Are you awake?
A smile spread across Lauras face, and she snuggled deeper into the bed sheets.
Why do you want to know?
We need to talk.
An eyelid popped open. What an odd thing for Remington to say. Hadnt he always told her that he was more interested in actions than words? Memories of his actions last night flooded into her mind and she forgot all about his odd request. He had convinced her last night that actions were better than words. Much better, she thought dreamily. His tenderness, his care, his passion had told her everything she had wanted to know all these years. He loved her and he wasnt going anywhere.
Laura. He persisted, giving her a little shake.
She sighed and rolled over. When did you become such an early riser? You were never in the office before 10 when we were in LA. Now its only, she gave the windows across the room a glance, five oclock in the morning at the most.
I never woke up with you in my arms in LA. He shot back with his signature grin, white teeth flashing, blue eyes twinkling.
Laura smiled, slow and inviting as she slid her arms around his neck. Good answer, Mr. Steele. Very good answer.
But instead of accepting her invitation, he pulled back. Laura, he drawled warningly, we need to talk.
Youve said that already. She reminded him.
Thats because youre not listening.
Oh, Im listening. She insisted, letting one hand wander into his hair while the other took a decidedly downward journey. Im listening loud and clear.
He seemed to waver for a moment, allowing himself to enjoy her caresses and the small kisses she teased along his jaw. She could hear the increase in his breathing, see the smoldering desire in his eyes, but abruptly he pulled back, swinging his legs out of the bed and hurriedly shrugging on his silk robe.
She watched silently as he began pacing around the room. In the past his unusual behavior would have produced a wave of unease within her, but not now, not after last night, not after hed shown her in no uncertain terms how he felt about her, about them. Now she just watched him, admiring his dark good looks, the tousled hair, the shadow of beard, the cat-like grace in which he walked back and forth.
He suddenly whirled around, fixing a determined gaze on her. We ought to get married.
She sat up, settling herself against the pillows. The sheet fell down around her lap but she didnt bother pulling it up. Have you forgotten, Mr. Steele? We already are.
No, we arent. He seemed ready to continue but then stopped, Can you . He gestured toward the sheets, can you cover yourself up, please?
Why? Youve seen it all before.
Laura He growled warningly, I find this attitude of yours most distracting. We need to have a serious discussion, and I cant think when youre sitting there like that. Besides, the castle is too cold for you to go about exposed.
Oh, very well, She said, pulling the sheet up beneath her arms. I hope youre not going to turn prudish on me.
Prudish! He pounced on the word like she had hoped he would. Youre one to call me prudish when youve been holding me at arms length for five years. Ive got a good mind to show you whos prudish He stopped abruptly. Hed been halfway to the bed when he realized her ploy. Good try, Mrs. Steele, but it not going to work. Youre not going to distract me from the issue at hand, which is making this marriage of ours legal.
Why? She asked, unperturbed. Weve done a good job at hiding your true identity from the world so why should this marriage be any different?
We didnt fool Keyes. Remington reminded her grimly. We came very close to being exposed as frauds a few weeks ago. Too close for my comfort. I was almost deported and still could be. And might I remind you, Laura, that there are at least two people who know that our marriage is a fake and wouldnt hesitate to make trouble if they thought they could profit in some way?
Youre referring to Shannon and Tony, I suppose. She gave the matter some thought and then said, I dont think well have too much trouble from Shannon. Shes rather busy with the Greek right now. As for Tony, I can handle him.
There was a long silence, and Laura squirmed inwardly. She kept her eyes on the painting across the room from her. She didnt dare look at her husband. She knew what shed see. Accusation and hurt, a hurt that she didnt want to acknowledged she had deliberately caused.
She had handled Tony rather poorly. She had used him in an attempt to make Remington jealous, and now that hed worn out his usefulness, he was proving rather difficult to discourage. She had told him she was committed to her relationship with Mr. Steele, but shed not been as firm as she couldve been. Even last night when her husband had been waiting for her upstairs, she had left the bait dangling.
Why, she asked herself now. Had she been unwilling to sever all connections with Tony until she was sure of Remington and his feelings for her? Had she unconsciously decided to keep the man around in case she could use him again? She had known for years that Remington was susceptible to jealousy, and although she acted as though it annoyed her, she secretly delighted in it. She had certainly made use of it over the years, and these last few weeks she had used it like a blunt instrument, wielding it against Remington whenever she felt the need.
Perhaps I owe you an apology. She ventured into the silence. I was wrong just now. I havent handled Mr. Roselli very well at all. I encouraged him far too much because, she paused, her eyes dropping to the sheet in her lap, I was hurt and angry at you for attempting to marry a hooker.
The silence continued, and she bit her lip to keep back the emotion that threatened to spill over. Admitting that she was wrong had never come easy, and it was so important that he forgive her. So important. She didnt want any misunderstandings or old hurts standing between them now.
She jumped as a warm hand, the fingers long and elegant, closed over hers. She looked up and found that Remington had rejoined her on the bed. His expression was grim, but his eyes were soft with emotion. She swallowed hard.
You have no idea how sorry I am about Clarissa, Laura. He told her, his voice low and urgent. It was a foolish plan, but I think I went a little crazy when I got that letter from the INS saying I was going to be deported. I was frantic, desperate. I was on the verge of having to leave you for good, and it scared me. He sighed, shaking his head. Ah, Laura, as the song goes youve bewitched, bothered and bewildered me. Pal Joey, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Columbia Pictures, 1957. No other woman has ever made me contemplate marrying a hooker just to stay beside her.
An odd sort of compliment. Laura said with a shaky laugh. But Ill accept it. Then she grabbed a hold of his shoulders, drew him forward until they were only a breath away and said in a voice filled with all the emotion she had suppressed that terrible day, Just never do it again, ok?
He flashed his old devilish grin. I wont be able
to if youll just marry me and make things legal.
So were back to that again, are we?
Laura, I trust you to let Antony know that hes no longer welcome in our lives, but that trust doesnt blind me to the potential trouble he could cause. Ive known his type all my life, and hes not going to give up easily.
Im beginning to realize that. She said, remembering his call as they were going upstairs.
She had hung up on him but he had kept ringing until Remington had taken matters into his own hands. Leaving her on the bed where hed carried her, he had stormed out of the room, his features tight with annoyance. He wasnt gone long, but whatever hed done had rendered the phone silent. She hadnt asked him what hed done, and after a few minutes in his arms, she simply hadnt cared.
But Remington was speaking again, drawing her attention back to the present. When I agreed to deliver the documents for him, we made a deal, Laura. At her sharp, questioning look, he nodded grimly, Yes, I know. I should have told you, but I didnt because I knew how youd react. Youd have argued against it, saying it was reckless, and as it turned out, it was, but I felt I had no choice. However, I did manage to get some promises out of him. In turn for delivering the documents, he would give me Shannons statement and arrange things with the INS so they wouldnt bother us any longer. He also promised to leave you alone.
Youre right. I wouldnt have like it. You could have been killed.
He shrugged. It wasnt the first dangerous assignment Ive undertaken. Besides, I thought it was worth it if we could get rid of the bloody bugger. But he didnt keep his promise. Oh, he gave me Shannons statement, but he didnt keep his promise in regards to you. With that kind of track record, I dont expect hell keep his promise regarding the INS either. Hes untrustworthy, Laura. We cant rely on Antony to keep his word. The longer we maintain this fake marriage, the bigger risk we take.
A day ago, maybe even a night ago, she would have disagreed with him. She would have argued that they could handle Tony, and she definitely would have been angry about the part of the arrangement involving her. But not now. Her pride, her independence, her need to prove that she could take care of herself didnt matter any more. Nothing mattered except what theyd started the night before, what they had started five years ago.
I would follow you.
If you got deported, I would follow you. Getting involved with a dick as you first called me wasnt a smart move if you intended to vanish some day. Mildred and I would track you down. Just like we did when you went to London.
Remington looked confused at first as though he wasnt quite following what she was saying, but then it seemed to sink in and his expression softened. He reached for her, gathering her into his arms as hed done so many times before. Ah, Laura, He breathed against her hair, thats just it. I dont want you following me all over the world. I want us to stay in one place, preferably LA.
Why, Mr. Steele, you sound positively domesticated.
He laughed. It used to scare me, this trend toward domesticity, but not any longer. Im tired of deception, of the cat and mouse game, of having to be one step ahead of people like Keyes. I want to be respectable.
Youre the Earl of Claridge now. She reminded him. Theres not much more respectable than that.
He shook his head. I dont want to be the Earl. I just want to be Remington Steele, your Remington Steele, your husband. He let her go but only in order to take her face between his hands. Im asking you to make an honest man of me, Laura. Im asking you to marry me for real this time. Will you marry me, Laura Elizabeth Holt-Steele?
Everything inside of her screamed yes, but something still held her back. Was she still waiting for those words even though he had proven his love over and over again? Why were words so important to her? Her father, Wilson, both had given her the words yet they had left. This man hadnt given her the words yet he had stayed. And true to form he wasnt asking for words from her; he was asking for actions. It was the language he understood. He had proven his love for her. Now it was her turn to prove hers for him.
Yes, Harry, Ill marry you.
She could see the relief in his eyes yet his expression remained serious. Not Harry. He corrected her. Harry belongs to the past, to Daniel. Im Remington. Ive been Remington since the day I stole your bosss identity. A grin touched the side of his mouth. I just never thought the thief would become a victim of his own crime. I never planned that when I stole your boss, youd steal my heart.
Lauras heart began pounding within her breast. Are you saying
He didnt let her finish. Yes, Laura, he said, blue eyes twinkling, I love you. I think I have since the moment I looked across the room and saw those brown eyes spitting fire at me for having the audacity to pass myself off as your Remington Steele. What else could explain my decision to linger all these years?
The chauffeured car? She suggested playfully.
Remington pretended to consider her suggestion. Freds a good chap, excellent chauffer, always up for a car chase, but I wouldnt have face Asian mobsters, gun-packing Santas or your sister Frances for him. No, Mrs. Steele, even though I told myself I just wanted to take up residence in your bed, it wasnt long before I wanted more. I wanted your heart.
Laura laughed, sliding her arms around his neck and pulling him down onto the bed. This time he came willingly. Well, youve managed to make it into my bed.
And what about your heart?
Laura gazed up at him with all the love shed so carefully hidden over the years. Oh, definitely, Mr. Steele. In fact I would say that its very possible that Im in love you.
A dark eyebrow arched upwards. Only possible?
Oh, very well, if you insist on words. She drew him towards her until her lips were against his ear. I love you, my treacherous liar, my cheap crook, my cut-rate con man.
For a moment they just lay together, holding each other, reveling in the words that had finally been spoken, but soon hands began roaming, lips touched and clung and breathing accelerated. Its a good thing her husband had discovered an appreciation for early morning, Laura thought as she surrendered herself to the passion he so easily aroused in her, because theyd never make to breakfast on time.
Remington stood impatiently at the front of the church. He could see Mildred scurrying back and forth in the small antechamber at the back, and it was all he could do to control the impulse to demand what was taking so long. Had she lost the bride? Had that Italian Tarzan swooped in and absconded with her? He clamped down on the momentarily panic such a thought caused and assured himself that Mildred would have told him by now if anything unexpected had occurred. Good ole Mildred. It was a pity that she no longer revered him as she had done in the beginning, but she remained loyal. She would have certainly raised the alarm.
He glanced at the priest, saw his questioning look and sent him a quick grin, which exhibited more confidence than he felt. He wouldnt feel confident until he had Laura legally bound to him. He would have laughed at himself if he wasnt feeling so queasy with some unknown dread. So many of his plans had crashed and burned in the past that he half expected a dead body to show up. Just like in San Francisco.
Shoving that memory aside, he tried to focus on the incredible happiness he felt at the thought of marrying Laura for real. No more pretending to be husband and wife at silly sensitivity spas, no more fishing trawlers, no more play acting, just him and Laura married, partners for life. Amazing how even Harry, that inner man, thrilled at the thought. Well, old man, it had to happen sometime. You knew the moment you saw her that this woman was different. With Laura, you look forward to having your branches cut off.
He didnt realize hed actually said anything until he noticed the priest looking at him again.
He flashed a smile. Pillow Talk. Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Universal Studios, 1965.
Father ORourke raised his brows but said nothing, and Remington returned his attention to the back of the church. Where was she? Certainly it didnt take this long to put on a bloody dress. He glanced around the church, which was filled mostly with the Ashford Castle servants, which by their very numbers filled nearly every pew in the church. That should help Laura forget that her mother and sister werent in attendance. He had had quite a chore of convincing her to marry without them.
Tomorrow! She had gasped as they were getting ready to go down to breakfast the morning she had accepted his proposal. I thought you meant wed get married in LA. What about mother and Frances?
Well have Mildred take lots of pictures.
Like she did on our first honeymoon?
This wont be anything like our first honeymoon. Hed assured her.
I hope not. She had shot back.
Laying aside the jacket hed been about ready to shrug into, he cornered her against the vanity table where shed been brushing her hair. His eyes met hers in the mirror. Come now, Laura, hed said, pulling back a swath of hair in order to kiss her ear. Do you really want to give your mother and Frances the opportunity to be involved in the planning of this wedding?
The rebellious set of her mouth softened. I hadnt thought of that.
We both know that they will drive you mad, and since I will no doubt be the one bearing the brunt of your frustration at their inference, I suggest an elopement. Strictly as a means of self preservation, I assure you. Hed added. And what more romantic place to be married in than Ireland, eh?
But you just dont go out and get married. She had pointed out. There are procedures to be followed.
You leave that to me. Hed told her.
I think Id rather not. The last time I left the arrangements up to you, we ended up on a fishing trawler.
Believe me, Laura, Ill make sure everything is perfectly legal. I promise you.
She must have sensed his determination to do things his way for she had agreed without further protest.
That had been three weeks ago much to his annoyance. The international reputation of Remington Steele had managed to open government doors, but it had still taken him longer than he had liked. Three months had been reduced to three weeks thanks to their connections, but that had done nothing to curb his impatience. He had lived in fear that something would ruin his plans. But now here he was, at last, standing beside the priest, and this wait, he glanced at his watch, a full 15 minutes in length, was intolerable, simply intolerable.
There she be, mlordship. Miklene OFlynn said, giving him an elbow in the ribs.
He was about to ask Miklene if elbowing ones lord was common behavior in Ireland but his attention was captured by the vision of Laura, walking towards him in a dress of ivory cashmere, pearls and creamy blossoms in her golden brown hair. For the first time in his life, fast-talking Harry, quick-thinking Remington was speechless. Was this woman really his? Of course, he had always thought of her as his Laura, but now it appeared that she was concurring with him.
Smile, Mr. Steele, or everyone will think you dont want to marry me. Laura whispered as she took his arm.
They turned to face the priest.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today Father ORourke intoned.
So different from the fishing trawler, he thought as he said his I dos and listened intently as Laura repeated hers. Laura was clean and smiling up at him with love in her eyes rather than anger, and he he was no longer the Duke of Deception, pasting on a grin and tossing out glib comments. No, he was Remington Steele, honest, respectable, trustworthy and completely head over heels for his bride.
All that was left was the pronouncement and the kiss the bride bit. He waited eagerly, clutching Lauras hands in his. He saw Father ORourke open his mouth. He heard him say And now by the powers vested in me by God and the County of Mayo, Ireland, I now pronounced you
But he didnt finish. He was interrupted by a crashing sound at the back of the church. All heads turned and Remington watched in horror as a man stood on the threshold, his face shadowed by the light pouring in behind him. He wobbled unsteadily as though drunk, and then with a groan, he pitched forward, landing face down on the cobblestones.
Complete silence filled the church as everyone stared, wide-eyed, at the man sprawled across the threshold.
Remington saw his plans once again going up in smoke so he did the only thing he could think of. He turned to the priest and said with a cheerful grin, Well, shall we proceed, Father?
Proceed? Laura exclaimed, brown eyes blazing. Theres a dead man back there!
Well, Laura, Remington said, trying for humor as he always did in tight situations, its not like we havent seen a dead body before. Our life together has been positively peppered with them. Why shouldnt one drop by for our wedding, eh?
Laura didnt even bother commenting. She tossed her bouquet of flowers at him and headed for the back of the church.
Boss? Boss? Mildred persisted. You ok, boss?
Of all the churches, in all the towns, in all the world, he dies in mine. He sent Mildred a quick glance. Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Warner Brothers, 1942. Im sure Bogart would forgive the variation. He was a man who knew how it felt to have his hopes and dreams dashed to pieces.
Ah, come on, boss. Its not that bad. Mildred paused. Well, its bad for him, the stiff, I mean, but theres always tomorrow for you and Miss Holt. This is just a temporary setback.
Tomorrow? He snorted. Ah, no, Mildred, not tomorrow and not until shes looked in every pub, under every rock and across every sheep pasture in Ireland for this chaps killer. Look at her. He waved a hand at Laura who was in conversation with an Irish constable, shes like a bloodhound on a scent. Its always business before pleasure with our Miss Holt.
Well, you knew what she was like when you asked her to marry you, didnt you? Mildred asked unsympathetically. Its been pretty obvious over the years that Miss Holt cant resist a good murder.
The only thing she cant resist apparently. He muttered, remembering how effectively shed resisted him. What is it with us, Mildred? Other people attract wealth, friends, good fortune. We attract corpses. I cant begin to count how many times a client or a corpse has interrupted an evening full of potential. At this rate, well be lucky to have our first child by the time were forty.
Its the type of work youre in. Mildred said. It goes with the territory, boss. Remember Sam Spade, Nick and Nora, Philip Marlowe. What would they do in a situation like this?
Its unconscionable of you to use my weakness for movies against me at a time like this.
Mildred shrugged. Whatever works.
Well, Remington said, getting up from the pew where hed been seated. The sooner she solves this, the sooner we can get her down the aisle again. And next time, Mildred, he said in his Harry voice, the voice he only used when Laura or their relationship was threatened, next time, were taking precautions.
What do we know about the man so far? He asked, straightened his tie and then his cuffs.
Not much. Mildred admitted. His name is Henry Lipton, age fifty seven, resides in Toledo, Ohio. There was a business card in his wallet, which identifies him as a professor of history at the University of Toledo. Cause of death: bullet in the chest. Of course, we wont know for sure until the coroner does his work.
Good work, Mildred. You know what to do. Find out everything you can on our Professor Lipton.
You got it, boss.
He barely noticed Mildreds departure. He was too busy getting his irritation under control before joining his bride. Laura mustnt suspect how annoyed and disappointed he was, at least not now. There would be time later to discuss how they each envisioned their married life. To his way of thinking, changes needed to be made. They could not continue putting their lives on hold whenever a case turned up. Hed lived like that for five years, mostly because he didnt what to make her mad enough to boot him out of her life. But now things were different. Shed made a commitment to him, and that knowledge had given him a new confidence. Laura Steeles priorities were going to have to be different than Laura Holts.
Is something bothering you? Laura asked as soon as theyd retired to their bedroom for the night.
What makes you ask? Remington replied, seating himself on one of the sofas that surrounded the fireplace.
Laura frowned, coming forward. She would have seated herself beside him, but something in his expression had her taking the sofa opposite. Youve been rather testy this afternoon. And you were downright rude to Miklene when he asked whether wed be requiring champagne this evening. The Mr. Steele I know is polite to a fault even when hes annoyed.
He stared at her, his expression relieving nothing. Considering the fact that annoyed doesnt begin to describe my current frame of mind, its not surprising that I was unable to maintain my legendary courtesy.
I can understand if youre angry Laura began.
Livid, Laura. Not angry. Livid.
Unable to withstand his stare, she got up. As I said, I can understand if youre livid, she allowed, walking back and forth in front of him as she considered their current predicament, but its not as if the poor man could help it. Its not like he planned to crash our wedding. It was just a fluke. The police seem to think its a hunting accident, but it seems far fetched to me. What interest would a professor of history have in hunting? Its not in character. She said, warming to the subject. And that bullet wound looked too neat, too clean to be inflicted by a hunting rifle.
Its not Professor Lipton that Im livid at.
She stopped, turning to face him. What?
I said Im not livid at the Professor.
Then who She paused, a look of incredulity spreading across her face. Me? Youre angry at me?
You always were an excellent detective, Laura.
But why? She demanded. It wasnt my fault he chose our church to die in.
No, he agreed, but you could have reacted differently.
She threw up her hands, exasperated. What could I have done? Proceeded with the wedding with a dead man lying on the floor? That would have been completely inappropriate. You knew it was even after you suggested it.
It wasnt that. Remington said. It was the way you immediately threw yourself into the investigation.
I felt a certain responsibility for the man. He did after all die at my wedding.
No, you smelt a mystery, and Laura Holt can never resist a mystery.
Thats not true.
Of course, its true, Laura. Ive seen it for the past five years. Even Mildreds seen it. Whenever a mystery presented itself whether we had a client or not, youd be on the scent, tracking the killer or embezzler or whatever bloody thing he or she was with no concern for your personal safety or anyone elses. I used to think it was an excuse to keep me at arms length, but theres no reason for that now. So I must conclude that its become a habit with you, an obsession.
The man died at our wedding. She protested. Doesnt that bother you?
Of course, it bothers me. He snapped, getting to his feet. But unlike you I think the Irish police are capable of handling the investigation. He paused, head down, as he struggled to get his emotions under control again. When he raised his head again, he looked directly at her, his eyes deadly serious. Ive asked you this before, Laura. Perhaps I asked in a half joking manner at the time, but considering our recent commitment to each other, I think its time for it to be answered. Do you intend to pursue this line of work for the rest of your life?
I see no reason for a career change. Laura said cautiously. I love what I do, and Im good at it.
Ill rephrase my question. Remington offered, not letting her off the hook. Do you intend to keep putting your work before everything else? Before your husband, before your children, before your own personal needs and desires?
I havent really considered it. Laura hedged. I mean there wasnt a need to do so until last night. Our relationship has always been so so unresolved. We never seemed to be able to get together.
Because business always came first.
No, that wasnt it. She turned away, her thoughts in confusion. There was your murky past to be sorted out and it seemed like neither one of us wanted to be the first to take a risk in revealing our feelings. Attending to business was easier. It gave us an excuse to be together without having to verbalize a commitment.
There was a long silence and then she heard his footsteps on the rug. She was afraid for a moment that he was walking away from her, fed up with her uncertainty and inability to answer, but then she felt his arms sliding around her waist, pulling her against him.
Laura, he breathed against her ear, thats all been resolved. Theres no reason to put business first anymore. Youre my wife. As far as I was concerned you were my wife the moment we stepped off that fishing trawler.
And you were my husband. She murmured, turning in his arms so she could put her arms around his neck.
And as your husband Id like to think that your time is reserved for me. For the first time that evening, she saw a hint of the smile she loved so well. Its rather demoralizing for a chap to play second fiddle to a corpse. Most demoralizing, emotionally scarring even.
I know the perfect remedy for removing scars. She said, dropping a kiss along his jaw.
Do you now?
Its an old family recipe.
Id be interested in hearing it.
It doesnt have anything to do with hearing, Mr. Steele.
Then perhaps you could show me.
Id be delighted.
An hour or so later Lauras voice came again. Mildred will be getting her license next month.
Will she? Remington murmured, his voice sleepy. Delighted for her.
I was thinking we could give her a case or two when we get back.
Laura propped herself up on one elbow, looking down into her husbands face. She thought shed find his eyes closed, but she was wrong. They were wide open and looking at her intently. She could see the blue of his eyes even in the shadows surrounding the sofa on which they were laying. And with the agency doing so well we might consider hiring another investigator.
I like the way you think, Mrs. Steele.
There was a pause and then, But I couldnt give it up completely.
I wouldnt ask you to.
We could limit ourselves to the larger clients or focus on those finder fees you find so attractive.
Youre reading my mind.
Sliding a hand in her hair, he pulled her head down to his. Their lips met in a long, lingering kiss, a caress full of forgiveness, understanding and tenderness.
But before we do that, we have a case to solve.
And what case would that be? She asked, pulling back to give him an inquisitive look.
Why the case of the university professor, of course. He told her. Ive got Mildred working on it already.
You low down, dirty sneak. It was your intention all along to investigate Professor Liptons murder, and you allowed me to believe you were dead set against it.
Dirty, Laura? He asked, arching a dark brow. Low down maybe, but certainly not dirty. What I am, is an over indulgent husband who will no doubt rue the day he agreed to any of this. He grabbed her face and pulled it down until they were nose to nose. And I agree to it on one condition.
As soon as this is over, we get married. Again.
I wouldnt have it any other way, Mr. Steele.
Laura woke with a start, her senses immediately alert. Something was wrong. The fact that Remingtons body curled against hers was also tense confirmed her initial impression. Both of them were aware of danger. She stirred, but Remingtons arms tightened around her.
Someones in the room. Just inside the door. He said against her ear. I suggest we roll to the left and use the bed as protection.
She nodded, and with the suddenness of a cat springing, Remington rolled them to the left, over the side of the bed. They landed with a thud. Remington quickly disentangled himself from the sheets and reached for the light. Blinking, startled by the sudden light, stood a man. In his right hand he held a gun.
Remington made a move as though to spring across the room and disarm him, but Laura stopped him. Dont play the hero, Mr. Steele. He doesnt look like the type who would fire a gun.
One doesnt have to be a particular type to fire a gun, my dear. Remington reminded her, his eyes never leaving the intruder. Laura, weve known little old ladies that would pull a trigger for a doily collection.
If you try to disarm him by surprise, he might accidentally shoot you. I dont want to be a widow before Im a wife. Try talking him into putting down the gun.
Remington gave a disgusted snort, but he stayed behind the bed.
Mr. Steele? The man ventured, glancing about the room. He could obviously hear their voices but was unable to locate them.
Where are you?
Why dont you tell us why youre creeping around our bedroom at 2 oclock in the morning with a gun, and then Ill consider telling you where I am.
The man glanced down at the gun in his hand as though hed forgotten he was carrying it. Its not dangerous, you know. He said quickly. There arent any bullets in it.
Prove it. Put it on the floor and kick it over towards the bed.
The man complied. Remington grabbed the gun and checked the bullet chamber. A very foolish thing to do, mate.
I I was desperate. I think someones following me. I thought the gun might discourage them.
Either that or encourage them to shoot you before you shoot them. Remington replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm. Go seat yourself at the far end of the room, and well join you shortly. He looked at Laura, crouching beside him, wrapped in the bed sheets, Duty calls, Mrs. Steele.
What happened to the fine line between pleasure and business?
Weve had our pleasure, Laura, now its back to business. He said, grabbing his pajama bottoms and hurriedly pulling them on. Besides, how else are we going to get him out of our bedroom?
An odd time for business. She muttered, groping around for her robe, which was somewhere on the floor. Couldnt it have waited until morning?
You heard the man. Remington said cheerfully, finding her robe and tossing it at her. Hes desperate.
Laura was less an enthusiastic when she and Remington joined the man a few minutes later. She was all for business but not at 2 oclock in the morning. Taking a seat beside her husband on the sofa opposite their visitor, she eyed the little man, noting the wrinkled tweeds, the balding head and the small eyes behind thick lens. He was seated on the edge of the sofa, looking like an anxious owl, ready to bolt for cover at a moments notice. Hardly the image of a gun-wielding criminal but she was not disposed to feel kindly towards him.
Im afraid you have us at a disadvantage. Remington was saying as he settled himself against the sofa cushions with deceptive ease. Only Laura could feel the tension still radiating from his body. You obviously know us, but we dont know you.
Everybody knows the great detective Remington Steele. Laura watched in disgust as Remington reacted as he always did to professional praise. A grin flashed across his face and he warmed, instantly forgiving any inconvenience their guest may have caused. When I heard it was your wedding, poor Henry showed up at, I knew I had to talk to you. But but I couldnt come during the day. They might have seen me. Ive been outside in the bushes for hours.
You knew Professor Lipton? Laura asked, suddenly interested.
The little man nodded. We were colleagues.
Youre a professor also?
Professor Ernie Potts from Akron, Ohio. I teach 18th Century European History at the University of Akron, but my special field of interest is Celtic relics.
Good Lord, Remington exclaimed, another professor from Ohio.
What are you doing in Ireland, Professor? Laura asked.
The same thing Henry was doing. He answered. Looking for The ONeill Sword, of course.
Laura could feel the sudden interest in her husband, and she wondered at it. Usually only the promise of treasure caused such a strong reaction in him so she assumed that this so-called sword was something of great value.
Excuse my ignorance, Professor Potts, but what exactly is The ONeill Sword and why are you looking for it?
Potts opened his mouth to answer but Remington interrupted him. The ONeill Sword is said to have belonged to Hugh ONeill, the 2nd Earl of Tyrone. Its hilt and scabbard was made of gold and decorated with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. The base of the hilt held a particularly rare emerald brought back from Latin America by Cortez, the Santa Maria Emerald. The entire sword by todays standard would be worth, oh, around 2 million dollars, I should think. However, it was stolen in 1915, and its never been recovered. The common theory is that the IRA stole it in order to fund their various activities. However, if they did, they must have had a good fence or sold the jewels separately for the swords never been seen again. Its one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. He glanced at Potts, lifting an eyebrow. Is that correct, Potts?
Yes, quite correct. Potts replied. I didnt know you were so knowledgeable on the subject, Mr. Steele.
Jewels are an interest of mine, a hobby so to speak.
You said both you and Professor Lipton were looking for the sword. Laura said, directing their attention back to the matter at hand. Were you working together?
No, Potts said slowly, almost reluctantly, actually it would be more accurate to call us professional rivals than colleagues, Mrs. Steele.
You do realize that by admitting that youve just placed yourself on a list of suspects.
Yes but I didnt kill him. I didnt even know where he was until I saw the news about his death on the television this afternoon. He paused, mopped his brow and said with a sigh, I might as well start at the beginning. You see, Henry and I belonged to a club, a sort of mystery club for academics. We all gather twice a year and discuss unsolved mysteries of all types, murders, thefts, disappearances. If you remember, I said my particular interest is Celtic relics. Well, so was Henrys and we were particularly fascinated by the ONeill Sword. We and a few others who shared our interest corresponded with each other and shared research and theories. But you have to understand, Mr. Steele, we may have collaborated, but we all wanted to be the one to solve the mystery and locate the sword.
Of course, of course. Remington nodded.
So when Henry published an article hinting that he was close to uncovering the whereabouts of the sword I was alarmed and immediately contacted him. Imagine my shock, my utter despair when his secretary informed me that hed already been in Ireland for three weeks. Three weeks!
Shocking. Remington agreed.
Well, what was I to think? I ask you. What was I to think? I naturally concluded that he was looking for the sword. So I took a leave of absence from my university and caught the first flight to Ireland. I couldnt let Lipton get all the glory for himself, could I?
Cheeky blighter. Remington concurred.
So you left for Ireland not knowing where to find Professor Lipton? Laura asked, incredulous. What did you think youd be able to do without knowing Liptons whereabouts?
Oh, I knew his whereabouts. Potts assured her.
But you just said you didnt know where he was until this afternoon.
His secretary gave me the address of the hotel where hed be staying, but when I got there, the proprietress said he had checked out that very day.
What address was that?
Potts thought for a moment. I cant remember. It was a little, mom and pop sort of place, very low keyed. Wait a minute. I have it written down somewhere. He started patting his pockets and then reaching into the inner pocket of his tweed jacket, he produced a crumpled up bit of cheap note paper. Here it is.
Remington took it. The Emerald Hedgehog. Sounds delightful.
Laura decided to change gears. You mentioned earlier that you thought someone was following you. Why?
Potts shrugged. I dont know. Its just just a feeling. You know that feeling you get when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up for no apparent reason?
Laura glanced at Remington. I know the feeling.
Well, thats how I feel. I feel as though Im being watched, followed.
Its probably just nerves. Laura said soothingly. After hearing what happened to your colleague, youd naturally be a little jumpy.
No, its not that. Potts disagreed. Ive felt this way since I stepped off the plane. When I heard Henry was dead, I bought a gun and came here as quickly as I could. I figured if Henry died at your wedding, he must have had some contact with you, known you were in the area. I dont know. I just thought Id be safer with a world famous detective.
Perfectly understandable. Remington said, leaning forward and patting the mans shoulder. We hear that a lot. Now theres no need to worry, old chap. Why dont you run on home and well worry about Lipton and the dagger, er, I mean, sword. You look like you could use a goodnights sleep and, He paused, looking Potts up and down, a bath. Yes, a bath would be just the thing. Come now, Professor Potts He paused once again, tilting his head to one side, Professor Potts, Professor Potts. Where have I heard that name before?
Laura watched with interest as a change came over their visitor. He suddenly looked extremely uncomfortable.
Youve probably read one of my articles. Im widely published, you know.
Remington shook his head. Never read magazines or journals or whatever you academics call them. Bad for the eyes. No, its something else. He pondered again and then suddenly brightened. Professor Potts, of course. How could I have forgotten? Ball of Fire, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1941. Ah, delightful movie, delightful. Stanwycks character Sugarpuss OShea is hiding out among a group of professors in order to avoid testifying against her gangster boyfriend. Sugarpuss, He murmured with a fond grin, wonderful name. How would you feel about having a nickname like that Mrs. Steele? It would add to the detective image, dont you think?
Sugarpuss is right up there with Dollface. Laura said dryly
I assure you theres no similarity at all, Mr. Steele. None at all. Potts said quickly, too quickly as far as Laura was concerned.
Of course not, old chap. Remington agreed, helping the man to his feet. Now if youll tell us where youre staying, Ill have our driver drop you at your hotel.
I dont have a hotel. The little man protested.
Then hell drop you at the airport.
Potts was about to protest again but Laura interrupted, taking hold of Remingtons arm and pulling him towards the far side of the room. If youll excuse us for a moment, Professor, Id like to confer with my husband.
Yes, of course. He said, mopping his forehead once again.
What do you think youre doing? Laura hissed once they were out of earshot. Hes a suspect. He has to stay in Ireland until the murderer is caught. We cant be dropping him at an airport.
Then what do you suggest we do with him? Remington demanded. You heard the man. He doesnt have a hotel room.
Well, we cant just hand him his gun and put him on the doorstep. Hes obviously scared out of his wits. She thought for a moment. Youve got a castle with a bunch of unused rooms. Put him in one.
Are you forgetting, Laura, that those rooms cost money? Something this particular castle doesnt have a great deal of?
How much can one professor cost?
Youd be surprised. Remington said grimly. Theres electricity and heat and hot water, not to mention food. I also have to pay for one of those bloody servants to air out and turn down a bed.
If his instincts are correct and he is being followed, that would be like putting the sheep among the wolves. Well just have to put him up for the night.
So were going to lodge a possible murderer in our home, right under our roof where he could kill us in our sleep?
Do you have a better suggestion?
Remington held his ground. Every time we give refuge to a client or suspect or any Tom, Dick or Harry that shows up on our doorstep we end up getting shot at, kidnapped or worked over by some guy named Guido.
I gave refuge to someone named Harry once and that turned out just fine. Wonderful in fact. She murmured, leaning into him, a seductive light in her eyes.
Have you no shame, Mrs. Steele? He asked her, obviously weakening.
Not much. She reached up and gave him a quick kiss. Now go ring Miklene.
It took an hour to get Professor Potts settled. Miklene had proven difficult to rouse and when he did appear he was not at all happy about the prospect of preparing a room for their guest. Nevertheless he complied as all good servants do and Potts was finally ensconced in what Miklene had called the Green Room.
Im already beginning to rue agreeing to this case. Remington said as he removed his robe and climbed into bed. Housing professors from Ohio was never part of the deal.
Dont grouse, Mr. Steele. Laura said with a yawn. Its unbecoming to the lord of the castle. Arent the landed gentry supposed to practice hospitality?
Remington turned off the light, plunging the room into darkness once again. Being a lord is highly overrated, especially an impoverished one.
Laura smiled, rolling over to snuggle against his side. Just think of the jewels, Mr. Steele. That should put you in a better frame of mind.
There was a pause and then, If we should find that sword, the finders fee would go a long way in supporting this pile of stones.
I thought youd decided to give it to the servants.
Well, this place is beginning to grow on me. Fond memories and all that. He murmured, dropping feathery kisses along her cheek. Besides, they gave it back. Ungrateful buggers.
Laura laughed. Then I guess well just have to make the best of it.
My thoughts exactly, Mrs. Steele.
Ah, the Emerald Hedgehog. Remington said as they stood on the road outside the hotel. Is there such a thing as a rustic style in architecture?
I wouldnt know. Laura answered, giving the white-washed stone and thatch roof a brief glance before heading for the front door, which was painted a bright, emerald green. Youre the one with all the art experience.
They entered the building and stood for a moment as they eyes adjusted to the dim interior. It was shabby but not unpleasant, Laura thought as they headed for the counter, which appeared to serve as both bar and check in desk. No doubt Mildred would call it a dump, but it did have a homey appeal that larger, grander hotels lacked.
The counter was deserted, but a bell seemed to suggest that potential guests ought to ring so Laura did. When no one responded, she rang again while Remington began prowling around the large, open common area, inspecting items of interest, glancing out windows now and then.
Finally a red-cheeked woman appeared from the back, wiping her hands on a dish towel. Welcome to the Hedgehog. She said with a smile. Im Mollie Finnegan. Are you looking for a room or a pint? The hogs got the best Guinness this side of Galway Bay.
Neither. Laura said, returning the smile. Were actually looking for someone. He was a guest at our wedding, came with a friend of ours. Unfortunately he left a rather valuable item behind and were trying to locate him to return it. Its our understanding that he was staying here. His name is Henry Lipton.
The womans smile faded and a slightly hostile look crossed her face. Lipton again? This bloke must have a lot of friends because youre the fifth person thats been in here asking about him. Ill tell you what I told them. Hes gone. He left yesterday. And it isnt Lipton, dearie. Its Pettigrew, Frank Pettigrew. At least thats the name hes used to sign in under for the last two years.
Laura took the photo Mildred had somewhere managed to procure of Lipton out of her purse. This is the man you call Frank Pettigrew?
The woman nodded. Thats Frank.
And you know this man well?
Hes a regular. Thats all. Mollie said, her tone becoming defensive. We never had any trouble from him and he tips well so we mind our business. Now unless you want a room or a pint, I suggest you leave.
Were sorry to be asking all these questions, Mrs. Finnegan. Remington said, suddenly joining them. But this item he left was particularly valuable, a diamond cuff link, most likely a family heirloom. Surely you can understand our desire to locate him. He flashed a grin. Perhaps if you could describe these other people, wed recognize one of them and they could get us in touch with Frank.
Laura watched as Mollies hostility melted away under Remingtons charm. Well, I would hate for him to lose his property, especially if its an heirloom.
Wed certainly appreciate any help you could give us.
If it hadnt already been for her rosy cheeks, Laura would have said the woman was blushing.
The first was a little man, dressed in tweeds, balding, had a nervous air about him. Then a couple came in. The man was the big, beefy sort, looked sort of silly in those tweeds but everyone seems to think they have to wear tweeds in Ireland. The woman was a blonde, straight from the bottle, big busted. She was dressed in tweed too but looked like shed be more comfortable in sequins. You know the type, loud and flashy.
And the last one? Remington prompted.
He came in this morning, about thirty minutes before you. He was a tall chap, gray-haired with one of those David Niven mustaches, carried a fishing basket and was dressed in fishing gear but didnt know the first thing about trout. She gave Remington a tentative smile. I hope that helps.
Immensely, Mrs. Finnegan. Taking one of her pudgy hands and raising it to his lips for a kiss. Youve been of invaluable assistance.
Mollie giggled like a school girl. Anything else youd like to know?
Remington shot a glance at Laura. Mrs. Steele?
If his charm wasnt such an asset, Laura might have fired him right then and there, the big flirt. Instead she used the opening hed provided. When Lipton, er, Frank checked out was he acting strangely in anyway, nervous perhaps?
I couldnt say.
Because it wasnt him that checked out. Sean OMalley, he works up at the Abbey, was the one that checked him out. Picked up his luggage too.
And that didnt seem odd to you?
Mollie laughed. Heavens no. Weve seen Sean with him many times before. Frank was a regular visitor at Rivendell Abbey. We just figured hed gone up there to stay for a few days.
Well, Remington said as they emerged from the Hedgehog a half hour later, that turned out to be highly profitable.
For who? Us or Mrs. Finnegan? Laura asked. Was it really necessary to buy two pints of Guinness?
It was the least I could do after shed been so helpful.
Laura headed for the car, which was parked across the street. Lets hope Rivendell Abbey will be as accommodating.
What? She snapped.
Couldnt he tell she didnt want to talk right now? She was feeling decidedly out of sorts, and it all started around the time he had kissed Mrs. Finnegans hand. Youre being silly, she told herself. Hed just been doing what they always did when they needed information, charmed the source. Besides, the woman was old enough to be his mother or at least his aunt.
I think weve located at least one of our suspects. He nodded across the street. Theres Mr. Fishing Basket.
Laura followed his glance. Where did he come from?
I noticed him when we where in the Hedgehog, saw him out the window, but didnt think anything of it. He fits Mrs. Finnegans description at a tee.
Right down to the basket.
Well, Mrs. Steele, should we introduce ourselves?
No time like the present.
They left the car and started across the street, but the moment Fishing Basket deduced their intent, he bolted, leaving the doorway in which hed been leaning and sprinting up the street. They pursued, following their quarry through alleys and side streets. Finally, tired of the chase, Remington broke off, taking an alley, while Laura continued the pursuit.
Laura saw the man turn the corner, but he got no further. He landed at her feet, unconscious. She looked at Remington. Did you have to hit him so hard?
How was I to know the man has a glass jaw? Remington protested, shaking his hand.
Well, what are we going to do with him? Hes useless to us like that.
Remington straightened up, looked around as though searching for a solution and finally said, Put him in the trunk. Well take him with us.
Together the hefted the man between them and walked-dragged him to the car. Fortunately no one commented or seemed to notice except for an old lady sweeping the sidewalk in front of a lace shop. Remington answered her startled look with a cant hold his Guinness, poor chap and they continued on.
One down. Remington said, shutting the trunk. Two more to go.
I must say this is an improvement over the Hedgehog. Remington remarked as they stood on the steps of Rivendell Abbey, waiting for someone to answer their ring.
The door opened, and a man who was obviously the butler looked them up and down and then asked, May I help you?
Wed like to speak to the Lord or Lady of the house. Laura told him. Lord and Lady Claridge calling.
The butler stood back, allowing them to enter. If youll wait here, Ill inform her Ladyship of your arrival.
He returned promptly and said, Please follow me.
They were led into a large drawing room, which although lighted by a large bank of windows remained gloomy. At a writing desk in front of the windows sat a woman, her head bent as she wrote. She looked up as they entered and rose gracefully, coming towards them.
Laura eyed her with instant dislike. There was something about the woman that immediately set her on edge. Although she must have been well into her fifties, Lady Bolingbroke was strikingly beautiful. She was tall and dressed in a royal blue which complimented her auburn hair. Pearls clung to her wrist, neck and ears. Perhaps she reminded Laura too much of Clarissa or perhaps it was the way her eyes lingered on Remington while passing over her with the barest hint of interest.
Welcome to Rivendell Abbey, Mr. Steele. She said, her voice low and sultry, exactly the sort of voice Laura would have expected such a person to have. But what have I done to warrant a visit from the great Remington Steele?
I see my reputation has preceded me. Remington said.
Of course. Everyone knows youre Remington Steele and this, she cast a glance at Laura, is your associate, Laura Holt.
Laura Steele. Remington corrected.
So youre married then. She said with a lift of auburn brows. I was under the impression that the wedding had been interrupted by an unexpected arrival.
Youre aware of Professor Lipton death? Laura asked.
Its in all the newspapers. Lady Bolingbroke replied. It must be rather disconcerting to have a corpse drop in at your wedding. A bad omen, Id say. I admire your courage to go through with it, Mrs. Steele. But then again, she slid Remington an admiring glance, I cant say I dont blame you. Id get a ring on his finger as soon as I could too, darling.
Laura bit back an angry retort. Remember the case, she told herself, remember the case. Did you know Professor Lipton, Lady Bolingbroke?
No, I did not.
Perhaps you knew him as Frank Pettigrew.
No, the name isnt familiar to me.
Then why did Sean OMalley, a servant here at Rivendell, check him out of the Emerald Hedgehog, taking his luggage with him?
I have no idea. She said indifferently. Perhaps my husband knew him. My husband and I traveled in very different circles.
Could we talk with your husband, Lady Bolingbroke?
Im afraid that would be impossible.
Why is that?
Hes dead. He died a little over two weeks ago. He was in poor health.
Laura carefully hid her surprise and asked, Could we speak with Sean then?
Im afraid thats impossible also.
Is he dead too?
As far as I know, hes alive, but my butler tells me he didnt come into work today, and the rumor among the servants is that he took off because the police were getting ready to arrest him for the theft of a necklace worth over 2 million dollars.
Shes up to her finely plucked eyebrows in this. Laura muttered as they were driving back to Ashford Castle. Ive just got to find the evidence.
Arent you jumping to conclusions, Laura? Remington asked. How would she benefit by popping off Lipton?
I dont know, but Im going to find out.
I take it that you didnt take to her Ladyship.
No, I did not. Laura agreed without any hesitation.
It wouldnt have anything to do with her being an attractive woman, would it? Remington suggested.
So you thought she was attractive?
Like so many men before him, Remington searched for the words that wouldnt incriminate him. Women could be so unreasonable when it came to other women, especially beautiful ones. Didnt you?
Laura snorted. I suppose she was in a cold Id like to stick a knife in your back kind of way. Ive seen that type before. There was a pause and then casually, too casually for Remingtons comfort, usually they emerge from somewhere in your past. Felicia, Anna, Shannon. Did I forget any?
Ah, so that was it, Remington thought, casting a quick look at his wife. She was jealous. For a moment the thought thoroughly delighted him, but then he realized that if he allowed Laura to start doubting, her fertile mind could lead them somewhere neither of them wanted to go. All that was in the past and he wanted to concentrate on the future. But hed always had that problem with Laura. She spent far too much time digging in the past like a terrier trying to uncover a rat hole.
You have nothing to be concerned about. He told her. I wasnt at all attracted to her.
Not in the least.
Shes your type.
Not any longer.
Laura glanced over at him. What do you mean? Not any longer?
Remington slowed the car, guiding it to the side of the road. He cut the engine and turned in his seat to face his wife. Laura, I only have one kind of type these days, and its your type.
But Im nothing like your usual type. Even Felicia said so.
Which is why you were able to get something out of me that the others couldnt.
Laura stared at him. Unlike the last five years she didnt keep what she was feeling to herself, didnt hide it behind a flippant response or angry retort. She allowed him to see the emotion she was struggling with, the doubt, the hope and then finally the acceptance. She leaned towards him and he didnt hesitate. He gathered her close.
Remington, she sighed against his collar, for a man who prefers actions, you have all the right words when you need them.
If I do, its because you taught them to me, Laura.
Their lips met, gently at first and then with more fervor. Remington had just gotten his wife where he wanted her, underneath him on the front seat (yes, there was an advantage of bench seats over bucket, hed thought with satisfaction), when a thump came from the back of the car. They pulled apart, looking at each other.
We forgot Mr. Fishing Basket. Laura said.
Remington sat up. Probably because all the people who have occupied our trunk in the past have been dead.
Wed better get back to the castle and let him out before he runs out of air. She sat up, re-buttoning her blouse, pulling down her skirt, Well have to finish this later.
I suppose its just as well. Remington said philosophically as he started the car and guided it back on to the road. If were to make love in a car, it ought to be the Auburn.
Miklene, would you be do good as to retrieve the man in the trunk of our car? Remington asked as they entered the castle. Take one or two of the other servants with you. He may be a bit uncooperative.
Right away, mLordship. Miklene paused. Could I ask the Lordship what were to do with him once hes retrieved?
Put him in a room.
Would the Gold Room be acceptable?
Excellent choice. Remington agreed. Oh, and Miklene, the butler stopped, an inquiring look on his face, you may want to tie the chap to a chair or something until we get a chance to question him.
As you wish.
Remington and Laura started up the stairs, but they were stopped by Mildred hurrying into the foyer. She looked flustered.
Oh, boss, Im so glad youre back.
Ah, Mildred, just the person we wanted to see. Remington said, placing a conspiratorial arm around her shoulders. We need you to look into a theft of a necklace. Happened in London, I should think. Probably in all the newspapers. Check within a two month period.
But, boss, weve got visitors. Mildred protested. I put them in the west drawing room, but theyve been there for over two hours, and they dont look the type that likes to wait.
Is one a big man in tweeds and the other a bottle blonde with a large chest? Laura asked.
Howd you know?
Laura looked at Remington. Looks like our final suspects have arrived.
Ill take the Fishing Basket. You take Bonnie and Clyde.
Laura watched as Remington ran lightly up the stairs and then turned to Mildred. When youre researching that jewel theft, see what you can find on Sean OMalley, Francis Pettigrew and Lord and Lady Bolingbroke. Lord Bolingbroke died approximately two weeks ago. Find out what he died of. She paused. Anything back from the coroner on Lipton?
He was shot in the upper left quadrant of the chest, but the bullet didnt hit any major arteries so death wasnt instantaneous. The coroner estimated that he could have been alive for a while before he finally bled to death.
So that means that he wasnt shot right before he burst into the church, which explains why no one heard a gun shot. He could have been shot elsewhere or near the church earlier in the day.
And you know the hunting accident theory? Mildred asked. Its been blown out of the water. The bullet came from a .22 caliber, not a rifle or any other firearm used in hunting.
Laura nodded, thinking. What about Potts?
His story checks out. Hes a prof at Akron University. The only irregularities showed up in his finances. Hes broke, up to his eyes in debt, and from the look of those two in the drawing room, Id say hes mixed up with the mob. Gambling Id bet.
What makes you think Potts and our visitors know each other?
They asked for him. Mildred said simply. I didnt like the looks of them so I put them on ice. I didnt want another corpse on our hands so I kept Potts under wraps. Not that hes eager to go anywhere. Hes been hiding out in his room since breakfast. Thats one scared little rabbit, Mrs. Steele.
Good work, Mildred. Laura said, moving off toward the drawing room. Then she stopped, turning back. Mildred, when we get back to LA, Mr. Steele and I would like you to start interviewing for a new secretary.
Mildreds face fell. Did I do something wrong, Mrs. Steele?
No, youve done everything right. Thats why were promoting you to junior investigator. Now get to work on that necklace.
As soon as she saw their visitors she understood why Mildred had been suspicious. They were dressed like professors but there was nothing academic about the pair. The man was big and looked like hed been squeezed into his tweed suit. The bulge at his side, under his arm immediately put her on guard. They would have to find a way to relieve him of that. The woman was definitely busty, her staid white blouse nearly bursting at the buttons. She had obviously passed her time buffing her nails for the emery board as still in use.
Im sorry to keep you waiting. Laura said, coming into the room. My husband and I were out.
Dont mean to be rude, lady, the man said, getting up from the sofa where hed been sprawled, but we aint here to see you. Were here for Potts.
Before I hand over guests, I like to know who Im handing them over to.
The names Moretti, uh, Professor Moretti from Cleveland. This is Bambi, I mean, Barbara Balboa.
And how do you know Professor Potts?
Were colleagues of his.
And are you here looking for the sword as well?
Sword? Moretti echoed. What sword?
The ONeill Sword.
Moretti could no longer hide his frustration. Look, lady, I dont know nothing about no sword. I just want Potts so be a nice dame and hand him over, ok?
If he hadnt had a gun, Laura would have decked him for calling her a dame. She forced herself to smile. Im afraid I cant do that, Professor Moretti.
Because I dont have Professor Potts.
Now dont give me that, lady, Moretti said, we saw him come in here last night and he aint gone out. So what happened to him?
Its a big castle with many exits. You couldnt have watched all of them.
Shes right, Dino, baby, Bambi/Barbara interjected, looking up from her nails. We couldnt have watched them all.
You keep outta this. Moretti retorted, turning on his companion. I do the thinking, remember? You just do the looking nice stuff, ok?
He turned back to Laura. Are you going to cooperate like a good girl or am I going to have to get serious? My patience is running thin, honey. Ive been kicking my heels in this mausoleum for over two hours. Ive been nice. Ive been polite. Now dont make me get rough, understand?
Very well. Ill go get him.
Wait a minute. Moretti called out, stopping Laura in her tracks. Ill go with you. As you said, its a big castle and people could get lost.
Laura opened the door and stepped into the hallway. Moretti followed.
There was the sound of breaking glass and then Moretti fell at Lauras feet.
Dino, baby! Bambi/Barbara cried, hurrying across the room and dropping to her knees beside him. What have you done to him?
I believe its called whacking in Chicago. Mildred said.
Good work, Mildred. Laura said, removing the gun from beneath Morettis jacket. But werent you supposed to be looking into that theft?
Mildred shrugged. I thought Id hang around a bit. The boss would never forgive me if anything happened to you. She glanced at the pair on the floor. What should we do with them?
Laura thought for a moment. Put them in the dungeon. Im going to go have a word with the rabbit.
We tied him up just as you directed, mLordship. Miklene said, nearly bursting with pride at his handiwork. Do you think itll hold him?
Remington eyed the man referred to as Fishing Basket. He was trussed up tighter than a Christmas turkey. He looks quite secure. However, I think well need to remove this in order to question him. He removed a sock from the mans mouth and handed it to Miklene. Hopefully it hadnt come off someones foot. Im impressed. You have a knack for this kind of thing.
Would you like me to rough him up a bit? Miklene asked eagerly. I was lightweight champion of Kerry County when I was a lad, mLord, and Im still pretty good with me fists.
Remington walked around the man, doing his best Perry Mason imitation. I dont think that will be necessary. Well just try questioning him first. He stopped in front of the man. Ok, mate, talk.
About what? The man asked.
Whats your name?
And your profession?
Im a professor of Criminology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Remington nodded. Of course, another professor. Apparently theres a plague of them right now in Ireland. He began to pace. Why were you hanging around outside of the Hedgehog?
I was looking for Henry Lipton. Chesterfield answered. Hes a colleague of mine.
What do you want with Lipton?
The man looked uncomfortable.
Remington pressed. Why are you looking for Henry Lipton?
Still Chesterfield remained silent.
Miklene leaned toward Remington. A fiver to the nose might jog his memory a bit, MLord.
Remington ignored the butlers advice. Are you aware that Henry Lipton is dead?
That got the mans mouth working again. He gaped at Remington. Dead? When?
Yesterday morning. At my wedding actually.
Thats what were hoping you can tell us.
I dont know anything about it!
If you want me to believe that, mate, then youd better tell me why you were looking for him.
Chesterfield still looked unwilling, but he obviously recognized the perilous position he was in. Youre going to think Im crazy. Off my rocker.
Chesterfield remained stubbornly silent for a moment, but then finally blurted out, I was trying to find him because I have reason to believe hes a jewel thief.
Yep, Remington thought, hes as mad as a March hare.
And why is that?
As I mentioned my field of study is Criminology. I study crime and the people that engage in it. Im particularly interested in thefts. Thats how I met Lipton. We belonged to an academic mystery club. Well, I started noticing that every time a jewel theft happened somewhere in the British Isles, Lipton was out of town. In Ireland his secretary always said. I dont know what ever induced me to start tracking these occurrences, maybe I was bored or maybe it was just an overactive imagination, but I began collecting research on the thefts and Liptons whereabouts.
Go on. Remington urged, his interest piqued.
Well, a pattern began to emerge, and I slowly became convinced that Lipton was the individual masterminding all these thefts. When I read about the theft of Chopards Princess Amelia necklace from Sothebys in London, I decided to put my theory to the test. I called Liptons secretary, and yes, the professor was in Ireland, had been for at least a week before the actual theft took place. So I took some time off and came over here, hoping to nose around and see what Lipton was actually up to. He sighed, shaking his head. I was half hoping I was wrong about him, but now hes dead. People just dont end up dead without a reason, and a 2 million dollar necklace sounds like a good reason to me.
Remington rubbed his neck. Laura was never going to believe this one, not without proof. She didnt go with her instincts like he did, and his instincts were telling him that Chesterfield was on the up and up. After all, hed known plenty of thieves whod been killed for less. But there was still Laura and her annoying habit of insisting on proof.
This all sounds pretty far-fetched, Chesterfield. He began.
I know, I know. Chesterfield agreed. It took me a long time to believe it myself, but all my research points in Liptons direction.
You wouldnt happen to have this research with you, would you? Remington asked. Id like to take a look at it.
Chesterfield brightened. Of course, I have it with me. Its with my luggage at the Thistle & Drum. Its in a leather valise. I even have a chart showing the locations of the thefts and Lipton whereabouts, had it especially made. Got the idea from those old war movies that always have a map on the wall with pins showing troop activity. If you send someone for it, Id be happy to show it to you. He gave a self-conscious laugh. To tell you the truth, Id welcome someone looking at it. You know, to make sure Im not off my rocker.
Say no more, MLordship. Im on it.
And once youre finished with that see about getting our guest a fresh change of clothes, will you? Remington added as the butler headed for the door. He smells like a tuna salad.
Have you lost your mind? Laura exclaimed. Henry Lipton, a jewel thief?
I know, Laura, I know it sounds preposterous. Remington agreed from the sofa where hed been watching his wife pace in front of the fireplace. Tonight he had allowed a fire since a cold, damp wind was whirling around the castle parapets. But Ive just spent the afternoon with Chesterfield sifting through folders full of news clippings and meticulously recorded dates and data, and I can assure you that its not as far-fetched as it sounds.
Hes right, Mrs. Steele. Mildred piped in from across the room where she was elbow deep in Chesterfields research. Ive only begun to sort through all this stuff, but hes accumulated a lot of data on this guy. He even has a chart. She held up a large square of paper, which had been laminated and marked with red and blue dots. I like this guys style. Reminds me of the chart I showed you when the boss took off to London.
But a jewel thief? Laura repeated, incredulously. Hes nothing like you or Daniel. Hes a non-descript university professor. He doesnt even live like hes stolen millions of dollars worth of jewels. Mildreds only found a modest size bank account and a few investments.
Not everyone does it for the money. Remington told her.
Then why do it?
The challenge. Remington let that sink in before leaning forward in his seat as though suddenly energized, his expression one of admiration, Dont you see, Laura, its the perfect cover. Brilliant even. Who would ever expect a professor of history? Their reaction would be the same as yours.
Laura threw up her hands. Ok. Lets say hes a thief. If thats true, then where do the Bolingbrokes come into this? University professors and landed gentry dont move in the same circles, yet according to Mrs. Finnegan he was a regular visitor. Why?
Remington shrugged. At the moment that detail eludes me. Perhaps he was writing their family history or something equally innocuous.
Laura turned to Mildred. What have you come up with on the Bolingbrokes?
Mildred pulled out a notepad. Lord Jeffrey Bolingbroke came from a wealthy Irish family dating back to the 1600s, was educated in Eton and Cambridge, lived the life of a gentleman of leisure, no occupation as far as I can tell. He married Vanessa Pryce, the current Lady Bolingbroke, in 1954, no children from the union. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago, but his health really didnt go downhill until about six months ago.
So Lady Bolingbroke told the truth. Laura said.
Uh-uh. Mildred replied, her face lighting up as it always did when she was about to deliver an interesting piece of information. She only told you half of the truth. His health was failing, yes, but he didnt die from the cancer. He died from a bullet to the head. The official story is that he committed suicide.
Suicide. Laura repeated thoughtfully. Why suicide?
Its not unheard of for people suffering from an incurable, painful disease to kill themselves. Remington pointed out.
Maybe thats what someone wants us to think.
You can never accept anything at face value, can you, Laura? Remington asked.
When the suicide precedes a murder, no, I cant. Laura admitted. Its too convenient, too much of a coincidence.
So what do we do?
We pay another visit to Rivendell Abbey. The link between Lipton and Bolingbroke must be there somewhere.
I doubt Lady Bolingbroke will be any more forthcoming than before.
Who said anything about visiting her Ladyship? Laura asked, her eyes lighting up as they always did when she had a midnight adventure in mind.
Dread filled Remington as her meaning sank home. How he disliked their breaking and entering adventures. Sure, he was good at it, an expert really, but he would have liked to put that particular skill behind him. It seemed like every time they planned a midnight raid, they ended up running for their lives.
Domestication had brought with it a caution that he had rarely experienced in his younger days. But, of course, he had much more to lose now. Before it had just been his neck. Now it was Lauras, and although he was willing to risk his own, he was not at all willing to risk hers. That neck of hers had become very dear to him, very dear indeed.
Still he knew these things were unavoidable in their line of work. If her Ladyship wouldnt cooperate, they had no choice but to get the information by more nefarious means.
He sighed, getting to his feet. If were going to do this, I hope youve at least got a layout of the Abbey. Going in blind is, pardon the expression, suicide.
Mildred pulled out a large, leather-bound volume. I found this in the library. Its a book on Mayo Countys Great Country Homes. Theres a floor plan of Rivendell Abbey on page 245.
I realize the importance of this mission, Laura, but was it really necessary to bring them along?
Laura cast a glance back to the car where Mildred and Virgil were waiting. Its always good to have a back-up, Mr. Steele. Someone to raise the alarm if we dont come back.
Comforting thought, my dear. Remington said dryly, his eyes on the house before him, calculating and planning their method of entry even as he spoke. But I would have found Potts gun a better guarantee of our safe return.
With Mr. Moretti in the castle, he wouldnt hear of parting with it. Laura replied, rifling around in the backpack she carried. Mildred was right about him. He owes Moretti quite a bit of money. He followed Lipton, thinking he could somehow get the sword from him and use the finder fee to pay off his debt. But if it makes you feel any better, Mr. Steele, I did bring this along. She pulled out a gun.
Whered you get that?
Took it off Moretti after Mildred clobbered him.
Remington took it from her and tossed it in the nearby bushes. Its probably wanted in five states and two countries. Were better off without it. He glanced at her, his expression all business. Ready, Mrs. Steele?
Remington led the way, running lightly across the yard, sticking close to the surrounding trees and bushes for cover. Laura would pick the coldest, dampest night of their stay in Ireland to go on this bloody adventure, he thought grimly. Yet despite his discomfort, he was thankful for the overcast sky for it gave them extra cover, and they certainly needed it. The book had not been as detailed as he would have liked, and he was leading this expedition with more misgivings that he liked to admit. Hell, they didnt even know what they were looking for.
They reached the house, a three story stone structure shaped like an E and followed the left side, going around to the back where they found the servants entrance. The lock posed no problem, and they were inside. Taking the back stairs, they reached the 1st floor where they stopped and pulled out the floor plan.
Laura held the flashlight while Remington studied the map. He glanced up, trying to orient him to the actual layout of the house. Damn, he hated going into these things blind. A good thief never did. That was one of the first things Daniel had taught him. In L.A. where house design was standard and fairly simplistic, it hadnt been an issue, but these old manor houses were as complicated as any museum. He had never gone into a museum without a careful study.
Whats wrong? Laura whispered, sensing his annoyance.
This thing is useless. He muttered, tossing the map at her. Well have to go off instinct. Were looking for the library, right?
Thats where most men keep their personal papers. Laura agreed.
Wheres the library at Ashford?
First floor, right wing, not far from the master bedroom.
Lets give it a try.
He crept lightly along the upper hall, passing the main staircase, headed for the right wing, Laura close on his heels. They turned a corner and entered a long hallway with four closed doors. Remington stopped.
Why are you stopping? Laura demanded from behind him.
We have a problem.
What her voice trailed off. Oh. It reminds me of Lets Make a Deal.
The old TV game show.
I could do without TV trivia right now, Laura.
She ignored him much like he did when quoting movies. There were three doors, but only one held the prize.
So which one will it be? Remington asked. And keep in mind that one of these rooms might hold Lady Bolingbroke.
Laura studied the doors, noting their size and position to each other. Then having made her decision, she placed a hand on the door knob and turned it. The smell of books greeted her and she entered, followed by Remington.
Dim light cast by the windows revealed book-lined walls, a fireplace with two armchairs and a large desk at the opposite end. Laura went for the desk while Remington began checking behind paintings. Nothing.
Undaunted Laura began running her hands along the bookcases.
Excellent idea. Remington commented. Theres always a secret panel in the movies.
She had nearly given up when her hand ran across the top of what looked like an urn. The lid had a decorative knob and it moved slightly under her fingers. She wiggled it more firmly and the cover of a nearby book opened, revealing a combination lock.
This is where you take over, Mr. Steele. She said, stepping aside.
He went to work and within a few minutes there was a soft click as the bookcase came free from the wall behind. Pulling the bookcase outwards, they were able to slip into what appeared to be a closet or what was commonly called a priest hole in older days. They switched on their flashlights.
Its like a trophy room. Laura breathed.
On the walls were display cases full of various pieces of jewelry, swords, daggers, chalices, anything that could be decorated with gems. Above each item was a newspaper article, neatly cut out and preserved.
Youve hit the proverbial nail on the head, Laura. Remington murmured, studying a ring with a large blue gem. This is the King Phillip Blue Diamond that was stolen in 1975. He flashed his light around the room, stopping here and there. All these jewels are stolen.
So Lord Bolingbroke was a jewel thief too?
Remington shook his head, his expression thoughtful. The Thomas Crown Affair. Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, MGM, 1968. A wealthy businessman amuses himself by masterminding a million dollar bank heist. He doesnt take part in it himself. He just plans it.
What makes you think that?
If he were the thief, why would he need Lipton? He paused. The other option is he was unable to continue his hobby due to ill health so he recruited Lipton. He would still have the thrill of planning it, but Lipton would perform the actual theft.
According to Chesterfields research, Lipton came on the scene a couple years before Bolingbroke was diagnosed with cancer, but he probably knew something was wrong before he finally went to a doctor. Laura said slowly, her mind working through the time frames and possible explanations. But how in the world did those two find each other? Its not like you put out a want ad for something like that.
Perhaps we should ponder these questions in the comfort of our own home. Remington suggested, beginning to feel uneasy. Weve spent too much time here at it is.
But Laura wasnt listening. She was flashing her light around. The Princess Amelia necklace isnt here.
Laura, Remington drawled warningly, we ought to go.
Just a minute. She had been running her hands along the underside of the display cabinets. Theres something here. Some kind book or journal.
She got down on her knees, shining the flashlight up under the cabinet. It was small leather bound book, the kind of thing someone would use as a diary. She reached for it and just as she did the alarm went off.
Now we really have to go. Remington told her, his voice a command rather than a request. He grabbed Lauras arm and dragging her upwards. There was a delayed alarm. Thats what happens when you go in blind. Come on.
Laura reached for the journal, ripping it from its hiding place and securing it in the waistband of her black jeans as she followed Remington out of the priest hole. They could already hear footsteps in the hallway and voices yelling from somewhere in the Abbey. Laura went for the window while Remington began moving pieces of furniture in front of the door to create a barrier and buy them time.
The hinges were old and hadnt been opened for many years and she was still struggling with raising the sash when Remington joined her, adding his strength to hers. Together they raised the window.
A moat? Remington exclaimed as they looked out the window. That book didnt say anything about a bloody moat!
Laura quickly surveyed their options and then swung her legs over the windowsill. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, 20th Century Fox, 1969. Then she disappeared.
Remington heard a splash and then nothing. His eyes frantically searched the water below, his heart pounding uncomfortably in his chest, but it was too dark to see if a head had emerged. There was only one thing to do. He swung his own legs over the edge and followed his wife into the darkness below.
The water was cold but deep. Within seconds of entering, his head was breaking the water. His first thought was of Laura. Where was she? He looked about, treading water.
Laura! He called. When she didnt answer, he called again, Laura!
Panic was beginning to set in when something brushed against him. He whirled around, splashing in his haste, sending out waves, which sent a dark object floating away from him. He swam after it, reaching out a hand when he was close enough. It was a body. His heart sank as he struggled to roll it over. Lauras face emerged, wet and still.
Oh, God, no, he rasped.
Like a man possessed, he began swimming, towing Lauras weightless body with him. The shore seemed miles away, and he was exhausted, his strength sapped by the cold water and his burden yet he kept swimming. He had to get her to shore as soon as possible.
Boss! Mildreds voice came from the darkness. Boss, what happened? We heard the alarm she stopped when she saw him.
Remington heaved Laura onto the grassy bank. Take her.
Mildred and Chesterfield scrambled into the water, dragging Laura onto dry land. Remington followed and was immediately on his knees beside his wife, listening for breathing, hoping to feel her breath against his face. When he felt nothing, he opened her mouth, pinched her nose and blew. Over and over again he repeated the action, working desperately, Mildred and Chesterfield looking on. He was nearly frantic with fear, begging her between breaths to wake up, when finally she gagged and then coughed.
Laura, baby, he choked out, gathering her heaving body into his arms, I thought Id lost you.
She struggled against him as she coughed out water. Then she began to shiver.
Weve got to get her home. Mildreds voice was saying. Theres a cold breeze and shes soaked though.
Yes, yes, he agreed, lifting Laura into his arms. He stumbled as exhaustion began setting in, but when Chesterfield went to take Laura from him, he resisted, holding her tight against him No, Im fine. I can make it.
He held Laura on his lap all the way back to Ashford, Mildreds coat covering them, and even when theyd gotten her up the stairs and into the master bedroom, he still didnt want to let go until Mildred finally put her foot down.
She needs a hot bath and so do you. Mildred told him. Go take a hot shower in Virgils bathroom while I deal with Mrs. Steele. When he opened his mouth to protest, she looked at him the way she had when shed been sent to collect his taxes. Thats an order, boss. No, ifs, ands, or buts. Take him out of here, Virg.
A half hour later he was dressed in warm, dry clothes and sitting in front of the fire in the Gold Room, sipping a cognac that Virgils had shoved into his hand. The shock was beginning to wear off, and his mind was functioning again. What a reckless, foolhardy thing for Laura to do. Yes, hed done his fair share of stupid things, but he didnt jump out of windows. He supposed this was the wild streak in her that had scared off Wilson. Well, it wasnt scaring him off, hadnt for all these years, but blimey, she was taking years off his life. Hed be prematurely gray before he knew it.
Mildred came into the room, taking a seat beside Virgil on the sofa. Mrs. Steele is resting comfortably. But youd better wake her up every two hours just to be on the safe side. Shes got quite a lump on the back of her head. She paused, waiting for that to sink in and then asked, What happened out there, boss?
The same thing that always happens, Mildred. Remington said with a sigh. We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar. When Mildred just stared at him blankly, he explained, We located a hidden room, and there was a delayed alarm on it. Probably tripped an infrared sensor or something. Couldnt be sure without the proper equipment.
Mildreds expression turned to one of breathless interest. A hidden room? Sounds like a gothic novel. What was in it?
Stolen jewels. Years worth of them.
Fascinating. Chesterfield murmured, his interest caught as well. How far back did they go?
There were newspaper articles from the late 1800s. The Coronation Chalice of King Henry VIII that was stolen in 1884? It was there. As well as the Heart of Cairo ruby stolen in 1906 and the Pearls of Lepanto stolen in 1926.
Those couldnt have been stolen by Bolingbroke or Lipton.
Youre quite right, Professor Chesterfield. What weve got here is a family tradition. He drained the last of the cognac and stood up. I suspect Laura want to visit her Ladyship in the very near future. Perhaps shell be more forthcoming the second time around. Now if youll excuse me, Im going to bed. Ill see you in the morning. He stopped at the doorway and turned back. Oh, and Mildred, if any more professors show up, tell them theres no room at the inn. Hotel Ashford is full.
Laura smiled. Malta was so lovely this time of year. Warm, soft breezes, sultry sunshine, the gentle lap of water against their boat, and Remington. How handsome he looked, how attentive to her every wish, how romantic to be in his arms and dancing to the strains of As Time Goes By. She sighed and then groaned. Something or someone was shaking her. Oh, go away, she thought. She wanted to stay in this lovely world.
Laura. Its time to wake up. Mildreds orders.
She opened her eyes. Remington was leaning over her, his features shadowed. She glanced around. The room was dark except for a fire burning in the grate across the room. She turned her head on the pillow, searching for the clock, and then winced.
My head hurts.
Im not surprised. Youve got a lump the size of King Phillips diamond on it.
Memory flooded back. Rivendell Abbey, the secret room, the stolen jewels, the alarm, gagging and retching on the grass, Mildred hurrying her in a hot, fragrant bath.
What happened? She asked.
You tell me, Sundance. He said dryly. Or were you playing the part of Butch Cassidy when you jumped out that window?
Laura frowned. I dont remember. There was water, wasnt there?
Oh, yes, a great deal of water.
I remember jumping but after that its a blank. She looked at him, trying to read his expression but unable to do so. The shadows were too deep. I must have hit my head on the window ledge or something.
Or something. Remington agreed.
He was being very uncooperative, Laura decided, using her fingers to investigate the sore spot on her head. Yes, there was a lump, and yes, it hurt like the devil. She tried to think, to remember. She had entered the water but as she was plunging downward her head had hit something hard and unmovable, possibly part of the Abbeys submerged wall. Then she went blank until she was gagging on the grass. What a horrible experience. Nearly as bad as swimming with those sea snakes.
How did I get to shore?
I dragged you there and spent the next seven minutes trying to revive you. There was a pause and then in a voice carefully devoid of emotion, indifferent even, This was nearly your last case, Mrs. Steele.
Ah, so that was it. She had nearly drowned on him, and he was upset about it but trying not to let her know because he knew she didnt like being fussed over.
Remington, she said, touching his shoulder, I dont know what to say.
How about saying youll never do it again?
You know I cant promise that. Sometimes we have to take risks.
You seem to take more than your fair share.
There was no other option. She reminded him. You know that. We were trapped in that room. The only way out was through the window.
I know. He said with a sigh. But, bloody hell, Laura, you dont know what its like to see you lying there lifeless. This is the second time Ive almost lost you. Its difficult.
Because she didnt have the words she reached for him. At first he resisted but then he allowed himself to be pulled down beside her. He buried his face in her hair, and she held him, tight, stroking his back. He made no sound, but she could feel tears against her neck. All the emotion of the last few hours came out.
I know I dont say it often nothing, she said in a quiet, almost contrite voice, maybe Ive never said it, but thank you for looking out for me all these years. If it hadnt been for you, I might have left this world a long time ago. I couldnt have asked for a better partner in work or in play. There was a pause and then her voice lightened, becoming more playful, what would you say to taking a second honeymoon on Malta once this case is closed and were finally married for real?
Remington lifted his head, and even though she couldnt see his face, she knew he was grinning. Ill accept on one condition, Mrs. Steele?
And what is that?
Itll be just you and me. Mildred goes back to L.A. and if any dead bodies show up, we ignore them.
Youve got yourself a deal, Mr. Steele.
Do you really think you ought to be reading with that head injury? Remington asked as he turned the car into the long driveway leading up to Rivendell Abbey.
Probably not. Laura agreed, turning another page of the journal shed liberated from the Bolingbroke library. But somebodys got to. It may hold a clue. Besides, it will help me know whether Lady Bolingbroke is telling us the truth or not.
Couldnt you have gotten Mildred to do it?
Shes busy trying to locate Sean OMalley. Hes got to be the key to this. Hes the only one unaccounted for. She and Chesterfield are doing a little legwork today and visiting some of the mans neighbors and co-workers.
Those two have become awful chummy, dont you think?
Laura shrugged. Perhaps. You dont begrudge her a little romance, do you, Mr. Steele?
No. Remington replied. But theres Miklene to consider. Hes an excellent butler, and I dont want him leaving us because our junior investigator has played fast and loose with his affections.
I dont think theres any chance of that.
Nevertheless, you ought to have a talk with her. Remington said, stopping the car in front of the steps leading to the front door of the Abbey.
As the boss, Mr. Steele, Employee Relations falls under your jurisdiction. Laura told him with a smile, throwing open the door and escaping before he had a chance to respond.
Remington joined her, muttering something under his breath about discussing job responsibilities later, and together they took the steps to the front door. Laura was just reaching for the bell when the door opened and Father ORourke emerged.
Oh, Father, Laura said, I didnt know you knew the Bolingbrokes.
The priest smiled. A rather cold smile Laura thought. I know everyone in my parish, Mrs. Steele. I just stopped by to collect some items for charity. Lady Bolingbrokes a great patron of the church, and we appreciate her generosity. There was a pause and then the priest said pleasantly, I hope well be able to arrange another wedding for you soon.
Just as soon as we solve Liptons murder, Father. Remington assured him.
Lipton? You mean that poor man who died at your wedding? The priest asked. I didnt know youd taken the case. I was under the impression that the police were handling it.
Were working on it in an unofficial capacity. Laura told him. We feel a certain amount of responsibility, seeing as how he died at our wedding.
Yes, of course. Dreadful thing to happen on such a happy occasion. Father ORourke agreed, nodding, his expression one of concern. I wish you the best in your endeavors, Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele. Now, if youll excuse me, I must get back to the rectory.
They watched as the man walked down the steps, but their attention was drawn away by the arrival of the butler.
Were here to see Lady Bolingbroke. Remington told him.
Shes been expecting you. Please follow me. Shes taking tea in the garden.
They followed the butler through the entrance hall and into a drawing room where a pair of French doors opened into a garden. Lady Bolingbroke was sitting at a white wrought iron table, a teapot decorated with tiny green shamrocks in front of her. She looked up as they entered. Her demeanor had changed since the first time theyd visited her. Today there was no haughtiness in her manner, only resignation, as though she knew she could no longer avoid the truth.
Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele. She said pleasantly. Please sit down. Ive been expecting you. Would you care for a cup of tea?
Remington accepted a cup but Laura did not. Instead she asked, You know why were here?
Of course. Youre here about Jeffreys room.
So you knew it was us last night. Laura said. Why didnt you call the police?
Lady Bolingbroke laughed, a hard, humorless little laugh. After seeing what was in that room, do you think I have any desire to involve the police, Mrs. Steele?
Then let us settle this between ourselves. Laura replied. All we ever wanted was information, Lady Bolingbroke. Theres been a murder, and it came to our attention that your husband had some kind of relationship with the murdered man. Knowing what we know now we can understand your reluctance to provide that information. Let me assure you, Lady Bolingbroke, that as investigators, we will be discreet.
Lady Bolingbroke sighed. Please call me Vanessa. It seems ridiculous to be so formal when Im about to tell you some very personal information. I might as well start at the beginning. She leaned back in her chair, holding her teacup in both hands, a faraway expression in her eyes. I didnt know about Jeffreys peculiar hobby when I married him. He was young and terribly dashing and I fell in love with him. Even after I knew, it made no difference. I still loved him. Can you understand that, Mrs. Steele?
Laura remembered how she felt when she first met Remington and how she felt even after she knew hed conned her. It had made no difference in her feelings for him. The only difference between her and Vanessa was that Remington had reformed where Jeffrey hadnt. She suddenly didnt dislike the woman quite as much as she had a day ago.
Yes, I can understand very well.
Some men collect coins, some collect vintage cars, still others collect women. My husband collected stolen jewels. He didnt do it for the money. He did it for the challenge, the thrill of outsmarting security systems. He never sold anything he stole. Neither did his grandfather or father. She laughed again, tossing her head back and looking up at the sky as though it held an answer. I guess you could call it a hereditary disorder. Kleptomania or something like that. It was passed from generation to generation.
Once again Laura understood. Hadnt Daniel taught his own son his profession? It was what parents did.
I didnt approve of any of this, but what could I do? He was my husband, and I loved him. I couldnt betray him so I kept his secret, and I prayed that he wouldnt make a mistake someday, get too cocky and get caught.
And where does Lipton come into all of this? Remington asked, entering the conversation for the first time.
A look of dislike flashed across Vanessas face. Jeffrey met him when he came looking for the ONeill Sword. Somehow hed figured out that Jeffrey had it, and one night he tried to steal it. But he didnt get as far as you. Jeffrey was waiting for him. I guess it takes a thief to know a thief. Im not sure what went on between them that night, but whatever it was, Lipton suddenly became a regular visitor, and it became cleared that Jeffrey had formed some kind of partnership with him. Shortly afterwards, I realized Jeffrey was ill, too ill to continue the physical part of the job, so to speak. But he didnt want to give it up. So he planned the heist and Lipton carried it out. As I said before, they never sold any of the jewels they stole so I dont know what Lipton was getting out of the partnership. It seemed odd to me, but I had learned to ignore anything involved with my husbands hobby. The less I knew the better.
So the ONeill Sword is here, in this house? Laura asked.
It was here, yes. Jeffreys father had stolen it in 1915. From the IRA of all people. James had some nerve, I must say.
You said it was here. Remington pointed out. I didnt see it in the room last night so Im assuming that means its no longer in your possession.
Im surprised you would have recognized it. Only jewel thieves and universities professors seem to know of its existence.
Jewels are a special interest of mine. Remington replied coolly. It comes in handy in our line of work, doesnt it, Mrs. Steele?
You could say that. Laura agreed.
Vanessa studied him for a moment, her eyes thoughtful as though she was rolling some idea over in her mind. Then she said, I can see you know your jewels very well, Mr. Steele. You are correct. The sword is no longer here. It disappeared the night Jeffrey committed... she faltered briefly over the word, committed suicide.
And the Princess Amelia necklace? Did it go missing too? Laura was surprised at the blank look on the womans face as though her question that caused surprised.
Oh, yes, I remember reading something about it in the newspapers. She frowned. I guess that explains why Lipton was hanging about the place a few days before it was stolen. She sighed and all the frustration, all the pain her husbands lifestyle had caused her was apparent for them to see. As far as I know Jeffrey did not have possession of it when he died. But that doesnt mean he wasnt expecting to.
Do you know whether Lipton visited your husband that day? Laura asked.
As far as I know he did not visit prior to Jeffreys death, but he did arrive later. Vanessas face became hard once again. I wont lie to you, Mrs. Steele. I didnt like Professor Lipton. As far I was concerned he was only encouraging Jeffreys obsession. If it hadnt been for him, Jeffrey might have given it. I disliked the man intensely.
Enough to murder him? Remington asked softly.
Perhaps. Lady Bolingbroke agreed. But somebody beat me to it. I didnt kill Henry Lipton.
But you did have Sean OMalley pick up his luggage. Laura said.
I couldnt risk there being something in the mans luggage that would link him to Jeffrey. She looked at Laura, her eyes silently urging her to understand. My husband is dead, Mrs. Steele. All I have left is his good name, his reputation. I will keep his secret as long as I live.
Has it ever occurred to you that your husband didnt commit suicide? That someone might have used his illness to conceal a murder? Laura asked as delicately as she could.
Of course. Vanessa said without any hesitation. To tell you the truth, its my opinion that he was murdered, but what could I do? I couldnt tell the police my suspicions because then there would be an inquiry and Jeffreys secret might be revealed. Jeffrey was not a coward. He wouldnt have taken his own life.
Do you know who might have wanted him dead?
Henry Lipton is the name that came to my mind at the time, but in Jeffreys line of business, one can make enemies. Who knows? It could be someone from the past settling an old score. Three generations of jewel thieves can compile quite a list of enemies, dont you think?
But whoever it was definitely took the sword but not necessarily the necklace. Laura murmured as though to herself. She sat for a moment or two, thinking, and then got up. Remington rose as well, his eyes on his wife. He knew when she was on to something. Youve been very helpful, Lady Bolingbroke, but we mustnt take up any more of your time. And please forgive us for our visit last night, but Im afraid it was necessary.
I understand. Vanessa told her. I wasnt very forthcoming during our first interview. I was downright rude actually, but I was protecting my husband. She paused, looking at them both, her eyes very sad and very serious. As investigators I know you have a certain responsibility to the law, but I hope I can trust you to keep Jeffreys secret. At least as long as I live.
Remington and Laura exchanged glances, and then Remington, his voice kinder than Laura had ever heard it, said, I think I can speak for my wife in saying our only interest is in finding a murderer.
Taking Lauras elbow, he steered her toward the French doors.
But Laura stopped. You go on. She told him. Id like to ask Lady Bolingbroke one more question.
Remington studied her for a moment and then silently complied. His footsteps could be heard crossing the drawing room and then the entrance hall.
We met Father ORourke as we were coming in. Is he a frequent visitor?
Oh, yes, hes often stopped by. Vanessa said as they traced Remingtons steps toward the door. Of course, we didnt know him very well. He only arrived in the parish a few months ago, came from somewhere up north, I believe. I didnt really take to him, still dont, but Jeffrey liked to talk with him, especially after he became ill. I suppose it comforted him.
Did he visit the day of your husbands death?
Why, yes, he did. Vanessa said, slightly surprised at the question. He was actually with Jeffrey having tea when I stopped in to tell him I was going out.
Do you know when he left?
With me. He said he needed to get back to the rectory. Someone was coming in to arrange a wedding. She stopped. Perhaps it was yours.
I shall have to ask Mr. Steele about that. Laura commented. What time did you leave?
Vanessa thought for a moment. I had a hair appointment in town at 2 PM so I would have left around 1:30 PM.
Where did the suicide occur?
In the library.
Was the hidden door secure?
Who knew the combination?
Only Jeffrey. Even I didnt know it. I didnt want to. I hated what was in that room.
So for the sword to be missing, Jeffrey would have had to take it out.
Yes, I would think so. Vanessa said. Unless someone with your skills was able to open the lock.
But then the alarm would have gone off.
Yes, its set to automatically go off unless someone deactivates it. Only Jeffrey had the code to do so.
They had reached the front steps of the Abbey. Laura turned to the woman and smiled. Once again, thank you for your time. I hope that well soon be able to find the murderer of both Lipton and your husband.
So you think my husband was murdered.
I think its a high possibly.
Taking her leave of Lady Bolingbroke, Laura ran lightly down the steps and joined Remington who was leaning against the cars fender, arms crossed, a slight frown on his face as though he was contemplating something unpleasant.
Youre looking very serious, Mr. Steele. She commented.
In answer he handed her a slip of paper. She scanned its contents.
Whered you get this?
It was stuffed under the wiper.
Do you think it was Sean OMalley who put it there?
He shrugged. I dont know, but it appears that we have no choice but to assume that its him and that he wants to meet us.
In the churchs cemetery at midnight? Laura asked, incredulous. A rather odd place for a chat, dont you think? It sounds like something out of Mildreds gothic novels.
My thoughts exactly. Only dead people met in cemeteries.
Well, Mr. Steele, Laura said, sliding into the car. Its look like we have very little choice in the matter. I hope youre not afraid of ghosts.
Its not the dead people that bother me. He replied, setting the car in motion. Its the live ones that send chills up my spine.
Its incredible how dark a cemetery can be at midnight. Remington remarked as they picked their way through tombstones shaped like Celtic crosses, their surfaces so weather-beaten by rain and sea breezes that some names had passed into obscurity years ago. Either Mr. OMalley has a touch of Irish melodrama in his veins or hes simply touched. In the head.
Laura swung her flashlight back and forth. I dont see anyone.
Maybe thats the plan.
I guess we sit down and wait.
She brushed off a granite bench that someone had erected next to the grave of she flashed her light across the name an Eileen OGrady and sat down. Remington chose to remain standing. Hed been antsy all afternoon, and as their midnight rendezvous had approached hed gotten jumpier and jumpier.
Youre not superstitious, are you, Mr. Steele? Laura asked from her bench.
Not in the least. He assured her.
You didnt want to touch that painting of the nudes because you said there was a curse on it.
Thats different. Thats art.
Well, then why the She searched for the word.
Why the what? He asked.
If you havent notice, Laura, were in a cemetery at midnight to meet someone who claims to be Sean OMalley but could very likely be a murderer. Why should that make anyone jumpy?
Laura smiled. Theres nothing to worry about, Mr. Steele. I managed to borrow Professor Potts gun for the night.
What good is a gun without bullets?
Only we know there are no bullets.
You sound like Potts.
Well, itll make a good head clunker as Mildred would say.
Youre cheerfulness at a time like this is appalling. He said with disgust as he took a seat beside her. I dont like it, Laura. Those little hairs at the back of my neck are standing at attention.
Mine too. She admitted. But were never going to solve this thing if we dont follow all the leads.
It seems like we have more questions than leads.
Well, at least, weve established the fact that Bolingbroke and Lipton had a partnership. And in all likelihood Jeffrey was waiting for him when he was murdered.
Youre convinced he was murdered?
A man doesnt remove a sword from a vaulted room and then kill himself. He removed the sword for a reason. The question is why.
I can think of two reasons. Remington said. Either he removed it in order to give it to someone or he was forced to remove it.
Im hoping that journal will shred some light on why he would do such a thing. There was a brief pause before she continued, her tone one of consternation. The other question that puzzles me is how does the Princess Amelia necklace play into all of this? Vanessa seemed pretty certain that Jeffrey did not have possession of it.
But she also said that it was possible that he was planning to have possession of it. Remington pointed out. Perhaps he and Lipton were meeting to make the exchange.
The necklace for the sword? But why then and not when Lipton completed the first heist? Laura wondered out loud. Its almost as though they were dissolving their partnership, making the final payoff, so to speak. The journal might answer that question. She looked around, clearly becoming impatient. Im going to be up all night reading if OMalley doesnt make his appearance soon.
At that moment the silence was broken by a single gunshot. Laura jumped up, but Remington pulled her down, shoving her onto the ground, his own body beside hers. When she lifted her head to take a look around, he shoved her down again and hissed, Stay down.
They lay like that for what seemed like hours when in reality it was only a few minutes. Finally, cautiously they rose to a kneeling position and then to a crouch. Suddenly gunshots rang out again. One, two, three, pinging off tombstones.
Run! Laura shouted.
Staying close to the ground and using tombstones as cover they ran, stumbling over newly turned soil and low-lying headstones, which looked like ghostly teeth emerging from grassy gums. Laura could see Remingtons dark shape in front of her, and then suddenly it was gone. Before she could wonder at his disappearance, she was following him, the earth falling away from under her feet. The smell of fresh, moist dirt filled her senses.
Where are we? She gasped.
I believe were in a grave. Remingtons voice answered. Freshly dug.
Just the thought of being in a grave sent chills up her spine and she began clawing to get out even as bullets continued to fly above them. Ping, ping, ping.
Laura. Remington said.
His voice sounded much too calm for their situation. She ignored him.
Laura. He said again.
What? She snapped, turning her head to look at him. He was looking down, his flashlight trained on something at the bottom of the grave. What is it?
I think weve found Mr. OMalley.
She followed the beam of his flashlight. The face of a young man stared up at them, eyes open, a red hole in his chest.
It might not be him.
Remington bent down, felt in the mans pocket and withdrew a wallet. Reluctantly she took it. The drivers license read Sean OMalley. Her heart sank. Another dead end, another dead man.
Thats not all. Remington told her.
He was holding something in his hand. She shone her light on it. Diamonds and emeralds glittered back at her. The Princess Amelia necklace. Well, at least theyd finally located it. Theyd also established another fact. OMalley hadnt been killed for it. This murder wasnt about the necklace.
Lets get out of here. She said, switching off the flashlight.
I couldnt agree more.
Together they scrambled out of the grave and ran like the hounds of Hell were on their heels.
Mildred! Laura yelled, running up the stairs of Ashford Castle.
What happened to you? Mildred asked, emerging from a bedroom, wrapped in a flannel robe. They were covered in mud, a souvenir from their excursion in the grave. It looks as though youve fallen down a rabbit hole or something.
In a manner of speaking, we did. Remington retorted, his patient wearing very thin. Hed had about all he could take of this particular case. Last night is was moats and tonight it was graves.
Mildred, what do you have on Sean OMalley? Laura demanded, her impatience equaling her husbands. She liked graves even less than he did.
Plenty. Mildred said, waking up fast. He came to work at the Abbey two years ago, came from up north, Munster according to his landlady. He did errands and odd jobs for Lord Bolingbroke. He disappeared the evening that Lipton died. Didnt take any of his personal belongings with him, just left them behind, and the landlady was none to happy about it. I did a background check on him and verified that he did come from Munster. Hes twenty-five, unmarried but had a girlfriend he left behind, the bum. Fathers name Patrick OMalley, mothers name Kathleen ORourke. Father and mother are divorced. The kids got a rap sheet as long as your arm, mostly petty stuff. But heres the kicker. His great-uncle turned up dead in 1915. By the wound it looked like an execution. Common belief is that he was part of the IRA and they killed him, turned on their own, so to speak.
Laura turned to Remington. Tell me everything you remember about the theft of the ONeill Sword.
Remington rubbed his eyes. He was tired and dirty and needed a drink, a very strong drink. Uh, its was commonly believed that the sword was stolen by the IRA from Dublin Castle, by an operative by the name of uh....
What was his name, Mr. Steele? Laura pressed.
Uh uh He closed his eyes, thinking hard. My God, how could she expect him to remember some obscure name at one in the morning? The woman was relentless, and Heaven help him, he loved her anyway. Suddenly the name popped into his brain. Donovan Donovan ORourke.
Then how did Lord Bolingbroke end up with it?
You heard her Ladyship, Laura. Remington said wearily. She said Jeffreys father stole it from the IRA.
Stole it from this man ORourke obviously. Laura said, starting to pace as thoughts tumbled into her brain. And the IRA, not being the forgiving sort, decided ORourke had double-crossed them and shot him for it. She whirled around. Is it a coincidence that three dead men have been found in the vicinity of a priest named ORourke? I dont think so.
The priest did it? Mildred asked, wide-eyed.
Im seriously leaning in that direction, Mildred. Laura agreed. Do a little research on Donovan ORourke. Find out if he had any children and what their names were.
Laura, Remington interrupted, you cant seriously believe this chap would pop off his own nephew. Hes a priest for Gods sake.
Is he? She turned to Mildred. Check that out too. She turned back to Remington. Did he behave oddly when you visited with him about our wedding?
Remington sighed, dropping down into one of the chair along the hallway. He rubbed his eyes again. Which time?
What to do mean which time? Laura asked.
Exactly what I said. Remington repeated, his patience beginning to fray at the edges. I met with him twice.
Because the first time an emergency came up and he had to leave.
Please, Mr. Steele, be specific. Laura urged. Did he just jump up and say Ive got to go or did he get a phone call or did someone come in?
Remington thought for moment, brows pulled together over his nose, searching his memory for the day in question. Someone came in.
There was a pause and then Remington opened his eyes, looking straight at Laura, his expression one of sudden revelation. It was the man in the grave tonight. He came in and said thered been an emergency at the Abbey.
Laura woke and glanced at the clock. 6 AM. Four hours of sleep was enough. There were things to do. Carefully, quietly she slid out of bed. Remington, sleeping soundly, his breath deep and even, didnt move. Poor guy, she thought, pulling on her robe and picking up the journal shed left on the bedside table. Hed been exhausted and more than a little cranky when theyd finally fallen into bed around two. Shed let him sleep.
She turned on a table lamp near the sofa and took a seat, opening Lord Jeffreys journal. The pages were water stained from her swim in the moat but perfectly legible. She began reading, making note of the interesting ones in her head.
Had a spot of good luck yesterday. A chap tried to lift the ONeill Sword. Of course, I knew what he was up to the minute I met him. That story about researching historical manor houses was just a ruse to see the inside of the Abbey. Grandfather used it many times. I played along with him, let him put his foot in the trap, so to speak. If he hadnt tried to steal it off another thief, he might have succeeded. Bloody bad luck for him, what? But all in all I think weve reached an amicable agreement. He wants the sword, and I want someone to do the dirty work. I nearly botched that last job. Damnably tired these days. Old age, I suppose. Van keeps after me to see a doctor but I havent the time. The Leopold sapphire eardrops will be traveling to London soon. Sothebys again. They say Queen Antoinette wore them at her coronation. Grandfather took a try at them once but missed his chance at the last moment. Something to do a French Countess. Grandfather always had a weakness for the ladies. Wouldnt the old man be green with envy if he knew his grandson pulled off what he couldnt? Well, L. seems competent. Ill have to give him a few pointers but all in all, I think we could have a bit of fun. Promised him the sword as payment but he seemed fairly keen on the proposition even without the sword as enticement. I guess some of us were just born with itchy fingers.
Laura turned another page and then another. They mostly described various heists Lipton and Bolingbroke had pulled off. It was fascinating reading but she didnt have time to linger.
Hired a new lad today. Didnt have any use for him really but I hear hes the son of Kathleen ORourke. Felt obligated to do something for the family, considering what happened to his uncle. Father really made a mess up there. Terribly bad show. He should have left it alone, but the challenge was too much for him, I suppose. Still he should have considered the consequences. The IRA doesnt forgive, and it really wasnt the poor mans fault that he ran into Father. Feel as though I ought to make amends somehow. One begins to think of amends when one is feeling poorly. I really must take Vans advice and see the doctor.
Four more pages
Heard from the doctor today. Its cancer, pancreatic, he said. Well, old man, it had to happen some time. Youve had a good life, a wonderful wife, a career straight out of the pictures. A real live John Robie. Or better yet Thomas Crown. I think one more heist and then Ill pack it in. Van deserves a holiday. Barbados, maybe? I really ought to start returning those trinkets back to their rightful owners, anonymously, of course. She doesnt want them after Im gone, and I dont want to burden her with the secret any longer. Shes been a real trooper, my Vanessa. Im continually amazed that she struck with me even after she knew. She must have seen something in this damnable thief. Ill never know what it was. I wish I had loved her enough to give it up. Oh, I loved her, dearly, but I loved the challenge more. Pity. It takes a special chap who can let go of the glitter. God knows I couldnt.
Laura felt tears coming to her eyes and quickly blinked them away. It was hard to read the regrets of this man, this gentleman thief. She felt more sympathy for Vanessa than ever before, and she wondered how she could have disliked her so. How much these two reminded her of herself and Remington. And how grateful she was that Remington had been able to do what Lord Jeffrey couldnt. He had let go of the glitter. He was, indeed, a special chap.
She returned to the journal, skipping forward a page or two.
Got a new priest in the parish. Visited today. Nice enough chap, although Van took a dislike to him. Names ORourke. I dont suppose hes any relation to Donovan ORourke. Plenty of ORourkes in Ireland, eh? Must be the medication playing games with my mind. Im seeing ORourkes behind every bush. Besides that happened years ago, another time, another thief. So tired. Must go take a nap.
And finally the last entry, the handwriting weaker as though the illness had seeped into every aspect of the mans life now.
Expecting L. this afternoon. Hell turn over the necklace and Ill turn over the sword and that will be it. Our agreement will be fulfilled. To quote Bogie its been a beautiful friendship. The mans become like a brother to me.
Laura closed the journal, her expression pensive. She must have sat for some time, staring into space, contemplating the life of Lord Jeffrey Bolingbroke for the sudden appearance of diamonds and emeralds in front of her face made her start.
You look beautiful in two million dollars. Remington murmured, fastening the Princess Amelia necklace around her neck. Brazilian diamonds of Columbia emeralds pale in comparison to those delightful freckles. He pushed aside the collar of her robe and kissed a freckled shoulder.
You, Mr. Steele, are a delicious liar. She said with a smile, leaning her head back against the sofa so she could look up into his face. He dropped a kiss on her waiting mouth.
Did I ever tell you that Ive always dreamed of making love to a woman thats wearing two million dollars worth of jewels?
And why hasnt this dream ever been fulfilled?
The woman. He said, dropping a kiss on her forehead, her cheek and her other shoulder as his hands pushed the robe down her arms. The right one never came along.
The necklace sparkled, and Laura suddenly felt incredibly alive. There was something terribly exhilarating about wearing nothing but diamonds and emeralds. Too hell with fan dances. This was much better.
I was wondering whether youd care to join me in a fantasy, Mrs. Steele. He said with a grin, coming around the sofa and scooping her up into his arms. The robe fell forgotten at their feet.
Im always open to new experiences.
Thats what I love about you, Laura. Youre always up for an adventure.
I want you to arrange another wedding with Father ORourke. Laura told Remington as they were eating breakfast later that morning.
Laura, Remington said, looking at her over his teacup, Didnt you hear Mildred just now? The man isnt a real priest. He scowled. The nerve of the man. I trusted him to be a fully ordained priest who could perform legal marriages and he nearly married us under false pretenses. We would have still been unmarried, and this time we wouldnt have known it. Whats the world coming to when you cant trust a priest?
Then I guess its a good thing Professor Lipton decided to drop in when he did.
Bloody providential, Id say. Remington snorted. Believe me, the next priest is undergoing a rigid background check.
Nevertheless, I want you to arrange another wedding. When he opened his mouth to protest once again, she cut him off. All weve got is a theory and circumstantial evidence. He has to be tricked into confessing.
And how is a wedding going to do that?
With the help of a few of our new friends I think we might be able to maneuver him into it. She thought for a moment. If his original intent was to kill Lord Jeffrey, then why did he kill Lipton? One explanation that comes to mind is that Lipton saw something. After all, Bolingbroke was expecting him. Im not sure why Lipton would have waited so long to confront him about what was seen, but he must have confronted him the day of our wedding. That would explain his presence at the church. What would ORourke do if it became known that a journal had been found, a journal belonging to Lipton?
I imagine hed try to obtain the journal.
Very good, Mr. Steele, youre really turning into an excellent detective. Laura said with a smile. Now how do we trap him?
We let him know that a journals been found and then wait for him to come retrieve it. Remington sighed, leaning back in his chair. And Im supposed to go to his office today and dangle the carrot, right?
Among other things.
So whos going to play the role of carrot?
I think a scared rabbit might do the trick.
Potts? Remington asked, incredulous. We cant get him out of the Green Room.
He might come out if hes promised the ONeill Sword as a reward.
Youre not seriously considering giving that bugger the sword? Remington exclaimed, sitting upright in his chair again, his expression pained.
Now dont be greedy, Mr. Steele. Youve got the necklace, dont you? That will net you a respectable finders fee. He didnt look convinced. Besides, its the humane thing to do. Potts may end up at the bottom of the Irish Sea swimming with the fish if we dont provide him a way of paying off Mr. Moretti.
You certainly know where to hit a fellow where it hurts the most, Mrs. Steele. Remington commented, getting to his feet, a look of resignation on his face. Ill pop over and see the dear Father this morning.
Laura rose to her feet also. Ill get my jacket.
Youre coming along?
Of course. While youre keeping him busy, Ill have a little rifle through his belongings.
He didnt look like a killer, Remington thought, sitting across from Father ORourke. Actually he made a pretty good priest, a bit youngish perhaps, but the black frock and kind, understanding smile was exactly what one would expect from a man of the cloth. Remember those old ladies, mate, he reminded himself. Even the most innocuous looking people can turn out to be cold-blooded killers given the opportunity and motive.
Oh, I understand perfectly. Father ORourke was saying. Having the wedding at the church would bring back unpleasant memories. A wedding at the castle would be agreeable to everyone involved, I should think.
Would tomorrow evening be too soon, Father? Remington asked, his eyes glancing around the room, taking in the bookcase filled with theological tomes, the comfortable but somewhat shabby armchairs, the worn throw rug placed over an equally worn carpet, a massive mahogany chest beneath a filmy window.
Remingtons eyes returned to the chest. It was certainly large enough to hold a sword or a body for that matter.
The priest was making a show of checking his schedule book. Yes, Im available tomorrow evening. Shall I pencil you in for 8 PM, Mr. Steele?
Anything a bit earlier? Were eager to get this over and done with. At the priests startled expression, he quickly clarified, flashing the man a conspiratorial grin, Eager to get on with married life, that sort of thing.
Um, yes, ORourke said, checking his book once again, would 7 PM be more agreeable?
Perfect. Remington assured him.
They rose and started toward the door, but Remington stopped, looking down at the chest. Youve got a chest there, Father. An excellent example of 15th century workmanship, Id say. He tapped in with his foot. Sounds nice and sturdy, a well preserved antique.
ORourke smiled. Somewhat nervously, Remington thought. Why, thank you, Mr. Steele. I didnt realize it was an antique. Weve been using it for storage, candlesticks, altar cloths, hymn books. Are antiques a particular interest of yours?
Antique jewelry mostly but I do dabble in other genre. Remington told him, his eyes still on the chest. Right now Im more interested in antique swords than furniture.
He chuckled. Actually Ive got a whole houseful of professors looking for a particular sword. The ONeill Sword. Have you heard of it?
Im afraid not, Mr. Steele. Souls are my interest, not swords.
Glad to hear it, Father. Remington said, crouching down to inspect the chest closer. This sword has caused the death of three men. Id hate to see someone else lose their life over it. Thats what I told one of our professors just this morning. He glanced up. Would you mind if I took a look inside? Im sure this is French Renaissance, and Id like to verify by checking for the makers stamp.
Uh, go right ahead.
Remington opened the chest. A jumble of candlesticks, altar cloths and other church paraphernalia greeted him. He pushed it aside, tapping on the bottom of the chest. Mmm, yes, good sturdy stock. And theres the stamp, CR, just as I expected. He straightened up. I congratulate you on your furniture, Father. Its first rate.
They moved toward the door again, but Remington stopped, turning to the priest, a bemused expression on his face. It really is funny how people get themselves all worked up over something like an old sword. This professor I mentioned is all atwitter because he received a package yesterday from Henry Lipton of all people. The mans been dead for days now, and Potts gets a package from him. Must have mailed it before he got killed.
That is odd. ORourke agreed, his tone carefully polite as though he were humoring his visitor.
Well, Im sure nothing will come of it. Remington said with an offhanded gesture. Not much an old journal can tell you, eh? Cant imagine why hed send it to the old fellow, but professors are an odd lot. He smiled, shaking the priests hand. Well, Ill be off now. Until tomorrow, Father.
Were to be married at 7 oclock tomorrow evening. Remington told Laura as he joined her in the car. Did your rifling produce anything useful? No dead bodies, I hope.
She shook her head, putting the car in gear. The house was clean. How about you?
He has a chest in his office with a hollow bottom.
Could the sword be there?
Possibly. I was limited in my inspection since he was hovering over me like Edgar Allen Poes raven.
And did you dangle the carrot?
Right in front of his nose.
Hes a cool one. Remington observed with a wry twist of the lips. A regular iceberg.
Youd have to be to murder three people.
So here he was again, getting married for the fourth time, if you count Clarissa, which he didnt, and he still wasnt actually married. He ought to be in the Guinness Book of Records for something like that. Remington looked around the room theyd chosen for the ceremony. Most of the servants were present as well as a few new additions. Chesterfield, looking dapper in David Niven mustache and no longer smelling of fish sat beside Mildred while Lady Bolingbroke, Mr. Moretti and Bambi were placed in strategic places around the room. Only Potts was missing and he was being given a pep talk by Laura.
He glanced at Father ORourke who stood beside him, waiting the arrival of the bride. How long before the man would try for the journal? Laura figured that he would try when everyone was busy afterwards, mingling and eating and swilling champagne. He estimated the cost of the food and drink and winced. Of course, it would have been a different story if this was the real wedding. As it was he was providing a celebration feast with no reason to celebrate. Quite depressing indeed.
Someone put on a recording of the Wedding March and Laura entered the room, walking toward him, looking as beautiful as the first time, pearls in her hair and all that, but now he barely noticed. He was too tense, too uptight about this idiotic plan. Too much rested on the acting ability of a scared little professor and the desperation of a killer.
He went through the rest of the wedding in a daze, repeating his vows mechanically and then it was over and everyone was congratulating them, pumping his hand and slapping him on the back. It was almost like the fishing trawler all over again except instead of a cleaner of fish, it was a killer of men who had married them. Delightful, just delightful.
Theres Potts. Laura said, elbowing Remington in the ribs.
Potts with his ever present handkerchief crept into the room. He stopped, mopped his forehead, and continued onward, inching his way toward ORourke who was chatting pleasantly with Lady Bolingbroke. He faltered once, looking like a rabbit crossing a road, his instincts telling him to go back, go back to safety, but then he glanced at Laura. Whatever he saw in her face must have convinced him to go on because he took a deep breath and shuffled forward.
Excuse me, Father ORourke, He said timidly. I I was wondering if I could speak to you. He cast a glance at Lady Bolingbroke. Its of of a rather sensitive nature.
Would you look at that? Lady Bolingbroke murmured, glancing down at her champagne glass. I seem to be out. Whats a wedding without a full glass of champagne? Its the only way for a widow to get through such a happy event. Please excuse me. I think I see that funny little butler with a fresh tray.
ORourke watched her go and then turned to Potts. How can I help you, Mister ?
Potts. The little man supplied. Professor Potts.
Oh, yes, ORourke said. I believe Mr. Steele saying something about having a houseful of professors. What seems to be the trouble, Professor? Im assuming its of a spiritual nature?
Potts looked around as though making sure no one was listening and then leaned forward in a conspiratorial fashion. Its more of a financial nature.
ORourke laughed. Im afraid you came to the wrong person, Professor. Im as poor as the proverbial church mouse.
You see that gentleman over there? Potts said, motioning with his handkerchief in Morettis direction. He calls himself Professor Moretti, but hes not. Not a professor, I mean. Hes runs a gambling establishment in Detroit although he says he comes from Cleveland. Im afraid I owe him quite a bit of money. Its the horses, you know. I cant resist them.
It sounds as though you have a problem with temptation. Resist the Devil, my good man, and he will flee from you.
Yes, Im rather hoping he will. Potts agreed. But in the meantime I need cash, and I need it fast.
Im afraid I cant help you.
Potts ignored him. Ive been beside myself, wondering how I was going to pay the man, but then the most providential thing happened. I got a package in the mail. Gave me quite a turn to receive a package from a dead man, I can tell you, but then it occurred to me that this item could be useful, very useful indeed.
Liptons journal. He let that sink in and then dropping his voice to nearly a whisper, said, I I thought about turning it over to the police or at least to Mr. & Mrs. Steele, but well, as I said, it could be very useful. Im thinking someone might pay a pretty penny for this item. What would you say, Father? Would someone be interested in purchasing it?
ORourke eyed him, his lips firming as the little mans meaning sank in. I would say its quite possible. Perhaps if youd like to come to my office tomorrow, say around 11 oclock, we could discuss it further.
Ill Ill do that. Potts said, mopping his brow, tugging at his tie. Oh dear, its terrible hot in here. Im Im not feeling at all well. And with that the professor crumpled to the floor in a dead faint.
Chesterfield and Moretti rushed forward, hoisting the man between them.
Where should we put him, Dollface, err, I mean, Mrs. Steele? Moretti asked as Laura approached, concern in her face.
Hes in the Green Room. Laura said loudly and clearly. First floor, left wing, fourth door to the right.
Ten minutes later, Remington sidled up to Laura as she was putting a spoonful of caviar on her plate. Hes not going to buy it, Laura. Hes too smart for such a ruse.
Maybe but he cant risk the possibility that there really is a journal. Hell have to come looking for it. Besides, I think our rabbit gave a pretty good performance. He may even have a career on the stage when all this is over.
Remington snorted and grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing servant. He would have preferred something stronger, but any port in a storm, eh?
Hes not going for it. Remington said flatly.
He and Laura were staked out in the Green Room. Potts was ensconced in the Gold Room with Chesterfield while the other members of their group, Mildred, Moretti, Bambi and Lady Bolingbroke were all waiting in adjacent rooms. A pile of pillow had been positioned in the bed to resemble Potts slumbering form.
Laura checked her watch. Its only a little after midnight. He has to make sure the household is asleep before making his move.
And if he doesnt show up?
Well think of something else.
He could very easily wait until tomorrow to dispatch of Potts. Remington pointed out. Might as well get a good nights sleep before performing the dirty deed.
If thats the case, then well deal with it tomorrow.
That can-do spirit of yours is simply intoxicating.
Oh, just shut up.
Remington complied and silence reigned almost to the point of putting them to sleep. Just when Laura didnt think she could keep her eyes open one more minute, the door slowly opened, and a dark figure slipped inside. She elbowed Remington whod been dosing against her shoulder. He jerked upright, blinking.
The figure moved silently through the room, stopping at dressers and rifling through their drawers. When that proved unprofitable he moved toward the nightstands. Finally, he found what he was looking for. He held it up and the moonlight coming through the drapes revealed the worn leather of Lord Jeffreys journal, which Laura had planted earlier. He started moving away, toward the door, and then as though it were an after thought, he pulled out a gun and shot two bullets into the pillows on the bed. The soft thunk, thunk of a silencer was the only sound. He turned to go.
At that moment Remington sprang, jumping the man from behind and with a swift downward motion of his arm knocking the gun from the mans hand. It skittered across the floor and Laura picked it up as she flipped on the light.
Hold it right there. She said, training the gun on the intruder.
Remington released the man.
I should have finished the two of you off in the cemetery. ORourke spat out.
But Sean was a much easier target, wasnt he?
ORourke sneered. The sniveling brat was getting cold feet. He never was much of anything, just a petty little thief. Said he hadnt signed on for murder. All hed wanted was the necklace. Well, I let him keep the necklace. He said with a hard, short laugh. I never wanted it. All I wanted was the sword, the sword that belonged to my father, the sword stolen from him by that that slick con artist who pretended to be his friend and then betrayed him. Left him to be shot as a traitor. He wasnt a traitor. He was a patriot, an Irish hero, but they shot him like a dog in the street.
And youve been nursing a grudge ever since. Thats why you killed Jeffrey Camden, Lord Bolingbroke. His life for your fathers. Laura stated.
It took me years to find out who had stolen that sword from him, but then I ran into a professor from Toledo, a Henry Lipton. He was a quick one, didnt take him long to figure out that I wanted Bolingbroke more than the sword, but by then, hed told me enough. So I planted Sean in the Abbey to be my eyes and ears, and then when the time was right, I came myself. My only regret was that he was already dying. Takes some of the satisfaction out of it. He paused as though contemplating his bittersweet victory. Then an almost perplexed expression crossed his face, which quickly turned to anger. He didnt seem at all surprised, damn him. It was almost as though he was waiting for me, waiting for the moment of retribution, had the sword out and everything. He laughed. Taking the role of a priest was rather fitting, dont you think? Gods revenge upon the sinner, so to speak. I liked that, liked it very much.
Except that it wasnt Lord Jeffreys sin. Remington interjected quietly. It was his fathers.
But ORourke ignored him. I would have gotten away with it too if it hadnt been for that bloody professor. It wasnt until later that I realized the sword had been for Lipton. Bolingbroke had been expecting Lipton. He got me instead. Lipton apparently saw my departure and put two and two together. Like I said, the old boy was quick. Thought he could blackmail me for the sword. Well, he didnt succeed. I put a bullet in him. Unfortunately his timing was terrible. I had no time to dispose of the body before I had to perform my priestly duties. Never figured hed be able to make it as far as he did.
And when Sean got cold feet and contacted us, you did away with him too.
Quite right, Mrs. Steele.
Ok, lets go, ORourke. Remington said, giving him a shove toward the door. I think its time to visit the local police station.
But just then the door of the room flew open, hitting Laura and making her drop the gun. ORourke, sensing his opportunity, sent a well placed elbow in Remington stomach and took off, pushing pass Vanessa who was standing in the threshold.
Oh, dear, Im sorry. She exclaimed. I didnt mean to
Stop that priest! Laura yelled.
Heads appeared from nearby rooms. Chesterfield and Moretti joined the chase, following Remington and Laura down the stairs, while Mildred and Bambi worked at reviving Potts who had fainted in the hallway.
Maybe it was Chesterfields glass jaw or Morettis rather clumsy fighting style but somehow in the general melee that had occurred downstairs ORourke managed to escape, running out the front door and into his waiting car.
Remington and Laura ran for their own, Vanessa on their heels.
Stay here! Laura shouted at her.
Im coming with you! She shouted back, scrambling into the backseat just as Remington stepped on the accelerator. He killed my husband!
Hes getting away! Laura yelled as the cars tail lights disappeared from view.
These roads arent exactly made for high speed chases, Laura. Remington yelled back, struggling to keep the car on the road. Besides, we know where hes going. He wont leave without the sword.
They careened into the churchyard, coming to a shuddering halt. ORourkes car was already there.
Stay here, Vanessa. Laura ordered. He may have another gun.
Remington with Laura on his heels ran straight for the office, but when they got there the chest was open, church paraphernalia scattered everywhere, and the false bottom empty.
Damn! Remington muttered, running a frustrated hand through his hair.
Look! Laura said as a movement through the window caught her eye. There he goes. Hes heading for the car.
They had just reached the front entrance of the church when a shot rang out, loud and clear in the surrounding silence. ORourke crumpled, sliding down the door of the car, and Vanessa stood, gun in hand, looking down at him. Then as though she held a snake, she tossed the gun aside and turned away.
Laura started forward, but Remingtons hand stopped her. ORourke had risen slightly. Suddenly another gunshot broke the silence, and Vanessa jerked and fell forward. She lay like a discarded doll in the grass.
Remington went for ORourke; Laura for Vanessa.
Dropping to her knees, she turned the woman over. Lady Bolingbroke.
Vanessas eyes fluttered open. He killed my husband.
I loved Jeffrey. Maybe he wasnt all that he ought to have been, but I loved him. She looked at Laura and there was a smile her eyes. I think of all women you understand, Laura. My Jeffrey and your Mr. Steele had a lot in common at one time, didnt they?
Laura didnt hesitate. Remingtons past suddenly didnt matter as much as it once had. He was attempting to steal the Royal Lavulite Jewels when I met him.
The smile in Vanessas eyes went to her lips. Im glad he was able to give it up. She faltered for a moment as pain gripped her. The room in the Abbey
Your secret is safe with us.
No, Vanessa said, shaking her head. I release you from your promise. Theres no longer any one to protect. Her voice was weakening, barely above a whisper now. Return those things to their rightful owners.
Her eyes closed, and Laura felt her body relax, going limp in her arms.
Remington touched her shoulder. ORourkes dead.
So is she.
Is everything ready, Mildred? Remington asked eagerly.
Just like you wanted it, boss. Mildred replied. The priest checks out pure as the wind-driven snow. Fully ordained, has been for over 30 years, even got character references from two cardinals. And every entrance into this place is locked up tight and has a police officer on guard. Wont be anyone getting in here.
Excellent, Mildred. Excellent. Remington crowed, giving Mildred a quick hug around the shoulders. And the plane tickets?
Got them right here. Mildred produced two airline tickets. First class flight to Malta leaving in three hours. And the hotel is right on the water. The manager assured me that youll have the most romantic view of the Mediterranean. Champagne, caviar, fluffy robes, all that will be waiting for you.
Remington took the tickets and stuffed them in his breast pocket. Youre a gem, Mildred, a real gem.
Mildred shrugged. Well, as my last official act as agency secretary, I thought Id give it my best shot.
Youve outdone yourself. Remington assured her. Then a thought occurred to him. And when will you be, he made a motion of a plane trying off, winging your way back home, eh?
Virg and I fly out two hours after you guys.
Virg? Remington asked, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.
Was that a blush, he wondered. From the formidable Mildred Krebs?
He was offered a professorship at UCLA a few months ago, and he thought hed fly out and take a look around, see if he likes LA, you know.
And how did Miklene take the news?
Oh, theres was never anything between me and Mik, boss. You know that. Mildred said, giving him an elbow in the ribs. Hes married to the castle.
And a good thing he is too. Remington noted. I cant afford to lose his expertise at a time like this. Its going to take quite a bit of work to turn that castle into a first class hotel.
That was a brilliant idea, chief.
Yes, well, Remington said in his preening voice, all those professors were the ones to give me the idea, housing them all and that. Now that the castles in back in black thanks to Lord Jeffreys treasure room, Id like to keep it that way. Put the old pile of stones to work, eh? He glanced at his watch. Hadnt you better go see about our Mrs. Steele? Shes on in ten minutes.
Remington took his place beside the priest. So this was it. Finally. He was about to be married for the what was it fourth time? As the music began and Laura appeared, once again in ivory cashmere and pearls, he couldnt think of a more wonderful woman to be married to again and again and again. Hed marry her ten times if he had to, but it would be kinder on his nerves if he could just manage to get married to her once ~ legally.
He offered her his arm and she took it.
What are all the police doing outside the building? She whispered.
Precautions, Laura. Merely precautions.
The ceremony was much the same as the others, but this time Remington distinctly heard the I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.
Eagerly he took Laura into his arms, and they shared their first kiss as Mr. and Mrs. Remington Steele. Officially.
Thinking about them again? Remington asked, joining his wife on the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. The sun was sinking slowly into the horizon, painting the water with shades of orange, pink and soft purple-blue.
She smiled wistfully. Yes. They could have so easily been us.
But they werent. He reminded her, putting his arms on either side of her, trapping her against the stone balustrade. He dropped a kiss on her neck, and she leaned back, letting her head rest against his shoulder.
They remained like that for some time, watching the sun sinking further and further beneath the waves. Somewhere far below a band played, their music soft and jazzy.
Then Lauras voice broke the silence. What made you give it up?
He chuckled and hugged her tight. You know the answer to that.
Id like to hear it all the same.
Well, he said, resting his cheek against hers as he stared off across the water, once upon a time, a terribly handsome, dashing, incredibly clever
Ok, ok, weve established your finer qualities.
jewel thief met a beautiful lady detective with eyes that snapped like fire and a smile that dared him to steal her heart. Since he knew this lady detective would never step out of her world into his, he did the only thing he could do ~ he stepped into hers. In a very short time he found that no jewel, not even the rarest and most beautiful, could compare to the sparkle in her eyes or the glitter in her smile. He paused and then continued, his voice lowering, becoming husky, When you find a pearl of great worth, you hold on it with all your might even if it pushes you away or others try to steal it. You give your all for that pearl, and if youre very, very lucky, that pearl will give its all to you. It becomes yours and you becomes its.
Laura felt tears coming to her eyes. It was difficult for her to cry. Shed really only done it once in front of him, but now she turned in his arms and looked up at him, allowing him to see the tears. Thats the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. I love you, Remington Steele.
He took her face in his hands and kissed her, gently at first and then more passionately. He lifted her, sitting her on the balustrade as his lips and hands traveled with more and more urgency beneath her fluffy, white robe. She gasped as he found a particularly sensitive spot. She moved her own hands and was satisfied to hear his own gasp of pleasure.
On a balcony, Mr. Steele? She asked, tipping her head back to allow him easier access to her neck and shoulders. I wouldnt have thought it of you.
How right you are, Laura, my love. He said, sweeping her into his arms and carrying her into their suite. Im not the kind of thief that shares his pearl with anyone. Ive always preferred a more private setting.
He laid her on the bed, following her down into the satin coverlet. Untying the fluffy robe, he pushed it aside. Its a shame we had to give back the Princess Amelia necklace. Id become rather fond of it.
Therell always be other jewels, Mr. Steele. Other fantasies.
I certainly hope so, Mrs. Steele. I certainly hope so.
CONTINUED IN 'STEELE, SWEET, STEELE'