ADDING STEELE TO THE FIRE
By: Melissa Jones
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #8 & #9
Summary: Remington, Laura, Murphy and Jenna try to clear a woman accused of her husband’s murder.
Disclaimer: This “Remington Steele” story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with “Remington Steele,” the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
The setting sun created a pink and lavender backdrop for the skyline of downtown Los Angeles. Most of the heavy after-work traffic had subsided, leaving the major thoroughfares to their usual level of business. A hot autumn breeze whisked the odors of the highways around the skyscrapers.
The smell of exhaust entered through the screen door of apartment 20C, blending with the odors of perfume and gunsmoke. The penthouse apartment was dark, except for the light from a small desk lamp. Dim sounds of the outdoor traffic mixed with the sounds of rustling papers.
The rustling ceased, and a black-gloved hand pulled a manila folder from a file drawer in the oak desk. The light was extinguished, and the drawer closed. The figure moved toward the front door of the apartment, pausing briefly by the lifeless gentleman sprawled across the living room floor. The front door was cautiously opened, and the light from the hallway illuminated the corpse, and caused the blood on the carpet to glisten. The front door was closed softly, leaving only the sounds of the nightly traffic echoing from the streets below.
Remington Steele dried his hands on the blue dishtowel as he exited the kitchen. He looked up at the sound of his wife's laughter. Laura Steele was sitting on the far corner of the couch, her right leg tucked under her left. She was chattering into the phone, apparently engaged in an amusing conversation. Remington smiled softly as he sat on the couch next to Laura. It still amazed him how well he had taken to married life, despite his objections to it in the past. But then, that was before he knew Laurabefore he fell in love with her.
"All right, Frances," Laura said, smiling into the phone. "I will, I promise. Okay. I'll tell him. Mm-hm . . . bye." She hung up the phone, chuckling softly. Remington threw the dishtowel over his right shoulder and spread his arms over the back of the sofa.
"Well, you and Frances had a lot to talk about," Remington observed casually. "You've been on the phone for nearly an hour."
"Well, we haven't talked in a while," Laura said, leaning back into the cushions. "Not since you and I came back from our honeymoon. Our second honeymoon, that is." She smiled coyly at her husband. Laura noticed the dishtowel hanging on Remington's shoulder and gasped.
"Oh, the dishes!" she groaned. "I was supposed to help you with the dishes. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I took care of it," Remington said, dismissing her concerns with a wave of his hand. "Besides, I want you to take it easy. You've been ill so much lately. I don't want you to over-extend yourself."
"I'm fine," Laura responded.
"You say that every night, and every morning you wake up ill. You've barely been eating lately. Tonight's the first time in nearly a week that you've eaten a full meal," Remington scolded.
"You're exaggerating," Laura said, picking up the TV remote and flipping through the channels.
"No, I'm not," Remington insisted. "I still wish you'd see a doctor."
Laura sat quietly for a moment.
"I'll go tomorrow," she said softly. Remington looked at her with amazement.
"You will?" he asked. "What changed your mind? I mean, you've been fighting me on this for the past couple of days."
"I talked to Frances about it, and she made a few suggestions about what could be causing my illness. Her best suggestion was to talk to the doctor about it," Laura replied.
"Well, remind me to thank my sister-in-law for talking some sense into you," Remington teased. Laura shot him an annoyed look.
"Speaking of in-laws," Laura diverged. "Laurie Beth wants to know when her Uncle Remington is going to come over and give her horsy-rides again."
Remington laughed uncomfortably. "She does, does she?" he asked, fidgeting with the towel on his shoulder.
"Mm-hm," Laura answered, smiling at him. "The kids adore you, you know."
"Well, they're not so bad themselves," Remington complimented reluctantly.
"You do so well with them," Laura said, staring ahead as she tried to be as casual as possible. "You seem to enjoy being with them."
"I do," Remington answered matter-of-factly, averting his eyes to the TV. Laura bit her lower lip nervously.
"Well, you know what I think," Laura said in a teasing voice. "I think you'd make a pretty good father someday."
"Really, Laura," Remington laughed. Laura turned to him, trying to hide the concern on her face.
"You don't think so?" she asked.
"Well, I..." he began. He stopped a moment, trying to think of the right words to say. "I've never thought of myself as the fatherly type."
"Does that mean you don't want a family of your own someday?" Laura asked, the worry in her voice growing. Remington noticed it and smiled.
"I didn't say that," he said softly. Laura grinned broadly, relief covering her face. "I wouldn't object if somewhere further down the road you decided to give me a child or two."
"Further down the road?" Laura asked, her smile fading slightly.
"Yes, you know. In a few years, after we've settled into married life and gotten our careers exactly where we want them. Then we can devote our time to...other important goals in life. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, yes, of course," Laura said, smiling at him. She turned her eyes toward the television. Remington scooted over next to her, putting his arms around her shoulders and leaning toward her.
"Of course, we could go...practice for that later time in life, if you'd like," he murmured seductively. Laura turned and smiled softly at him. Remington leaned in slowly, brushing his lips lightly against hers. Laura turned to face him, bringing her left hand up to his cheek and pulling him into a deeper kiss. She pulled away and stared deeply into his eyes.
"I love you," she whispered seriously. Remington smiled, brushing a strand of her hair to the side with his left hand.
"I love you, too, Laura," he returned. He kissed her again, pulling her into his arms. Laura responded willingly, drowning in the warmth of his body. She pulled back and looked at him again, smiling.
"I suppose practice does make perfect," she murmured. "And we do want perfect children? Don't we?"
"Mm-hm," Remington smiled, his eyelids drooping with desire. He kissed her again, the sweetness of her mouth tantalizing him. "Besides, you should get to bed early, anyway. Since you've been under the weather lately, and all."
"Thinking of playing doctor, Mr. Steele?" Laura teased, stroking the back of his ebony hair.
"Only if you're sure you're up to it. I don't want to do anything to aggravate whatever it is you might have," Remington answered seriously. Laura chuckled softly.
"I don't think there's any chance of that," she said. Remington looked at her questioningly.
"Why? Do you know what's been causing it?" he asked, concern clouding his features.
"No..." Laura said reluctantly, dropping her eyes to his lap. "I just meant . . . I feel much better, that's all. I don't think I'll have any problems tonight. Really."
"Are you sure?" Remington pressed, looking straight into Laura's eyes. She smiled reassuringly.
"Positive," she said strongly. She grinned coyly, and ran her index finger down Remington's chest. "So, should we stay up and watch television for a while, or would you prefer that we turn in early for...um...physical therapy?"
Remington smiled and took the remote from Laura's lap, letting his fingers brush along Laura's thighs for a second longer than they should. He switched off the television, and threw the remote behind him onto the couch. Throwing his dishtowel on the table in front of him, he pulled Laura up off the couch.
"I think you need a close...examination," he said romantically, picking her up in his arms and carrying her into the bedroom.
Remington strode confidently into suite 1157, his eyes skimming the silver lettering that announced the location of Remington Steele Investigations.
"Morning, morning, morning," Remington greeted Mildred cheerfully, as he usually did every morning.
"Morning, Boss," Mildred Krebs replied as Remington stopped at her desk to flip through the mail. "Where's Mrs. Steele?"
"She's at the doctor's office. She'll be in later," Remington informed her, glancing distastefully through the bills before abandoning his search.
"Finally talked her into it, huh?" Murphy Michaels asked, emerging from the storage room, a steaming mug of coffee in his hands. Remington turned to him as he approached.
"No, actually, Frances managed to do it," he answered.
"What about Frances?" Jenna Holt inquired, walking out of her and Murphy's office, several manila folders in her hand.
"Frances talked Laura into going to the doctor," Murphy informed her.
"You mean Laura actually listened to someone? And a family member, no less?" Jenna said mockingly.
"It's a bit odd, isn't it?" Murphy joked.
"Well, odd or not, I don't care. So long as it gets her to the doctor and we can find out what's wrong. She's been sick like this for a week. There's got to be a reason besides a ‘nagging bug,’ as Laura says," Remington commented.
"Was she sick again this morning?" Jenna asked, concern for her sister showing in her olive eyes.
"Mm-hm," Remington nodded. "Which is odd, because she was fine last night. She ate a full meal and everything."
"Well, the doctor will find out what it is. Probably just exhaustion or something," Murphy said, flashing a coy glance to Remington. Remington returned an annoyed look. "From work and traveling, I mean," Murphy added, feigning innocence. He didn't react fast enough to avoid the smack on his arm from Jenna.
"You are evil," she scolded.
"Evil?" Murphy responded in mock hurt. "Me? Evil?"
"Yes, you," Jenna insisted. "You're also a pervert."
"If anyone should know..." Murphy began playfully, earning him another smack on the arm. "Do you believe this?" he cried to Remington and Mildred. "Persecuted by my own girlfriend for wanting to soothe the worries of a co-worker."
"Oh, please," Jenna muttered, rolling her eyes. Remington and Mildred laughed.
"Well, Murphy," Remington said, "you know how these Holt women are. They're always ready to put a man in his place."
"You got that right," Murphy agreed.
"Well, fine. Would you prefer to do without me?" Jenna asked Murphy. He responded by putting his arm around her waist and pulling her next to him.
"Never," he said, gazing to her affectionately. She smiled at him, pleased.
"I'm certainly glad you two decided to stick around for a while," Remington stated.
"Oh? Why is that?" Murphy inquired, tearing his eyes momentarily from Jenna.
"Now Laura and I won't be the only couple arguing in this office," Remington answered, grinning wickedly.
"Excuse me," a voice said behind Remington. He turned to see a stout, middle-aged man entering the office. The man wore a three-piece business suit, and carried a folded newspaper in his right hand. Murphy and Jenna released each other quickly and assumed a business-like manner.
"Yes, sir, can I help you?" Mildred asked politely. The man glanced around to each individual.
"I'm here to see Mr. Steele about a delicate yet urgent matter," the man said frankly.
"I'm Remington Steele, Mr...?" Remington prompted, extending his hand.
"Seldon. Marcus Seldon," the man replied, shaking Remington's hand firmly.
"Well, Mr. Seldon, why don't you step into my office, and we can discuss things there, okay?" Remington replied, steering Mr. Seldon toward his office. "Yes, straight through there," he directed. He turned to Murphy and Jenna. "You two want to join me on this one, since Laura's not here yet?"
"I really need to finish this security contract, but you go, Murphy," Jenna declined. Murphy nodded and followed Remington into his office.
"Now, Mr. Seldon," Remington said, pulling his overcoat off and hanging it on the coat rack next to his office door. "How may we be of service to you?" Remington walked over to sit in the chair behind his desk, while Murphy stood in front of it. Mr. Seldon glanced uneasily at Murphy. "Oh, my apologies for the lack of introductions. Mr. Seldon, my trusted associate, Murphy Michaels. All of my associates are completely discrete and trustworthy, so you can count on them, I assure you."
Mr. Seldon seemed a bit more at ease, but worry continued to line his face. He sat gingerly in the chair opposite Remington.
"Have you seen the newspaper this morning, Mr. Steele?" Seldon asked, tossing the folded newspaper onto Remington's desk. "Notice the headline." Remington picked up the paper and unfolded it with curiosity. "Shipping Magnet Found Murdered" was sprawled across the top of the paper. Remington held the paper at a sideways angle so Murphy could see the headline as well. Remington cleared his throat and began reading aloud.
"'Gerald Morgan, 47, owner of Morgan Shipping Industries, Inc., was found murdered in his apartment late last night. The apparent cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest by a small caliber pistol. Neighbors reported hearing the shot at around 7:15 last night, but dismissed the sound as a car backfiring. Police are questioning several suspects, but so far no arrests have been made.'" Remington stopped reading and looked up at Mr. Seldon. "I take it this was a friend of yours?"
"Friend? Not on your life!" Mr. Seldon exclaimed, sneering. "Gerald Morgan was one of the dirtiest, crookedest businessmen I've ever met, and a detestable human being. I was ashamed to even be on the same planet with him!" Remington and Murphy exchanged glances of puzzlement and uneasiness.
"Well...uh...my apologies for any wrong insinuations, Mr. Seldon," Remington replied cautiously. "However, since you're obviously not mourning this man's passing, may I ask exactly what this concerns?"
"My wife is what this concerns," Mr. Seldon replied sternly. "She happens to be one of the ‘suspects’ the police are questioning."
"How does your wife figure in on all of this?" Murphy asked, his expression of confusion mirroring his partner's.
"Someone said my wife visited Morgan's apartment last night. The police are trying to place her there during the crime. They kept asking exactly what time she was there. Of course, I wouldn't let them talk to her. She's devastated by all of this mess...especially by the fact that people are accusing her of being involved."
"Would your wife have a motive to kill Mr. Morgan?" Remington asked, leaning back in his chair.
"Of course not! She barely knew him!" Mr. Seldon boomed. "That's why all of this is so ridiculous! But the police don't listen! They're looking to pin this on the first scapegoat they find, and they found my wife first. Lisel wouldn't harm a fly," Mr. Seldon explained emphatically. "Mr. Steele, I want you to investigate this and give me solid proof that my wife didn't kill Morgan. Something tangible that I can give the police in order to get them off our backs. Lisel's a very sensitive person, and all of this nonsense could kill her. I won't have this disturbing my wife's delicate senses!"
Remington and Murphy exchanged glances again. Murphy raised his eyebrows questioningly, and Remington reacted by clearing his throat and rising from his chair.
"I will be happy to help in any way I can, Mr. Seldon," Remington said, walking around his desk and leaning against the front of it, facing Mr. Seldon fully.
"Excellent. I knew by your reputation that I could count on you," Mr. Seldon replied loudly. Remington chuckled modestly.
"Yes, well, in order to proceed, there are a few things I'd like to know first," Remington responded.
"Such as?" Mr. Seldon asked.
"How did you know the deceased?"
"Why do you ask?" Mr. Seldon inquired, his curious tone laced with anger and distrust of Remington's motives. Remington searched for the right excuse to avoid any undue hostility.
"Background information vital to the case," Murphy rescued.
"Exactly," Remington responded, a sigh of relief escaping between his words. "Purely routine. All part of the business of detection."
"I understand," Mr. Seldon said, his distrust dissolving. "I knew Gerald Morgan as a business associate. We're in the same business. I own Seldon Imports."
"So Morgan was a competitor?" Murphy asked casually, masking his suspicions.
"Not much of one...we're far bigger, and we distribute far more globally. He wasn't much of a threat to us," Mr. Seldon covered. "He was a rotten businessman. Not in the sense that he couldn't turn a profit, but in the sense that he'd go to any lengths to do so...legal or illegal. He once conned a private shipping company in Hong Kong to go public, by saying that it would quadruple their profits. As soon as they took his advice, he bought all the stock he could, raided them, and swallowed the company. That company had been a family business for 200 years, before Morgan totally destroyed it. That's just a small example of his business tactics," Mr. Seldon finished angrily.
"Have you dealt with Mr. Morgan's company before?" Remington asked, sitting on the corner of his desk.
"A few times. I finally got sick of seeing what he was doing. Few people know this, but I'm in the process of buying out Morgan Shipping. It's too bad someone killed him this early. I was looking forward to seeing his face when I told him I owned him."
"How did your wife know him?" Remington asked.
"He's come to my office a few times when she's been there. She joins me for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Morgan had a nasty habit of showing up just before lunch. He had a knack for ruining my appetite," Mr. Seldon answered bitterly. "He even showed up at my house once. That's the only contact she had with him. She'd have no reason to go to his apartment."
"What motive do the police think your wife would have?" Murphy asked.
"Who knows," Mr. Seldon grumbled. "Probably that she was somehow standing up for me. I don't know, really. I've refused to let them talk to me or my wife."
"Can we talk to your wife?" Murphy asked.
"Yes...but it will have to be later tonight. I'll leave my address with your secretary." Mr. Seldon glanced at his wristwatch and stood up. "I really must be going. I have to get to the office. No one knows I'm here right now, and I would prefer it to stay that way. It wouldn't look good for the police or the press to find out that I'm hiring you to defend my wife's innocence. So, if you and your colleagues don't mind, I would prefer the utmost discretion in this matter."
"Ap...say no more, Mr. Seldon. I completely understand," Remington silenced him by raising his hand. "You can depend on the Remington Steele Agency for complete discretion, and we'll get started on your case immediately."
"Good. The sooner this mess is cleared up, the better," Mr. Seldon commented. He shook Remington's hand, then Murphy's. "Mr. Michaels, Mr. Steele. Good day, and good luck." Mr. Seldon turned and left the office as briskly as he had entered. Remington turned to Murphy as soon as they were alone.
"Is it just me, or is there more to this story than what Mr. Seldon is willing to admit to?" Remington asked. Murphy produced a half-grin of understanding.
"You mean the fact that Mr. Seldon appears to have a perfect motive to commit this murder?" Murphy translated.
"Mm...and what better way to divert attention from his motives than to try to support his wife's plight to prove her innocence," Remington added.
"So where do you think we should start? With the wife or the business?" Remington thought for a moment.
"I think we should see if Mildred can scrape up some information on all three of the players in this little scene, and then we should visit the crime scene and see what we can find out there."
"Good idea," Murphy commented, striding to the door with Remington following close behind.
"Mildred, we need some information from that blasted computer," Remington said, letting his distaste for technology slip. "Give me everything you can on Marcus Seldon, Lisel Seldon, Gerald Morgan, Seldon Imports, and Morgan Shipping Industries."
"Okay," Mildred said, jotting the names down on a notepad next to her. She swiveled her seat to face the computer and began typing in the commands for name searches. "This may take a while, Boss."
"Hm..." Remington mused. "Well, then, Murphy, what say we check out Morgan's apartment?"
"Sounds good," Murphy said. "Let me grab my jacket."
"Oh, grab mine, too, will you?" Remington asked. Murphy nodded, heading toward his office. "Mildred, first can you give me the home address of Gerald Morgan?"
"No problem," Mildred answered, typing the name into the computer. "Gerald Morgan, 1136 South Madison, Parkview Place Condominiums, Apartment 20C," she read from the screen.
"Thank you, Mildred," Remington answered as Murphy approached him. He took his overcoat from Murphy and slipped it on. "We're headed there now. Oh, and if Laura show's up while we're gone, tell her we'll fill her in as soon as we get back. Ready, Murphy?"
"Yep," Murphy answered.
"Let's go. We'll take the limo. We'll be back soon, Mildred," Remington called as he and Murphy exited the office and headed for the elevators.
Laura exited the elevator and rounded the corner, heading for the office. Her knees still felt weak from the shock of the news. She wasn't sure why it was such a shock; she had suspected it for a while. Yet somehow, hearing it from a doctor made it more real. Laura's stomach churned uneasily as she approached the office door. She willed her hands to stop shaking. She knew what she had to do. Remington had to know, whether he would like it or not. Laura took a deep breath to calm herself and pushed the glass door open, entering the office.
"Morning, Mildred," Laura said, interrupting Mildred's work at the computer.
"Oh, morning, Mrs. Steele," Mildred replied, looking up from the computer screen. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine. I'm just fine," Laura lied.
"What'd the doctor say?" Mildred asked, turning to face Laura fully.
"He said I was okay, and the stomach trouble would pass in time," Laura said, feeling guilty for not telling the whole truth. "He said I just needed some rest, that's all."
"Oh, so it is exhaustion," Mildred said, an amused smirk on her face.
"What?" Laura asked, confused.
"Well, is Remington here?" Laura asked, heading toward his office, ready to get the moment over with.
"No, he's gone out," Mildred answered. Laura stopped, a mixture of relief and frustration at not resolving the situation flooding her.
"Where did he go?" she asked, turning and walking slowly back to Mildred's desk.
"He got a new client this morning. He and Murphy went to go check something out. They said they'd tell you everything as soon as they got back."
"Oh," Laura said, even more frustrated at missing out on a new client and a new case to pursue. "Where's Jenna?"
"In her office, working on that security contract."
"All right, thanks, Mildred," Laura said, turning and walking toward her office. She entered and closed the door, hanging her blazer on her coat rack and putting her purse the bottom drawer of her desk. She walked over to the newly-added access door and entered Jenna's office.
Jenna sat at the messier of two desks in the room, scribbling a word out of the document in front of her. She looked up as her sister entered.
"Hey, sis," Jenna said, putting down her pen and giving Laura her full attention. "How did the visit with the doctor go?"
"Fine, it went fine. I'm fine," Laura said, eager to avoid the subject. "Jenna, what do you know about the new client?"
"Nothing. I was working on the security contract. You'll have to ask Murphy or Remington about it."
"They're both gone," Laura said in a disappointed tone.
"Good. Then that gives us plenty of time to talk about what the doctor really said and what you're trying to hide," Jenna said frankly, rising from her chair and walking around to the front of her desk. She leaned up against it and crossed her arms.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Laura tried to laugh off Jenna's accusations. She couldn't look her sister in the face. She knew that if she did, the jig would be up.
"Laura, who do you think you're talking to? I know you. You say you're ‘fine’ without further explanation, you rapidly change the subject, and now you won't look at me. Who do you think you're kidding?" Jenna scolded. "Now what did the doctor really say? I mean, is it serious?" Laura laughed sarcastically.
"Oh, you could definitely say that," she said, dread filling her again. Jenna paled.
"Oh, God, Laura..." she whispered. "You aren't...you're not, dying, are you?"
"No!" Laura said, shaking her head. "No, nothing like that. I really am okay. The doctor said I just needed to rest some more."
"What did he say is causing your illness?" Jenna pressed. Laura finally looked at her, and gave up.
"He diagnosed it as...morning sickness," she said reluctantly. Jenna gasped, her eyes widening.
"Morning sickness? You mean...you're pregnant??" Jenna exclaimed, shocked. Laura nodded, sighing heavily. Jenna laughed. "Well, Laura, that's...that's wonderful!" Laura closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. Jenna's smile faded at Laura's unexpected expression. "That's...not wonderful?"
"Yes...no...I mean...it is...it's just that...,"Laura said, searching for the right explanation. "It's not the best timing."
"Why not?" Jenna asked. "And tell me the truth this time. Don't try to hide it. Are you saying that you don't want this baby now?"
"No...I do want this baby...it's just..." Laura trailed off, unable to admit her fears.
"Just what?" Jenna forced Laura's confession.
"Well, I'm not sure that...that Remington's ready for this," Laura blurted out.
"What ever gave you that idea? He doesn't even know yet...does he?" Jenna inquired, confused.
"No, he doesn't know," Laura confessed. "But last night we talked about having a family. I had just spoken to Frances, and she confirmed my suspicions that I may be experiencing morning sickness. Anyway, I got Remington to talk about starting a family, just to see what he'd think of the idea, in case I was really pregnant. He made it very clear that he doesn't want children right now."
"Only he's going to get one right now, and you're worried that he won't be happy about it," Jenna concluded. Laura nodded. "Laura, that's ridiculous. Remington adores you, and I'm sure he'd adore the thought of you giving him a child. Don't worry about it!"
"I don't know, Jenna," Laura admitted. "It took him so long to make a commitment, and to even think about having a family someday. I don't want him to feel pressured into something he's not ready for. I don't want to make him unhappy."
"With as much love as he obviously has for you, how could he be unhappy about something that would make you happy? I really think you're over-reacting," Jenna said.
"You really think so?" Laura asked hopefully.
"Absolutely," Jenna stated. "Talk to him about it. He has to know, one way or another."
"You're right," Laura responded. She took a deep breath and smiled. "I'm sure he'll love the idea," she said, trying to convince herself as much as Jenna.
"That's the spirit. Oh, and congratulations!" Jenna said, walking over and giving her big sister a hug.
"Thanks," Laura murmured, smiling genuinely for the first time that morning. She released Jenna and moved toward the door. "Well, I suppose I'd better get to work. I have a ton of paperwork to catch up on," Laura said.
"Okay," Jenna replied, walking back to her desk. "I'll finish this contract up and bring it in for you to look over."
"Sounds good," Laura said, opening the door to her office. "See you later." Jenna waved as Laura exited the office and closed the door.
Remington and Murphy exited the elevator and walked down the hall toward apartment 20C. Murphy stood guard as Remington squatted before the door, picking the lock. He rose and turned the knob, motioning Murphy into the apartment. Remington gave a final, cautious glance down both ends of the hallway before entering the apartment and closing the door.
The first sight that greeted them was the white outline of a body, sprawled across the living room floor. A large, red stain tainted the carpet in the middle of the outline. Remington and Murphy exchanged glances of disgust before fanning out to search the room.
"Well, the police have obviously been through here," Murphy said bitterly. Remington looked up at him questioningly. Murphy ran his finger along the coffee table and showed it to Remington. Remington noted the black fingerprinting powder that covered the top of his index finger.
"Wonder if they were kind enough to leave us anything," Remington mused, circling around the large oak desk and sitting in the massive leather chair. He began searching through the items on the surface, before trying his luck with the contents of the drawers. Murphy picked up a notepad from the coffee table and opened it. The top page was blank, but a faint impression remained. A gold-plated pen inside the notepad slid off the pad and fell to the floor, bouncing under the couch. As Murphy knelt to pick it up, he noticed another glint of gold, hidden under the couch. Murphy pulled the object out, and stared intently at the ladies' gold-link bracelet.
"Well, well," he murmured, standing up and staring at the flat bar in the center of the bracelet. "Looks like the cops did leave us something."
"What's that?" Remington asked, pulling a piece of stationary from the back of a drawer. His eyebrows rose as he contemplated the significance of the letterhead.
"A woman's bracelet, with initials carved on it," Murphy reported, walking over to Remington. He held the bracelet forward so Remington could see the letters. "L.S. That's either his wife, or yours," Murphy joked. Remington smirked.
"I guarantee you, it's not Laura's. I can safely say she wasn't here last night."
"Strong alibi for last night?" Murphy teased.
"That's for me to know and you never to find out," Remington returned jokingly. He held out the stationary for Murphy to see. "Have a look at this." Murphy's eyes widened as he took the paper from Remington.
"Seldon Imports?" Murphy read.
"Mm-hm...I found it in the back of the drawer. It was nearly stuck behind the drawer, which is probably why the police missed it," Remington said, motioning to the drawer as he spoke.
"Eleven p.m., 206 Harbor Way," Murphy read. "That's in the marina, isn't it?"
"I think so. We'll have to check that out. Too bad it isn't dated," Remington said. He noticed the notepad in Murphy's hand. "What's that?"
"Oh," Murphy said, dropping the stationary and bracelet on the desk. "I found this on the coffee table. It looks like there's an impression here. Got a pencil?"
"Uh...yes. Here," Remington said, pulling a pencil from the holder on the desk. Murphy set the notepad flat on the desk and gently rubbed the pencil across the paper's surface. The graphite outlined the impressions.
"It's a set of numbers," Murphy said, tossing the pencil onto the counter.
"Hm...bank account, perhaps?"
"Maybe," Murphy said, tearing the paper from the notepad. He folded it and stuffed it in his inside jacket pocket.
"Let me check one more thing before we go," Remington said, sliding out of the chair and disappearing behind the desk. Murphy watched in puzzlement, then walked around the desk to see what Remington was doing. He smiled at the sight of Remington, crouched next to an open cabinet, the left side of his face pressed against the metal door of a safe. A twinge of envy passed through Murphy as he observed the ease in which Remington figured out the lock's combination. Remington sat up straight and swung the safe door open. He shuffled through the safe's contents, stopping at a large sheet of paper.
"What do you make of this, Murphy?" he asked, handing the paper up to Murphy as he finished plundering the contents of the safe.
"Stock reports of some kind," Murphy concluded. "Looks like he was buying a lot of stock. There's also a list of names here. I'm afraid I don't know a lot about stock documents."
"Well, we'll let Mildred have a crack at it," Remington grunted as he closed the door and stood up. "Let's get back to the office and see what she's come up with."
"Right," Murphy agreed, picking up the bracelet and stationary from the desk. He and Remington checked the hallway cautiously before exiting the apartment.
Laura lifted her head from her paperwork at the sound of her husband's voice. She felt a wave of nervousness returning from the pit of her stomach. She took a deep breath to calm herself, and went out to greet her husband.
"We also found this," Remington was telling Mildred as Laura emerged from her office. "It obviously is some kind of stock report, but that's all Murphy and I could deduce from it."
"I'll look it over, Boss," Mildred assured, taking a large sheet of paper from him.
"Found evidence for the new case?" Laura asked, approaching her husband. Remington and Murphy turned to her.
"Yes. Quite a bit, actually," Remington replied. "How'd the doctor's appointment go?"
"Fine," Laura replied simply. Remington stared at her questioningly.
"And?" he encouraged. Laura stared at him blankly. "What did he say? I mean, are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm all right. I just need a little more rest," Laura replied. Murphy and Mildred exchanged amused glances.
"Is that it?" Remington pressed. Laura opened her mouth to continue, but was interrupted by Jenna's entrance.
"Here it is," she said, walking up to Laura and handing her a manila folder proudly.
"What?" Laura asked, taking the folder and opening it. "Oh, the contract! Great! Thanks, Jenna."
"No problem," Jenna replied. "Have they filled you in on the new case yet?"
"Not yet, but I'm anxious to hear about it," Laura said, looking at the two men.
"I want to hear about it, too, in case I can help out," Jenna said.
"Why don't we go into Steele's office and fill you in, and then Mildred can fill us in on what she's come up with as soon as she's ready?" Murphy suggested.
"Sounds good to me," Jenna said, turning and heading toward Remington's office, followed by Murphy, Laura and Remington. Remington stopped Laura just before his office door.
"Laura, you didn't finish telling me what the doctor said," Remington reminded her.
"It's no big deal. We can talk about it later. Business first," Laura answered, heading for Remington's office. She cursed herself silently for not telling him everything, but her doubts still lingered. She entered the office, refusing to meet her husband's worried and probing stare.
"All right," Mildred said enthusiastically as she entered Remington's office. "I think I've gotten all the info the computer will give me." She stopped in front of the couch where Laura and Jenna were sitting. Remington and Murphy were sitting opposite each other in the chairs at either end of the couch.
"The ladies have been caught up on our part," Remington said, glancing at Laura and Jenna, "so, the floor is yours, Mildred." He made a sweeping gesture with his left hand.
"Okay," Mildred said, looking briefly at the printouts in her hands. "Let's start with Lisel Seldon. Originally from Bucharest, Hungary, she came to America and married Marcus Seldon fourteen years ago. She used to work for her husband's company, but she quit about two years ago. Since then she's been unemployed, but she fills her time with charities and country clubs. She has lunch every day at Bel-Oaks Country Club, and lately she's been paying for a lot of lunches for two on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
"Her husband said they often have lunch together," Jenna dismissed.
"Only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays," Murphy corrected.
"So who's she eating with on those other days?" Laura added.
"Good question. What else, Mildred?" Remington asked.
"I got the name of the jeweler off that bracelet and called them. The bracelet was definitely Mrs. Seldon's. Mr. Seldon bought it for her two weeks ago.
"As for Mr. Seldon...owner of Seldon Imports since 1974, but the business didn't really take off until a couple of years ago. It seems to have hit an even keel lately, but his stock's been fluctuating. I have found where he was attempting to buy up Morgan Shipping, but he's nowhere close to a buy-out. But, get this," Mildred said dramatically. "Someone's been buying a lot of Seldon stock. It appeared to be several people at first, but the stock sheet you brought me confirmed the truth. The brokers that have been buying have all been buying for Morgan Industries. And Morgan is close to a buy-out."
"You mean was," Murphy realized. "Pretty good motive for murder, don't you think?"
"There's one other thing," Mildred interjected. "Morgan's been buying stock from private shareholders. Part of that sheet was a list of private shareholders and how much stock they own. That material should have been available only to the high brass at Seldon Industries. There's no way Morgan could have gotten it unless someone from Seldon Industries gave it to him."
"You mean a mole?" Jenna asked. Mildred nodded. "And maybe Seldon found out about it and confronted Morgan. The conversation turned ugly, and Seldon killed him."
"Well, Murphy, it seems our original theory about Mr. Seldon is working out," Remington said, adjusting his position in his chair. "It seems Mr. Seldon had a much better motive for murder than Mrs. Seldon."
"Sounds like it, doesn't it?" Murphy replied.
"Well, Remington and I will visit Seldon Industries and have a private chat with Mr. Seldon. Meanwhile, Murphy, you and Jenna visit Bel-Oaks and find out who Lisel Seldon has been dining with," Laura instructed, rising from the couch. "Mildred, see if you can dig around in the Seldon Industries' employment histories and find our mole."
"Right," Mildred said.
"Why don't we all regroup for lunch at Rodchester's?" Remington suggested. "Say around noon?" Everyone agreed. Mildred went back to the computer as the four investigators left the office.
"So," Remington began loudly as he and Laura sped down the highway in Remington's 1936 Auburn Speedster convertible. "Tell me what the doctor said."
Laura squirmed uneasily, her nervousness returning. She knew she should tell him, but now just didn't seem the time. Not in the middle of a case.
"He just said I needed to take it easy for a while," Laura told him.
"And the stomach trouble? Are you telling me that's from exhaustion?"
"Well, he did say that it may have been aggravated by all the traveling I've done in the past month. Jet lag and all," Laura replied, feeling guilty for not revealing the whole truth.
"Did he prescribe anything?" Remington asked, glancing briefly to Laura before returning his eyes to the road.
"Just plenty of rest," Laura answered.
"Well, I suppose I'm partly to blame, but don't worry...I'll let you get more sleep from now on," Remington said. Laura looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"You mean you're not going to tempt me into any more romantic interludes?" she asked, a hint of disappointment in her voice. Remington smirked.
"Don't be ridiculous, Laura. You know me better than that. We'll just go to bed earlier, that's all," he replied casually, turning into the parking lot of Seldon Imports. Laura laughed as he parked the Auburn and switched off the engine.
"Shall we?" he asked, getting out of the car. Laura followed, falling into step with Remington as he buttoned his jacket and put his hand gently against her back. He opened the door for his wife, then followed her inside.
The interior of the office building was decorated in a modern style, with black marble floors and columns. Elevators on the left pinged their arrival, and an octagonal desk sat in the center of the spacious room. A tall man stood at the desk, chatting with the young secretary. He appeared to be in his late thirties. He wore a three-piece suit similar to Mr. Seldon's, but his mannerisms made him appear far more personable. Remington and Laura approached the desk.
"Good morning. Sorry to interrupt," Remington said to the secretary. We're here to see Mr. Seldon."
"Mr. Seldon's not in, but perhaps I can be of assistance," the man said, extending his hand. "Jack Parsons. I'm Mr. Seldon's associate."
"Remington Steele," Remington returned, taking Jack's hand and shaking it briefly. He gestured to Laura. "This is my associate, Laura Steele." Laura and Jack exchanged greetings. "It's imperative that we speak with Mr. Seldon. When do you expect him to return?"
"Well, I don't know if he's coming back. He had to hurry home for something. However, I know Mr. Seldon and this business very well. I may be able to help you."
"Did you know Gerald Morgan?" Laura asked. She noted the uneasy expression that crossed Jack's face.
"Why don't we go upstairs to my office where we can discuss this privately. Shall we?" Jack suggested, pointing toward the elevators. Remington and Laura followed him up to his office.
"Please, have a seat," Jack said pleasantly as they entered the large office. Remington and Laura sat in the plush chairs in front of Jack's desk.
"Now, what is it you came here to find out, Mr. Steele?" Jack asked, sitting behind his desk in his high-backed leather chair.
"Well, Mr. Parsons..." Remington began.
"Jack. Please, call me Jack."
"All right...Jack," Remington revised. "We needed to speak to Mr. Seldon about his business association with Gerald Morgan."
"May I ask who hired you?" Jack inquired.
"I'm afraid that's confidential information," Remington said in a businesslike manner. Jack nodded in understanding.
"Of course," he said in a disappointed tone. "Well, as I said, I'll help you if I can."
"How long have you know Mr. Seldon?" Laura asked.
"I've known the Seldons for twelve years. They're good people," Jack answered.
"Did you have any association with Gerald Morgan?" Laura asked. She noticed his uneasiness again.
"I've dealt with him a few times, but not one-on-one," Jack admitted. "He and Marcus don't...I mean, didn't...get along very well. I often had to play peacemaker in the meetings."
"So you know about the animosity between Mr. Seldon and Mr. Morgan?" Remington asked.
"Yes. I've been witnessing it for twelve years."
"We've been told that Mr. Seldon didn't approve of Mr. Morgan's business tactics," Remington said. Jack laughed.
"That's quite an understatement, Mr. Steele," Jack replied. "Marcus detested Gerald Morgan—professionally and personally."
"Personally? You mean he hated Mr. Morgan for some reason other than a professional one?" Laura asked, intrigued.
"Yes, because of his wife," Jack answered. Laura and Remington stared at him curiously. "You didn't know about Lisel and Gerald?"
"Lisel and Gerald?!" Remington and Laura asked in unison.
"You mean Mr. Seldon's wife is involved with Mr. Morgan?" Remington asked.
"Was involved. A long time ago," Jack clarified. "Fourteen years ago, to be exact."
"Fourteen years ago? Isn't that around the time she came here and married Marcus Seldon?" Laura asked.
"Yes. You see, she and Gerald met in Bucharest when Gerald was on a business trip. She fell madly in love with him, and when he returned to the States, she followed him. While searching for Gerald, she and Marcus became friends. She eventually found Gerald, but he told her he didn't want a commitment--or anything--from her. She was devastated. She had given up everything to be with Gerald, and he turned her away. So, she ended up marrying Marcus. A lot of people thought it was her way of revenge--to make Gerald jealous. But I really believe that she loves Marcus."
"So she got over Gerald, but Mr. Seldon still hates him for hurting her in the first place?" Remington deduced.
"Actually, I'm not so sure that she ever really got over Gerald. I have seen them together once or twice. Apparently, she kept a friendship with him. Only she always made me promise never to tell Marcus. I figured it was because she knew how much Marcus hated Gerald. I suppose there could have been more to it than just that."
"You mean they may have rekindled the romance?" Laura asked.
"I don't know, but if they did, Lisel was setting herself up for another fall. I heard Gerald and Marcus arguing once, and Gerald made it clear that he had no interest in ever marrying Lisel. But I wouldn't think it beneath him if he had an affair with her just to spite Marcus."
"But what if Lisel didn't know that," Laura said, turning to Remington.
"And what if Morgan told her recently that he wouldn't marry her," Remington added.
"As recently as last night," Laura concluded their suspicions.
"Wait...you don't suspect Lisel of killing Gerald, do you?" Jack asked, sitting up straight in his chair, a look of concern on his face.
"Do you think she had a reason to?" Remington asked.
"No! Well, I mean, I suppose you would think...but that was a long time ago. Lisel couldn't hurt anyone," Jack protested.
"What about her husband?" Laura asked. Jack sighed heavily.
"I've known the Seldons for years. I just don't think either of them would be capable of committing murder, no matter how much of a motive Gerald Morgan gave them," he said calmly. Remington and Laura looked at each other, silently agreeing to stop pressing the subject.
"One other thing, Mr. Par...uh, Jack," Remington said. "Did you know anything about a buy-out?"
"You mean the one Marcus is attempting on Morgan Industries? Yes, I know about it. You forget--I am his partner," Jack answered.
"Did you know Morgan was planning to buy out Seldon Imports?" Remington challenged.
"What?" Jack laughed. "That's ridiculous. We could swallow him up."
"Are you sure? Morgan owns a great deal of Seldon stock," Laura pointed out.
"Positive. He doesn't own enough--he couldn't. Besides, not to be cruel, but now that he's dead, he's no threat to us."
"Exactly, Mr. Parsons," Remington said. He stood up, with Laura following his lead. "Well, thank you for your assistance, and if Mr. Seldon happens to come in, please tell him that I'm anxious to speak with him."
"I'll give him the message," Jack responded, standing up and walking the detectives to the door. "Good luck with your investigation, and let me know if I can help you further." He shook Remington's and Laura's hands before holding the door open for them as they exited.
Once they were safely in the elevator, Remington turned to Laura.
"What do you think?" he asked her.
"Well," Laura began, crossing her arms, "I think Mr. Seldon has a very strong motive, but I'm beginning to suspect Mrs. Seldon as well."
"You think maybe he rejected her a second time?"
"And she was so hurt by him again that she murdered him in a rage?" Laura finished. "Maybe. We know she was in his apartment, possibly last night."
"Well, Mr. Seldon said we could speak with his wife this evening, and he left his address with Mildred. I suggest we confront both of them and see what happens."
"Good idea," Laura said as the elevator doors opened. "What's next?" she asked as they walked toward the front door.
"Lunch," Remington answered brightly, holding the door open as Laura walked through, shaking her head in mock frustration.
"Ah, Murphy, Jenna," Remington called out as he and Laura approached them at a back table on the patio café of Rodchester's. Murphy and Jenna sat back in their seats, breaking their intimate conversation, but still gently holding hands. "Where's Mildred?"
"I just called her. She said she'd be here soon," Jenna answered. Remington held Laura's chair as she sat down, then gently pushed it in for her before sitting in the chair next to her. He and Laura picked up their menus and began scanning them.
"I'm starved," Laura said. Remington smiled at her.
"Feeling better then, eh?" he asked hopefully.
"Much. I told you I'm okay," Laura answered. She studied her menu intently, afraid to meet Jenna's questioning stare.
"Any luck at Bel-Oaks?" Remington asked.
"Oh, yeah," Murphy answered, grinning. "You're never going to believe who Mrs. Seldon's been dining with for the past several weeks."
"Who?" Laura asked. Murphy paused dramatically.
"Gerald Morgan," he said finally. Laura looked at Remington, pursing her lips in satisfaction.
"Well, well," she said to him.
"Amazing coincidence, eh?" Remington responded, his tone indicating that he thought it was anything but.
"You mean you knew about Mrs. Seldon and Morgan?" Murphy asked, puzzled. Remington nodded.
"It seems that they were once star-crossed lovers, but he abandoned her, and she married Seldon on the rebound," Remington explained.
"Only rumor has it that a few sparks remained, and he may have turned her away again," Laura finished.
"Where'd you get all this?" Jenna asked.
"From Jack Parsons, Mr. Seldon's business partner. We spent the morning talking to him," Remington said. He looked up as the waiter approached. "Ah, my good man, I believe we're ready to order," he said to the waiter. They each read off their orders, concluding with Remington's.
"Oh, and a bottle of Dom Perignon '76," Remington finished, collecting the menus and handing them to the waiter.
"I'll just have water, please," Laura said. Remington stared at her curiously.
"You sure?" he asked. Laura nodded. "Why? I mean, would you prefer something else?"
"No...I just don't want alcohol right now. I'm...not in the mood to drink it. And I don't want it to upset my stomach," Laura excused in a rush. She caught a glance of Jenna's disapproving stare.
"All right. Whatever you want, love," Remington said, nodding the waiter away.
"Well, I need to wash my hands before we eat. Laura, I think you should, too. Wouldn't want you eating any germs to upset your stomach. Come on," Jenna ordered, rising from the table.
"I really don't think I need to wash my hands, Jenna. Can't you go without me?" Laura protesting, knowing she was in for a lecture.
"You know women always have to go to the bathroom in pairs," Murphy joked.
"Hilarious, you chauvinist," Jenna said sarcastically, pulling her sister by the wrist. Laura followed Jenna helplessly to the bathroom.
"You haven't told him, have you?" Jenna accused as soon as she and Laura entered the bathroom.
"I haven't had a chance yet, Jenna," Laura lied.
"You've been riding around in a car with him for the past couple of hours. Are you telling me the opportunity never came up?" Jenna challenged.
"Aren't you going to wash your hands?" Laura evaded, dodging past Jenna and heading for the nearest sink.
"Don't try to change the subject, Laura," Jenna ordered. Laura sighed as she turned on the water.
"Sitting in a car driving down the freeway is not the appropriate setting for telling your husband that he's going to be a father," Laura argued, soaping up her hands.
"Well, you have to tell him soon. He has a right to know. Why not tell him now, over lunch?"
"I don't want to tell him in public. I'm not going to be responsible for causing a scene," Laura insisted, scrubbing her hands.
"You're still afraid he'll get upset, aren't you?" Jenna asked, her tone softening. She leaned up against the counter next to Laura. Laura stopped for a moment, sighed, and turned the water off. She walked over to the dryer on the wall and pushed the button.
"Yes," Laura said simply.
"Don't you think he'll be more upset to find out that you've been lying to him all morning?" Jenna pointed out. "Don't you think that it will hurt him more to think that you're doubting his love?" Laura snapped her head toward Jenna.
"I don't doubt his love. I know he loves me. I could never doubt that!" Laura said defensively.
"No? You doubt that he loves you enough to want to father your child. You doubt that he loves you enough to understand how important this is to you, or how much you want this baby, now as much as any time," Jenna argued. Laura's face filled with shock and pain.
"That isn't true, Jenna," Laura said, dropping her hands to her sides as the dryer went off.
"Well, that's how you're acting. Pretty ridiculous, huh?" Jenna countered, walking over to the sink and washing her hands. Laura stared at her for a moment, her mind spinning from Jenna's accusations. She smiled slightly and hung her head.
"You're right," Laura said, looking up again at Jenna. "I'll tell him the next chance I get. Privately, of course. I still don't think a public place is suitable." Jenna smiled triumphantly as she shut the water off and used the dryer Laura had just finished with.
"I knew I could talk some sense into you," she said, rubbing her hands vigorously under the hot air.
"Yeah," Laura said sarcastically. "I'll remember that when you and Murphy get married and you have trouble telling him you're pregnant."
"Oh, please...as if," Jenna said distastefully, exiting the bathroom with Laura.
"As if what? Are you saying you aren't going to marry Murphy, or you aren't going to get pregnant?" Laura asked as they made their way back to the patio.
"Marriage I have no trouble with. Kids? No way. I'll leave the rugrats to you and Frances," Jenna replied. Laura laughed.
"I'll remind you of that after you've had your third," she teased.
"Ugh! Please, I'm about to eat," Jenna said disgustedly as they arrived at their table.
"Please what?" Murphy asked as the two women sat down.
"Nothing. Just girl talk," Jenna replied. Laura flashed her a wicked grin as she reached for her glass of water. She smiled as she noticed Mildred, now sitting opposite her.
"Hello, Mildred. When did you get here?" Laura asked, setting her glass down.
"Right as you were going into the restroom. I saw Jenna dragging you in there," Mildred replied.
"Have you ordered yet?" Laura asked.
"Just did," Mildred answered. "I was just about to tell the guys about the info I found on the computer."
"Something about the stationary. Go on, Mildred," Remington said.
"Well, I checked out that address. It's a dock in the marina. One used by Seldon Imports. A ship docked there two days ago, at around 11 p.m."
"That's the time that was listed on the paper," Murphy said. "Why would a ship owned by Seldon be of any interest to Morgan?"
"And why that particular ship? I'm sure an import company has dozens of ships," Jenna added.
"This must be one of their smaller ships. Those docks aren't very big. The biggest ships are usually cabin cruisers or small yachts. No freighter could use that dock," Mildred informed them.
"Did you happen to find out the name of the ship that came in two nights ago?" Laura asked.
"Yep. It was the Notorious," Mildred said. Remington chuckled.
"Maybe he's a fan of Ingrid Bergman," he said. He glanced around the table at the puzzled looks. "Notorious. Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, RKO, 1946. Ingrid infiltrates a group of Nazis with the help of the man she loves, played by Cary Grant."
"One of his favorites," Laura remarked, flashing a sour glance to Remington.
"Yeah, well, Lisel Seldon doesn't sound like an equivalent of Ingrid Bergman," Murphy returned, "and I doubt Mr. Seldon is a Nazi. He's too much of a capitalist pig businessman, wouldn't you say?"
"Well, it was only a movie," Remington shrugged. "Ah, I believe our lunch is here," he remarked as the waiter approached. The conversation ended as the dining began.
"Mildred, can you dig up that address on Marcus Seldon?" Remington asked as the group entered the office after lunch. "I think it's about time we had a talk with him."
"While she's digging, why don't we go into your office. I need to talk to you, alone. It's very important," Laura said, wrapping her hand around Remington's elbow.
"Oh...all right," Remington replied, staring at Laura curiously. Laura glanced to Jenna, who gave her a quick thumb's-up. Laura smiled in understanding as she pulled Remington into his office and closed the door. Laura stood near the door for a moment, trying desperately to calm her nerves.
"Laura? What is it?" Remington asked in concern, observing the dramatic change in Laura's cheerful attitude.
"I think we should sit down," Laura said, moving toward the couch.
"Why? Is something wrong?" Remington asked, following Laura closely.
"Nothing's wrong. Just sit," Laura ordered, pulling Remington down into the chair next to her before sitting on the end of the couch. She pulled her purse from her shoulder and placed it beside her on the couch. Remington leaned back in his seat, his right index finger across his lips, studying his wife intently for a clue to what she was trying to tell him.
Laura sat sideways, facing Remington. She stared into her lap, trying to discern the best way to break the news. She took a deep breath and looked up at Remington.
"I haven't been completely honest with you today, because I was waiting for the right time to tell you this," Laura began cautiously.
"Honest about what?" Remington inquired, his curiosity building into anxiety.
"About...everything the doctor said this morning," Laura admitted reluctantly. Remington paled.
"You mean...you're not all right? Oh, God, Laura. It's not serious, is it? You're not..." his voice trailed off, his mouth unable to form the words that verbalized his worst fear.
"No, I'm not," Laura answered, understanding the cause of Remington's panic. "I meant what I said about being okay. The doctor said I'm in excellent health."
"Excellent health? You've been sick every morning. How could you be in excellent health?"
"That's what I'm trying to explain," Laura said, wringing her hands. She looked down at her hands, realized what she was doing, and forced herself to stop. Knowing that she wasn't making much progress, she decided to try another approach.
"Remember what we talked about last night?" Laura asked. Remington smiled wickedly.
"We didn't do much talking last night," he said coyly. Laura smacked him on the knee in frustration.
"I meant before that," she said sourly, secretly glad for the slight relief of tension.
"Oh, of course," Remington said. "Well, I remember you talked to your sister for an hour, and then we talked about ways to make perfect children."
"Right. You said you wanted a family someday...further down the road," Laura reminded him.
"Yes. Laura, what has this got to do with..." Remington's voice trailed off as realization seeped into his features. He stared at Laura, wide-eyed. "Laura?"
"I'm pregnant," she confirmed softly, trembling with nervousness. Remington's stare widened, and his breath became labored with shock. He moved his mouth to speak, but the sounds came with great difficulty.
"Y...y...you're...p...pregnant" he stammered, his face filled with shock. Laura tried to read Remington's reaction beneath the surprise, but his face gave away nothing.
"How could you be? I mean, I thought you were..." he stuttered. Laura nodded, understanding what he was trying to ask.
"I was, but I missed taking it one day...in London. It's not supposed to make much difference, but I guess in this case, it did."
"You mean...it happened in Ireland?" Remington asked, slowly recovering from his speech impediment.
"Yes...six weeks ago," Laura answered calmly, trying to hide her fear of Remington's reaction.
Remington fell back in his chair, staring into space. He shook his head, the shock still perforating him. He stood up and began pacing. Laura swallowed hard, sensing that he wasn't taking it well.
"I know it's a shock, and maybe it is a bit early, but we can get through this. It won't be that bad," Laura consoled in a rush. Remington focused on her.
"Won't be that bad?" he asked incredulously.
"Please, don't be upset," Laura begged, the fear twisting her stomach.
"Upset?" Remington repeated.
"I realize that you may not be ready for this, but we don't have much choice. We can find a way to make the best of this. I really think this could make us very happy, and I know you'll make a wonderful father. Just think about it for a while, and don't be angry or upset," Laura rambled.
"Laura," Remington cried. "I'm not angry. I'm...I'm...ecstatic!"
"I know you are, but I...you're what?" Laura stopped as Remington's words sunk in through her panic.
"I'm ecstatic!" Remington repeated, walking over to the couch and standing before Laura.
"You are?" she asked, amazed by his drastic change.
"Of course! I mean, yes, it's a shock, and I'm not completely certain I'm ready for it but...I'm happy. I'm really happy. I mean, the wife I love more than anything else in the world is pregnant with my child. Of course I'm happy!" Remington cried.
Laura stood up, grinning broadly as relief flowed through her. Remington pulled her into a strong embrace, holding her tightly as their laughter filled the office. Laura's eyes moistened with joy as Remington squeezed her tighter.
"Oh, sorry," Remington said, believing that he was squeezing too hard. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" he asked, glancing to Laura's abdomen.
"No, I'm fine. We're fine," Laura said, smiling brightly.
"Did you really think I'd be angry?" Remington asked, a hint of disappointment clouding his eyes.
"Well, after our conversation last night, I wasn't sure how you'd take having a child now," Laura explained.
"You mean you knew last night that you were pregnant?"
"No, but I suspected that I could be. Especially after Frances told me she went through the same kind of morning sickness. But I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure."
"So all that talk about me wanting a family was a test to see how I'd react to the news," Remington hypothesized.
"Well, yes, in a way," Laura replied. "I thought about mentioning to you that I might be pregnant, but after you said that you didn't want to start a family yet..."
"Oh, Laura," Remington said sympathetically, taking her face delicately in his hands. "I must have terrified you with all that talk about ‘someday.’"
"It did make me a little nervous," Laura admitted.
"Well, I must admit, even though the thought of becoming a father scares me a bit, I've thought about it before...a great deal."
"Really?" Laura asked hopefully.
"Well, I'm not certain how good a father I'll be, but with you, I'm willing to try. So don't worry. I'm not upset. Far from it," Remington said, smiling. He stared into Laura's eyes, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. "I love you, Laura, no matter what happens, and no matter when it happens." Laura laughed, wrapping her hands around his wrists. Remington leaned forward, kissing her tenderly.
"I can't believe you're taking this so well," Laura whispered as they parted.
"I can't believe you're really pregnant," Remington said. They laughed again.
"Well, you'll believe it soon enough, when I look like a whale," Laura joked.
"Yes, I suppose seeing you with a swollen stomach should remind me," Remington replied, looking down at Laura's stomach. He moved his hand to her mid-section.
"No," Laura corrected, moving his hand down to her abdomen. "It's in there." She delighted in his joyous grin, and her remaining nervousness gave way to a warm contentment that spread through her from his touch. Suddenly, Laura noticed Remington's smile fading.
"What is it?" she asked with concern.
"Aren't I supposed to feel it kicking or something?" he asked worriedly. Laura smiled.
"Not yet," she said, nearly laughing at the childish manner in which Remington's face fell. "I'm only about six weeks along."
"Six weeks, eh?" Remington asked, dropping his hand from her abdomen. He paused, then smiled gently. "Ireland," he murmured, his eyes softening at the memory of their first night together. "Do you think maybe it happened...you know...on that first night?" Laura smiled as she pondered his suggestion.
"Maybe. I mean, if it didn't happen that night, I don't think that I ever could. We didn't exactly sleep much that night."
"No, we didn't, did we?" Remington replied, pulling Laura into his arms. "Is there any way to tell when it happened?"
"Yes. I'm supposed to go back next week. The doctor will calculate when it happened, and give us a due date."
"Would you mind if I went with you?" Remington asked.
"To the doctor?" Laura asked. Remington nodded. "No, I don't mind. In fact, I want you to come."
"Then, Mrs. Steele, wild horses couldn't keep me away," Remington said dramatically. Laura laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck. She pulled him into a passionate kiss, reveling in the tenderness and warmth that flowed from his lips. She leaned in further as she felt his arms circling her waist and his right hand sliding gently up her back.
"I've got that address," Mildred exclaimed, bursting into the office, carrying a manila folder. Laura and Remington broke their kiss as Mildred looked up at them and grimaced apologetically. "Oops...sorry. Guess I should have buzzed."
"It's all right, Mildred," Remington said turning toward her but keeping his left arm securely around Laura's waist. They smiled knowingly at each other.
"Well, you two look like the cat that swallowed the canary," Mildred chuckled, her eyebrows raised as she observed their joyous expressions. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"No, no, not at all," Remington dismissed. "My wife has just given me a piece of wonderful news, that's all."
"This wonderful news wouldn't be related to the big secret that Murphy's been trying to squeeze out of Jenna, would it?" Mildred asked.
"What secret?" Remington inquired, staring from Mildred to Laura questioningly.
"Murphy was trying to get her to say what's going on between her and Laura," Mildred explained, "but all she would say was that you will tell us when you're ready."
"Jenna already knows?" Remington asked, a twinge of hurt in his voice.
"She dragged it out of me," Laura protested. "She forced me to tell her my diagnosis, and she figured it out from there." Remington nodded.
"Well," he said brightly. "Do you think we should tell Mildred and Murphy?"
"I think so," Laura answered. "I suppose we'd better before Jenna and Murphy have it out with each other."
"Mildred, will you invite them in? Tell them we have an important announcement to make," Remington said.
"Right," Mildred said excitedly, hurrying from the room to fetch Murphy and Jenna. Remington quickly pulled Laura into a final kiss before Murphy, Jenna and Mildred entered the room.
"Come in, come in," Remington said, releasing Laura as he gestured the trio into the room. He walked over to them, guiding them to the seats near Laura. "Laura has something to tell you. Well, at least two of you," he said, staring pointedly at Jenna.
"Finally, I get to find out what the hell's going on around here," Murphy complained in mock grouchiness.
"Poor baby," Jenna said sarcastically. She glanced at Remington's overjoyed expression, then grinned at Laura.
"Told you so," she teased. Laura grimaced at her, but couldn't keep he smile from surfacing.
"So what's the big announcement?" Murphy asked, making himself comfortable on the couch. Mildred said in the chair by the far end of the couch, and Jenna sat down next to Murphy.
"Do you want to tell them, or may I?" Remington asked, moving back to Laura's side.
"You can," Laura said, smiling at her husband's giddiness.
"All right. Well, how should I say this?" Remington pondered aloud, rubbing his hands together vigorously.
"How 'bout just saying it, Steele?" Murphy said in mock annoyance. Jenna bit her lower lip to keep from laughing aloud as she exchanged glances of amusement with Laura.
"Yeah, what is it, Boss?" Mildred asked. Remington looked to Laura, who raised her eyebrows in expectancy. He grinned and looked to Murphy and Mildred.
"Laura's pregnant," he blurted out. The office was silent for a few seconds, but the silence was instantly ceased by the cries of joy and congratulations, followed by numerous hugs and handshakes.
"You as a father. That's something I never thought I'd see. Unbelievable," Murphy teased, shaking Remington's hand.
"You have no idea, Murphy," Remington agreed in jest.
"Oh, I'm so excited! I'm going to be an aunt!" Mildred exclaimed, hugging Laura again.
"Hey, I'm going to be the aunt," Jenna teased.
"Well, Mildred's going to be the...adopted aunt," Laura said, keeping an arm around Mildred's shoulders. Jenna smiled.
"Sounds like a perfect arrangement to me," Jenna said.
"So when's our niece or nephew due?" Mildred asked.
"Well, we're not sure of an exact date," Laura replied. "I go back to the doctor next week, and I'll find out then. But, right now we have a case to pursue."
"Ever the intrepid detective," Remington teased Laura. "All right. Mildred, you said you had that address."
"Oh! Yeah, right here," Mildred answered, pulling a piece of paper out of the manila folder she was still holding. She handed the paper to Remington as everyone sat down again.
"No phone number?" Remington asked, looking at the paper.
"Uhn-uh. He said he'd call you when he was ready to meet with you."
"Well, should we be polite and wait for his call, or should we make a surprise visit?" Remington inquired, turning to Laura.
"I think, given the circumstances, we should see Mr. Seldon as soon as..." Laura was cut off by the telephone ringing. Mildred got up and walked over to Remington's desk to answer it.
"Remington Steele Investigations," she said. "Yes, sir, one moment please." Mildred punched the hold button on the phone and held the receiver out.
"It's for you, Boss. It's Mr. Seldon."
Remington rose and took the phone from Mildred, releasing the hold button.
"Steele here," he said. "Yes, Mr. Seldon, we were just discussing your case. What's that? Really? Are you sure? I see. I understand. My associate and I will be there shortly. All right. Goodbye, Mr. Seldon." Remington hung up the phone, a look of puzzlement on his face. "Mr. Seldon wants to see us right away. Says he knows who's responsible for Gerald Morgan's death. He says he's been betrayed by someone he trusted implicitly."
"You mean Mrs. Seldon?" Laura asked.
"He didn't say," Remington answered.
"Well, then, let's go find out," Laura answered, rising from the couch and grabbing her purse. Remington nodded and followed Laura out of his office.
"We'll let you know what we find," he called to the others as he hurried to catch up with his wife's determined stride.
Remington and Laura stepped out of the sleek, black limousine and walked up the steps of the plantation-style house. Remington rang the doorbell and buttoned his jacket as Laura straightened her blazer. After a moment of silence, Remington rang the doorbell again.
"Are you sure he said to meet him here?" Laura questioned.
"Positive. He said it was extremely urgent, so he shouldn't have left," Remington answered. He looked at the door knob, and reached for it cautiously. He turned the knob slowly, and was surprised to hear it click open. He looked at Laura, who shrugged. Remington slowly pushed the door open, and the duo crept inside.
"Mr. Seldon? Mr. Seldon," Remington called as he and Laura walked slowly through the foyer. They looked around at the expensive decorations, searching for a hint that anything seemed out of place.
"Mr. Seldon seems to have done quite well for himself," Laura commented.
"Mm, not according to Mildred. His business has been slipping lately, and I know Morgan's buy-out attempt hasn't helped matters."
"I wonder who he thinks killed Morgan. You think maybe he found out about Mrs. Seldon and Morgan rekindling their friendship?" Laura proposed as they approached the living room.
"Or adding a bit more fuel to the fire," Remington noted. "Well, I guess we won't find out right now. So much for his urgency," Remington added, looking into the living room.
"Perhaps the matter was more urgent than we thought," Laura said, gripping Remington's arm as she stared intently at the living room floor. Remington turned his gaze to where Laura was pointing, and saw a well-polished shoe peeking out from behind the couch. Remington and Laura hurried into the living room, and found Mr. Seldon lying face-down on the carpet, a pool of blood forming from underneath him, and a gun next to his head.
Remington and Laura paced around the foyer next to the main staircase as they watched the crime scene unit of LAPD scurrying about in the living room. After being grilled for twenty minutes by the officer in charge of taking their statements, both Remington and Laura were well frustrated with the system. They knew they were in for more frustration when Detective Jim Jarvis sauntered over to them.
"Well, it looks like we've got Mrs. Seldon dead-to-rights this time," Jarvis commented almost gleefully.
"How can you be so certain that Mrs. Seldon did this?" Laura protested defiantly, despite the fact that she feared he was right.
"Well, for starters, the gun is registered in her name," Jarvis answered.
"That doesn't prove that she pulled the trigger," Laura argued.
"This is her house, and there was no forced entry," Jarvis returned.
"The door was unlocked when we got here. Maybe they don't lock their doors," Remington pointed out.
"In Los Angeles? I know that this is a good neighborhood, but that's arrogant thinking in this city," Jarvis countered.
"Maybe Mr. Seldon knew his killer and let the killer in," Remington said.
"That's an awful lot of defense from you two for a possible double-murderer. Is there something you two know about this case that you're not telling?" Jarvis inquired, his hands on his hips. "If so, you'd better start talking."
"Or what?" Laura sneered.
"Or I take you both in," Jarvis threatened.
"On what charges?" Remington protested.
"Why don't we start with obstruction of justice?" Jarvis said nastily.
"And why don't we end with client privilege of anonymity. Come on, Jarvis, you know you can't force us to give you any details about our case," Laura countered.
"Wanna bet?" Jarvis said angrily.
"All right, all right. Everybody calm down. This isn't getting us anywhere," Remington said. "Look, Jarvis, we're as much in the dark about who's responsible for this as you are. Maybe if we got a little cooperation from you, we might be able to help you out."
"I don't need your help. As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to arrest Mrs. Seldon for a double-murder," Jarvis answered.
"How do you know that she killed Morgan, too?" Laura asked. "All you have is one witness that placed her at the scene sometime that day."
"That, and the fact that the gun we found here is of the same caliber as the one that killed Morgan. I'm going to have ballistics do a rush, but I have a feeling that I'll get a match," Jarvis bragged.
"We'll see, Detective," Laura said, unable to counter his argument. "May we go now?"
"Sure, but don't take any unexpected trips. As far as I'm concerned, you two are material witnesses," Jarvis warned. Laura glared at Jarvis. She opened her mouth to protest, but Remington pulled her toward the front door.
"We'll be around," Remington said as he pulled his wife out the door. The walked down the driveway toward the limo, where Fred, the chauffeur, stood waiting for their return.
"Well, things aren't looking too good for Mrs. Seldon, are they?" Remington noted as he walked briskly beside Laura.
"Maybe, but I don't think she did this. What reason would she have for killing her husband? And why would she leave such an incriminating piece of evidence as the gun at the scene? It doesn't make sense," Laura answered, stalking toward the limo.
"Well, we'll go back to the office and fill everyone in on what's happened, and you can rest a bit," Remington said.
"Why? I'm fine. I don't need to rest. I need to find out what the hell's going on around here," Laura said, climbing into the limo as Fred held the door open for them.
"We'll find out what's going on, but I really think you need to calm down and rest a bit. I don't think you should get so excited in your delicate condition," Remington explained, climbing into the limo after Laura. Fred closed the door and walked around to the driver's door, climbing in.
"My condition isn't that delicate. Don't worry about me. I can still work. I'm okay," Laura said, annoyed.
"Humor me," Remington pushed. Laura shot him a look of frustration.
"Are you going to baby me like this for the next seven-and-a-half months?" she asked. He smiled.
"Absolutely," he answered.
"That doesn't bode well for either of our blood pressures," Laura commented dryly.
"The office, Fred," Remington called. He leaned back as the limo started forward, refusing to pursue the conversation further, much to Laura's annoyance. Finally giving in, she laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes, trying to calm her frayed nerves. A smile snuck to her lips as she felt her husband's warm hand settling softly over hers as the limo sped back to the office.
Remington opened the door to their apartment, pulling the key from the lock. He held the door open for Laura, then closed it behind her. Remington threw his keys on the cabinet next to the front door. He pulled off his overcoat and jacket as he followed Laura to the bedroom.
As he entered the bedroom, Remington observed his wife hurriedly shedding her blazer and unbuttoning her blouse as she threw open her closet. She pulled a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt from the closet and tossed them onto the bed. Laura looked up and noticed Remington staring at her with a slightly amused expression.
"What?" she asked as she pulled off her blouse in an agitated manor.
"You all right?" he asked, undoing his tie and pulling it off as he unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt.
"Fine. I just have to get out of these clothes," Laura explained heatedly, slipping out of her skirt.
"Oh, well," Remington said in mock boldness, sauntering up to Laura. "Why didn't you say so? May I...offer my assistance?" he asked seductively, taking Laura into his arms. She laughed, placing her hands against his chest.
"I think I can manage, thank you," Laura replied, giggling. Remington moved his eyes down Laura's slender figure, admiring her.
"Are you sure? I mean, in your delicate condition, you really shouldn't over-exert yourself," he commented, trying to sound serious.
"Oh, and making love wouldn't make me ‘over-exert’ myself?" Laura pointed out. Remington's face fell.
"True. I guess it would be a bit dangerous for you now," Remington said. Laura smiled.
"No, it isn't," she assured him. He looked at her questioningly. "I knew you'd wonder about that, so I asked the doctor if it would be okay. He said it's perfectly fine, so long as we aren't too...exuberant."
"So the doctor said it was all right, eh?"
"He said it was fine. But we couldn't make love after my water broke," Laura replied. Remington grimaced.
"I love you, darling, but even I wouldn't go that far," he said in a disgusted voice. Laura laughed.
"I hope not," she answered, still laughing at her husband's expression. "So, can I finish getting dressed now?"
"Mm...I suppose, if you must," Remington replied.
"Thank you," Laura answered. Remington pulled her into a warm kiss before finally releasing her.
"I'll go start dinner," Remington said, giving Laura one last, loving look before leaving her to change clothes.
Laura wandered into the kitchen, breathing in the aromas that filled the room. She watched her husband as he darted back and forth between the stove-top and the oven.
"Mmm...smells wonderful in here," Laura said. Remington looked up and grinned. "What are we having?"
"Italian chicken with fettucini and a Caesar's salad," Remington reported.
"Italian theme tonight, huh?" Laura asked, walking up to the counter and snatching a crouton from the salad bowl.
"Well, it's pretty easy to cook, and it's healthy and nutritious--which is just what you need," Remington replied, stirring the fettucini carefully.
"Still babying me?" Laura asked playfully, snatching another crouton.
"Absolutely," Remington answered, walking over and tapping Laura's hand away before she could snatch a third crouton. "Besides, I'm babying for two now," he added with a wicked grin. Laura pushed him playfully. Remington kissed Laura's forehead before grabbing a pot holder and re-basting the chicken.
"Anything I can help with?" Laura asked.
"No, I don't think so, unless you want to carry the salad to the table--without eating the croutons," Remington scolded. Laura returned a snide look before toting the large bowl to the pre-set dining room table. She returned as Remington began draining the noodles.
"Almost ready," he informed her.
"Even the chicken?" Laura asked.
"Yep. I put it on time-cook before we left this morning so it would be ready by now," Remington explained. He poured the noodles into a serving bowl and handed it to Laura.
"Careful, it's hot," he warned. Laura carried the bowl into the dining room as Remington retrieved the chicken. Laura sat at the end of the glass table, awaiting her husband. Remington finally emerged, carrying the steaming pan of chicken. He set it down on a mat and sat opposite Laura.
"I was going to serve wine with the meal, but I don't think that would be wise," Remington said, looking pointedly at Laura.
"You can have some. Just because I can't drink any doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself. I'll just drink some ice-water," Laura replied.
"Actually, ice-water sounds perfect. I'll get us both a glass," Remington replied, rising from his chair and hurrying into the kitchen. Laura shrugged and began filling her plate with noodles. Remington returned, setting a glass of ice-water in front of Laura's plate before circling the end of the table and sitting down. The two began enjoying their feast.
Remington watched Laura devouring her food rapidly, amazed at the change from earlier that morning, when she didn't even want to smell food for fear of being ill. She paused and looked up at Remington curiously.
"What?" she asked. Remington snapped out of his admiration to answer her.
"I'm sorry?" he responded.
"You're staring at me," Laura said, beginning to eat again.
"Oh...sorry," Remington said, briefly dropping his eyes to his plate before looking again at Laura. "It's just nice to see your appetite returning."
"Don't let it go to your head. If it's just like it has been, I'll be sick as a dog again tomorrow morning. So, I intend to enjoy this meal while I can," Laura explained between mouthfuls. Remington smiled affectionately at her.
"How long is this morning sickness supposed to last?" he asked.
"I don't know," Laura responded. "Frances said she had morning sickness for about four weeks with Danny, a couple of weeks with Mindi, and she never had it with Laurie Beth. She said it differs from person to person. It can last anywhere from one week through the entire pregnancy."
"The entire pregnancy? Good lord," Remington replied, pausing to stare at her in shock before stabbing into his salad. "I certainly hope you don't go through this for the next seven months."
"So do I," Laura laughed. "I don't think I will, though. My mother once told me she never got morning sickness, so apparently it's not very prevalent in my family. I should get over it in a couple of weeks."
"You know, Laura, I was thinking," Remington said, changing the subject to make their dining a bit more pleasant. "Maybe I should go buy a couple of those books on pregnancies and what to expect. Just to prepare us. I mean, I'm not sure I want to go into all of this completely blind. I'd like to at least have a general idea of what we're in for. After all, I can already see some changes in you."
"What changes?" Laura asked skeptically. Remington looked at her sheepishly.
"Well..." he began delicately. "Your...appetite has a huge swing to it."
"That's true," Laura smiled, staring at her nearly-empty plate. "What else?"
"I have noticed a few...mood swings," Remington said casually, trying to avoid his wife's eyes.
"What mood swings?" Laura asked irritably.
"Like suddenly wanting to practically rip your clothes off after work," Remington pointed out.
"And you didn't want to get out of your tie and jacket?" Laura countered.
"Laura, I'm not criticizing. I'm just...pointing out a change. You don't normally act like that," Remington protested.
"Well, forgive me for wanting to be comfortable!" Laura snapped.
"Laura, please, don't be upset. Look, maybe I read too much into it, all right?" Remington caved. Laura stared at him, her temper flaring. She realized what she was feeling, and stared at him in amazement.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so upset," she said, hating the look of anguish on Remington's face. "Forgive me."
"It's all right, Laura," Remington replied.
"No, it isn't. I shouldn't be taking things out on you," Laura said sadly. Remington suddenly broke out in a grin. "What is it?" she asked, questioning his new amusement.
"I think you just proved my point," he said. Laura stared at him, before breaking out in her own grin. They laughed.
"I think you'd better get those books first thing tomorrow," Laura said. Remington nodded, smiling at her lovingly. They finished their meal, and were preparing for dessert when the doorbell rang.
"I wonder who that could be," Laura admonished, stabbing at the remains of her salad.
"Mm...I'll get it," Remington said, wiping his mouth before tossing his napkin on the table and rising from his chair. He swallowed rapidly, cleared his throat, and pulled the front door open.
A small, lovely, middle-aged woman stood in the hallway, wringing her hands in nervousness. Her dark, wavy hair was pulled loosely back into a ponytail, and her dark eyes were filled with sorrow, worry and fear.
"Yes? Can I help you?" Remington politely asked the stranger.
"Remington Steele?" the woman asked in a strong Eastern-European accent.
"Yes?" Remington asked, confused and intrigued. Laura rose from her seat and slowly entered the living room, curiosity getting the better of her desire for dessert.
"I'm Lisel Seldon, Mr. Steele, and I need your help," the woman said, her eyes beginning to water. Remington stood in shock for a moment, but quickly recovered.
"Yes, of course, Mrs. Seldon. Please, come in," he said, motioning her into the room. She cautiously entered the apartment, looking warily at Laura.
"This is my wife and associate, Laura Steele," Remington said, noticing Mrs. Seldon's guarded look to Laura. Laura walked up and shook the woman's trembling hand.
"Please, Mrs. Seldon, have a seat," Remington said, motioning her to the nearest chair. He and Laura sat on the couch, facing her.
"How can we help you, Mrs. Seldon?" Remington asked, leaning back into the cushions as Laura sat forward.
"I am certain you know that the police want me," Mrs. Seldon began.
"We know they consider you a suspect in the deaths of your husband and Gerald Morgan," Laura confirmed.
"First, let me say, I did not kill my husband. I loved Marcus deeply. And despite everything, I didn't kill Gerald either. I am innocent, I swear to you," Mrs. Seldon emphasized.
"Shouldn't you tell this to the police?" Laura inquired sympathetically. Mrs. Seldon shook her head.
"No, they will not listen," Mrs. Seldon replied, on the verge of tears. "I know my husband hired you to protect me, so I thought maybe you would listen and be willing to help. I have no one else to turn to."
"It's all right, Mrs. Seldon. We'll do what we can to help," Remington comforted. "Why don't you give us your version of what happened." Mrs. Seldon nodded and took a deep breath to compose herself.
"Where should I begin?" she asked.
"Let's start with last night, before Gerald Morgan's murder," Laura said calmly. "Why did you go to his apartment?"
"I went to tell him I didn't want to see him anymore," Mrs. Seldon began. "I loved my husband, but I lied to him about Gerald and myself. I didn't tell him we were seeing a great deal of each other."
"Were you and Mr. Morgan...?" Remington asked, gesturing to continue the uncomfortable question.
"Oh, no. It was just a friendship, I swear," Mrs. Seldon cried emphatically. "I told you. I loved my husband. I would never have cheated on him, not even with Gerald. What Gerald and I had was over long ago. He hurt me very badly, you see. But I believed that he had changed over the years, so I agreed to renew our friendship. I didn't tell Marcus because he hated Gerald so much, and I didn't want to add to the conflict."
"But you decided to end the friendship to keep from lying to your husband," Remington clarified. Mrs. Seldon nodded. "Is that the only reason?" Mrs. Seldon appeared ready to speak, but she hesitated.
"Mrs. Seldon, we can't help you unless you're completely honest with us," Laura warned gently. Mrs. Seldon finally nodded, tears falling down her cheeks.
"No, that was not the only reason," Mrs. Seldon admitted. She paused.
"Go on, Mrs. Seldon," Laura encouraged. "It's all right. You can trust us."
"I found out that I was wrong about Gerald. He hadn't changed," Mrs. Seldon explained. "He was using me in a plot that was meant to destroy my husband. I found out that he was trying to take over my husband's company. I confronted him about it, and he laughed at me and said I was naive. I asked him if he had gotten close to me to get closer to the company. He told me that he didn't need me for that because he had other help inside the company. Then, he told me..." Mrs. Seldon paused, trying to stop her sobs. "He told me that he got close to me again so he could take everything from Marcus, including me. He wanted to sleep with me so he could tell Marcus, but the fact that I had lied to Marcus about us and snuck away last night to see him was enough. Marcus would never believe me if I told him that I wasn't sleeping with Gerald, after finding out that I lied to him. At least, that was Gerald's argument. I was hurt and furious, but before I could do anything, Gerald grabbed me. I thought he was going to rape me. We struggled by the sofa. I lost my bracelet in the struggle. I don't know if the police found it or not."
"They didn't, but we did," Remington told her. Mrs. Seldon nodded.
"I managed to break free from Gerald, and I ran out of the apartment. I was so terrified. I went home as fast as I could. I told Marcus everything. I had to. I couldn't lie to him anymore." Mrs. Seldon lowered her head and stared into her lap. Laura handed her a handful of tissue. She accepted it and continued.
"Marcus was furious. I honestly think he wanted to kill Gerald. He even asked me where our gun was. He couldn't find it, thank God. I didn't know it was missing until then. I begged Marcus to stay with me, and he eventually agreed. He made me tell him everything all over again, especially the part about Gerald's contacts in Seldon Imports. He said he had some important documents missing, and he thought someone had given them to Gerald. He said he would find out who betrayed him. That's when the police came. Marcus wouldn't let them talk to me. He said I came in earlier than I did. He lied to the police for me, and he said he would go to you in the morning and hire you to help us," Mrs. Seldon concluded.
"So Mr. Seldon didn't leave at all last night?" Remington asked. Mrs. Seldon shook her head.
"You said your gun was missing. Missing from where?" Laura inquired.
"The bottom drawer of my bedside table. Marcus bought it for me a few months ago when we had several robberies in our neighborhood. Marcus often worked late at night, and he wanted to make sure I was safe."
"Who else knew about the gun?" Laura asked.
"My husband, the maid...oh, and Jack," Mrs. Seldon recounted.
"Jack Parsons?" Remington asked, sitting up a bit straighter, his eyes focused intently on Mrs. Seldon.
"Yes. Jack is my husband's business partner, and he has been a close friend to both of us for many years," Mrs. Seldon replied. Remington and Laura exchanged glances, their minds spinning with realization.
"Would you excuse us?" they asked simultaneously. Mrs. Seldon watched with a confused expression as Remington pulled Laura into their bedroom and shut the door.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Remington asked excitedly in a low voice.
"Inside help from someone in Seldon Imports? Someone high up? As high up as, say, vice-president?" Laura confirmed, crossing her arms.
"And he knew where the Seldons kept their gun," Remington added. "Looks like we've got a new suspect."
"But why would Jack Parsons want to help Gerald Morgan take over Seldon Imports?"
"Perhaps he had a secret deal with Morgan after the takeover."
"Then why kill Morgan? Isn't that biting the hand that feeds you?" Laura pointed out. "And why frame Lisel Seldon? What has he got against her? It doesn't make sense," Laura hissed in frustration.
"Yes, that is a bit odd," Remington replied. "However, I get the feeling that we don't have the whole story on this."
"Suggestions?" Laura asked, raising her eyebrows.
"I did notice a large painting on the wall behind Parsons' desk. What do you want to bet there's more behind that painting than just a bare wall."
"Yes, but how do we get in?" Laura asked.
"Perhaps Mrs. Seldon can provide a key to the front door," Remington mused. "I'll call Murphy and tell him to get ready."
"Murphy? Why? We can handle it by ourselves," Laura replied, confused.
"You don't need to be up that late, especially to break into a building. You're staying here," Remington told her.
"The hell I am!" Laura protested.
"Laura..." Remington began in a patronizing tone.
"Don't ‘Laura’ me! I'm perfectly capable of doing this. We're using a key and walking in the front door. It's not like that takes a lot of effort. Besides, it's my agency," Laura retorted.
"Yes, but that's my child you're risking!" Remington countered.
"It's my child, too, and my body. I think I know how to take care of myself. I'm all right, and I'm going with you tonight. Period," Laura said in a finalizing tone. Remington opened his mouth to protest, but was stopped by the fiery, hell-bent look of determination in Laura's eyes. He gritted his teeth in frustration and finally gave in.
"All right. But if you feel any discomfort or sickness or anything, we're calling this off, and Murphy and I will take care of it later."
"Fine," Laura agreed. "Now, I think we should get Mrs. Seldon's story on how her husband ended up dead, and then we can pay that visit to Parsons' office."
"Agreed. Shall we?" Remington gestured toward the door as he opened it. He and Laura returned to their seats, concentrating on a confused Mrs. Seldon.
"Mrs. Seldon," Remington began. "My associate and I have a few theories. In order to prove or disprove them, we're going to need access to Seldon Imports. Tonight."
"Tonight?" Mrs. Seldon asked, concerned.
"We feel there's no time to lose," Remington excused. "Do you have a key?"
"Yes, and I have my husband's security code as well. I will give them to you," Mrs. Seldon returned.
"Perfect. Before we go, however, it may be beneficial to hear your account of this afternoon's events," Remington said in a professional manner. "If you would be so kind as to relate the day's events to us in a chronological manner from the point of initiation, it would benefit our investigation enormously." Mrs. Seldon looked at Remington, completely confused. She glanced to Laura questioningly.
"He means, tell us what happened today, and start from the beginning," Laura clarified, shooting Remington an exasperated look. Remington shrugged, trying to bury a teasing grin. Laura rolled her eyes and shook her head before refocusing on Lisel Seldon.
"There is not much to tell," Mrs. Seldon began. "Marcus left early this morning, and he ordered me not to talk about anything to anyone--not even the police. He came to see you, then went to the office. He came home around ten or so with his briefcase full of papers. He spent the afternoon studying them, over and over. I wandered the house, worrying about the police finding my bracelet and crying about the mess I had gotten my husband into because of Gerald. Suddenly, I heard crashing noises coming from Marcus' study. I ran in there and found that he had shoved everything off his desk, and he was ranting. I was terrified. I asked him what was wrong. He just kept screaming, ‘he betrayed me...how could he betray me?’ I asked Marcus who had betrayed him, but he wouldn't say. After a while, he calmed down. He came out to the living room and told me that everything was going to be all right. He said he had called you, and was going to give you enough evidence to prove that I didn't kill Gerald, an prove who did and why. He told me to go for a drive and get some air, or go shopping. Something to keep me away for a couple of hours. He didn't want me any more involved than I already was. Marcus was always protective of me," Mrs. Seldon said fondly, sadness perforating her striking features. She caught herself before her tears began again. "I did as he asked. I went to a shopping center, mainly to walk around. I was heading home when I heard over the radio that Marcus..." she stopped to compose herself enough to finish her story. "They said the police suspected me. I was terrified. I didn't know what to do, or where to turn. So I parked my car in the parking lot of a shopping center. I called your agency, and got your address from your secretary, and I took a cab here. I didn't know where else to go," Mrs. Seldon finished.
"It's all right, Mrs. Seldon," Laura soothed, reaching forward to grasp Mrs. Seldon's trembling hand. "You've done the right thing. We can help you."
"We'll need that key and security code," Remington said, leaning forward.
"Of course," Mrs. Seldon replied, opening her purse and digging for the key. "The security code is 52007. You have to insert the key, input the code, and then turn the key. The order is important."
"Right," Remington said, scrounging for a piece of paper and a pen. He grabbed the notepad and pencil from the table behind the couch and scribbled the code and instructions down. Remington folded the piece of paper and stuffed it in his pants pocket as Mrs. Seldon handed Laura the key.
"We'll also need the papers from your husband's study. We may be able to discover what he found out about," Laura explained.
"Of course...if the police will let you," Mrs. Seldon replied.
"Well, if need-be, we'll just...borrow them," Remington replied. "We'll stop by there on your way home."
"Do you need anything from there, Mrs. Seldon?" Laura asked.
"Perhaps a change of clothes," Mrs. Seldon answered.
"We'll bring you whatever we can," Laura replied. "For now, just rest a bit. I'll call our associates and see if they can come stay with you while we're gone."
"Good idea. Mrs. Seldon, may I get you something to eat or drink?" Remington asked politely.
"No, thank you. I am not hungry now," Mrs. Seldon replied sadly.
"Well, if you need anything, feel free to get it or ask," Remington answered. He fought to replace his piteous stare with cheerfulness, trying desperately to lighten Mrs. Seldon's mood.
"I think I'll go clear away the dishes. Then we'll need to get ready, Laura."
"Right," Laura agreed as she dialed Murphy and Jenna's number. Remington excused himself and began clearing the dining room table as Laura raised the phone to her ear, and Mrs. Seldon dried her red, swollen, tear-filled eyes.
"Ready?" Remington asked as he shut off the engine to Laura's VW Rabbit near the entrance to Seldon Imports' parking lot.
"Ready," Laura said firmly, donning her black leather gloves.
"Here, put this on," Remington instructed, handing Laura a black ski mask.
"What do we need these for?" Laura asked, taking the mask from Remington and staring at it curiously.
"When Mr. Parsons discovers things missing from his safe, it wouldn't be to our benefit for him to be able to look on the lobby's security video and see Remington and Laura Steele breaking in," Remington explained. He pulled the mask over his head, adjusting it accordingly. Laura shrugged and followed his actions. They grabbed their flashlights, exited the Rabbit, and crept up to the front door of Seldon Imports. Remington carefully followed Mrs. Seldon's instructions, and the two black-clothed figures crept into the building, noting the watchful eyes of the security cameras.
"Damn," Remington explained in a loud whisper as he stood before the elevators.
"What is it?" Laura asked.
"They've turned off the elevators for the night," Remington complained, punching the call button in vain.
"Then I guess we'll have to take the stairs," Laura said casually, pointing her flashlight toward the stairwell next to the elevators.
"Laura, that's ten flights," Remington said in agony.
"I'm sure you can handle it, Mr. Steele," Laura teased, heading for the stairwell. Remington stopped her by grabbing her at the elbow.
"Laura, are you sure you should walk up 10 flights? Isn't that a bit strenuous?" he asked with concern. Laura jerked her arm away in annoyance.
"I'm perfectly capable of walking up a few flights of stairs. Besides, Mrs. Seldon needs our help and there's a double-murderer on the loose. We don't have time to argue about my condition. Come on," Laura scolded, moving toward the stairs.
"Ap...slowly," Remington instructed, pulling Laura back a bit as he followed her apprehensively to the stairs.
Laura emerged from the stairwell, breathing slightly heavier than usual. She glanced cautiously down both ends of the hallway as she waited for her partner.
Remington stumbled out of the stairwell, gasping for air and holding his left side. He leaned against the wall to catch his breath. He bent over, supporting himself with his hands on his knees.
"Ten flights," he gasped. "Why couldn't Jack Parsons have his office on the first floor? Next time we pick a building to infiltrate, let's pick one that doesn't turn the elevators off at night." He straightened slightly, his breathing slowing a bit.
"Investigations aren't always convenient, Harry," Laura replied, moving down the hall toward Jack Parsons' office. Remington followed, trying to recover as rapidly as he could. He and Laura stopped at Jack Parsons' door, and Remington bent to pick the lock. After several seconds, he flung the door open and ushered Laura inside, following her and closing the door quietly. Glancing around, Remington noticed that the office was void of security cameras, so he pulled his ski mask off.
"Oh, that's better," he muttered, rolling his stiff lower jaw around. Laura noticed what he had done, and removed her mask. She stood behind the desk waiting for Remington. He put his mask and flashlight on the desk and pulled the painting off the wall.
"Ah, hah," Remington exclaimed at the sight of the safe. "Bit too predictable, Jack." Laura pointed her flashlight to the combination dial on the safe as Remington began turning it, his head next to the safe to listen for tumblers falling into place. He finished spinning the dial and slowly turned the handle. Remington swung the door open as Laura approached, shining her light inside the safe. They began searching the contents, setting aside anything usable, unexplainable, or unusual.
"I'll be damned," Remington whispered, grabbing his flashlight from the desk and shining it on the large piece of paper he had just pulled from the safe.
"What is it?" Laura inquired, looking up from the manila folder she had just taken from the safe.
"A copy of the report we found in Gerald Morgan's safe," Remington reported. "Looks like Mr. Parsons was giving Mr. Morgan an unfair advantage in his buy-out attempt."
"Have a look at this," Laura said, holding the opened manila folder toward Remington with her left hand and shining the light on its contents with her right. Remington pointed his light toward the folder and scanned the top sheet.
"It looks like a cargo manifest," Remington said.
"Yes, for the Notorious," Laura confirmed. "It looks like they were importing tapestries from China. But look at the price totals and insurance estimations. Don't you think they're a bit high for a bunch of rugs?"
"Yes, and the cargo weights seem a bit high as well," Remington noticed.
"You think maybe they're bringing in more rugs than they listed?" Laura asked, confused.
"Or they're bringing in something else," Remington theorized.
"Smuggling?" Laura asked.
"Apparently. This manifest has obviously been doctored, and the ship apparently likes to dock late at night. Look at the schedule," Remington pointed out, flipping through the first couple of pages of the folder.
"Are you sure this is doctored?" Laura asked skeptically. Remington smiled.
"Pretty sure. I've done before, so I can recognize it when I see it. In fact, this is a rather lousy job, I must say," Remington answered.
"One of your lessons from...who was he? Marcos. Marcos Androcos," Laura remembered. "Am I right, Xenos?"
"Excellent memory, Mrs. Steele," Remington replied.
"I've never forgotten that night," Laura said softly, referring to the night three years ago when Remington had told her the story of his smuggling days. He had used the tale to cheer her up when she needed it most, displaying an intense kindness that he had previously kept hidden.
Suddenly, the two detectives were startled by the sound of a door closing.
"That sounded like the stairwell door," Laura hissed, fear rising through her. "A security guard, maybe?" They stood silently, listening as a faint whistling grew steadily louder.
"Quick," Remington ordered, shutting off his flashlight. He closed the safe as Laura gathered up the material they had taken. Remington put the painting back on the wall, trying to straighten it as the sound of the whistling closed in. He grabbed their ski masks and flashlights from the desk as Laura pulled him under it. Remington heard the door to the office click open. He and Laura sat silently, unmoving and barely breathing, struggling to keep their panic down as they heard the security guard enter the room.
Remington prepared himself for the confrontation that could come as he noticed a light darting around on the wall behind them. He noticed the fear in Laura's eyes, mixed with a hint of excitement from the danger they were potentially facing. Remington watched as the light disappeared from the back wall. They heard the office door click shut, and the knob jiggled twice. The guard began whistling again, and the sound slowly faded as he proceeded down the hall. Remington and Laura breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief. Laura hung her head, her eyes falling on the carpet next to her. Remington crawled out, then turned to help Laura up, but she was busy concentrating on something on the floor next to her. She handed him the material in her hands, and carefully picked up a black object from the carpet. She shined her flashlight on it, and Remington realized it was a charred piece of paper.
"It looks like the corner of a contract," Laura reported, studying the paper intently. "It's signed by both Gerald Morgan and Jack Parsons."
"I wonder where the rest of it is," Remington remarked. Laura looked at him blankly, before her eyes lit up with realization. She carefully handed him the piece of paper, and crawled out from under the desk. Laura began sifting through the wastebasket next to the desk, pulling out papers and setting them aside. She reached the bottom of the basket, and stopped momentarily, shining her light around the bottom. Laura began pulling pieces of charred paper from the wastebasket, laying them delicately beside her.
"That's all that looks readable," she said after a couple of minutes. She piled the rest of the garbage back into the can and picked up the six pieces she had set aside.
"I suggest we go before our friend returns," Remington pointed out, donning his mask again. Laura nodded as she rose from the carpet, holding the fragile evidence in her left hand as she pulled her mask over her head and picked up her flashlight with her right. Remington laid his piece of burned contract on top of hers, and carefully opened the office door with his free hand. He peeked down both ends of the hall, making sure it was clear. Remington hustled Laura out of the office, and the two made a break for the stairwell.
Remington and Laura entered the apartment, carrying an array of papers, Marcus Seldon's briefcase and Lisel Seldon's overnight bag. Remington sat the briefcase next to the couch as Laura set her armful of papers on the table behind it. She glanced at the plastic bag on top that now contained the remains of the contract, and was pleased to see they had received minimal damage. Murphy and Jenna stared with curiosity as Remington handed the overnight bag to Mrs. Seldon, who was sitting in the same chair as before.
"What's all this?" Jenna asked as Remington sat on the arm of the couch opposite Mrs. Seldon. Laura sat next to Remington, leaning back and sighing with exhaustion.
"Papers from Jack Parsons' safe and Marcus Seldon's study," Remington answered, leaning forward and rubbing the back of his neck wearily.
"Papers pertaining to what?" Murphy asked.
"We're not sure. We haven't really had time to check," Remington answered, supporting himself with his hands on his knees, and looking up at Murphy and Jenna. "And if Laura doesn't mind, I'd like to wait until tomorrow to find out. It's been a rather long day."
"No objection here," Laura replied, her eyes still closed.
"Then I guess we'd better shove off," Jenna said, rising from the couch and pulling Murphy with her.
"Perhaps I should go to a hotel," Mrs. Seldon said, slowly rising from her seat. Laura sat up and leaned forward, stopping her with a touch on her arm.
"Actually, Mrs. Seldon, it would probably be better if you stay here tonight," Laura warned. "The police are still looking for you, and if you go out tonight, they'll find you."
"Yes," Remington concurred. "I'm afraid all we can offer you is the couch, but I'm sure it beats a prison cell."
"That will be fine . . . thank you," Mrs. Seldon replied, sitting down again. "But if the police find out you're keeping me here, won't you get in trouble?"
"Oh, no, we break laws like this all the time," Remington dismissed jokingly. Laura flashed him a silencing look. Remington cleared his throat nervously. "I'll go get the blankets and pillows." He left the room quickly to avoid Laura's glare.
"Well, I suppose we'll see you guys in the morning," Murphy said as he and Jenna moved toward the front door. They said their good-nights to Mrs. Seldon as Laura rose and escorted them to the door.
"Thanks again for staying with Mrs. Seldon tonight," Laura remarked as Jenna pulled the door open. They hesitated in the doorway.
"No problem, sis," Jenna answered. "Get some sleep. You need it," she ordered.
"Yes, ma'am," Laura replied, giving Jenna a mock salute. She smiled as they slowly moved toward the elevator. " 'Night, Jenna. 'Night, Murph," Laura called. She awaited their replies before closing and locking the front door. Laura moved back into the living room as Remington emerged from the bedroom with the bedding for the couch.
"Mrs. Seldon, you can use our bathroom to get ready for bed, if you'd like," Laura offered. Mrs. Seldon smiled politely.
"Yes, thank you," she answered, carrying her overnight bag with her to the bathroom and closing the door.
"That poor woman," Laura said sympathetically as she stared at the closed door. "She's really been through hell."
"Yes, and unless we can figure out the connection between Jack Parsons and Gerald Morgan, I'm afraid it's only going to get worse for her," Remington commented as he prepared the couch for Mrs. Seldon.
"Well, hopefully the answer lies somewhere in all this mess," Laura replied, walking up to the pile of papers on the table and fingering through it.
"Well, we sort through it all tomorrow. Maybe Mildred can help us figure some of it out," Remington said, straightening the top blanket and plopping two pillows down at the head of the make-shift bed.
"Good idea," Laura replied. She yawned. "Ugh, I'm exhausted,"
"Yes, I'm a bit worn out myself," Remington said as he walked over to Laura. "And you definitely need sleep," he scolded, placing his hands on both sides of her head.
"I'd argue with you, but I'm too tired," Laura answered, smiling at him. "Still, you don't have to keep babying me like this. I can take care of myself."
"Yes, but you haven't before, at least not like you should," Remington argued. "I just want you to cut down on the long hours, and take it easier. And I'm sure your doctor would agree with me." He took Laura into his arms, trying to keep her from getting angry. "I'm only concerned for you and the baby, Laura. You're all I have, and I don't want anything to happen to you." Laura's expression softened.
"I know," she said softly. They met in a warm, tender kiss, sliding their arms around each other. They broke the kiss at the sound of the bathroom door opening.
Mrs. Seldon emerged from the bathroom, clad in a nightgown and bathrobe, as Laura and Remington released each other. She set her bag at the head of the couch, and smiled at the sight of the bed Remington had made for her.
"I can't tell you both how grateful I am to you for everything you're doing," Mrs. Seldon said, smiling at the Steeles. "I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you for all your kindness."
"Believe me, Mrs. Seldon," Laura began, walking over and laying a comforting hand on Mrs. Seldon's arm. "It's the least we can do. I just wish we could have learned more about this case sooner. Maybe we could have somehow foreseen your husband's death, and prevented it," Laura said regretfully.
"No, you mustn't blame yourselves for Marcus' death. You couldn't have known. No one could," Mrs. Seldon replied, her eyes moistening. "All I ask is that you find my husband's murderer. I want to face the person who took Marcus from me . . . who took everything from me, and then tried to blame me for it."
"Are you sure you can face your husband's killer like that?" Laura asked, knowing how horrible it would be for her if the murderer she would have to face turned out to be her close friend.
"Yes," Mrs. Seldon said firmly. "My father taught me years ago, in Hungary, to stand up against the enemy. He showed me how to stand up to anyone who tried to take something from me, and let them know what they took, and how much it meant to me. The most important part, he said, was to look your enemy in the eye and let them know that they could never destroy you; that you would adapt and move on. In those days, with corrupt policemen and corrupt government officials, you often learned to . . . adapt," Mrs. Seldon explained. Laura stared at the woman in admiration.
"We'll find out who did this, and we'll face him with you," Laura promised. Mrs. Seldon nodded, smiling through her tears.
"Thank you. Both of you," Mrs. Seldon replied.
"Well," Remington said quietly, breaking the somber mood. "I suggest we all try to get a good night's sleep, and hopefully we'll be able to wrap this thing up in the morning."
"Agreed," Laura replied, moving toward the bedroom with Remington following. "If you need anything, Mrs. Seldon, just knock."
"Thank you, Mrs. Steele. Good night," Mrs. Seldon replied, untying the belt of her robe.
"Good night," Laura and Remington called as they entered their bedroom and closed the door.
"You think she'll be able to sleep tonight?" Laura asked worriedly as Remington pulled his black turtleneck off and dug in his dresser drawer for a pair of pajamas.
"I don't know, but I hope she can. Maybe knowing she has support in all of this will make it a bit easier," Remington replied, watching as Laura pulled off her turtleneck.
"I know I'll sleep tonight, case or not. I'm exhausted," Laura complained, slipping out of her black jeans. She grabbed the top of Remington's pajamas and her discarded clothes and headed for the bathroom.
"Laura?" Remington called curiously. "Where are you going with my top?"
"You never wear a top to bed, so I thought I'd wear it. I don't feel like digging for my nightshirt. You don't mind, do you?" Laura asked, stopping at the bathroom door.
"Oh, no . . . it's alright. Go ahead," Remington said. Laura smiled and closed the bathroom door. A grin spread across Remington's face as he thought of his wife wearing nothing but his pajama top. He chuckled in coy excitement as he removed his shoes, slacks and socks and donned the pajama pants. He gathered up his shed clothing and headed for the bathroom. He knocked on the door, and Laura pulled it open. Remington felt a wave of desire as his eyes passed over Laura, now clad in his top. He tossed his clothing in the hamper as his eyes slid down her legs, taking in every curve. Laura stood at the sink, scrubbing her teeth. She bent over to rinse out her mouth, revealing more of her legs. Laura shut off the water and looked up into the mirror, noticing Remington's lustful gaze.
"I suppose I'd better move so you can brush your teeth," Laura commented as she dried her mouth with a towel, moving around Remington toward the bedroom.
"You don't have to move. Ever," Remington said, admiring her. Laura smiled.
"Brush your teeth, Harry," she commanded playfully, giving him a quick kiss and throwing the towel on the counter next to the sink. He reluctantly agreed, finally tearing his eyes from her. Laura stood in the doorway for a moment, enjoying the sight of her husband's bare torso. Laura willed herself to turn and head for the bed. She folded the bedspread down and slid under the covers. Laura closed her eyes and sighed, basking in the relaxation she was finally experiencing.
Remington brushed his teeth, his mind wandering to the future. How different would it be a year from now, with a baby? It had taken him and Laura so long to get this close. Would a child end their passion? He had heard all the horror stories about how children tended to destroy the sex life of a marriage. Remington couldn't imagine not wanting to make love to Laura, or not being able to. After that first night together in Ireland, their love and desire for each other had seemed to spread like fire. Would a child put the fire out or add to it? Remington had observed Laura's sister Frances and her husband Donald together. After three children, their passion for each other seemed to be intact. Perhaps it would be like that for him and Laura. Lord knows his passion for her hadn't diminished since her shocking news. In fact, the thought of Laura giving him children of his own made his love for her even stronger. Still, he felt a certain apprehension about becoming a father, especially when it was combined with his worst fear--that he would make a terrible father.
Remington blocked the uneasy thoughts from filling his mind as he rinsed his face off with the cool water. He dried his face on the towel Laura used, set on the counter, and shut off the bathroom light. He walked over to the bed, eager to take Laura into his arms and ease his doubting mind.
"So, Mrs. Steele, exactly how tired are you?" he asked in a seductive voice as he approached the foot of the bed. He stopped, disappointment hitting him as he stared at Laura, noticing her slow, even breathing and closed eyes. His expression softened as he continued to stare at her, admiring her beauty and the peaceful expression on her face.
"I guess you are pretty tired," he muttered softly, and chuckled. Remington walked over to his side of the bed. He shut off the light and crawled carefully into the bed. Laura stirred at his movement, and rolled over onto her right side. Remington slid up next to her, still studying her features. He adjusted himself to a comfortable position, and gently slid his right arm over Laura's waist.
"Good night, my love," he whispered. He smiled, his thoughts turning to his unborn child. It would work out. It had to. They loved each other too much to ever let it die between them. Remington slid his hand protectively over Laura's abdomen. He felt Laura stir, and his smile widened as Laura's hand moved down to cover his. Remington drifted off to sleep, comforted by the warmth that he felt as he held his family in his arms.
Murphy entered the office carrying a large paper sack and a manila folder. He walked into Remington's office, where Remington, Laura and Mildred were sitting around Remington's desk. The desk was covered with the papers Remington and Laura had taken the night before.
"Any headway?" Murphy asked, stopping beside Remington's desk and sitting on the sack on the only free spot left on the desk's surface.
"Not much," Laura replied, frustrated. "We've been at this for three hours. We know Parsons and Morgan were involved in some sideline. We know they had a contract for a joint business after Seldon Imports went under--at least that's what I got from those burned pieces of paper. We know that Seldon Imports' ship, the ‘Notorious,’ was somehow involved, and we have a pretty good idea that they were smuggling."
"Sounds like a good start," Murphy commented.
"Yes, but we still don't know precisely what they were smuggling, and we don't know why, and we don't know why Parsons would want to kill Morgan in the first place," Remington explained, leaning back and rubbing his eyes wearily.
"According to his bank statements, he was pulling in a lot of dough from his hidden venture," Mildred added.
"So that number we brought you yesterday was a bank account?" Murphy asked.
"Yep. A Swiss bank account. Only it was empty. According to the bank, he was supposed to make a deposit the night he was killed, but he never got the chance."
"What's that smell, Murphy?" Laura asked, sitting up straight and sniffing.
"Chinese," Murphy responded, opening his bag. "I thought you guys would be hungry. So I stopped on my way back."
"Oh, fantastic," Remington said, rapidly clearing away the papers.
"Great," Laura said, grimacing slightly.
"Still sick?" Murphy asked, pulling boxes out of the bag and setting them on the desk.
"Kind of on the fringe," Laura answered, reluctantly moving her work to the side.
"Well, you need to eat something, so I got you some ham-fried rice. It was the lightest cuisine they had," Murphy said, setting a small box in front of Laura and handing her a plastic fork and napkin from the bag.
"Thanks, Murph," Laura said, smiling up at him gratefully.
"Meanwhile, we get all the good stuff," Murphy teased, pulling out paper plates and setting the empty bag on the floor. He crossed the room and pulled a chair over to the desk as Remington and Mildred began serving themselves.
"What's in the folder, Murphy?" Remington asked, swallowing a mouthful of lo mein.
"Mm . . . " Murphy began, chewing a piece of wanton and swallowing rapidly as he filled his plate with food. "Gerald Morgan's and Marcus Seldon's prelim autopsy reports, the police reports, and the ballistics reports. Both men were shot with the same gun, and it was probably Mrs. Seldon's gun."
"Probably?" Laura asked, eating her rice slowly.
"Yeah. The reports aren't finished yet, so nothing's definite," Murphy answered. "There's one other little problem. According to the initial reports, the fingerprints on the gun match Mrs. Seldon."
"It was her gun. If Jack Parsons took it, he could have used gloves or a handkerchief to handle it," Laura pointed out. She grimaced at her meal, and cautiously took another bite.
"Something wrong?" Remington asked.
"This doesn't taste very good," Laura confessed. "Of course, nothing tastes good right now."
"Maybe you should save it for later," Remington suggested.
"No. It'll probably taste even worse cold," Laura said. She continued eating. "Besides, the doctor said to eat, no matter what I felt like. I have to keep the baby's nutrition up." Remington shrugged, agreeing with her.
"Whatever you feel is best, dear," he said, crunching a piece of wanton.
"Wait a minute," Mildred said, holding up a piece a paper. "I may have found something."
"What is it, Mildred?" Laura asked, glad for the distraction from eating.
"It looks like copies of a certificate of ownership, and a bill for repairs to the Notorious," Mildred reported. "According to this, Jack Parsons co-owns the Notorious with Seldon Imports. He bought it two years ago with partial funds from Seldon Imports. And according to this," Mildred added, waving the sheet in her right hand, "Jack Parsons had some repairs done on the Notorious two weeks after he bought it. Nearly $60,000 worth of repairs, with the bulk of that coming out of his pocket. Mostly interior work, by the looks of things."
"Interior work? Like renovations?" Murphy asked. Laura took the paper from Mildred and studied it.
"Renovations on a new cruiser?" Laura asked skeptically.
"Probably more like additions," Remington theorized. "You know, add a secret panel here, add a hidden cargo hold there . . . "
"Sounds like the smuggling theory is a winner," Laura said, laying the piece of paper down. "I think we should pay a visit to the ship the next time it docks." Laura reluctantly finished her meal.
"According to the schedule," Mildred said, picking up another piece of paper. "The ship should still be docked at the same address as before--206 Harbor Way. It's supposed to depart tonight."
"Let's finish lunch, and go through the rest of this paperwork first. I don't want to miss anything," Laura said. Remington reluctantly relaxed again.
"Yes. Yes, of course. Finish the paperwork," he muttered distastefully. He ate the last bite of his lunch and set his plate aside, staring disgustedly at the untouched pile of papers on his left. He reluctantly grabbed a stack of papers from the top and began thumbing through them. His eyebrows curled in a curious scowl as he examined two computer printouts.
"Hold on," he said. The others looked up, watching as Remington examined the papers carefully. "Have a look at this." He turned the papers around and laid them in front of Laura and Mildred. Murphy leaned over to study the papers where he pointed.
"That's quite a large deposit that Jack Parsons keeps making every week. According to these, he's making more than Marcus Seldon, and Marcus owns the company," Remington pointed out.
"It gets better," Mildred said. "Look at what he's been taking out the past couple of months. He's almost broke."
"Where's the money going?" Murphy asked.
"Good question," Remington said, examining another set of papers. "Especially since that doesn't appear to be all the money he's getting."
"What do you mean?" Laura asked, setting her empty plate aside. Murphy grabbed the paper sack and dumped the trash into it before setting it on the floor.
"Well, it looks like Jack Parsons has been requisitioning substantial funds from Seldon Imports, but it doesn't look like any of the money's been recuperated," Remington told them.
"You mean Parsons was embezzling funds?" Mildred asked.
"It seems that way," Remington said.
"Then that's the motive," Laura said. The others look at Laura for an explanation. "Marcus found out that Jack was embezzling funds and smuggling with Gerald Morgan using a ship partially owned by Seldon Imports. He confronted Jack, and Jack killed him."
"And framed Lisel Seldon," Remington added. "Why do that?"
"To keep the police from barking up his tree," Murphy replied.
"That does make sense, I suppose," Remington said reluctantly.
"Well, let's finish going through this stuff, so we can check out that ship," Laura said. "Mildred, would you mind checking on Mrs. Seldon while we're gone? Not that I don't trust Jenna. I'm sure she's taking good care of her, but I think she could use all the support she can get right now."
"No problem," Mildred replied casually. Laura smiled as she reached for more papers. They each grabbed a stack of papers and rushed to conclude their search.
Laura, Remington and Murphy exited the limo on Harbor Way and walked toward dock 206, and the large cruiser moored there.
"How do we get on that ship without being stopped?" Laura asked as she noticed a dock supervisor sitting guard next to the on-ramp of the ‘Notorious.’
"We could say we're customs inspectors," Murphy suggested. Remington groaned.
"That ploy doesn't work very well. Trust me," Remington replied, remembering the trouble he had gotten into two years ago when he had tried a similar ploy.
"We need a distraction," Laura muttered as they stopped several yards from their destination. Murphy grinned, his eyes brightening.
"Get as close as you can to him. As soon as I get his back turned, get on board," Murphy instructed.
"Okay," Remington said. "After we're on board, if you sense any danger, use the limo phone to call the police."
"Gotcha," Murphy said, walking casually toward the ‘Notorious’ again. Laura and Remington followed, passing Murphy and the supervisor and doubling back to hide behind a stack of crates near the on-ramp.
Murphy walked in front of the supervisor, then turned to look at him. His face brightened, and he moved toward the guard.
"I don't believe it. I don't believe it!" Murphy exclaimed, grabbing the confused guard and pulling him into an enthusiastic embrace, clapping his back loudly. "You ole dog, how ya doing? It's so good to see you again! I mean, it's been, what, two or three years? How've you been? Hey, is this beauty yours?" Murphy asked, pointing toward the ‘Notorious,’ making sure he didn't give the man a chance to speak. Laura and Remington waited eagerly for their chance to sneak up the ramp.
"Boy, she's nice, man. Real nice. Hey! Want to see mine? Just bought it. It's right over there. Here, you can see it better from over here," Murphy said, pulling the man away from his post and pointing behind him. He turned the man around, constantly barraging him with questions. Laura and Remington took their cue and snuck up the ramp of the ‘Notorious,’ while Murphy guided the man around until they were safely aboard.
"Nice to know Murphy hasn't lost his touch," Remington murmured as he and Laura entered the ship and headed below deck.
"Jack Parsons has exquisite taste," Laura noted, glancing around at the wood wall paneling and plush carpet.
"Yes. Not bad for a cargo ship, eh?" Remington agreed. They reached a door labeled "Hold". Remington carefully opened the door, and he and Laura entered, glancing around to make sure they were alone.
The room was bare, except for a few empty wooden crates in the far right corner. The detectives walked slowly around the room, trying to find anything unusual. Remington glanced to Laura, noticing that she was rubbing her stomach.
"You alright?" he asked. She nodded.
"Lunch isn't sitting too well. Must be the morning sickness," Laura told him.
"I thought it would have worn off by now," Remington said. Laura shook her head.
"Just because it's called 'morning sickness' doesn't mean it's confined to just the morning hours," Laura explained. Remington nodded in understanding, scanning the room.
"Well, we'll wrap this up, and then you can take the rest of the day off to recover," Remington said.
"What exactly are we looking for? I don't know what a secret cargo hold should look like," Laura said. She looked over to Remington, who was scanning the walls. He turned, staring intently at the floor. Remington walked over to the back wall and squatted down, scanning the floor. He dug his fingernails into the crack between the wall and the floor, and pulled up a false panel. Laura walked over to him, smiling in amazement.
"How did you know that was there?" she asked, squatting down opposite him.
"Star Wars. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Twentieth-Century Fox, 1977. When the Rebels were trying to hide from storm troopers aboard the ‘Millennium Falcon,’ they hid in secret cargo holds in the floor, much like this one," Remington explained.
"That's one movie I'll have to remember to watch again," Laura commented, impressed.
"We'll rent the whole trilogy," Remington replied. He backed away from the hole and pulled up another panel from the floor. He squinted as he looked into the hold.
"See anything?" Laura asked, straining to see in the dark area.
"A few Persian rugs and lots of boxes. I'd say Mr. Parsons' racket isn't a limited one. It looks like he doesn't discriminate on what he carries."
"Can you see anything else?"
"Actually, I can see very little," Remington answered. "I'm going in there." He slid his foot out from underneath him and prepared to jump down into the hold.
"Don't bother," a voice said from behind them. Laura and Remington turned to see Jack Parsons entering the room, pointing a .38 pistol at the detectives. "Back away from the hole, please."
Laura and Remington stood up, backing away towards the wooden crates in the corner. Their eyes were trained on Jack Parsons as he slowly moved toward them.
"I should have known when you came to the office that you would eventually find this," Jack said grimly, motioning toward the hole in the floor. "I suppose you know everything now. I should have dealt with you sooner, but I hoped you'd find enough motive and evidence to think that Lisel did it."
"Enough for Gerald Morgan's murder, maybe, but not her husband's. She had no motive to kill him," Laura informed him.
"No motive? Try a million-dollar life insurance policy and control of Seldon Imports," Jack scoffed.
"She already had all the money she needed, as well as stock in Seldon Imports," Laura argued. "Face it; you might have gotten away with it if you hadn't committed the second murder," Laura informed him.
"I didn't have a choice," Jack protested nervously. "Marcus found out about my association with Gerald. He planned to ruin me and have me sent to prison for the rest of my life. He had enough evidence to make me a prime suspect. I couldn't allow him to talk. I thought I got all papers I needed, but I heard you drive up, and I had to leave quickly. I suspected I didn't get everything."
"But why frame Mrs. Seldon? I mean, she was your friend. At least, she thought she was," Remington said.
"God knows I didn't want to," Jack replied regretfully. "She never should have gotten mixed up in all this in the first place. But the police already believed she had committed murder once, so they'd be more inclined to believe she did it twice."
"And serving up Mrs. Seldon would keep you out of the fire," Laura deduced, loathing him openly.
"Are you saying you didn't intentionally frame her the first time?" Remington asked. Jack shook his head.
"I had no idea Lisel was there before me. I figured the police might try to connect it to Marcus, since he and Gerald were such blatant enemies. I never thought they'd find enough evidence to convict Lisel, so I didn't say anything. I'm sorry I had to frame her the second time, but the police won't stop until they get someone, and it was either her or me."
"So you decided to ruin the life of one of your best friends to save your own neck," Laura concluded distastefully. "Not to mention murdering your friend and business partner."
"What did you expect me to do? Tell Marcus everything? Tell him how I've been smuggling behind his back with his hated enemy? Tell him how I've been stealing funds from our company to pay Gerald blackmail, and giving him secret information about our shareholders so Gerald could take over Seldon Imports and expand the smuggling across the globe? Tell Marcus that I killed his enemy because he got too greedy on me, and let his beloved wife take the rap for it to save myself?" Jack scoffed. "Marcus probably would have killed me. He definitely would have ruined me."
"And that's just what he planned to do. Only you killed him first," Remington finished. "You're in over your head, Jack."
"You think I don't know that?" Jack yelled, agitated. His hands began shaking as the full realization of his actions hit him.
"There's nowhere to run," Remington pressed, slowly taking a step toward Jack. He noticed the beads of sweat forming on Jack's forehead and upper lip. Remington cautiously continued to move forward.
"Think about it, Jack," Remington said. "The only way to escape is to kill us. Who could you frame for that, mate? You aren't using Mrs. Seldon's gun anymore." Jack swiftly pointed the gun to Remington, stopping him in his tracks.
"I wouldn't have to worry. This ship leaves tonight. We could dump you in the ocean. They'd never find you," Jack said, seemingly relieved by his plan.
"You don't think they'd miss the great Remington Steele?" Laura asked, moving toward Jack as well. "He's a world-renowned detective, remember?"
"Uh . . . that's right. World-renowned," Remington agreed, playing along.
"Besides, our associates know where we are. If this ship disappears and we disappear, don't you think the police will trace it right back to you?" Laura pointed out. She moved to within a foot of Jack's right, with Remington only a few inches behind, approaching from the left.
"Stop!" Jack ordered, pointing the gun to Laura's chest and cocking it.
"No!" Remington yelled, panicked. He lunged for Jack's outstretched arm as Laura ducked out of the way. Remington forced Jack's arm up in the air, struggling to loosen Jack's grip on the gun. Jack accidentally pulled the trigger, sending the bullet into the ceiling as a deafening roar reverberated through the enclosed room. Remington brought Jack's right arm down hard over his knee. The gun flew out of Jack's hand and slid across the floor. Jack pulled back, punching Remington in the face and knocking him to the ground, stunned. Jack stood over Remington, preparing to continue the beating.
Realizing her husband was in trouble, Laura lunged at Jack, knocking him away from a dazed Remington. Laura struggled to occupy Jack as Remington slowly rose, regaining his senses. Jack grabbed Laura by both arms and shoved her as hard as he could. Laura slammed into the crates, bending over as her stomach connected with the top edge of one. Laura fell back into a stack of crates, hitting her head. She fell to the ground, dazed and in pain.
Remington grabbed Jack by the lapels as he stood over Laura. His anger and concern for Laura fueling his strength, Remington smashed his fist into Jack's face, knocking him out cold. Suddenly, the door burst open, and Murphy and the dock supervisor burst in. Murphy quickly assessed the situation with a glance around the room.
"We heard a shot, so I called the police like you said to. They're on their way," Murphy said. "Are you guys alright?"
"I'm fine. Laura, you okay?" Remington asked, catching his breath. He turned, expecting to find Laura standing behind him. Instead, she lay where she had fallen, clutching her stomach, her face contorted in pain. Remington felt his heart lurch in fear, and he was instantly at her side.
"Laura!" he cried, his fear spreading through him. "Laura, are you okay? What is it?"
"Pain," Laura gasped. "My stomach. I . . . hit a crate . . . " Another wave of pain stopped her sentence.
"Oh, God. The baby," Remington realized.
"What's wrong?" Murphy asked, moving toward them.
"Laura's in pain. She may be miscarrying. I've got to get her to the hospital," Remington said frantically, gently scooping Laura up in his arms. "Stay here until the police arrive."
"Right. The limo's right outside," Murphy said. Remington carried Laura out of the room and up to the deck.
"Hold on, Laura. We'll get you to the hospital. You and the baby will be fine," Remington soothed as he carried Laura down to the dock. "Fred!" he called to the waiting chauffeur. Fred hurriedly opened the back door for Laura and Remington. Remington carefully laid Laura inside the limo before crawling in after her. Fred slammed the door behind Remington and returned to the driver's seat.
"The hospital, Fred," Remington commanded, his voice shaking in fear. "And for God's sake, hurry." Remington cradled Laura in his arms as the limo sped away.
Remington paced the hallway outside of the emergency room, chewing his thumbnail nervously. Murphy sat on the couch behind Remington, his arm around Jenna's shoulders for comfort. Murphy had arrived a few minutes after Laura had been rushed into the emergency room, and had summoned Jenna to the hospital. She sat quietly, holding Murphy's hand, hoping that her sister would recover and the baby would survive.
Remington glanced at the emergency room doors for the millionth time, hoping the doctor would appear. He cursed himself silently for all his previous apprehensions about Laura's pregnancy. Now, he couldn't bear the thought of Laura losing their child, nor could he stand the thought of the pain Laura would go through if she miscarried, physically and emotionally. She wanted the baby so badly. How on earth could he pull her through this kind of tragedy?
"Where in the hell is that bloody doctor?" Remington muttered aloud. "It's been over half an hour. Why won't he come tell us something?"
"They're doing everything they can. I'm sure Laura will be alright," Murphy consoled.
"I want them both to be alright," Remington snapped, running his hands through his hair.
"Laura's got to slow down, or she'll never make it through the pregnancy," Jenna complained. Remington chuckled.
"You want to tell your sister that she has to quit her job?" he argued, pacing with his hands on his hips.
"She doesn't have to quit. She just needs to be less . . . active," Jenna corrected. "I have an idea that might help."
"What's that?" Remington asked, turning to look at his sister-in-law. Jenna sat forward.
"Mildred says we need a tax write-off. I say you need new computers. So, what if you bought four new computers? One for Mildred, one for our office, one for Laura's office, and one for your home."
"My home? Why on earth would I want one of those bloody things in my home?" Remington asked, confused.
"That way, when Laura doesn't feel well, or she gets to where she has to stay home, she can still work. We can send everything back and forth over the computer," Jenna explained.
"That might work. If Laura can do some kind of work, she may not mind slowing down so much," Remington mused. He glanced down the hall again before returning his gaze to Jenna. "I just hope your idea hasn't come too late." They fell silent, and Remington began pacing again.
The sound of the double doors to the emergency room swinging open snapped Remington's attention to the man emerging from the room. Remington stared hopefully as the man approached, and took a step toward him.
"Mr. Steele?" the doctor asked as he walked up to Remington.
"Yes," Remington answered. The doctor stopped in front of Remington as Murphy and Jenna rose from the couch and slowly approached them.
"Doctor . . . ?" Remington began.
"Burnett," the doctor told him.
"Burnett. How's my wife?" Remington asked worriedly.
"Your wife is going to be fine," the doctor said. Remington relaxed slightly before his concern rose again.
"And the baby?" he asked, tense with hope and fear.
"The baby's going to be fine, too," Dr. Burnett answered. Everyone sighed with relief, and Remington broke out in a grin.
"Thank God," he said.
"I want to keep her overnight for observation, until her system clears out," the doctor informed Remington.
"Her system?" Remington asked in puzzlement.
"Yes. It seems her stomach cramps were caused by a bit of bad Chinese food. Most likely, it was the ham in the fried rice she said she ate," Dr. Burnett reported. "She got food poisoning. We induced vomiting to keep her from trying to digest any more, so it wouldn't get to the baby. Now that most of it's out of her system, she should be fine in a few hours. The baby should be okay, too. Still I want to watch them tonight, just in case."
"But they're going to be alright, and the pregnancy should go fine from now on, right?" Remington asked worriedly. Dr. Burnett looked at him grimly.
"That's going to depend on your wife . . . and you, Mr. Steele," Dr. Burnett said. "Laura explained to me how she ended up with a bruised stomach and a slight concussion. Sufficed to say, if she keeps on dodging bullets and getting bashed about by thugs, she'll never make it through this pregnancy. It's bad enough for her to risk her life, but now she's risking her child's. I've already warned her about this. Now she needs to hear it from you," Dr. Burnett scolded.
"I understand," Remington said, nodding.
"Then make her understand. I'm not saying she needs to become an invalid. Far from it," the doctor replied. "As I've told her; exercise is fine, so long as she doesn't overdo. Her dancing exercises are perfectly acceptable. I'd even encourage them, to keep her in shape without straining herself. Love-making is fine. It'll not only help Laura physically, it will help her emotionally, especially later when she starts to feel unattractive due to her size. Working is alright, so long as she sticks to normal activities and normal work hours. However," Dr. Burnett stressed, ticking the statements off on his fingers. "Late nights working are out. Chasing bad guys is out. Dodging bullets and speeding cars is out. Trying to subdue criminals and being thrown about is out. Understand?" Remington nodded. "Good." Dr. Burnett softened his tone. "I've known Laura for years, Mr. Steele. Longer than even you've known her. And I know as well as you do that she loves her work and that she's very stubborn about changing. But now she has two other people to think about--you and your child. You're going to have to help her through this. You've got to make her understand that she's got to slow down for a while. It's going to be very difficult for her, but I think, with your support, she and the baby will make it through just fine. First, though, you have to convince Laura that she has to make some changes to her lifestyle."
"Don't worry, Dr. Burnett. I'm going to make sure that Laura takes care of herself from now on," Remington promised.
"Good," Dr. Burnett replied. "Actually, the hardest part will be convincing her. She appears to be in excellent health right now. She shouldn't have any problems. Well, once she gets the Chinese food completely out of her system," the doctor said, smiling slightly.
"Can I see her?" Remington asked.
"Yes. For a few minutes. We've moved her into room 115. Down the hall, around the corner, to the left," the doctor instructed. "But not too long. She needs rest."
"Go on, Steele," Murphy said, putting his hands on Jenna's shoulders meaningfully. "We'll wait here." Jenna put her hand on Murphy's, signaling her comprehension of his motives. Remington nodded and walked hurriedly to his wife's room.
Remington slowly entered her room, hoping Laura wasn't asleep. He was relieved to find her sitting up in bed. Her face was pale in the dim florescent light, but to Remington, she was nonetheless beautiful. Her face brightened as she smiled at the sight of her husband.
"Hey," Remington said softly, sitting in the seat by Laura's bedside and taking her hand in his. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm alright. It wasn't a miscarriage, thank God," Laura replied.
"Mm-hm. The doctor told me . . . bad Chinese," Remington said, smiling. Laura laughed softly.
"Yeah. The doctor make me drink something to get rid of it. I think the baby's the only thing I haven't thrown up," Laura joked. Remington winced slightly with disgust.
"Well, so long as you and the baby are alright, that's all that matters," Remington said affectionately. Laura nodded, and stared into her lap.
"I suppose Ken talked with you about my working," Laura began.
"Ken?" Remington asked, puzzled.
"Dr. Burnett," Laura corrected.
"Ah," Remington nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, he did. He ordered me to make sure you take a less active role in our cases, and stick to a more normal work schedule."
"I figured he did," Laura said, forcing a smile. "He said he was going to chew you out for not keeping me in check, after he chewed me out for not doing it myself."
"He lived up to his word," Remington quipped. Laura stared silently into her lap, her face filled with sorrow. "Laura? What is it?"
"Ken's right," Laura finally replied. "I should have slowed down the minute I knew I was pregnant. I could have . . . I could have killed our child." She looked up at Remington, her eyes watering. "I'm sorry, Harry. I was so busy being the professional, modern woman and swearing that I could handle it. I didn't bother to think about how it would affect the baby."
"It's alright, Laura," Remington consoled, rising and sitting on her bed, facing her. He rubbed away an escaping tear with his right thumb, and held her hand in his left. "The baby's fine, and so are you. That's what is important. And now, we have a chance to correct the problem before it becomes a problem," he said softly.
"I guess I should quit working, huh?" Laura said remorsefully.
"No, you shouldn't. You should just take a less active role in our cases. That shouldn't be hard. We have enough paperwork backed up to keep you busy throughout the entire pregnancy," Remington joked. Laura laughed, grateful for his kindness to her.
"You mean you don't mind your wife working?" Laura teased.
"Well, I'd much prefer to stick with traditional roles. Of course, you wouldn't have to be barefoot. I'd let you wear shoes while you're pregnant," Remington teased. Laura punched him in the arm with exasperation. Remington laughed.
"However," he said, growing serious again. "I must confess, I love working with you, and I can't see completely giving that up. I also know how much your work means to you, and I would never force you to stop doing what you love. Besides, your sister has come up with a way for you to work, even when you have to stay at home. It would require putting one of those bloody computers in our home, but you would be able to communicate with the office and continue working," Remington informed her. Laura smiled.
"That sounds perfect," she said.
"Then we're agreed? You keep working, but tone down the activity?" Remington asked.
"Agreed," Laura answered. Remington grinned.
"Well, there's a switch. Now you'll be the one to function best in an advisory capacity." Laura laughed. Remington leaned forward, pulling Laura into a gentle hug. He heard her groan slightly, and pulled away.
"What's wrong?" he asked, his face covered with concern.
"Just a bit too much movement," Laura replied, leaning back carefully and resting her head on her pillow. "I'm still trying to recover from the Rice of Death."
"Oh, sorry," Remington said, wincing at the thought of making Laura uncomfortable.
"It's okay," Laura smiled, taking Remington's hand gently in hers. He stared at her covered abdomen, smiling as he thought about his child, safely inside. Suddenly, his smile disappeared as he looked up at Laura.
"I just realized something," he said. "We have to move."
"What?" Laura asked in confusion.
"We have to find someplace else to live," Remington clarified. "I mean, the apartment's too small to accommodate a child, and besides, it's an all-adult building. We're going to have to find a house somewhere."
"Mm . . . I guess you're right," Laura said.
"Well, at least we don't have to worry about being able to afford it. My inheritance should be able to pay for a nice home, don't you think?" Remington asked, smiling.
"Dear, your inheritance could pay for four nice homes," Laura teased.
"Well, we'll start with one. As soon as you've fully recovered, we'll start looking for a house. Sound good?" he asked.
"Sounds good," Laura replied. She stifled a yawn.
"Mm . . . I'd better go so you can rest," Remington said, rising from the bed.
"No, don't go," Laura pleaded.
"Don't worry. I'm coming back. I just have to go take care of a couple of things."
"What things?" Laura asked.
"I have to go talk to the police, and I want to stop by a bookstore and get a few books on pregnancy so we know what we're getting into," Remington said through a charming half-grin. Laura smiled. "I promise, I'll be back before visiting hours are over. Meanwhile, try to get some sleep, okay?"
"Okay," Laura said reluctantly. Remington leaned forward and kissed her gently. He caressed her cheek lovingly before releasing her and walking to the door. Remington smiled and waved briefly as he exited the room.
Laura and Remington walked into the Century City West building at 10:30 a.m. the next morning, both dreading the task before them.
"I can't wait to get this morning over with," Laura muttered as they entered the half-filled elevator and Remington pressed the button for the eleventh floor.
"Yes," Remington agreed. "I must admit, I don't relish facing Jack Parsons again, especially with Mrs. Seldon present. God knows she's been through enough the past several days."
"Still, I promised we'd face her enemy with her, and she's determined to do this. We can't back out," Laura reminded him. Remington nodded. "By the way, what else happened at the police station last night?"
"Not much, really," Remington replied as the elevator stopped on six and a couple disembarked. "After they took my statement, they brought in Jack. He eventually confessed to everything."
"Yes, you told me about his confession. I figured he'd confess. He seemed way to nervous over what he had done," Laura said.
"He just got in way over his head, with no apparent way out than to get in deeper," Remington commented as the elevator stopped on their floor.
"Well, it was his own greed that got him into the smuggling business with a crook like Gerald Morgan in the first place. He has no one to blame but himself," Laura said bitterly as they exited the elevator and headed for their office.
"Morning, Boss. Morning, Laura. How are you feeling, hon?" Mildred greeted as they entered the office.
"Fine, Mildred," Laura replied. "After that bout of food poisoning, morning sickness seems like nothing."
"I'm just glad they let you out of the hospital. The doctor said you were okay, right?" Mildred inquired.
"He said I was fine. He suggested I eat lightly today, but otherwise everything's normal," Laura explained as Remington disappeared into his office.
"I thought you two weren't going to be in this morning," Mildred said.
"We just came by to get the papers we found, so we can give them to the police," Laura replied as Remington returned carrying an armful of papers and Marcus Seldon's briefcase. "Once the police found Jack Parsons' illegal cargo and took Remington's and Murphy's statements, they started a full investigation, which may lead to federal charges."
"What about their investigation of Lisel Seldon?" Mildred asked as Laura relieved Remington of the stack of papers in his arms.
"Closed," Remington replied. "Now that the evidence has been stacked up against Jack Parsons, the police have dropped all charges against Lisel Seldon. Especially since Jack actually confessed to killing both Gerald Morgan and Marcus Seldon. He explained how he stole the gun from Mrs. Seldon's bedside table and used gloves, so Mrs. Seldon's fingerprints were still on the gun. Jack then used the gun to confront Morgan. He was supposed to go to Morgan's that night to pay him more blackmail money. That's what the Swiss bank account was for. Instead, he ended up killing Morgan and taking everything he could find that might incriminate him. It was either nerves or clumsiness that kept him from finding the safe and the stock reports he had given Morgan earlier."
"Then answer this," Mildred began. "I know Parsons killed Seldon to keep from being ruined by him, but why did he kill Morgan?"
"Ah, because Morgan was blackmailing Parsons," Remington explained. "Morgan decided that he wanted to take over Seldon Imports, so he could expand their smuggling operation. They were already smuggling almost anything that would return a profit, but complete control of Seldon Imports would give Morgan more access to more of Seldon Imports' ships than the one Jack Parsons was able to provide. So, Morgan threatened to tell Seldon everything unless Parsons got him information he could use in a take-over of Seldon Imports."
"Only Morgan got greedier, and decided that he wanted to bankrupt the company and ruin Marcus Seldon as well," Laura added. "So, he demanded massive amounts of money from Parsons knowing that Parsons would have to embezzle funds from Seldon Imports in order to pay. It was a perfect plan to bring Seldon Imports down and tighten the noose around Jack Parsons' neck. More than likely, Morgan was planning to dump his partner as soon as he'd gotten everything he needed from him."
"Mm . . . only Jack didn't agree with Morgan's plans, so he decided that killing Morgan was the only way to stop him," Remington said.
"And when Marcus Seldon threatened to expose him, Jack had to kill him, too. He then framed Mrs. Seldon, in order to keep himself from becoming a suspect," Laura concluded.
"Poor Mrs. Seldon," Mildred said sympathetically. "How's she holding up?"
"Better than most," Laura admitted, her dread returning with the thought of the duty ahead. "We're supposed to meet her at the police station. She insists on seeing Parsons."
"Yes, and we'd better get going if we want to meet her there," Remington said, glancing at his watch.
"Oh, alright. Well, see you later, Mildred," Laura said, heading out the door.
"Bye, Mildred," Remington called as he followed his wife out of the office.
Laura and Remington sat on opposite sides of Mrs. Seldon in the interrogation room at the police station. Laura noticed Mrs. Seldon's hands shaking, and she put her hand on the lady's shoulder for comfort.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this, Mrs. Seldon?" Laura asked.
"Yes. I am certain. I won't be able to go on with my life until I do this," Mrs. Seldon explained, her voice shaking as much as her hands. She looked at both her companions and managed a smile. "It does help me to have you both here. You have been so kind to me, and have helped me so much the past few days. I will always be grateful to you, but I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you for all you've done."
"Well, it's our pleasure, Mrs. Seldon," Remington consoled. "We're just happy to have cleared you and put the real culprit behind bars."
"Besides, we promised to face the guilty party with you. Nothing could make us break that promise," Laura assured.
"Mm-hm," Remington agreed. "After all, Remington Steele's word is his bond. And that goes for his associates as well." He flashed a proud look to his wife.
"Mrs. Seldon," Laura began uncomfortably, "what will you do now? With the business, I mean."
"Marcus left me everything, including control of Seldon Imports. I have decided to continue the business, as a legacy to my husband," Mrs. Seldon answered, tears forming in her eyes. "It will be very difficult, but I believe I know the business well enough to run it. It will take a lot of time and money to undo the damage Jack and Gerald have done, but I've already begun correcting things. She patted her purse. Laura shot Remington a puzzled look, and he returned one. Before they could press Mrs. Seldon for a further explanation, the back door opened, and a guard escorted Jack Parsons into the room.
The trio sat up staunchly as Jack shuffled in and sat opposite them. His weary, unshaven face bore a look of defeat, and the faded prison uniform was a sharp contrast to the three-piece suit he had worn the day before. He looked down at the table, refusing to meet Mrs. Seldon's gaze.
"Do you have anything to say to me, Jack?" Mrs. Seldon asked calmly after a moment of silence, her voice soft but cold.
"What could I say? I'm sorry you had to get involved, and I'm sorry for hurting you, Lisel. I never meant to hurt you," Jack said pathetically, still refusing to make eye contact. Laura and Remington stared at him with disgust, silently defending Mrs. Seldon.
"You did hurt me, Jack," Mrs. Seldon replied. "More than you could ever imagine. Because of your greed, I lost my husband, two people whom I thought were close friends, and nearly lost my freedom by being arrested for crimes I did not commit." Jack remained silent, staring at his clenched, cuffed hands on the table. "Look at me, Jack. At least have the courage to look me in the eye." Jack slowly lifted his eyes, meeting the hardened stare of the woman across from him.
"I want you to know this, Jack. No matter what you have done, you haven't destroyed me. I will find a way to go on without Marcus in my life, no matter how hard it will be. I will undo the damage you have done to my husband's company, no matter what it takes. I will never let you defeat me, or Marcus' memory." Mrs. Seldon reached into her purse and pulled out two folded papers. "You will have to face up to all you have done, Jack, as well as the consequences that follow." She laid one of the papers before him. "That is your official notice of termination of employment. And this," she said, laying the second set of papers before him, "is a notice of the civil suit I have filed against you for repayment of all you have taken from Seldon Imports."
Laura and Remington exchanged glances of shock, amazed at the strength an determination Mrs. Seldon was displaying.
Mrs. Seldon stared at Jack, emotion finally breaking through her cold facade. She watched him piteously as he took the papers from the table.
"It is so odd," she finally said softly. "I was so hurt, so angry at you when I found out you killed Marcus. I hated you, more than I have ever hated anyone. I wondered how the man I had known for so long could ever do this. Now, I realize that you aren't the man I knew. He was kind, caring, generous, and a wonderful friend to both Marcus and I. The Jack Parsons I considered my friend is dead; killed by greed. You're not that Jack. You're a coward, fuelled only by selfishness. I don't hate you anymore, Jack. I feel sorry for you. We both have to live with what you have done, but you are left with nothing, which I believe was your biggest fear. I truly pity you, Jack." Mrs. Seldon rose from her seat, with Remington and Laura following her cue. Laura noticed Mrs. Seldon's eyes beginning to water, and she put her hand on the woman's arm for comfort.
"Good-bye, Jack. May God have mercy on you," Mrs. Seldon said, her voice cracking slightly. Laura noticed the tears flowing down Jack's face as he stared at the papers in his hands. He is almost pitiful, Laura thought as Remington put his arm around Mrs. Seldon's shoulders and guided her out. Laura gave one last disapproving glance to Jack as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
"Are you alright, Mrs. Seldon?" Laura asked as Remington patted Mrs. Seldon's shoulder gently, comforting her.
"I will be," Mrs. Seldon replied, her tears finally coming. "That was the hardest thing I think I have ever done. But it is over, and now I can move on."
"Perhaps we should take you home," Remington said.
"No, that is alright. I need time to myself. I have a lot of thinking to do. But thank you so much for all your help," Mrs. Seldon replied, looking at both of them.
"If you need anything, Mrs. Seldon, please, don't hesitate to call," Laura said, squeezing Mrs. Seldon's hand.
"I will remember that. Thank you," Mrs. Seldon said. "Well, it is after eleven-thirty. I should go. I must go to the office today and make preparations for my return to the business world." Remington nodded as he released Mrs. Seldon, and they all walked out of the police station.
"Thank you again, Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele," Mrs. Seldon said as she opened the driver's-side door to her car.
"You're welcome, Mrs. Seldon, and good luck," Remington replied. Mrs. Seldon smiled, climbed into her car and drove away.
"We'd better get back to the office as well. We can stop somewhere on the way and pick up lunch," Laura told Remington. He nodded, signaling to Fred down the street. He looked at Laura and noticed her watching Mrs. Seldon's retreating car, lost in thought.
"Laura? You okay?" he asked her.
"Yeah," Laura sighed, squinting in the bright sunlight. "I just hope everything works out for Mrs. Seldon."
"I'm sure she'll make it work, one way or another," Remington consoled as the limo headed toward them.
"I suppose," Laura said vaguely. She sighed. "It's going to be a long day. I can feel it."
"Well, look on the bright side--it's half over," Remington commented as the limo pulled up to them. "And after work, you can relax for a while."
"If I can," Laura said skeptically.
"You will," Remington assured her, pulling the limo's back door open for Laura. "I guarantee I'll find a way to relax you. In fact, I have a plan that's certain to work."
"Oh? What's that?" Laura asked, pausing to look at Remington curiously before climbing into the limo. Remington smiled mysteriously.
"Trust me, Mrs. Steele," he answered. Laura smiled slightly as they climbed into the limo. Remington slammed the door shut, and the limo slowly pulled away.
Laura sat in the bubble-filled tub, basking in the warmth of the water as it caressed her bare skin, and the tenderness of Remington's touch as he slowly massaged her shoulders. Laura gently laid back, resting her head on Remington's shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her temple gently, enjoying her delicate sigh.
"Relaxed yet?" he asked, his voice low and husky in her ear.
"Mm . . . very," Laura replied, smiling as she closed her eyes.
"Amazing what a warm bath can do, eh?" he asked, continuing to plant loving kisses on her temple.
"Especially when taken with the one you love," Laura agreed, covering his arms with hers.
"Ah, well, those are the best kind," Remington said. "Especially when you want to relax after a difficult day at the office."
"Yes, and it was difficult," Laura admonished. "Poor Mrs. Seldon. I wonder what's going to happen to her."
"Well, she now owns Seldon Imports. That will at least keep her busy," Remington pointed out.
"Yes, but she's without a president and vice-president to run it," Laura countered.
"True, but she knows enough about the business to be able to run it herself. Remember, she was there when her husband started the business, and she worked along-side him for twelve years. Besides, a woman running things isn't quite so unheard of," Remington added, squeezing Laura playfully.
"Well, it isn't easy. And losing her husband and two closest friends will be difficult to cope with."
"Mm. She'll have a hard time of it, no doubt. However, she struck me as a strong woman. I think she'll have the strength to go on. Besides, that's all she can do."
"`Because that's the only choice any of us ever have,'" Laura quoted Remington's past advice.
"Hm . . . a wise man must have told you that one," Remington teased. Laura grinned.
"A very wise man," she agreed. "And a very loving one." Laura nuzzled her head against his and turned it toward him. He kissed her forehead softly. "You're going to make a wonderful father, Harry."
"Think so, eh?" he asked.
"I know so," Laura replied. Remington sighed.
"Well, it's good to know you have such confidence in me. I must confess, the thought of it all frightens me a little. I mean, I don't know anything about being a parent."
"And I do?" Laura admonished. "You're not the only one scared by the prospect of becoming a parent. I don't know any more about it than you do."
"Yes, but at least you had parents to raise you. You saw how they took care of you; how they taught you. I never had that growing up," Remington argued, finally releasing his anxieties.
"What about Daniel? I think he did a pretty good job of teaching you right and wrong. Even if he taught you a bit more of the latter," she teased. "He still helped mold you into the charming, loving man I fell in love with," Laura said quietly, stroking his arms softly. Remington kissed her head again.
"Maybe," Remington admonished. "But that wasn't until I was fourteen."
"Still, you know enough to make a wonderful father," Laura consoled.
"And you will make a wonderful mother," Remington replied, squeezing her again.
"I hope so," Laura said quietly.
"You don't think you will?" Remington asked, sensing Laura's anxiety.
"Well, I didn't do a very good job with Frances' kids," Laura admitted.
"Laura, you can't judge yourself on one night with someone else's kids. Give yourself a little credit," Remington comforted. "Admit it, it's a scary prospect. But we can do it together. We'll learn how to be good parents together. We have all those books I bought last night to help us. And I'm sure you're family will be more than willing to help out, right?"
"I suppose so," Laura replied, smiling and squeezing his arms. "I'm so lucky to have you here to take care of me."
"Well, I'll certainly do my best, starting with taking care of the two of you now. I'm going to make certain you don't over-extend yourself," Remington scolded. Laura turned to face him, smiling seductively.
"Does that begin tonight?" she whispered.
"That begins right now," Remington answered, wrapping his arms around Laura's torso and pulling her to him.
"Now?" Laura asked, disappointment seeping into her chocolate eyes.
"Yes. Starting now, you're taking things as slowly as possible," Remington instructed, smiling seductively. Laura returned his smile, understanding the true meaning hidden in his words. She moved as close to him as possible, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She leaned in, meeting him in a slow, passionate, loving kiss. They parted, and Laura stared into the endless depths of Remington's eyes.
"It's always nice to take things slowly," Laura whispered breathlessly, her pulse increasing at the feel of Remington's body against hers.
"Will you be alright tonight? Honestly?" Remington asked with concern.
"Yes. I promise," Laura said softly, stroking his ebony hair. "Besides, I want to enjoy this while it lasts. I don't think you'll desire me very much when I'm the size of a house."
"I'll always desire you, Laura," Remington whispered. "I've desired you since the day we met; since the moment I first saw you. I can't imagine anything ever changing that. Even when you become a little larger on the front than usual." He smiled gently, melting Laura's heart, the way he always did.
"I love you so much, Harry," Laura whispered, her moistening eyes displaying the intensity of her emotions.
"I love you, too, Laura. With all my heart," Remington returned. He pulled Laura into another long, passionate kiss. Their lips finally parted, and Laura tilted her head back as Remington slowly kissed her neck and shoulders. Laura clung to him, her eyes closed, completely aware of the heat from Remington's mouth, and the sensations he was awakening in her. She leaned forward again, meeting his upturning mouth with intense desire. Remington wound his arms up her back, wrapping his fingers over her shoulders. He leaned back onto the wall of the tub, pulling Laura with him. She followed willingly, laying on top of him as he slid his arms down her torso, his hands slowly caressing her. They lay together amid the bubbles, immersed in their passions as the water lapped gently against the sides of the tub.
The cool evening breeze caused the falling leaves to dance down the suburban streets. The large plantation-style houses lining the street glowed with inner lights.
The like-new, two-story home of the Steeles was large enough to make even their neighbors a bit envious. Remington had insisted on all the emenities--a pool, complete with a cabana; a jacuzzi bathtub in the master bedroom's adjoining bathroom; several bedrooms, including a large room that would become the nursery for their expected child; a full dining room adjoined to a spacious kitchen; a large living room, which included a huge, stone fireplace; and a big yard for their future children to play in. They had moved in a month after Laura had discovered she was pregnant, and had spent the next two months unpacking and decorating. Both Remington and Laura loved their house, mainly because it felt like a real home. More importantly, it was their home.
A warm fire illuminated the western half of the spacious living room. Laura Steele sat on the light gray couch, staring at the console television in front of her. The movie she and Remington had been watching was ending, and Remington had gone upstairs to fetch the TV Guide from their bedside table to see what they would watch next.
Laura glanced from the television to the mantle clock on her right. Remington had been gone for an awfully long time. Laura's eyes scanned the living room. She really loved this room. They had decorated it together--for the most part. Remington's most significant contribution was the movie poster collection over the couch. Still, everything about the room reminded Laura of their happiness, from the wedding portraits to the new furniture they had bought together as husband and wife. Their strongest memories of their new home were embedded in this room. Especially by the fireplace.
Laura smiled as she thought of their first night in their new house. They didn't have any furniture or electricity, so Remington suggested "camping out" in front of the fireplace using Laura's old comforter as a mattress and various blankets and pillows. Their evening began with conversations of the future . . . of what it would be like to be parents. They expressed their love to each other in the sweetest of words, then in the sweetest of movements. Laura felt her cheeks warm with the memory of their seemingly-endless lovemaking under the glow of a roaring fire. Their love for each other seemed to be represented in this room. The only thing missing now to represent their love was her husband.
Laura looked at the clock again. It didn't take that long to get to their upstairs bedroom.
Laura rose from the couch and walked up the stairs, curious as to where her husband had disappeared to. She knew it didn't take ten minutes to fetch a magazine. Suddenly, a knowing smile spread across her face. She had a pretty good idea where he had ended up.
Laura slowly approached the open door of the nursery. The room was dark, illuminated by the faint light of dusk from outside and the light coming in from the hallway. Laura stood in the doorway, watching as Remington bent over the crib opposite her. She could hear him speaking softly, pleasantly. Laura smiled, leaning up against the door's frame and crossing her arms. She watched Remington with pure adoration and delight. It still amazed her that this man--who had survived such a harsh childhood, had become such a tough, savvy detective, and had been so strong and supportive for her over the years--could become such a softie around his child.
Laura slowly entered the room as Remington reached into the crib, lifting his tiny daughter into his arms. A huge grin covered his face as he stared at his child. He cradled her gently, making his way toward the rocking chair near the foot of the crib. As he sat in the chair, Laura switched on the small lamp on top of the dresser, near the door. Remington looked up as Laura approached.
"I thought I said not to disturb her, since I just put her down to sleep," Laura scolded, unable to keep the smile from showing through her gruff expression.
"I know," Remington said guiltily. He looked gently into his daughter's blue eyes. "But I've barely held her all day, and I just wanted to rock her for a bit."
Laura's expression melted into softness as she squatted next to the rocker. She stroked the back of Remington's ebony hair, then reached up to stroke the baby's head. Her tiny head was covered in black hair, which lay flat against her silky skin. A simple glance of the baby's features and Remington's left no doubt that she was very much his child.
"She looks so much like you," Laura commented, looking up into the delight in Remington's face.
"You really think so?" he asked, his smile widening.
"Absolutely. She didn't get that hair and those eyes from me," Laura answered.
"Well, I promise, the next child will look like you. I'll see to it," Remington teased.
"Oh, you will, will you?" Laura laughed. She watched as Remington touched his daughter's hand. The baby grasped his finger tightly. Remington chuckled.
"Do you see that?" he asked Laura. "She knows her daddy. My daughter is brilliant. An absolute genius."
"Our daughter, thank you," Laura corrected. "I'm the one that went through nine hours of labor. I'd like a little credit, if you don't mind."
"Of course I give you credit," Remington said, looking at Laura. "You know how completely in love with you I am for giving her to me."
Laura smiled at him affectionately. "I know," she said. She stretched her face up to his and kissed him tenderly. Remington returned her kiss with one of his own. They broke their kiss as the baby fussed in protest.
"I think we were crowding her," Laura said, laughing and stroking the baby's head again.
"Or maybe she feels left out," Remington replied. "Don't worry, darling," he said to the child, "Mommy and Daddy will always love you, too. Yes . . . " he beamed, shaking the child's hand playfully. Laura watched him with total adoration. It still amazed her how much she had grown to love this man.
"You really like being a daddy, don't you?" Laura asked as Remington delighted in his daughter's huge yawn.
"More than I ever dreamed possible," Remington confessed. "I just can't believe that I'm holding this perfect little life that I helped to create. Someone who will always be there. Someone who will always belong to me."
"The family you've always wanted," Laura said, realizing the truth.
Remington nodded. "Yes," he whispered, his eyes watering slightly. Laura rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. Remington looked at Laura. "Hard to believe that two women in my life would have such an effect on me."
"Well, I guess the right women just came along," Laura responded.
"Well, one in particular," Remington said, smiling at Laura lovingly.
Laura kissed him again. She looked at the baby as they broke their kiss, and noticed her eyes drooping.
"Harry, she's sleepy. I really think you should put her down for the night," Laura advised.
"Mm, I suppose," Remington agreed reluctantly.
"Don't worry . . . you have a long time to hold her. A lifetime," Laura said.
"Yes," Remington whispered. "A lifetime . . . the three of us. Or four, perhaps," he said pointedly.
"Perhaps," Laura acknowledged, smiling. "There might be a son further down the road." Remington grinned. Laura looked pointedly at the baby.
Remington rose slowly, careful not to disturb his now-sleeping daughter. He gently laid the baby in the crib and covered her with her blanket. Laura slid up beside him, and he put his arm around her. They stood silently, staring at their daughter.
"She's so perfect, Laura," Remington whispered.
Laura squeezed him gently. "I'm glad you approve. I think our efforts proved rather successful," Laura replied.
"Mm, and we certainly put in a lot of effort to conceive, didn't we?" Remington teased.
Laura chuckled as he kissed her forehead. "Yes, we did. Even after we found out I was pregnant," Laura returned.
"Well, we had to be sure," Remington said. Laura grinned. She looked again to the baby.
"We'd better go, so we don't disturb her. After all, she'll probably be up in a few hours, ready to eat."
"True. I guess we'd better go." Remington grinned at Laura. "Maybe we can go work on giving her a brother, eh?"
"Let's give it a little time before we decide to have another one. I'd like to learn how to take care of this one first." Remington's face fell slightly. "Of course, we could . . . practice, at least. After all, it has been a while, hasn't it?"
"Yes, it has," Remington whispered. "But I wanted to give you plenty of time to recover from Danielle's birth."
"I know. Thank you for being so patient," Laura whispered. She kissed him gently.
"Well, I've waited for you before. So long as it didn't take four years this time, I was willing to wait again," Remington teased. Laura smirked at him. Remington leaned down, kissing Laura passionately. Laura pulled away slowly, taking Remington's hand and pulling him toward the doorway. She reached over to turn out the lamp. As Laura extinguished the light, she noticed a faraway look in Remington's eyes.
"What is it?" she asked, touching his arm as he stared at the crib.
"Nothing really," he murmured. He glanced to Laura's concerned expression. "I just . . . I was just wishing Daniel could have seen her."
"I know," Laura said, hugging him comfortingly. "But I'm sure he knows all about his namesake."
"Yeah," Remington smiled. "I'm sure he'd be very touched to know that you decided to name her after him."
"Well, we both decided on her name. I just suggested she be named after her grandparents. It was just as much to appease my mother as to honor your father," Laura replied.
"Yes," Remington chuckled. "I think you're mother's rather disappointed that we're not calling her Abigail."
"She'll get over it," Laura dismissed.
"Well, I don't care what we call her, so long as she always knows her name. Danielle Abigail Steele. I don't ever want her to forget that," Remington murmured.Laura patted his shoulder comfortingly.
"I don't think she could ever forget a name like Danielle Steele. She'll always have her name. Just like you," Laura said, wrapping her arm around his waist.
"Thanks to you," Remington said, caressing her cheek. Laura took his hand and kissed it.
"Let's go," she whispered huskily.
"To the bedroom?" Remington whispered seductively. Laura grinned.
"No," she replied, a daring look crossing her face. "Let's go downstairs. To the fireplace." Remington grinned.
"What a wonderful idea, Mrs. Steele," he said. Laura smiled as he leaned in for another kiss. "Just like old times." He kissed her once more. "So, why don't we go get started on that practice, eh?" Laura nodded, taking his hand again and leading him from the nursery.
"Sweet dreams, Danni," Remington whispered as he closed the door and followed his wife downstairs.