- By Gilmoradict
- Send feedback to: 12nostalgia77 @ gmail.com (without the
- Explores the time just after Laura lost her home in the
explosion, and the miraculous renovations to the loft which are
seen in Altared Steele.
A siren wailed in the distance. Lights occasionally flashed across
the filthy, opaque windows as cars, going where and from where
Laura had no idea, rumbled through nearby streets. She shivered
a little bit. The light comforter she'd purchased for her new
bed was lovely, but the night was cool, and there was no heat
as yet in the loft. Truth be told there wasn't much of anything
in the loft. A beautiful grand piano. Laura smiled a little as
she thought of the piano, with it's huge red bow, along with
Nero on top, waiting for her when she walked through the heavy
sliding door that first night here. Several keys plinked forlornly
in the echoing silence of the loft.
"Nero, come here buddy." Laura called out softly. Two
more plinking notes, a gentle thump, and a comforting purr sounded
in Laura's ear. Nero walked over her bundled shape, and then
nosed the quilt, looking for a way in to curl up next to his
mistress. "All right Nero, I could use your body heat.
Come on in."
- There was comfort in the presence of Nero purring and kneading
the thick flannel of her nightgown, but only days away from her
loss, Laura had difficulty pushing away the vivid images of her
house consumed in flames, the roaring sounds of the blaze, and
the acrid smell of things that shouldn't be burning but somehow
were. Laura's professional life had ripped open her safe, perfect
personal life when client RJ Stonewell's enemies had become her
own. She glanced around at the brick walls of the loft she and
Mr. Steele had rented for it's view of Greg Keever's doorway
across the street. So different from her little bungalow, the
loft had possibilities. Once the kitchen was finished, and the
flooring went in, she would paint the whole thing white, lose
the dim dinginess. Her thoughts a whirl of images real and imagined,
it was sometime before Laura's eyes drifted shut.
- Gasping, Laura jerked awake, with the odd sensation she had
just fallen from a great height. Breathing rapidly she tried
to get her bearings. The plinking sound of cat's feet walking
on the keyboard echoed again in the cavernous room. More startling
were the orange, yellow and reddish lights dancing on the far
wall, as if flames were leaping just outside the windows. Silhouetted
against these lights was the Nero's gigantic shadow. When Laura
turned to the window the cat was sitting on the sill, tail twitching
as he watched with agitation the events transpiring outside the
building. Glancing over at the piano, whose sound had awakened
Laura, no Nero walked the keyboard. Her brow furrowed as she
struggled to make sense out of the incongruity of sight and sound,
Laura drew the covers back to climb from bed. Her feet recoiled
at the cold plywood of the loft's bedroom platform and slowly
descending the stairway, Laura found that floor even colder.
She walked quickly to the window where Nero sat, expecting to
look out and see flames erupting from the building across the
way. Instead, all outside appeared silent and dark, an almost
velvet curtain of nothingness.
- Laura reached out to stroke Nero. The cat growled menacingly,
certainly not at his mistress, but rather at some unseen threat
outside which held his attention. No matter how hard she peered
through the grimy glass, Laura was unable to discern what troubled
- Turning her back to the windows, Laura found the firelight
on the wall had changed to the silver of reflected moonlight
- surprising on a night so black. Eerily, whatever clouds had
obscured the moon seemed to have drained away from that orb,
and it shown brightly now. The shadows that danced on the wall
were not Nero's but those of some flying creature - a bat perhaps?
Laura felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise as she turned
once more to look out. Wisps of cloud were floating down toward
the street below, wafting through the black grate of the fire
escape. A distant dog began howling, and was soon joined by
another, and then several more.
- Laura wouldn't have guessed there were so many dogs in the
neighborhood. Shaking off the chill that was creeping down her
spine, Laura reached for a light switch to bring to life the
bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, but stopped, choosing the
moonlight her eyes were becoming accustomed to over allowing
the light to reveal her presence in the loft. Instead she padded
slowly back to her bed by way of the moon's soft glow. The newly
installed phone was on the floor next to her bed. She picked
it up without removing the receiver, and cradling it in her arms
crept thoughtfully back under the covers. Who would she call?
Mildred? Mr. Steele? She didn't really know Mildred all that
well, and Mr. Steele already thought she was crazy to live here;
she didn't want to give him any more reason to question her choice.
She was just allowing some odd lights, and sounds to rattle her.
Still hugging the phone, she lay in the dark, listening and
watching, and trying to relax.
- "Miss Krebs, have you spoken to Miss Holt this morning?"
Steele leaned in toward the Remington Steele Investigations'
receptionist/secretary so that his words would not carry into
his partner's office. "What do you make of her?"
- "I don't know Boss, she certainly doesn't seem her usual
chipper self." Mildred responded conspiratorially. "She
looks a little peaked too."
- "Exactly what I thought, Miss Krebs. I suspect that
despite her protestations to the contrary that she's experiencing
shock over the loss of her house."
- "Makes sense, Mr. Steele. She seemed happy with that
loft she's moving into, talked about it all the time for a couple
of days, but now, bupkis!"
"Yes, well, let me know if she confides any troubling thoughts
to you. Meanwhile, perhaps a little lunchtime pick-me-up is in
- "That sounds like a winner, Boss. Your new client Mr.
Hewlah is due at eleven. That's the last thing on the calendar
- "Make a reservation for us at L'Ornate for one o'clock
- no, better yet, I'll take her up the coast and we'll go to
that little place with outdoor dining...Do you remember the name?"
- "The Vineyard? You got it Mr. Steele."
- "Good girl, Mildred! With luck, I can persuade her
to take the afternoon off to shop for new linens, or clothing
or something else for her new place."
- "I don't know. Miss Holt doesn't exactly strike me as
the retail therapy kind'a gal, but you're heart is in the right
place. Good luck Mr. Steele."
- "Miss Holt?" Steele peered around the door to her
office, testing the water so speak before jumping in. "I
trust I am here in time to meet with our next client?" When
Laura turned to respond Steele was shocked by her appearance.
Peaked didn't begin to describe the paleness of her skin. Her
beautiful brown eyes, which usually sparkled or sparked, depending
on her mood, were now listless and dull, and circled from beneath
with dark smudges.
- "No need to trouble yourself Mr.Steele, I handled this
one myself." Laura said in a tired voice. "Mr. Hewlah
owns a warehouse in my neighborhood - next block over, near where
I park. I met him when I was coming home just after you and I
signed the contract on the loft for our surveillance. He had
several large packing crates shipped to him, and one was lost.
It was a matter of some urgency to him that the crate be located
quickly, and the police gave him the usual run around. Didn't
seem important to them, so I offered to track it down for him.
Piece of cake. He's coming by to settle his account."
- "At the risk of your taking this the wrong way, you
look rather tired this morning Laura. Are you sure you're feeling
up to meeting with Hewlah?" Steele came around the desk
to stand close to Laura, and to hold her left hand in his. Her
hand was as cold as ice. He rubbed it briskly between his own
to warm it, while he continued to gaze at her with concern.
- "REALLY. Thank you." Laura replied icily, pulling
her hand back to continue jotting notes on the document in front
- "Laauura." Steele's voice was soft, and he reached
to turn Laura's face toward his with two gentle fingers. "At
least agree to come with me after this meeting for lunch - a
bit of fresh air will do wonders for you - put some roses back
in your cheeks."
- Before Laura could reply, Mildred's voice came over the intercom.
"Mr. Renfield is here for your eleven o'clock appointment
- "Renfield? What happened to Mr. Hewlah?" questioned
Laura briefly, then "Oh well. Send him in Mildred."
The door opened slowly, and a man stepped tentatively in, stopped,
took a few more steps, turned sideways to glance at Steele,
then turning to Laura smiled and said,
- "Hello...you are a very pretty lady and you look very
intelligent and extremely capable. You have such beautiful eyes,
and such lovely hair. Mr. Hewlah said you were handsome. You
musn't pay any attention to me, but I wouldn't work for Mr. Hewlah
any more if I were you." Renfield fawned over Laura, completely
ignoring Mr. Steele, as he alternately peered avidly into her
eyes, then turned to stare at the doorway. "Such a lovely
lady. Such a shame, such a shame."
- "Steele here, Mr. Renfield." Steele offering his
hand to the odd little man, taken aback at Renfield's strange
torrent of words, and having a troubling sense that the name
Renfield ought to mean something to him. "I am Miss Holt's
associate. Who are you to Mr. Hewlah, and why is he not here
himself this morning?"
- "Mr. Hewlah doesn't go out much. He is most grateful
for Miss Holt's help, but asked me to settle his account with
the lovely lady detective.. And that's what I must do."
So saying Mr. Renfield produced a thick vellum envelope with
a heavy wax seal on the back. He handed it to Laura with a deep
- Upon reaching for, and grasping the envelope Laura drew in
her breath, and color suddenly appeared on her cheeks. A slow
smile of deep contentment crept across her face, as she caressed
the wax seal on the envelope with her thumb. Laura closed her
eyes and with a slight shiver, sighed, almost as if recalling
an extremely pleasant dream or memory.
- Dumbfounded, Steele stared at his associate. For a long
moment no one moved, and then Renfield bowed once more, this
time to Steele, and backed out of the office.
- "Good Day, Good Day. It is a good day. Not so nice nights,
but a good day. Good Day." With that Renfield turned and
- "Miss Holt... Laura - may I have the envelope?"
Steele gently pulled that item from Laura's hand. Her eyes flew
open, she paled once more and a look of confusion came over her
face. Steele opened the thick flap, and pulled out an extremely
ornate check made out to the agency for five thousand dollars.
Staring at it for a moment Steele struck his head with his palm.
"Hard to believe, but that has to be it! Bela Lugosi, 1931
- a classic! Miss Holt - I will explain later, but please trust
me, do NOT leave this office!"
- Running from Laura Steele hollered, "Mildred!! I need
the Hewlah file. Then stay with Miss Holt! Don't leave her for
an instant - and don't let anyone else in."
With profound apologies to Bram Stoker for any vague similarities
to his most esteemable work.
- Laura leaned back against the door to the loft, pulling Steele's
kiss with her. The eager joining of their lips rendered Laura
weak kneed, her hands clinging warmly to Steele's shoulders.
Steele was more than willing to hold Laura up, pulling her even
closer in his arms, one hand tangled in locks of her thick, softly
curling hair. Moaning faintly, Laura finally pulled reluctantly
away, drawing in a long shuddering breath, keeping the rest of
her body tenderly pressed to Mr. Steele.
- "Mr. Steele, you are amazing."
- "In what sense?" Steele whispered, continuing to
press kisses to Laura's face and neck, working to replace the
unhealthy flush Hewlah's letter had placed in her cheeks with
an altogether different glow.
- "You've given me a wonderful afternoon I didn't even
acknowledge needing, an excellent lunch overlooking the ocean,
a walk along the beach shops, this beautiful necklace, my favorite
Chinese take-out for dinner and now bouquets of flowers outside
my door! Whatever they are they're exquisite by the way - the
smell has me reeling!"
- "Just the way I love you!" Steele smiled down at
Laura as he held her firmly in his arms. "The flowers are
monkshood - used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Don't
bring them inside - poisonous if Nero should decide to nibble.
The necklace is a small remembrance of a lovely lady on a perfect
afternoon. I hope you will wear it all the time."
- "Shades of your Catholic schooling, Mr. Steele?"
Laura said curiously, fondling the ornate cross they had found
in a small boutique they had wandered into on their walk.
- "I'm afraid my thoughts tonight are more carnal than
celestial, unless we're talking about the heavenly body in my
- "All right, I think you just went one step over the
top." Laura said dryly, though she continued to smile at
Steele. "I confess I haven't been sleeping well since the...since
I lost my home. I feel so relaxed now though, that I'm sure
I'm going to drop right off, and sleep soundly all night. "
- "Is that my invitation to come in?" Steele grinned
boyishly at Laura, head tipped just enough to look utterly charming.
- "No Mr. Steele, though you're testing my resolve. I
really need to sleep - thank you for everything." Planting
a kiss on Mr. Steele's waiting lips,"It was a perfect afternoon,
one I look forward to emulating soon - very soon." Laura
turned reluctantly, but firmly away from Steele, and pulling
the loft door open, closed it firmly behind her. Steele sighed,
standing alone on the outside.
- "I hope this works." he muttered to himself, rearranging
the flowers to more completely block Laura's door. Turning he
ran down the three flights of stairs to find Mildred lurking
near the doorway. "Ah Mildred! Good evening. Were you
able to sprinkle the crates in Hewlah's warehouse with Holy Water
as I asked?"
- "You bet, Chief," Mildred answered as Steele led
her around to the fire escape, "but you know I'm not exactly
- "No worries, Darling, shouldn't matter. Up you go now.
There's a girl." Steele helped Mildred reach the stairs
that followed the outside wall up to Laura's third story loft
window. "Here's a blanket, make yourself comfortable. You
know what to do if you see anything suspicious?"
- Mildred gave Steele a thumbs up, and continued her careful
ascent. As she climbed the strains of a Bach fugue began floating
out from Laura's loft. Steele's face softened as he thought of
Laura playing the piano that replaced the one lost in the explosion.
She had known too much distress in the last weeks. He determined
he would stop anyone who tried to harm her, and resolutely ran
up the interior steps to watch the loft door.
- Laura played her new piano for almost an hour, the music
building on the contentment of her afternoon with Mr. Steele.
The anxieties of the past weeks were now pushed aside. She looked
around the loft, imagining it finished. The kitchen was nearly
completed, the bathroom done. She hummed the Bach she had been
playing earlier as she readied herself for bed, Nero crying occasionally,
as if joining in her song. Laura smiled as she bent to stroke
him from his ears to the tip of his tail, which she straightened
with a gentle tug. "Come on Nero, let's call it a night.
I think I'm ready to sleep soundly tonight." Slipping the
warm flannel nightgown over her head, she crawled under her covers
and was immediately lost in her dreams.
- "Plink, plink, bum." The piano echoed in the silence.
Laura's eyes shot open. The moon was apparently obscured by
clouds, as the loft was lost in eerie black.
- "Nero!" Laura called softly.
- "Mrrrp?" came the sleepy reply from the warm spot
under the comforter near her knees. Laura's pulse quickened
and she felt her heart pounding in her chest. She searched the
dark room, straining to see anything out of the ordinary. How
many nights in a row did this make that she was awakened in the
middle of the night? Was there any plausible reason for the
haunting sounds and lights she kept seeing?
- "Plink, plink, plink." Fully awake now, Laura could
no longer persuade herself she imagined the piano playing itself.
Nero and she were both accounted for. She slowly, soundlessly
pushed the comforter back and slid her feet to the floor. Nero
shot out of the bed, streaking across the floor away from Laura.
'Coward' Laura thought grimly. She glanced once more at the spot
on the floor where she knew the phone sat, and debated calling
Steele. As quietly as possible she dialed his number, and held
the phone in both hands to steady them as she waited. One, two,
three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten...No matter how
soundly he slept, surely if Steele were home he would have picked
up. Damn him. Laura sighed. Once again she was in this alone.
She straightened her spine.
- As Laura began walking tentatively down the stairs toward
the piano, silvery light spread across the loft's wall. A shadow
flew across the light, and Laura jumped involuntarily. Scittering
noises broke the silence, then a sudden small shriek! Nero raced
across to the windows and landed on the sill with a thud. Laura
more cautiously followed him, picking up a work rag the workmen
had left as she moved slowly toward the window. Using the cloth
to clear a peephole in the milky, dirty pane, Laura then pressed
her nose there.
- A broad white face was pressed against the glass immediately
outside where Laura stood. It opened it's mouth in a soundless
scream just as Laura did, mirroring her terror! A second scream
found voice, and split the night, sending Nero once more streaking
across the loft, this time to hide under the bed. A hand began
pounding forcefully on the door as Laura and the face outside
continued screaming together.
- "Laura, Laura....open the door." Steele's demanding
voice repeated from the hall. "Laura - what is it!? Let
me in- MILDRREED!"
- Suddenly Mildred, for it was she who screamed outside Laura's
window, was pulled away from the glass. A darkly clothed figure
held her securely about the neck and began shaking her. Laura
looked again, and recovering her composure realized who she had
been facing through the window, and at the same moment who was
outside her door. "Go help Mildred, Mr. Steele! Someone
is attacking her on my fire escape!" Laura leaped to the
counter below the window and began struggling with the window
latch. Finally wrenching it open she slipped outside and pulled
at Mildred's attacker's arm. In mere moments Steele had joined
them on the grate, and helped Laura free their secretary, who
collapsed to the stair, holding her neck, whimpering and gasping
- "Mildred, are you all right?" Laura cried dropping
to kneel at her side, and pushing Mildred's hair back from her
face to peer into her eyes by what little light the moon provided.
- "Look who we have here!" Steele declared in confusion.
- "Oh, Boss, I dropped the Holy Water when Miss Holt stared
at me through the window. I'm sorry!"
- "What is going on?" Laura asked in bewilderment
looking between Mr. Steele, still holding the mournful looking
Renfield and Mildred who looked equally mournful as she sat on
- "Not so nice nights," Renfield crooned sadly, "Not
so nice nights at all."
- "So you convinced yourself I had been bitten by a VAMPIRE?"
Laura couldn't decide if she was more amused or annoyed by Steele's
movie driven deduction. She, Steele, Mildred, Renfield, and Mr.
Hewlah, who had come to collect Renfield, were huddled around
the patch of light cast by a bare bulb, on whatever they could
find to sit on in Laura's loft sharing tea that Laura made on
- "When I saw the check had been written by DRAKE HEWLAH,
and he had sent his assistant RENFIELD to bring it to us, in
combination with your pale, listless demeanor, it was an entirely
logical conclusion." Steele said defensively.
- "Oh dear, I'm afraid I contributed to this confusion."
Mr. Hewlah added with amusement. "The irony of my odd name,
and my connection to Mr. Renfield has occurred to me before.
Mr. Renfield is a rather unique individual, and while he may
have some odd mannerisms, is devoted to me, and I to him. He
runs errands for me on days when my arthritis is particularly
painful. Because Arthur knew I was concerned about Miss Holt
living in this warehouse area, he determined to look out for
her. Apparently he saw Mildred on the fire escape and thought
she meant to harm Miss Holt."
- "Such a pretty lady here alone in this old building."
Renfield shook his head sadly.
- "Miss Holt really wasn't sleeping well, Mr. Steele -
you got that part right." Mildred comforted him.
- "It has been pretty unsettling to lose all my things,"
Laura admitted. "I do think the loft is going to be great,
but it's definitely different. Oh, and I think I need an exterminator."
She looked down as Nero proudly sauntered up with a mouse dangling
by it's tail from his mouth. When he opened his mouth to "mew,"
the mouse skittered away.
- "There's a nest of mice in the strings of the piano.
When they move around they make the plinking sounds I hear at
night." Laura said ruefully.
- "What about the letter with the wax seal?" Steele
asked. "You looked positively entranced when Renfield handed
it to you."
- "My grandfather sent me a letter like that each year
on my birthday, inviting me to come have lunch with him and my
grandmother. They were such perfect grandparents, always making
me feel like a princess. Now I've lost all those letters."
Laura shrugged resolutely. "I guess I still have the wonderful
- "And Miss Holt, you're going to make new memories in
this home." Steele smiled, reaching to pat Laura's hand.
"This really is a very interesting space."
- "Thank you all for caring so much about me - I can't
believe how much trouble you all went to to protect me."
Laura looked at each of them, "Arthur, watching from the
corner; Mildred, sanctifying crates of antique furniture, and
staying out on my freezing cold fire escape and nearly scaring
us both to death! And you Mr. Steele. Wolfsbane in the middle
of Los Angeles?"
- "That wasn't as hard to come by as the Holy Water -
had to visit three churches to secure enough." Steele shrugged
and his eyebrows twitched. "It was the least I could do
to play John Harker to your Mina. Speaking of the movies, Miss
Holt, care to join me for the Halloween screening of Dracula
- "Arrghh!" Laura shrieked and began pushing the
group out the door. "That's it - time to say Good Night!"
- The End