Laura is in an antique shop, examining some figurines as a man looks on. The door buzzer goes off, and the man presses a button, opening the door, glancing at Laura.
The woman, an attractive, well dressed blonde, enters and starts looking around the shop. The man gives Laura a look over his glasses, and they both watch the woman.
He moves across the shop to where she's standing by a display. "Miss Kelton. Nice to see you again."
She smiles. "Nice to see you, Mr. Majak," she replies. Looking at a Chinese artifact, she asks, "What is that?"
He puts his glasses back on. "Ah. This little gem," he says, picking it up, "Is a twelfth century temple figure."
"It's beautiful," she declares, taking it from him. "How much is it?"
He looks at the item. "Ten thousand dollars."
"Excuse me," Laura calls, getting Majak's attention. "Could you tell me something about these?" she asks, indicating the figurines that she's been looking at.
"Certainly," Majak says, smiling, and rejoins Laura. Miss Kelton watches him go, and once he's back at the counter with Laura, he and Laura watch covertly while the woman puts the peice shew as admiring into her purse.
She goes to the door. "Nothing else I can help you with?" Majak asks her.
"Oh, no, not today. Thank you," Miss Kelton says, leaving the shop.
Laura grabs her coat and starts to follow. "Don't lose her," Majak orders.
"Don't worry," Laura replies, the continues to the Rabbit, getting into it as Miss Kelton starts her car and drives away. Laura follows.
They turn into an underground parking garage, and then we see Miss Kelton open a door when someone buzzes. Laura is there. "Grace Kelton?" she asks.
"My name is Laura Holt," she says, showing her ID. "I'm a private investigator. May I have a word with you?"
Inside the apartment, Grace is shamefaced as she holds the statue she took. "I'm so embarrassed. I don't really even know how it got into my purse. I mean, I must have been daydreaming or something."
Laura puts the statue down, not buying the act. "Miss Kelton, this is a list of the items that were taken from Majak's in the last few months." She shows it to Grace. "I'm afraid you're the prime suspect."
"You make it sound like I'm a thief or something," Grace says, laughing nervously. Laura looks at her. "Well, go ahead. Look around if you don't believe me." She goes to a cabinet and leans against it.
Laura notices her nervousness. "Suppose I start with this cabinet here?" she says, getting up, indicating the cabinet that Grace is leaning on.
"No," Grace says firmly, then smiles. "I mean, why would I steal a bunch of antiques and toss them into a cabinet? Don't you think I'd want to sell them? Or at least display them?"
"May I look into this cabinet?" Laura asks.
Grace slowly moves aside, and Laura opens the doors to reveal the missing items.
"I'm sorry," Grace says, sitting down. "I don't even know why I do it. I just can't help myself. Does-Whit know about this?" she asks. Laura looks at her. "I mean, you don't have to tell Whit, do you? Please? I mean, please don't tell him."
"I'm afraid I have to," Laura says.
In a chalet style mansion, Laura shakes the hand of a middle aged man wearing a tux. "I'm Whit Sterling," he tells her.
"Laura Holt. I'm sorry to interrupt you during dinner, Mr. Sterling-"
"Oh, don't you worry about that. I needed a break anyway. I'm oozing so much charm in there, my shirt's beginning to get damp." The room is filled with Chinese antiques. "Please," he says, indicating the sofa.
Laura sits. "I'm afraid I have some rather unpleasant news, Mr. Sterling," she begins. "Grace Kelton is a kleptomaniac."
Sterling, sitting across from her, looks unmoved. "I'm sure her mother is very disappointed."
"She has stolen over fifty thousand dollars worth of antiques from my client. I've recovered most of the items, however-"
"Pardon my ignorance, Miss Holt, but I don't know what you're talking about. I've never heard of this Grace- uh, uh, what was her name?"
"Who the hell is she to me?"
"Your mistress," Laura informs him.
"My mistress?" Sterling begins to laugh. "Excuse me. If you only knew how funny that is. Miss Holt, I am a happily married man."
Laura smiles and opens a case that contains the figurines. "Mr. Sterling, please. We've been very discreet, there has been no police involvement as yet, and my client assures me there won't be- as long as you make restitution for the missing items."
Sterling sees the temple figure and picks it up. "Where did you get this?"
"I told you. From Grace Kelton."
"And your- client sent you here with it?"
The smile is totally gone from Sterling's face now as he tells Laura, "Well, you tell him I understand. I understand what he wants. And you tell him I'm the poorest sport in the world. And as soon as I find a way to cover my butt-he's going to pay. I don't like being blackmailed."
"Blackmailed?" Laura questions.
"Now, you get out of here before I do something I'll regret in the morning." Laura closes the case. "And leave that."
"Whit?" A man and woman have come into the room. The woman, wearing an evening dress, comes over.
"Oh, darling," Sterling says, turning to her as Laura picks up the case. He slips an arm around the woman's shoulders. "Darling, our surprise guest was just leaving."
Laura, carrying the case, slips out of the door, past a confused looking young man.
At Majak Antiques, Laura watches as Majak inventories the contents of the case. "Those were the only ones she had. I checked off the items she admitted taking."
"And- Mr. Sterling. How did he react?" Majak asks.
"Not very well."
"What did he say? Exactly?"
"That he understood what you wanted."
"He also said- uh- he would get even."
"Impetuous man, our Mr. Sterling," Majak comments, as he gives her an envelope.
Laura looks inside. "Cash?"
"For a most discreet handling of a most delicate situation," he tells her. "I thank you."
The next morning, Laura is awakened by the telephone. "Hello?" she says sleepily.
"What did you say to my husband last night?" Mrs. Sterling demands to know, sounding tearful.
"Who is this?" Laura asks.
"He's dead, Miss Holt. He's dead because of you!" she accuses.
Laura goes to the Sterling house to discuss it. "I told your husband exactly what I just told you," she says to the distraught and the young man from the previous evening. "I know he was upset, but hardly suicidal."
"All I know is, I had a perfect life until you introduced yourself to Whit last night, and now he's-he's uh-My husband never had a mistress!" she declares, rushing to Laura and grabbign her, shaking her. "You're a liar!"
The man comes over and pulls her back. "Claudia! Get ahold of yourself," he tells her. "Go upstairs. Dr. Rumsen will be here soon. I'll finish up with Miss Holt."
"I'll never forgive you as long as I live," Mrs. Sterling tells Laura angrily and then leaves them.
"Obviously, she's in shock," he tells Laura. "We had to break the door down. We found him-"
"I can't believe I'm responsible for his death," Laura insists.
"Of course you're not. The only one around here with blood on his hands is Whit. He pulled the trigger. I don't know why."
"You worked with him, Mr. Bigelow. Did you know he had a mistress?"
"Miss Holt, with all due respect, I don't think now is the time-"
"With all due respect, Mr. Bigelow," Laura insists, "I have just been accused of driving a man to suicide! I think I have a right to ask a few questions!"
"All right. As far as I know, Whit and Claudia had a perfect marriage. There was no one else."
"What about Leopold Majak?" Laura asks. "What was Mr. Sterling's relationship with him?"
"Well, I don't know. He never mentioned him."
"Doesn't your company do business with Majak Antiques?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Bigelow tells her as another man enters the room. "Ah, Dr. Rumsen. Thank you for coming."
"Where is she?"
"I- sent her back upstairs," Bigelow informs the doctor.
"What was she doing down here in the first place? I told you to keep her in bed."
"Easier said than done," Bigelow points out.
"I realize Whit's death is a tragedy, but she still has the baby to think of." Laura turns to look at him, shocked at this news. "Unless she follows my instructions, she risks losing it." He leaves the room.
Laura points toward the door. "Mrs. Sterling's pregnant?" she asks Bigelow.
"Three months. First child. She's not a young woman anymore and this may be her last opportunity to have one. They were both- incredibly excited about it."
Laura is subdued.
She and Steele arrive at Majak Antiques in the Rabbit. "I must say, Laura, I can't understand why you didn't involve me in this initially, you know," Steele comments as they go toward the shop.
"I thought it was just a routine tail, and you're hardly one to relish routine."
"Or, did you just want to prove that you could it without me?" Steele asks.
"I don't have to prove anything," Laura tells him with a smile.
"Oh, of course not. At least not to me," Steele agrees. "As far as I'm concerned, you're the perfect subordinate," he tells her with a grin.
Laura frowns, pressing the bell on the shop door. It opens, and they enter. She goes to a man standing behind the counter, and says, "I would like to speak with Leopold Majak."
Busy cataloguing, he says, "Yes?"
When he doesn't move, Laura says, "Well?"
He puts down the statue he's been examining and raises his glasses. "I am Leopold Majak," he informs her haughtily.
Laura looks at Steele, who asks, "Are there any other Leopold Majaks connected with this enterprise?"
"Absolutely not. Only me."
"My name is Laura Holt."
"From Remington Steele Investigations," Steele adds, drawing a chastising look from Laura.
She shows him her ID. "A Leopold Majak hired me to-"
"*I* am Leopold Majak," he reminds her.
Laura takes a deep breath before continuing. "Then, a man, claiming to be you-hired me to stake out this store to catch a kleptomaniac who-"
Majak fidgets with his glasses. "A kleptomaniac?" he repeats.
"Yes. Yesterday. I was here. A woman came in, I followed her. I returned-I returned with some stolen items." Steele stands behind her, listening, looking a little bored.
"Madam, please, I must insist. Perhaps you have the wrong store."
"No. NO, I was here," Laura insists.
"Impossible. We are never open on Mondays."
"Never?" Steele questions.
Laura and Steele walk up to Grace Kelton's apartment door. Steele is humming and nonchalantly straightening his tie. Laura, still upset, takes out her lock picking kit.
"Would you care to do the honors, Mr. Steele" she asks.
"Oh, *please*, Miss Holt, *please*" he says in a teasingly. "This is *your* case. Carry on! Carry on!"
Laura does as he asks and picks the lock. Then he follows her into the apartment where she confronted Grace Kelton, and they are stunned to find the furniture covered with sheets.
Steele runs a finger across a dusty counter. "Not much of a housekeeper, your kleptomaniac," he comments, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe his hand.
Laura taps the cabinet. "The stolen antiques were right here, in this cabinet," she tells him.
We see someone's feet as they enter the apartment.
Steele and Laura start back toward the door, but as they get to the corner of the kitchen, a young security guard appears, gun at the ready. "Don't move!" he warns. Steele and Laura freeze. "I'm new on the job, and just as scared as you."
"Please," Laura tells him, reaching for her purse.
"Don't do it. I'm warning you."
"We're private investigators," Steele tells the nervous man. "This is my associate, and she's merely trying to show you her identification. Please, Laura, will you?" She holds it up.
"What are you doing in here?" the guard asks, lowering the gun.
"I was here yesterday," Laura tells him. "I came back to see- Grace Kelton?"
He raises the gun again. "Who?"
"This is Grace Kelton's apartment."
"No, ma'am. This is the Diaz apartment. They've been in the Philippines for three weeks. No Grace Kelton ever lived here."
Laura and Steele look at each other.
At the office, Mildred looks on as Laura sits in a chair in front of Steele's desk, while Steele says, "If what you say is true, someone's gone to a great deal of trouble to set you up, Laura."
"*If* what I say is true?" Laura repeats. "Does that bit of phrasing suggest you don't believe me?" she asks.
"Now look, Laura, we've all had our shoulders to the wheel, lately," Steele suggests. He grins. "You, obviously more than me, of course. But, you could use some R & R, I mean, we all could, couldn't we, Mildred?"
Mildred's eyes light up at the idea. "Here, here!"
"Mr. Steele," Laura tells him, standing up, "my client has disappeared, I've got a kleptomaniac who doesn't even exist, a man supposedly killed himself because of ME- and you're prescribing a vacation?"
"Well, when it doubt, relax," Steele tells her, smiling.
Laura turns and starts for the door. "Where are you going?" Mildred asks.
Laura stops, looks at them. "To change clothes. We have to make a house call this evening," she tells Steele.
Once she's gone, Steele looks thoughtfully at the door. "This is a priority situation, Mildred," he says.
"You're telling me," she agrees, leaning on the desk beside him.
"In order to get Miss Holt out of this nasty predicament, I think we're gonna have to do a little information gathering ourselves."
"Where do we start, Chief?" Mildred questions eagerly.
Steele starts for the door. "Check all flights and hotel reservations for Cabo San Lucas, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii-" he closes the door behind him.
Mildred is just staring to figure out what he's up to.
Steele opens the door to add, "And the Fiji Islands," with a winning smile, before closing the door again.
Late that night, Steele and Laura, wearing black outfits and carrying flashlights, sneak into the Sterling house, entering the room where Whit's body was found. The bolt on the inside of one of the double doors is hanging askew, the wood on the other door broken. Laura goes to the desk. "Start looking," she whispers to Steele, who's still by the door.
"For what?" he asks.
"The reason Sterling was murdered."
"Murdered? How did we get to murder?" Steele asks.
"Well, if he didn't kill himself," she reasons, "And he didn't die of natural causes, it's the only logical conclusion."
"Laura, the man sat at this very desk, put a gun to his head, and a bullet in his brain!" Steele reminds her still whispering as they both do during the entire scene. They also shine their flashlights at one another while they talk.
"So it appears," she adds.
Steele glances at the doors. "The door was locked from the inside," he tells her.
Laura stops searching and goes to the door. "Suppose the murderer locked the door from the outside, and during the commotion raised by the discovery of the body, put the key back in the inside keyhole?"
Steele examines the door. "The door locks from the inside only. With a bolt. Not a key."
"How hard would it be to take the door off the hinges, lock it from the inside, and re-hang it?"
Steele looks at the hinges. "These hinges are covered in paint, Laura. They haven't been tampered with for years."
"Maybe there's a hidden panel," Laura suggests, going to look along the wall.
"Well, let's hope it leads directly to Rio de Janeiro," Steele says. "Copacabana Beach, The Girl from Impanema?" he says, joining her. "Laura, listen to me. You're not responsible for Whit Sterling's death. The man committed suicide," he tells her as she checks the book case. "The fact that you came into contact with him the night that he decided to do it is an unfortunate, unfortunate coincidence. Don't berate yourself over the fact, okay?"
Laura pushes some books, and there's a 'click'. She smiles as a door opens to reveal a safe. Steele glares at her. "See what you can do with that, Mr. Steele."
"Why do I get the feeling that you haven't been listening to a word I've said?" he asks.
"The Girl from Impanema," Laura says, winking at him as she motions toward the safe with her flashlight.
Steele opens the safe, smiling a satisfied smile as it releases. He takes out a figurine and hands it to Laura. "This is like the figure Grace Kelton stole from Majak's," she tells Steele. She opens a flat case. "A purple heart," she notes, closing the case.
Steele finds the paperwork for the medal and some other records. "It seems your Mr. Sterling was a Korean War hero," he tells her.
"Great. He survived the Korean War but not me," Laura muses sadly. Steele finds a slip of paper with a name and address on it. Laura shines her flashlight on it. It reads:
Hearing a door close in the house, Laura stuffs everything but the figurine and paper back into the safe. "Let's go," she tells Steele. Outside the house, Laura holds the figurine. "I'll find out where this came from. You follow up on Marla Rakubian."
Steele stops her. "From now on, I suggest we stick together," he whispers, looking around nervously.
"If we stick together, it'll take twice as long. We run the risk of losing him."
"The murderer!" Laura tells him.
A cat knocks over a garbage can, running past Laura and Steele. Right behind the cat are some guard dogs. They take off running across the lawns as the sprinkler system comes on. Lights come on in the house. Laura and Steele evade the dogs, getting soaked in the process, before they leap over the wall running around the estate and run to the waiting Rabbit.
Soaked and out of breath, they get into the car, and as they sit there catching their breath, Steele says, "Laura, can I ask you one question?"
"Have you ever been to the Fiji Islands?"
The Rabbit peels off from the curb.
The next day, Laura cautiously enters Majak's shop, carrying the figurine. He's studying a vase, and she has to clear her throat to get his attention. He rolls his eyes in frustration. "Please, leave me alone. I am *still* Leopold Majak."
Laura holds up her prize. "Do you recognize this?"
"Are you insane?" Majak asks. "Get that away from me."
"Why? What is this thing?"
"Ten to twenty, that's what it is."
"I beg your pardon?"
He takes the figure. "This temple figure would cost you- a quarter of a million dollars, minimum. That is, if you could get it. Which you can't- because it's of museum quality. And found only in the Beijing Museum." He hands it back to her. "In China."
"You mean it's stolen?" Laura asks.
"Undoubtedly. Worse, it's major contraband. You could go to prison just for having it in your possession. I'd hate to think what would happen if you were caught smuggling it into the country."
"The figure Grace Kelton allegedly stole from this store- was just like this," Laura tells Majak.
"That, young lady, did not come from this store."
"I believe you, Mr. Majak," she tells him, turning to leave.
"Thank God," Majak says snidely. "Now I can die happy." He resumes his study of the vase.
At Sterling-Bigelow Imports, Laura approaches Mr. Bigelow as Claudia Sterling asks, "What do you want?"
"Mr. Bigelow," Laura says, "May I have a word with you, please?"
"Fred," Claudia warns, "don't talk to her. Get out of here before I call the police."
"Mrs. Sterling, please. I think your husband was murdered."
Claudia looks stricken. "Oh, my God, I can't take it! I can't stand anymore harassment!" She goes to the telephone and dials a number. "Yes, get me security, please."
Fred depresses the switch hook. "I'll handle it, Claudia." He takes the receiver from her. "Okay?"
Fred goes back to Laura, but a shoeshine boy approaches them. "Here's your boots, Mr. Bigelow. Cleaned up real nice."
"Oh," Fred says with a bland expression. "Claudia, would you take care of this?" he asks. "She'll take care of it. Just- thank you." The young man goes to the counter where Claudia is standing, watching Laura and Fred.
Laura tells Fred what she suspects, and he's shocked. "I'm telling you the truth, I had no idea that Whit was smuggling anything."
"I find that difficult to believe," Laura says. "You were his partner."
"Oh, in name only. Whit was- he was the one with all the contacts, he did all the importing."
"I do the selling. Jocularity and tolerance are my two biggest assets, Miss Holt. Whit needed somebody who could endure those endless lunches at the Polo Lounge and still look good in a three piece suit," he explains. "He paid me very well. Of course, my salary was nothing compared to what he made- still, it beats selling computer chips."
"How is your merchandise brought into the country?"
"By boat. We have a warehouse in Hong Kong. Everything is shipped from there into- Long Beach."
"Does the name Marla Rakubian mean anything to you?"
"I think your boss may have been having an affair with her," Laura confides.
Fred looks amused and laughs..
On the dock in Long Beach, Steele is standing looking up at a ship. The name on the ship is "Marla Rakubian". Steele grins, shaking his head. He's wearing aviator style sunglasses and has his hair slicked back as he approaches the ship and watches as two customs officers board her and have their ID checked by a man standing guard.
Steele comes down the gangway onto the deck and flashes his ID at the guard. "Harrington. Customs." He starts to walk away.
"Just a minute," the guard says. "Why ain't you in uniform?"
"DC office. Checkin' on m'boys. Aren't harassing you too much are they?" he asks, putting his sunglasses into a jacket pocket. "No? Splendid. Good man, carry on," he says quickly, moving away.
The guard keeps an eye on him.
In the hold, Steele pries open a crate filled with small jewelry boxes which are individually wrapped in white paper and surrounded by straw. He removes the paper from one, examines the box as a man approaches him. Steele looks up at him
"Loose somethin'?" the man asks as he and another man stand there.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," Steele says, standing up. "Harrington. Customs. DC office." He flashes the ID again. "I got a tip to check this ship for contraband."
The first man says, "Chester says, Let me see that ID."
"Hmm? Oh, yeah," Steele agrees, pulling his hand back out again, then backhands Chester, and hits his partner. He takes off running, and stops on an upper deck as he thinks he's evaded them. He pauses at a doorway to catch his breath, and starts to leave, only to be grabbed from behind through the open door and hauled into the other room, where he's tossed against the wall. Chester and his pal are there. "That's what I call unfair home field advantage," Steele says breathlessly.
"Chester says you're dead."
"How nice," Steele mutters as Chester's pal picks him up to let Chester elbow Steele in the gut before hitting him in the face. Steele falls to the floor, unconscious.
Laura, her hair up, arrives at the dock looking for Steele. She approaches 2 guys carrying a large steamer trunk and watches as they roughly swing it between them, heading toward a nearby truck. These are the same 2 guys who beat up Steele.
"You haven't seen a tall, dark-haireed man around here, have you?" she asks them. "English accent...a bit overdressed?"
"Nope," says one of the guys as they give the trunk a big heave and roughly toss it onto the back of the trunk with a thud.
Laura stands and watches as they crawl into the truck's cab and drive away. The camera lingers on the trunk letting us know that Remington is inside.
In a room, Grace Kelton stands before Steele, who's tied to a chair, looking a bit the worse for wear. She slaps him hard. "What were you doing on the Rakubian?" she asks. Another slap. "Who sent you?"
In Steele's pain filled, delirious mind, Grace morphs into Laura. Another slap. "What's your real name?" she asks.
"What were you looking for?" Grace asks.
"Why are you staying around?" Laura asks.
Grace slaps him again. "Who are you working for?"
"Do you really care for me?" Laura asks.
"How much do you know?" Grace asks.
"Do you know that I love you?" Laura asks with another slap.
Steele blinks. "Uh, no," he says.
"No what?" Grace asks him, with another slap.
He hears Laura ask, "Do you love me?"
"I think so," Steele admits.
"You think what?" Grace questions.
"I love you," Steele says.
Grace slaps him hard, obviously furious. The door opens and the fake Majak comes in with Chester.
"Yeah," Grace says. "He loves me."
Chester pulls Steele's head back. "Chester'll make him talk."
The fake Majak is applying a towel to Grace's bruised hand. "Chester, dead men don't talk."
Steele's head falls forward. "When he comes to, try again," Majak tells Grace. As they leave, Chester unties Steele and lifts him, carrying him to a narrow cot. He drops a groaning Steele onto the bed and leaves the room.
Steele slowly slides to a sitting position, keeping his head down for a moment before standing up, a pained expression on his face. He looks around the room, goes to the door and finds that it's locked. There's a skylight in the ceiling, and Steele drags the bed over beneath it. He gets onto the bed, then gets off and takes the mattress off of it. He pulls a chair over beside the bed, and places a foot on the springs. The heel of his shoe gets caught in the coils, and once it's free, he looks around for something else. He finds an old discarded sign and puts it on the coils, placing an upside down metal waste basket on the chair.
Carefully, he climbs atop the waste basket and uses the board and bedsprings as a spring board to let him reach the metal pipes hanging just beneath the skylight. He climbs up the pipes to the skylight, then uses his feet to break one of the glass panels. Climbing through the hole, he escapes onto the roof of the building, crossing a connection rail from it to another. At another skylight, he hears men yelling and talking. Inside, he sees some men shooting craps.
"Delighted you chaps are having a good time," Steele comments wryly before continuing his escape.
In Laura's office, Mildred is doing some filing as Laura holds the figurine. "You know, Mildred, it must be that the phony Majak found out Sterling was smuggling antiques into the country and was blackmailing him."
"That's a sharp piece of deduction, Miss Holt," Mildred says. "And I'm the last person in the world to throw any cold water on it. But-"
"But what, Mildred?"
"But if that's true, why would the phony Majak kill Sterling? Isn't that kinda biting the hand that feeds you?"
"I'll admit, it's a little murky at the moment," Laura says, putting the figurine on her desk.
"Now, I know we ruled out suicide, but-"
"But what, Mildred?"
"Maybe there's something we don't know about. I mean, maybe Sterling was sick. Maybe he didn't have much time left and decided to end it all before the goop hit the fan."
"It was murder, Mildred," Laura insists.
"I know, I know, but-"
"If it *was* suicide, then we could mark the case closed and move onto something else."
"Such as?" Mildred opens a folder and hands it to Laura. "Cabo San Lucas, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii-" she looks surprised. "The Fiji Islands?"
"I know the Boss is really concerned about your emotional and physical well-being," Mildred points out.
"Not to mention *his* tan," Laura tells her, handing the file back.
"Oh, please, please, Miss Holt, let me just check on Sterling's medical report- just to be safe. The hotels on Fiji- have a hot tub in every room," she tells Laura.
Laura hesitates. "All right, Mildred, I-I suppose it couldn't hurt," she says, pacing away.
Steele comes into the room, looking like he's been on a three day drunk. "Oh, easy for you to say," he tells her.
"What have you-" She turns and sees his condition. "-been DOING?" she asks.
"Well, let's see. So far, I've been beaten to a pulp, crammed into a steamer trunk, locked away in an abandoned warehouse, drugged, tortured, but, well, otherwise, shown a raucous good time."
"All because of this?" Mildred asks, picking up the figurine.
"I thought something like it might have been smuggled in on that shipment last night, but it cleared customs without a hitch."
"Then why was someone so determined to stop me from getting
a look at it, eh?" Steele asks.
"I think that cargo bears closer scrutiny, Mr. Steele," Laura decides, grabbing her purse and taking off.
At the Sterling-Bigelow warehouse, Laura and Steele tear the brown wrappers off of every mahogany box, then sit there, disappointed. "Do you remember how frustrated we were when you couldn't figure out who killed Myron Flowers, the breath spray king?" Laura asks.
"Um hmm. I believe I referred to it at one point as Steele's last case," Steele, in clean clothes, but still bruised, recalls.
"Well, this just might be Holt's last case. I can't figure out what's going on. I have a hat full of clues and I have nothing to string them together with," she declares, tossing some of the brown wrapping paper aside.
Steele turns to her, moving close. "You know, Laura, we've been so caught up in our cases lately- I wonder if they aren't the only thing stringing us together?"
Her mind still on the case, she tells him, "Nobody said you had to stick around."
Steele shrugs. "Well, in a few days, I'll be gone- with a bit of luck."
Laura looks at him. "Oh?"
"Reclining on a beach somewhere, azure seas, a long, cool Pina Colada, and a wonderful young lady by my side." He moves even closer, his lips bare inches from hers. They share a brief kiss.
"Anyone I know?" Laura asks.
They kiss again, and Steele lowers her back into the packing and brown wrappers, lengthening the embrace. Suddenly he breaks the kiss, sitting up with a brown paper in his hand.
Laura looks at him with a confused smile. "That much of a let down?" she asks.
"This paper," he says.
Laura chuckles. "What about the paper?"
"It's not the same paper I saw on board ship," he tells her, remembering unwrapping one of the jewelry boxes from white paper instead of brown.
"How do you know?" she asks.
Steele reaches into his pocket. "Close your eyes."
"This is hardly the time," she begins.
He takes a dollar bill from his pocket. "Just- close your eyes," he says again, searching his other pockets for the paper with the ship name on it. "Okay." He straightens the bill and the paper. "Put out your hands." Laura shakes her head. Placing one in each hand, he asks, "Which one's the dollar bill?"
Laura feels the papers. "What is this, a trick question?"
"Which one's the dollar bill?" he asks.
Laura switches hands, feeling. "Well, unless they're different denominations, they both are."
"Open your eyes."
Laura does, and when she sees what's she's holding, she inspects the slip of paper. "Are you telling me these antiques were wrapped in paper just like this aboard ship?"
"So that's why we couldn't figure it out. It wasn't antiques they were smuggling."
"It was the paper," Steele confirms with a self-satisfied smile.
"It appears we're dealing with international counterfeiters here, Mr. Steele."
Steele takes the dollar bill and the slip of paper. "What a wonderfully bizarre twist," he comments with a laugh.
Later the same night, Steele and Laura are walking through a junkyard.
Laura says, Lets see what weve got. Phony Majak was using Sterlings shipments to smuggle in counterfeit paper.
Steele picks up, Sterling was smuggling Chinese artifacts.
He found out what the phony Majak was up to, Laura continues, "And threatened to blow the whistle.
Majak hired you to blackmail Sterling into silence " Steele supplies.
Only the game got a little dirtier than Majak expected Laura carries on.
And Sterling ended up dead, Steele finishes.
Murdered, Laura points her finger at Steele.
That remains to be proved, Miss Holt, Steele repeats the gesture.
At that moment the door of a rusted out van theyre passing suddenly opens up. Both Laura and Remington jump and back up, exclaiming, Oh!
Steele recovers first and asks, Weasel?
Inside the van, Weasel lowers the arm he has been covering his face with and says, smiling, Steele, Steele, Steele. Whos the Catholic Schoolgirl?
"This is my associate, Laura Holt."
"If I'd known we would meet in such-" she looks at the van, "-illustrious surroundings, I would have dressed for the part."
"Hey, it just isn't anybody that I invite into my home," Weasel informs her.
"You, um- live here?" Laura asks.
"Yes, I do. I even have a summer home," he tells her. "It's the third Cadillac from the left," he says, pointing.
Steele looks in that direction. "Oh, the El Dorado. Yeah. Well, that's the only one to have, isn't it?"
Weasel grins. "Right. Come on, lay it on me."
Steele reaches into his jacket and pulls out an envelope filled with money. Weasel takes it, pulls a bill out and studies it with a small flashlight. Then, he bites the corner off of one and chews it for a moment before grinning. Laying that envelope aside, he pulls a second envelope out and hands it to Steele.
He and Laura each examine a hundred dollar bill. "I've seen better paper on the news stands," Laura tells Weasel.
"Hey, if it was perfect, it would be real."
Steele smiles tightly. "Now, all we need is a hearty soul to pass it," he tells Laura.
In Laura's loft, Mildred is dressed in seaman's clothes, a stocking cap on her frizzed hair, with some of her teeth blacked out. "I can't do it!" she insists. "I just can't do it!"
"Of course you can, Mildred," Laura tells her.
Steele pulls a dead fish from a plastic bag, a yellow rubber glove protecting his hands. "A little dab of eau d'carp," he tells her, patting Mildred with fish, "and the disguise is complete."
Mildred groans from the smell. "Ugh. Can't I just do a computer check?" she asks.
Laura's eyes are watering. "You're the only one of us nobody's seen," Laura reminds her. "You've gotta do it, Mildred. It's gotta be you."
"T-Men, Mildred," Steele says, still patting her with the fish to rub off the smell. "Dennis O'Keefe, Alfred Ryder, Eagle Line, 1948. O'Keefe and Ryder set up their own push in order to smoke out a ring of counterfeiters."
"All right, all right," Mildred finally says. "If it's good enough for Dennis O'Keefe, it's good enough for me."
"Good," Steele says, tapping her behind the ears with the fishy gloves. "There you go."
She moans again.
At the docks, all three of them are in the Rabbit, waiting. Steele rolls down the window and sticks his head out to get some fresh air. "Just remember," Laura tells him, rolling down her own window, "Mildred's cover was YOUR idea."
"Oh. Pungently put," Steele agrees as Laura sticks her head out as well.
They see the guard from the Rakubian enter a building after getting someone to light his cigarette. "All, right, there he is," Steele tells them. He opens the door for Mildred to get out. "Okay, Mildred, in you go." He gets out. "Go," he says again, then groans at the stench. Once she's out of the car, he dives back in and almost rolls the window up.
Mildred starts to go, then comes back. "Maybe we should go to plan B, Boss," she says hopefully.
Through the cracked window, Steele says, "We don't have a plan B, Mildred."
"I could come up with one, fast!"
"Nonsense, Mildred," Laura insists. "We'll be right behind you!"
Mildred moves off, and Steele mutters, "Just don't get downwind of her, Laura, that's all I can say."
Laura glares at him."
Mildred enters the crap game, and a place is cleared for her simply because of her smell. "Who's the shooter?" she asks in a rummy voice.
"Him," the guy running the game says, pointing to another guy.
"Don't pass," Mildred tells him, putting a hundred on the table.
"I'll take that," the guard says. He picks it up and looks at it.
Mildred frowns. "Whassamatter? Don't like big bills?" she asks in a defiant tone.
"Not much, I don't," he says, handing it back to the table. The shooter goes, and craps out.
"All right, give me them cubes," Mildred says.
She's about to shoot when someone whispers something to the man running the game. "Hold it. We got a wiseacre in here. Somebody's passin' funny money."
"Oh, like hell, man, we're all pals here."
Suddenly everyone is looking at Mildred, who shrinks down a bit.
She winds up in the alley, laying in some trash. Someone walks up to her. Chester grabs her collar and pulls her up. "Chester says, come with me."
He stuffs her into an old pick up truck and gets in beside her.
Steele and Laura follow in the Rabbit to a place that cashes paychecks.
Inside the office, Grace asks, "What IS that stench?"
"Her," Chester says. "She smells like tuna fish. Chester HATES tuna fish," he says, kneeling beside her.
"Once again," the fake Majak asks, "Where did you get the money?"
"I told ya. This guy give it to me. Told me to spread it around."
"What guy?" Fake Majak asks.
The door opens and Steele and Laura enter. Mildred stands up. "HIM!"
Chester pulls his gun. "Easy, Chester," Fake Majak says.
"Oh, very clever," Steele tells them. "Very clever indeed. There must be, what- five thousand workers within half a mile radius of here who can't wait to cash their paychecks on a Friday afternoon? Oh, my, my, my."
"Counterfeit cash," Laura comments.
"You must admit it was a well devised plan," Fake Majak says.
"Yes, yes, it did have it subtleties, I must admit," Steele agrees.
"Your admiration is gratifying, Mr. Steele."
"Whit Sterling is dead, Majak. No one admires a murderer," Laura points out.
Grace smiles a very self satisfied smile as her partner answers. "I had no reason to kill Mr. Sterling."
"She did a fine job of blackmailing him for us," Grace tells Steele.
Laura looks at Steele, confused. "However," Fake Majak says, "I can see that blackmail is NOT going to work with Mr. Steele. Now, Chester," he orders, turning Grace toward the door.
Steele lifts his hand. "Chester, I wouldn't do that if I were you, mate."
"And why shouldn't Chester?" Chester asks.
"You haven't got enough ammunition," Laura explains as the door opens again to admit several men, all holding guns on Chester and the other two. Chester lowers his weapon. "We took the liberty of calling the Treasury Department this afternoon," she informs them.
The T-Men start to lead Chester out, but Steele stops them. "Just a moment, gentlemen, I want to have a little word with Chester. He hits Chester in the stomach. "Steele hit Chester." He hits him again in the face. Chester falls. "Chester hit floor." He winces at his sore hand. He, Mildred and Laura leave ahead of the others.
At the office the next day, Laura is at her desk, doodling, when Steele comes in. He's got airplane tickets in hand, a carryon slung over his shoulder. Seeing a dejected Laura, he pauses. "Ah. Well," he checks his watch. "So much for the window seats, eh?" There's no response. "Oh, come on now, Laura. They can't all be killers. I mean, like it or not, some thing really are as they appear," he tells her.
"You honestly believe Whit Sterling committed suicide?" she asks.
Steele drops his bag onto the chair. "Look, whether I believe it or not is beside the point. The facts are there. They phony Majak and his cronies are behind bars, and we're gonna miss our plane if we don't get a move on," he tells her, grabbing his case again and going to the door. "Now, eh?"
Mildred comes in. "Here's the Sterling autopsy report," she tells Laura, giving her a file.
"Great," Laura says. Steele is upset.
"Took me awhile to get it, but I finally convinced Keyes that he owed us one."
"Keyes?" Steele questions in disbelief. "Norman Keyes?"
"Yeah," she says as Laura looks at the file. "Insurance companies can sometimes get their mitts on medical files. He just pulled a few strings."
She leaves, and Steele closes the door behind her to tell Laura, "Does that damn woman have to always be so diligent?"
"She just wanted to double check, see if Sterling had any medical history which might make suicide more palatable."
"Uh-huh," Steele asks, waiting. "And?"
"According to this, the official cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, self inflicted. Deceased otherwise healthy," She says, closing the file, disappointed.
Steele takes the file, flips through it. "There, you see?" he declares, tossing the file onto the desk. "It's there in black and white." He picks up his case again. "The man was an absolute paragon of health. He was-" he stops, a thoughtful expression on his face as Laura picks up the file again. "The Barefoot Contessa."
"Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, United Artists, 1954. Ava marries an Italian Count. Deliriously happy, she wants to give him an heir, unfortunately the Count is impotent, so- she has an affair with the chauffeur. The Count shoots them both," he finishes with a smile. "Huh?"
At the Sterling house, Fred and Claudia listen as Laura says, "Odd, how life sometimes imitates art. The parallels between The Barefoot Contessa and your life, Mrs. Sterling, are uncanny." Steele is sitting on the edge of the desk near the window. "You're pregnant. Yet, according to your husband's autopsy report, a 30 year old war injury had rendered him impotent. Enter Fred Bigelow. Young, virile. A real comer. You and he have an affair, you become pregnant-and the two of you concoct a plan to murder your husband, making it look like suicide."
"Giving you the child you always wanted," Steele says to Claudia. "And you the business," he adds to Fred, gesturing with a straw. "All of it."
"Frankly," Fred says, "I liked it better in the movies."
"All right," Claudia confirms. "Fred and I- yes, we're lovers. I decided the best way to handle it was to tell Whit the truth. But I was wrong. He became terribly upset. He-locked himself here in the library. I felt horrible. I felt like I was to blame, and I couldn't bear that. So I- tried to put it off on you, Miss Holt."
Steele grins. "Oh, excellent recovery," he says, standing up and moving closer to the window. "Excellent. Very quick thinking on your feet, Mrs. Sterling. Very quick indeed." He looks out of the window, bending down to look through one of the small panes. "Only there's a - there's a hole in your story." Looking back at them he says, "A very, very, tiny hole." He puts the straw through a hole in one corner of one of the panes and bends it upward. "Voila!"
Fred and Claudia exchange worried looks.
"Consider this, Mrs. Sterling," Laura says. "You and Bigelow murder your husband," we see this happening as Laura explains the theory. "Carry him into the library, place him at his desk, put the gun in his hand so it looks like he shot himself. Then, while Bigelow makes his way outside, you tie a string to the bolt with a slip knot, run it across the room, through a tiny hole in the window pane to Bigelow, who pulls it through. You leave, closing the door behind you, as Bigelow carefully pulls the string, until the bolt clicks. Gives it a jerk, slips the knot, and pulls it through the window, making it appear as though your husband had locked himself in and committed suicide."
Claudia tries to smile, glancing at Fred. "You've been reading too much Ellery Queen, Miss Holt."
"Have I? You have exquisite taste in clothes, Mr. Bigelow," Laura comments. "I especially admired those Italian boots the shoe-shine boy delivered to your store the day I visited you."
"So much so," Steele admits, "she forced me to- uh- break into your apartment." He pulls the boots from the carryon bag.
"If you check, I believe you'll find that there's a very distinctive design in the heel that matches the prints in the mud outside that window," Laura accuses.
"Where were you at precisely 2:15 a.m. the night Sterling was killed?" Steele asks. "Exactly fifteen minutes after the murder? Exactly the time the sprinklers went off outside, muddying the ground where you stood?!"
"I'd say the choice is clear, Bigelow," Laura tells him. "You can take the fall alone- or you can name your accomplice."
Claudia looks murderous again. Bigelow is nervous. "Hey. I only pulled the string." He looks at Claudia. "SHE pulled the trigger!"
Laura looks at Steele. "Locked room murder, Mr. Steele."
As Hawaiian steel guitar music plays softly in the background, Steele and Laura lounge beneath a beach umbrella, sipping Pina Coladas from pineapple shells. They tap the shells together, and Laura laughs softly. "I must admit, Laura, Hawaii was the perfect choice."
Laura sighs with satisfaction.
"Shame about all those planes being grounded," Steele says, as we see that they're in his apartment, rain pouring over the windows as thunder rolls in the distance. "Still, if Mildred ever gets back with the macadamia nuts, I suppose this might be the next best thing to being there."
"If you close your eyes," Laura tells him, doing precisely that, "it's almost as if we ARE there." She opens them to see him with a distant look on his face. "You seem to be sailing somewhere without me."
"You know, Laura, when I was being interrogated by that kleptomaniac, it was almost as if-" he looks at her, "Well, in my delirium- it was almost as if you were there, asking the questions."
"What kind of questions?"
"Disturbingly vague, now, but, I get the uneasy feeling that the answers might frighten both of us."
Laura is thoughtful before answering. "In that case, some questions are best left unanswered."
"And some answers best left unquestioned," he replies with a smile. The click their pineapples together again in a toast.