Steele With A Twist
Part 1
Bernice Fox was sorting the morning mail when the door to Suite 1157 opened. Looking up to greet the arrival, her smile widened upon seeing her employer. "Mr. Steele."

Remington Steele, well-known private detective, barely glanced at the receptionist as his blue eyes scanned the mail she handed him. "Is Murphy in his office?" he asked with an accent with just a hint of Irish lilt.

Sighing, Bernice told him, "He's in your office with a new client. He asked me to send you in when you arrived."

Steele nodded. "Bring some tea, would you, Bernice?" he asked as he turned toward the door.

Bernice moved toward the coffee alcove, sighing again. In the three years that she had worked for Remington Steele Investigations, Bernice had tried everything to gain the handsome man's attention. Everything short of outright seduction, at any rate. Smiling, she considered that it might be time to seriously consider that approach. "All he can do is fire me, right?" she asked herself as the telephone rang. Picking it up, she said, "Remington Steele Investigations."
"Coming here is my last hope, Mr. Michaels," said the man sitting on the sofa in the conference area. "If Mr. Steele can't find her, then-" He was dark, conservatively dressed, Steele noticed as his associate, Murphy Michaels rose to his feet.

"Mr. Steele," he said, as the other man stood as well. "This is Wilson Jeffries."

"Mr. Steele," Jeffries said, holding out his hand. "I'd have recognized you instantly."

Steele took the hand, collecting bits of information as he did so. The hand was smooth - few callouses. He wasn't used to working with them, so he was probably an executive of some kind. The conservative cut of the suit screamed "banker". Indicating that Jeffries should return to his seat, Steele crossed to put the mail on his desk before joining the two men. "What seems to be your problem, Mr. Jeffries?"

"It's my- fiancee. Laura Holt. She's disappeared. Not that it's unusual for her to take off," he continued nervously. Seeing Steele's curious look, he continued, smiling. "Laura's a- free spirit. Passionate, warm - but she tends to do crazy things. I'm just worried that she might have gotten into some kind of trouble -"

Sitting in the chair, Steele watched the man without appearing to do so. "When did you last see her?"

Bernice came into the office, carrying a tray with Steele's tea and two cups of coffee, then left without saying a word.

"Two weeks ago," Jeffries admitted. "I've already been to the police, but they haven't found anything. You see, Mr. Steele, I'm up for a major promotion at the bank. I'm a vice president in charge of loans at First Federal Bank," he explained. "I asked Laura to marry me two weeks ago, - there have been some- comments at the bank about our living together. She became upset, said she had to think about it - when I got home that night, she was gone."

"Had she taken anything with her?"

Murphy watched his boss question the man, content to let him take the lead. He'd signed on with Steele after getting his license at Havenhurst. He admired the man's feel for the work, and while they certainly weren't best friends, there was no one that Murphy would rather have backing him up on a case. As for Steele's background before he'd become a P.I., Murphy was uncertain. There were many rumors- including one that Steele had spent time working for the CIA. But Steele himself had been unwilling to come across, and Murphy had decided against trying to find out. The pay was too good to jeopardize the job.

"Just a small suitcase. Everything else was still there. Still IS." Jeffries ran a hand over his face. He gave the appearance of a man at the end of his rope. "Maybe it's my fault. Trying to turn her into something she's not. If I could just find her, know that she's all right -"

Steele nodded. "I understand, Mr. Jeffries. Do you have a photograph of the young woman?"

Jeffries handed him a photo. "It's the only one that show her face really well," he explained.

"And a few other things as well," Steele commented as Murphy came to peer over his shoulder at the picture of a young woman, smiling into the camera, holding two strategically placed fans to cover herself.

"Well, it was taken a few years ago while we were in Acapulco at Pepe's. A bankers' convention. Laura went a little - over the wall."

"Apparently," Steele agreed, studying the face of the woman in the photo. She was attractive, her smile revealing deep dimples in her cheeks, her brown eyes alight with invitation. "Is she fond of Acapulco? Might she have gone there?"

"It's possible," Jeffries said. "She didn't tell her mother anything about going anywhere -"

Murphy sat down again. "Where does her mother live?"

"Here in LA. But she and Laura don't get along very well. They never have, I think. At least,not since Laura's father left when she was sixteen."

"And how old is she now?" Steele asked.

"Almost twenty six."

"Did she have a passport?"

"It's still at the apartment." He looked at Steele. "Do you think you can help me, Mr. Steele?"

"We'll do what we can," Steele assured the man, exuding confidence as they shook hands. "We'll be in touch."

"Thank you. And thank you, Mr. Michaels." Wilson left the office, and Steele returned to studying the photo.

"Attractive, isn't she?" Murphy asked, sipping his coffee. "Thing is, she's just like that in real life."

Steele turned to look at him. "You know Laura Holt? Why didn't you mention it to Mr. Jeffries, Murphy?"

"Because I don't think he approved of the way she and I met. We were at Havenhurst together."

"Havenhurst? She's a - "

Murphy lifted his hand, shaking his head. "I didn't say that. She never finished. I had the idea that her boyfriend didn't approve of her choice of career, and gave her an ultimatum."

Steele looked again at the photo. "The more I hear about our client, Murphy, the more I wonder if we would be doing this young woman any favors by finding her."

"I know. I had the same thought. But I'll start a skip trace, see if I can find some kind of lead anyway."

"Good man." Steele went to his desk, putting the photo down where he could look at it. "Have you finished the final report on the Davis case?"

"It's just about ready ready for your signature," Murphy assured him. "How was the Mayor's anti-crime breakfast?" he asked, grinning as Steele shook his head.

"Boring. As they usually are. I might even send you to the next one."

"No, thank you. I prefer to stay in the trenches."

Bernice entered the office, gathering the empty cups. "Some more tea, Mr. Steele?" she asked in a soft voice that instantly drew Murphy's attention.

Steele was busy concentrating on the mail on his desk. "Yes, thank you, Bernice. And then would you please get Mr. Craig on the telephone? I promised him an update on his case this afternoon."

"Yes, sir." She wrinkled her nose at Murphy's knowing grin.

Once the door closed behind her, Murphy said, "You've got a problem brewing there," he told Steele.

"Bernice? No, I don't think so. She'll get over it. You know that she goes into this once a year - and then gives up."

"She looks pretty determined to me," Murphy told him. When Steele sent him a look, Murphy turned toward the door that led to his office. "Later. Gotta finish that report."

Alone, Steele put down the mail and turned to look out of the window behind him. Routine. Everything was so damned routine these days. He needed some REAL excitement. Something other than the paper dolls that he went out with. Returning to the desk, he picked up the mail, as his eyes fell on the photograph of Laura Holt.

He found himself smiling, wondering about the young woman who had probably scandalized her fiancee and his banker friends with her fan dance. "This one is mine," he said to himself. If Murphy got a lead on where she might be, Remington Steele was going to be the one to find her.

Bernice returned with the tea, bringing it around the desk to put it down, brushing arm against his shoulder. Steele revealed nothing, said nothing, simply reached for the cup. "Thank you, Bernice. Have you contacted Mr. Craig yet?"

"He's in conference. His secretary said he would call you back a soon as he could." She started straightening the mail, stopping to pick up the photo that he had been looking at when she had entered. "Who's this?"

"Our new client's fiancee. She's apparently run off and he wants us to find her."

"Have you checked out the clubs in Vegas?" She studied the photo again. "Although, she doesn't look the type."

Steele took the photograph from her, and the mail. "Put Mr. Craig's call through as soon as it comes in, please."

Bernice leaned against his arm for a split second, then moved away, slowly toward the door, making certain that he had a chance to appreciate the view. But when she reached the door, and glanced back, it was to discover that he was engrossed in the mail again. She closed the door with more force than usual. Time for plan B.
She waited until Murphy left that evening before going into Steele's office. "Excuse me, Mr. Steele-?"

"Yes, Bernice?" He was standing at the window again, and she frowned. He'd been doing a lot of that lately.

"I really hate to trouble you, but- could I ask you to drop me by my place? My car's in the shop, and trying to get a cab this time of day -"

Aware of what she was doing, Steele considered sending her on with the limo, then having it return for him. But it had been a long day, and he had a date this evening with - He couldn't recall the woman's name. They were all so similar, he supposed. Nothing like that gamine face that peaked out from above a feathered fan in the photograph in his pocket. "No trouble, Bernice. Let me call for Fred, and I'll lock the doors."

Bernice went to get her jacket and purse as he did exactly that, certain everything was going to go exactly the way she wanted them to.
Inside the long, black limousine, Bernice moved as close to him as possible, and Steele refused to move away. "I was thinking, since we're both together, why don't we stop off for something to eat?" She told him. "I could whip us up something at my place," she suggested.

"Sounds - lovely, but I have a previous engagement."

"Oh." <Of course he does, you silly fool,> Bernice said to herself. <Why didn't you think of that?> "Some other time, perhaps?" she said, practically pressing herself against him, her hand on his thigh.

Steele looked down at that hand, wondering again how she managed to type with those fingernails. He reached out and took her hand in his. "Bernice, I -"

She pulled her hand away, sitting back from him at last. "No, don't say it. You're not interested. I know you like girls- Heaven knows I've seen a constant stream of them in and out of the office during the last three years - so I guess it HAS to be me that you're just not attracted to."

He took her hand again. "You're wrong, Bernice," he told her, forcing her to meet his eyes. "You're a most attractive, beautiful woman. But you ARE in my employ. And I won't take advantage of that fact. If circumstances were different -" He brought her hand to his lips as the limo stopped before her apartment building.

Bernice felt herself smiling, thinking that she might never was her hand again as he helped her from the car and escorted her to the building. He made certain she was safely inside before returning to the limo and telling Fred to take him home.
Bernice was sitting at her desk the next morning when he entered the office, as usual. Her smile was tinged with a hint of embarrassment as she told him, "Your private line's been ringing all morning."

"Thank you. I'm expecting Mr. Craig to call again-"

"I'll put him through." She watched him go into his office. Class with a capital C. That was Mr. Steele. He'd given her a brush off last night, and left her wanting him even more. It would almost be worth it to quit her job and find another, just to see if he'd meant what he'd told her. But she didn't think her bill collectors would agree with that assessment. She saw the private line begin to ring again, and wondered who was in such a hurry to talk to Mr. Steele.
"Steele here -"

"Harry, my boy-"

Steele felt his features turn into granite upon hearing that voice. "What do you want now, Daniel?" he asked without any warmth.

"I was wondering if you had transferred those funds we discussed last week-?"

"I'll take care of it this morning, Daniel," Steele said. "Now, if that's all -"


"My name's Remington Steele," he said quietly as the door between his office and Murphy's opened. "I'm really very busy at the moment, Daniel. I'll take care of the funds - Good bye." He wanted to slam the telephone down, but he forced himself to return it gently.

"Your father again?" Murphy asked.

"Yes. My FATHER. Man's got all the paternal instincts of an alley cat," Steele muttered. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Murphy. "You wanted to see me?"

"I think I've got a lead on Laura Holt."

"Really? What is it?"

"The last person to have seen her might have been the housekeeper. I called the woman, but she's Mexican -"

"And you're no farther along in learning Spanish," Steele said.

"Hey, I've been pretty busy."

"What's her address?"

"I thought we could go over there together -" Murphy began, but Steele shook his head. "I need you to wait for Mr. Craig to call with some information on his case. I'll go and speak to the woman and see if she knows anything about Miss Holt's disappearance."

Murphy looked at him for a long moment. "Okay." He handed Steele the address. "She sounded a little nervous when I talked to her -"

Steele picked up the telephone to call Fred to meet him downstairs. "I'll be back in an hour or so."

Returning to his office, Murphy recalled the look of anger he'd seen on Steele's face during the conversation with Daniel Chalmers. That was another mystery about Remington Steele. He had a different name from his father - and he hated the man. But for some reason, he was sending Chalmers money at least once a month. He'd asked Steele about it once, asked if Chalmers was somehow blackmailing him. Steele had laughed at the idea, said that he thought it was a little price to pay to keep the man away from Los Angeles and him.
Hortensia López lived in a run down apartment building, with gang graffiti sprawled across most of the halls, and drug deals going down around every corner. When he knocked on the door of her apartment, the panel opened just wide enough for him to see one dark eye in a dark face, topped by dark hair with only a few white mixed in. "Señora López?" Steele asked in Spanish. "I am Remington Steele. My associate Murphy Michaels telephoned you earlier-"

"Si, si." She closed the door again, and he heard the chain being removed before it was opened wider to allow him entry. "Come in, Señor Steele."

Steele remained near the door as his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room. "Did you do any work for a Señorita Laura Holt, Señora?"

"Si. She hired me to clean the apartment of her boyfriend." She indicated a chair, the best one in the small room. "Please sit. I can make coffee-"

"No, I just need to know when you saw Señorita Holt." She looked away, nervous. Murphy had been right. Nervousness was something that transcended the language barrier. Steele sat forward. "Señora López, Señorita Holt has been missing for two weeks. Her boyfriend has asked me to find her-"

"That one doesn't care if she comes back or not," Señora López said. "All he cares about is what other people see. Not what is inside," she declared, putting a hand to her chest. "He wants Señorita Laura to become like those women who don't worry about anyone except themselves. He does not see the warm heart inside of her. How giving she is."

"Muy simpático, eh?"

"Si. Very nice. That's why I asked her to help me find Juan. My son." She picked up a photograph of a young man, mugging for the camera.

"He's missing?"

She nodded, tears filling her eyes. "Si. For almost a month now. He makes deliveries to Acapulco every week - but a month ago, he didn't come back. I got a telephone call from him two weeks ago, saying he was in trouble and scared, but he hung up before I could find out anything more. I was late getting to Señorita Laura's to clean, and she noticed I was upset. When I told her the reason, she offered to go and see if she could find my son for me." She crossed herself. "I hope nothing has happened to her."

Steele placed a hand on the woman's arm. "So do I, Señora. Do you know who your son has been working for?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No. He did not tell me. But it is nothing illegal. Juan would never do anything wrong. He is a good boy, all I have."

Steele gave her hand a squeeze. "Has anyone contacted you about Juan? About not talking to the police?"

Looking at her hands, she said, "Si. About a week ago. Two men came, told me not to ask questions if I wanted to see my son alive again."

"Señora López, I'm going to do everything I can to find your son - and Miss Holt, and bring them back."

The woman smiled widely, her eyes overflowing. "Gracias, Señor Steele. Mil gracias."
Murphy was putting some papers on Bernice's desk when Steele returned to the office. "That was a long hour," he said, following Steele into his office. "What did you find out?"

"That Laura went to Acapulco at Mrs. Lopez' request to try and find the woman's missing son."

"Playing detective. What on earth was she thinking? She's not trained-"

"She was trying to help a frightened woman locate her only child, Murphy. Apparently this isn't totally out of character for Miss Holt."

"No, it's not. Well, I guess I'll leave in the morning-"

"Leave? For where?"

"Acapulco," Murphy said. "I'll go down there and find Laura Holt-"

Steele shook his head. "You're not going. I am."

"You're forgetting that I KNOW Laura, Steele."

"Which is exactly why you SHOULDN'T go down there. One look at you and she's liable to turn 'round and run the opposite direction. She's never met me, so she won't have the same reaction. Besides, I promised Mrs. López that I would find them both. And there's the added fact that YOU don't speak the language."

Murphy lifted his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. I give up. I'll stay here and man the fort. Oh, Mr. Craig called with that information you wanted -"

"Where is it?" Steele asked as he went to the door. "Bernice, set up a reservation for me to Acapulco first thing tomorrow, please. Open return."

"Yes, sir," she said, already dialing the telephone.

Murphy held out some papers as he went toward the conference area. "I think you're going to be surprised by this," he said. "Changes the whole case."

Steele read the information and nodded in agreement. "You're going to have that one solved in twenty four hours, I should think."

"Yeah. And you'd have it done in twelve." Steele smiled but didn't respond.

"I need to know everything you do about Laura Holt, Murphy."

"There's not much beyond what I've already told you."

"Did she show any promise at Havenhurst?"

"If she had applied herself, I think Laura could have been better than anyone- even you. But she had a tendency to take shortcuts, refuse to follow established procedure - Alan called her a rebel, a loose cannon that he was afraid would get someone seriously hurt or killed if she didn't calm down." He shook his head. "But that girl had the best raw instincts for this work, Steele, of anyone I've ever seen."

Steele put his head back against the back of the sofa. "Then it's possible she might be onto something down there and staying to follow it through."

"It's just as likely that she's in real trouble."

"You checked with the local airlines- she didn't fly out -"

"Jeffries said that her car is gone too. A white VW Rabbit that he bought her last year - the license number is in the file, I think." He went to his office and retrieved the manila folder. "Yes. Here it is. She probably drove it down to Mexico."

Steele shook his head in amazement. "She's got guts. A woman alone, driving anywhere in Mexico -"

"I'd call it stupid," Murphy said.

Steele sat up and turned his attention to the file before him. He wanted to know everything about Laura Holt. Because he was going to find her, if it was the last thing he did.