Steele Triptych
By Gilmoradict
Send feedback to: 12nostalgia77 @ (without the spaces)
London (1973)
Harry slid gracefully out of a candy apple red Maserati and up the front steps of Daniel Chalmers town home. A hint of the soon to rise morning sun was sneaking between the stately row of homes across the street. Harry glanced up at Daniel's window, missing the imperceptible movement of the drapes as they fell into place. Chalmers' door opened smoothly on perfectly oiled hinges. Holding his brightly shined dress shoes in one hand, Harry backed around the doorframe in his stocking feet, closing the door as silently as he had opened it. He turned, jumping in alarm, as Chalmers cleared his throat, just inches from where a startled Harry stood.
"Good Morning, Harry. Getting back a bit late, aren't we?" Daniel said with distinct politeness. "Not a problem with the car, was there?"
"No, no, Daniel, the car is fine. Look - she's parked there at the curb, right as rain. I would have called to let you know where I was, but I lost track of time and then didn't want to wake you. I ran into some acquaintances at the Club, and we played cards….had some good luck as it turns out." Harry's apology was backed by a sheepish smile, and respectfully lowered eyes.
"All right, my boy, I know you're quite capable of looking after yourself. Guess I can't help worrying about you - I've invested too much in your education to have you squander it on a game of cards." Chalmers stern voice communicated concern for his protégé, despite the self interest with which he masked his anxiety.
"Made more than a thousand quid…" Harry said modestly, studying the laces of the shoes he held in his hands.
"Skill or scheme?" Still focusing on his shoes Harry failed to see the smile that lurked about Daniel's mouth.
"All skill, Daniel, of course! That and the beautiful blonde who sat at the bar across the table from me, occasionally revealing certain intimate details of the game." Harry's smile broadened again. Lately there seemed to be no shortage of leggy blondes willing to play whatever game Harry was involved in - the good manners, and cultured bearing Daniel had been badgering him about for years were reaping some clear benefits.
Daniel pondered the handsome young man standing in front of him. "You realize it can be just as dangerous a world within the walls of the St. James Club as it was on the streets of Brixton. The risks are just a bit different. Always better to have a partner to watch your back if you insist on being there late. This blonde- should I ask what her name is?"
"Anna Simpson - you introduced us actually. Remember the Gallery function we attended a month or so ago when we were scoping out potential acquisitions? Haven't you worked with Anna on a couple of occasions? I assume you approve of her as back up." Harry refrained from saying how frequent his outings with Anna had been of late.
"Perhaps Harry. But for heaven's sake be careful. Remember our engagement in Cannes week after next - I need you focused. Women can be a bit of distraction when it comes to clear thinking. And let's hope no one at the club was suspicious of your success. What would you say to a little breakfast before you turn in?"
"I'm starving - just give me a moment to change." Harry hesitated before moving off. "Daniel, about Cannes - it's a pretty straight forward operation. Do you think you could manage without me? Anna and I have been discussing the possibility of a working holiday… a stroll through the Mediterranean." Harry watched for Daniel's reaction.
Chalmers had changed 'Harry's' life - taken a nameless urchin whose only possessions had been street smarts and a bit of boldness, and beyond giving him a safe place to sleep and regular food, had opened doors for him to culture, the arts, and an appreciation for language. Harry had absorbed Daniel's education like a proverbial sponge, acquiring not one, or two, but four and five new lives. Using various passports he and Daniel had traveled throughout much of Europe. The two shared the gift of assuming new roles, and engaging in deceptions that had proved most lucrative if slightly nefarious. There was no definition for their five or six year relationship - Harry had not known his parents, but imagined Daniel was about as close to a father as he was likely to get, and about as ideal a parent as Harry could have imagined. These thoughts and more were flying through his mind as he stood facing Daniel.
"Of course, Harry. I'll manage without you then. We'll talk at breakfast. It's probably about time for you to go out and test your wings so to speak." If Daniel was hurt by Harry's proposed departure, there was no trace of that, nor resentment, in his smooth acceptance of their changed plans.
"All right then…" Harry leaned in and embraced Daniel briefly, patting him twice on the back with his free hand.
Had Harry looked back at his friend and mentor as he bounded up the stairs in his stocking feet, he would have had a hard time defining the look on Daniel's face. The look was very much that of a parent, who realizes suddenly that his child is not a child at all. Daniel was smiling at his protégé with a trace of sadness, undisguised pride and perhaps a bit of envy for the life Harry was about to embark on.
Los Angeles 1973
Pulling the door open as quietly as possible, Laura cringed as the hinges creaked out a broad announcement of her return.
"Laura, is that you?" Abigail Holt's voice rang musically through the house.
"Hi Mom." Laura carefully removed her dirty barn boots and walked with resignation through the kitchen and into the living room, where her mother sat surrounded by magazines and fabric swatches.
"Come look at this, Laura. Frances and I have finally decided on fabric for her bridesmaid's dresses….Oh Laura, look at you! Don't even think of walking into this room. Get those filthy jeans off and hang them by the back door. Honestly Laura. When are you going to grow up? Go get a shower. How on earth am I ever going to make a lady out of you?" Abigail shook her head disparagingly.
"Sorry Mom." And then under her breath, "what makes you think I want to be a lady?" Laura pulled her dusty jeans off, along with her socks, and padded silently down to her bedroom. Her room was a cacophony of Atomic man posters, circus memorabilia, and horse models of all sizes, types and colors. A photo of Laura in a baseball uniform was thumb tacked next to the light switch. There was little here to suggest the room belonged to a young girl. Laura gathered clean clothes and retreated to the bathroom.
"Frances will be home in half an hour. We're all going out to shop for shoes. Laura…I want you ready to go." Mrs. Holt's voice held a clear warning for her daughter.
"All right Mother." Laura was too obedient to openly talk back to her mother but her deep brown eyes smoldered under her mop of copper colored hair. An afternoon of mucking stalls and sweeping had earned her an exhilarating canter through the fields of Al's riding stable, but her happiness was swiftly waning. The cool water of the shower failed to wash off the countless freckles that gave Laura's skin its burnished color, but the dust she had been wearing swirled down the drain in a muddy trail. Laura emerged clean and subdued, stepping into simple yellow shorts, a tie dyed shirt and flip flops.
"Laura, please hurry. Frances will be here any moment. You know how prompt she is." trilled the exuberant Mrs. Holt.
Laura sighed and struggled to brush out her thick hair. Contemplating her reflection in the bathroom mirror she complained quietly: "I'm not the boy Dad wanted, and I'm not the girl Mom wants me to be. Am I ever going to make anybody happy?"
"Couldn't you try to look a little nicer dear? At least do something with your hair besides just yanking it back." Mrs. Holt complained in a disapproving tone as Laura walked into the kitchen where her mother was putting a quick casserole together for dinner.
"Mom, nobody cares what I wear, no one notices me, they only look at Frances." Laura protested weakly, looking up to see that very sister opening the door."
"They might look at you if you'd put just a little effort… Oh, Frances, good. Are you ready to go out shopping?" Abigail sailed on, smiling as her older daughter appeared.
"Give me just a minute to freshen up Mom. Laura - is that what you're going to wear?" Frances sounded like a miniature Abigail as she walked quickly down the hall to her room to change, continuing her conversation with her mother as she moved. "They're giving me a raise next week. I'll be able to cover more of the costs of the wedding! Mom…" there was a long pause - "Daddy hasn't called, has he?"
The house went suddenly still, as both girls held their breath waiting for their mother's reply. The silence grew within the house, pressing in on each of the Holt women, somehow filling the spaces between them.
"No Frances - he hasn't gotten back to me. I'm sure once he's settled in his new job and home, he'll be in touch. Not to worry." Abigail's words were bright and cheerful. Neither girl could quite see her face as she industriously searched her handbag for some unnecessary item.
Trying not to notice, Laura suspected she saw a few tears drop into her mother's open bag.
"Can I get real high heels, Mom, you know, for the wedding? And wear my hair up?"
"Why Laura, of course! I've been trying to get you to into high heels for some time now! Are you finally ready to give up those disreputable dungarees you live in constantly? I have never been able to understand why you want to spend so much time with those smelly animals, and wear your hair as if it belonged on the back side of a horse. Maybe we could get some mascara for you - and some foundation and blush to cover up those awful freckles." Abigail quickly blotted her cheeks with a crushed Kleenex she had rescued from the depths of her purse.
Laura sighed. Well, she'd certainly cheered her mother up. If she wasn't careful her father wouldn't recognize her even if he did come back home.
Los Angeles 1983

"After you, my dear." Daniel opened the door to Harry's apartment, gesturing politely for Abigail Holt to precede him through the door. "Could I trouble you for a lift to a hotel - Harry's couch has lost its appeal now that Hoskins is out of my hair." Daniel was intrigued with the Holt women and felt he had reason to spend more time with mother and daughter.
"Laura will be along any moment, Daniel, We'll be happy to give you a ride." Abigail was effusive, always upbeat, even when she was upbraiding her daughter. "I can't imagine what's keeping her."
"She and Remington were just saying good night - perhaps they had some business matters to touch base on before tomorrow." Daniel sometimes wondered how otherwise intelligent people could be so oblivious to the activities and predilection of their own family members.
"LAAAURAAA!" Abigail sang out, turning back toward Steele's apartment.
"Coming Mother!" Laura assured with an odd squeak to her voice.
Daniel laughed quietly as Laura jumped back from Harry as if pushed away by some bizarre force of physics. "Laura, I had hoped to persuade you and your lovely mother to drop me at a hotel." With a wink for Harry, Daniel pulled Steele's door closed behind Laura. "Would you two do me the honor of joining me for a night cap somewhere?"
"Mr. Chalmers, it's been a rather long day - another time." Daniel saw Laura's distrust of him in the tightening of her jaw. "There's a Radisson on Wilshire - I'd be happy to drop you off."
"Laura, surely we can spare an hour or two for Mr. Steele's friend!" Abigail smiled warmly at Chalmers, even as she somehow managed to scowl at Laura.
"It has indeed been an eventful night Miss Holt, however, now that the Hoskins matter has been so happily resolved I am going to have to cut my visit to Los Angeles short- business calls in the south of France. Please consider indulging me this evening, to celebrate our success, and so we can get to know one another better- perhaps I can come up with some stories for you from Harry's past… the Punjab?" Daniel sweetened the offer with a lure he felt sure Laura could not resist.
"Maybe just one quick drink, Mr. Chalmers, and might I suggest decaf at the Radisson?"
"An excellent idea - just the sort of compromise I would expect from you." Chalmers said agreeably, escorting both ladies through the elevator doors. "We might want dessert as well!"
The next morning….
"Sure you won't stay longer, mate?" Steele asked with real feeling, Daniel was comfortably settled on the couch in Steele's office.

"Oh, I'll be back again soon, Harry. California has developed a definite attraction for me. Of course I'd be just as happy to have you back in London or the south of France any time you find yourself available. I miss our collaborations, my boy. Bring Linda if you like - she has a certain flair for the dramatic. We could make Europe sit up and take notice!"

"Yes, well, Laura generally has a passion for the straight and narrow. If I want to remain Remington Steele, and I do," Harry smiled as he answered "I need to keep my nose out of trouble."
"You and your nose seem remarkably happy in the role of the Great Detective, Harry. You have stumbled into a delightful association. I'm happy for you." Daniel searched carefully for the right words. "Harry, you've spent your whole life with no family, no one to tell you "good job," or "love you Jack," or "I'll miss you when you're away."
Harry stared out the window of his office at the LA skyline for a moment before turning to his companion. "Perhaps much of it Daniel, but you said all those things, minus the 'Jack', once I came to live with you. I might not say it very often, but that meant a lot to me."
Daniel joined Harry at the window. "Harry-" He paused, and turned to face the younger man, "Laura - see I do know her name - may have had parents, a roof over her head, and clothes to wear, but I don't think she's heard those kinds of things very often. I have come to the conclusion that a girl needs to hear those things even more than a lad does - the world tends to run a bit rough over women - not notice them when they succeed, and find ways to ridicule them when they are accomplished, that sort of thing. Laura is a strong woman, and has survived admirably on her own merit, but it seems to me she could stand to have someone tell her how accomplished she is."
"Daniel you astound me!" Harry stared at his mentor. "I realize a piece of your success is your astute at assessment of people, but I would not have expected such concern for Laura. I didn't think you really cared much for her - and I thought you liked Abigail?!. "
"I do like Abigail," Daniel assured Harry, "but I think life has disappointed Abigail, and somehow Laura's got caught up in that disappointment. It shouldn't surprise you to know that parent's don't always make the wisest choices when it comes to their children. Laura is intelligent, compassionate and beautiful, and I can see that you care for her. I've probably said more than I ought to - I simply want the best for you my boy, and if that includes Linda... Dear, look at the time - I really must bid you both adieu."
"O.K. mate, let's go." Striding purposefully to the door of Laura's office, Harry swooped in, swung her chair around, and bent down to kiss her softly on the rapidly appearing dimple in her right cheek. "Daniel wants to say good-bye to his favorite California detective, Laura."
"Laura - thank you for your help with Hoskins, I can now relax and attend to my affairs without looking over my shoulder. You are truly a gem." Daniel bowed over Laura's hand, and kissed it with a flourish. Taking Harry's hand as well he continued, "Look after one another. This is a dangerous line of work - it helps to have a partner you can trust to watch your back."
Harry stood next to Laura, his hand resting on her chair. They were the picture-perfect image of the agency whose name belonged to both of them.
Grinning, Daniel turned and walked out of Remington Steele Investigations with a jaunty wave, leaving his two favorite California detectives alone together.

Home CaseBook E-Mail