A Steele At Any Price
Transcribed from the episode written by:
Mitch Paradise
New Dialogue in RED

We begin with a view of the Conant Art Gallery, where the works of Joanne Pitkin are on display. There is an auction taking place. "Do I hear four hundred and thirty thousand? Four hundred and thirty thousand. Four hundred and twenty five thousand dollars once, four twenty five twice- Sold for four hundred twenty five thousand dollars to number twenty seven." As one auction ends, the auctioneer, who we will learn later to be the gallery owner, Clifford Conant, announces, "And now, a work by our local artist of the month, Joanne Pitkin." We focus on three people. The first is a middle aged man, dressed untidily. The second is a middle aged woman, thin, almost gaunt; the third is an oriental gentleman. All three appear bored, as if waiting for something. The canvas is tall, narrow, and comes to a point at the top. "Miss Pitkin seems to me to be an artist of unique and - unusual vision. While her work is still maturing, it is nonetheless emminently collectible. "This work, entitled 'Anxiety I', is one of the artist's most- complex visions." The painting looks as if someone simply splattered the canvas with paint. We focus now on two more players in the drama. A younger, blonde man with boyish features, wearing glasses and looking very nervous. Across the aisle sits an equally nervous young woman. "Shall we open the bidding at say- one thousand dollars?" The young woman raises her hand to bid. "I have one thousand. Who'll make it eleven hundred?" The middle aged man nods. "Eleven hundred. Now twelve." The young woman lifts her hand again, nodding. "Twelve hundred." Again the middle aged man nods, a bit more agitated now. "Thirteen hundred?" The woman looks at the younger man, hesitates, then raises her hand quickly. "Fourteen hundred," Conant says. Another nod. "Fifteen hundred?" Again, the young woman lifts her hand. "Sixteen hundred dollars." The oriental man looks at the older woman, who shifts her eyes to the middle aged man, who lifts his brows in Conant's direction. Conant shakes his head in angry frustration. "Sixteen hundred twice- Sold, for sixteen hundred dollars to-" The young woman is relieved, but finally lifts her number. "Number nine." She gets up and goes to the back room as her friend watches.

Later, he's still waiting for her, pacing the auction hall. He sits, checks his watch.


We next see him in the office of Remington Steele, now wearing a trench coat, no glasses, listening as Steele says, "They told you she paid for the painting and left."

"Right." Laura looks on, watching, drinking a cup of coffee.

"And you're sure Miss Donovan wouldn't have done this."

"Right." Steele is a bit frustrated with the abrupt answers.

"Mr. Walker," Laura tells him, rising to walk toward Steele, who goes to sit on the edge of his desk. "The Conant Gallery has practiced its share of felonies-Their prices are highway robbery, their arrogance is criminal, they should do hard time for some of the artists they represent- but kidnapping doesn't seem in their line."

"Maybe, maybe not."

Laura looks at Steele, at a loss. Steele prompts, "Go on?"

"Maybe, maybe not," Walker repeats. Laura moves around him, and Walker turns around, hitting her arm, causing her to spill coffee on the front of her blouse. "Uh, vinegar will take that right out as long as you get to it before it dries-" Laura nods, looks at Steele with a strange expression.

"You realize that's the longest sentence you've spoken since you walked through that door-"

Walker grins nervously. "Others talk, Rick Walker listens," he tells them with a smug look.

"You're not going to leave us in suspense on that one," Laura says.

"Molly and I are- investigative reporters. The L.A. Trib?"

"And you were investigatin' the gallery?" Rick nods.

"About what?" Laura asks.

"It's very hush hush."

Steele joins Laura to whisper, "You can tell us."

"Can't you just muscle Conant a bit?" Rick asks. "Shake him up?"

Laura is becoming angry. "You may have noticed the sign on the door? Remington Steele. NOT Sam Spade."

Rick's feature fall. "If anything happens to Molly, I'll never forgive myself."

Steele watches him, smiling slightly now. "That's not the longest answer you gave us, Mr. Walker, but it's certainly the most persuasive." Rick turns to look at him.

The Rabbit pulls up outside the Conant Art Gallery and Laura and Remington leave the car with the latter looking at an exhibition board set in the wall of the entrance. The board is promoting "Artist of the month" with a photograph of Joanne Pitkin and a sample of one of her paintings.
An unimpressed Steele questions, "Molly Donovan paid money for this woman's work?"
"For an expóse," points out Laura.
"Exposing what? A shocking lack of talent."
Laura laughs. "I didn't know you had such definite opinions about," she pauses as she looks at the painting again, "*art*."
"Laura. Must I remind you that only a couple of years ago I was appropriating the finest works in Europe."
Laura loses her smile. "I do my best to forget that." She looks to the driveway by the gallery as Joanne Pitkin puts a large canvas in her car. "The artist herself. Nice wheels for a struggling artist, hey?"
"Makes you wonder who she's been struggling with."
"Perhaps I should look into that one. Do you think you can penetrate this *bastion* of culture alone." Laura points to the gallery.
"Oh, of course. Laura you've changed my life. I'm actually looking forward to going through the front door." Laura smiles and puts a hand on his shoulder as he walks up the steps and she walks to Joanne Pitkin.

Steele approaches the front doors of the Conant Gallery. He's distracted as the door opens, and he runs into the middle aged man. "Sorry. My fault," he apologizes. The man grunts, leaving. Steele starts in, then pauses, watching the man, a look of recognition on his face.

In Conant's office, the man says, "Mr. Steele, I think what we're dealing with here is a lover's - misunderstanding. I suspect Miss Donovan may have gotten- carried away."

"I suspect the same thing," Steele says solemnly.

"With her purchase."

"The Pitkin?" Steele questions.

"The Pitkin. Molly Donovan is only the third string art critic for the Tribune." You can see Steele file that information away. "But she obviously has an eye for talent. It must have cost her a month's salary to buy 'Anxiety 1'."

"I certainly hope that's the only anxiety she bought."

"Mr. Steele, this conversation is becoming pointless."


In another office, t
he Oriental man we saw earlier at the auction is in a room with one of
Conant's assistants. "Who is this Remington Steele?" he asks.
"No one, Mr. Asuda," the assistant assures him. "A buyer."
"What does he buy?" Isuto asks.
"Nothing you would be interested in, Sir."
"You know what I'm interested in. Now, I have PAID my deposit. You tell Conant this delay is bad for my blood pressure. And HIS."

The middle aged woman speaks from the door. "Give him a message from me, too." The assistant rises, nervous.

"Mrs. Haddon. I- didn't hear you come in."

"Remind him of the Venice Art Festival."

"The one that -" the assistant begins.

"Ended so tragically," she confirms. "I contracted to purchase a rather unique Ruebens," she tells the Oriental. "But the young man entrusted to deliver it, thought he could obtain a better price elsewhere. All those canals," she sighs. "They never DID find the body."

"I'll- pass it on," the assistant says.


Laura follows a car into a walled estate in what looks like Bel Air. She gets out as the driver of the car, Joanne Pitkin waits, curious. "Miss Pitkin."

"How did you find me here?" Joanne asks.

"It's part of my job. I'm Laura Holt, Art Insight magazine?"

Joanne is flustered. "OOh. Art Insight. Honey, you people are heavy. HEAVY. Even Cliff Conant doesn't understand your articles."

"We do believe that obscureness IS the avenue towards revelation with a sharp left turn, of course at referential analysis."

"Yeah," Joanne agrees, obviously out of her depth. "Art Insight is interested in me?"

"A profile. Perhaps, five or six pages - the possibility of a cover - You do seem to be prospering," she points out, indicating the HUGE house behind them.

"Oh, that. Well, we all have our prisions," she says in a long suffering voice.

"In your bio, it says that you live in a garret in Hermosa Beach?"

Joanne laughs nervously, "Sounds better. Besides, Hermosa Beach," she confides, placing a hand to her chest, over her heart, "is in here. Did you say - COVER?"

Laura shrugs. "After all, we gave one to Picasso," she points out, smiling.

"Listen. Why don't you come on inside? Have a drink. Stay for dinner- Stay the month-", Joanne enthuses, delighted to have someone like Art Insight interested in her work. They move toward the house.


At the gallery, Molly Donovan is tied to a chair on the stage, looking a little ragged and frightened. Conant's two men are setting up an amplifier next to her. One of them brings a michropone to Conant. "Who are you working for, Miss Donovan?" he asks.

"No one," she insists.

"Then why did you bid so relentlessly for "Anxiety 1"?" he asks.

"Well, I told you. I like Pitkins."

Conant laughs without mirth. "A woman with your eye, your critical judgement? You wouldn't hang a Pitkin in your broom closet."

"That's what they used to say about the impressionists," Molly says.

"Perhaps some Tchaikovsky would help. The 18 12 Overture. The brass is so effective." The two men plug a set of headphones into the amp, place a tape into it, and turn it on. You can alread hear the music as the man places the phones on Molly. She looks slightly relieved-until Conant motions for the man to turn up the volume. Molly winces. Conant motions to lower the volume, and speaks into the mike. "Now, then. Let's try again. Why did you bid for the Pitkin?"

"Why shouldn't I bid for the Pitkin, Mr. Conant?" she asks. Conant lifts his hand again, and the volume comes back up. Molly winces, in pain, then lifts her head to glare at Conant.


At Joanne's she pours glasses of wine for herself and Laura. Laura examines the studio as Joanne tells her, "Clifford Conant changed my life. I'd bought things from him for years. The Rusianberg in the living room, the Pollack in the study- the Cezanne in the powder room-"

"Oh. A Cezanne in the powder room. How nice for your guests."

"Well, you have to look at something," Joanne insists. "Anyway," she continues as they look at one of her works, "When Pitkin and I went bad, I just-"

"Your husband?"

"My ex. Pitkin's Pizza Palattzos? Eight hundred and sixty three franchises, all across the country. How can Murray see Joanne if his head was in pepperoni? Anyway, once Pitkin and I went kaput, I liberated myself and my easel. I put myself on the line," she exclaims, indicating her work. "I plumbed my depths."

"Well, you did an excellent job, Ms. Pitkin," Laura declares, looking at the canvases. "This is a fine example of- uh- plumbing." She laughs.

"I'm free! Free of this- *prison* Pitkin has trapped me in! I paint whatever I want, however I want- Just as long as I paint on Cliff's can-vas-es," she stumbles, realizing belatedly that she probably shouldn't have said that. Laura looks at her curiously. "I have to paint to certain sizes," she explains. "I guess that sounds hackneyed, commercial."

Laura is thoughtful. "Mr. Conant provides you with these- canvases?" she asks, picking one up to examine it carefully.

"Off the record?"

"Oh, of course."

"Cliff's - got this thing about- shapes. Dimensions. He's very specific. Every man's got his kinks, right? At least Cliff's are putting me on the art map. What did I get after eighteen years of Pitkin's kinks? Carpools."


Back at the office, Steele is using a hand exerciser as Laura tells him, "She told me she's just completed a 46X54, a 24X30, and a 60X 20 that comes to a point at the top." She puts her hand together in example.

Steele looks at her. "A 60X20?" he asks, putting his hands into a point as well. She nods. "Well, well, well. What do you know? That IS a coincidence."

Laura takes the exerciser. "Well, although I'll admit it is a rather odd size, it does seem to hold a great deal more significance for you than for me-"

She hands the exerciser back. "As I remember, those were the dimensions of a panel that was stolen from the Bordeaux Tryptic-" Laura looks horrified as he moves away, and grabs his arm.

"You didn't."

"Of course not," he assures her, and Laura turns away.

"Oh, thank god."

"I got there too late."

Laura lifts her hands in resignation. She starts to say something, then changes it. "How much is it worth?"

"To the right buyer, millions."

"Now who would want to pay millions for a stolen old master? I mean, what's the thrill of sitting alone, in a locked room, looking at a painting you can't show anyone else?"

"I've known people who have achieved an almost sexual satisfaction because they possessed something the rest of the world couldn't have. No matter how secret they had to keep their treasure."

"I've been wondering where these Pitkins fit in- only it's the other way around. The old masters fit in the Pitkin."

Steele nods, fastening his cuffs. "Quite possibly. And should they leave the country, customs is provided with documents from one of our most prestigious galleries, authenticating-"

"A Pitkin," Laura finishes. The intercom buzzes, and Laura picks it up. "Be gentle with him, Inspector Krebs."


In the outer office, Mildred hangs up the phone as she smiles at Rick. He's still wearing the trenchcoat. "They got something?" he asks.

"A few questions first, Mr. Walker."


"How do I get a bourbon stain out of my living room carpet? And I've got a hole in a tweed skirt that I would LOVE to reweave-and my houseplants are just dying on the vine."

Rick looks frightened, then resigned. "How'd you find out?" he asks.

"They sent me to the Trib to check you out."

"Why? What gave me away?"

"I think it was the trenchcoat," Mildred tells him, chuckling. "And when Mr. Steele learned that Miss Donovan is an art critic-"

"You found out who I am." He takes off the coat. "Helpful Harriet, the Homemaker's Friend. The Housewife's Kierkegaard."

Steele opens his door. "Come in, Rick," he says.

"Richie," he corrects.

Steele glances at him again, the goes into the office. Once inside, they sit Richie down. He's now wearing glasses. "Okay," he tells them. "So I WANTED to be an investigative reporter. Molly knew that. So when she said she was onto something hot- I - put up the money for her to bid on the Pitkin."

"Why didn't she tell you WHAT was so hot?"

"Be honest, Miss Holt. Would you tell a wimp like me?"

"Walker, old man-"

"Call me Richie. Please. Makes me feel clean again."

"Was Miss Donovan interested in any special school of painting?"

"Like what?"

Steele looks at Laura. "Landscaping painting, genre painting, -stolen paintings?"

"She was. She was kind of interested in stolen paintings. She was always clipping out news items about them. Said she was going to write an article on- missing old masters." Laura's brows lift in Steele's direction. "Joanne Pitkin is NOT an old master," he laughs.

"We feel that her work is- very close to several of them."

"Look, just how deeply is Molly into this?" he asks, worried. "I mean, could they have- killed her?"

"No, I doubt that, Richie. Mr. Conant wouldn't do anything irreversible until he was absolutely sure he knew what she was up to."

"It's even possible that he's keeping her in the gallery."

Richie gets up. "Then let's storm the joint!"

Steele puts a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back to his chair. "Well, uh, given the delicate nature of the mission, I think it best if only the more- experienced of us should go."

"You?" Laura asks.

"Who else?" he responds.

Laura gets off the desk. "Would you excuse us just for a moment, please?" she asks Richie, heading toward her office door, smiling tightly. "Mr. Steele- Please." She opens the door. "After you." Inside her office, Laura tells him, "You're awfully anxious to get into that gallery."

"A woman's life is at stake."

"Is that the only thing you're interested in rescuing?" she asks, running a finger up his lapel as he looks surprised.

"Why, whatever do you mean?" he asks.

"The one that got away? That panel from the Bordeaux Tryptic?"

"Laura. I'm shocked, hurt, and indigant that you should entertain such a thought."

"Then you won't mind I came along, acted as your back up- your lookout-"

"Conscience?" he suggests.

"Why, Mr. Steele. Whatever do you mean?" She turns back toward his office. He follows.


Late that night, the limo drops Steele and Laura, both clad in black clothing and carrying a bag, at the alley behind the gallery. Steele tells Fred, "Come back in twenty minutes and try to look inconspicuous, okay?"

They turn toward the gallery as Fred drives off. In the alley, Laura takes the lock pick and goes to the door as Steele pulls a gun fired grappling hook and rope from the bag. He fires the grappling hook to the roof, making sure it's secure. Laura watches, ready. Steele attaches a climbing apparatus to the rope and starts up the rope to the alarm box near the roof. He opens it, removes a circut, then whispers to Laura, "Try the door."

She uses the picks, holding her breath until it opens slightly with no alarm. He slides down the rope and joins her. "I'm relieved to see you haven't lost your touch," she admits.

"Thank you," he tells her, then bends down.

"Well," Laura says, looking at the door, "Let's get to it."

"Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh," he cautions, standing up to hand out a black ski mask. "We could be on candid camrea. And although we're here on a mission of mercy, I don't think the police would appreciate our methods."

Laura puts her hair under her sweater, and chuckles. "Mr. Steele. You think of everything." She puts on the masks as he does.

"An ounce of prevention, Miss Holt," he reminds her.

They enter the building, not realizing that Conant's two henchmen are in the office. One sits up when he looks at the monitors. "Ron," he says. Both men stand and take a gun from the desk, then start after the intruders.


In an office, Laura and Steele are searching. He finds a cardboard square. "Didn't Walker say Molly's number was nine?"

Laura takes it. "Well, at least we know she was here."

"Perhaps they simply moved her to another room," Steele says, and they turn toward the door. They hear a noise, and they watch as the two men come through the lower floor gallery. Laura ducks, following Steele as he searches for a way out.

The men come upstairs, and entering the room, they see what they think is someone's head with a ski mask on it. They shoot, destroying the plaster head. Steele and Laura push a cabinet over on them, making their escape. In Conant's office, Laura enters at a near run, Steele behind her.

"Laura, would you slow down? We're not trying to do a fifty yard dash, you know." Steele shines his light around. "She's not here. Let's go."

"But don't you see?" Laura hisses, stopping him. "If Conant had those two working the night shift, he must obviously be sitting on something-"

"Laura, we have been through every room in the building."

"Pitkins. We need Pitkins," she decides, moving around the office as Steele sits down.

"Whatever happened to my conscience?" he asks, trying to catch his breath.

"We'll simply borrow a few Pitkins and trade them for Molly," she tells him, searching. "They've gotta be here somewhere-" Steele shines his light on her. "Where would you hide a five foot painting that comes to a point at the top?"

"Laura, I'll admit I've been trying to lead you astray, but this is not quite the direction that I had in mind."

Laura stops, smiles. "The BATHROOM!"

"I know you're excited, but can't you wait till we get home?"

"You've got to look at SOMEthing!" she tells him, moving past him to the restroom. Steele follows, muttering to himself. In the bath, Laura is estatic as she finds the three Pitkins she's looking for. She picks up the Panel and kisses it.

Steele glances at the toilet against which the painting was resting. "Do you suppose he's making a critical comment, do you?"

Laura hands him two of the paintings. "Let's go. One. Two, Three-"


At Steele's apartment, a jubilant Laura uncorks a bottle of champagne, laughing delightedly, singing as she pours three glasses. "You and the night and the music, Fill me with FLAMING desire. Setting my being completely- on FIRE!" she stands beside Steele as he painstakingly removes the backs of the canvases.

"Thank you," he tells her when she sets his glass down. He removes the first one, revealing a portrait. "Rembrandt," he tells them. "Stolen from a Belgian museum."

Laura laughs. "Why stop at three? He must have a whole museum hidden in that gallery!"

"I'd call this a fair night's work," Steel agrees, handing the painting to Richie, and picking up his glass.

"Fair?" Laura questions. "I'd call it FANTASTIC!" she tells him, touching her glass to his as he eyes her uncertainly. "You and the night and the music-" she begins again, moving behind the sofa.

"You seem awfully - up, Miss Holt," Richie notes.

"Why shouldn't I be?" Laura asks. "Mr. Steele's opened up a whole new aspect of our work for me." She sits on the back of the sofa.

"Stealing?" Richie questions as Steele works on the next painting.

"I prefer to think of it as - purloining," she tells him, smiling.

"Even though it's in a good cause, should you be quite so happy about it? I mean - you ARE a private detective."

"Oh, believe me, after a while, it gets just as predictable as any other job. Find a body, find some clues, find the killer." She takes a sip of champagne.

Steele looks at her. "Ah, yes. By the time afternoon rolls around, we're watching the clock like everyone else." He removes the backing, and Laura is in raptures as she looks at the painting he's revealed. "Monet. Taken from the private collection of a Parisan banker." He puts it with the other. "I think we're gonna need a top notch forger for this, Laura."

"Forger?" Richie asks.

"You don't think I'm going to hand the originals back to Conant, do you? I'll wager there's a hefty finder's fee for each one of these little beauties," he says.

Laura smiles. "Mr. Steele is VERY big on finder's fees," she explains to Richie.

"But- I thought we were gonna trade them for Molly?"

"We are. Only we're going to substitute copies for the originals."

"Couldn't that be dangerous? Palming off fakes on a man like Conant? Not that I'm a coward-"

"We understand, Richie."

"I'm gonna take a walk," he decides. "Clear my head." Once the door closes, Laura sits beside Steele as he loosens the cover of the panel.

"I'm beginning to understand why you did it," she tells him.

"Did what?" he asks, concentrating on his task.

"What you did," she says, resting her chin on his shoulder. He glances at her.

"Oh, that." She starts kissing his neck. "Laura, please. This is painstaking enough without that sort of distraction."

"Oh, my heart's going a mile a minute. I can't seem to stop it. The rush is INCREDIBLE!" He removes the covering, revealing the painting. Laura gasps as Steele is stunned.

"The Bordeaux Panel," he tells her. "I finally feel as though I'm holding a woman I've been after all my life," he sighs.

"Conant's giving a party tomorrow," Laura tells him. "In honor of Joanne Pitkin. She invited me." She laughs. "I think we stole his appetizers."

"Sounds like the perfect setting for a swap meet," Steele decides.

"How VERY bold you are, Mr. Steele," she says. Steele smiles. She moves closer. "How would you like to hold another woman you've been waiting for?" she asks, kissing him. They lean back on the couch, the kiss lengthening.

"And they say crime doesn't pay," Steele tells her when the kiss ends.

"It does tonight," Laura assures him, and they start to kiss again, only to freeze and move apart as the door opens and Richie returns.

"I'm really not a coward," he insists. "I'm just- overly cautious." He sits down, too obtuse to realize that he interrupted something.


The next morning, a short, nervous little man sits waiting in the offices. He finally gets up and asks Mildred, "Did Miss Holt say why she wanted to see me?"

"No, Mr. Grummand, she didn't."

"She been getting any -calls about me?"

"Not that I know of. Who exactly are you?" she asks.

"She didn't tell you?"

"No, she didn't." Laura comes into the office, still humming that song, smiling.

"Hello, Mildred. Louis," She says, taking the man's hand. "It's so nice to see you again."

"You mean that, Miss Holt?"

"I certainly do," she says, pointing toward her office. "Come in. Come in." Mildred's totally lost.

In Laura's office, she's still smiling, and closes the door, placing her hand on it. "I- uh, don't know what's up, Miss Holt, but I'm straight. I go to work from nine to six every day- at a GREETING card company."

"I know, Louis. I get a little thrill of pride every time I read your probation reports." She puts an arm around his shoulders. "But- cutting to the point, is there a way I could- BEND you? Just a little."

"Miss Holt. You?"

"I'm not even going to try to explain," she says. "Three pictures- are worth a THOUSAND words." She leads him to a wall, and turns over the paintings. "One, two and three."

Louis is enraptured. "Do you have any idea what this means to me? Do you have any idea what I'm feeling? Just to look at these. To see those - colours. Those brushstrokes. That unmistakable signs of genious-"

"Believe me, if it weren't a matter of life and death - I'd never ask you this - Do you think you can reproduce them?"

"You want ME to reproduce these?"


"I don't know why. These are three of the finest forgeries I've ever seen-"

Laura's smile is gone. "Forgeries?"


At Conant's Joanne is holding court. "You see, I paint what I feel, and well, I feel what I paint." Conant turns from watching her, scanning the crowd with a frown on his face.

He joins the three people who bid on the Pitkin. The middle aged man complains. "I don't see my Pitkin on display."

Conant laughs. "You don't think I'd display your Pitkin."

"Or mine?" the Oriental man asks.

"There are Pitkins for the peasants, and Pitkins for the connessuiers," he informs them. "After tomorrow's auction, your Pitkins will all be safely in your hands." He sees Steele and Richie arriving.

Mrs. Haddon tells him, "That's so reassuring, Clifford." She takes his arm. "It would distress me no end to see a repeat of what happend in Venice." Clifford looks nervous. "That poor young man died so badly. I could barely finish dinner," she tells him.

Conant pats her hand. "Your concern for my well being touches me, Monica. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really SHOULD mingle." He moves away and goes to where Steele and Richie are standing. "I don't recall extending an invitation to you, Mr. Steele, but then you have a - bothersome habit of intruding where you're not wanted."

"How else would I discover the finer things in life?" Steele asks. "May I present Richard Walker, a very great friend of Molly Donovan's?"

"I'm afraid there's nothing here for you," Conant insists.

Steele reaches into his pocket and takes out some photos. "Then it's fortunate I brought my own exhibit." He gives the photos to Conant. Laura and the Monet, Richie and the Rembrandt, Steele and the panel.

"I had no idea you were such a resourceful- collector, Mr. Steele," Conant says, handing the photos back. "They're worth a king's ransom."

Steele puts the photos back into his pocket. "We'll settle for Molly Donovan."

"Frankly, that's a trade I would be more than willing to make- if I knew where Miss Donovan was-"

Richie is angry. "You're lying! You KNOW you're lying!" he goes for Conant, but Steele pulls him back.

"Easy, Richard. Easy, easy. You're in far too refined a company."

Conant glares at them. "I'll find a security guard to help you on your way." He moves off.

Steele is looking across the grounds as Richie says, "He's cool, I'll give him that."

"What say we build a little fire under him, ey?" Steele asks. Richie looks at him. "I wonder how Mr. Conant would react if- having stolen his old masters -" he looks to where Monica and her friends are gathered. "We also stole his buyers?"

"You know something? The more I'm with you and Miss Holt, the more I hate being a coward."

"We have to do something to pressure him into releasing Molly. Come along, Richie. Let's work the room." They approach the treacherous trio. "Mr. Snyderman," Steele says.


"I thought you looked familiar when I bumped into you the other day. "Vic Snyderman," he tells Richie. "He buys for European collectors. Also writes book on the Rennisance. Rennisance paintings, Rennisance sculptures-" He picks up a glass of champagne. "Thank you."

"Rennisance POISONS," Snyderman says.

"Quite a tasty volume," Steele says, glancing at the Oriental. "And this gentleman is Koji Isuto. He works the Far East. No one's ever been quite sure how he gets what he's after."

"But I never come back empty handed," Koji says, smiling nervously.

"And last but not least, Monica Haddon. She represents certain English eccentric collectors. She once told someone that murder's the only truly erotic experience."

"Have we met?" Monica asks.

"Not officially. But we WERE in Venice at the same time. The young man with the Ruebens was on his way to see me when he - uh - lost his footing and disappeared in a canal?"

"We were just discussing that tragedy."

"Yes. I'm sure it still haunts all of us today, even."

"What brings you to this exhibition, Mr-" Snyderman asks.

"I should imagine the same thing that brought all of you here," Steele says, sidestepping giving his name. "An insatiable craving for- Pitkins."

"We have all the Pitkins we need," Monica tells him.

Steele brings out the photos. "These are from Mr. Conant's PRIVATE collection." Laura comes down the stairs at a run, looking for Steele. She sees him with the trio, showing the photos, and rushes in that direction. "They do leave one rather speechless, don't they?" he asks them, then takes the photos. "Thank you."

"We already paid Mr. Conant a substantial deposit for these," Monica informs him.

Snyderman adds, "And our employers don't relish the idea of paying for the same mechandise- twice."

Laura is rushing toward Steele when Joanne Pitkin grabs her. "Miss Holt!" she turns to the man she's with. "This is Laura Holt of Art Insight Magazine," she says. Laura finds he hand held tightly by the man, preventing her from leaving.

"LOVED your article on the ashcan school," he says.

"Well, I may be researching there any minute- if you'll excuse me-" She takes off, waving at Steele to get his attention. he doesn't see her at first.

"I've already prided myself on not being a greedy man. So why don't you simply pay me the rest of what you were gonna pay Conant, ey?" He sees Laura waving, and lifts his glass, smiling, pleased with himself. Laura tries to warn him. He's too caught up in his scheme. "Then it's settled. Tonight? My apartment, eight o'clock?" Laura shakes her head.

Monica tells him, "Let's hope this turns out better than Venice." She places a hand on his chest. "For ALL concerned." She and her friends move off.

Steele finishes his champagne as Laura runs up to him, pulling the glass from his mouth. "Tell me you didn't offer them the paintings."

"He was brilliant, Miss Holt. Had em eating out of the palm of his hand."

"You offered them the paintings."

"They practically devoured them," Steele gloats.

"That's not ALL they're going to devour," Laura says. "My foray into burgling? It netted us three FORGERIES."

"Forgeries?" Richie asks.

"Forgeries?" Steele questions.

"Forgeries," Larua confirms. They turn to see Conant smiling, lifting a glass to champagne in their direction. Steele has a very sour expression on his face as he realizes he's been had.


At the office, Steele is pacing, using the hand exerciser again. Laura has another. "Conant has Molly," Steele says.

"And he has the original old masters," Laura points out.

"And he has us selling fakes to three people who would kill us just to keep their reputations intact."

"How can he hope to pass off fakes to experts like Snyderman?"

"Oh, no doubt he was going to show them the originals, then- ship the copies."

"And keep the originals in his OWN locked room? That's a wrinkle on a wrinkle."

"I suppose when you deal long enough with the kinky rich, you decide it's stylish to ape them."

"If we're going to save Molly's skin, not to mention our own - we have GOT to find out where these originals are."

"Yes. Where do we look?" Steele muses.

Laura smiles widely. "The gallery! We'll knock over the gallery again!" Steele looks at her.


In Mildred's office, she doing paperwork as Richie paces. "What's taking them so long?" he asks at last.

"Oh, they're at their BEST at this point in a case. They're cool, logical, working out their next move in a professional manner."

From inside the office, Steele yells, "Have you gone bizzerk?!"

Mildred laughs nervously. "They're getting close."

Laura replies, "Well, YOU haven't come up with anything that makes sense!"

"Very close," Mildred tries to reassure Richie. "I can tell."


Back in the office, Steele and Laura are toe to toe. "I don't want to dim your new- found passion for theiving, but Conant is much too clever to keep the originals in his gallery after our PREVIOUS visit!"

She slaps the exerciser onto his chest, angry.


Richie shakes his head. "I wish I were back at the Trib, sitting in my ugly, windowless little cubby hole, and Molly would be back at HER desk - It wasn't such a bad life. Dull, pointless, no future. But it was SAFE." He sits on a ledge. "I'd give anything if we were eating stale sandwiches out of the vending machine, or putting anonymous complaints in the suggestion box. But no. I wanted adventure."

"We're all entitled to new horizons," Mildred tells him.

"You think so?"

"ABSOLUTELY. How do you think I wound up here? I know it's tough to believe, but I wasn't always a hard bitten dick, ready to lay my life on the line for a hundred a day plus expenses. Oh, no. I seized the moment. I grabbed my destiny and I ran with it! That's what you oughta do, Richie."

"Yeah, well, I'll grab my destiny right after we find Molly."

"That won't be long now," Mildred tells him. "You hear that silence? That means the boss has GOT it!"


Laura is at the window as Steele is still pacing. "Usually at this juncture, you remember an old movie that puts everything into perspective."

"Sorry. Can't seem to come up with one in this particular circimstance."

She turns back toward him. "Conant has three pictures worth millions. Where would he keep them, safe, yet accessible-" Steele sits down, "where no one would think of looking?"

"His bank vault?"

"His wine cellar."

"His gym locker?"

Laura smiles. "'Charade'."

"The game or the movie?"

She rushes to him. "Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn."

"Universal, 1964," Steele finishes.

"Everybody's looking for a fortune in stolen money, only the thief has converted it into priceless stamps."

"And put them on a letter he'd written to Audrey Hepburn," Steele recalls, still not seeing what the connection is.

"That's where those paintings are! They've been under my nose the whole time!"

"Apparently your nose has been in far more interesting places than mine has."

"Now where's the safest place to lock something up," Laura muses, then smiles again. "A prison!" She gets up.

"A prison?" Steele repeats, scowling. He follows her from the office.


At the Pitkin house, Laura parks the Rabbit and gets out, telling him, "A prison." She rushes around as he gets out more slowly, pointing to the house. "Let's try a window."

"Let's try the front door." He moves that way, talking. "You're still from Art Insight, I'm your editor, and we're simply here to borrow the Pitkins for the profile, okay?" He presses the doorbell, straightens his cuffs as the door opens and Joanne is standing there, brush in hand. "Hello. I'm sorry to disturb the creative process, but Miss Holt and I-" he turns to find that she's nowhere in sight.

"Miss Holt?" Joanne questions. "Laura Holt? Love her! Love her, love her!"

"Yes," Steele agrees. "She does tend to evoke strong emotion, doesn't she?" He peers past her as if expecting to see Laura pass.

"Is uh- is she with you?"

"Oh, around and about. I'm Adam Canfield. Miss Holt's editor from Art Insight. I'm here to discuss the upcoming profile on you-"

"Well, in that case," she says, giving him a measuring look, "Mi casa es su casa."

"Thank you very much," he says, entering.

"Uh, speaking of profiles," she fluffs her hair, "Laura didn't tell me anything about YOU."

"Well, uh, perhaps she was keeping me as a surprise - Miss Holt is SO full of surprises, these days." There's a noise from the studio. "Did you feel that?" Steele asks, trying to cover.


"Slight tremor. Must have been an earthquake," he tells her.

In the studio, Laura is picking up an easel that she knocked over. Joanne turns Steele around. "Come back to my studio. I want to give you a- private exhibition."

He pulls away. "You know, I always get so much more out of- hearing what an artist sees in her work. I mean, anyone can look at a painting."

"Heavy," Joanne sighs. Another noise.

"Aftershock," Steele declares.

"There is SOMEONE in my studio," Joanne tells him as the doorbell rings.

"There's also someone at your front door," he tells her, grabbing her and turning her in that direction. "Why don't you catch the door and I'll check the studio. Run along, dear." He pushes her toward the door, then hurries into the studio.

Joanne opens the front door to Conant's goons. "We've come for the Pitkins, Ms. Pitkin," Ron announces.

In the studio, Laura is grabbing the paintings. "I've got two of them!" she tells him. "Check over there! Quick!"

He turns and searches, ducking as Joanne and the two men enter. "Miss Holt!" Joanne calls out.

The two men start forward, only to be halted by Steele rushing them with a large canvas.

"I FOUND it!" Laura declares, picking up the third painting. They grab the others and run out as Joanne stands in shock.

"Mr. Canfield! Miss Holt! Where are you going with my paintings?" The two men follow them. "I've made the BIG time!" Joanne declares. "I've been STOLEN!"

Outside, Steele and Laura stow the paintings in the back seat of the rabbit and Steele starts the car as Laura leaps into the back seat beneath the paintings. "Wait a minute!" The men fire several shots at them, then get into their own car and follow.

Laura is laughing, trying to dig out from beneath the paintings. "It saddens me to say this, Laura, but you have gone bizzerk!"

"I don't know what came over me!" she declares. "I'm sure it's just a temporary aberration. Like eating jelly beans, or-" She laughs again, sitting behind the paintings. "Buying Chinese cookbooks. I'm positive it'll pass. It certainly is a LOT more satisfying than jelly beans! Is this the way you used to feel? Skin tingling, heart pounding, blood coursing, head SPINNING!"

"Laura, please, you're making me ill! But it's not an uncommon feeling when one first starts, but then you get used to it!"

"Ah, how sad!"

"It's not all thrills and tingles, Laura, you know. There's the very real possibility of getting caught!"

"Well, at least there's one positive aspect to all this. Now I can truly relate to your former profession." She watches as he looks behind to where Conant's men are still following. "What are you doing?"

"How do they know that we have the real paintings?" he wonders. "We might as well let them have them."

Laura smiles, laughs, shaking his hand. "You're one HELL of a partner in crime!"

At his apartment, Richie watches as they enter carrying the paintings. "You got em!"

"But not for long," Laura tells him as they carry them into the bedroom.

"In with the old," Steele says as Laura opens the drapes to reveal the first set.

"And out with the new," she finishes, handing him two of the paintings. Richie, confused, jumps out of the way.

"Would I be a dolt if I asked what's going on?"

"Stay cool, Richie," Laura tells him. "We're about to enact OUR version of one of Mr. Steele's favorite films. 'The Sting'." Steele is out of breath, but nods as the doorbell rings. He indicates that Laura should answer it.

She pauses. "Who is it?"

"I believe you have something which belongs to us, Miss Holt." Ron enters through the window, gun drawn.

"And we intend to collect them," he says.

"The Pitkins?" Steele asks.

"The Pitkins," he confirms. "Let him in," he tells Laura. She opens the door.

"Well," Steele says, "At least we had them for one brief moment." The men grab the paintings and leave. Laura closes the door behind them, then places a finger aside her nose. Steele returns the gesture grinning.


At the gallery, Conant is looking at the Rembrandt through a magnifying glass. He turns an angry gaze on one of the henchman.


In Steele's apartment, Snyderman is authenticating that Rembrandt. "Authentic," he announces.

"Was there ever any doubt?" Laura asks.

Steele is estatic. "We'll just get them back in their Pitkins and bring them to the auction tomorrow."

Koji frowns. "The auction?"

"That's quite alright. I - uh- struck a deal with Conant. As I said, I'm not a greedy man." He lights a cigar.

"Besides," Laura points out. "You want your Pitkins authenticated, don't you?"

"Of course," Monica agrees. "To play out the charade."

"Aptly put, Mrs. Haddon."


At the gallery, Conant enters a room to join his two goons and Molly, who's tied in a chair again. "We've brought you to the gallery for a reason, my dear. You're going to make a phone call. The most important call of your life."


The next day, Steele arrives at the gallery. The trio watch he and Laura enter. "As soon as they've got their Pitkins," Laura tells him, "We'll hit Conant with the sad news that he's sold them all fakes."

"Either he coughs up Molly, or we'll inform the treacherous trio of his deception."

"I think we're FINALLY on top of this one," Laura says happily.

"Yes. All we have to do now is collect our finders fee," he says, laughing. Laura frowns. "Shall we get comfortable and wait for the fireworks?" he asks, indicating a chair.

Laura pauses as she sees Richie come through some curtains. Steele notices him as well. "I think they've started sooner than we expected," Laura worried, hurrying to join Richie. She cuts him off. "What are YOU doing here?"

"I settled everything. I freed Molly."

"Freed her?" Steele questions. "How, Richie?"

"I gave Conant the - the Pitkins."

"My BEDROOM Pitkins?" Steele asks.

"The genuine old masters?" Laura asks.

Richie nods nervously. "Harriet, that was NOT helpful," Steele admonishes.

They see Conant, who smiles at them and then goes to the trio. "Everything is under control," he assures them.

Richie tells Laura and Steele, "Molly called last night. Then Conant got on and offered to let her go. So I just took Miss Krebs' advice and seized the moment."

"We've got to speak to Miss Krebs about her little PEP talks," she tells Steele.

"Listen, I learned a lot by being with you two. I made him show me Molly on the security monitors before I handed over the paintings."

"She's here?" Laura asks. "In the building?"

"Of course. What do you take me for?"

"Where?" Steele wants to know.

"I don't know. A room. Full of paintings and statues."

"You didn't happen to notice a life size sculpture without a head, did you?"

"Yes, yes, that was very unique," Richie confirms.

Laura starts to move away, but Steele grabs her arm. "I really do think we should say our farewells first."

"Yes. You're right."

They approach Conant. "If you'll excuse us," Steele begins, "uh, we'll take our leave."

"Aren't you going to stay for the auction?" Conant asks. "You contributed so MUCH to it."

"Well, we really have nothing left to offer."

"No, Miss Holt. You don't."

"It's been a deceptively delightful experience," Steele assures him, then turns Richie around. "Come along." Conant watches them leave. They get out of his site, and Laura takes the stairs as Steele and Richie go down. "You get Molly, I'll get the Pitkins."

"All right," she agrees. She uses a credit card to slip the lock on the door, and finds Molly there, gagged and tied. "It's all right," she tells the woman. "We're with Richie." She starts untying the gag. "All right now."

In Conant's office, Steele pulls Richie along with him. "How do you know they're here?" he asks.

"I don't," Steele admits. "But one has to start somewhere." He decides to check the bath, and Richie follows as they find the paintings there. "Actually, this is a very ingenious hiding place. I mean, who'd think of looking here a second time, ey?" He gives one to Richie, grabs the other two and they take off.

Laura frees Molly. "You all right?" she asks. Molly nods. "Let's go." As they head out, Laura sees the other set. "The Pitkins!" They're looking at them when Steele and Richie come in with their Pitkins.

"Laura!"he says, "We got the-"

"We got the-" Laura does a double take.

Richie sees Molly, and rushes to her. "Molly!" They embrace.


"Richie," he corrects. "From now on it's just plain Richie." They laugh as Conant and his men come in.

"Your persistance is becoming enervating, Mr. Steele," Conant says, taking a gun. Richie knocks a vase off, distracting Conant, and starting a fight.

Molly starts to hit one of the goons with a Pitkin. Steele, struggling with Conant, yells, "Not with THAT!" She puts it down and grabs the man from behind. Steele and Laura manage to send the goons over the balcony into the show room below. "Are the Pitkins all right?" Steele asks.

Laura finds one set, laughing, as Steele brings the second set over. "They're unscathed," she announces.

"Now, if we could only tell which have the real paintings and which have the fakes," Richie says.

Steele tries to figure out what to do. "Let's take all of them," he decides.

Conant gets up. "NO! I have three very determined people who are waiting for me to deliver them their- Pitkins."

Steele looks at the paintings. "Laura, I lost my finders' fee in Acapulco, I don't want to repeat the same folly here."

Laura's trying to figure out what to do. "Don't you understand?" Conant says. "They'll kill me if I don't give them- something!"

Laura puts a hand on each man's shoulder. "Then PICK a set!"

"They all look alike," Conant tells her.

"YOU'RE the art expert."

"We each have a fifty percent chance of getting what we want," Steele tells him, still looking at the paintings.

They start grabbing canvases, and Laura tries to break it up.


Later, Louis is checking out the paintings as Laura, Steele, and Mildred watch. "Well?" Steele asks.

"A masterpiece," Louis pronounces. "Every one of them."

All three are pleased. "And we have?" Laura asks.

Louis stands up. "The kind of forgeries that only a true artist could paint."

They're disappointed. Especially Steele. "That means the treacherous trio have the real ones."

"And some customs inspector has them now."

"Thanks to our tip," Steele admits.

"Good work, Chief. You really put one over on that Conant," Mildred says.

"Yes, Mildred. The jokes' certainly on him."

"I bet we get a commendation for this."

"That's not exactly the reward I had in mind, Mildred" he says with a disappointed frown.

Laura puts her hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Mr. Steele," she says, kissing his neck. "Now what's a six figure finder's fee compared with the knowledge that you've helped put four-" her hand slides inside his jacket, "dangerous criminals behind bars?"

"If you care so little for money, Miss Holt," he says, "Why, may I ask, -" He looks at her. "Are you filching my wallet?" Laura pulls her hand out quickly, caught red handed.

The End