- Standing Steele
- Pulling a cigarette out from the front pocket of his uniform,
the young GI placed it between his lips and without lighting
it turned to squint into a hazy yellow sky. Two other soldiers,
sitting in the scant shadow of a tool box, rose to similarly
focus on a distant point above the horizon. Their hearing had
sharpened during their tour of duty in Viet Nam. They sensed
the chopper long before its sound materialized into the heavy
thwacking blades that blew dust and dry foliage into a funnel
of debris swirling about them.
- The three quickly tossed the box and their duffels through
the open door of the aircraft before agilely leaping in after
these. Settling themselves in the doorway, scuffed boots dangling,
the three saluted the beautiful yet terrifying landscape they
left behind them. While no marking on their uniforms or on the
helicopter which carried them away betrayed them as American,
there would be little doubt to any who saw them as to where they
were bound. They had survived. The journey stateside would take
several more days, but they had survived.
- Fifteen Years Later
- A crisp red, white and blue American flag snapped in the
breeze. A man of perhaps thirty sat leaning against the flagpole.
He stared unblinkingly at a photograph of six or seven children
grinning and clutching bowling balls nearly as big as themselves.
Brilliant azure seas stretched out endlessly far beneath the
man. The roar of the waves was muffled this far above the surf.
A slight click was easily audible. The harsh, sudden sound of
a single gunshot jarred the landscape. The man's hand fell to
his side and lay still.
- "Good morning, Mildred!" Steele sang out cheerfully
as he strode into the suite of offices which bore his name. "Miss
- Steele proceeded automatically toward his associate's office
rather than his own, and with his hand poised above the doorknob,
was abruptly stopped by Mildred's frantic motioning.
- "Mr. Steele!" Mildred hissed in a stage whisper.
"I wouldn't go in there if I were you. Miss Holt's on a
terror this morning - I don't think she's gonna appreciate you
- "Not to worry, Miss Krebs! I'm certain no matter how
busy Miss Holt is she will be delighted to find that I have arrived
to lend my expert assistance." Steele returned to Mildred's
desk, leaning over to rest his elbows on its surface as he fixed
his guileless blue eyes on the receptionist's face. "I hope
you realize that Miss Holt's work ethic is primarily self imposed.
It is never my intention to have either you or Laura work your
lovely fingers to the bone."
- "I kinda figured that, Chief. Miss Holt's a real self
starter. Today, though, I think something arrived in the mail
that sent her into all out attack mode. My personal feeling is
that at moments like this the best thing to do is lay low and
stay outta the way!"
- "Mildred, Miss Holt and I have forged a close personal
relationship during the time we have worked together. Hours spent
side by side on stake outs, unraveling complicated mysteries,
placing trust in one another for our very lives. Look at our
most recent cases! Facing treacherous gangsters while safeguarding
the children we transported to Arizona! Protecting Miss Holt's
brother-in-law from a deranged bullion trader! Miss Holt and
I are perfectly matched, two detectives, hurling ourselves into
the fray! "
- "Whatever you say, Boss," Mildred offered doubtfully.
- Steele's good humor had Mildred's vote, but there was little
Steele did that she didn't find utterly charming. She was less
certain about Miss Holt's reception of his effusive cheerfulness.
She shrugged and braced herself for the explosion she was sure
would follow Mr. Steele's disruption of Laura's work process.
- "Ah Miss Holt!" Steele boomed before the door swung
closed behind him. Mildred shook her head, smiling, and returned
to typing the files Miss Holt had already brought out for completion
- Upon entering Laura's office Steele received no reply to
his greeting, other than an upraised open hand, bidding him wait.
Taking full advantage of that invitation Steele leaned back against
the agency file cabinets, arms crossed, and pondered his lovely
- Laura's thick, long hair draped her delicate shoulders. Steele
smiled slightly as he thought of burying his hands in those chestnut
locks and pulling Laura's face close to his own. Her skin was
smooth and soft, lips only lightly colored. Though he was sure
she used cosmetics the application was terribly understated compared
to the women he had once kept company with. Dark lashes lay against
the faint blush of her cheek, her brown eyes intent on the document
across which her left hand pushed its even looping script.
- Sitting at work Laura was the picture of artless feminine
charm, an image which belied the strong, swift and determined
detective Steele knew to lie coiled within Laura's lithe frame.
- It had now been well over a year since Steele had entered
Laura's life. The fascination he held for this complex woman
had only increased during the time they had spent together. They
had fallen into a pattern of easy companionship, especially in
the year since Laura's co-worker Murphy Michaels had moved to
Spending days on casework, often dining together in the evening,
watching films or attending LA's social events on weekends; little
about their partnership was defined in so many words but rather
in the way words were not always needed. A meeting of their eyes
over a slow smile, leaning in for a lingering kiss at their partings,
sitting close in the limo and enjoying the electricity as their
- And though they had yet to move to the deeper physical intimacy
both had known in previous relationships, there was in a sense
a deeper intellectual intimacy that came from constancy. Laura's
quick wit and insight were oddly stimulating Steele mused as
he waited for Laura to acknowledge him. These elements, along
with his powerful physical attraction to her, defined his relationship
with her. Steele's thoughts found focus in film.
- "Holiday." Steele finally stated firmly.
- "What?" Momentarily distracted, Laura's brow puckered
as she processed Steele's single word. "Holiday?"
- "Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant - Columbia pictures?
- 1938. A charming movie in which Hepburn and Grant find themselves
inexplicably drawn to one another
" Steele offered,
looking up as if somehow to pull these details out of the ceiling
as he recalled them for Laura.
- "Mr. Steele," Laura interrupted, "I have work
to do here. If you aren't going to help with that work would
you mind reliving the films in your own office?"
- "Laura, really. Picture it! You as Katharine Hepburn,
myself as the dashing Cary Grant, seizing the pleasures each
day brings. What better than to take a break from your labors
and join me in a midday stroll in the sun, perhaps taking an
early lunch before returning to meet clients this afternoon.
What do you say, Miss Holt?" Steele strolled closer to Laura
as he spoke, leaning back against the inside edge of her desk
to smile at her, obstructing her view of the document she had
been so industriously working on.
- Pushing Steele firmly aside Laura countered with "I'd
say you've taken leave of your senses. I've got three more files
to finish this morning before preparing for a meeting with prospective
clients at three. Could you please find something useful to occupy
yourself with until that meeting?"
- "What are these?" Steele asked with curiosity,
picking up several photographs which had been shoved partially
beneath the blotter on Laura's desk.
- Laura pulled them out of Steele's hands precipitously. "Nothing
important. Frances volunteered to send new pictures of her children
and they arrived this morning. "
Steele gently took the photos back once again, standing just
behind Laura's shoulder so they could look at the pictures together.
"Ahh. Then these are your nieces and nephew."
- "Yes. Mindy
" Laura scowled a bit as she pointed
to each, "is almost eight, and little Laurie Beth is four.
And that's Danny. You'd think Frances would send photographs
where the children are actually smiling, or aware that they're
having their pictures taken. Mindy looks as if she's just sucked
on a lemon in this one and here Laurie Beth has her finger
- "Yes, well, none the less a handsome group!" Steele
turned to smile at Laura. "Danny looks a bit like you."
- "He looks like Frances." Laura said flatly, taking
the photos back from Steele once more. "All right, Mr. Steele.
Give me two more hours to work and I'll join you for a quick
lunch break so I can fill you in on our three o'clock. Perhaps
you could call and check on the Pillsbury Gallery opening?"
- "Excellent! And I'll make a reservation at Cleo's for
one, and order ahead. We'll walk right in and eat." Steele
leaned in to place a triumphant kiss on Laura's cheek before
walking to the door between their offices.
- Pushing the pictures under the blotter, Laura was immersed
in her work again when Steele turned before entering his office.
- Was there sorrow in Laura's eyes, a slight droop to her usually
crisp posture? Eyes narrowed, Steele stroked his lower lip with
his index finger before striding into his office and reaching
for his phone.
- Tucked into an out of the way corner at Cleo's, having briskly
briefed Steele on their 3 o'clock meeting Laura responded incredulously
to Steele's determined interest in a motor home trip.
- "You can't be serious about wanting to travel in a camper?!
That hardly comes close to your usual standards! You told me
you make a point of always moving UP in your expectations!"
Laura exclaimed in laughing disbelief.
- "Well, as you pointed out, a camper has the advantage
of being self contained - no exposure to strangers, and one can
explore the wide open spaces of your country's spectacular wilderness.
Believe me, Laura, I've spent nights in far worse places."
Steele answered. He looked up with a smile as a waiter approached
with a dessert he'd taken the liberty of arranging for when Laura
had left the table briefly.
- "Cha, cha, choc
" Laura stuttered as her deep
chocolate brown eyes widened.
- Reaching across to place a tiny bit of the sweet confection
on his fork, Steele held the bite close to Laura's mouth as his
own lips slid sideways in an amused grin. "Donald and I
had time to swap anecdotes while you and Frances were visiting.
It was quite illuminating. I heard quite a bit about the Holt
- Laura's eyes dropped to her lap, where her napkin was suddenly
twisted into a knot. The bit of double fudge brownie hovered
untouched near her lips. Steele drew the fork back to his own
plate. Laura seemed lost somewhere far from the crowded dining
- "Holt curse, hmmm?" Laura murmured at last, not
really speaking to Steele.
- Steele sat quietly, waiting as Laura wrestled with whatever
demons his words and morsel of chocolate had unleashed. Shadows
flitted across her lovely face as her eyes focused on the hapless
napkin in her hands. Leaning in toward Laura, Steele rested an
arm on the back of her chair.
- "You and your lovely sister are quite different, Laura,
even if you share certain qualities." Sliding his hand under
the thick hair he had admired earlier in the day, Steele's long
fingers found the nape of Laura's neck.
- Laura seemed to recover herself at his touch. Turning to
Steele with an unsteady smile she said quietly, "Frances
and I are more alike than I care to admit. We both avoid talking
about the things and the people who hurt us most."
- Steele's gaze never left Laura's face. His fingers found
a determined curl hiding under Laura's well-tamed tresses, and
he twined that curl pensively around one finger as he waited
for Laura to continue.
- "Danny is a carbon copy of our little brother, Teddy,
Mr. Steele." Laura finally said. "Frances never says
it, I never say it, and neither does my mother."
Laura turned to look at Steele head on.
- "Teddy drowned when he was nine years old. He was terrified
of the water. Teddy was terrified of a lot of things. I think
my father thought if he could encourage Teddy to play with the
waves he could help him get over his fears. Frances and Mother
were reading under an umbrella on the beach. My father and I
were in the ocean with Teddy, diving through the waves, enticing
him to join us. And then at one point we came up, looked back
around, and Teddy had just disappeared." Laura's spoke so
quietly Steele had to lean in to hear her.
- "Danny looks like the brother I lost."
- There had been little conversation between the detectives
following Laura's revelation at lunch. Steele had hardly known
what to say, and had simply stayed close to Laura, keeping one
hand comfortingly at the small of her back as they left the restaurant.
He had never known either brother or sister. How could he know
what it felt like to lose one?
- Following their return to Suite 1157, Laura had resumed her
competently professional demeanor as soon as she began questioning
their new clients.
- "So, Mr. Milton, you, Mr. Bishop and Mr. Jamison have
been meeting every five years since you served in Viet Nam together?"
- "That's right. We spent some of the worst days of our
lives together. Forms a sort of a bond, you know? We wanted to
keep up with one another after we got home
thought it was
important somehow, to stay part of one another's lives,"
Jeff Milton explained to Steele and Laura.
- "Those must have been trying times indeed," Steele
said to the two men, watching Laura as he spoke. "Comrades
become essential in such times."
- "It's been fifteen years since our tour of duty
you don't forget that time. No one else really understands what
we went through. Our meetings are important to all of us. Only
Skeeter - Steve Jamison - seems to have just disappeared. Phone
disconnected, letters come back 'address unknown.' Last heard
from him a little over a year ago, a quick phone call around
Christmas," Will Bishop said gruffly.
- "Skeeter never married, and his folks are both gone
now. Tried the Veteran's Administration, but they don't have
a line on him. Not sure where else to turn." Jeff shook
- "Mr. Steele is very resourceful, gentlemen. Though we
can't promise anything," Laura cautioned as she rose to
take Milton's and then Bishop's hand, "if you'll give us
a few days, we'll have a better idea of whether we can be of
- "Oh, here's a picture of the three of us back in sixty-nine.
Don't want to lose it - we each have one. That's Skeeter on the
left. He looks pretty much the same; hasn't put on a pound,"
Will said patting the sight bulge of his own stomach ruefully.
- "Let's have our secretary make a copy." Steele
smiled comfortingly at the men as he ushered them through his
office door toward reception.
- "'Apocalypse Now'? Frances Ford Coppola - 1979,"
Steele offered speculatively. "Or perhaps 'Coming Home'
with Jon Voigt and the controversial Jane Fonda, 1977 or 1978?
The trauma of war and the difficulty of fitting in to life back
home when one returns."
- "Mr. Steele, let's not jump to any conclusions about
Mr. Jamison's post Viet Nam experiences. Mr. Milton and Mr. Bishop
said Jamison worked with his father and mother at a Pasadena
bowling alley. That sounds peaceful enough." Laura paused
to look at Steele intently. "You didn't by any chance serve
- "No, no - didn't have that honor myself. Never cared
for guns. Nasty things. Tend to hurt people." Steele shook
his head slightly with distaste. "Besides, can you see me
- Laura smiled up at Steele as she thoughtfully straightened
his impeccable lapels. "No, and besides, your tailor would
never forgive you."
- Steele and Laura climbed out the open door of the limo to
look up at a dusty, unlit neon sign reading 'JAMISON'S BOWLING
- "Well, it certainly doesn't look as if Jamison's been
here in awhile," Laura said.
- "A little quieter than most bowling alleys." Steele
glanced about before using a pick to dispense with the lock.
Opening the door cautiously, he walked through it just ahead
- Laura's eyebrows rose as she walked past Steele. "You
frequent bowling alleys?"
- "Billiards is more up my alley, so to speak." Steele
smiled briefly at Laura before his eyes swept the room they had
- The old fashioned bowling alley was clearly deserted. Ball
racks stood empty behind faded plastic chairs. What little light
filtered in through high narrow window along the room's edges
illuminated the dust particles floating languidly above the quiet
- Steele and Laura walked slowly past the alleys and behind
the tall counter. Tired looking shoes were shoved into cubbies
under the counter. Steele picked up a monthly calendar of local
events from well over a year ago, abandoned next to an open and
empty cash register.
- "Familiar?" Laura asked as she turned from the
counter to gesture at a framed photograph hanging on the wall.
A beaming older couple stood proudly on either side of a uniformed
Steve Jamison. "That's Jamison - newly returned from Viet
Nam, I'd guess. He looks more like a student than a soldier."
- "Likely could have been," Steele said as he stepped
into a small glass walled room just beyond the counter.
- The office held a small desk, dusty, but neatly organized.
A narrow shelf on the wall behind the desk displayed several
bowling trophies and more photographs of Jamison and his parents
at various ages.
- The outside door creaked loudly. Laura pulled Steele down
next to the desk. They crouched in the small space, barely breathing,
as cautious footsteps approached.
- Just as Steele loosened Laura's grip on his arm, preparing
to meet whoever was approaching, a child's voice called out tentatively,
- Steele and Laura peered around the corner of the desk. A
young boy of about twelve stood in the doorway, clearly as startled
at the sight of them, also. Steele recovered first and rose swiftly,
reaching for Laura and helping her to her feet.
- "Yes, dear, you were right. Your ring must have rolled
the other way." Seeing the boy, Steele turned to him and
said, "Always fiddling with her wedding ring."
- "I told you so," Laura scolded, quickly joining
Steele in his ruse. "Harry here thought he saw it roll under
the desk. Sorry if we scared you."
- The boy looked disappointed. "I was hoping you were
Skeeter. Thought maybe he was back."
- "Skeeter? Oh - Mr. Jamison?" Steele asked the boy.
- "Yeah - the guy in that picture. He used to let me and
a whole bunch of us kids bowl for free." The boy looked
down at the ground as he kicked at a wadded up piece of paper.
"Then he just sort of disappeared. Place has been locked
up until today, when I saw the car out in front. Hey, how'd you
guys get in?"
- "Uhh, we live near here. Mr. Jamison gave us a key to
check on things while he was away." Laura cringed, uncomfortable
lying to a child. "You say Mr. Jamison lets you and your
friends hang out here? That's awfully nice of him."
- "It was. Haven't seen him in a long time now - maybe
since right after school started." The boy's shoulders drooped.
"Guess I better get going."
- "Of course." Casually Steele the questioned the
boy "Say - 'Skeeter' didn't happen let you know he was going
- "Nope. But he didn't talk all that much. We knew he'd
been in Nam and tried to get him to tell us war stories, but
he didn't want to - said he didn't really do much fighting."
- Steele and Laura walked the boy to the door. Once outside
he pulled a beat up bike from where it leaned against the bowling
- "So long," The boy offered sadly as he threw his
leg over the bike.
- "What's your name?" Steele asked. "When we
see Steve, we'll tell him to look you up."
- "Name's Andrew," the boy threw back over his shoulder
as he raced away. "Hope you find your ring."
- Steele turned back to Laura. "A bright lad. Don't believe
he bought our story for an instant. It would certainly be nice
to reunite Skeeter with his young friends again."
- "IF we find Jamison, Mr. Steele. I'm afraid we didn't
make much progress here. Call Mildred from the limo and see what
she can find out about the deed on this place," Laura said
as she began to stride purposefully toward the next door in the
strip of storefronts. "I'm going to call on a few of our
- Looking up at the sign for the bakery next to the bowling
alley, Steele called out, "Something in chocolate, Laura?"
- The plump, pleasant owner of the bakery was pleased to have
someone to visit with as she cleaned out the display case.
- "So you didn't really know Steve Jamison?" Laura
- "No, not really. I knew his mother pretty well. She
used to stop over to pick up rolls for the hot dogs they sold
at the bowling alley and then have a cup of coffee with me."
Her smile grew broader when Steele came in to join Laura. She
held out a tray of the things she had removed from the case.
"Care for a muffin? Can't sell them day old."
- "Thank you." Steele pulled off a piece of muffin,
popping it into his mouth. "Delicious!"
- "The Jamisons were real proud of their son, especially
when he served in the army," the woman continued. "He'd
only been back a year or so when she got sick. She and her husband
both passed away the same year
Care to take some with you?"
- "No, no. Couldn't possibly," Steele assured her
even as she began filling a paper sack with baked goods.
- "How long ago was it that the Jamisons, uh, passed away."
- "It's been a couple of years now. Tell you the truth,
I'm kinda glad the place closed down. There were a lot of sketchy
types coming and going after Lois and Bob died. Wasn't really
a safe place for the kids who hung around." The cheerful
little woman handed a bulging sack to Steele, winking at him.
"Here you go, Handsome. You could stand to put on a pound
- Steele drummed his fingers against his ribs self-consciously
as Laura rolled her eyes.
- "Thank you, Mrs. Kuchen. You've been very helpful,"
Laura said as she steered Steele out of the bakery.
- Once outside, she unfolded a crumpled piece of paper that
contained a phone number. Waving it in the air between them with
a conspiratorial look, she said, "Picked it up as we were
walking your little friend Andrew out of the bowling alley. It
was the only thing out of place in Skeeter's office - other than
- "Tell me again why we're heading off to the middle of
nowhere, Laura?" Steele asked as he and Laura sped along
Highway 5 north of the city, Steele gripping the armrest lightly
to stabilize himself against Laura's rapid maneuvers.
- "It's simple detective work. The phone number from the
paper on Jamison's office floor belonged to a real estate agent.
This agent sold Jamison a little piece of property with an ocean
view. We're heading up to check out that property - it should
be just ahead here," Laura explained crisply to Steele.
"Jamison still owns the bowling alley, but none of the utilities
have been paid in over a year. The city's getting ready to foreclose."
- As Laura and Steele pulled off onto a short drive that led
toward the ocean, a gunshot rang out. Brown eyes met blue, widening
in alarm. Laura wrenched the wheel, dirt flying as the Rabbit
groaned to a stop. Slipping quickly out of the car, Laura and
Steele bent low and ran in the direction of the shots, taking
cover in the sparse foliage along the road.
- A small rundown house came into view. Steele and Laura cautiously
approached the house from the back and staying close to its sun
bleached, peeling wall, cautiously crept around the corner. Between
the house and the ocean stretching out far below was a flagpole.
Leaning against it, a revolver in one hand, a liquor bottle in
the other sat a man, staring out over the water.
- Steele and Laura looked at one another just as the man raised
the revolver. Laura reached out her hand and began to form the
single word "NOOO
" when another shot rang out.
A tin can, sitting in a line with others, jumped into the air
and lay still. The man took a swig from the bottle.
- "Mr. Jamison?" Steele called out, preventing Laura
from moving out from behind the scant protection of the small
- There was no immediate response from the seated figure. Groggily
the man turned his whole body, looking puzzled.
- " 'Lo? Who's there?" Jamison, for indeed it was
he, slurred his words and peered blearily back at the spot where
the detectives stood watching him.
- "Could you possibly put the weapon down, Mr. Jamison?"
Steele requested politely.
- "Wha? Oh, sure. Sorry." Jamison put the revolver
down and stood up awkwardly. "Just shootin' cans. Who are
- "Remington Steele." Steele strode forward firmly,
moving the gun safely off to the side with a subtle movement
of his foot. "And my associate, Laura Holt."
- "So wha'cha doin' here?" Jamison asked, clearly
confused at the arrival of company.
- "Miss Holt and I are private detectives. Two of your
comrades in arms, Jeff Milton and Will Bishop, hired us to locate
you. You seem to have dropped out of sight and they're concerned
about you." Steele explained.
- "Oh. Yeah." Jamison's face fell. "I suppose
it's about time for me and Jeff and Will to meet."
- "Mr. Jamison," Laura said as she reached out to
rest her hand on Jamison's shoulder. "What are you doing
here? You abandoned your business and friends and neighbors who
care about you. Why did you leave Pasadena?"
- Skeeter Jamison paused and looked up at the brilliant colors
of the flag snapping at the top of the flagpole that overlooked
the Pacific Ocean. Slowly, he slid back down the flagpole to
sit at its base once more.
- "Ya' know," he began as he picked up a photograph
that lay near him, "when we were over in Nam, there was
always someone telling us what to do, where to go, when to move.
It ain't that simple back here."
- Laura gingerly picked up the revolver as Steele lowered himself
to sit near Jamison.
- "Sometimes it can help to talk to someone," he
offered, looking over at Jamison.
- "See, that's the thing. Don't know who to talk to. Folks
are gone now. I never had to run the business side of things.
Then there were all these kids coming to the bowling alley ev'yday
and some of 'em just not the right sort, types that use bad stuff
- drink, drugs - bad stuff. Couldn't stop 'em. I'm not exactly
a model citizen myself." Tears began to slide down Jamison's
sun burned face.