Steele Screamed in Silence
Inspired by the title submitted by
Karen <>

*It was close. He could hear the monster thrashing around, was positive that he could feel it's hot, rancid breath as it searched for him in the room.

He cowered in fear, trying to curl into a tiny ball, hoping to hide in the darkness.

"Please don't let him find me. Please don't let him find me," he prayed like a mantra, over and over again as he heard the monster's footsteps coming closer and closer

He closed his eyes tightly, as if hoping that not seeing the monster would cause it be somehow less real.

The footsteps stopped, and in the silence, he opened his eyes- and found himself face to face with the monster itself.

He screamed, but there was no one to hear*

Remington Steele sat bolt upright in his bed, blinking as he realized that he was here, that he was safe, and began to let the nightmare fade from his conscious memory. He was drenched in sweat, his heart pounding loud in his ears as if he'd just run one of Laura's triathlons. Drawing in deep, cleansing gulps of cool air, he began to calm, but the fear remained.

He lay back down and turned onto his side, hugging a pillow to his chest as he waited for sleep to claim his mind again, and prayed that the dream wouldn't come back...


"Good morning, Mildred," Laura Holt said in a cheery tone as she entered the offices of Remington Steele Investigations.

The middle aged blonde woman looked at her as she hung up the telephone. "Morning, Miss Holt."

Hearing the concern in the older woman's voice, Laura paused beside the desk. "Is something the matter, Mildred? You seem- upset."

"Well, Mr. Steele's not in yet," Mildred told her, watching Laura's reaction closely.

Laura glanced at the open door into Steele's office. "It's almost ten! I know he likes to keep late hours, but still- we're supposed to be at-"

"I know. That's why I tried to call his apartment. There's no answer. And Fred says he hasn't called him, either. I'm worried about him, Miss Holt. He hasn't seemed himself lately."

"No," Laura agreed thoughtfully. "He hasn't." She turned on her heel. "Keep trying his apartment. I'm going to go check on him."

Mildred picked up the telephone and dialed the number once again.


Laura got into the Rabbit and turned it toward Rossmore, thinking as she drove. Ever since they had begun this last case, Mr. Steele has been more aloof and closed off than usual. He'd constantly found excuses not to go with her while completing the necessary research for their clients, always seemed to be out of pocket when she needed him. She'd put it down to his ambivalence toward children at first, but now she wondered if there might not be more to it than that.

A week ago, they had been at the museum, watching as a painting was unveiled that the Agency had provided security for. Neither of them had noticed the group of children who were visiting the museum that day, two of whom had lingered during the unveiling and Mr. Steele's remarks after it.

Two days later, the two children, boys, both ten years old, had come into the offices and asked to speak with Mr. Steele. Mildred, thinking that they were selling candy for some cause or other, tried to divert them, but they insisted that they simply HAD to see Mr. Steele, and that it was about a case.

Once in Steele's office, eating cookies and milk from the office icebox, the boys, who said their names were Mike and Davie, told Steele and Laura that they wanted to hire them to investigate the man who was running the private orphanage they were staying in. Thinking that the man was simply a bit more of a strict disciplinarian than they boys liked, Laura had suggested that they take their complaints to whoever had hired the man.

"We've tried," Mike, a dark haired boy with greenish blue eyes, insisted. "But Mr. Overton has all of the adults fooled. They all think he's wonderful!"

"He's not?" Steele had asked, speaking for the first time since the boys had told them that they were orphans.

Mike glanced at Davie, who was slightly built, with flaming red hair and covered with freckles. "No. He's a terrible person," Mike said. "We think he's probably been in prison-"

"Surely the people who hired him checked that out," Laura pointed out.

"No. They didn't. Or if they did, he hid it somehow. Please. We can pay," Mike told them, taking some money from his pocket and holding it out to Steele. Twenty dollars, Laura had easily counted, mostly in change and ones. "We took up a collection from the other boys. If you don't help us, Mr. Steele-"

"Boys, I'm sure Mr. Steele would love to help you, but-" Laura began to say, and frowned as Mr. Steele finished her comment.

"And so I shall," he told them, taking the money and placing it on his desk. "Do you need a lift back to the orphanage?"

"No," Mike told her, with another glance at Davie. "We can get back in without being seen. And if we're caught-well, I'll just tell Mr. Overton that it was my idea so that Davie won't get into trouble."

"Thank you," Davie said in a quiet voice, and Laura wasn't sure if he was talking to her- or to his friend.

Laura watched the boys leave the office. "Why did you do that? They're probably just upset because this Mr. Overton grounded them from watching TV because they took off somewhere without permission, or didn't do their chores, or-"

"Isn't it just possible that they're right, Laura?" he'd asked in a quiet voice that somehow reminded her of Davie. "Or has the Remington Steele Agency gotten so big that it can't spend a couple of days checking out a person who's been put in charge of a group of helpless children, hmm? Just to make sure? To put their worried minds to rest?"

Put that way, Laura had been forced to agree with him, and had put Mildred to work checking out Lyle Overton's background using the information that Mike and Davie had given them, information culled from Overton's own files at the orphanage. When asked how they had gotten it, Mike had grinned. "One of Davie's chores is to clean Mr. Overton's office," he told them.

Four hours later, as she and Steele had returned from lunch, Mildred had met them. "Lyle Overton doesn't exist, Chief," she informed them.


"Well, he DID exist, but he's dead. Buried in Forest Lawn. He died three years ago."

"You were right, Mr. Steele," Laura had murmured, looking at the report. "Now, we just have to find out WHO the man working at the orphanage really is. Feel up to a visit with the man, Mr. Steele?"

"Uh, - why don't you handle that, Miss Holt?" he'd suggested quickly, glancing at his watch as he was already moving toward the door. "I'd completely forgotten about an appointment with my tailor..."

And so it had begun. Laura had gone to see Mr. Overton, managed to get a fingerprint that was used to confirm that the man did indeed have a prison record- and that he should NEVER have been put in charge of a group of young boys.

When Overton had been arrested- away from the orphanage, Davie had called Laura and told her that Mike was missing, that Overton had locked him in the "punishment room" he had hidden in the basement upon their return to the orphanage that first day, and he hadn't been seen since. The police had quickly found that room, and released a starving, bruised Mike to return to his delighted friends and an overnight hospital stay.

But Mr. Steele had again found another reason not to visit the orphanage, had only heard Laura's second hand reports of the rescue- was that when he had totally closed off, she wondered, trying to think back to the exact moment when she'd lost him on this case.

"It was his idea to TAKE the damn case!" she fretted as she exited the elevator onto the fifth floor of Steele's building. She knocked on the door, but there was no response. Turning the handle, she confirmed that it was locked.

"Mr. Steele?" she called out, frowning as she noticed his suit jacket tossed haphazardly across the back of the sofa, his tie near the bedroom door. The CLOSED bedroom door. She tapped softly. "Mr. Steele?" she called again, and reached out to turn the knob as she heard him murmuring softly beyond it. Laura froze, suddenly afraid that he might not be in there alone.

She backed off, and then realized that even if he DID have a "guest", he was STILL late for an appointment, and it was important that HE remember that fact. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, bracing herself just in case-

He was alone, but Laura's relief was short lived and she found her earlier anger returning- until he murmured again in his sleep.

"Please don't let him find me. Please don't let him find me." He sounded like a small, terrified little boy, and Laura's anger began to transform into concern. He was lying on his side, drenched in sweat, curled into a fetal position as he hugged a pillow. "Please, don't let him find me."

Laura reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder. "Mr. Steele-?"

He pulled sharply away, opening his eyes to look at her. She couldn't recall ever seeing those blue eyes filled with so much terror. He blinked, and moved again, and Laura forced herself to keep her eyes on his face, to ignore the sheet that had slipped precariously low over his hips. "Laura?" He blinked again, slowly regaining his bearings. "What are you doing here?"

Laura tapped the alarm clock. "It's after ten, Mr. Steele," she pointed out. "And-Mildred was worried when you didn't call."

Remington ran his hands through his damp hair. "I overslept. I'm sorry." He reached out and covered her hand with his. "What about you, Laura? Where you worried as well?" he asked.

Laura turned her hand to thread her fingers through his. "I wasn't when I came in here- but- Do you have these nightmares often?"

He pulled away from her hand, concentrating on locating his robe. "Was I having a nightmare? I don't remember."

"You were hoping that someone wouldn't find you," Laura told him.

Shrugging into his robe, he said, "Not an unusual dream for someone who's spent as much time on the run as I have," he reminded her. "What say I shower and we find somewhere to have brunch?" he suggested, sliding out of bed, just managing to keep himself covered from Laura's gaze.

"Love to," Laura said. "But we're due at the orphanage at eleven-"

Remington frowned. "The orphanage?"

"For lunch, remember? The boys set it up to thank you for helping them get rid of that animal Overton."

"But *I* didn't do anything," he insisted. "It was YOU who-"

"Ah, but THEY think that you were responsible, Mr. Steele."

Remington looked around the room, seeking a means of escape. "I have an appointment with Maurice," he told her quickly. "And you know how he can be-"

"You can't seriously expect me to tell those boys that your TAILOR is more important than they are!"

"Come now, Laura. Surely you can think of some excuse to explain my absence. A case that demands my undivided attention. A-a dentist's appointment-"

"MAY I remind you, MISTER Steele that YOU are the one who insisted that we TAKE this case in the FIRST place? And you've yet to lift ONE finger to help me solve it!"

"Those boys needed someone's help," Remington told her in a tired voice. "And I was sure that you could be that help," he told her.

"Mr. Steele-"

"I'm not going, Laura," he said, his hand on the door of the bathroom.

"You haven't asked about how Mike is doing this morning," she said.

Remington stopped, but didn't turn around. She saw the black silk of his robe move as he tensed. "How is he?"

"He's going to be fine," she told him. His relief was almost palpable. "In fact, he's supposed to be there to have lunch with his hero-"

"I'm not a hero, Laura," Remington said in a quiet voice. "Give him my best." The door closed behind him with finality.

Laura stood there until she heard the water running, and then wandered out to the kitchen, where she made a pot of coffee, as she considered her options.

There was something about the orphanage that terrified Mr. Steele. He mentioned foster families- but to Laura's best recollection, he had never mentioned anything about being in an orphanage. As usual, she was up against the man's mysterious past- with no one to give her the answers she needed.

"You're a detective, Laura. DETECT!" she murmured.


She was sitting in the living room when he opened the bedroom door. Seeing her only caused him to pause for a moment before continuing to fasten his cuffs, his jacket draped over his arm. "I thought you would be gone by now," he commented.

"I called and told them I'd be a little late," Laura informed him. "That I had a friend who needed my help." Lifting her mug, she said, "I made some coffee."

He paused again as he donned his jacket. "I suppose if you're drinking it, it can't be too bad," he teased, disappearing into the kitchen, returning a moment later with his usual china cup and saucer.

"You never told me that you'd spent time in an orphanage, Mr. Steele."

Remington hesitated again as he lifted is cup. "Who says I did?" He took a sip of coffee. "Your coffee's improving."

"Your subconscious told me," Laura said, refusing to let him change the subject. "The nightmare- the abject avoidance of the orphanage or anything to do with this case. I'd be willing to admit that you've been having the nightmares ever since we took this case. If not longer." Remington moved away to the window, but didn't respond. "You knew someone like Lyle Overton, didn't you? That's why you wanted me to take the case-you'd been through something similar and no one would listen to you."

"You just won't let it alone, will you, Laura?" he asked in a strangled voice. "You keep digging and scratching, ignoring the fact that you just MIGHT be reopening old wounds that are best left healed."

"But they're NOT healed!" Laura insisted. "If they were, you wouldn't be having these nightmares- wouldn't run the other way if someone so much as mentions that orphanage."

"Run the other way," Remington repeated. "But I'm good at running, aren't I? Alright, Laura, you want to hear the whole bloody story?"

"Yes!" she exclaimed. "How else am I going to help you stand and fight if I don't know what you're running FROM?!"

Remington took a deep breath and put his cup and saucer onto the mantle, then shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "You were right. I spent a few weeks in a Dublin orphanage. It was run by a sadistic, sick bastard by the name of Flaherty. Most of the other boys used to call him 'Flaky Flaherty' behind his back," he told her with a smile that faded quickly. "But a few called him 'The Monster'. There was another boy who looked after the others. His name was Pete. He was a little older than the rest, had been there awhile. He was the first person that I ever liked enough to call my friend. I told him the first day that I wasn't staying, that I had been heading for London when they'd picked me up, and that's where I was going to go. He offered to help me escape- but something went wrong. Flaherty saw us before we got out, grabbed Pete. I managed to get back to the dorm before I was seen. Pete disappeared for the night, and when he came back, he refused to talk to me. The other boys tried to tell me to leave it, that he was trying to protect me- but I was too concerned about my new friend to listen." He shook his head as Laura moved to stand beside him. "If I'd listened, maybe-" he broke off. "Pete finally started telling me that we'd try again later- that I had to get out of there as soon as possible, get as far away as I could- suddenly his eyes were looking behind me- and Flaherty had me by the neck, was dragging me down the hall to the door at the end of the hall. Pete- Pete went crazy. Started pounding on the Monster's back, telling him that it was a mistake, that it was all his idea, that he should be punished, not me." The blue eyes closed. "I can still see Pete's face as that monster pushed Pete into that room. He was there for a week before I managed to get inside while Flaherty was out." He put a hand flat against the glass before him. "I found him, shivering, wrapped in a blanket. Bruised, too weak to move. I told him we were leaving, but he said he couldn't go- but that I should get out while I could. That as soon as the monster was finished with him, he'd come for me. He heard Flaherty coming back-" the hand clenched into a tight fist, still pressing against the glass. "He told me to hide, that I had to stay quiet- no matter what happened. That if the monster knew I was there, he'd kill me." Those blue eyes were haunted by what he must have seen in that room that day. "I sat there in that dark corner, eyes closed, listening, praying that the monster wouldn't find me. When he wrapped Pete's body in the blanket and carried him out, I escaped and left the orphanage that night."

"And you've been running ever since," Laura guessed.

Remington nodded. "I heard someone talking on the boat from Dublin about an orphan who'd been beaten by street thugs and left dead in an alleyway. He killed three more boys before someone else caught on and stopped him. And there's no telling how many more that he-"

"You've never told anyone about this?"

"No. I was only a kid. An orphan with a known history of being a troublemaker. No one was going to listen to me. Besides, why should I go about telling everyone that I was a coward?"

"You weren't a coward then," Laura said softly. "And you're not now." She grasped his hand, refusing to let it go when he tried to pull it away. "You didn't do anything wrong." He managed to pull away, and sat down, covering his face with his hands. Laura knelt beside him. "If you had tried to stop Flaherty, he would have killed you, too, and then who would have been there to save Mike and Davie and their friends from THEIR monster?"

"You would have been there."

"No. I was ready to write them off, remember? To turn down the case. YOU saved Mike's life- Davie's too, probably." She watched him for a moment, as another piece of the puzzle that was Remington Steele fell into place. "You know, in a way, you've more than repaid Pete for his sacrifice in saving you."

"What are you talking about?" Remington asked, looking at her.

"The way you've always been there for your friends, the way you always root for the underdog. You think I don't know about how you give money to the woman who sells flowers down on the street in front of the office, but I do.You loaned Monroe the money to start his own business when he decided to go straight. You saved those boys by being Remington Steele- by insisting that I investigate Mr. Overton."

He took a deep, shuddering breath as he considered her words. "I'd never thought of it that way."

Laura rose to her feet. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go?" he asked, frowning uncertainly.

"To lunch with Mike and Davie and the rest." She saw the fear cloud his eyes again, and held out a hand. "You said once that you wanted me to teach you how to stop running. To stand and fight. It's time to face down that monster, Mr. Steele."


"I'll be right beside you, the entire time."


"I promise," she repeated, holding her breath until he took her hand and rose to his feet. Laura was sure that there was far more to the story than he'd told her, but she hoped that talking to Mike and Davie would put the monster in Mr. Steele's psyche to rest for once and for all.

The End
This story was submitted to the RSFic list at egroups and archived on the KrebsFiles. To read more of the results of the story challenge, go here

Home CaseBook E-Mail