- Steele Searching
- Suzy Steele
- Laura was furious. Hardly a surprise. And if he hadn't
been so exhausted, mentally and physically, he might have tried
to counter her diatribe. But he'd been literally at tether's
end, so he tried to relax on the threadbare bed and let her vent
weeks of accumulated anger in monologue as she bustled about
the cheap bedsit. Because he knew Laura Holt. And he knew that
this anger was really just a front that enabled her to keep more
heartfelt emotions at bay. Fear was certainly one of them, and
she'd every right to be frightened. He hoped there might be another
emotion at play, but he wasn't going to risk asking. Certainly
not now. And given what she had said several weeks earlier, maybe
- "If you weren't such a pitiful wreck, I'd clobber
you," she groused and he suspected this wasn't an exaggeration.
Thank heavens for small mercies. "No word from you,
not a note. Not a collect call. Take off your shirt." That
wasn't how I hoped she'd say that line to me. She doused
the rag of a washcloth from the basin and ewer. "What kind
of a relationship could we have if every time I turned around
and - bingo! - you were gone! Lift up your shirt." He didn't
have the energy to obey. Or to argue. But he just had enough
energy - and desire for self-preservation - to try and explain.
Maybe I've scared her enough that she'll finally listen?
- "Laura, you're the one who said we needed time apart."
- "So you decided to spend it a continent apart?"
No, she wasn't really listening. Wasn't hearing that he was swinging
for honesty rather than glib. Laura, please listen to me.
Just this once.
- "I needed to find something."
- "What?" He knew what she expected him to say.
A painting. Gemstones. A chalice. But he was after something
far more precious than any mere tangible.
- He looked up from his misery and finally met Laura's gaze.
"Me." The moment hung in time. He saw in her expression
the anger. But also puzzlement. Empathy.
- And then the thread snapped and Laura was back to her
safe, emotional distance. She wrung out the thin washcloth that
she had wetted with cold water from a chipped ewer. "You
were in Los Angeles last time I looked." She knew damn well
what he meant, and she wasn't going to let him know it. Okay,
maybe he deserved it. A little.
- "What's the major stumbling block between us? Hmm?"
- "Your aversion to leg work?"
- I suppose I can't blame your anger. Or your fear. But
you're the one who complains that we don't communicate.
- "My name. My real name. I knew how you'd feel if
I couldn't give you that. And I knew we couldn't be honest about
other things." Hear me, Laura. This is as close as I
- But she didn't hear it. "I don't care what your name
is! Make one up. It'll be all right with me."
- There'd been a time when, if she'd said those words, he'd
have been thrilled. But this Laura wasn't impressed with his
attempt at honesty. She was lying. She did care and had insisted
on his real name from the first. That she now pretended that
it wasn't important? Or worse, truly didn't care? Are we really
that far gone? You've always cared. Until now. Aloud he said,
"Perhaps. But when it seemed our time together had come
to an end, I realized that Remington Steele was just another
name I borrowed. And if I was going to give it back, I was going
to have to replace it with a name that was truly mine."
- As he spoke, she stopped distracting herself to listen,
frozen in mid-motion with the now-blooded washcloth still in
her hands. And at the words "give it back", her expression
froze as well, anger replaced with an icy stillness. He'd struck
a nerve. Was she finally listening? Finally 'getting it'?
- And so he told her about his search, and about Kevin Landers,
and of the joke that the universe had played, that his father
was quite possibly an Earl. And if he hadn't been so utterly
exhausted, he would have noticed that, as he spoke, her anger
and ice gradually melted. To be replaced by an expression foreign
to their relationship. A mixture of pity and compassion.
- The cheap door of the cheap lodging house closed behind
Laura and moments later came the soft snick that told him she'd
locked the door. She hadn't done it to lock him in - even in
his exhausted state he could pick that lock, as he'd heard an
experienced old gent once describe it, wearing boxing gloves
and using a strand of spaghetti. No, she'd done it to keep intruders
and interruptions out. The police, as if that cheap door might
stop them. But mostly to let him sleep and mend. For the first
time since leaving LA, he felt really and truly safe, and, there
was no denying it, it was because once again he had Laura protecting
his back. With a deep sigh that came straight from his marrow,
he relaxed back on the first clean pillow - well, reasonably
clean - that he'd encountered for several nights, too exhausted
to martial his thoughts. Instead, he closed his eyes and let
those thoughts flow wherever the current drifted.
- He was still astonished that Laura had found him. No,
that's not the right word. Gobsmacked. Of all the gin joints
in the world, and she had to walk into mine. Of all the people
he could've cornered in that alley, grabbed an arm in restraint.
Their simultaneous, "What are you doing here?!"
- Or, maybe he did know it was Laura flying ahead of him
into that alley. Surely he had recognized her figure? Lord knows
he'd chased it too many times before. When he'd heard that lilting
voice as familiar as his own, he thought it a hallucination.
He'd done a lot of hallucinating about Laura recently. Leaving
her behind had made the hallucinations more frequent, not less.
- And then she'd bloody found him again. Correction.
Found me bloody again. A hysterical hiccup escaped him. How
in the hell did she do it? The woman was an unnatural witch.
In the entire metropolis of London, millions of people in countless
districts and suburbs, and she found him in his own gin joint.
Maybe we are connected by an invisible thread?, he asked
himself, to which he added automatically, Orson Welles to
Joan Fontaine, Jane Eyre, MGM 1941. Okay, it wasn't hard
to figure out how she deduced that he was in London. He hadn't
exactly covered his tracks through Australia, Rome, Paris. Why
hadn't he? Was there a secret hope that she would track him?
It was child's play for a detective of her caliber. Hell, Mildred
could have done it. Had he just assumed she would follow in pursuit,
as she had time and again before? Like a homing pigeon. Or those
swallows at the Capistrano Mission they had once visited. Was
that a movie? His mind asked automatically. He was too tired
- The last thing he remembered Laura saying, before he had
left L.A., was that she wanted time apart. Yet again. And then
the roaring in his ears had made further listening impossible.
God, how easily you can hurt me, Laura. Wanting her made
him vulnerable, and with a just a few words she had wounded him
far deeper than had those damned iron spikes on the railing round
Felicia's Kensington flat. But is this really love that you
feel, Mr. Steele? he asked himself angrily. Or should
I be asking Douglas? Paul? Richard? You lot wouldn't know what
love is, he informed them. You've never known it. Real
love is what Richard felt when he saw Ilsa again. Saw Laura again,
staring up and into the alleyway's darkness to see him hovering
above her, dripping blood onto her suit jacket. Her look mixed
of horror and relief hadn't been faked. With Laura he alternated
between wanting to make passionate love or shake her, but mostly
the former and never the latter since he never once was violent
with a woman and had no intention of starting now, so he usually
settled for exacerbation. And in return she'd present that gorgeous,
withering gaze and those disapproving lips that he desperately
wanted to kiss.
- There had been one terrifying moment. That instant when,
after spying him, suspended and vulnerable, she had called out
to Chief Inspector Lombard. And he had assumed, however briefly,
that she was going to turn him in to the police. How could
you believe she'd do that? Even now, he flushed with the
hot shame. For a moment, you doubted her. Is that a sign?
That we're too far gone? Too far apart? I couldn't bear that,
- But if I can't have her
? All she had to do
was look at him and he dissolved, utterly defenseless. She'd
no idea of the power she held over him. Was she really that blind
to it? Just seeing Laura tonight, hearing the lilt of her voice,
and the joy had surged through him so forcefully that he nearly
released his hold on the pulley where he'd hidden from the police.
- And who exactly had Laura found suspended in air? Was
he really the illegitimate son of an Earl? Was there finally
a name that he could offer her? Who was this man she had pursued
around the world? Was it the chap who was half-asleep in this
wretched bedsit? Was it her perfect creation, Remington Steele?
Or was it someone else? Quintaine
started humming to himself. "Around the world I searched
for you. I traveled on, when hope was gone, to keep a rendezvous
David Niven, Shirley McClaine, Cantinflas. United Artists,
1956. Around the World in Eighty Days
- A sharp pain in his side jolted him awake and he realized
that he must have drifted off. Sleep. Yes, he could sleep now.
He had hoped for a kip at Felicia's. But once he'd spotted the
man's jacket folded casually across her bed, which she hadn't
bothered to conceal, and when she didn't push him into the shower
to "clean up", he'd intuited it wasn't safe. What had
she said? 'A little unrequited lust can be very tedious'. She
was still so beautiful. So Felicia. A simple and uncomplicated
tumble. He might've given it more than fleeting consideration
had he been capable of any activity more vigorous than fleeting
consideration. But he had sensed that her flirting hadn't been
serious, and that was a warning, too. Thank god a week of sleeping
rough had revived the old sixth sense that had always alerted
him to possible dangers. He was glad to find it still there,
like an old friend. It had awakened him when her visitors had
arrived. Their voices had been low but it was their unexpected
sound that had alerted him. And with that realization came a
feeling of release, as if a taut string had been cut. I can
no longer rely on Felicia. We've let each other go.
- No, Felicia couldn't be trusted. He trusted Laura. Laura
had his back. And his lips. His arms. His
Well. That was
another of those hallucinations. Hallucinations
He let himself
drift in them. Into well-traveled routes that his physical and
mental exhaustion could no longer hold back. Making love with
Laura. In his bed, in her bed, on his office desk, before his
He'd imagined them all, a hundred times. Imagined
exploring the curve of her graceful neck with his lips. Roving
his hands beneath those sexy teddies she liked to wear. If she
once gave way, then he knew he would disappear into her. Powerless.
He was bewitched, like Jimmy Stewart for Kim Novak in Bell,
Book and Candle. There was even a black cat.
- If she'd let me. It was always complicated with
Laura. What was it that she wanted? His name? His identity? She
said she didn't care, but he knew she didn't mean that. If she
thought it through, she'd discover that she already knew him
as well as he knew himself. How could she not see that? It was
all he could do to keep her from reading his thoughts.
- And there were plenty of times when he was certain she
could. If she could read them now, would she resist? Or would
she reject him? He knew he couldn't handle her rejection again.
He wanted to make passionate love with her like he never had
with anyone before. But wanted more than that. He wanted to hold
bury his breath in her hair
in her arms
- He finally slept.
- Even in the deepest sleep, noticing irregularities were
part of his DNA. He was vaguely aware of movements in the thin-walled
pre-war building, of people moving in the carpeted corridor.
Soft voices. Stopped at the door. Not moving on.
- In an instant he was alert. He rolled out of bed and was
moving toward the window and the fire escape. Or he should have
been. Instead, the dull throb in his solar plexus flared into
angry life and sent him stumbling against the bedstead with a
cry of agony.
- An unfamiliar male voice. Fumbling at the door lock. He
picked himself up, ungraceful, using the bed for support. Tried
to clamber to his unreliable feet.
- Then another voice. Laura's. Thank god.
- "What are you doing there!"
- He looked up at her from his prone position, half on the
bed, half on carpet. "Haven't we overused that line by now?"
- Then he registered that standing beside her was an older
gentleman in a dark mackintosh and holding a leather case. "Good
lord!" the visitor expostulated.
- "That bad, eh?" Steele asked from his position
across the carpet.
- Laura swore and ran to his side. She put a strong arm
under him. "You were supposed to stay in bed! Can't you
stay put just for once?"
- "Sorry," he gasped. "Old habits die hard,"
He winced as Laura and the stranger practically lifted him back
onto the bed.
- "You are going to be a dying habit if you
don't let me help you!" she snapped. "I leave you alone
for an hour and look at you!"
- The stranger had folded his coat on a chair and now leaned
over Steele. "I'm a physician. I'm going to pull away these
towels and look at you." His touch was gentle as he lifted
away the hand towel that was Laura's improvised bandaging. His
breath drew in with a hiss at the seeping blood and bruises that
surrounded the wounds. "Bloody hell!"
- "Right," gasped Steele, "on both counts."
- "How long ago did this happen?"
- "Earlier this afternoon. There's an iron railing
in Kensington that took a dislike to me."
- "Filthy things. Heaven knows how many years of pigeon
droppings are now inside you. You need to be admitted to casualty."
- "No! Too dangerous!"
- The man turned to Laura. "Explain to your friend
how dangerous sepsis is, please?"
- Steele tensed and met Laura's gaze, read the unspoken
communication. Please, not until we solve this. Trust me,
- She said, "I agree with you, Doctor. Unfortunately,
my friend is right." Steele could see the courage it took
for her to admit that. He fell back against the pillow, releasing
a fear that he didn't know he had. She's still on my side.
I'm not going to die. Not now. Not now that Laura's here with
- She continued, "The wrong people are looking for
him. Going to an emergency room would be too exposed. I promise
you we'll go to a hospital as soon as we can."
- "Hmph," said the physician, clearly unhappy.
Then he offered a thick hand to Steele. "Name's Shapiro,
by the way."
- "Johnny Todd." He was grateful that Laura had
the intuition to let him pick his cover.
- "Well, Johnny, this is going to hurt rather a lot.
These wounds need to be cleaned. And since I don't have access
to my proper instruments or anaesthetics, this will hurt rather
more than it would in my surgery."
- "Just do it, Shapiro," said Steele tersely.
- "What do you need?" Laura asked the doctor.
"Can I get you anything?"
- "I brought enough materials, I suspect; your description
was accurate. To a point where I'd wonder if you'd done this
before?" Laura's expression remained blandly innocent. "In
which instance, I suggest you do your best to distract your friend
while I work."
- "I can think of a distraction," said Steele.
He waggled an eyebrow.
- She managed a smile. He realized it was the first time
she'd seen her smile since she'd found him. It felt like heaven.
"Do you never stop?" she asked.
- "Never. Not with the most beautiful woman in the
room." Then he gasped and cried aloud as Shapiro applied
a healthy splash of peroxide to the open wounds. Laura's face
paled with sympathy; she was feeling everything he was. "Go
wait elsewhere," he said.
- "And have you run out again? Not a chance, big guy."
- "Can't hurt to try-Ah!" Another healthy splash.
- She reached out and clasped his hand tightly. "I'm
- "I know. And amazed. How?"
- "Mr. Blaine left pretty clear directions. As did
Mr. Fabrini. And the Messers. Morrell and Quintaine." She
considered him with a look that left him defenseless. "A
detective would think that perhaps they wanted to be found."
- "A detective might be right," he said through
- Shapiro had returned to rummage through his leather bag.
Laura started to move away as well, but Steele grabbed at her
arm and pulled her back to his bedside. "How in the hell
did you find a doctor? You're in a strange city that you've never
before visited and you locate a physician who makes house calls
- "I'm a detective, remember?"
- "You're bloody brilliant!" And he pulled her
into long and vigorous kiss. Which, he was quick to notice, she
didn't protest. Far from it. This was promising. Particularly
since his last change of clothing had been
well, best don't
- There was a round of throat clearing from the foot of
the bed. "I charge by the quarter hour," Shapiro said
- Reluctantly, Steele let her go. But he kept his gaze firmly
fixed on Laura. She wasn't getting away that easily. Not anymore.
- Shapiro returned to Steele's side with another brown bottle
in one hand and paper-wrapped gauze pads in the other. "This
is going to hurt almost as much. Since I can't use my nice NHS
toys, its needs must with the local Boots," he said, mentioning
the chain of chemists' shops.
- "How about another distraction? That last one worked
- "I don't think the good doctor's interested in a
menage a trois." But she relented a bit. "I'll
hold your hand again."
- "Then tell me how you found our good Doctor."
- "I represent an American newspaper. I'm researching
charitable work. Medical care for street people. I wanted to
visit a night clinic. The concierge at the hotel on the corner
was most helpful."
- "And your young lady," and here Shapiro pressed
an iodine-soaked bandage against the open wound. Steele gasped
and clenched Laura's hand tightly. "You're okay," she
- "-Your young lady," he continued, "Found
me working with a roomful of prostitutes, dispensing antibiotics
and condoms. She chatted up the old girls till I finished and
then she convinced me to pop around and look at her dear, badly
injured friend. I run a clinic near St. Paul's. One more round,
Johnny." This one didn't hurt quite as badly. Or maybe his
nerves were finally being dulled. "Your friend tells a very
- "On Judgment Day," Steele said, "the Lord
God himself will discover the holes in His plans once Laura arrives."
- "Thank goodness for that. This world could stand
improvement. You've a mild fever and we appear to have caught
this just before it wants to go septic. You're damned lucky you
didn't perforate any organs."
- "It's not as bad as it looks?" Laura asked,
not bothering to hide her anxiety.
- "Bad enough. I want him on bed rest so that the wounds
have a chance to clot and close. That's probably what saved you,
lad, letting it bleed."
- He couldn't resist. "Bed rest, eh?"
- "Heavy on the rest, Johnny," said Laura severely.
- Initial needs met, Steele's fogged brain started to catch
up with something that Shapiro had said earlier about where Laura
had tracked him down. A clinic for the homeless near St. Paul's
Cathedral? This sounds familiar. I wonder
? Like a character
from Alice in Wonderland, he circled to the last conversation
but one. "Near St. Paul's? Martha's Clinic?" he asked
- Shapiro gave him a sharp look. "Not anymore. Lighthouse.
We replaced them. That was a long time ago, Mr. Todd."
- "Ah. Dr. Klingman was a good woman," he said,
suddenly remembering the diminutive, grey-haired woman who ran
the medical clinic with the energy of ten.
- "Yes, she was. And you are an interesting puzzle.
You look and smell like the lads who live rough, but have the
teeth and talk of a toff. But I've yet to meet a toff who knew
Martha Klingman and her clinic, and even fewer who would care."
- "Let's just say I'm a man of experience."
- Laura added sweetly, "Mr. Todd is a mystery to us
all, some days." Steele winced, and it wasn't from the iodine.
So I'm not forgiven yet.
- "It's a pity Dr. Klingman is no longer with us,"
said Shapiro with an insight that surprised Steele. "She
took great satisfaction in knowing how her visitors ended up."
- "I'm sure she's smiling somewhere," Steele agreed,
fully aware of Laura's thoughtful expression as she listened.
- Shapiro applied fresh adhesive gauze to the injury site
that he then wrapped securely. "I'm sorry. With all that
hair these will hurt to remove. You might want to shave your
abdomen for a week or two." Then he wrote for a minute and
handed Laura the top page torn from his note pad.
- "This is a prescription for antibiotics, a sleeping
draught, and an analgesic. I'm going to guess that Johnny here
doesn't have a substance abuse problem like some of his mates,
so I'm suggesting a decent opiate. There's a Boot's pharmacy
at the top of the street and I recommend filling it there. But
please don't go yourself, Miss Lord. At this time of night, send
- Laura's own use of a pseudonym brought a smile to Steele's
features. Nice to see they were still mentally joined at the
hip. Or somewhere. His brain didn't seem to be working well.
- In fact, he was starting to fade out again from exhaustion.
He managed to pull himself together long enough to resurrect
Mr. Steele and offered his hand.
- "Thanks so much, Dr. Shapiro. And especially for
- "Thank your young American lady. She's remarkable."
- "I'm very much aware of how remarkable she is,"
Steele said quietly, and he saw Laura blush.
- Laura left with Shapiro to see him out, again locking
the door behind her. Rather than attract attention, she visited
the pharmacy herself and returned half an hour later with the
prescribed materials. She quietly announced herself before unlocking
the door, anxious not to repeat his falling out of bed.
- There was no need. He was fast asleep. The beard-stubbled
face was relaxed, the pain lines smoothed away. It was the sleep
of exhaustion, and she wondered if he had looked this way when
he was a young boy. Or if this was how he looked after making
love. She pressed a hand against her mouth, moved by the sight
of him and surprised at the strength of her own reaction.
- "You're safe, now," she whispered to him. "I
found you. I'm not going to lose you again. I promise."
- She considered him for a long moment, then removed her
own jacket and stepped out of her skirt. Her pajamas and gown
were back at her hotel, but she'd be damned before she left him
alone. So she switched off the overhead light and joined him
on the other side of the bed, fluffing the other pillow so that
she could sit a little upright. She took his quiet cool hand
into her own, and continued to watch him sleep until sleep overtook
her as well.
- THE END
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