You're Steele My Valentine
Part One

Laura Holt came from her office as Mildred was putting on her cape. "Leaving, Mildred?" she asked, glancing at her wristwatch. It was only four fifteen.

The woman smiled as she took her purse from the desk. "There's nothing on the calendar for the rest of the day," she explained. "I cleared it with Mr. Steele," she said. "I hope you don't mind, Miss Holt. I mean, it IS Valentine's Day, after all, and well..."

"Big date, huh?"

"Oh, you bet, hon." Mildred tilted her head toward the door in the corner. "I got the feeling that you and the boss had a big evening planned, too."

"I don't know WHAT Mr. Steele has planned for this evening," Laura told the receptionist. "He hasn't mentioned anything to me."

"But- he was on the telephone with Che Rive," Mildred protested, then grabbed her purse. "I've probably spoiled the surprise. I'll see you later, Miss Holt."

"Monday morning, Mildred," Laura called after her. "Bright and early. We have to finish the paperwork on the Devlin case."

"You got it. Have a nice evening."

Laura waved as the door closed behind Mildred, then slowly turned toward Mr. Steele's office. Che Rive. He was probably planning a nice, romantic dinner, probably a movie- and he hadn't even ASKED her out. Four fifteen on a Friday night, and he hadn't even asked her to spend Valentine's Day evening with him. He just ASSUMED that she would be there. The last time he had waited so long had been because all of his usual dates had cancelled on him or were unavailable. "You'd THINK he would have learned his lesson by now," Laura muttered as she headed into her own office to grab her hat, coat and purse. She paused before the door between their offices, taking a deep breath before knocking once and entering.

"Yes," he was saying into the telephone. "That's right. Six o'clock. And- don't be late," he finished, glancing in her direction. "Goodbye." He smiled at her. "Did you want to see me about something, Laura?"

"Just thought I'd let you know that I was leaving."

He glanced at his watch. "So early? That's quite unlike you, Miss Holt. What happened to staying at your post until 5 come hell or high water?"

"As Mildred just pointed out before she left, it's Valentine's Day. And I have to get ready for my date."

"Date?" he asked. "I didn't know you had one."

"Oh, it's been planned for some time," Laura informed him. "A cozy, intimate little dinner for two, a bottle of champagne"

"And do I by any chance know who the lucky fellow is that you've chosen to spend this evening with?" he asked her, and Laura easily saw the jealousy in those blue eyes.

"No. You've never met him. I'm sure that you already have a date for the evening, everything all planned out-"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do," he replied. "A lovely young lady. Dinner for two, dancing, then spend some time in front of a roaring fire to hold off the chill of the evening"

Laura forced a smile to her lips. So he hadn't invited her to dinner because he wasn't TAKING her to dinner. There was someone else. "Well, have a nice evening," she said.

"Oh, I'm sure I will," he responded. "You, too."

"Don't worry about me, Mr. Steele," Laura assured him airily as she sailed through the doorway and out of the office

She drove home, her anger growing by the mile. Damn him anyway. "Three years," she murmured while sitting at a stoplight. "Three YEARS and he asks someone ELSE to dinner on Valentine's Day!" She hit the steering wheel, and noticed that the middle-aged man in the next car was staring at her with a wary expression. Laura smiled, trying to reassure him, and accelerated as the light changed to green. I thought he wanted this relationship to work, she thought. Guess not, if he wants to spend the evening with one of his - peroxide piranhas. She pulled the Rabbit into a parking space beside her building and got out, locking the door. Oh, well, she'd spend the evening doing some exercises, catching up on some reading she hadn't found the time to do. Maybe order a pizza or some Chinese take out

"Miss Holt?"

The frail voice caused Laura to stop and turn to look at the person it belonged to. She was elderly, her frizzy grey hair untidily pulled into a bun on the back of her head. Her dark wool coat had definitely seen better days, Laura noticed. "Yes, I'm Laura Holt. Can I help you?"

Laura thought she saw relief in those dark grey eyes set into a wrinkled face. "Thank goodness. I've been waiting for you to come home. I live on the corner- down there," she explained, pointing to another converted warehouse down the street. "Apartment 1C. Someone told me that you're a private detective?"

"Yes, yes, I am. Are you in some kind of trouble, Miss-?"

"Mrs. Baxter. Helen Baxter. It's not me. It's my son. I think he's in terrible trouble, and I was hoping you might be able to help me find out what's going on."

"Why don't we go up to my apartment," Laura suggested.

"Up?" the woman asked.

"I live on the third floor-"

"Oh, dear. I'm afraid I couldn't make that. Bad heart," she said, placing a hand to her chest.

"Oh." Laura looked around for a place where they could sit down. "Then, why don't we go to your apartment and you can tell me all about it?"

"Bless you," Helen Baxter said with a shaky smile. She leaned heavily on Laura's arm as they started down the street. "I didn't know where else to turn. I have to be very careful how I approach this. If Norman ever found out that I was asking a private detective to help-"

"Norman's your son?"

"Yes. I'm sorry if I'm messing up your evening. I'm sure you must have a date for Valentine's Day"

"As a matter of fact, Mrs. Baxter, I was contemplating a solitary evening. Your coming to me was a godsend. Now, does Norman live with you?"

"Oh, no. He lives in Malibu."


"He's a doctor," the woman said proudly, and Laura glanced again at the woman's threadbare coat and worn, scuffed shoes. If her son was a doctor, then why did this woman look like she was one step away from being a bag lady?

"I see."

Mrs. Baxter paused beside a bus stop bench. "Forgive me. I really must sit down. Just for a moment."

Laura sat beside her, watching as she regained her breath. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "Fine. Just not very strong anymore."

"What seems to be the problem with your son, Mrs. Baxter?"

"Helen," the old woman prompted. "He hasn't called me in a week. He usually calls me every day."

"Have you tried to call him?"

"Why, yes. But they keep telling me that he's not there, that they don't know when he'll be back. I'm afraid that something has happened to him."

"Who are 'they', Mrs. B- Helen," she amended quickly.

"His nurse and partner in the clinic that Norman owns. Yesterday, when I called the nurse insisted that she didn't know anyone named Dr. Norman Baxter. It's like he never existed. There's even someone else living in his house in Malibu."

"You've gone out there, then?"

"No. I called. A woman picked up and told me that she and her husband had lived in that house for four years. I feel as if I'm in a very bad movie, Miss Holt. Do you think you can help me? You and Mr. Steele?"

"Mr. Steele?"

"He is your employer, isn't he? I mean, it wouldn't be right for you to do this on your own, would it?"

"I'd hate to disturb Mr. Steele," Laura began.

"Then you can't help. I don't know what I'll do. I-"

Laura took the old woman's hand. "I'll call him and see if he can join us, okay?" she asked, noticing the public telephone nearby. "In fact, I'll call him from there. You just wait here. I won't be a moment." She dug a dime from her purse and put it into the slot, then dialed Mr. Steele's number.

"Steele here."

"It's me. I know you've got plans this evening, Mr. Steele, but I think I have a client who needs our help. And she's insisting that only the inimitable Remington Steele can handle it."

"Now? It can't wait until Monday? Or even tomorrow?"

"I don't think so. She might not be here by then." Laura listened to the silence on the line. "Look, never mind. I'll tell her that you're too busy and handle it myself. Tracking down the 'Invisible Man' shouldn't be TOO difficult."

"What about YOUR date?" he asked.

"My-?" She caught herself just in time. "Oh, I've already cancelled it," she lied.

"Well, I suppose if you're willing to give up your evening out, the least I can do is follow suit. Where shall I meet you?"

Laura returned to Helen's side. "Mr. Steele is on his way," she told the woman. "Do you want to wait here, or go into your apartment?"

"Why don't we sit out here?" Helen suggested. "It's such a lovely day, isn't it?"

"Yes, very lovely," Laura agreed. "Tell me some more about your son."

"He's all I have," Helen told her. "His father died when he was just a baby. I worked two jobs to support us. He got into college on a scholarship. Such a smart boy. And handsome. Oh, so handsome. Could have any pick of the ladies."

"Is he married?"

"Oh, no. He says his career is too important to him. You're wondering why I'm living down here when he's in Malibu, aren't you?"

"No, I-"

"Don't worry. Everyone does when they find out. He asked me to move in with him a year ago. I said no. That I didn't want to become a burden to him. That's when he set me up in the loft here. But if we can't find him, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to stay..." she dug in her coat pocket with blue veined hands, coming up with a handkerchief that she used to dab the moisture from her eyes.

"We'll find him, Mrs. Baxter," Laura promised. "Don't worry. Do you have a picture of your son?"

She drew out a faded photograph. The image was slightly blurred, but Laura could see the blonde hair and green eyes. "I took it," she told Laura. "It's a few years old, but it's the last one I have of him." She released it slowly into Laura's care.

"I'll need the names and addresses of all his friends that you can recall, Helen," Laura told her gently. "As well as the address of his house in Malibu and his clinic. And the places he likes to go."

Helen nodded. "I'll go to my apartment and get them," she told Laura, rising slowly with Laura's help. "If you go with me, how will Mr. Steele find us?" she asked. "Why don't you stay here and I'll be back with the addresses."

Laura nodded. "If you're sure that you're strong enough to make it."

"I'm better now. Just knowing that you and Mr. Steele are willing to help me is a weight from my shoulders. I won't be a moment."

Laura watched her safely down the street and into the building on the corner before turning her attention to the grainy, blurred image of Norman Baxter. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all, she was thinking as the limo drew to a stop beside her. "You're in a 'No Parking' zone, Fred," she told the driver as he came around to open the back door. Fred glanced at the sign she indicated.

"Off you go, Fred," Steele said. "I think Miss Holt and I can use her car this evening."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Steele." He nodded in Laura's direction. "Miss Holt." Getting back into the car, he pulled away.

Steele looked around. "Now, Miss Holt, where is this client you brought me down here to meet?"

To Be Continued...
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Original content ©2000 by Nancy Eddy