It Happened One Steele Night
A Short Story
By Gilmoradict
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"Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into." Laura said with a resolute sigh.
"Hardy to Laurel - in any number of their films, but a popular misquote Miss Holt. What Hardy actually said was "NICE mess," an important distinction, especially in our situation. This could be a perfect opportunity for us to spend a quiet evening away from the city with it's noise and distractions...A nice mess to be to be sure!" Mr. Steele offered brightly.
"Mr. Steele, I hardly think being stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat, no way to contact help, and temperatures dropping, is an opportunity for anything but experiencing the misery of hypothermia."
"On the contrary, Miss Holt. We won't freeze. We will huddle together and between us generate life giving warmth - we have an emergency blanket in our pack, do we not?"
"Why on earth did I let you persuade me to take this case?" Laura lamented rolling her eyes heavenward. "This whole thing has been an aggravation from the outset - crabby, disgruntled client, clues that don't add up, a wasted day tracking down a missing co-worker, too many pieces that just don't fit. And now stuck out here in the canyon watching a house where not a soul has stirred since we arrived. If it hadn't gotten so dark I'd suggest we hike back out and head the Rabbit back to civilization."
"Well, Miss Holt, between the two of us we will put the pieces together; Mr. Collins was so very distraught. I'll admit we can't do anything more at the present. Let's make ourselves as comfortable as we can, the night will pass quickly. We have a thermos of hot tea, and some sort of trail mix I believe - a veritable feast."
"Must you be so infernally cheerful Mr. Steele?" Laura grumbled, taking the proffered cup of hot tea. "Didn't you have plans for this evening that you're going to miss out on - the screening of a Bogart retrospective, the seduction of an heiress, a jewel heist?"
"You crush me Miss Holt. Surely you don't imagine I am engaging in such nefarious activities in our time apart. I haven't seduced anyone in quite some time, much to my frustration." Steele quirked an eyebrow at Laura at this last, though in the moonless night, buried deep in the woods, Laura could only imagine Steele's smirk.
"Well, don't expect that to change tonight, Mr. Steele." Laura said firmly. "I'm cold, hungry and cranky...not to mention generally too miserable to be swayed by your smarmy charms."
" 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks.' "Steele murmured evenly, as Laura handed the empty thermos top back to him." 'Hamlet,' Sir Laurence Olivier, 1948."
"Not applicable here, Mr. Steele. That was Gertrude's line as I recall. And I'm not.....what was that?" Laura stilled Mr. Steele's response with her hand as she listened to the howling of a coyote in the distance.
"A lonely woodland creature, Miss Holt, searching for his mate. Not to worry. I shall keep you safe from all predators." Steele used a lighter to start a fire in a pile of tinder he had gathered, swiftly adding larger branches to create a discrete but comforting blaze. "There, nothing like a glowing campfire to keep those wild beasts at bay."
"I have no problem keeping the wild beast at bay." Now visible to one another in the dancing light of the fire, Laura glared with mock menace at Steele, as she shivered and tugged her jacket more firmly about her. "The predators I'm used to however walk on two legs, wear tailored clothes, and ply their conquests with chocolate and expensive champagne!"
"That's what I love about you Laura, always ready to meet adversity head on. Come now, perk up. Imagine we are Charlie and Rose on the African Queen...surviving against all odds until arriving victorious at our destination.
"Oh Puuleeze Mr. Steele," Laura replied, beginning to smile; "Now I'm a straight-laced spinster and you a gin-soaked reprobate? I don't think our situation is quite as dire as Mr. Bogart's and Miss Hepburn's. And are you sure you want to imagine us in a movie that has a ship's captain marrying the main characters at the end? Isn't that a bit more of a commitment than you're interested in Mr. Steele?"
"Oh, I don't know Miss Holt. For the right woman there are no limits to the depths I'll sink to." Steele dug through the pack he had carried in with them, finally successful in pulling out a metallic space blanket. "Here, Laura, tuck this blanket about you - not terribly aesthetic, but it should reflect your body heat back toward you, keeping you warm."
"Thank you, Mr. Steele. You are, among a great many other things, a gentleman. I suspect that similar to It Happened One Night, we can safely huddle together, even if it means we share the blanket instead of hanging it between us."
"Ah Miss Holt. Your faith in me is overwhelming. Look what else I've found! A Hershey bar! Now if only I could find a trumpet..." Grinning from ear to ear, Steele drew Laura close to him, and wrapped the blanket around to cover them both. "Now, have I ever told you about the time I spent on a boat named the Aphrodite, navigating a narrow passage through Brazil?"
Allowing the chocolate to dissolve slowly in her mouth, Laura smiled as she leaned back against her irrepressible partner. "No, Mr. Steele, I don't believe you have."
The End

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