A man staggers from the Del Capri Motel in Los Angeles and onto the sidewalk as he reads a newspaper. Disturbed, he stops at a stand of newspaper racks and buys every paper, looking in each of them for something. Crossing the busy street with his handful of papers as he searches them, he's almost hit twice by oncoming cars.
In his office, Steele is reading a booklet as he examines a video tape player that's sitting on his desk. "Twenty eight functioning remote with direct keypad tuning," he reads aloud, then looks at the VCR. "Oh, my little beauty," he sighs, then turns back to the booklet, his legs propped on the corner of the desk. "Built-in MTS," he reads, then picks up the phone as it beeps at him. "No interruptions, Mildred."
"But Chief," she hear her say.
"I need to concentrate, thank you," he tells her, hanging up. "Built in MTS," he reads again in a softer voice.
The door opens and Mildred enters the room. "Sorry, Boss, but I think you ought to-" she stops as she notices the VCR and box on his desk. "Oh. What's that?"
Steele sighs and looks up at her. "Investigative tool, Mildred. Could break a case someday," he tells her, then goes back to the booklet.
"There's a gentleman outside who's really upset."
"Well, Miss Holt is expert at dealing with distressed gentlemen," he suggests with a smile.
Mildred smiles too. "She's finishing the security contract. Besides, he wants to see you."
Frustrated, Steele frowns. "Oh, please, Mildred. Look, I'm right in the middle of-"
Laura enters from her office. "I need your signature on these," she tells him.
Steele laughs nervously. "Ah. Glad you're here, Laura," he tells her, obviously hoping she won't ask about the VCR on his desk. "We have a client outside, okay?"
Mildred turns toward the door as Laura comes around the desk, a file in her hand. "I sincerely hope agency funds didn't pay for this," she tells him, indicating the VCR.
"Excellent investment," he tells her. "We get an immediate ten percent tax investment credit, then it depreciates over a period of five years." He looks at the manual once more.
Laura picks up a box from the top of the VCR. "Gone With the Wind?"
He stands up. "Merely to make sure the machine is functioning properly, that's all," he insists. "Ah," he says, seeing Mildred returning with the client. "-here comes out client right now," he adds, putting the video tape aside and grabbing his jacket to put it on.
The client is the man who was reading newspapers. "Lester Shane," Mildred tells them
Lester looks more than a little rumpled, with several days growth of beard on his face. "Lester Shane," Steele says, shaking Lester's hand. "Pleased to meet you. How do you do? Remington Steele. My associate, Laura Holt." He puts on the coat as Laura glances behind them at the VCR. "Miss Krebs tells me you're upset about something and we're here to settle the matter." He and Laura perch on the front of the desk. "What seems to be the problem?"
"I'm dead," Lester tells them. Steele frowns, then takes the newspaper that Lester hands him. Circled in red is an obituary.
"Shane, Lester," it reads. "Late of Gilroy. Survived by loving wife, Sharon Shane, son Robert and daughter Louise. Private ceremony, immediate family only."
"Mr. Shane, I don't mean to minimize your concern, but this is just a rather obvious mistake, isn't it?" Laura tells him.
"Exactly what I thought, young lady," Lester insists. "But the paper wouldn't listen to me. Said they had a copy of my death certificate."
"Well, I admit that's a bit odd, but why not just let it pass?" Steele questions. "I mean, you're definitely not dead."
"Exactly what I thought, young man, but it ain't that simple. See, I'm in town here on business. But my appointments keep canceling on me. They seem to think I'm dead now, too."
"Surely you can explain," Laura says.
"Then I called my home town, it seems that somebody's phoned them with the news- and everyone's cryin' and all--and if I drive real fast, I might make it back in time for my memorial service."
"Kind of a snowball effect, huh?" Laura muses.
"Boy, I tell ya, I'm gettin' to the point where I'm beginnin' to wonder whether I am dead or not. I been pinchin' myself a lot the last few hours. It's been quite a shock to my system," he tells them. Steele looks at Laura. "And I think I'd like for you two to figure this thing out before it goes any further."
"A mere bureaucratic snafu," Steele assures Lester, "That Miss Holt will unravel in short order." Laura frowns as his words and looks at him. "Under my watchful eye, of course."
At the newspaper office, Laura and Steele approach a blonde woman who's talking on the telephone. "Rosewood Cemetery. 1 p.m., no flowers. Okie-dokie," she tells the person she's talking to in a bright tone, then hangs up. She looks up at Steele. "Don't I know you?" she asks.
"Remington Steele. My associate, Laura Holt," Steele informs her.
"Steele," the woman muses. "Steele. Remington- Steele! Of course. I just did your obituary last week," she tells him as Laura rolls her eyes.
"Forgive me, Miss-" he glances at the nameplate on her desk, "Carter, but aren't you being a little bit hasty about that?"
"Routine," she assures him. "We do up obits on prominent people just in case they suddenly-buy it. I remember you, because I had one heck of a time digging up background info. I mean-" she leans forward, her chin on her hand. "Why is that, anyway? Come on, I can keep a secret."
Steele grins as Laura tries to bring the conversation to the reason for their visit. "Miss Carter, apparently you listed an obituary for a man who isn't dead. His name is Lester Shane."
"Oh, he's dead, alright," Miss Carter tells Laura. "I got the death certificate in the mail yesterday. As a matter of fact, some joker called me up this morning, pretending to be this Shane guy," she laughs.
"Take our word for it," Laura says. "He's very much alive."
Miss Carter's smile fades and she hands Laura her copy of the death certificate. Laura reads the name and address of the mortuary. Steele takes the paper from her. "Weil Mortuary sent you this information and asked you to place this obituary?" Laura asks Miss Carter.
"Could we have a copy of this, please?" Laura asks.
Miss Carter reaches out to take the paper. "I'm afraid company policy-" she begins, only to stop as Steele leans closer to her.
"Ms. Carter," he says, "inasmuch as your file on me is somewhat incomplete, what would you say to a- discreet trade? Dinner sometime in exchange for the death certificate?" he suggests. Laura rolls her eyes again.
Miss Carter is delighted by the idea. She gives him the paper, nodding and giggling, then watches as they walk away.
Laura points to the paper in Steele's hand. "You have to admit, this is a bit strange," she says quietly.
"Reluctantly," Steele agrees.
"Relax. Scarlet and Rhett aren't going anywhere," Laura tells him. "Look. If it will make you any happier, we can split up, so we can resolve this case as quickly as possible."
"Excellent," Steele says.
"Incidentally, you're not really planning on taking that poor girl to dinner, are you?" she asks.
Steele puts his arm around her shoulders and pulls her close. "We'll make it a threesome," he tells her. They leave.
Steele is at the LA County Coroner's office, talking to a man. "Do you happen to remember signing this death certificate?" he asks.
"Lester Shane," the man muses.
"It would have been two days ago," Steele says.
"Well, there's no way I could have signed this. Two days ago, I was at a conference in Northern California."
"Are you saying that this is a forgery?" Steele questions.
"Well, it's hard to conceive why, but- yes. That's not my signature. What's this all about?"
"I wish I knew," Steele tells him with a dazed expression.
He puts the death certificate into his pocket. "Thank you
very much," he says, and turns away.
"Certainly," the doctor says, looking thoughtful.
Laura pulls the Rabbit up to the curb before Weil Mortuary. She gets out and goes to the front doors, only to find them locked. Looking around, she strolls to the back of the building. Hearing voices and telephones ringing, Laura climbs up on something to look into a window.
Through a door inside, she sees a room is filled with women talking on telephones. There are file cabinets and tables in the room. Laura gets down and goes to the back door, which is locked as well.
Suddenly a man's hand falls onto her shoulder and she cries out in surprise, turning. "What do you think you're doing?" the tall blonde man asks in a menacing voice.
"I'm- I'm looking for Weil Mortuary," Laura tells him.
"Weil Mortuary closed down two years ago," he says.
"You're kidding? Oh. My Aunt Sophie always had a liking for this place- bless her freshly departed soul. So, what goes on here now?" she asks with a smile.
"We process forms here," he says.
"Oh. What- types of forms?"
"All types of forms."
Steele, the VCR sitting before him on the desk, the deck open, is holding some wires and studying the manual yet again. Laura is pacing before the desk. "Someone wants to create the illusion that Lester Shane is dead. Why? Any thoughts, Mr. Steele?"
"If you were two extraneous wires," he asks, still looking at the book, "where would you want to be connected?"
Laura takes a deep breath and moves to stand before the desk. "Mr. Steele, I promise, I will buy you the ENTIRE M-G-M library on videocassette if you will please put that down and concentrate on the matter at hand."
Steele looks up at her, then puts the manual and wires onto his desk, and closes the VCR's door, before giving her his undivided attention. "Deal," he agrees.
Laura smirks at his rapid acceptance, and sits down on the desk.
"D.O.A. Edmond O'Brien, Luther Adler, United Artists, 19-49," he tells her, putting his feet up.
"O'Brien plays a businessman who comes to the police at the beginning of the picture to report a murder- his own. Somehow he's been poisoned and doesn't understand why."
"And the connection with Lester?" Laura asks.
"It's- it's- it's a bit fuzzy at the moment," Steele admits. "However, D.O.A. is available on videocassette. We could always buy a copy, have a look at it-" Laura crosses her arms across her chest. "Run it, see where it leads us, eh?" he asks.
Laura sighs and starts pacing again as Steele runs a finger along the VCR, smiling. "Life insurance," Laura says suddenly.
"Hm hmm," Steele says, turning his attention back to Laura. "Yes."
"Somebody is trying to collect n Lester's policy," Laura tells him. She goes to the door as Steele studies the VCR again, winding the wire around his hand. "Lester," she tells the man, who's standing outside, "could you come here for a minute, please?" She closes the door behind them. "This is very important. Do you have a life insurance policy?" she asks.
Lester looks thoughtful. "Nope. Once thought about getting one, though," he admits.
Steele is looking at the manual once more, and says, "Are you a wealthy man, Mr. Shane?"
"I'm comfortable," Shane admits.
Steele tosses the manual and wire aside. "Happily married?"
"Happy as anyone can be after twenty-two years."
Steele smiles. "Gaslight," he tells them, standing up. "Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, M-G-M, 1944. Boyer attempts to drive Ingrid crazy so he can have her committed and finally gain her estate," he explains, fastening his shirt collar. "Oh, it's also available on videocassette," he says to Laura, who frowns.
"She don't have to drive me nuts," Lester tells them. "Everything's in my wife's name."
Steele nods as that theory is gone. "Oh."
"If only we could get into the Weil Mortuary when it's empty," Laura mutters.
Steele picks up the VCR to put it into the box. "That's one heck of a fine VCR you got yourself there," Lester tells Steele. "That's the one with the built-in MTS, right?"
"Right. Yes. I didn't realize you were familiar with this equipment," Steele comments.
"Shoot, you kiddin? I used to be an electrical engineer in Uncle Sam's Army, before I went into Agriculture." Laura is pacing the room, thinking about the case.
Steele starts taping the box closed. "You wouldn't-perchance happen to know the proper method of hooking-" he glances at Laura, "one of these wonder videos up to one of those large four foot screens, would you?"
"Just did it for my nephew last weekend," Lester tells him. "Two shakes of a lamb's tail."
Steele is delighted by this news. He hands Lester a leather encased toolkit. "Hold this, Lester," he says, and picks up the box. "Come on. Let's go."
Laura finally notices that they're leaving. "Mr. Steele?" she says.
"Keep pacing, Miss Holt, I'm sure you'll come up with something. In the meantime, I'm going to take Lester into protective custody. You can never be too careful with a man's life." He grins. "Even if he is officially dead."
Hands on her hips, Laura watches them leave.
Steele and Lester are walking along a street, Steele carrying the box that contains the VCR. "So you're in agriculture, are you, Lester?"
"Yep. Gilroy, California. Garlic capital of the US of A," Lester tells him. They start across the street. "Mr. Steele, I know more about garlic than a man should."
Steele notices a black Ford heading straight for them, and tosses the VCR at the car, grabbing Lester out of the way. The VCR hits the windshield of the car and bounces to the street. Steele and Lester fall to the pavement as well as the car screeches away.
Steele goes to the battered box and picks it up. Lester, in shock, watches the car disappear into traffic.
Sitting at her desk, phone in hand, Laura tells Steele, "It's impossible to trace that car with only two letters from the license plate."
"In the limo, Steele replies, "Well, next time I'll let them hit Lester, but I'll get the entire plate, okay?"
Lester looks concerned.
"How is he?" Laura asks.
Steele pats Lester's arm. "He's all right. He's fine. I'm gonna take him to my flat for safekeeping, okay?. . . All right. Bye-bye." He hangs up the phone.
Lester is looking around outside. "No offense, Steele, but- is this your neighborhood?"
"Slight detour," Steele assures him, looking out of the window. "Fred, it's just up ahead on the right, mate."
The limo stops before a metal warehouse. Steele gets out, carrying the demolished VCR. "I won't be a minute," he tells Lester. He approaches a man. "I'm looking for Monroe." The man points toward a door. "Thanks very much."
He pauses at the door to listen as a man says, "No. Next week is not acceptable, my equivocating friend." Steele steps inside the room and gets the attention of the man on the telephone. The man, a good looking black man with an English accent, waves him in. "By Saturday or no sale," he tells the man on the other end of the phone, then hangs up. "And we thought it was tough in the old days, Mick," he says to Steele. Steele puts the box on the desk. "It's a real jungle out here." He sits back, smiling, putting his hands behind his head. "So what do you think of your investment so far?"
Steele stands there, hands in pockets, smiling warmly. "I wouldn't have believed it, Monroe. You really are serious about this."
"Volume discounts and personal service, my friend," Monroe points out. "Give the public what they want is my new-found credo."
"As opposed to taking the public for what YOU want," Steele muses.
Monroe sits forward. "That chapter's closed, Mick. I told you, I'm tired of running. You didn't think I'd take your money and split?"
"It wouldn't have surprised me, let's put it that way, hmm?"
Monroe pretends to be distressed. "Oh, you wound me, my friend," he declares, smiling.
Steele laughs. "Oh, Monroe. When you came to me, I saw an old mate who was down on his luck, needed a pat on the back and a few quid in his pocket." He looks around. "I hardly expected this."
Monroe stands up and comes around the desk. "Re-investment of profit, lines of credit, arbitrage-, Mick, it's a hell of a lot easier being a pirate on this side of the law than the one I'm used to."
"Hm mm," Steele nods in agreement.
"Now, I suspect what's really brought you here has more to do with what's in this box than checking up on your humble servant."
Steele looks at the box. "Slight problem."
Monroe picks up the phone. "Oscar, bring an APL-475S to my office, please." He hangs up. "It's done."
"And my four foot screen?" Steele asks.
"Ensconced in your bedroom as we speak," Monroe assures his friend.
"I don't remember giving you the keys to my flat," Steele says.
Monroe laughs and places an arm around Steele's shoulders. "You're a busy man, now, Mick. No need to bother you with mundane details."
Steele grins, understanding. "Uh-huh. Well, it's reassuring to see that you haven't given up all our old ways," he tells Monroe.
They nod at each other in understanding.
At Steele's apartment, Steele is looking at the book that goes with the video of "Gone With the Wind", humming the theme, as Lester works on attaching the new VCR to the four foot TV that is in Steele's bedroom. "How long before Atlanta burns yet again, Lester?" he asks.
Lester comes up from behind the TV. "We got a slight compatibility problem," he pronounces.
The door buzzer goes off, and Steele tells him, "Persevere. Persevere, mate," he says, leaving to answer the door.
Laura enters, wearing her dark break in clothes, a flashlight under her arm. "A bit stark, don't you think?" he asks, indicating her wardrobe.
"It will be getting dark in an hour, "Laura points out.
Steele grins. "Nothing gets by you, Laura."
"This case is no longer a joking matter, Mr. Steele," Laura tells him in a no nonsense tone. "Our client was almost killed today. And a forged death certificate was submitted by a mortuary which doesn't exist. It's time we started getting some answers, beginning with what's going on at the former Weil Mortuary."
"Now?" Steele questions.
"Hey, Steele," Lester calls out. "I think I located the problem. Where's that tape of "Gone With the Wind'?" Laura sighs and looks toward the bedroom.
"Helps keep his mind off the case, you know," Steele tells her. She nods, understanding exactly what's going on. "Idle hands, that sort of thing." He moves past her. "I'll slip into something more appropriate." He glances at her, whistling the theme from "Gone With the Wind".
At the old Weil Mortuary, Laura checks the back door again. It's still locked, so she points to the window she looked through earlier. Steele uses a pry bar to open it, and Laura places a stick of wood in the window to hold it open. They enter the building. "The room where those girls were working is just through that door," she tells him.
They enter the room, only to find it empty. TOTALLY empty. "You're sure this is the room?" Steele asks her.
"Yes," she insists. "This morning, this office was filled with tables, filing cabinets, and women up to their necks in paperwork!"
"Uh huh." Steele looks at his watch, "Well, with great reluctance, I suggest we call it an evening, eh? Go back to my place, clear our minds with a screening of-"
"Not just yet."
"Of course not," he sighs.
"We still have one more card to play," Laura tells him.
Steele gives up. "Okay. Onwards."
A doorbell rings, and the coroner that Steele talked to earlier opens the door. "Yes?"
Laura is there, dressed as a courier, wearing glasses and chewing gum. "Dr. Rossfeld?"
"Federal Delivery Service. Sign here, please," she asks, handing him a clipboard and pen.
Rossfeld glances at his watch. "A little late for a delivery, isn't it?"
She shrugs. "You know our motto. On time, every time, all the time." She taps the board. "Line 26."
He takes the clipboard. "I have no idea what this could be. I'm not expecting anything."
Laura hands him the package. "Thanks."
She looks at the clipboard. "Excuse me, Dr. Rossfeld. I'm afraid I need your FULL signature. You just initialed this."
He sighs angrily and takes the clipboard to sign. "I've never heard of anything so silly in my entire life."
"Sorry. Company policy." She takes the clipboard. "Thank you very much. Sorry for the inconvenience. Night."
"Goodnight," Rossfeld says, closing the door. He opens the manila envelope and pulls out a book. Frowning, he shakes his head and puts it on the table. We see that the title is "Your VCR Buying Guide."
Steele and Laura enter his apartment. "Okay, try it," they hear Lester say.
"You got it," Mildred replies.
"Oh, Darn!" Lester says.
"Mildred?" Laura calls out.
Mildred and Lester come out, and Mildred tells Steele, "Whoever sold you that thing gave you the wrong manual."
"Fraid she's right," Lester agrees.
Steele takes the book. "Monroe."
Mildred looks at Laura, handing her a file. "I got that info on Dr. Rossfeld. Took some doing, too. Had to go to the Hall of Records, then to Rossfeld's bank, where a friend of mine helped me out because I-"
"Mildred," Laura prompts.
"Owns property in Reno, Tahoe, and the Virgin Islands. And cash accounts- you wouldn't believe!"
Steele grunts. "Dr. Rossfeld seems to be in someone's front pocket."
"That, or the coroner's office is one of the great undiscovered career opportunities," Mildred suggests.
Laura compares the signature she got from Rossfeld with the one on Lester's death certificate. "Dr. Rossfeld's signature on the death certificate is no forgery," she tells them.
"Looks like Dr. Rossfeld has to do a bit of explaining, doesn't he?" Steele muses.
"I think finally we're getting somewhere," Laura tells them. "Anything else, Mildred?"
"Yep. The Weil Mortuary building is currently owned by a company called Perennial Corporation."
"Okay," Laura decides, starting to pace. "Tomorrow, Mr. Steele will hit Rossfeld for some answers. I'll explore Perennial Corporation." Steele moves closer to the bedroom. "Mildred, you and Lester go to the obit department at the newspaper and look up the name Weil Mortuary in any listings over the last two years. Any obit with that name has got to be a phony. If there are any phony listings, find out if the subjects are still alive. If they are, I bet there's a common link with Lester-" she stops as she hears the theme from "Gone With the Wind" coming from the bedroom. Turning around, she finds that she's alone in the living room, throws her arms into the air, and follows the music into the bedroom.
Steele is laying on the floor in front of the TV, and Mildred is sitting on the bed. There's no picture on the TV, though. "Didn't you hear me?" Laura asks. "I just made a major break-through."
"So did we," Lester tells her, delighted. "We got sound!"
Laura stands there in silence.
The next day, Steele gets out of the limo at Monroe's warehouse. He finds Monroe, dressed in a tailored suit, looking very executive-ish, holding a clip board. "Mick. What are you doing here?" he asks.
"I've got a bone to pick with you," Steele says.
"The large screen wasn't to your liking."
"Oh, it's lovely. Although a picture would be even lovelier. As would the correct instruction manual."
"I'm going to have words with that manufacturer. You're the second customer this has happened to. It's good merchandise, but their quality control-"
"The instruction manual, Monroe."
"I'm going to do you one better, Mick. I'm sending my best man out, straightaway, to make your video heaven a reality."
"Forget about reality," Steele tells him. "Just get me a picture. Good day." He leaves.
"Good day," Monroe says.
A placard on a door reads, "Norman Maxwell. Broker, Financial Advisor".
Maxwell, a tall, dark haired, good looking man is on the phone. "Not only can you escort Miss Holt in, but you can hold all calls til she departs." He hangs up and goes to the door, straightening his shoulders before opening it. He lets Laura in. "Well. So, you've come to your sense and finally realized that I'm the only man for you."
"You're certainly the only broker for me," Laura tells him, smiling warmly. He gives her a hug. "It's good to see you, Norm."
"It's good to see you," he tells her. "Where have you been hiding lately?" he asks, leading her toward the desk. "Oh, don't tell me. You're playing hard to get. Well, it's working."
"Oh, I've been pounding the pavement as usual."
Norm sighs. "I have a sinking feeling in my gut this is not a social call, is it?" Laura smiles. "Sit," he says, then sees her seated before going to his own chair. "Now, tell me. How can I win back your heart?"
"Perennial Corporation," Laura says. "What do you know about it?"
"Quite a bit, actually. It's one of the glamour companies of the 80's. Fast food chain, life insurance company, twelve other businesses that are doing exceedingly well. I've got plenty of my clients in Perennial. And, as a matter of fact, I, myself, Mr. Conservative, have invested rather heavily in their stock. Why? What's your interest in Perennial?" he asks.
"I need to find out about a building they bought two years ago," she tells him.
"That's a bit unusual. Do you mind my asking why?"
Laura smiles at him. "I'm on a case."
"Always the professional. Well, listen, if you're really interested, I can arrange a meeting with Perennial's President, Phil Lydon. He and I went to business school together."
"That would be great, Laura tells him.
Norm picks up the phone and starts dialing. "Oh, and uh, don't worry, I'll find some way for you to return the favor."
Laura nods, smiling.
At the coroner's office Steele skulks around, kneeling to search through a cabinet. A young man comes in. "May I help you?" he asks.
Steele looks up at him, smiling. "Benton Whitely," he says. "London Coroner's Office." He gets up. "Here to compare notes with Dr. Rossfeld. Spoke to him this morning on the telephone."
"I doubt it," the man says.
"No concept of time," Steele apologizes. "Jet lag and all that-" he follows the man to a sheet draped autopsy table. "Must have been last night."
"Rossfeld got here a little early for your meeting," the man tells Steele, tossing back the sheet to reveal a very dead Dr. Rossfeld. "Hit and run," he says.
Steele looks at the body. "Are you a gambling man?" he asks.
"Eight to five you're looking for a black Ford," Steele tells him, pulling the sheet back up and leaving the room.
Steele enters the Agency reception and walks over to Mildred, asking, "Where's Miss Holt?"
"At Perennial Corp.," she explains. "What about Rossfeld?"
"Uh, making a final tour of the morgue," he tells her.
A neatly dressed older woman enters the Agency and walks up to Remington and asks, "Claire Johnson... You wanted to see me?"
Steele, a bit confused, says, "I did?"
Mildred quickly intervenes, explaining, "Oh, yeah," Mildred explains, intervening quickly. "The first of the dead people!"
"Ah, Mrs. Johnson, yes!" he declares excitedly. "Uh, sit down. Make yourself comfortable, will you? Thank you. Yeah."
"Seven to go," Mildred quietly tells him out of the corner of her mouth.
"Uh huh," he acknowledges.
Just then a young man enters the reception area. Seeing Remington, he smiles brightly and says, "Remington Steele?"
"Six," Steele informs Mildred with a smile. "Huh."
Laura enters Phil Lydon's office. He greets her. "Welcome, Miss Holt."
"Mr. Lydon, I appreciate your seeing me on such short notice."
"Well, frankly, I've never heard Norm Maxwell speak so glowingly of anyone in my life," he tells her. Laura blushes slightly at those words. "Please, have a seat."
"How about a drink?"
"No, thank you. I don't want to take that much of your time," she tells him. "This may sound strange, but I just want to find out why your company bought the Weil Mortuary building a few years back."
Lydon chuckles. "Is that why you're here? My gosh, I had all sorts of horrible delusions," he tells her. "After all, Norm told me that you're a private investigator-"
Laura laughs. "I just had some personal business to take care of at Weil, and when I got there I was told that it had been sold two years ago."
"Has it been two years, already?" Lydon muses.
"While I was there, I was ushered away by a man who was very evasive when I asked him what was going on in the building."
"That IS odd," Lydon agrees, then looks thoughtful. "We bought that building, along with two others on that block, as simple real estate investments."
"Well, there's certainly nothing mysterious about that," Laura agrees. "Do you happen to know what the women were doing in the building?"
"No idea," Lydon says. "But if it's important, I'll have someone check up on it."
"I'd appreciate that." She stands. "Thanks a lot for your time."
"What's this all about?" Lydon asks as they go to the door.
"As soon as I find out, I'll let you know," Laura assures him. They shake hands. "Thanks again."
"My pleasure." She leaves.
Lydon pours himself a drink as a side door opens and the man who warned Laura away from Weil Mortuary comes into the room. He and Lydon look toward the door through which Laura just left.
"That woman has become a liability we can't afford," the man says.
Lydon sighs regretfully.
In the office, which is filled with people, Steele is asking Lester about a woman. "You're sure you've never met before?"
"Absolutely not," Lester tells him. The woman shakes her head.
Mildred asks two men, "You fellas dress alike. Are you sure there's no connection?"
"Lady, I'm a salesman from Sacramento."
"I'm an attorney from Irvine," the other one says.
One of the other people ask another, "Say, weren't you in a Stanford production of "Oklahoma" six years ago?"
"Sorry. I went to Yale."
Laura enters and is stunned to see all of these people. "What in the name of-" She looks around. "Mildred?"
"Don't blame me," Mildred says. "You told me to look in the obituaries and locate anybody listed with the Weil Mortuary."
"I asked you to locate, Mildred, not corral."
"The Boss had me bring em in from all over. Chartered planes, limousines-"
"He's got them booked in a hotel on Wilshire until we find figure out what they have in common with Lester."
Laura looks to where Steele is talking to Lester, says, "Excuse me," to one of the men and goes to Steele. "I liked it a WHOLE lot better when you weren't so interested in this case," she tells him, grabbing his arm to drag him into his office. "Have you not heard of the conference call?" she asks him once they're alone. "Do you know how much money-"
He puts his hands on her shoulders. "Laura. Trust me. We are very close. Each person out there in that reception area had their obituary placed in the newspaper by Weil Mortuary. All we have to do now is figure out why."
"Why the sudden urgency?" Laura asks.
"Deputy coroner Rossfeld is no longer an employee at the morgue. He's a paying customer."
Laura's stunned. "Rossfeld's dead?"
"Hit and run," Steele tells her succinctly. "Tough coincidence, eh?"
"What have we stumbled into here?" Laura wonders.
"The List of Adrian Messenger. George C. Scott, Kirk Douglas, Universal, 1963. Fine film, incidentally. Available on video cassette."
"Never mind the sales pitch, just hit me with the plot."
"A number of names appear on a list with no apparent connection. Scott finds the connection, stops the killer."
"What's the connection?" Laura asks.
"They were all in a World War II prison camp together."
"Great," Laura says, starting to pace again.
"Yes. I'm afraid I ruled that out a few minutes ago." He turns to her. "Look, Laura, the eight people out there all share something in common. Something worth murdering for. It's out there, somewhere."
"We can only keep asking," he tells her. He smiles as they turn back to the reception area.
That evening, Steele and Lester are in the elevator en route to Steele's apartment. As Steele loosens his tie, Lester says, "Boy, I'm so tired of answering questions, I'm gonna drop right off tonight."
"Well, we'll hit it fresh in the morning," Steele tells him. "There has to be a connection between all of you." The elevator stops. "Here we go," Steele says. The doors open, and they step off the lift, stopping as they see a young black man using a lock pick on Steele's door. "Hey!" Steele calls.
"Lighten up, man," he says. "Monroe sent me." He puts the pick into the lock, and the door explodes, filling the hallway with smoke and debris.
Steele pulls Lester back into the elevator, and they drop to the floor until things are quiet. They look up to see Monroe's friend lying on the floor, dead.
Laura is about to put her key into the lock on her loft door, when someone says, "Hold it right there, Holt."
She turns, surprised, to find Norman, and she smiles. "Norman. What are you doing here?"
"You didn't think I was going to let you run in and out of my life so fast, did you? How was your meeting with Phil Lydon?"
"I'm not surprised. So. What do you say if you let me try to win back your heart over a cup of coffee?"
"I'd feel a lot better about it if I didn't think you were half-serious."
"It's funny. I thought after four years, I would have had you completely out of my system. Guess not."
"I'm committed," she tells him.
"Well, I guess we're destined to be- good friends. Dammit," he sighs.
"Fraid so," she says. She turns back to the lock.
"Uh, Laura, can a rejected suitor invite a very lovely lady out for a cup of coffee?" Norm asks, stopping her again.
Laura smiles and laughs. "Sure." They start for the stairway door, then she stops. "Oh wait a minute. I'll make you some."
"Fair enough," he tells her.
Laura goes to the door and puts the key into the lock. She slides the door open and is shocked to find Steele sitting on the arm of her sofa, looking dirty, tired and beaten. Laura comes into the loft, Norm lingers in the hall. "What happened to you?" Laura asks.
"The same thing that would have happened to you if I hadn't been able to jimmy your window open." He holds up an explosive device that he probably just removed from the door.
"Is Lester okay?" Laura asks cautiously.
"Yes. He's okay. He's just a bit shaken up. There's an eighteen year old kid who wasn't nearly so lucky. He got blown apart in my hallway."
Norm looks at Steele. "Excuse me-Everything okay in here?"
"I'm sorry," Laura says. "Norman Maxwell, Remington Steele." Steele stands and shakes Norm's hand, looking at Laura.
"How do you do?" Norm asks. "What happened to you?"
"Someone doesn't like the way we do business," Steele tells him, barely glancing at the other man, his are on eyes on Laura. "Look, Laura, we're not longer dealing with bogus death certificates and obituaries. The stakes just went up considerably." He seems to be still in a mild state of shock from the boy's death and the close call with Laura.
"None of this makes any sense," Laura says, coming to stand beside Steele.
"Uh, listen, Laura," Norm suggests, "haven't you had enough of this case? I mean, why don't you just call the police? Back off?"
Laura shakes her head. "Somehow I can't help thinking Perennial fits into this."
Norm is doubtful. "No, look, Laura, you're barking up the wrong tree," he says, moving between she and Steele. "I mean, Phil Lydon is my friend, for God's sakes." Steele glances at his watch, then scratches his ear as he moves slowly toward the door.
Laura watches him, then steps forward. "Where are you going?" she asks.
"Uh, I've booked us into a motel. Olympic and Bundy. Get there as soon as you can."
"What about you?" Laura asks, obviously concerned.
"I've just gotta make one stop," he tells her, and then is gone.
Monroe is reading when someone knocks at the door. He looks through the peephole, then opens the door. "Well," he tells Steele, "call me eccentric, but I think 11:30 in the evening is a bit late for business."
"Too late for a nightcap?" Steele asks.
"Well, it looks like you need more than that," Monroe comments, noticing Steele's clothing and the streaks of smoke and dust on his face. Steele comes in, and Monroe closes the door. "What's up, friend?"
Steele puts a hand on a chair, then starts trying to talk, clearly upset. "Uh, the young man you sent over- uh-"
"Rudy," Monroe supplies.
"He's dead, Monroe," Steele says. "Someone rigged a bomb to my front door, and um, he-he uh, Rudy was working the lock, and- Does uh- Does Rudy have any relatives that we should-?"
"I'll handle it," Monroe tells him, clearly shaken as well. "He was a good kid, Mick. Full of sass." He moves away. "Just like we used to be."
"I'm sorry. There was no warning."
"Doesn't make much sense, does it?" Monroe asks as Steele sits down tiredly. "All the chances we took, all the things we pulled. It should have been one of us, Mick. Not Rudy. Not an innocent kid." He sits. "Should have been one of us."
"Do you remember the old Frenchman on Barbados? The one who patched us up?"
"Do you remember what he said? 'I 'ave bad news, mes ami. You will live,'" Steele says with a French accent. "You couldn't stop laughing," he recalls. "Tore out some of your stitches."
"You didn't crack a smile," Monroe remembers.
"Because I saw another side of what he was saying. I knew then we were lucky. I mean really lucky. Dealt a few more aces than most people. But it's a mixed blessing, because sometimes those we wanna hold closest to us don't always have the same hand. And there's nothing we can do about it."
"Because we don't control the deck," Monroe realizes. "Whew. You're right. I felt that way, too. But there are ways we can even the score. Do you know who did this?"
"No, not yet."
"Well, I want to be there when you do."
Steele extends his hand, and Monroe takes it.
At the motel, Laura is sitting in the room when there's a knock on the door. She goes to the door. "Yeah?" she asks softly.
"It's me," Steele replies. She opens the door for him. "Hi."
"Hi," she replies, locking the door behind him.
He sits on the bed. "I just left Lester," he tells her. "He's sound asleep."
Laura joins him on the bed, hands clasped in her lap. Steele looks at her, then gets up. "Where are you going?" she asks.
"Just gonna turn down the air conditioning," he explains.
Laura nods. "Sorry." He adjusts it, then sits back down on the bed. "I guess I'm a bit jumpy," Laura tells him, standing up.
Steele pats the bed. "Sit down, sit down. Come on." She does. "I'll tell you one thing, I'm scared."
"You are?" she asks.
"Hell, yes. Murder. County officials on the take, falsified documents. I think I'd be more concerned about myself if I weren't scared."
"If only we knew what we were up against," Laura says.
"Yes. I mean, who would have guessed a sweet little old garlic farmer like Lester would take the lid off Pandora's box?"
Laura takes a deep breath. Steele looks at her for a moment, then takes one of her hands in both of his and moves closer to her. "Thanks," Laura says.
"For saving my life this afternoon. Being here." He looks at her. "For being you."
He smiles. "Laura, I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me." He moves closer and puts an arm around her. Laura rests her head on his shoulder.
The next morning, as they all sit in Steele's office, the attorney from Irvine says, "Can't we call it quits, Steele? Let's face it. There IS no common denominator."
"The natives are getting restless," Mildred points out.
"And we're running out of questions," Laura agrees. "Do all of you have life insurance?" Laura asks.
Steele looks at her. "This is what they call grasping at straws, Laura. We already know Lester doesn't."
"No," the first person says.
"So much for double indemnity," Steele says.
"I was so sure this had something to do with Perennial," Laura muses.
One of the men asks, "Is that Perennial the same as Perennial Life Insurance?"
"You bet," Mildred tells him. "Perennial Corporation owns Perennial Life."
"Is that the life insurance company you're with?" Laura asks him.
"Naturally," Steele says as he and Laura both sigh in frustration.
"But I almost went with em once, though," the man tells them. "As a matter of fact, I went as far as making out an application with 'em. Heck, it was ten pages long. But I moved out of the city and figured I should be with a company more in my neck of the woods."
"That's funny," Lester says, "I filled out an application for insurance in that company. But the premiums would have been too big," he tells Steele and Laura.
Laura looks at the others. "Listen, everybody. How many of you at some point in your life, filled out an application for life insurance with a company by the name of Perennial Life Insurance?" They all raise their hands. Laura turns to Steele, excited. "And I'll bet you anything that whatever those women were doing at Weil Mortuary had something to do with those applications."
"Yes. But what does that tell us, Laura? None of these people have been cheated out of any money," Steele points out.
"They weren't insured by Perennial," Mildred reminds her. "They never paid a single premium."
Laura's thoughtful. "We're close. We're close. We're getting VERY close. We just have to get a little-closer."
Mildred and Steele exchange a look.
Phil Lydon is looking over some papers when the phone rings. "Yes, Cathy? . . . Who? . . . You're kidding . . . I'll be right out." He goes into the reception area to find Steele and Monroe there. Monroe is handcuffed to Steele, and looks sullen.
"Philip Lydon?" Steele asks.
He holds up a wallet. "Detective Sanders. Do you own a black Mercedes, license PC-1?"
"Yes, I do," Lydon admits. "What's this about?":
Steele pours the contents of a leather bag onto the desk, revealing tapes. "I found this gentleman here inside your vehicle, if you'd like to accompany us downstairs, we can assess what else is missing."
"Say, dig it, man," Monroe insists, "There must be some kind of misunderstanding. There was another dude down there. You understand what I'm sayin?" he tries to say.
"Let's go, officer," Lydon says.
"Yeah," Steele agrees, pulling Monroe around toward the elevator. "Come on, buddy, let's go. Come on." A woman gets off the elevator as they start onto it, and Monroe pinches her bottom. Steele pushes him into the car. "Hey," Steele admonishes. Monroe laughs.
As the doors close, Laura, looking like an escapee from Woodstock, bandana tied around her head, round glasses and love beads, comes around the corner. She's carrying a watering can and basket. Approaching Lydon's secretary, she says, "Hello," in a strung out voice.
Cathy frowns. "Where's Sylvia?"
"Well, she's got the flu. May I, um," she motions with her hands.
"Be my guest," Cathy says, frowning over the tapes that Steele poured out onto the desk.
Laura wanders into Lydon's office, leaving her basket at the desk. Once there, she goes to the computer and accesses the system.
Monroe is telling his side of the story downstairs as Lydon examines the car. "So I sees this suspicious looking dude toyin' with the windows here, and I said, 'hey man, what you're doin' here's dishonest-"
"You're sure there was nothing else taken from your car, Mr. Lydon?" Steele asks, staring at Monroe.
"Yes," Lydon assures him.
"Of course, he would have taken the radio in another minute or two."
"Ah, no, man," Monroe objects. "You got me all wrong, jack! I was trying to stop the dude from taking the-"
"Mr. Lydon, I think we'd better go back upstairs to your office, pick up the evidence," Steele says, pulling Monroe away from the car. "Come on."
"Look, look, hey, man, I got my professional to think about, man!"
"Move it," Steele says. "Move it."
"My image! What you doin?"
Upstairs, Laura is still at the computer. "Come on," she mutters. "Come on. Come on." The computer beeps, and she snaps her fingers.
Hearing someone at the door, she rushes to a plant. Cathy comes in. "Sorry to bother you. I have a question about my fichus at home, and I thought maybe you could tell me what's wrong. The leaves are all sticky."
"Sticky leaves, huh," Laura muses.
"Yeah. It gets all over. I thought it was sap or something, but a friend of mine says its scales."
"I'll tell you what. As soon as I finish in here, I'll write down what you should do," Laura says with a smile.
"Thanks." Cathy leaves, and Laura rushes back over to the computer.
Another few keys, and the printer starts to work.
"Hello," the blonde man from the mortuary says, and Laura gasps.
Outside the office, Cathy helps Steele put the tapes back into the leather bag as Steele tells Lydon, "Naturally, I'm gonna have to ask you to come down to the station and swear out a complaint."
"Can't we just do it here and get it overwith?" Lydon asks.
"Sorry, sir, I don't make the rules. Come on," he tells Monroe. They start for the elevator.
"All right." Monroe stops. "You gonna be hearin' from my attorney, man!" he tells Lydon. "This is police brutality! Sucker!"
"Let's go," Steele says, pulling him along.
Lydon goes into his office.
Steele and Monroe get onto the elevator. He removes the cuffs. "Glad to see you haven't lost your touch," he tells Monroe.
Monroe laughs, but Steele suddenly spies Laura's basket beside the desk. "Laura's still in there!" he tells Monroe.
They run from the elevator, bursting into the office, running into Lydon, who's watching as his henchman threatens Laura.
Laura ducks away from the ensuing fight to go around to the printer and turn it back on. Monroe and Lydon tie up, while the blonde heavy takes on Steele. Then they change partners, and Laura winds up in the middle as she's waiting for the printout. When it finally finishes, she rips the paper from the machine and heads for the door.
Steele, with Lydon bent over the desk, Lydon's hand over his face, asks, "What should I do with these two?"
"You're playing the cop," she reminds him. "Arrest them!"
Monroe knocks his man out, and Steele does the same, then winces as his hand hurts from the blow. Out of breath, Monroe says, "I see you haven't lost your touch, either."
In Norman's office, he's looking over some papers as Laura watches. "This is unbelievable," he says.
"Do you understand what Perennial did?" she asks. "All I got from those records is that they made up fake policies on those eight people after they moved out of Los Angeles."
"That's just the tip of the iceberg. Perennial then sold the policies to these other companies. It's common practice, like banks with mortgages."
"So, Perennial made up bogus policies, sold them, and then killed off the policy holders by using forged documents?"
"The other insurance companies then paid death benefits to Perennial, expecting them to pass them along to the proper beneficiaries, but Perennial just- pocketed the money themselves."
"Bingo," Norman agrees. "We're talking fraud on a scale of tens of millions of dollars and nobody had a clue," he says, sounding angry.
"Until Lester Shane visited Los Angeles on the wrong day," Laura points out.
"Yeah." He stands up.
"What's the matter, Norman?" she asks.
"My good friend, Phil Lydon."
"I'm afraid his high flying days are over."
"So are mine," Norm says.
"I told you, Laura. I put all my money in Perennial. I put all my clients heavily into Perennial. When this item breaks, that stock is gonna be worthless. It'll ruin all of us."
Laura looks at him, clearly upset.
That night, Laura is on the balcony of Steele's apartment. He comes out, watching her, then pulls her to him from behind, his arm around her waist. She leans back on him, resting her head on his shoulder, her hand over his.
"Thinking of your friend, Maxwell?" he asks her.
"I don't know what I'd do if my world suddenly fell apart like that," she tells him.
"You'd go on. Because that's the only choice any of us ever have," Steele tells her.
The theme from "Gone With the Wind" fills the air, and Lester calls out, "We got picture!"
"And sound!" Mildred adds.
Laura looks up at Steele. "They've got picture," she says. "And sound." She smiles.
Steele looks at her. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," he as Laura turns into his arms. They kiss.