ISN’T STEELE ROMANTIC?
By: Patricia Schnell
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #7
Summary: Remington sends Laura on a wild goose chase all over town.
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.
Laura Holt-Steele sighed, as she tapped her delicate fingernails upon the handsome hardwood desk. It was the holiday season, and business was dead at Remington Steele Investigations. As she had once said to her partner, they were 'fresh out of juicy murders' -- or any other case of interest. Laura herself was steeped in ennui.
Her husband and polar opposite, Remington Steele, was delighted by the turn of events. He was currently 'going for the burn' at his gym. Mildred Krebs, their faithful assistant/surrogate mother, had also availed herself of the lull and was visiting her sister and nephew in Seattle.
Left to her own devices, Laura had too much time to reflect upon the past year's events. I can't believe that Mr. Steele...Reming-ton...and I have been married for almost a year! Not entirely legally, but it feels real. At least I know that the way I feel about him is real, she mused absently, dragging up in her mind the peculiar circumstances that had led them to wedlock.
The charming con-man with no name and a mysterious past had stepped into the fictional shoes of Laura's invented boss, Remington Steele, a few years past. She could have never suspected what would follow. At first suspicious associates, their relationship had transformed into one of trusting friends, culminating into a bumpy romance.
Laura had agreed to marry Steele illegally, to keep him from being deported while maintaining her own emotional escape route. But the sham marriage had exposed true feelings, and they had lived happily together for months as man and wife. If only the marriage was legit. Then everything would be perfect, Laura sighed again to herself.
She rose from her chair, and moved to her filing cabinets, to busy herself with tidying the already immaculate files. I'm glad that Remington doesn't know what I'm doing. He'd accuse me again of being unable to relax. she chuckled a little. And he'd be right.
Laura paused when she found something unexpected. In front of the first hanging file was a plain white legal-sized envelope, addressed to the Remington Steele agency. No postage, no return address, neatly typed--in short, nothing that would reveal it's origins.
Shaking her chestnut hair, Laura slowly unsealed the mysterious envelope. I wonder how this ended up in here. Mildred is far too efficient to do something like this. She always makes certain every piece of mail is handled and distributed. With a wry smile she thought, And Remington never touches the mail if he can help it. What is this?
The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” popped into her head as she began to read. And the message was curious. "The key to a great mystery can be found on the carousel at Santa Monica Pier. A ride upon the green horse with gold bridle and tassels will begin to clarify the situation. Jake will help you with the rest."
"The pier, carousel horses--Jake? This is very strange," the lovely detective muttered to herself. "This can't be on the level. Remington must be playing at something," her naturally suspicious nature warned. "But--it wouldn't hurt anything to check it out."
She decided to have Fred escort Remington to the pier when he finished at the gym. In the meantime, the allure of a carousel ride piqued her interest. This could be kind of fun, Laura enthused as she trotted out of the office.
Laura was unable to reach her husband by phone. Apparently both Steele and Fred were out of the limo. So, she reminded herself to call again later.
The weather was California-perfect, and she put the top down on her tiny convertible, for the short drive to the Santa Monica Pier.
The crowds were light and scattered on this work day, and Laura was pleased to nab a prime parking place, immediately adjacent to the antique carnival ride. Laura endeavored to present a cool, professional image as she approached the entrance to the ride. She still treasured her own toy carousel, a gift from a grateful client, and had to stifle the child inside who wanted to clap her hands and skip in delight.
"One, please," she informed the ride attendant in her best pear-shaped tones, feigning boredom when she received her ticket.
This wasn't just any merry-go-round. Each of the 46 hand-carved horses on the seventy-year-old carousel had been lovingly restored to its original splendor. She had no difficulty locating the green one with gold tack, it was the proudest one of the bunch. Caught up in the organ-grinder music and rhythmic, bobbing motion, Laura was startled to find the ride quickly over.
Maybe I'll go just one more time. I don't want to overlook any clues that I may find, she decided, paying for another go. And the situation hasn't clarified itself.
It still hadn't after that whirl around. In fact, Laura Holt-Steele--P.I.--took a total of four rides before she reluctantly hopped off, and began questioning the attendant.
"Excuse me, sir," she inquired of the burly carney, "do you know of anyone named Jake?"
He stared down at the shifting feet beneath his bulk, before answering. "I might. Who wants to know?" he responded, his voice low and his manner surly. The man's head loomed a good foot above Laura's elegant one.
Flashing her license, Ms. Determined-Detective announced: "My name is Laura Holt-Steele. I work for the Remington Steele Agency. We received a tip about a case we are working on, that we should speak to a Jake, who must have some connection to this carousel ride. I just want to talk to him, you can trust me. I'm not here to make trouble," she assured, while displaying her most dazzling smile.
"Did you marry your boss? Is that how you became a P.I., honey?" he grinned at annoyed detective. "Oh, don't get your shorts in a bind, babe. Just having a little fun," the carney said, as he saw her face darken with anger. "My name's Jake. Whadda you want?"
"I want to know what you know about this," she thrust the mysterious note into his face, "it was left in our office, and we want to know what is all about. Do you have any idea?"
Jake considered the message, while Laura put a leash on her temper. "All I know is that some guy showed up yesterday, and gave me a hundred to tell anyone that had that note, to go to ticket office number one of at Mann's Chinese Theatres. That's all I know, so..." he tried to walk away but Laura was nothing if not persistent.
"What did the man look like, Jake? About 35, dark hair, blue eyes--very well-dressed?" At the negative shake if his head, she tried again. "Well, what did he look like?"
"He was in his fifties, dark hair and eyes, and kind of messy-looking," Jake snarled, as he pushed past Laura. "I don't have all day to sit around chit-chatting, so take a hike!"
She took the hint, jumped into her car, and drove off in the direction of Hollywood Boulevard.
****Remington Steele stretched his long form lazily, as he lounged in the spacious back seat of the limo. He had told Laura that he was going to the gym to work out—but it hadn't worked out. On the way to his club from the office, the best of intentions had fizzled when Fred had driven past one of Steele's favorite restaurants, The Boulangerie, in Santa Monica. It was a very popular bakery/restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and dinner—and also emitted some of the most heavenly scrumptious odors in the universe. Some of their croissants, a bit of nut-bread, fresh fruit, cafe latte and just a dab of French champagne had completely dampened any athletic enthusiasms for the day. After the brunch interlude, he had directed the limo driver to an address in Hollywood.
It's a good thing that I don't run to fat, Steele mused, brushing some crumbs from his Italian suit and experimentally pinching an inch on his side. He sighed and stifled an incipient yawn. At least, he assuaged his conscience, I picked up some of Laura's favorite wheat bread, and a double-chocolate fudge raspberry torte. So, I'm not going home empty-handed.
Self-righteousness sparked some energy, and he spoke out loud to his chauffeur Fred, as they approached his destination.
"Fred, don't answer any calls. Lying to Mrs. Steele is not one of my strong suits, and I don't want to put you in an awkward position. She doesn't need know about our little secret, just yet. Drop me off here, and I'll check in on our operative," Steele instructed, gracefully exiting the limo when it glided to a halt.
Steele tapped the limo roof twice, and stepped onto the sidewalk of the seedy neighborhood with a debonair flair. Fred glanced back into the rear-view mirror as he pulled away from the curb, and smiled. Never one to call attention to himself, Fred nonetheless admired the former con-man who had become his boss. He watched as Remington Steele disappeared into an old office building for a secret rendezvous.
At approximately the same time as Steele entered the office building, his wife was becomingly increasingly irritated as she drove down Hollywood Boulvard looking for a parking space, phone receiver dangling from her ear.
"Dammit--why isn't Remington or Fred answering the limo phone?" Laura fretted, "What if this were an emergency? I thought the whole point of Remington giving me a phone for the Rabbit, was for us to be able to keep in touch." She knew in her heart though that the main reason was her husband's concern when she flew solo on dangerous assignments. She gave the receiver one last dirty look as she squeezed the car into a parking spot. She got out of the Rabbit, and prepared to cross traffic to reach box-office number one of the Mann Chinese Theatre complex.
A cheap-looking, but pretty young blonde greeted Laura from inside her ticket booth. "One, Ma'am, for the next show?" she inquired politely, as Laura winced at the title.
Out loud, Laura replied, "No, thank you, I'm just want to ask you a couple of questions." To herself she moaned, She called me Ma'am. People usually call me Miss. How old does she think I am? Comforting herself that the girl appeared no older than sixteen (therefore not knowing any better), Mrs. Holt-Steele soldiered on.
"Umm, Nancy," she said, noting the ticket seller's name tag, "my name is Laura Holt Steele and I am a private detective. I have reason to believe that there is a message waiting for me here. Do you happen to know anything about it?" Laura saw that the young girl's expression changed from blandly polite to rapt at the mention of her married name.
"Is Mister Steele here, too?" the girl demanded, as she primped, and provocatively wiggled her annoyingly perfect body.
"No. Mr. Steele is working on--something else right now. Heard of him from the papers, have we?" laughed Laura insincerely. "Do you know anything about this message? I'm really pressed for time."
"I've seen Mr. Steele's picture in the papers, of course," Nancy replied as haughtily as possible while wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, skin-tight leggings, cheap plastic jewelry and four-inch spike heels. "But--I know him personally--he comes in here all the time." She sniffed a couple of times as if to emphasize her point.
Well, well, well, Mrs. Steele marveled, This must be one of his hiding places when he doesn't want to be found, her thoughts continued as she eyed eager Miss Junior Hollywood.
To Nancy she gave a smile. "That's so nice that you've met Remington. But, back to my question. Do you know of any information waiting for me here?"
The ticket girl's mood had deflated to sullen. But she did finally respond to Laura's question. "Yes. A man came in here yesterday, and gave me a hundred dollars to pass this message on to you." She handed a butter-stained note to Laura.
Laura shook her head in annoyance as she read this new anonymous message. "To the victor goes the spoils. Pass go and collect $200, and your ticket to a new mystery at Travelin' Shoes."
"Great. One cryptic note follows another in this case. If Remington is behind this, to keep me busy while he's goofing around..." She stopped her own train of thought when she realized that Nancy was regarding her with the look of someone who feels trapped with a crazy. "Thanks, Nancy. Gotta go. One more thing--what did the man look like, who left this message?"
To her credit, Nancy hung in there, and replied, "He was an older man, about 55, with black hair--kind of scrungy-looking. And I've seen him around the neighborhood. But I don't know his name."
Light dawned in Laura's brain, as she considered the description. George Edward Mulch. George, you and Remington are going to answer to me for this wild goose chase!
"Nancy, thanks again. And I'll give your regards to my husband," Laura breezed away and back to her car. "Like Hell I will," she amended, as she called information to find a listing for Travelin' Shoes. As she had suspected, it was a travel agency, located on Melrose. But first she had a stop to make. At the Hollywood office of one George Edward Mulch.
Mr. Mulch was attempting to eat an egg-salad sandwich, when the impeccably-clad Remington Steele breezed into his dingy little office. George was, for lack of a better word, a 'friend' to the Remington Steele Agency. Really more of hapless problem-child who had been bailed out by Laura and Steele on more than one occasion.
"Steele! How are ya? Want half a sandwich? I got plenty," Mulch said, as he held one soggy half to Steele.
"No, George. But thanks," Steele said, watching distastefully as eggy goo dribbled down Mulch's face and onto his shabby brown suit. Distaste changed to fascination, as more and more dripped on an apparently unaware victim. "George--wipe that," and he helped clean it off himself, in exasperation. "So. Has my lovely bride been here yet looking for you?" At Mulch's shake of his head, Steele continued. "Do you know the script when she does? Just nod, George. Yes, that's it. As I told you, this could be the most important case of our career, and I can't be involved. So make sure that Laura gets all of the information."
Swallowing a couple of times, and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, George addressed Steele. "Our other operatives have just reported in and advise that Mrs. Steele is on her way. I know the script, and I'll make sure that she understands, Steele. I owe you so much. Not the least of which is the thousand bucks you gave me--and helping me with the rent. You're a great guy, Steele, and it's time I paid you back."
"No problem, George. I know that you'd do the same for me." Remington reluctantly took Mulch's outstretched hand, and gave it a little squeeze. He turned and left, checking his right hand for traces of egg-salad, as he made his way back to Fred and the limo.
Steele had barely left, when looking up from the remains of his lunch, George saw a perturbed-looking Laura Holt-Steele barge into his office.
"George Edward Mulch. What are you and Remington up to? I have been dragged all around town," Laura complained, knowing it was not strictly true, but trying to gave her case a ring of authenticity, "following clues to a non-existent mystery. You haven't gotten my husband involved in one of your hare-brained schemes, have you?"
Mulch regarded the angry woman with a placid cow stare, before replying. "Miss Holt..I mean, Mrs. Steele...you haven't been on a wild goose chase. Steele paid me to get you here, eventually, to give you instructions about a new case." Seeing Laura's skeptical face, he added, "the reason for the roundabout diversions is that this case is very complex and challenging. Your husband said it could be the most important case of your careers, but that he can’t be involved, even indirectly. So, he ask me to prep you. That's the truth, I swear." George gave her the Boy Scout salute as proof.
Restraining herself from responding with a salute of a different sort, Laura shook her head while asking, "But, George, why? Mr. Steele and I have always been partners in everything before. I don't understand."
"Mrs. Steele, I don't know for sure, but he gave the impression that this case involves a wealthy, powerful client that Mr. Steele may have met in his previous--career. And in this previous occupation, your husband may have--relieved this client of some valuables. Steele is afraid to be recognized and wants to step back from the case. He said that it's too lucrative a retainer for the agency to miss. So, he wants you to handle it." George finished his story with puppy-dog-eye sincerity.
Laura was trying to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach generated by George's story. So, things are still coming back to haunt us, from his mysterious past. Damn. But I've got too much invested in the agency, and in him, to forget this case. It sounds so fishy, but I'll do what Remington wants. I almost wish that it was some wild lark invented by him. It would have been kind of romantic. She sighed after reviewing her thoughts, and snapped back into the here and now.
"Okay, George. What am I supposed to do?" Laura requested resignedly. I may as well go to my doom in a big way, she thought to herself.
George gave her a run-down of her new mission. She was to go to the travel agency, pick up some sealed travel documents for the client, and receive further instructions from a travel agent there named Susie.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you, George. It's not your fault that Remington and I get involved in kind of cloak-and-dagger stuff. Stay out of mischief, and take care," Mrs. Steele admonished as she departed.
After waiting one minute, George dialed the phone number that Steele had given him. The limo's phone was answered and Mulch left his message. "She fell for it completely, Steele. You’re free to operate at your end. Mulch out," George intoned with satisfaction. This private-eye stuff was pretty fun.
Steele was elated by George's message. "Full speed ahead, Fred. Let's go to Fred Hayman's in Beverly Hills. I'll wait there. I feel like shopping, anyway. And remember to come in and get me, as soon as you receive the call." His chauffeur acknowledged his request with a nod.
Laura was preoccupied, as she drove the little Volkswagen to the travel agency. Here we go again, on another trip down unhappy memory lane. Remington must have been a more productive thief than he admits, to have yet another ghost arise from his past. Is he worth all of the pain we've experienced throughout the years? Yes, he is, I must admit. He can be selfish and shallow sometimes, but he's a good balance against my more pessimistic nature. And for me, he makes the sun come up in the morning, and the stars shine at night. She was tempted to give the limo another ring, but desisted. If he wants to play games, fine. I won't give him the satisfaction of knowing that I'm worried about him. But when I get home, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind about his handling of this affair. Squaring her shoulders resolutely, she pulled into the parking lot of Travelin' Shoes.
Laura entered the travel agency, and asked the receptionist to speak to Susie, as per her introductions. After a moment's wait, an attractive blonde with a cool professional manner, came out to meet her.
"Please, Mrs. Steele, follow me," Susie gestured toward a chair, as she guided Laura into an empty office. "As you probably know by now, we have a very security-conscious client who would like the Remington Steele Agency to do a couple of errands for him." Laura nodded as though she understood, even though she didn't really. "Anyway," the travel agent continued, "Normally these kinds of errands could be handled by his own staff, but there is the security issue. And his own people are under suspicion. So, he had us hire you indirectly, to handle this envelope of travel documents," Susie indicated a large sealed one on her desk, "and to pick up some jewelry he has purchased at Tiffany’s. He would like everything delivered to his home--ASAP. Tiffany's will have his address. You are to ask at the counter for a salesperson named Mr. Butler--and he will fill in the details. I realize that this must seem like an awfully odd request, but the rich really are different. And you will be more than generously reimbursed for your time." She named a sum that made Laura gasp.
"Thank you so much, Susie. We at the Steele agency are always happy to help our clients in any way that we can. Rest assured, that we will handle this case with tact and discretion," Laura said as she collected the package and left the agency. She didn't see the travel agent pick up the phone a moment later, and speak into the receiver.
"She's just leaving now, and is on her way." With that, Susie hung up, and went back to her work.
Fred found Steele considering a green cashmere sweater, when he came to retrieve his boss. "Mr. Steele. It's time. And that color isn't really you, Sir," the trusty driver said, much to Steele's amusement. They headed to the limo.
"Trying to find a parking space on Rodeo is going to be a neat trick," Laura muttered resignedly as she slowly cruised around the celebrated shopping ground to the rich and famous.
Rodeo Drive really only consisted of a few short, affluent suburban blocks, and parking was at a premium. But, that famous Holt luck held, and she was able to find a space only a couple ofblocks from Tiffany's.
After smoothing her trim suit, Laura left the car, and walked the pleasant two blocks to her appointment. She resisted the window-shopping temptation, reminding herself that there was plenty of time for that after completing her assignment. It was difficult, however, to be completely immune to the gorgeously conspicuous consumption on display in every store window. Must be nice to be rich she thought briefly, then, Stop it, Laura, she admonished herself, you have a great life -- even if it isn't one filled with diamonds and Swiss chalets.
Arriving at Tiffany's, she removed her sun-glasses and patted the sealed envelope under her arm. At least this little errand is going to be quite profitable for the agency.
Going to the first glass counter she saw, she asked a somewhat harried-looking woman for Mr. Butler. The salesperson directed Laura to a door behind the counter. "You must be Mr. Butler's three o'clock appointment. Go ahead, Miss, he's waiting for you," and she shooed a somewhat hesitant Laura through the door.
It took a moment for Laura's eyes to adjust to the dim lighting and elegantly subdued decor of the room, after leaving behind the sunny store full of the brilliantly shiny glass cases.
There was just one glass display case in this room, behind which stood an elegant, intimidating, sophisticated gentleman. His last name is certainly appropriate, since he looks as haughty as a butler, Laura thought to herself. And the man sitting down in front of the display case is... Laura's reflections came to a screeching halt, when the man turned to look at her.
The man looking at her with the mischief in his deep blue eyes--was her husband. Laura felt her heart do little flip-flops, as it had the first time she had met him. Something about those eyes and that face. But she forced herself to concentrate on the matter at hand.
"Remington? What are you doing here?" Laura's voice came out squeakily. "I've got to talk to you." Taking him almost forcibly by the arm, she pulled him out of his seat, and urgently whispered into his ear. "You're not supposed to be here. Our client--I mean, you know. You are the one who arranged all this. Why are you looking at me like that? What's going on?" She blushed uncomfortably, realizing that something she didn't know about had the nerve to be happening.
Remington put his arms gently around his wife, then took her face in his hands, and gave her a tender kiss. Laura was blushing rather prettily now, as he explained. "Laura, darling, you've been conned. There is no case, never was a case. I set this all up to bring you here," he glanced around their posh surroundings, "for a very important reason. And I wanted to make the journey entertaining for you. I know how bored you've been, and that Laura Holt can never resist a mystery. So, I gave you one. My present to you--as is this." He guided his still slightly shell-shocked wife to the display case. In it, was a dazzling selection of diamond engagement rings.
Coming out of her daze, Laura looked first at the shimmering diamonds, then to Steele, then back again. Gaining control, she said, "I was so thrown by it all. Just when I thought that you had dreamed the whole case up, it seemed that it was a real case. I can't believe that you fooled me like that." Her tone was light, "And this," she indicated the glass case, "I am so surprised..." Choking back tears, she tried to say, "I'm so happy..." but it came out as just a sniffle.
"Laura, Laura. Don't cry. This is supposed to be a happy occasion. It's not everyday we get engaged and plan our honeymoon in Hawaii," Remington soothed her, as he smoothly took the envelope from her. "See--two first class tickets to Hawaii. I knew that I could rely on you to deliver them safely. All we need to do first, is to get married--properly and legally this time. Forsaking all others, till death do us part and all that. Why don't we sit down, so that you can pick out your ring...Are you all right, Laura? Aren't you supposed to say that you'd marry me all over again?" Steele quipped, smiling at his once and future bride.
Drying the last of her tears, Laura regarded Steele impishly. "Throw in a Swiss chalet with the diamond, and you've got a deal."