura gingerly picks it up and holds it so that Emily can listen as well.

"Ah, yes. Him again. I think his name is- Big Al."

Laura looks amazed. She puts the phone to her ear. "I'm very busy tonight. Mother's here." She looks sick. "Bring her along?" She hangs up, disgusted.

"If only my husband's plane were- hijacked or something," Emily says, then looks up as they hear a helicopter. Emily goes to the French doors and opens them to watch the helicopter landing. "No such luck," she tells Laura, "it's him."

Laura unplugs the telephone, holding up the end of the cord. "No more ringing. I've disconnected it."

Emily laughs. "Nice try, but it won't work. The first thing he'll do after complaining about another house guest from Vassar is go straight to the phone," she tells Laura, who joins her as Charles Dumont gets out of the helicopter and waves goodbye to the pilot. Emily waves hello as he stalks into the house. "Hi, dear. How was Washington?" she asks.

He grunts, going to the table where the phone is. Emily tries to head him off. "Darling, this is Miss Holt."

"From Vassar?" he asks. He shakes hand. "At least this one's pretty."


He notices the phone's unplugged. "The phone's disconnected. No wonder I couldn't reach you." The women watch nervously as he reconnects it. He picks it up, and listens. "Who is this? What?"

"That must be for me," Laura tells him. "My fiancé," she explains, laughing.

Charles hands her the phone. "Your fiancé's got a filthy mouth," he tells her, moving around to join his wife as Laura picks up the entire phone and answers.

"Yes, dear?" she says sweetly. "I'll call you tomorrow. Well, then, you call me. It's not convenient now. I'm not available."

"I gave that school a hundred thousand dollars," Charles comments. "What are they teaching `em these days?"

"Time change," Emily reminds him.

"I gotta call Jakarta by four o'clock," Charles says, looking at his watch.

"No," Laura says. "Flatly no. Gotta run now. Good bye." She hangs up, smiling nervously. The phone rings again.

Charles indicates that she should give him the phone. He answers it. "Hello?" Disgusted, he holds it out to Laura. "It's for you."

Laura gives him a sick smile as she takes it. "Hello?" she says sweetly.


As Walter Mueller walks from his office, a cab pulls up and Steele gets out. "Walter Mueller?" he calls, stopping the man from getting into a van.

"Uh, sorry," he answers with a German accent. "Four o'clock appointment. Never late. Mueller," he says.

Steele holds up the paper. "Yeah. I'm a private investigator. I'm sure you recognize this."

Mueller takes the paper. "Gott In Himmel," he says, grimacing in distaste. "Schmutzig. Never see this before," he insists.

"Your English is very good," Steele tells him.

"You are too kind," Mueller says, smiling and handing the paper back.

Steele grabs his shirt and pushes him against the van. "But your German's lousy, mate," he declares. Mueller takes a swing at him, but Steele hits him twice. "Now listen, blondie, and listen well. Because I'm only gonna say this once. Stay away from Mrs. Dumont."

"Stay away from who?" Mueller says, still pretending, but he's dropped the accent.

"I know you placed this ad in the paper. I can prove it. You make one more dirty little move around her - and I'll have the police on you so fast that you'll wish you WERE in Stuttgart." Mueller pushes him away.

"You're on private property. You got a warrant, do something. If not, get out."

"Yeah. Well, I hope you have a good memory. Because I do." He slaps Mueller with the paper and then turns and gets back into the cab.


At the Dumont cocktail party, Emily watches as Charles walks past, then she turns to Laura. "If any of these people knew about `Flaming Emily', I'd be gossip fodder for the next - twelve cocktail parties."

"We'll see that they don't find out," Laura promises.

Emily smiles. "Oh, you and Mr. Steele are such a blessing. You know, my life wasn't always like this. There- There was a time when Charles and I were as close as- Come. Meet the neighbors," she says, pulling Laura across the room. They stop before a young woman and middle aged man. "Jimmy, I'd like you to meet Laura Holt. This is Jimmy and Sandra Cassen," she tells Laura, who smiles and shakes their hands.

"Hello," Laura says.

"Hi," Jimmy says. "We live in the Spanish colonial across the street."

Sandra giggles. "Happiness Hacienda," she tells Laura, looking up at her husband. "Si, Senor?"

"Si si, pequena Senora." They kiss as someone else calls out.


They turn as a dark headed woman and man approach. "Oh, hello, Tommy," she says. "Tommy Montague," she tells Laura.

"The helicopter man," Laura realizes, recognizing him from when he dropped Charles off earlier.

"Um hmm. And my better half. Anne," he says, putting his arm around his wife.

"Tommy's too modest," Anne insists with a big smile.

"Excuse us, Anne, Tommy," Emily says, turning Laura away from the others and leading her to another couple that Charles is talking to. "Doc Markins is here," she tells Charles, who leaves them. "May I introduce Phil and Betsy Lindner?" She tells Laura.

"Hi," Betsy says brightly, laughing. "The big traditional, right up the stream."

"You must be the young lady from Vassar," Phil says, shaking Laura's hand.

The phone rings, and Laura looks toward it as Emily looks about to faint. "Urgent call," Laura declares, taking off. "Terribly sorry." Emily follows her.

"School business," Emily tells Phil and Betsy as Laura grabs the phone from another guest.

"Good old Vassar," she says, smiling widely.

"If these calls start again," Emily whispers, "I'm gonna fall apart."

"Why don't you go get some air, Mrs. Dumont. I'll handle this."

Emily keeps looking at the telephone. "Good idea," she finally agrees. "Thank you." She moves off as Laura puts the phone to her ear.

"Now listen. I've had all the disgusting propositions I'm going to . . ." she begins, only to stop as Steele begins to speak.

"Laura, I haven't made you a disgusting proposition in ages," he tells her, speaking from a pay phone as the cab waits.

"Sorry. This phone's become an instrument of the devil. How did you do with Mueller?" she asks.

"Well, it seems I've lost my knack of terrorizing people. I think we're going to have to take a different tack with him."

"You mean," Laura says with a sour expression, "we're in for more exotic experiences?" Someone screams. Steele frowns. Laura looks in that direction, then tells him, "They may be beginning already," she says. "Call me back." She hangs up and follows the others outside to the pond behind the house.

Walter Mueller is laying on a rock, dead, as Betsy Lindner looks away from the grisly scene, her husband at her back.


Charles speaks to the police, then heads for the house, where Emily is telling Steele and Laura, "I've managed to tell my husband everything."

"How did he take it?" Laura asks.

"Badly. I hurt him. I don't ever want to hurt anyone like that again," she tells Steele.

Steele holds up a key. "Mrs. Dumont, umm, Miss Holt found this Mercedes key clutched in Mueller's hand."

"Aren't you two taking a terrible professional risk?" she asks. "I mean, what's it called- withholding evidence?"

"Let's call that mislaying?" Steele suggests. "Milder penalty, hmm?"

"Yes, but you wouldn't do that unless you thought I was in serious trouble, huh?" Emily wonders.

Charles comes into the room. "Now that Mueller's dead, there's nothing more for you two to do," he tells Steele and Laura.

"Mr. Dumont," Laura insists, "We can't be sure that Mueller was the only one involved in the blackmail scheme."

"I'll deal with any other blackmailers," Charles tells them.

"The fact that Mueller was blackmailing your wife gives her a prime motive for killing him," Steele points out.

"As of now, the police are saying that his death was an accident," Charles informs him.

"An autopsy might change their minds," Steele says.

"Well I'll deal with that situation too. In my own way."

"Charles," Emily says, frightened, "I don't want to go to prison for a murder I didn't commit!"

Laura covers her face with a hand. "You're over wrought."

"Over wrought?" she questions, even more upset as he pulls out his checkbook.

"How much do we owe these people?" he asks.

Laura goes to him. "Mr. Dumont, if the police charge your wife with murder, how many checks do you think you can write?" she asks as Steele silently tries to reassure Emily.

"Just as many as it takes, Miss Holt," he tells her, tearing the check out. "I think you'll find yours extremely generous." She takes the check. "So good night." He moves past her to his wife. Steele follows an angry Laura out of the house.

Outside, she says, "Let's go to Mueller's. Find out who his last customer was."

"In case you hadn't noticed, Laura," Steele points out, "we've been relieved of our duties."

"Not by MRS. Dumont," Laura tells him. "As far as I'm concerned, she's STILL our client." She starts to tear the check, but Steele grabs it.

"Ah! Normally, I approve of the theatrical gesture, but that one's a trifle extravagant, wouldn't you agree?" he asks, opening the car door for her.

"It's a matter of principle," Laura tells him.

"Never let principle interfere with money," he tells her, going around to the other side of the car. "We'll go to Mueller's. And to that extent, I'll, uh, be seduced by your principles."

Laura looks at him over the top of the car. "Would you really have cashed that check and gone home?" she asks. "Or is the question- academic?"

"Oh, Laura, you're giving me a freebie. I can be a high minded fellow at hardly any cost."

"Imagine that. Seduced twice. And by the same principles."

"I believe its called double jeopardy," he tells her as he looks at the house again. "What is it?"

"I was just thinking about Mrs. Dumont. She's so vulnerable. She'll probably be pacing the floors all night while their friends sleep soundly in their mansions."


Phil Lindner and Betsy are ready to go to bed, but Phil's not happy. "You paid blackmail with a personal check?" he asks, then slaps her.

"I wasn't thinking," Betsy tells him, in tears.

"Betsy, what if some bank clerk happened to notice the signature on the check?"

"Buy him off," Betsy tells him.

"If he showed it around?"

"Buy everyone off!"

"If they made copies?!"



At the Cassen house, a similar scene is being played out, as Sandra, in a teddy, tells Jimmy, "He wanted ten thousand dollars. I had to give him something."

He turns her to face him. "What DID you give him?"

"Let go of me. I just gave him- my bracelet. The one with diamonds and rubies."

"Sandra, I paid twenty four thousand for that bracelet. Don't you realize they can trace jewelry?"

Sandra looks at him, and smiles seductively. "Jimmy. I'll play the closet game with you, if you'd like."

"I don't think the closet game'd work tonight," he tells her sadly.


At the Montague house, Tommy sits on the bed as he asks, "Anne, are you sure you didn't give him anything?"

"I sent him a couple of notes," Anne admits nervously.


"For appointments, Tommy."

"I thought you were smarter than that."


At Mueller's Steele and Laura park the Rabbit in the garage, and go into the office, which is unlocked. "Apparently Mueller felt secure enough to keep his door unlocked," Laura comments as they stand on the porch.

"Either supreme arrogance or terminal carelessness," Steele agrees, opening the door for her.

Laura goes to the desk as Steele looks in a ledger. "He must have kept records of his appointments," Laura tells him as he bends near the window.

"Moonlight is romantic, but it's hell to read by," he says, squinting to read the papers in the ledger. They hear a car drive up, and look outside.

"It's a Mercedes," Laura says.

"Are there any other kind of cars in this town?" Steele wonders as she peers at the driver.

"Jimmy Cassen," she says.

"Returning to the scene of the crime?" Steele wonders.

"Looking for the same thing we are?" Laura asks.

"Splendid opportunity to- try our key?" Steele suggests, bringing out the Mercedes key she found in Mueller's hand.

She takes it. "You keep an eye on the midnight marauder," she tells him, heading for the back door.

"Yes," Steele nods, looking for a place to hide Finally he crouches beside a file cabinet as Jimmy comes in.

Jimmy rifles through the desk, as Laura goes to the car and gets in, trying the key, which doesn't work. She sees another car's headlights and ducks down.

Jimmy hears the car and takes off for the back door as Phil Lindner gets out of his car. Laura peers up at him, and Steele comes from his hiding place, only to dash under the desk as the door opens again and Phil starts looking through the things on the desk.

Laura is about to get out of the car, but sees Jimmy coming back from around the building. So she closes the door and leaps into the back seat, hiding the floor board. Jimmy gets into the car and starts it, driving away with his surprise passenger.

Meanwhile, Steele is playing a modified version of "musical chairs" with Phil Lindner's feet and his hands. The space beneath the desk is cramped, and barely large enough for Steele to hide in, so he's forced to keep moving his hands so that Phil doesn't step on them as Phil searches the office. He hears another car, and takes off the way Jimmy went, and Steele pops out, smiling with relief, only to frown as the door opens again. He ducks back under the desk.

It's Anne Montague this time, and the spike of her high heel finds Steele's fingers. He grimaces silently in pain.


Jimmy returns home, smoking a cigar that makes Laura have to fight a cough. He pulls the car into the garage, sets the security system, and then sets the garage system before going into the house.

Laura sits up, seeing him enter the house. Then, she notices the flashing light on the dash, indicating that they car alarm is set. After considering her options, she grasps the door lock and pulls- but the alarm doesn't sound. Only when she opens the door does the siren start blaring. She stands there, then pushes the door button, sliding under it and out of the garage. As she runs across the pavement, Jimmy runs from the house. "Stop, Thief!" he shouts, then fires a gun at her.

Laura leaps into a clump of bushes, landing against the wall. A man leads two Doberman dogs out. "Carlos," Jimmy says to him, "Let `em loose." Carlos releases the dogs, who both take off after Laura, who runs along the fence, to the gate. She climbs up, only to find her skirt caught by one of the dogs.

Finally managing to get loose, she jumps over and runs away.


Steele is looking around the garage. "Laura?" he calls. "Laura, where've you gone to?" He stops, looking down the road and sees her walking, exhausted, along the road toward the garage. "Laura?" he asks, running toward her. Walking around her, he puts an arm around her to support her. "Good Lord, Laura," he comments. "All you had to do was try a key." She stumbles as they approach the car. "Steady, girl, steady."

"I feel like Eliza, crossing the ice," she tells him breathlessly as he opens the car door. "Shot at, chased by dogs," she shivers.

"You need a little quiet," he tells her, trying to get her into the car.

She turns to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Mr. Steele. You're a caring person."

"Thank you," he says, putting a hand on her head, pushing down. "Watch your head," he warns, getting her inside and closing the door. "Okay. All right," he says, getting behind the steering wheel. They drive off down the road.

"If they protected their women around here the way they protect their property," Laura tells him, resting her head on the back of the seat, "Walter Mueller would have died of starvation."

"Based on his appointment book, I'd say he died of exhaustion," Steele tells her.

"Gamy reading?"

"Woo! Puts Lord Marchmane to shame," he declares, looking at her, so that he doesn't see the truck heading toward them down the road.

But Laura does. "LOOK OUT!" she cries out, pointing as the truck's headlights illuminate the car. Steele turns the wheel, sending the small car down a steep embankment, where it comes to rest at the bottom.
Laura and Steele look up, shaken from the crash. "Somebody knows I'm not a Vassar girl," concludes Laura.
"That was an oil truck," observes Steele. "Isn't Dumont in oil?"
Laura nods her head. "And we're in something *just* as slippery."

In a restaurant in Rancho Santa Luisa Laura, freshened up, exits the toilet and walks to Remington sitting at a table. She throws her handbag on the table and sits down as Steele looks up briefly from Mueller's appointment book and comments, "Ah, much better. Beginning to look like the old Laura again."
Laura laughs, "I know you're trying to be kind but please don't say the *old* Laura ever looked like this."
"Laura, if Mr Dumont *is* the killer, why didn't he show up at that scavenger hunt at Mueller's? Mmhn?"
"Maybe there was nothing there he needed to retrieve," suggests Laura.

"I assume this is one thing they were all after," he tells her.

"Mueller's appointment book?" she asks.

"I found it in his van," he explains.

"Who was his last appointment?"

He puts down his glass. "Well, nothing for today, but apparently he liked to do his. . ." he searches for the word. "His, umm, accounting at night. And apparently Mrs. Dumont isn't the only client where he- as they say - wore two hats?" Laura is stunned. "The young lady that you identify as Anne Montague. Three tune ups in one month. Her motor must be absolutely frenzied by now."

"Who else subscribed to Mueller's - service?" Laura asks. "Look up a- Betsy Lindner."

He turns a page. "Here we go." He starts to speak, then stops, looking up. "It seems her transmission required extraordinary attention."

"What about Sandra Cassen? Big Senor's wife?"

He turns another page. "Uh -" He's amazed by what he reads.

"That bad?" Laura asks.

"If her 450 required half of these repairs, she has the sourest lemon that ever rolled out of Stuttgart."

"All three of those loving couples are neighbors of the Dumonts," Laura tells him. "They wouldn't have to move the body that far."

"Well, tomorrow, Prince Charming, if you will excuse my lack of modesty, shall take the glass key and try to find Cinderella's ignition." He stands. "For tonight, shall we dance?"

Laura doesn't look too enthusiastic. "Why not?"

He pulls her chair out for her. "I'm flattered by your enthusiasm, Laura," he says as they move toward the dance floor.

"Sorry. Long evening," she tells him. She examines the other couples on the dance floor. "Do you think ANY body's here with their spouse?" she asks him as they dance.

"In most places, I'd say yes," he tells her, looking around as well. "But in Rancho Santa Luisa - I'd be loath to bet on it. This town is a veritable Peyton Place." She looks at him. "Lana Turner, Lee Phillips, Twentieth Century Fox, 1957."

"These people have all the money in the world, beautiful houses, enviable lifestyle. But they don't seem to have marriages. Instead, they have arrangements. You run the house, I run the empire. I'll see my `Poopsie', you see your mechanic. Let's keep up appearances," she says, frowning. "Is that how it has to end up? Just appearances?"

"Not necessarily," he tells her. "For most people, the bloom never leaves the rose." She stops dancing.

"There's no guarantee of that."

"The risk goes with the territory. For you and I, we risk our lives every day."

"Professionally. Maybe that's enough risk for me."

He looks around. "We're not dancing."

"You know the old song- `My Heart Won't do the Things My Feet Want to Do'?"

"I think you have that reversed," he tells her.

She shakes her head. "Not tonight I don't." She turns and leaves him on the dance floor.

He smiles at another couple, straightening his tie as he follows her.


The next day, Steele, wearing white mechanic's coveralls and his sunglasses, is in Betsy Lindner's car. She's approaching as he tries the key. It doesn't work. He gets out of the car. "Hi," he says. "Alfred Mainwaring. Walter and I were about to announce our partnership when the- dreadful tragedy occurred," he tells a smiling Betsy.

"Oh. Walter didn't tell me he was going into a partnership."

"You know how discreet he was," Steele tells her, trying to put his sunglasses into his pocket, and missing twice before succeeding.

"Indeed. Are you as well trained as Walter?"

"Stuttgart, '81," he says.

"With honors," Betsy adds, still smiling.

"Of a sort," he tells her, giving her a winning smile.

She responds. "I think I can find some use for you," she tells him.

He nods, a little worried.


At Sandra Cassen's, she tells him, "Scratch us off your list. We're taking our business back to the dealer."

He looks over the car. "Are you sure they'll provide the same quality of service?" Steele questions.

"What do you mean by that?"

He opens the car door. "Some of the bigger, more personal operations, tend to over look the," he gets into the car, "telling detail." He tries the key, it doesn't fit.

"What are you doing?" she demands to know. "Get out of my car!"

"Ah," he says, getting out. "I can see you're a woman of decision, Mrs. Cassen. Yes." He closes the door.


At the Montagues, he has to face BOTH Tommy and Anne. He's under the car as they watch him. A drop of oil hits him squarely in the face. "Yes. Yes, ahh, yes." He gets up, wiping his face. "Yes, well, it leaks oil."

"Do you specialize in diagnoses?" Anne asks.

"I'd check out the crankshaft and the gaskets," Tommy tells him.

"Ah, yes. Crankshaft and gaskets," Steele repeats. "Yes. Critical. Very critical."

"Well, how long do you think it will take to fix?" Anne wants to know.

"Well, a day or two," he tells her.

"A day or two?" Anne repeats.

"It's leaked oil before, and Walter's had it fixed in an hour," Tommy tells him.

Steele gets into the car. "Walter's one fault. Slapdash. That's why he asked me to come in. To slow things down."

"You're SURE he was going to make you a partner?" Anne asks as Steele digs for the key.

"Yes, uh, wouldn't want to have any dissatisfied customers, now, would we?" he asks, trying the key. He has trouble getting it out. "Don't want to kind of- desecrate Walter's memory." He closes the door.

"Uh," Tommy says, "Where do you think you're going?"

"Test drive," Steele says. Tommy tosses him the keys. "Thank you." He starts the engine. "Ah, yes. Hear that? Yes." He drives the car to a garage, where he tells the mechanic, "Speed is of the essence," while holding some money in his hand.

"A couple, maybe three hours," the man says.

Steele pulls out another bill. "Double the work force." He stuffs the money into the man's pocket.

"That'll triple your charges."

"I admire your mathematics," Steele says, stuffing a third bill into the pocket as the man smiles.

"I like yours too. Come back in an hour." He hands Steele a paper.

"Thank you," Steele says.


At the headquarters for Dumont Oil, Charles is talking to someone on the phone as Emily comes in. "I'll be in Brussels on Wednesday. We can re-negotiate." He sees Emily and covers the phone. "What are you doing here?"

She shows him a newspaper article. "As Mr. Steele predicted," she says. "The autopsy's convinced the police it WAS murder."

Charles tells his caller, "I'll call you back." He stands up. "Now don't be frightened. You didn't do it."

"It's not myself I'm frightened for," she tells him.

"Then who?" he asks, then frowns as she looks at him. "Me? I didn't even know about you and Mueller until after he was dead."

"So you lead me to believe," she says.

"Do you think I'm- capable of killing somebody?" he asks.

"How do I know? After all these years, I don't know you any better than you know me."

The intercom buzzes, and Charles asks, "What is it?"

"Laura Holt to see you," the secretary tells him.

"Laura Holt to see ME?" he questions.

"Well let her come in," Emily tells him. He looks at her. "Let her come in!"

"Send her in." He looks at Emily. "What's this about?"

"I don't know. Do you?"

Laura enters the office. "Morning."

"Miss Holt."

"Last night, Mr. Steele and I were run off the road by an oil truck. You're the only oil man in the community," she tells him, placing her hands on his desk.

"Last night," Charles says, "one of our trucks was stolen." He picks up a paper. "Here's the report. It was abandoned fifty miles down the coast. Read it yourself," he says, handing it to her. "It's time stamped."

She takes it. "I'll take your word. But I'd like to look at the truck. It might tell us something."

"I seem to remember dismissing you," Charles points out.

Laura is reading the report as she answers. "Mr. Steele and I decided not to hear it."

Emily smiles. "Thank heavens."

"Miss Holt . . ."

"Careful, Charles," Emily warns. "Here's somebody who's not afraid of you."

Laura puts the report down. "And you have no reason to be afraid of us. We want to help. Somebody borrowed your truck for a murder attempt," she tells him. "They may not be trying to frame you, but they're certainly not your friend."

"Listen to her," Emily begs. "For once listen to somebody."

He almost smiles. "What do you want me to do, Miss Holt?"

"Don't keep any secrets from me," she tells him.

They go to the truck yard, and he takes her to the recovered truck. "Is this the one?" he asks.

"I can't swear to that," she tells him. "It was dark. But it could have been." She opens the door and climbs up with his help. "Whoever ran us off the road would have to have some experience driving one of these, wouldn't they?" she asks, getting into the cab.

"I'd say so. They're not easy."

"Have you driven one?"

"Yeah. Not for thirty years. And not last night."

"What about your friends?" she asks, searching the truck's interior.

He laughs. "I doubt if any of them ever had to. Most of them are old money. I'm one of the few self made men around here. When I started in the oil fields, I had nothing but my two hands and one very lucky break."

She looks at him. "What was that?"

"A bright, educated, loving wife. Yeah, Emily. She pushed me. Taught me. Supported me. I was crazy about her." Laura listens to him. "I really wanted to succeed. She gave me ambition."

"Sounds like a lovely beginning," Laura says.

"Yeah, it was. Then when she told me about Mueller, I realized how much we've lost. Somewhere along the line, it changed from ecstasy to exasperation. Oh, I kept myself very busy, with grand plans, building an empire. Let me tell you something, Miss Holt, when you're smart, ambitious, independent, it's a lot easier to maintain a career than a relationship." She looks down. "Don't ever make that mistake."

"I'll try to remember that," she says, then finds some pills in the seat. "You think these belong to one of your drivers?"

He shakes his head. "I don't let them drive on medication."

She gets the pills and he helps her out of the truck.


Steele returns to the garage to collect the Montague car, only to find it deserted. "Hello?" he calls out. "Anybody home?" The car's still on the lift, and he goes over to it. Placing his hand on the button that he thinks will lower the car, he leaps out of the way when an engine nearly drops in his head instead. He sits up, relieved, looking nervous.

Laura walks into Steele's' office as Mildred is applying an ice bag to Steele shoulder as he moans.
"Did you see a doctor?" asks a concerned Laura.
"He wouldn't go Miss Holt," replies Mildred.
Laura admonishes Steele. "When you 'phoned you *promised* you'd see a doctor."
Steele lifts his hand from his face, "My bones have stopped vibrating."
"Any idea what happened?"
"Someone obviously re-wired the switches."
"Good place *not* to do business," comments Mildred.
"Particularly when you have enemies in Rancho Santa Luisa."
Laura reaches into her handbag and pulls out her hand containing tablets. "Well, apparently our enemy gets all tensed up when he tries to kill someone. Nitroglycerine tablets. I found them in the oil truck."

"Those are for heart conditions," Mildred tells them. "My ex husband used them. That's how I discovered he had a heart."

Steele, after studying the pills, hands them back to Laura. "Do those belong to someone in Dumont's social circle?" he asks, flexing his sore shoulder.

"The druggist felt THAT information was confidential," Laura tells him.

"Hmm. Maybe he should take a share of Lord Marchmane's memoirs," Steele suggests.

"He did suggest that over half the men in Ranch Santa Luisa have heart conditions," Laura tells him.

"That's one of the perks of a seven figure income," Mildred comments. "THAT my ex husband didn't have."

"The druggist won't talk," Steele says, "The police are probably one step behind us. Suggestions, Miss Holt?" he asks.

She holds up the key. "We crash a party."

"A party?"

"If we play our cards right," she says, grabbing his hand, "one of the guests is going to get her just desserts." Mildred holds out the ice bag, but Steele shakes his head no.


At the Lindner's Laura and Steele arrive. "You're on, Miss Holt," he tells her.

As she moves into the house, he notices a pool of oil on the pavement and kneels to check it out, looking thoughtful.

Laura finds all four women inside, along with two other women. Betsy sees her and smiles. "Miss Holt. What a lovely surprise," she says, getting up.

"You may change your mind about that, Mrs. Lindner. I suspect that more than one of you knows that I'm not what I pretended to be. I'm a private detective. Investigating the death of Walter Mueller."

Betsy sits down again. "Oh, it was SO tragic."

"Poor Walter," Sandra says, "he was a wonderful mechanic."

"Yes," Betsy agrees with a smile. "And he knew his place."

"I don't relish telling you this," Laura says, "But, several of you were sharing Walter's more- personal services." She faces the women. Emily is surprised. "His appointment book details the dates, the times, and the charges. I know he tried to blackmail one of you, so I have to assume he may have tried on all of you. This key was found on Mueller's body. Sooner or later my associate and I are going to find whose Mercedes it fits. If it's yours, I urge you to make it sooner."

Sandra puts down her glass. "Betsy, darling, I have scads of errands," she says.

"I have an appointment, too," one of the other women says. The only two women left sitting are Betsy and Emily.

"I'm not even going to TRY to make an excuse," another woman says. They file past Betsy.

Sandra tries again. "My 450 happens to need a great deal of . . ." She looks at Laura, seeing her interested expression. "Oh, forget it." She leaves.

"I hope you find the killer," Anne tells her. "Walter was no angel, but I don't approve of murder. Good bye, dear," she tells Betsy.


Emily gets up. "Good bye, Betsy." She and Laura walk toward the door together.

"I had to do that, I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I never asked myself if I was the only one," Emily admits. "But I suspected I knew the answer."

The women leave, and Steele is watching from the rose bushes as Anne gets into Sandra's car with her. Emily and Laura come out. "I'll call you," Emily tells her. "Bye-bye."

Laura waves at her. Betsy comes out of the house. "Miss Holt, I have to talk to you. That key belongs to my husband's car. But I can explain. You see," she stops as Steele approaches. "Alfred. Alfred," she says, smiling.

"Remington Steele," he tells her. "Miss Holt and I we, uh, we-work together."

"Oh," she says, obviously disappointed. "Should have known you were too good to be true."

"About your husband's car, Mrs. Lindner," Laura says, reminding her of their conversation.

"Oh, yes. Well, we took MY car to the Dumont's yesterday, and we left Phil's here for Walter to fix the wiring. But, when we came home, the car was in the driveway, and the hood was up, but the work wasn't completed."

"Hmm," Steele muses. "Hasty departure, eh?"

"From this world, I suspect," Laura agrees.

"What?" Betsy asks. "You think Walter was murdered here?"

"Umm, Mrs. Lindner, how long as that oil stain been on your driveway?"

"Well, the gardeners were here yesterday morning, they would have cleaned it up."

"And it's dry enough to have been here overnight," Laura says. "You wouldn't have seen it in the dark."

"I suspect I'm all too familiar with the car that made it," Steele says, pulling Laura toward the car as a confused Betsy looks on.


As they approach a house, a helicopter is running. Steele starts for the front of the house, but Laura stops him, pointing out Anne and Tommy Montague, carrying suitcases, heading for the helicopter. "Sudden wanderlust?" Steele asks.

"We're going to our place in the mountains," Tommy tells them calmly.

"In a business suit?" Laura asks him.

"Apparently you aren't familiar with the morays of Rancho Santa Luisa," Tommy tells them.

"Yes. Appearances ARE everything, aren't they?" Laura says.

Steele looks at the helicopter. "A man who flies a helicopter, knows as much about cars as you do-could probably drive an oil truck. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Montague?"

"It made you very tense to try to kill us," Laura says, holding up a pill. "So you needed these."

"What are they?" Anne asks.

"Oh, doesn't your wife know about your heart condition, Mr. Montague?" Steele asks.

Tommy tosses his suit bag and case at Steele. Then he and Anne take off the other direction, toward the lake, where they jump into a boat.

Seeing that, Steele turns toward the helicopter. "You're going the wrong way!" Laura yells.

He grabs her arm. "You can't out swim a motorboat," he tells her, dragging her with him. He gets in and starts checking gauges, flipping switches.

"Don't tell me one of us knows how to fly this thing!" Laura says.

"It's amazing what you can pick up when your life's at stake," he tells her.

"Vietnam?" Laura asks.

"Monte Carlo, actually." They take off go in pursuit of the boat. Tommy tries to out run them.

"All right, Sky King," Laura says. "How are we going to stop them?"

"Take over!" he tells her, removing his sunglasses.

Laura's eyes widened with incredulity. "What? You're the aerodynamics expert!"

"It's quite simple, Laura. This lever makes it go up and down, and this stick makes it go left or right!" He opens the door and climbs out onto the leg.

Laura is terrified. Steele lowers himself, then looks down. "Laura! Down a bit!"

"Is this all right?" she asks.

"You're doing famously! Wonderfully!" he tells her, swaying dangerously near to falling into the water. "Left!" Finally he drops into the boat and makes short work of Tommy, hitting him and sending him into the water before taking over the controls. Anne, stunned, looks back to where Tommy fell.

Laura yells. "Would somebody get me down!!!"


Later, Laura and Steele are at the restaurant again, dancing. "Poor Anne. She broke the cardinal rule. She fell in love with Mueller. But when she went to the Lindner's to ask him to go away with her, he laughed in her face."

Steele nods. "So when his back was turned, she picked up one of his tools and - It's amazing the strength that raging anger gives you."

"Or a raging hurt."

"But she needed her husband to move the body over to the Dumont's," Steele points out.

"And he was willing to keep her secret rather than expose an empty marriage."

"Your dancing shows a vast improvement tonight," he tells her. "Heart and feet more in sync?"

"I'm working on it."

"Bodes well for our future," he says.

Laura glances around, and sees the Dumonts dancing closely. "Look who's here. He may be the first man in Rancho Santa Luisa to actually bring his wife to this place."

Charles notices them. "Umm. There's Steele and Miss Holt," he tells Emily. "Certainly didn't expect to see them in a place like this."

"Let's not interrupt them," Emily says.

"Let's not interrupt them," Laura tells Steele. "Now. About your helicopter training in Monte Carlo," she says.

He shrugs. "Oh,. Nothing terribly interesting." He looks around, as if trying to avoid the topic, but seeing her looking at him, says, "Several million in gold bullion, a beautiful but treacherous Contessa, a frantic flight across the Mediterranean."

Laura yawns. "Right. Just- run of the mill stuff," she says.

The End