PARTNERS OF STEELE
By: Melissa Jones
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #4, #5, & #6
Summary: Murphy is hired to prove that Laura and Remington’s marriage is a fraud.
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.
Denver, Colorado. February, 1987.
It was a bitter night that ended the cold day. Four inches of snow had already fallen on the city, and it didn't appear to be letting up. People in their offices in the downtown district hurried home before things got worse, causing nearly standstill traffic on the freeways. The office buildings stood dark, except for a few, which were dotted with still-lit offices.
Murphy Michaels stood in one of those offices, glancing around the room. Everything was bare, save a few overstuffed boxes haphazardly placed on the desk and floor. Murphy sighed. He'd given three years of his life to this place, but it didn't seem to matter now. So much had happened in the past few weeks. First, he had lost the person closest to him. Then, he'd lost his private detective agency. He knew it was inevitable. He could have saved it, if he had really tried. But now, running the agency alone again, it just didn't seem worth it.
Murphy glanced into the box before him on the desk. He stared sorrowfully at the picture frame lying on top. The picture was of himself and a young girl. Her brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and her green eyes sparkled with merriment. They stood before a massive oak tree, and the sunlight pouring through the leaves created oblong shapes on Murphy and the girl. His brown eyes were glancing adoringly at the girl, his arm resting against the tree behind the girl's head. Murphy stared painfully at the photograph. He felt an ache growing inside his chest, and tears forming in his eyes. He missed Jenna more than he ever thought possible. He knew he'd pushed her away because he'd felt betrayed. She had lied to him about her identity. She had kept her true self from him. And yet, he still loved her. It had been only a week and a half since the argument; since she had left Denver. He had debated going after her, but resisted. Out of pride, he had told himself at the time. Out of stupidity, he now believed.
A knock at the office door brought him back to the present. Murphy moved around the stacked boxes and opened the door. On the other side stood a tall, curly-haired gentleman. His square jaw gave way to a heavily-dimpled chin. He wore a blue button-down shirt and baggy khaki trousers. He looked at Murphy with intensity.
"Murphy Michaels?" the man asked.
"Sorry, pal, but the office is closed," Murphy said half-heartedly, standing in the half-open doorway to bar the man from entering.
"I know you've gone out of business, but I have one last case for you. Only you can do it," the man said.
"I'm sure you can find someone else," Murphy said, beginning to close the door.
"It concerns an old friend of yours who's in trouble," the man said, placing his hand on the door to prevent Murphy from closing it.
"Who?" Murphy asked skeptically.
"Laura," the man answered plainly. Murphy froze. He still felt intensely close to Laura, even though he hadn't seen her in three years. Murphy stepped aside and let the man in. He closed the door behind him.
"Who are you, and how do you know Laura?" Murphy inquired.
"My name is Anthony Roselli. I work for Immigration. I met Laura when she became part of a case."
"I don't understand. Laura's a U.S. citizen."
"True," Tony admonished, walking over to the desk and sitting on the only box-free corner. "But the man she supposedly married isn't."
"What are you talking about? What man? And what do you mean by ‘supposedly married?’ " Murphy asked defensively.
"Approximately three weeks ago, she married her boss, Remington Steele."
"What?!" Murphy cried, shocked.
"They were married twenty minutes before he was scheduled for deportation," Tony baited. "Convenient, don't you think?"
"I don't believe that. Laura would never involve herself in something fraudulent," Murphy said, his anger building.
"I agree. Unless she was blackmailed. I believe Steele's using her. I think he somehow coerced her into a fraudulent marriage, but I need help to prove it. That's where you come in."
Murphy stood quietly for a moment, his anger and confusion almost overwhelming him. In the four years he had known him, he had never trusted Steele, or whoever he was. Murphy had emphatically objected to this con-man taking on the role of the non-existent Remington Steele, whom Laura had invented as a male front for her detective agency. But Laura had insisted that she knew what she was doing, and that she would keep control. When Murphy left L.A. three years ago for Denver, his greatest hesitation was the fear of what Steele would pull once Murphy wasn't around to protect Laura. Laura had assured him that she would be fine. That seemed to be true. Through letters and phone calls, Murphy had gathered that things were good between Laura and Steele, and that he may have been changing into a more honest, responsible person, as well as a good detective. So much for that idea.
"If Steele's manipulated Laura in any way, and I'm not saying he has," Murphy recovered from revealing his suspicions, "but if he has, I want to know exactly how and why. I don't want Laura hurt in any way."
"I thought you'd feel that way. I did a check on you, and I know you and Laura go way back. I figured you'd cooperate," Tony said, pleased.
"Just tell me exactly what it is you want me to do, and why. What's your stake in this?" Murphy inquired, still untrusting of Tony.
"I just want you to get me proof that the marriage is illegal. Proof that Steele didn't marry her out of love. Proof that he manipulated her into a marriage of convenience. You're an old friend and colleague. You can get close to them. They'll confide in you. Especially Laura," Tony explained.
"And what do you expect out of this? Is your interest purely business, or is it Laura you're really after?" Murphy let his suspicions slip from his doubting thoughts.
"Steele's a fraud. He thinks he can slip through the system. I just want to prove him wrong," Tony said emotionlessly. Murphy obviously didn't believe a word. "You'll be paid well for your time and travel, Mr. Michaels. All you have to do is get close to them. Talk to them, follow them, bug their place if you have to. Just get me the info I need to put Steele away."
Murphy pondered the task for a few moments. His eyes fell to the photo in the box. What have I got to lose? I've already lost everything, he thought.
"I'll take your case. But I'm going just to find out the truth, not to tell you just what you want to hear. If Steele's innocent, and he and Laura really are in love, then that's what you'll get. But I want no interference from you or Immigration in this. I'll handle this my way. My first priority is to make sure Laura comes out of this without being hurt. I won't do anything to deliberately hurt her, understand?"
Tony smiled triumphantly. "Perfectly," he purred.
Los Angeles, California. Two days later.
A young brunette stood outside the door of Remington Steele Investigations, staring at the silver lettering on the glass door. Her green eyes focused on the portly blond sitting at the desk just inside the door. The brunette pushed the door open and entered, glancing around at the red-walled modern office.
"May I help you?" the blond woman asked politely.
"Uh, yes, Ms. ...Krebs," the brunette answered, glancing at the nameplate at the front of the desk. "I'm looking for Laura Holt. Is she in?"
"You mean Mrs. Steele," Mildred Krebs told her, a knowing smile spreading across her face. "I'm afraid she's not in yet."
"Mrs. Steele?" the brunette asked unbelievingly. "You're kidding, right?"
"No. She and Mr. Steele were married about three weeks ago," Mildred answered, puzzled by the girl's reaction.
"I don't believe it," the brunette muttered, staring off into space.
"I take it you know Mrs. Steele," Mildred probed.
"Not as well as I thought," the girl admonished. "Um, do you know when she'll be in?"
"It should be any time now. She and Mr. Steele were meeting with a prospective client. You're welcome to wait," Mildred motioned to the gray couch to her right.
"Thanks," said the brunette, moving toward the couch. She turned at the sound of the office door opening behind her. A tall, handsome man strode confidently into the office. He wore a black suit and a blue shirt, which set off the deep blue of his eyes. His black hair was parted on the left and neatly combed over. He stopped at Mildred's desk, and stared at the brunette, a charming smile decorating his clean-shaven face.
"Good morning," he said in a light British accent. The brunette smiled, entranced.
"She's here to see Mrs. Steele, sir," Mildred said. The man nodded.
"Well, Mrs. Steele will be along shortly. In the meantime, perhaps I can help you. Miss...?" he inquired, extending his hand. The brunette walked up to him and took his hand, shaking it softly.
"Holt. I'm Laura's sister," the brunette answered, smiling. She stopped shaking his hand, but was reluctant to release it just yet.
"I thought Laura's sister was named Frances," the man tested, his eyes narrowing slightly in suspicion.
"Her older sister is Frances. Her younger sister is Jenna. That's me," Jenna answered, still smiling.
"Ah, yes, of course! The prodigal," he realized, his suspicions dropping. "Well, it's always a pleasure to meet my new sister-in-law," he said, shaking her hand again with vigor.
"You're Remington Steele?" the girl said in amazement. "Wow. I'm going to have to have a talk with Laura about her understatements." Her eyes wandered up and down his body.
"I beg your pardon?" Remington answered, confused.
Jenna smiled broadly. "Never mind," she said coyly, finally dropping his hand. "Well, Mr. Steele, would you mind informing me how and when you became my brother-in-law? I mean, apparently my invitation to the wedding got lost in the mail."
"Actually, Laura sent them a few days ago."
"A few days ago? Isn't that a wee bit late?"
"It's...a bit complicated. Perhaps Laura should explain," Remington said uncomfortably.
"Oh, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you clued me in," Jenna said sweetly. Remington laughed, more uncomfortable than before.
The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of another brunette, a few years older than Jenna. The woman stopped at the sight of Jenna. Her eyes lit up in amazement, then in joy.
"Jenna!" she cried out, extending her arms and embracing Jenna. Jenna smiled and eagerly returned the embrace.
"Hey, Laura," Jenna smiled. She pulled away and gave Laura a questioning look, her eyebrows upraised. "Or should I say, Mrs. Steele?"
"Ah...hah," Laura laughed, squirming. "So you know about that, do you?" She glanced at Remington and Mildred, trying to discover the loose-lipped culprit.
"Mm-hmm, but not as much as I will know about it," Jenna said, a note of saccharine dripping from her voice.
"Yes, well, it's a long story."
"Well, it just so happens that I'm going to be here for a few days, so I have time to hear the whole tale," Jenna replied, trapping Laura. "Which reminds me," she said, stealing a glance at Remington again. "I need to explain to you the difference between ‘fairly attractive’; your words, and ‘drop-dead gorgeous’; reality." She eyed Remington one more time and flashed a smile at him as Laura laughed aloud.
"Back off, sis, he's mine," Laura teased in a low voice. She smiled at Remington, who seemed more puzzled than ever.
"Laura! I'm shocked that you would suggest such a thing!" Jenna protested mockingly. "I'm merely stating that you have a gift for understatement."
"Well, maybe I did understate things a bit," Laura smiled, glancing affectionately at Remington. Remington returned the smile uncomfortably, color slightly tinting his cheeks.
"So, do I get the story?" Jenna pressed.
"Um, soon. Actually, we have a case to start on, and I still have a few errands to run...which reminds me," Laura said, crossing back to Mildred's desk. "Mildred, I need you to get on the computer and give me everything you can on Charles Grey Fairchild, Jr. Make a note of anything he's done in the past few weeks--credit card transactions, bank transactions, rentals, anything."
"Gotcha," Mildred said, swiveling her chair around to the computer and imputing the commands.
"Murder suspect?" Jenna asked, approaching the desk.
"Missing person," Laura answered, turning to Jenna.
"Mmm...his mother said he's been missing for several weeks, and she wants us to find him," Remington added.
"Ah, I see," Jenna said. "Well, mind if I tag along on this case? I've had a bit of detective training."
"That's right! You were working for a small agency last I heard. Are you still in the same place?" Laura asked. Jenna's face clouded over briefly with sorrow, but it disappeared almost before it could be detected and was replaced by a forced smile.
"No, it didn't work out," Jenna said, a hint of sorrow and disappointment in her voice.
"I'm sorry, Jenna," Laura said, grasping Jenna's left upper arm comfortingly. She released it and smiled. "Well, we'd love to have your help, right, Mr. Steele?" Laura turned to Remington and flashed him a pleading look.
"Oh, absolutely, Mrs. Steele," Remington agreed enthusiastically. "That will give me a chance to get to know my new sister-in-law." Laura smiled gratefully at him.
"Well, now that that's settled, where are you staying?" Laura asked, turning back to Jenna.
"Oh, a small motel over on Sunset," Jenna answered.
"Sunset! I've seen some of those places. You shouldn't be there, Jenna. It's too dangerous," Laura cried, concerned.
"It's all right. I can take care of myself. I've been in worse places before," Jenna replied, dismissing Laura's worry.
"I must agree, it is a bit dangerous," Remington advised. Laura brightened.
"I've got it! You can stay with us!" Laura said. Remington shot her an alarmed look.
"Oh, no, I couldn't impose on you guys like that, especially on newlyweds," Jenna protested.
"Nonsense, we'd love to have you, wouldn't we dear?" Laura asked Remington in a slightly challenging tone.
"Oh, definitely," Remington caved. "I mean, we just have the couch, but it's comfortable, and you'd be no imposition, I assure you."
"Well, if it's no trouble..." Jenna relented.
"None," Laura assured. Jenna smile gratefully.
"Great. Thanks a lot, both of you," Jenna said.
"Well, it will be a while before those computer results come in, so why don't we go into my office and talk, and I'll tell you all about our weddings," Laura said, pointing Jenna toward her office.
"Weddings? Plural? Oh, good. I can't wait to hear this," Jenna replied, smiling brightly. Laura laughed uncomfortably and glanced at Remington for assistance. Remington winked and smiled at Laura.
"Well, I certainly don't want to intrude on such a wonderful family reunion, so I'll go to my office and, um...make reservations for all of us to have lunch together. How does that sound?" Remington asked, evading Laura's predicament.
"Sounds good," Jenna smiled. She and Laura headed toward Laura's office, and Remington moved toward his. The three stopped inside the doorways at the sound of the glass office door opening and a deep voice addressing Mildred.
"Hi, I'm looking for Laura Holt. Is she in?" Murphy Michaels inquired, standing at the end of Mildred's desk and staring at her.
"Murphy!" Laura cried from her doorway. She ran over to Murphy and threw her arms around his neck.
"Laura! Hey!" Murphy exclaimed, hugging her tightly.
Remington moved back into the reception area, followed by Jenna. He glanced at Jenna, amazed and concerned by the drastic change in her appearance. Her face was rapidly draining of color to become a ghostly white. Her breath came in short, rapid intervals. Her features displayed a mixture of shock and aching. Her eyes were fixed intently on Murphy, and they began watering. Remington inched closer to Jenna, and touched her forearm delicately. Jenna seemed to snap back into the present. She glanced at Remington, forced a smile for him, and quickly composed herself. Remington glanced back and forth between Jenna and Murphy, trying to abate his curiosity about Jenna's odd reaction.
"What are you doing here?" Laura asked Murphy, pulling out of the embrace and smiling at him brightly.
"I'm...uh...I'm on a case," Murphy said evasively. "I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd drop by for a visit."
"Well, you're welcome back here anytime, Murphy," Remington spoke out. Murphy and Laura turned to Remington, who stood next to Jenna, a charming smile covering his face. Remington watched as Murphy's joyful smile melted away, and his expression turned to shock. Remington knew Murphy never really liked him, but he had a feeling that it wasn't him that Murphy was reacting to. Remington directed a side glance to Jenna, and noticed that she was glancing around uncomfortably, as if trying to avoid Murphy's gaze. The color had more than returned to her face, as her cheeks burned with rouge. Laura, oblivious to Murphy's reaction behind her, pulled him gently toward Remington and Jenna. Murphy composed himself and followed Laura willingly. He centered his gaze on Remington, trying to ignore Jenna's painful glances.
"Well, well. Mr. Steele, I believe," Murphy teased, smiling. "Still around playing detective, eh?" Murphy reached out to shake Remington's hand. Remington gladly accepted.
"Well, I could never abandon such noble work, now, could I?" Remington returned. "Besides, I have so many other important reasons for being here. Right, Mrs. Steele?" Remington glanced triumphantly at Laura, who sighed uneasily.
"Mrs. Steele? Is there something you haven't told me?" Murphy asked, dropping Remington's hand and staring at Laura, his eyebrows raised questioningly. Laura squirmed and laughed.
"Uh, Murphy, have you met my sister?" she answered, trying desperately to change the subject. "Murphy Michaels, Jenna Holt." Laura gestured toward Jenna. Jenna straightened and stared directly at Murphy.
"Mr. Michaels," she said flatly.
"Miss Holt? Funny, you don't look like a Holt," Murphy returned tersely. Jenna gritted her teeth and stared defiantly at Murphy.
"Actually, I do. Unlike my sisters, I take after my father's side of the family, the Holt side," Jenna answered, continuing to stare at him.
"That's true. She looks just like our Aunt Maxine," Laura said, smiling and oblivious to the tension between Jenna and Murphy. Remington, however, was very aware of the tension, and he studied the two intently.
"Well, uh, why don't we step into my office so we can chat, hmm?" he said, holding his arm out toward the door. Murphy turned away from Jenna and headed into the office, followed by Laura and Jenna. Remington followed them and closed the door behind him.
"I have a great idea!" Laura exclaimed as Remington moved into the room. Jenna strolled over to the windows and leaned on the ledge in front of them. Murphy sat down in the chair in front of Remington's massive desk. Laura sat on the edge of the desk. "Why don't we all go to lunch together? You and Jenna can get acquainted, Murphy, and we can all catch up on the past few years."
"Nah...I couldn't, really. I have some work to do on that case, and I still need to find a hotel room," he answered quickly.
"You mean you don't have a place to stay?" Laura asked.
"Oh, I can find a place, I'm sure. Don't worry about it," Murphy replied, dismissing Laura's concern with a wave of his hand.
"I wish we could help, but all we have is the couch, and Jenna's going to be occupying it," Laura said.
"Well, uh...why don't you stay at the loft? I mean, Laura's not living there anymore, and she has it paid for until the middle of next month, so..." Remington suggested.
"That sounds perfect. That way you won't have to worry about running up a hotel bill. What do you say, Murph?" Laura asked excitedly.
"Well, if it's not too much trouble...sure," Murphy accepted, smiling. "Thanks."
"Perfect. We can take you over there on the way to lunch. Oh, and I need to run by the caterers before lunch and finalize the orders for the reception," Laura said.
"Reception?" Murphy questioned.
"It's a long story," Laura evaded.
"Why don't you talk a bit, and I'll go to the phone in the next office and make lunch reservations, okay?" Remington dismissed himself and exited the room.
"So, what's the case you're working on?" Laura asked Murphy.
"It's a...uh, a fraud case. Very hush-hush," Murphy said mysteriously.
"I understand. Well, if you need anything, just let us know. Our case load is light, and Jenna's agreed to help us out. Did you know my little sister is a private investigator as well? Following in my footsteps," Laura said proudly, turning to smile at Jenna. Jenna returned a sheepish grin.
"Really. How about that," Murphy said flatly, turning a cold gaze to Jenna. The intercom buzzer distracted Laura from the conversation. She reached behind her back and grabbed the phone receiver.
"Yes, Mildred?" She said and paused. "Oh, all right. I'll be right out." Laura hung up the phone and hopped off the desk, straightening her skirt. "Mildred has those computer results. Excuse me for just a moment, will you?" Laura exited the office and shut the door behind her. She walked over to Mildred's desk. "All right, Mildred, what have you got for me?"
"Well, so far, all I have is a credit card charge two days ago at a pawn shop, but I'm not sure what he bought," Mildred said, pulling the printed information from the printer and handing it to Laura.
"We'll check this out. Meanwhile, keep digging. Thanks, Mildred," Laura said, glancing over the sheet before folding it in half. "Oh, did you get your dress for the wedding?
"Yes, they delivered it yesterday," Mildred replied, beaming. "Ooo, I'm so excited. I can't believe I'm going to be Maid of Honor at yours and the boss' wedding!"
"Well, I wouldn't dream of asking anyone else, Mildred. After all, you've helped smooth things over between us so many times, if it weren't for you keeping us straight, we probably never would have gotten together." Laura smiled. "Are you joining us for lunch?"
Mildred smiled. "Nah. Like I told the boss, I've got a hot date with the new guy on ten."
"Ah," Laura said, nodding in pleasant understanding. "Well, have fun."
"You bet I will," Mildred said, grinning slyly. Remington emerged from Laura's office and crossed the room to Laura.
"The reservations are made for 11:30 at Rodchester's," he reported. "Where are Murphy and Jenna?"
"They're still in your office," Laura replied casually, pointing toward his office.
"Alone? Are you sure that's wise?" Remington asked, wide-eyed.
"What are you talking about?" Laura asked impatiently.
"Well, I mean, maybe it's just me, but Jenna had quite a reaction to Murphy's entrance, and he didn't seem to friendly toward her presence, either."
"That's ridiculous. They hadn't even met until today, so what did they do, take an instant disliking each other?" Laura argued.
"Are you sure they hadn't met until today?" Remington responded.
"What are you implying?" Laura asked, agitated.
"I'm merely saying, perhaps they just happened to take an instant disliking to each other, but it seemed to me more like there was some history between them. Some rather...unpleasant history," Remington explained.
"I'm sure it's just your imagination, but I'll ask them," Laura said, dismissing his theories.
"Do it delicately, please, Laura. I mean, we don't want to open any old wounds, if there are some to be opened. And I'd ask them one at a time, if I were you, just to be safe."
"I'll be gentle, I promise," Laura assured him. "Oh, I have to go by the caterer's, and we need to check out this lead before lunch."
"Well, why don't we split up? I'll take Jenna with me to check out that lead, and you and Murphy can go to the caterer's."
"Why not let Jenna go with me to check out the lead?"
"Because you know what needs to be taken care of at the caterer's and I don't. As for Jenna, I'd really like a chance to get to know her, since I'm about to be related to her. Besides, I'm sure Murphy still doesn't trust me, so you'd do a much better job of talking to him about whatever is going on between him and Jenna, if anything," he added for Laura's benefit.
"All right, we'll do it your way. Then we can meet at Rodchester's for lunch."
"Excellent. Well, shall we get going? We have less than two hours," Remington said.
"Yes. Let's go get the other two," Laura replied, heading for Remington's office with Remington following close behind.
+ + + +
Murphy and Jenna watched Laura exit the room, their tension skyrocketing. They sat in silence for a few seconds until Murphy ended it by clearing his throat nervously.
"Well, I...I didn't expect to see you here," he said softly.
"I decided to come visit Laura," Jenna answered, moving away from the window and beginning to pace in front of the office's couch and coffee table, opposite Murphy. "Is that why you're here?" she asked innocently, an ulterior motive hidden in her words.
Murphy clenched his jaws angrily. "I'm here on a case, remember?" he said evenly, his tone displaying the anger seen on his face. Jenna laughed sourly.
"Ah, yes, how could I forget? The ‘hush-hush’ assignment," she said bitterly. "Please, Murphy. I know you better than that. You came to see Laura."
"She's an old friend," he retorted, rising from his chair. "I have--," he stopped and dropped his voice, afraid the others outside would hear, "I have every right to visit her."
"Of course," Jenna said, stopping and staring at Murphy defiantly, her arms crossed. "Well, if you want anything more, you're out of luck. She's a happily married woman."
"Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving," Murphy returned.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jenna asked.
"Maybe I should have said ‘names can be deceiving,’ right, Miss Holt?" Murphy spat nastily, trying to keep his voice low again.
"Back to that again, are we, Murphy?" Jenna said quietly, not wanting the others to hear, either. "You'll never let me live down that one lie, will you?" she asked, tears gathering in her eyes and pain creeping into her voice.
"It was a pretty big lie, Jenna," Murphy retorted. "You could have told me who you really were, instead of lying to me for over a year!"
"Oh, yeah, right!" Jenna responded venomously. "If I had told you the truth, you wouldn't have looked at me twice, as an investigator or...anything else! At least you gave me a chance as Jenna Leigh! That's more than you would have done to Jenna Holt, and we both know it!"
Murphy stared at the floor, composing himself before staring up at Jenna again.
"Maybe so," he said, his voice cracking slightly with intense emotion. "But regardless, you built our relationship on lies. I mean, how do I know what else you lied about? How am I supposed to know if you really loved me? How am I supposed to know if anything you told me was true, Jenna?"
"That was the only thing I lied to you about! I never lied to you about anything else." Jenna stopped for a moment and stared at Murphy painfully, her tears beginning to fall. "Especially when I told you I loved you."
Murphy swallowed hard, his own eyes moistening. "Loved? It didn't take long for you to stop."
Jenna winced at his harsh words. "I never stopped, Murphy," she said softly. Murphy stared at the floor again. Jenna wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands and sniffed. Murphy gingerly stepped toward Jenna, his angered face softening to sympathy and caring. Suddenly, the office door burst open and Laura and Remington returned. Jenna instantly turned her back on them to compose herself. Murphy took a deep breath and forced a smile back to his face. He turned around to Laura and Remington. This time, Laura noticed the tension.
"Is everything all right? Jenna?" Laura asked, her eyes moving from Murphy to Jenna. Jenna turned and smiled at Laura.
"Fine," she and Murphy said in unison.
"Jenna, why are your eyes and nose red? Have you been crying?" Laura asked suspiciously, taking a few steps toward her sister.
"No, no, actually I've been...sneezing!" Jenna said, excusing herself with the first idea she could come up with. "You know...allergies." She laughed nervously. "Must be the smog."
"Right," Murphy joined in with a jittery laugh. "She had a sneezing fit. I guess she was too close to the air vent. Must have caught some dust."
"Ah, I see," Laura said, still suspicious. "Well, maybe you should take something."
"I will. I have something in one of my bags back at the hotel. I'll take it when we go to pick them up."
"Well, we don't want you to get too ill on us," Remington said, "so why don't we go, eh? I have a little something to check out in that part of town, so I'll run you by your motel and we can get your bags. Meanwhile, Murphy, you and Laura can swing by the caterer's and take care of...whatever Laura needs to take care of. Then, we'll all regroup at Rodchester's for a nice, relaxing lunch. How's that sound, hmm?" Remington grinned.
"Sounds great," Jenna said, relaxing slightly.
"Yeah, I'm up for it," Murphy added.
"Ah, splendid," Remington said cheerfully. "Jenna, you and I will take the limo, and Laura and Murphy can take her car. If that's all right with you," he told Laura.
"That's fine with me," Laura answered.
"Wonderful. Well, then, shall we be off?" Remington asked, turning to the side and stretching his right arm out toward the door. Murphy turned and glanced back at Jenna, who returned his glance uneasily. She smiled briefly at Remington as she strode quickly past him and out the door. Murphy followed Jenna out, keeping a few paces distance from her. Laura studied Murphy and Jenna as they left, still trying to decipher their odd behavior. She looked at Remington questioningly, who shrugged in confusion. Laura walked out of the office. Remington dropped his arm and exited his office, closing the door behind him.
"Mildred, we'll be out until after lunch, okay?" Remington said, waving goodbye as he followed the others out.
The light morning breeze was made into a gale as Laura and Murphy sped down Santa Monica Boulevard in Laura's white Volkswagen Rabbit convertible. Laura's hair whipped haphazardly about her face, and she squinted in the bright morning sunlight as she turned onto a side road.
"So, exactly where are we going?" Murphy asked, practically yelling in order to be heard above the roar of the passing wind.
"Martha's Catering. She's done a lot of catering for us in the past, and she's fantastic at doing things on short notice, so she's handling our reception. Incidentally, your invitation should be in Denver by now," Laura replied, smiling. "If I had known you and Jenna were coming to town, I would have just delivered them in person. That's okay, though. At least now I know you'll both be there, right?"
"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it for the world," Murphy replied, thinking of his real reason for coming to Los Angeles.
"Quite a coincidence, you and Jenna both showing up here," Laura said casually.
"Yeah," Murphy said, refusing to take Laura's bait.
"You two didn't plan it like that, did you?" Laura probed, trying to make it sound like a joke.
"Of course not," Murphy replied, feigning innocence. "I had no idea that your sister would show up. How could I possibly know?"
"Right," Laura responded cunningly. "I mean, you just met today. How could you possibly know if you just met today?"
"Exactly. How could I know?" Murphy evaded, trying not to show the nervousness Laura's inquiries were developing.
"Your right. How could you?" Laura answered, disappointed that Murphy refused to reveal whatever it was he was hiding. Her curiosity continued to grow, but Murphy chose to end it by a change of subject.
"So, when's the wedding?" he asked innocently, desperate to distract Laura from the topic of Jenna.
"Saturday at two o'clock."
"I see," Murphy nodded and paused briefly. "If you won't be married until Saturday, then why did he call you Mrs. Steele?"
"It's a long story, Murphy," Laura evaded.
"I'd love to hear it," Murphy pressed. Laura braked at a red light, and glanced uneasily at Murphy.
"It's difficult to explain," Laura began. She sighed, searching for the right words to begin. "Mr. St...Remington and I...we sort of...eloped a few weeks ago. So, technically we're married already."
"Technically you're married? Does that mean that in some way you're not married?" Murphy asked suspiciously, remembering the story Tony Roselli had given him.
"No, of course not," Laura answered, laughing nervously. She accelerated through the now-green light. "Of course we're married. It's just that...we decided that we wanted to have a better wedding--one with all our family and friends there," Laura explained.
"Then why didn't you just have the wedding in the first place? Why the elopement?" Murphy probed as Laura slowed and parallel-parked outside a large shop. She turned off the engine, sighed heavily, and stared ahead, debating whether or not to tell Murphy everything. Finally, she looked at Murphy, her brown eyes revealing a pleading and worried expression.
"I don't want you to get the wrong idea, Murph. I love him, and I know he loves me. We never planned on things happening the way they have, but there really wasn't anything we could have done to stop it. We just...we did what we had to do then, and now we're doing what we want to do, because now we have time to do it."
"You'll forgive me if I don't quite follow you," Murphy said. Laura pursed her lips in uneasiness and sighed again.
"We eloped three weeks ago because we had to. Remington... was being deported, and he had to marry a U.S. citizen in order to stay here. We had to get married quickly before he was thrown out of the country."
"Oh, Laura," Murphy groaned, wincing at Laura's conformation of the terrible scenario Tony had told to him in Denver. "How could you do this? How could you get involved in a scam like this? No, no...don't answer that," Murphy cut off her protests. "I know how. You're protecting him. You've always protected this guy, no matter what it got you into. But marriage? I can't believe you were actually willing to defraud the government in order to save his hide!"
Laura stared at Murphy, shocked and appalled. "You didn't hear a word I said, did you? We love each other, Murphy! It's only a fraud if we didn't love each other, but we do!" Laura twisted around in her seat to face Murphy fully. "Look," she said, gesturing with her open right hand, "I know you may find this hard to believe, but he really has changed over the past four years. He's not the same mysterious con-man who stepped into our lives chasing after Royal Lavulite. He's become more...well...more like Remington Steele. He's a good detective, and a more caring, responsible person. Besides, I've learned a lot about him over the years."
"So you know all about his past now, is that it?" Murphy asked incredulously.
"Not all," Laura admitted reluctantly. "But enough to know that growing up wasn't easy for him, and that he would have left a long time ago if nothing here really mattered to him. Don't you see, Murphy? He's still here because he finally found something worth staying around for. He found a life that makes him happy. He's found an identity, and he's changed in order to fit that new identity."
"A new identity, huh?" Murphy said skeptically. "I guess that means that we'll never know the real one."
Laura smiled and opened her door, stepping out of her car. Murphy followed her cue and exited the car as well, his eyes never leaving Laura as he waited for her answer. Laura walked around the car and stood before Murphy.
"On the contrary," she said. "I do know his real name."
"Yeah? What is it?" Murphy challenged.
Laura's smile widened. "It's Remington Steele," she answered, turning and walking into Martha's Catering. Murphy stood and stared after her for a moment, an expression of utter confusion lining his face.
"Come again?" he called out to her before following her into the building.
Murphy entered the shop to the melody of door chimes, which sounded as he moved the door out and into place. The sweet odor of cake and cooking meats tingled in his nostrils, and soft classical music played delicately from a stereo behind the counter. The room was decorated in white, with pictures of tables lined with food scattered across the walls. Two round tables sat in the middle of the main room, and were covered in magazines and books of food. Laura stood before the counter, next to the cash register. A plump woman emerged from a back room, wiping her flour-covered hands on the full-length navy-blue apron she wore. She smiled brightly in recognition at the sight of Laura.
"Ah, Miss Holt! Good to see you again!" the woman boomed in a strong voice. "Come to confirm your menu for Saturday?" Laura smiled at Martha while Murphy approached the counter.
"I brought the final list. There's just a couple of changes," Laura said, opening her purse and pulling out a folded piece of paper. She handed it to Martha, who unfolded it and read it quickly. "Well, Martha, can we do all that for Saturday?"
Martha smiled and refolded the paper. "No problem, Miss Holt. It'll be a pleasure to do this for you and Mr. Steele. Just let me go get your order form and we'll make these corrections." Martha disappeared again behind the doors of the back room. Laura turned and glanced at Murphy, who was staring at her intently.
"What do you mean, ‘his name is Remington Steele?’" Murphy asked.
"Well, that’s another long story," Laura answered.
"Sum it up for me," Murphy insisted.
Laura stared at his defensive expression for a moment before smiling again. "He never told us his real name because he never knew it before. He found out that Daniel Chalmers was really his father, but before he could ask about his real name, Daniel died."
"Wait a minute," Murphy interrupted. "Daniel Chalmers. Wasn't he the con-man that the crooked-casino guy...uh...Hoskins was after?"
"The very same. Like father, like son," Laura said teasingly.
"Right," Murphy replied, chuckling.
"Anyway, after Daniel's death, Harry got a letter--"
"I'm getting to that," Laura explained. "He got a letter from Daniel explaining the circumstances of his birth, as well as his real name, which turned out to be Harrison Daniel McEyre. At the end of the letter, Daniel said that he wanted Harry to have no problems being Remington Steele. As it turns out, Daniel had Harry's name legally changed to Remington Harrison Daniel Steele. So, his real name is Remington Steele. I call him Harry sometimes just because it's faster and easier to say." Laura laughed. "I guess I should have thought about that when I came up with the name Remington Steele."
"That's quite a story," Murphy said, unconvinced of the story's validity.
"That's the summary, which is what you asked for. There's actually more to it, but the rest really isn't important."
Martha re-emerged from the back room carrying a manila folder. She set in on the counter in front of Laura, and pulled out a white inventory sheet, laying it on top of the folder.
"Here's the corrected order. Look it over, and tell me if everything's all right," she instructed. Laura picked up the paper and studied it.
"Sounds good, Martha," Laura said, handing the paper back to Martha.
"Wonderful! Well, you've nothing more to worry about as far as food goes. We'll have this in the reception room of the hotel before two-thirty on Saturday."
"What hotel?" Murphy asked.
"The Huntington Sheraton, where we first encountered ‘Remington Steele.’ It was Harry's idea. Rather romantic, I think," Laura said, smiling softly. "Thanks, Martha, for everything," Laura said, shaking Martha's hand.
"Good luck, Miss Holt. I'm sure you and Mr. Steele will be very happy together."
"I'm sure we will," Laura answered, smiling brightly. "Bye, Martha."
"Goodbye," Martha replied, replacing the order form in the folder and returning to the back room. Laura motioned for Murphy to follow her, and they exited the shop.
"Where are your things, Murphy?" Laura asked as she and Murphy climbed into her car.
"At the office parking lot. I rented a car at the airport, and my luggage is in the trunk."
"Well, why don't we go back and get your car, and we can get you settled before lunch," Laura suggested as she started the car.
"Sounds good to me," Murphy replied as Laura pulled out and accelerated back toward the office.
+ + + +
"This is a fantastic way to travel," Jenna commented as she admired her plush surroundings. She and Remington sat in the back of the limousine as it moved toward Sunset Boulevard.
"It does make traveling easier," Remington remarked jokingly.
"Well, it's nice to know that my sister's doing so well," Jenna said, smiling at Remington. "Speaking of which, would you mind explaining to me why Laura's mailing invitations and visiting caterers if you're already married?"
"Well, it's simple, really," Remington said uneasily. "We eloped earlier, but we later decided that we wanted to have a real wedding. I want Laura to be happy, and I know that our elopement wasn't very happy for her. So, I'm making it up to her by giving her the wedding she truly deserves. Besides," he adding amusingly, "your mother would kill us both if we didn't have a wedding."
"Good point," Jenna said, smiling in understanding. "You really love her, don't you? Laura, I mean."
Remington smiled softly in contemplation. "Yes, I do. I love her very much," he admitted. "I must confess, it took me a long time to realize it, and even longer to admit it, but Laura never gave up on me. And now, it seems almost natural to admit my love for her. Odd, I suppose."
"Not really. Love is a very odd emotion," Jenna said, a hint of sadness creeping into her voice. Remington focused his blue eyes on Jenna, studying her sad expression.
"I take it you've had some experience with that particular odd emotion," Remington probed.
"A little," Jenna confessed.
Jenna turned to him, a questioning look crossing her face. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, just curious," Remington evaded. "I mean, it just seems to me that you've had a...bad experience recently. I just thought, if you wanted to, you know, talk about it..."
"Not really. It's really not that important. It's over now," Jenna said wistfully.
"I see," Remington said. "The, uh, the man you were involved with. Was it Murphy?"
Jenna stared at him, wide-eyed. "What makes you ask that?"
"Oh, the way you reacted when he entered the office. It just seemed as if...well, as if you and Murphy knew each other before today, and you had had something between you. Something painful," Remington finished softly.
Jenna stared off into space, her eyes displaying the aching that overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes and sighed, composing herself, and desperately trying to stop the tears from coming.
"Like I said, it's not important. It's over, and that's all there is to it," she said flatly. Remington nodded, accepting her finalization of the conversation.
"I understand. I'm sorry. I won't bring it up again," he assured her.
"Thank you," Jenna said, smiling gratefully, still trying to erase the pain from her face. The limousine pulled to a stop in front of Jenna's motel room. Jenna climbed out of the back of the limo, followed by Remington. Jenna withdrew her room key from her purse and entered the worn-down motel room.
"I'll have to go to the office and check out. Maybe I can get my money back," Jenna said, grabbing her overnight bag from the bed where she had thrown it earlier. Remington grabbed her large suitcase and followed her out. Jenna locked the door back and followed Remington to the back of the limo, where Fred, the chauffeur, had remotely popped the trunk. Remington placed Jenna's suitcase in the trunk, and waited for Jenna to add the overnight bag. Remington slammed the trunk closed.
"I'll be right back, hopefully with a refund," Jenna said, walking toward the motel office.
"Fine. I'll wait for you in the limo," Remington told her, opening the door and climbing into the limo.
Several minutes later, Jenna returned to the limo. She slammed the door closed, and smiled at Remington triumphantly.
"That was fairly quick," Remington said.
"Yeah. He wasn't going to give me my refund, but a couple of customers came in, and I started to raise hell about getting my money back. Loudly. The clerk was more than happy to refund my money."
Remington laughed. "You and your sister definitely share a few things in common."
"Yeah, stubbornness and audacity are Holt-family traits," Jenna agreed as the limo pulled out of the motel parking lot.
"Jack's Pawn, Fred," Remington called to the chauffeur. The limo proceeded down the street until it pulled up in front of a run-down shop.
"You might want to stay here. This place doesn't look that...inviting," Remington cautioned.
"Don't worry, I can handle it," Jenna said. Remington shrugged and exited the limo, with Jenna following. Remington held open the door as Jenna entered the pawn shop.
The interior of the shop was dark, and Jenna had to blink several times in order to adjust her eyes from the bright sunlight of the outdoors. The wooden interior was littered with various used items, from furniture to electronics. Toward the back of the room, a large glass counter stretched for most of the length of the back wall. The counter was filled with jewelry of various shapes and sizes, as well as several pistols. Jenna and Remington approached the counter, where a short, stocky man stood, writing in a ledger.
"Are you Jack?" Remington asked the man.
"Yeah, can I help you?" the man said gruffly, not looking up from his work.
Remington glanced at Jenna, and cleared his throat. "Uh, yes, actually," he said to the man. "I'm looking for someone, and I understand he's been here recently. He purchased something from here two days ago."
" 'Fraid I don't keep up with all my customers," the man said, still not acknowledging them with a glance.
"Perhaps you can remember this one, or what he purchased. You obviously keep some form of records," Remington remarked, gesturing to the ledger. The man finally looked up, glaring at Remington. "I'm looking for someone named Charles Grey Fairchild. He made a credit-card purchase two days ago for $200." Remington pulled a photo out of his interior jacket pocket and held it up to the man. "Do you remember him?"
The man glanced briefly at the photo, and again at Remington. "What do you want with this guy? 'Cause if your the police, I got nothin' to say to you, and I don't have to."
"Actually, I..." Remington began.
"Please, sir," Jenna broke in. "The young man...he's my brother. He's been missing for a while, and Mom and I...we're desperate to find him." Jenna covered her face with a pleading expression, and forced herself to the verge of tears. "We miss Charlie so much. If you can help in any way...well, we'd be so grateful."
The man stared at Jenna for a long time, his indignant expression melting slightly into a sympathetic one. "I may have seen him," the man admitted grudgingly.
"Really? Is he well? Why was he here? Was he with someone? What did he buy?" Jenna bombarded him with inquiries.
"Hey, hey, hold it, slow down," the man protested. "Look, he seemed okay. He came in alone. He bought a gun and a switchblade. That's all I remember. I haven't seen the guy since."
Jenna glanced at Remington, who raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Well, thank you, sir," Jenna said. "I appreciate your cooperation. Shall we go?" she asked, turning to Remington. Remington nodded, smiled at the man, and followed Jenna out of the pawn shop.
Jack looked up as the door closed behind Remington, and turned quickly to the phone behind him. Retrieving a piece of paper from his front breast pocket, he picked up the receiver and quickly dialed a number written on the paper.
"Yeah, I got somethin' for ya," he said into the phone in a low voice. "Two people just left--a man and a woman. They were asking about Grey. The woman said she was his sister. No, no I didn't get their names. I just told them what he bought...nothin' else. I had to. He acted like a cop or somethin'. He probably would have found out anyway. Huh? He was kinda tall, black hair, blue eyes, looked like somethin' outta GQ. She was average height with brown hair. They drove up in a limo. Yeah, that's right, a limo. Yeah, yeah, okay, I'll keep you informed. Have I ever let you down? All right," Jack finished, hanging up the phone and glancing nervously toward the door where Remington and Jenna had exited.
"Is that all you needed to know?" Jenna asked, once she and Remington were outside next to the limo.
"That was enough. You did very well. You're an excellent investigator. I was very impressed," Remington admitted sincerely.
"Thanks," Jenna said, climbing into the limo, followed by Remington. The limo pulled away, heading for Rodchester's.
Laura pulled into the alley parking spot at 800 tenth street, next to the building she once resided in. She exited her car as Murphy pulled up next to her in his rented Chevrolet Corsica. Laura walked around to the trunk, where Murphy joined her. He opened the trunk and grabbed the large suitcase laying just inside. Laura reached for the small overnight bag that was stuffed in the back, but the trunk's top frame prevented its movement. Laura leaned in and maneuvered the bag out from under the black rubber barrier that held it in place. She gave it one final tug, and the bag came free, launching toward her chest. Laura stepped back, completely removing the bag from the trunk.
"Got it?" Murphy asked. Laura nodded and laughed as Murphy shut the trunk. He put the keys in his pocket and turned to Laura.
"Oh, Laura," he groaned, staring at her blouse.
"What?" Laura asked in confusion, looking down. She gasped as she spotted the large black streak across her chest, where the bag had hit her. She glanced down at the bag, and noticed the black grime that covered it.
"Oh, dear," she said in dismay. "It must have rubbed off from that black rubber when I pulled the bag out past it."
"I'm sorry, Laura," Murphy said guiltily.
"It's not your fault," Laura soothed. "I should have paid more attention. It's no big deal. I'll just run home and change. We don't live too far from Rodchester's. Come on, let's get you settled," Laura said, striding toward the entrance to the building.
Laura and Murphy arrived at the door to loft 3A. Laura pulled her keychain from her purse and opened the padlocked door. She slid the massive door open, and motioned Murphy into the loft.
"Nice place," Murphy said, gazing around the room as Laura shut the door.
"Thanks. Consider it your home. Feel free to do what you want with it," Laura said, walking across the room, mounting the stairs to the bedroom, and placing the bag on the floor at the foot of the bed. Murphy followed, placing his large suitcase next to the small one. Laura removed a key from her keychain and handed it to Murphy.
"Okay, you're all set," she said, smiling as Murphy took the key and put it on his own keychain.
"Thanks. You sure you don't need this key? I mean, it looks like you've still got stuff here," Murphy said, scanning the loft.
"Not really. I mean, yes, the furniture is still here, but my clothes and personal things are all at Rem...at our apartment," Laura explained, walking down the stairs and heading for the door.
"So you're actually living with him?" Murphy asked, a hint of disappointment and disapproval in his voice.
"Of course I am. We are married, remember?" Laura said, opening the door.
"Right. How could I forget?" Murphy replied, stopping at the loft door. "Listen, I need to report in to my client before we go. Why don't I meet you at the car in a few minutes, and we can go to the restaurant together in your car, after we stop off so you can...change," he said sympathetically, motioning to her soiled blouse.
"All right. I'll see you in the car," Laura said, exiting the loft.
"Thanks," Murphy called after her as she disappeared into the stairwell. He shut the door and walked quickly over to the white phone on the living room table. Removing his wallet from his back pocket, Murphy pulled out a small, white piece of paper. He picked up the receiver and dialed, glancing between the paper and the keypad.
"Yeah, it's Michaels. I'm here," he said into the receiver. "I'm staying in Laura's old place. Eight-hundred tenth street, apartment 3A. Yeah, I've spoken to both of them. Did you know they're planning a wedding for Saturday? Yeah, well it must be a hell of a front, since they've got their caterer convinced. Don't worry, I remember my assignment. You just remember that I'm here to find out the truth, not to hand you what you want to hear. If Steele's guilty, I'll nail him. But if he's not, then that's what you'll get." Murphy paused and checked his watch. "Look, Laura's waiting for me downstairs. I gotta go. I'll let you know when I have something."
Murphy hung up the phone gruffly, sighing in uneasiness. He felt like a total rat for what he was doing behind Laura's back. And although he never trusted Remington, he had seemed different somehow. He looked at Laura differently, with love instead of lust. Murphy noticed that almost immediately. There definitely seemed to be something strong between them. They seemed to have a real relationship, and maybe even a loving one. Just like him and Jen...
No. That was over. They could never go back. Could they? Murphy sighed painfully. Of all the people to see here, it had to be Jenna. As if he wasn't confused enough with his assignment, now he had the added confusion of his own feelings for Jenna, and hers for him. But at least he knew she still loved him. She had admitted that. His heart had melted when she said that she was still in love with him. God knows he still loved her. He knew that if Laura and Remington hadn't walked in, he would have taken her into his arms and forgiven her of everything. Or would he? Could he truly forgive her? Could he trust her again? Was it worth trying?
Murphy shook his head, putting the whole mess out of his mind. He walked over to the small bag Laura had brought in and unzipped the top panel. He dug deeply into an inside pocket, and removed several items. He stared down at the tiny, silver bugs, his guilt and uneasiness overwhelming him.
"I have to do my job," he told himself, grasping the devices tightly and shoving them into his pocket. He quickly left the loft, locking the door behind him.
Murphy and Laura arrived at the condominium several minutes later. Laura threw her purse onto the couch.
"Make yourself at home while I change real quick, okay?" Laura said, hurrying into the bedroom and closing the door.
"I'm sure I can find something to do," Murphy muttered to himself. He spotted a small lamp on the table behind the couch. Murphy lifted the lamp and withdrew a bug from his pocket. He peeled a piece of paper from the back of the bug, and stuck it to the hollow bottom of the lamp's base. He carefully set down the lamp, glancing around the apartment for another place to conceal another bug. He entered the dining room, and placed one inside the top outer corner of the China cabinet, behind a wood-carved decoration. He moved quickly into the kitchen, and placed another bug under one of the cabinets. He left the kitchen, and moved out onto the balcony. Murphy hid another bug on the round patio table. He stood up just as Laura emerged from the bedroom. Murphy strode casually back into the apartment and closed the balcony's French doors.
"Still the same old place. Except for the piano," Murphy said, pointing to the baby grand sitting in the corner of the living room. "I didn't know Steele played."
"He doesn't. It's mine," Laura said proudly. "He bought it for me after my grandmother's got burned up in the fire."
"Fire? Oh, yeah, when those guys bombed your house. I remember you telling me about that. I kept telling you I'd come help you out, but you wouldn't let me," Murphy smiled.
"Well, you were just starting out, and I didn't want to disrupt you. Besides, he took pretty good care of me," Laura said softly, smiling to herself as she remembered the kindness Remington had shown her when she needed it the most.
"I guess he did. Especially if he bought you a piano to make you feel better. That's quite a gesture," Murphy said, slightly impressed.
"Well, you know him. He always does things on a grand scale," Laura said, smiling at Murphy as she retrieved her purse from the couch. "Ready to go?"
"Uh, do you mind if I use your restroom first?" Murphy asked, placing his hand in his pocket and fidgeting with the remaining bug.
"No, go right ahead," Laura said, moving to the chair in front of the dining room and sitting down.
"Great. I'll be out in a minute," Murphy called, entering the bedroom. Knowing he was safe from Laura's sight, he walked over to the bed. Murphy pulled the last bug from his pocket and stared at it in disgust. He shook his head and placed the bug on the back of the headboard.
"You're a total rat, Murph," he whispered guiltily to himself. He climbed off the bed and crossed the room to the bathroom. He waited a moment before flushing the toilet and running water briefly in the sink, to make it seem like he was washing his hands. He returned to the living room.
"Ready?" Laura asked.
"Ready," Murphy answered, eager to leave the apartment and the thought of what he had done to it. To Laura.
"Great. Let's go," Laura said, standing up. Murphy followed her out of the apartment.
Laura and Murphy strolled through Rodchester's restaurant and past the sliding glass doors in the back to the patio café. White trellises entangled with ivy served as a roof for the patio, and the sunlight peeked into every hole and crevice, causing unusual patterns in the shadows. Tables were scattered throughout the patio, each donning a white lace-trimmed tablecloth. Sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves of the ivy mixed with the pings of dishes clanging and the buzz of multiple conversations.
Remington and Jenna were already seated at a round table in the back of the café. They stood up to greet Laura and Murphy as they arrived at the table. Remington politely moved the chair beside him out for Laura, who sat down with a grateful smile. Murphy sat down uneasily in the unoccupied chair next to Jenna, trying not to glance at her. Jenna kept her eyes from Murphy with just as much uneasiness.
"Sorry we're late. I had a mishap with some dirt, and I had to stop off at the condo to change. How long have you two been here?" Laura asked Remington as she settled into her seat between him and Murphy.
"Oh, not long," Remington replied. "Jenna and I were just discussing a few old cases. She was telling me about her days of training in London."
"Really? I wouldn't mind hearing a few of those stories," Laura said, smiling across the table to her sister.
"Nothing major, really," Jenna replied, feigning casual indifference. "Most of the cases were very minor. My partner and I had a lot of trouble getting legitimate cases for the longest time."
"Partner?" Laura asked.
"Yeah. Alexandra Marcus. Lexie. We made a pretty good team. But, after my training was finished, I wanted to return to the States, and she wanted to stay in London, so we parted company. There are times when I've really missed her. She was a hell of a partner. Kept me in line," Jenna explained with a smile.
"Well, I'd love to meet her someday. Anyone who can keep you in line must be formidable," Laura teased. Jenna laughed sarcastically, a sour look on her face. Remington laughed, and glanced across to Murphy, who even managed a chuckle.
The waiter approached the table, carrying a water pitcher and four menus, interrupting their conversation. He poured water in the empty glasses before Laura and Murphy. He sat the pitcher down on the table between Laura and Remington, and laid the menus before each person.
"Good morning. My name is Patrick. What may I get for you to drink while you are deciding on lunch?" the waiter said.
"Why don't we start with a bottle of Dom Perignon. '76, if you have it," Remington replied, picking up his menu and glancing over it. The others picked up their menus as well.
"Very good, sir," Patrick said, hurrying off to retrieve the champagne.
"Dom Perignon? Extravagant," Jenna commented, opening her menu.
"Remington's favorite," Laura said, smiling to him.
"The champagne or the extravagance?" Murphy grinned good-naturedly.
"Both," Laura replied. She and Murphy laughed knowingly.
"Mmm...very amusing," Remington said, pretending to be annoyed at their teasing. The delight in his eyes proved otherwise.
"So, did you come up with anything on that lead?" Laura asked Remington as she reached for her glass of water.
"Yes, actually, thanks to your sister," Remington answered, pointing towards Jenna and laying his menu down. Jenna smiled modestly. "Jack wasn't willing to say anything until Jenna put on an Oscar performance as Charlie's overly-worried sister. The man practically melted into her hands."
"Really?" Laura asked, impressed. She turned and smiled at her sister.
"It was no big deal," Jenna said. "Some people just need certain forms of persuasion, that's all. I just figured I'd have a better shot at the sympathy ploy than Remington would."
"And it worked, too," Remington said. "He admitted that Charles came in alone a couple of days ago. He appeared to be fine. Jack said he bought a gun and a switchblade."
"A gun and a switchblade? What would Charles Fairchild want with weapons like that?" Laura asked.
"Well, perhaps he's in some sort of trouble," Remington admonished.
"All right," Laura sighed. "I think our next move is to start canvasing the neighborhood near the pawn shop and ask about Charles. We can start right after lunch."
"Mm, excellent idea, Laura. Meanwhile, I'll see if Mildred can come up with anything more from her computer, and I'll drop off Jenna's things at our flat," Remington replied.
"You're not joining me?" Laura asked, annoyed that he was once again worming his way out of legwork.
"I'll help you out, Laura," Jenna volunteered.
"Thank you, Jenna," Laura said, grimacing at Remington one last time. Remington avoided the nasty look by watching Patrick return, carrying an ice-filled bucket with a champagne bottle poking out the top, as well as a tray of four champagne glasses. He set the bucket down and distributed the glasses, then extracted the cork from the bottle with a resounding pop. He poured the champagne delicately into each glass, and replaced the bottle into the bucket.
"I shall return momentarily for your orders," Patrick said, hurrying away.
"Well, how about a toast, eh?" Remington asked, raising his glass. The others raised their glasses in anticipation. "To old friends," he said, motioning his glass toward Murphy, who nodded in acknowledgment, "and new ones," he continued, moving his glass toward Jenna. Jenna smiled at him politely, and glanced over at Murphy. They stared at each other briefly, and averted their eyes to avoid displaying their emotions. The four raised their glasses and clinked them together before sipping the expensive champagne.
Laura left the clothing shop in frustration. It was nearly four o'clock, and she barely had any new leads into the case. After spending the entire afternoon interviewing various merchants, residents, and transients of the neighborhood around Jack's Pawn, all she had regarding Charles Grey Fairchild was a possible spotting at a local bar. She had talked to the bar owner, but he had seemed more interested in cleaning his front window than answering her questions. She hoped Jenna was having more luck. She could have killed Remington for not wanting to help her out, but she expected it. Remington always managed to get out of ever doing serious legwork, which left Laura stuck with it most of the time. Of course, she had the same problem with him and paperwork. Still, he was a good detective. He should be, after four years of Laura's tutelage. But there were still times when she questioned why she put up with him. Now, however, the answer came easily. Because she loved him.
Laura stopped and stared into a shop window, debating whether or not to go in and question the proprietor or just give up and call it a day. Suddenly, she noticed the reflection of a man across the street. He was dressed in a black business suit, with a black overcoat covering it. He had a thin, dark brown moustache and well-trimmed dark brown hair. And he was staring at her intently. She recognized him from earlier in the day. She had spotted him outside of the bar. Could he be following her? She planned to find out. She began walking away, slowly at first. She came to the end of the street, and rounded the corner.
Laura glanced nervously over her shoulder, trying to make it appear as casual as possible. The man was still behind her, and was crossing to her side of the street. She quickened her pace, hoping to lose him, but he sped up as well. Laura turned north at the next corner, and found herself in a deadend alley. She glanced anxiously around for a means of escape, but all she saw was a few garbage cans, and a lot of garbage. Thinking quickly, Laura grabbed a soda bottle from the top of one of the garbage cans, and flattened herself against the western wall. The man passed her and entered the alley, not noticing her. Laura grabbed him from behind, poking him in the back with the opening of the bottle. She pushed with all her might, plastering him facefirst against the wall opposite her. She prayed her little trick fooled him. After all, it had worked for her once before, a long time ago.
It worked again. The man stopped resisting her grasp at the feel of what he thought was a gun twisting in his ribs.
"All right, no sudden moves or I'll use this, understand?" Laura threatened. "Now, who are you and why are you following me?" The man said nothing. Laura forced the bottle deeper into his back.
"Okay, okay, take it easy," the man complained. "I'm supposed to find out who you are and who your friends are, and why you're asking about Fairchild."
"Fairchild? Charles Fairchild? What do you know about him?"
"I was going to ask you the same question," the man said. "Just what do you want with Fairchild?"
"I'll ask the questions," Laura demanded. "Now, who are you?" The man brought down his upraised right hand, moving it toward the left side of his jacket. "Hold it!" Laura ordered, cautious of his intentions.
"Relax, lady, I'm just reaching for my I.D.," the man said. He continued his movement, and withdrew a wallet from his left innerjacket pocket. He handed it back to Laura, who took it with her free left hand, keeping the bottle against the man's back with her right hand. She opened the wallet, and gasped at the identification card inside.
"Albert Bailey, special investigator, narcotics division, Federal Bureau of Investigations?" Laura read, shocked.
"You got it," Agent Bailey said. "You gonna let me go now?" he asked, annoyed.
Laura reluctantly stepped back, releasing Agent Bailey from his imprisonment. Agent Bailey turned, glancing down with surprise at the bottle Laura still held in her hand. He chuckled admiringly.
"Not bad," he said, glancing up at her. "Can I have my wallet back, please?" He held out his hand. Laura smacked the closed wallet into his upturned palm, and he replaced it into his pocket.
"What does the FBI want with a missing millionaire playboy?" Laura inquired, still suspicious of the man.
"That's confidential information," Agent Bailey said simply. "Who are you, and what do you want with him?"
Laura paused a minute, debating whether or not to reveal her identity to him. Finally, she raised her chin in defiance and relented.
"Laura Holt...Steele. I'm trying to find him. He's been missing for a while, and his family's worried about him."
"Steele? As in Mrs. Remington Steele? You work for Remington Steele Investigations?" Bailey inquired.
"That's correct," Laura answered matteroffactly. "You wouldn't happen to know where I can find Mr. Fairchild, would you?"
Bailey stopped up to Laura, until his face was a few inches from hers.
"Listen carefully, Mrs. Steele, and remember this," he said in a low, menacing voice. "Fairchild's fine, and that's all you need to know. Stop pursuing him, or you're going to end up far deeper in than you can handle. Drop the case, or you and that famous husband of yours could end up in serious trouble, provided you live."
Laura scowled at him defiantly. "Is it common practice for an agent of the federal government to make threats?" she questioned, praying he wouldn't detect her fear.
"Just remember what I've said," Bailey warned, moving back and walking away. Laura stared after him, her breathing quick and her heart pounding in fear.
"We must be on to something," Laura said, bursting into the office. Remington and Mildred looked up questioningly. Laura stood before Remington, who stood in front of Mildred's desk.
"Why? What happened?" Remington asked.
"I was followed today," Laura answered.
"Followed? By whom?" Remington asked, concerned.
"Agent Albert Bailey of the FBI," she said, pronouncing the three letters dramatically.
"The FBI?" Remington and Mildred questioned simultaneously. Laura nodded slowly yet emphatically.
"What has the FBI got to do with this?" Mildred asked.
"He wouldn't tell me the whole story, but apparently he knows Charles Fairchild. He even threatened us if we didn't drop the case," Laura explained.
"Threatened? How?" Remington inquired.
"He just said that we're in over our heads, and if we didn't back off, we'd end up in trouble, and maybe even dead."
"Good lord. This bloody case gets more confusing by the minute. I mean, a federal agent threatening us over the disappearance of a playboy?" Remington mused in confusion and annoyance.
"There must be something we're missing," Laura said, slamming her fist on the edge of Mildred's desk in frustration. "According to his I.D., Agent Bailey was a special investigator in the Narcotics Division. Could Mr. Fairchild be somehow involved in some sort of drug operation?"
"Well, he's done a lot of traveling over the past couple of years," Mildred said. "Mostly to Europe and the Caribbean. Plus a couple of trips to South America."
"Perfect opportunity for smuggling," Remington contributed.
"Mildred, see if you can get some information from the FBI computer on Charles Grey Fairchild. Also, check out Agent Albert Bailey. I want to make sure this guy's legit. Oh, has my sister called in?"
"Once. She said she may have something, and she'd meet you later at the apartment," Mildred answered. "And she said don't worry about dinner for her. She decided to go visit Frances, and she was invited to have dinner there."
"All right. Come on," she said to Remington, grabbing him by the sleeve and pulling him toward the office door.
"Where are we going?" Remington inquired.
"Home, to change, so we can check out a lead," Laura informed him. "A man fitting Charles' description has been spotted for the past several nights in a bar off of Sunset. We're going to stake it out and see if he shows up again tonight."
"Well, what about Agent Bailey?" Remington protested.
Laura stopped and thought briefly. "Let him get his own leads," she answered, dismissing Remington's protest and exiting the office. Remington shrugged at Mildred and followed Laura out.
Murphy walked up to the next level of the loft to the bedroom and opened the closet where he had stashed his listening equipment. He sat in the floor in front of the closet and pulled out the receiver and the tape recorder. Murphy put the sandwich he was eating down, his stomach churning with the dread of putting his plan into action. Sighing deeply, he switched on the receiver, and then the tape recorder at the sound of voices coming over the receiver.
"Relax," Remington's voice echoed over the receiver. "We have a couple hours. I don't think he'd show up before eight or nine, anyway, so we have a while to relax."
"I suppose," Laura said begrudgingly. Murphy heard what sounded like her sitting down on the couch. He heard more movement, and Laura sighing.
"Been a long day, hasn't it?" Remington said.
"Yeah, but a pretty exciting one, with both my sister and Murphy showing up," Laura replied.
"You have no idea," Murphy muttered to the receiver as he picked up his sandwich and began eating again.
"Did Murphy mention to you anything about knowing Jenna prior to today?" Remington asked. Murphy froze, staring at the receiver.
"No, he wouldn't say anything about it," Laura answered in a disappointed tone. "What about you? Did Jenna mention anything?"
"Uh-uh," Remington said. "She refused to talk about it. I didn't want to push it, so I dropped the subject." Murphy slowly began eating again, staring off into space as he thought of Jenna.
"Well, I'm sure she'll say something about it if she wants to, and if she doesn't, then maybe it's best," Laura dismissed.
"Oh, I meant to ask you, did you get that contract finished for the Carters?" Remington asked.
Murphy listened to the two rattle on about business, trying to remain interested, but his mind kept wandering to Jenna. He wondered where she was at the moment, since she wasn't with Laura and Remington. Lunch had been nearly unbearable for him. Sitting so close to her, Murphy had the urge on more than one occasion to take her small, delicate hand into his, as he had done so often during past lunches. He remembered the romantic dinners they had shared in Denver, the picnics in the park during the summer, and the cold sandwiches during stakeouts. He remembered the first time he knew he loved her.
They were chasing an escaping murderer across a rooftop, and Jenna had slipped and fallen. Murphy hadn't known until he turned from punching out the culprit at the sound of her scream. He had dashed over to her last position and looked over the edge, only to see her lying in a large garbage pile. He had raced to her side, his heart beating in sheer terror. When he reached her moving body, he realized she was okay. His eyes had watered from the joy of knowing that she was alive; that he hadn't lost her. He had taken her into his arms, holding her as closely as possible as if he would never let go. That evening, they confessed their love to each other, and proved it as well.
Murphy closed his eyes and sighed painfully at the bittersweet memory. At this moment, he would give anything to have Jenna here now. Forgiving and forgetting was becoming more appealing by the minute.
"I guess Antony kept his bargain," Remington said. Murphy's attention snapped back to the receiver at the sound of the familiar name.
"What do you mean?" Laura asked.
"Well, I mean Immigration understood completely when I explained to them why we were having a second wedding. Besides, we haven't heard anything more about the legality of our first one, so I guess Antony really took care of it," Remington explained.
Murphy's full attention was centered on the conversation. He had no idea that Laura and Remington knew about Anthony Roselli. Apparently, Tony had left out a lot of details when he had explained the case to Murphy.
"I don't think Tony would go back on his word," Laura said.
"Well, forgive me, Laura, but I wouldn't put it past him," Remington admitted.
"Why do you say that?"
"Yeah, why?" Murphy questioned the receiver, his suspicions of Tony's motives returning. He waited eagerly for Remington's answer, and grew annoyed at the silence that followed Laura's inquiry.
"It just seemed to me that his interest in you was a good motivation to get rid of me, and deportation was the perfect way to do it," Remington finally replied. "My observation, of course. I mean, I could just be paranoid, but that's the way I feel."
"You should be paranoid," Murphy said angrily, his suspicions finally confirmed. "You have no idea how right you are, Steele."
"I don't think he would go that far," Laura defended. Murphy chuckled in an angry scoff. "But it wouldn't matter if he did. If you were deported, I'd be on the plane with you."
"You'd give up everything here just to be with me?" Remington asked softly. "Even the agency?" Silence.
"Yes," Laura answered after a moment. Murphy raised his eyebrows in surprise. The agency had always been the most important thing to Laura in the past. Maybe she really did love him.
"Why? I thought the agency was everything to you," Remington questioned.
"It was, until I met you. You've showed me that there's more to life than just work," Laura answered so softly that Murphy had to turn up the receiver to hear. "Besides, what's the point of having success, if there's no one to share it with?"
Murphy heard movement, then nothing. He strained to hear any noise possible, trying to figure out what they were doing. The next sound answered his question. They were kissing.
"You don't have to worry about anything, Laura," Remington said after the kiss broke. "I promise, nothing's going to take that agency from you, and no one's going to tear us apart. Not Tony Roselli, not Immigration, not anyone."
"I know," Laura said. The sounds that followed indicated that they were kissing again. Murphy sat still, furious at the realization of being used by Tony to get to Laura. He began wondering if Laura and Remington's marriage was ever bogus to begin with, or if it was just another one of Tony's tricks.
"I love you, Laura," Remington said quietly. Murphy stared in amazement at the receiver. The Remington Steele he knew would never have said that.
"I love you, too," Laura answered.
"You know, we do have a couple of hours alone. Your sister won't be back anytime soon, if I know Frances and the family, which means we'll be undisturbed," Remington said seductively. Murphy managed a half-grin. That sounded like the Remington Steele he knew.
"It's funny," Laura said. "I spent four years saying no to you. Now, I couldn't resist you even if I wanted to."
"Well, I could never resist you," Remington replied romantically. Murphy heard them kiss again, and then he heard them rise from the couch. The sounds slowly died out, and new sounds picked up again, apparently from a different bug. Murphy heard the slight sound of wood creaking, and the sound of bedsprings being disturbed. He heard the muffled sound of passionate kisses, and realized what was happening.
"I may be a rat, but I have my limits," Murphy said to himself as he switched off the receiver and the tape recorder, leaving Laura and Remington to enjoy their passions in private.
Murphy stared disgustedly at the tape in the recorder. He thought of everything he had heard, especially about their marriage and Remington's assessment of Tony. Nothing he had heard had made him suspect that the marriage was phony. True, Laura had admitted earlier that they had eloped to keep Steele from being deported, but that didn't make it illegal. And Laura admitting that she would give up her precious agency to be with Steele was enough to prove she really loved him. Not to mention the fact that Steele had admitted easily that he loved Laura. If the whole thing was an arrangement, why would they say things like that? Now, they were...Laura would never have given into Steele's seduction unless she knew he loved her, and that it was real. It was real. It had to be.
"It's real," Murphy said to himself. "And I'm not only a rat, but I'm an idiotic rat. That guy did lie to me, and I should have seen right through it. Damn him!"
Murphy stared at the tape recorder, his anger growing exponentially. He was tired of hurting the people close to him. He had already hurt Jenna. He couldn't hurt Laura as well. Even if she never knew, he would.
"No way," Murphy muttered through gritted teeth. He ripped the tape from the tape player, pulling it apart and tossing it across the room. "I won't be your pasty, Roselli. You want Steele, you take him down alone," he said, shoving the equipment back into the closet, rising, and slamming the closet doors closed.
Remington shifted uncomfortably in the cramped booth of Roy's Bar and Pool Hall, slowly nursing his bourbon. He didn't want to get drunk on the job, but two hours of waiting wasn't helping, since he kept ordering drinks to keep up his cover. He gazed anxiously around the noisy, crowded, smoke-filled room to Laura, who was sitting at the bar, sipping her club soda. Her eyes met Remington's, and she grimaced in frustration. He nodded slightly, understanding her expression. Suddenly, he saw her stiffen, her eyes fixed intently on the front door. Remington turned his attention to the young man entering the bar. He was dressed in filthy, second-hand clothing, and he sported a week-old beard. A backwards baseball cap covered his sandy-brown hair, and he wore a battered black peacoat over his hole-infested T-shirt. Still, despite his outward appearance, Remington immediately recognized Charles Fairchild. As Charles stepped into the bar, he was immediately met by a tall, dark-haired man, who whispered something into his left ear. Charles scanned the room before looking at the man and nodding. He turned and left the bar, followed by the dark-haired stranger. Remington glanced at Laura, who nodded. The two detectives bolted out of their seats and left the bar.
Remington and Laura glanced up and down the street, and spotted Charles and the stranger walking south, away from the bar. Laura and Remington silently followed, trying to keep enough distance between them and Charles so that he wouldn't become suspicious of a tail. As they passed a darkened alley, a loud click stopped them in their tracks. The sound was unmistakable. It was the sound of a gun being cocked. They froze, then slowly raised their hands in the air.
"Back up into the alley," a low voice whispered. "Slowly." Laura and Remington glanced nervously to each other, and slowly backed into the alley, their hands still raised in complacent surrender.
"I thought I told you to back off of this, Mrs. Steele," Agent Bailey said once Remington and Laura were safely concealed in the darkness of the alley. Laura relaxed slightly at the sound of the familiar voice, and spun around toward it. Remington dropped his hands and turned as well.
"All right, Bailey, what the hell is going on? I'm getting really tired of meeting you in dark alleys," Laura protested in anger and annoyance.
"I told you, that's confidential information," Agent Bailey answered, uncocking his gun. "You must be Mr. Steele," Agent Bailey said, addressing Remington. "Perhaps you can convince your wife to drop the case."
"Why? What's so special about this case that it would require FBI involvement?" Remington inquired suspiciously.
"Look, let me spell it out for you two," Agent Bailey said in frustration. "There's more going on here than either of you are aware of, and I'm not under obligation to inform you about anything. All I can tell you is that you'd better back off, before you destroy everything. If you persist, I will first have your license lifted, then I'll have you both thrown in prison for interfering with a government operation. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
"Absolutely," Remington said, smiling nervously. He gripped Laura's arm tightly to silence her.
"Good. Then go home. This isn't your neighborhood, and you don't want to put yourselves in any...unnecessary danger," Agent Bailey warned.
"Yes, of course. Uh, shall we Laura?" Remington answered, dragging Laura out of the alley and heading toward Laura's car, which was parked further down the street.
"What are you doing?" Laura protested, jerking out of Remington's grip. "We were hired to find Charles Grey Fairchild, and Agent Bailey appears to be the only one who knows what's going on!"
Remington stopped and faced Laura fully, pulling her around to face him.
"Did you not hear what that man said?" Remington argued. "I certainly did. Especially the words 'government operation.' Bailey's right--there's obviously a hell of a lot more going on here than we know about, and apparently it includes a government operation. Considering the problems I've had with your esteemed government lately, I don't really want to push it."
"What about our job?!" Laura protested.
"You heard Agent Bailey! If we keep pursuing this, we won't have a job anymore, and we may be thrown in prison!"
"You want to back off of this? Fine," Laura said, marching over to the Rabbit and yanking the driver's side door open. "But I intend to finish the job we were hired to do, no matter what the FBI or anyone else says." Laura sat in the car and closed the door, turning the ignition.
"Laura, wait!" Remington pleaded. He ran around to the passenger side and climbed in as Laura threw the car into gear. She sped into a U-turn as Remington closed his door. Laura sped down the street and turned the corner that Charles had rounded just before he disappeared from sight.
Jenna paid the cab driver and turned toward the condominium where her sister now resided as the cab drove away. She hesitated at the awning hallway that led to the front door. She wasn't ready to be around more people yet. She had just spent four hours with her other sister and her family. Four hours of seeing a couple happy to be together. It was all Jenna could do to remain cheerful, since all she could think about was how happy she and Murphy used to be.
Jenna turned and began walking down the lighted sidewalk. She pulled her windbreaker closer around her and fumbled her purse, which held her can of mace. She knew it was dangerous to be walking in Los Angeles at night, but this was a nice neighborhood, and she needed to clear her head. She strode casually down the sidewalk, her mind lost in her memories. The coolness of the night air reminded of the most important night of her life.
It was almost a year ago, in Denver. Jenna and Murphy had just concluded a case by catching the culprit as he tried to escape across a rooftop. Jenna fell off the roof and, luckily, landed in a pile of garbage. She was dazed for a moment, and very sore. The next thing she knew, she was in Murphy's arms, and he was calling her name gently, tears forming in his eyes. Jenna held tightly to Murphy, delighted with the warmth she felt from him, both physically and emotionally. For months they had been trying to deny their feelings for each other. Now, arm in arm, Jenna felt as if they couldn't deny it anymore.
But the denial wasn't over. Murphy pulled away and acted as if he was merely a concerned boss. He took her home in awkward silence. Jenna politely thanked him for the ride, prepared to let him leave. But she couldn't let him walk out. Not without knowing the truth. Not without telling him how she felt.
"Murphy, how do you feel about me?" Jenna asked as Murphy had reached for her apartment door. He stopped, refusing to look at her as he told her what a good detective she was. Jenna's tears fell at the realization that he was pulling away from her again. She knew she wouldn't be able to stand it any longer, so she told him the truth.
"I love you, Murphy," she said. He didn't move. He stood there at the opened door, his back to her. Finally, he apologized and said he had to leave. He exited, closing the door behind him. Jenna stood there, sobbing. She knew that she couldn't face him again, knowing that he had rejected her. The pain was overwhelming. Suddenly, the door opened again, and Murphy burst in, slamming the door behind him as he crossed the room to Jenna. He took her face in his hand, tears in his eyes.
"I love you, too, Jenna. I have for so long, and I'll never deny it again. Never," he said before kissing her passionately. She returned his passion, crying with joy and wrapping her arms around him tightly. "Tell me you want me to go, Jenna. Otherwise, I won't leave tonight," he warned her.
"I don't want you to leave," she sobbed. "Stay with me, please, Murphy. I love you so much." Murphy silenced her with another kiss before carrying her to the bedroom. They made love for the first time that night, and their love seemed to build every day from that point on. Jenna had never been more happy than she was with Murphy. The only bad thing was the secret she kept from him. She finally decided to tell him the truth after several months, and she prayed that he would understand why she had lied to him about who she was. After all, she knew he loved her, and not Laura. She tried to tell him so many times, but it never seemed to be the right time. Until that awful day, two weeks ago.
Jenna wandered over to a street lamp and leaned up against it for support as she recalled that horrible day, when she had lost the man she loved more than anything else in the world.
She returned to the office after wrapping up a case. Murphy was waiting in her office, a look of fury on his face.
"Well, the Atkins case is finished," Jenna said, pulling off her jacket and hanging it on the coatrack next to the door. Murphy didn't move. He just stared at her, a cold look in his eyes. Jenna felt a chill run through her from the look he was giving her. "Murphy? Are you okay?"
"How could you?" he whispered, his voice shaking with controlled fury. "I thought you loved me, Jenna."
Jenna stared at him in shock. "What are you talking about? I do love you, Murphy. I love you more than anyone else in the world."
"Really?" he returned skeptically. "Do you always lie to the ones you love?"
Jenna's heart skipped a beat, her breaths came in short, quick bursts, and her stomach turned in fear. "What are you talking about?" she asked, dreading the answer. He couldn't have found out, could he?
"How's your sister?" Murphy asked, a nasty tone in his voice. Jenna paled.
"My sister?" she managed to choke out. Her throat felt as if it were closing, and her hands began shaking.
"Yes, yes, dammit! Your sister!" Murphy yelled, losing control at last. "Your sister, Laura Holt! Isn't that right, Miss Leigh? That is your name, isn't it? Or did you leave something out? Like Holt, for instance? Did you just forget it? Well, just in case you did forget, here's a background check on you!" Murphy threw a file at her. Jenna dodged the flying folder, her eyes wide in terror and pain, tears streaking down her face.
"Murphy, please, let me explain..." she began, sobbing uncontrollably.
"Explain?! Explain?! What the hell is there to explain, Jenna?! You lied to me!" Murphy yelled, pacing the room in a fit of anger. "Of all the people I trusted in this world to never lie to me, it was you, Jenna. But when your old college buddy told me today that you were Jenna Holt, and not Jenna Leigh, I couldn't believe it!" He ran his hands through his hair, trying to calm himself. It was a futile effort. "I couldn't believe that the woman I loved and trusted with my life would ever lie to me. Just to prove the guy wrong, I came back here and ran a background check. Guess what! No Jenna Leigh! Ah, but Jenna Leigh Holt! Now that's a different story!"
"Murphy, please!" Jenna cried, desperate to explain everything to him.
"Why, Jenna? Why did you do this? I don't understand how you could do this!"
"I had to!" Jenna returned.
"Had to?! Why in God's name did you have to lie to me?" Murphy countered.
"Because I knew how you felt about Laura. I didn't want you to judge me as nothing more than her baby sister. I wanted you to see me as a totally separate person!" Jenna defended. "I knew you loved her once, and you thought she was the greatest female detective out there. How could I compete with that?"
"So you figured you could just lie your way into a job, not to mention my heart? Is that it?"
"No!" Jenna said, burying her face in her hands to calm herself long enough to speak to him rationally. She looked up at him tearfully. "I needed the job, yes. But I never expected to fall in love with you like this! I've been trying to tell you the truth, I swear! I'm sorry, Murphy. I'm so sorry..." she finished, lowering her head and sobbing.
"Sorry? That's all you can say? You're sorry?" Murphy yelled. Jenna looked up at him, a pleading, aching expression on her face. He stared at her with hatred. "I will not accept anyone lying to me. I want you out of here," he said, his voice lowering again to controlled fury. "You are fired. I won't have someone dishonest working for me. God only knows what you'll lie about next."
Jenna shook her head in shock and pain. The terror of losing him spread throughout her body. She felt as if she would collapse at any minute.
"Murphy, please, don't..." she begged quietly, folding her arms and gripping her forearms to keep from trembling.
"I don't want to hear it, Jenna. I don't want to hear anything from you ever again. It's over between us. You've destroyed it by lying." He moved past her to the door. Murphy turned back to her as she turned to face him, preparing one last plea. He cut her off before she could speak. "You have one hour to pack your things. Get them, and get out." He stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him, and leaving Jenna sobbing in her office.
Jenna had done as he demanded. She had packed her things and left before he had returned. Two days later, she left Denver for good. The pain of losing him was too overwhelming there, since everywhere in Denver seemed to hold a different memory of them together. She gathered her things and went to Sacramento, California, to stay with an old friend. She had put most of her things in storage, and spent the next week trying not to think of Murphy. But it was as impossible then as it was now.
Jenna sighed, leaning her head back against the light pole. The night breeze cooled her wet cheeks. She hadn't realized she was crying, but she wasn't surprised. Seeing Murphy today was so painful. She loved him more now than she had then, and it nearly destroyed her that he didn't feel the same. He couldn't. He still cared about Laura, or he wouldn't be here in Los Angeles. Would he?
Jenna turned at the sound of a car speeding into the parking garage's entrance, and caught a glimpse of Laura and Remington in the white convertible. Jenna forced herself back into the present. She had a lead to give to Laura, and she had to collect herself to do it. She walked slowly toward the building's entrance, wiping the tears from her face and taking deep breaths to stop the sobs. She walked around for a few minutes more, collecting herself.
Finally, satisfied that she could put up a good front, she strode confidently into the building and headed for apartment 5A.
Laura and Remington burst into the condo, exhausted from the evening's activities. Laura removed her coat and threw it on the couch in frustration.
"Laura, calm down," Remington ordered, trying to soothe her.
"Calm down?" Laura screeched, pacing back and forth between the couch and the table next to the wall. "Calm down? I'm sick and tired of being used as a patsy for the government! I'm tired of their idle threats! I want to know what the hell's going on!"
"Will you calm down, please?" Remington said, moving his hands up and down. "Look, I'm just as curious as you are about what's going on, but I don't think getting our license lifted and/or getting thrown in jail is the way to go about finding out the truth! All right, so we lost Charles tonight. We'll stake out the neighborhood tomorrow, and maybe we'll be able to catch his scent then, okay?"
"Fine!" Laura said, waving her arms in acceptance and frustration. Her arm accidently knocked over the lamp on the table next to her, and it fell to its side.
"Damn!" Laura said, moving to put the lamp back upright. Remington grabbed her arm to stop her. He put his finger to his lips, staring intently at the fallen lamp. He bent down and pulled something off the interior of the lamp's base. It was a small, round silver object. A bug. Remington glanced at Laura, who nodded. They began searching the condo for any other bugs, flashing them to each other upon discovery. As they were completing their search, Jenna burst in.
"I think I may have...what's going on?" Jenna stared in puzzlement at Laura and Remington's strange behavior. Laura held up a bug between her thumb and middle finger. Jenna stared at the object as Remington crossed the room to Laura. He took the two bugs she held, pointed toward the bedroom, and made a motion with his hands, indicating that he intended to flush the objects down the toilet. Jenna ran over to them and grabbed one of the bugs, motioning him away. She stared at it, and her look of curiosity turned to a look of recognition and anger. Still gripping the bug in her right hand, she dug around in her purse until she pulled out a pair of fingernail clippers. The sound of the toilet flushing announced the destruction of the other bugs, and Remington returned to his wife's side. They both watched in amazement as Jenna used the clippers to pry the back off the bug. She cut a tiny black wire on the inside, and sighed with relief.
"Relax, it's disabled," Jenna said, an angry frown on her face.
"Excellent work," Remington remarked.
"How did you know how to do that?" Laura asked, pointing to the bug as Jenna snapped it back together.
"It's a hobby," Jenna said evasively.
"Well, we must be getting close, if the FBI's bugging us," Remington said.
"But that doesn't make any sense. Why would they bug us? There's no reason to," Laura argued.
"Perhaps they're trying to find out exactly what we know," Remington pointed out.
"But they already know everything we do, and more!"
"I don't think this has to do with your case," Jenna interrupted. Laura and Remington looked at Jenna questioningly.
"What do you mean? What does it have to do with?" Laura probed.
"I'm not sure, but you can bet I'm going to find out," Jenna said, gripping the bug tightly and turning to leave.
"Ap...where are you going?" Remington asked.
"I'm going to do some exterminating," Jenna called out, the fury building in her voice. She left the apartment, slamming the door behind her. Remington and Laura exchanged looks of utter confusion.
"She's your sister," Remington said as he shrugged, trying to grasp an explanation for Jenna's odd departure. Laura grimaced at Remington. The two stared at the door again, their confusion still not abated.
Jenna pounded on the door to the loft, her anger building with every hit.
"Just a minute!" came Murphy's answer from the other side of the door. Jenna continued pounding until the door slid open, and Murphy greeted her with a look of confusion and exasperation. Jenna pushed past him and entered the loft. She stopped in the middle of the living room and turned to Murphy, her eyes blazing with fury.
"You just can't leave it alone, can you, Murphy?" she seethed.
"What are you talking about?" Murphy asked, closing the massive door.
"You can't stand the fact that Laura's happy with Remington! What are you wanting to do, hope he says just the right things so you can splice some tape together and play it for Laura to make it sound as if he didn't love her? Is that it?!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about!" Murphy yelled back, placing his hands defiantly on his hips.
"Then let me refresh your memory," Jenna countered, holding up the bug she still had in her hand. Murphy paled, but tried to act as if he knew nothing of the object she held.
"What has that piece of metal got to do with anything?" he asked, a hint of nervousness in his voice.
"Don't hand me that garbage, Murphy. I know you put it in their apartment. I know it could only belong to you. I made them for you!" Jenna screamed, tossing the bug ferociously to the floor. "Don't play innocent with me! I know you! I know how you operate. What I want to know now is, what's your game? Why are you doing this?"
"You wouldn't understand," Murphy said, trying to move past Jenna. She stopped him by grabbing him by the elbow.
"Try me," Jenna replied sourly. "I want the whole truth, Murphy."
Murphy stared at Jenna, debating whether or not to give in to her demands. Finally, he straightened, a look of defiance on his face.
"Fine. You want the whole truth? You're going to get it. Maybe then you'll understand why I'm here, and why I'm doing this."
"I'm listening," Jenna said, releasing Murphy's arm.
"Well, let's start with your so-called brother-in-law," Murphy said, crossing his arms and pacing slowly. "The great Remington Steele. You want the whole truth about him? Well, how's this. He isn't real. Remington Steele doesn't exist," Murphy said, stopping and looking straight at Jenna.
"What are you talking about?" Jenna responded incredulously.
"Remington Steele is a figment of Laura's imagination. No one would take her seriously as a female private detective, so she invented a male superior to fool the public into thinking that they were hiring a man," Murphy explained, pacing again. "It worked perfectly. That is, until about four years ago when a conman calling himself Benjamin Pearson entered the picture." Murphy stopped pacing again and faced Jenna. "We were hired to protect Royal Lavulite, the most precious jewels in the world. He came in chasing them in the hopes of stealing them. Somehow he ended up assuming the identity of Remington Steele. I figured after the case was finished, he'd take off. But he didn't. And much to my objections, Laura agreed to let him play figurehead for the agency. The truth is, we knew nothing about him, except that he was a con and a thief. We didn't even know his name. So now you know why I don't trust him."
Jenna stared at him unbelievingly. "This can't be true," she said finally. "My sister would never do anything that deceitful, and she certainly wouldn't fall for someone she knew nothing about. She's always played it safe with men. She dated a banker, for God's sake!"
"Yeah, well, you didn't know this guy. He had this smarmy charm that he just loved to use to his advantage," Murphy argued. Jenna was clearly upset, and desperately trying not to believe Murphy, although she knew he wouldn't lie to her.
"Even if all of this is true, that was a while back. People can change in four years. It's obvious that Laura really loves this guy. It's also obvious that he sincerely loves her. Regardless, this doesn't explain why you're bugging their apartment, especially since you seem to know everything," Jenna pointed out. "So explain."
Murphy paced again. "Well, this is where it gets complicated. This is where the whole immigration thing comes in."
"Immigration? I don't get it," Jenna said, moving toward the couch and sitting down. "What has Immigration got to do with this?"
"You don't know?" Murphy asked. "You know they were married a couple of weeks ago, right?"
"Yes, of course," Jenna said, leaning back and throwing her purse to the end of the couch.
"Well, according to the U.S. Department of Immigration, Steele and Laura tied the knot a scant 20 minutes before he was scheduled for deportation. Immigration thinks Steele conned Laura into it, but considering that she would lose everything she'd worked for if he left, I can see how Laura would willingly agree to get involved in this scam, if that's what it really is."
"So, you're telling me that my sister married her boss, who really isn't her boss because he doesn't exist, in order to keep this mystery man from being deported and keep her from losing her livelihood?" Jenna asked unbelievingly. Murphy nodded. "And she was conned into this marriage by this mystery man, so there was no love involved?"
"That's the original theory," Murphy confessed.
"What do you mean, ‘original theory?’ Are you saying now that you don't believe that's the case?"
"I can't say for sure, because I still don't entirely trust this guy," Murphy said cautiously. He sighed and crossed his arms, staring briefly at the floor. "However," he said, looking up again at Jenna, "from what I've seen since I've been here, I'm having a hard time believing that he's conning Laura. I'm also having a hard time believing that he doesn't really love Laura. I know she loves him. She's happier than I've ever seen her. And she's right; he has changed a lot in the past three years."
"Who came up with this original theory? You?"
"Uhuh. A guy by the name of Anthony Roselli from the Department of Immigration hired me to investigate. He said he just wanted to nail Steele. Personally, I got the feeling that he's more interested in Laura," Murphy explained bitterly.
"Do Laura and Remington know about this guy?" Jenna asked, apparently more trusting of Murphy's words.
"Yeah, but they don't know he hired me."
Jenna sat silently for a few minutes, digesting Murphy's story over and over in her mind. Murphy moved toward the chair opposite her and sat down, uneasily watching her response. Finally, Jenna focused her olive eyes on Murphy intently.
"Why did you take this case? To get rid of Remington? Or is this due to some sense of protecting Laura?" Jenna inquired, her voice steady and unemotional.
Murphy shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs as he contemplated Jenna's questions.
"I wanted to know the truth. Yeah, I suppose I did it to help protect Laura. She's an old friend, and a good one. I just didn't want to see her getting hurt, by Steele or this Roselli guy. Besides," he said, meeting Jenna's gaze strongly, "I had nothing left to lose."
Jenna's stare wavered. Tears entered her eyes, and she dropped her head while fighting for control of her emotions. She looked up at Murphy again.
"Are you still in love with Laura?" she asked pointedly, her voice quivering.
Murphy chuckled painfully and shook his head. "You just can't get past that idea, can you? What do I have to do to convince you? I'm not in love with Laura," he answered forcefully.
Jenna sighed and closed her eyes with relief. She hung her head, trying not to cry. Murphy watched her, his own eyes moistening rapidly. He spoke without thinking, and without hesitation.
"There's only one Holt that I'm in love with," he said softly. Jenna looked up at him instantly, trembling with amazement and hope, her tears finally spilling over her face. Murphy swallowed hard, his own tears starting to fall. "I have learned one thing from Remington and Laura. When you love someone this much, names aren't really all that important. I'm still upset that you lied to me, but I also realize that you were right in your reasoning. I probably would have seen you as nothing more than Laura's baby sister if you had told me the truth."
"So what do you see me as?" Jenna asked through her sobs. Murphy smiled. He rose from the chair and walked over to where Jenna was sitting. He sat down next to her and stared into her red, watery eyes.
"I see you as a beautiful, wonderful young woman, and a damned good investigator. But mostly, I see you as the person I love more than anyone else in the world. Anyone," he said, reaching up to wipe her tears away with his thumbs. Jenna sobbed with relief and embraced him strongly. Murphy held her tightly, his own tears flowing rapidly. "I never stopped loving you, Jenna, and I never will. I don't ever want you to leave me again."
"I love you, too, Murphy," Jenna cried, her voice muffled against his shoulder. "I swear, I'll never lie to you again. And I'll never leave you again." Jenna pulled out of the embrace to stare at him. "That is, if you really want to pick up where we left off. Do you really want me to stay around?"
Murphy responded by kissing her passionately.
"Definitely," he said, breaking the embrace. "I don't want to be without you again. Not even tonight," he finished softly.
Jenna stared at him, her expression of amazement dissolving into happiness and love. "I promise, I won't ever leave again. Not even tonight. Especially not tonight."
Murphy pulled Jenna to him tightly, and kissed her with all the passion he could possibly feel. He broke the embrace long enough to stand up, pulling her from the couch and picking her up in his strong arms. They continued to kiss, abandoning the pain of their previous separation forever as Murphy carried Jenna up the small staircase to the bedroom.
Remington entered the bedroom and smiled at the sight of Laura, who stood in front of one of the closets clad only in her beige lingerie. He stared at her for a moment, studying the slender form that was now so blissfully familiar to him. Remington walked up behind her and pulled her hair to the left side, bending to gently kiss the right side of her neck as she pulled a pair of slacks from the closet. She sighed softly, tilting her head back toward him. Remington created a trail of kisses up to her temple, gently wrapping his arms around her. Laura turned to face him, tossing the slacks onto the bed next to them. She wrapped her arms around him as he bent to kiss her, releasing his passion fully. They continued to kiss for a few moments, before slowly separating.
"I love you so much, Laura," Remington whispered, his halfclosed eyes staring romantically into hers.
"I love you, too," she answered, smiling softly. Their lips met again in another passionate kiss.
"Too bad we have to go to work, eh?" Remington admonished, his eyes briefly turning toward their bed as they pulled apart again.
"Yes, but we do have to," Laura replied in a disappointed tone, understanding his hidden request.
"Mmm," he moaned in disappointment. He kissed her softly once more before releasing her and opening the closet next to hers to retrieve a suit. Laura smiled at him for a moment before turning and pulling a blue blouse and a pair of black, highheeled sandals from her closet. She slid the mirrored door of the closet back into place and walked over to the bed, laying the clothes on it next to her slacks.
"You didn't eat much breakfast," Remington said as he studied his ties, rejecting several before pulling a red one from the hanger. He removed a white shirt, a dark gray suit, and a pair of black shoes from the closet and shut the door. He crossed over to the bed and laid his suit and tie next to Laura's blouse. "Are you just excited about the wedding tomorrow?"
"Yes, but at the moment, I'm more worried about my sister," Laura said, slipping on the slacks as she watched Remington remove his robe and put on his shirt. Her eyes lingered on him for a moment, her heartbeat increasing slightly at the sight of him standing before her in only his underwear and the shirt he was buttoning. It took all her self control not to stop him from getting dressed and continuing the passion they had experienced last night, and sampled just a few moments ago. She averted her eyes as she fastened her slacks.
"Jenna? Why?" Remington asked as he pulled his slacks from the hanger and put them on.
"She didn't come home last night," Laura answered, a concerned look on her face as she put on her blouse and buttoned it.
"Are you sure? She could have come in late last night and left early this morning," Remington said, tucking his shirt into his slacks as he went to the dresser to get a pair of socks. He returned to his original position as Laura went to the dresser to get a pair of kneehigh hose. She resumed her position next to Remington. They sat on the bed together.
"I didn't hear her come in last night, did you?" Laura asked as she put on her hose and strapped her sandals onto her feet.
"Well, no," Remington admitted as he put on his socks and shoes, "but we were a little...preoccupied last night," he said, smiling at her seductively. Laura smirked at him playfully, remembering again the events of the previous evening.
"Regardless," she said, rising and tucking in her blouse as he rose and began knotting his tie around his neck, "I don't think she came home, and I'm a bit worried about her."
"All right, we'll try to find her," he said as he reached for his jacket and Laura adjusted his tie. "First, though, we have to go meet Murphy. We told him yesterday that we'd pick him up at eight, remember?" He went to the dresser again to retrieve a red handkerchief from one of the drawers. He folded it and placed it in his outer breast pocket, leaving a small triangle peeking out. Laura donned her diamondnecklace and gold watch, and handed Remington his watch from the bedstand. She grabbed her purse from the dresser top.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Not yet," he said, pulling her into his arms and kissing her again. She eagerly returned the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck. They parted reluctantly, releasing each other from the embrace.
"Now I'm ready," he said, smiling at her. She nodded.
"Okay," she said, turning to leave the bedroom with Remington following. "By the way, you might want to wipe off the lipstick."
Remington brushed his hand across his lips, staring at his pigmented fingers in puzzlement as they exited the apartment.
"Maybe I shouldn't be so worried. I know she's an adult and she can take care of herself, but she is my little sister," Laura protested as she and Remington climbed the stairs toward the loft. "Something really set her off last night. I just hope she didn't do anything rash to get herself in trouble. I mean, she should have called. Something must really be wrong if she didn't call or come home last night."
"Well, we'll start looking for her as soon as we get Murphy. Who knows, he may know where to find her," Remington assured, pushing open the stairwell door that led to the third floor.
"How would Murphy know where she would be?" Laura asked as they approached the door to the loft.
"Well, I got the impression that they had a...relationship of sorts, before they came here. I'm not sure what that relationship entailed, though," Remington explained as he knocked on the door.
"Funny, Jenna never mentioned that she even knew Murphy," Laura said, puzzled.
"Merely an observation on my part, but I get the impression that there was something between them," Remington said, pounding on the door again.
"What sort of ‘something’?" Laura asked suspiciously. Remington shrugged as he knocked for the third time. He pulled his hand away just before the door slid open. Murphy stood on the other side, clad only in a bathrobe and a shocked expression. His hair was dripping, creating tiny streams of water around his face.
"Steele...Laura. Uh, you're early," Murphy said uncomfortably.
"Actually, we're right on time," Remington replied, glancing at the gold watch on his wrist. He twisted his arm around so Murphy could see the watch face.
"Ah, so you are," Murphy said, laughing uneasily as he read the time on Remington's watch. "Uh, well, I'm running a bit behind. I just got out of the shower, I'm afraid."
"That's all right. We can wait while you get dressed," Laura said. "Besides, we're kind of in a hurry. In fact, we need your help this morning. My sister's disappeared, and I need to find her."
"Your sister?" Murphy squeaked.
"Yes, my sister, Jenna," Laura said, confused by Murphy's nervous behavior.
"You wouldn't happen to know where she is, would you, Murphy?" Remington asked, equally suspicious of Murphy's odd behavior.
"Jenna? Uh, well, actually..." Murphy's voice trailed off as he rubbed the back of his head. He was trying to find the best way to tell Laura where Jenna had been all night. He didn't get the chance.
"Did you call me Mur...phy," Jenna asked, emerging from the bathroom wearing a robe and a towel around her neck to catch the water falling from her wet hair. Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of Laura and Remington standing in the doorway, both sporting expressions of shock. Murphy turned and shot Jenna a look that said, uhoh. Jenna squirmed and attempted to laugh off the situation.
"Ahheh, heh...Laura, Remington. What are you doing here?"
Remington responded by replacing his shocked look with a knowing grin. He raised his eyebrows slyly at Murphy and Jenna. Laura failed to join in on Remington's amusement. Her shock blended with fury as her wideeyed stare passed between Murphy and Jenna.
"What are we doing here? What are you doing here? What is going on?!" Laura cried furiously.
Jenna motioned to Murphy to let Laura and Remington in. Murphy moved to the side, and Remington guided Laura into the living room by placing his hand lightly on her lower back. Murphy slid the door back into place and crossed the room to stand at Jenna's side.
"Well?!" Laura demanded, pulling away from Remington and staring angrily at her sister. "What are you doing here, Jenna? And why are you both dripping wet and in bathrobes?"
"Um, that answer's pretty obvious, Laura," Remington said softly, leaning down to Laura's right ear. Laura answered his joking comment with a menacing glare. Remington raised his hands in apology and took a step back. Murphy glanced nervously at Jenna, who began smiling slightly.
"He's right, Laura. The answer is pretty obvious, isn't it?" Jenna said matteroffactly. Remington shot her a questioning glance. Murphy stared at her in fear and amazement.
"What are you doing?" he whispered to Jenna. "You're going to get us killed." Jenna replied only by increasing her smile to a defiant smirk.
"Are you telling me that you stayed here last night?" Laura asked.
"That's exactly what I'm telling you," Jenna replied.
Murphy glanced wildly at Remington for assistance. Stay out of it, Remington mouthed. Murphy squirmed and stared at the floor.
"I don't believe this! Murphy, you seduced my baby sister?!" Laura yelled, directing her wrath at Murphy. Murphy opened his mouth to protest, but Jenna cut him off, crossing her arms defiantly.
"Murphy didn't seduce anyone. We're two consenting adults who mutually agreed to make love last night. In case you don't realize it yet, I am a grown woman and am perfectly capable of making my own decisions, including who I sleep with. Besides," Jenna added sourly, "at least I know who it is I'm with." She shot a meaningful look at Remington, who stared back in paranoid confusion. "And anyway, it's not as if this was the first time."
"You mean this has happened before?!" Laura shrieked.
"I think maybe we'd better step outside and let Jenna and Murphy get dressed before they catch their death," Remington interrupted. "In more ways than one," he muttered. Laura tensed and threw him a deathly look. Remington cleared his throat nervously. "We'll let them get dressed, and then we can all sit down and discuss this calmly and rationally, eh? Shall we, Laura?" He put his hand on her back again.
Laura jerked away and stormed toward the door, flinging it open and marching out into the hallway. Remington pursed his lips and held up his hand in reassurance to Murphy and Jenna before joining Laura and closing the door behind him.
"Well," Jenna sighed, "I think she took it rather well." Murphy gave her a puzzled look. Jenna responded by kissing him quickly and heading for the bedroom to change. Murphy stood in confusion for a moment, contemplating the situation. He finally shook his head and moved toward the bedroom to get dressed.
Remington slid the loft door back into place and walked cautiously toward Laura. Laura stood up against the wall of the loft, still fuming.
"Laura? You okay?" Remington asked, tilting his head.
"I can't believe he slept with my sister," Laura muttered in anger. "How could he do this? I thought he was my friend! But to seduce my sister!"
Remington sighed and hung his head briefly. He placed his left hand on the wall above Laura's shoulder and leaned forward slightly. Finally, he looked up at Laura.
"Laura, did it ever occur to you that maybe Murphy really loves Jenna? And that maybe she loves him? Hmm?" Remington asked, tilting Laura's chin upwards with his right hand and forcing her to look him in the eye.
Laura stared at him painfully. "No, I guess I didn't," she confessed softly. She heaved a heavy sigh.
"Look, Laura...ah...I understand that you feel a need to protect Jenna because she's your younger sister. But you have to remember that she's a grown woman. It's all right. to be concerned for her, but you have to let her live her life as she sees fit. We have no idea exactly what her relationship with Murphy is, but there does seem to be something important between them. Judging from what I've seen and what Jenna mentioned to me, I would gather that they fell in love a long time ago, but something happened to separate them. Considering what we've just seen, I'd say they managed to get back together, which leads me to believe that whatever was between them was important enough to both of them to want to try it again. Wouldn't you agree?" Remington questioned.
"I suppose that makes some sense," Laura admonished. "It's just a little hard to think of Jenna sleeping with anyone, especially one of my best friends."
"But it's okay, right?" Remington pressed. Laura just sighed. "Think about it, Laura. How would you feel if Jenna objected to us being together?"
"But that's completely different!" Laura protested.
"Is it?" Remington countered. "How? You're just as much her sister as she is yours. And for all we know, Jenna could love Murphy as much as you love me. Right?" he asked, caressing her cheek. Laura grasped his hand against her cheek, turning slightly to kiss his palm. Remington smiled softly.
"You're probably right," Laura surrendered. "I'll do my best not to interfere. At least, not until I get the full story."
Remington put his left hand on the back of Laura's neck and guided her toward him. He kissed her softly on the forehead. Laura looked up at him and smiled. Remington bent to kiss her again, this time meeting her lips with his. As they put their arms around each other, the door to the loft flew open and Murphy stepped out into the hallway, dressed in jeans and a maroon pullover shirt. They broke the kiss quickly, looks of disappointment on their faces.
"Sorry to interrupt," Murphy said guiltily.
"That's all right. We're used to it," Remington said sourly. Laura shot him an amused smirk.
"You can come in, if you'd like," Murphy said, gesturing toward the open doorway.
Laura marched silently past Murphy, followed by Remington. Remington patted Murphy's right arm reassuringly as he entered the loft. Murphy followed them in and closed the door.
Jenna emerged from the bathroom wearing the black jumpsuit she had worn the day before. She brushed out her wet hair and fluffed it with her hands before sitting on the far end of the couch and putting the hairbrush on the table next to her.
Laura glanced anxiously at Remington, who motioned her to the couch. Laura sat gingerly on the end opposite of Jenna. Laura averted her eyes and sighed heavily.
"I'm...I'm sorry I got so upset, earlier, Jenna," Laura said. "I was just a bit shocked, that's all. You never told me that you and Murphy were...involved." Laura glanced briefly at Murphy before turning her attention fully to Jenna.
"Well, it's a long story," Jenna said tersely.
"Murphy, old boy, what say you and I go for a walk and leave these two ladies to chat, eh? You know, enjoy the fresh morning smog?" Remington asked brightly, clapping his hands together loudly and rubbing them vigorously.
"Sounds good," Murphy said gratefully. He glanced at Jenna, who nodded and smiled at him reassuringly.
"Splendid. Well, we'll just take a turn or two around the block and give you ladies time to air things out, okay?" Remington said, moving toward the door with Murphy following. "We'll be back soon. Bye." He threw open the door and let Murphy pass through before backing out himself. He blew a kiss to Laura and Jenna and shut the door.
"Cowards," Jenna muttered, smiling. Laura laughed slightly and turned back to Jenna. The two sisters stared at each other for a while, then burst into laughter, both glad for the relief of tension.
"Why didn't you tell me you and Murphy were seeing each other?" Laura asked after their laughter died down.
"Because we weren't, at the time," Jenna answered, a hint of sorrow briefly shadowing her face. "We just made up last night."
"Well, you two certainly know how to settle an argument," Laura smirked, still a bit uneasy about the situation she had walked into earlier. Jenna smiled.
"Believe me, Laura, you don't have to worry. I didn't rush into anything. I never planned on falling in love with Murphy. It just happened. We were both really cautious, especially since we were trying to maintain a business relationship at the same time. But, I guess when it's right, it will happen no matter what," Jenna reflected.
"Yeah," Laura replied softly, staring off into space. Her brown eyes shone with love as she thought about Remington. "I know exactly what you mean. Harry and I went through the same trialanderror for four years."
"Four years?" Jenna asked incredulously. "Thank God Murphy and I aren't that stubborn."
Laura grimaced at Jenna. "How did you two end up together anyway? You've never told me."
"Well, after apprenticing and getting my license, I started crossing the country looking for work. No one was interested in a woman, especially one who had just been licensed a few weeks before. Anyway, I heard about a detective agency that was hiring in Denver. So, I went to Denver. I set up an appointment for an interview over the phone, and the guy told me his name was Murphy Michaels. I recognized the name because you used to talk about him so much. I knew he cared about you a lot, and if I told him I was your little sister he'd never take me seriously. I almost didn't go, but I was desperate for a job. I was running out of money. So I went, and prayed he wouldn't know me from old photos you may have shown him or something. I introduced myself as Jenna Leigh. He didn't recognize me, and he hired me that day. I felt bad about lying to him, but I thought it was for the best. When we finally realized we were falling in love, that's when the guilt really took hold. I tried to tell him the truth several times, but either I couldn't or something would interrupt us."
"But he found out," Laura predicted. Jenna stared at her lap, sighing painfully.
"Yeah," she admitted. "An old college buddy of mine was visiting Denver, and recognized me in a cafe one day. He pointed me out to Murphy as Jenna Holt, and said he knew my sister was also a detective in L.A., and she worked for Remington Steele. Murphy confronted me with it as soon as I returned to the office that afternoon. Needless to say, he was livid," Jenna sighed again, the ache she felt becoming more obvious as she conveyed the painful memories. "We said a lot of horrible things to each other. He fired me, and told me that he never wanted to see me again. I believed that he really meant it." Jenna's eyes began to water. Laura leaned forward and grasped her sister's hand for comfort. Jenna took a deep breath and continued.
"I couldn't stand to be in Denver knowing that I couldn't be with Murphy. I loved him so much. So, I left. I cleaned out my apartment and headed out here. I caught up with a friend of mine in Sacramento, and stayed there for a few days. My stuff's still there, actually," Jenna laughed halfheartedly. "I knew I had to do something to break my depression, so I came to see you. I had no idea that Murphy would show up here as well. Fate, I guess," she laughed again.
"Maybe so," Laura consoled. "I'm glad it worked out for you. I can tell you really love him a great deal."
"More than anything. But don't tell him that. I wouldn't want it going to his head," Jenna smiled, wiping the moist corners of her eyes.
"Oh, I won't tell. So long as you promise not to tell Harry the same," Laura said, grinning.
"You can count on me," Jenna said, sitting up rigidly and giving Laura a mock salute. "Now that you know about Murphy and me, how about telling me about you and Remington. How did the two of you start dating?"
"Oh, about the same as you and Murphy. It just sort of happened over time," Laura said evasively.
"How well do you really know Remington?"
"Why do you ask?" Laura inquired, her eyebrows furrowing in suspicion. Jenna stared at Laura, debating whether she wanted to speak.
"Murphy told me the truth about...Remington Steele," Jenna said finally. Laura squirmed and sighed heavily under Jenna's intent gaze.
"All of it?" Laura inquired. Jenna nodded. Laura sighed again.
"I just find it odd that you'd fall for a total stranger, especially when you don't even know the guy's real name," Jenna probed.
"He isn't exactly a ‘total stranger’ anymore, Jenna. Actually, I've learned a lot about him over the years. And as for his real name, I do know it. It's Remington Steele," Laura argued. Jenna gave her an unbelieving look. "I'm serious, Jenna. You see, he was born as Harrison Daniel McEyre. Before his father died, he had Harry's name legally changed to Remington Harrison Daniel Steele. So, he really is Remington Steele," Laura explained. "Besides, it's not the name that's important. It's what's in here," she said, placing her hand over her heart.
"Yeah," Jenna smiled. "Murphy and I have come to realize that. In fact, he said he's learned that from being around you two the past couple of days. In a way, you guys brought us back together."
"Glad we could help," Laura said, grasping Jenna's hand again and squeezing it. Jenna grasped Laura's hand and returned the squeeze.
"You really love Remington, don't you?"
"More than anything," Laura gladly confessed. "Even after four years of frustration, because we were both too paranoid and stubborn to admit our feelings to each other."
"How did we end up with such frustrating men?" Jenna asked in mock anger, supporting her upright posture by putting her hands on her knees.
"Charm. We were charmed by two charming, yet frustrating, men. Pawns in their game; that's what we are. They made sure that we got them right where they wanted us," Laura returned defiantly. They laughed.
"You think they'll ever work up enough courage to come back again?" Jenna said, still giggling.
"Of course. They don't want to sleep alone tonight," Laura answered, leaning back into the corner of the couch.
"Murphy's probably afraid you'll never forgive him," Jenna said. Laura threw back her head and laughed.
"You think Laura will ever forgive me?" Murphy asked as he and Remington strode casually down the sidewalk. Remington grinned, burying his hands in his pockets.
"Eventually, perhaps," he said. He gave a side glance to Murphy, who sighed heavily. "I'm kidding. Of course she'll forgive you. It was just a bit of a shock for her, that's all. You know Laura. Sometimes she has a tendency to overreact, but once she calms down she can be very rational."
"Yeah," Murphy said, halfconvinced.
"Relax. She and Jenna will work everything out. Then we'll go back when the smoke clears."
"Interesting strategy," Murphy smirked.
"I have learned a few things from being around Laura for four years," Remington returned. "Survival depends on knowing when to stay and when to run like hell." His ebony hair flapped haphazardly about his face in the brisk wind. He combed the hair back with his fingers.
"Yeah, you really have to learn how to survive with these Holt women," Murphy chuckled. Remington joined in on his laughter as they rounded a corner.
"Ah, but it's worth it," Remington admitted, his blue eyes sparkling as he thought of his wife. "So, how long have you and Jenna been together?"
"Oh, about a year. Yearandahalf, if you count the time before we started seeing each other," Murphy said.
"Why did you separate? If you don't mind me asking," Remington said. Murphy stopped, leaned up against the red brick of the building, and crossed his arms.
"She, uh...she lied to me about who she was. She told me her name was Jenna Leigh, instead of Jenna Leigh Holt. I found out the truth when an old classmate of hers recognized her."
"Ah, I see. Why didn't she tell you the truth in the first place?" Remington asked.
"She thought that I would see her as nothing but Laura's little sister," Murphy replied.
"Ah," Remington nodded. "Was she justified in her thinking?"
Murphy was silent for a moment. "Yes," he finally admitted. "Actually, I realize now that if I had known the truth, I never would have even considered dating her. I wouldn't have fallen in love with her either. That would have been the biggest mistake of my life; letting her just slip away like that."
"Yes," Remington chuckled. "Believe me, I understand."
"Do you have any idea what it's like to be so completely consumed by someone?" Murphy asked, looking up at Remington, his chocolatecolored eyes squinting in the bright morning light.
"Mmhmm," Remington answered, staring into nothingness. "You think about her almost constantly, and every time you see her in danger your heart feels like it's in a vice. Every time she's upset, you want to hold her in your arms and comfort her; keep her safe forever. And when you do hold her, you never want to let her go."
Murphy stared at Remington in amazement, the realization of the meaning of his words washing over him. He smiled, happy to finally know the truth.
"You really love her, don't you?" Murphy said, in more of a statement that a question. Remington focused on Murphy and smiled.
"More than anything," he confessed. "But don't tell Laura. Wouldn't want it to go to her head."
Murphy laughed. "It'll be our secret. I won't tell Laura if you won't tell Jenna that I feel the same way about her."
"Oh, Murphy, believe me, you can count on me. My lips are sealed," Remington said enthusiastically, pulling his hand out of his pocket long enough to make a silencing gesture across his lips. Murphy stared at the ground for a moment, then began laughing.
"What?" Remington asked, his eyes narrowing with curiosity.
"It's just...I never could have imagined this," Murphy said, still laughing. "I mean, if you had told me four years ago that you'd end up marrying Laura and I'd end up falling for her sister, I would have told you that you were nuts."
"Yes, and I would have believed you," Remington returned, joining in on Murphy's merriment. "I mean, if you had told me that Laura and I would not only fall in love but get married...huh, well, I would have considered you a total lunatic. I mean, Laura's the type of woman I usually avoided. And marriage, well, that's a fate worse than death."
"Yet here we are, four years later. Me in love with Jenna and you married to Laura, and planning a second wedding. What happened?" Murphy asked, grinning. Remington stared down the street, lost in the pondering of Murphy's question.
"Charm. Women. Charming women. A deadly combination for a lonely bachelor," he answered finally, looking back at Murphy. "They had us from the moment they saw us. We're just pawns in their game, Murphy."
"Well, war is hell, but if it means that this pawn has a shot at being captured by his queen, I guess I'll just suffer in the arms of a beautiful woman in quiet surrender," Murphy answered as he stood up straight.
"Yep. As someone once said, we chase the women until they finally catch us," Remington admonished as he and Murphy began walking again. Murphy chuckled.
They walked in silence for a bit, then Remington spoke up.
"You know, Murphy, I'm getting married Saturday, and I'm still missing something for the wedding," he said.
"Yeah? What's that?" Murphy asked.
"A best man," Remington replied. Murphy stopped and stared at him in amazement, knowing what was coming. Remington stopped and stared back, smiling. "Care to fill the position for me?"
"Me?" Murphy asked incredulously.
"Sure, why not? That is, if you want to," Remington replied casually. Murphy grinned and held out his hand.
"I'd be honored, Mr. Steele," he accepted. Remington grasped Murphy's hand and shook it vigorously. They let go and began walking again.
"You think it's safe to return yet?" Murphy asked.
"Weellll...perhaps one more turn around the block. Just to be safe," Remington cautioned.
"Yeah, I think you're right," Murphy said as they picked up the pace slightly.
Remington and Murphy approached the loft door cautiously. Glancing at each other, they leaned forward, pressing their ears to the door. The faint sound of laughter penetrated the heavy wood. Murphy and Remington straightened, looking at each other with puzzled looks. Remington shrugged, cleared his throat, and slid the door open. He poked his head in warily, while Murphy strained to gaze over Remington's left shoulder. Laura and Jenna turned at the sound of the door opening.
"Uh, sorry to interrupt," Remington said as he smiled broadly, still wary of entering. "If you two still need some time to chat, we can come back later."
Laura smiled and turned back to Jenna, who returned her smile.
"Should we let them in?" Laura asked sarcastically.
"Might as well," Jenna shrugged. Laura turned and motioned Remington into the room. Remington glanced anxiously back to Murphy before entering the loft. Laura and Jenna rose from the couch and strode casually toward the men as Murphy secured the door. He and Remington slowly approached the women, then stood still as Laura and Jenna closed the gap.
"I...uh...I take it everything's okay, hmm?" Remington asked nervously.
Laura and Jenna exchanged knowing smiles.
"Everything's fine. You're safe. Both of you," Laura said, directing her comment to Murphy before approaching Remington and standing inches from him.
"Yes, we settled everything. Everything," Jenna added, glancing at Remington before stepping up to Murphy. Murphy nodded in understanding and sighed with relief.
"So, we're back in your good graces?" Murphy asked, trying to mask the anxiousness in his voice with a teasing tone as he looked from Laura to Jenna. The women nodded to each other.
"Absolutely," they said in unison, putting their arms around the men they loved and kissing them passionately. Remington and Murphy each responded with surprise, then recovered quickly by wrapping their arms around the women. Remington and Murphy slowly broke the kisses. They glanced at one another, grinned, and returned to their partners' lips for seconds.
The ringing of the telephone interrupted the romantic exchanges.
"Who could that be?" Jenna complained, pulling away from Murphy.
"Well, since we're here and kissing, it's probably Mildred," Remington said grimly. Laura smacked him playfully on the back to chastise him. Murphy chuckled as he untangled himself from Jenna's arms and answered the phone.
"It's for you," he said after answering, holding the phone out to Laura. He grinned broadly and looked at Remington. "It's Mildred."
Remington grimaced and gave Laura an ‘I told you so’ look. Laura ignored Remington's frustration and Murphy and Jenna's amusement as she accepted the receiver.
"Yes, Mildred? When? All right., we'll get in touch with her. What? I see. Okay. We'll be in soon. Thanks, Mildred. Bye," Laura hung up the phone and turned to the others. "Mrs. Fairchild called. She wants an update. And Mildred said she turned up something very interesting with the FBI computer."
"Oh! I forgot to tell you! I've got a lead on that guy. A woman in the neighborhood we checked says he frequents a warehouse in the area. I have the address," Jenna said, picking up her purse from the coffee table. She fished out a piece of paper and handed it to her sister. "Sorry I didn't tell you last night. I sort of got...distracted." She smiled at Murphy.
"Speaking of distraction, you still haven't explained to us what you know about the bugs in our apartment," Remington reminded her. Jenna looked nervously at Murphy, who swallowed hard in uneasiness.
"I'll explain later," Jenna said. "We'd better get to the office for now, and wrap up this case." Jenna grabbed her purse and headed for the door. "Actually, I think I'm going to go back to the condo and change, if you don't mind, Laura."
"Of course not," Laura said, smirking at Jenna and handing her keychain to her. "Just come by the office as soon as you can." She glanced at Murphy and Remington. "We'll stop by to see Mrs. Fairchild and let her know that we at least know Charles is alive and all right. Then, we can go to the office, hear what Mildred has come up with, and figure out a way to wrap this up. Let's go."
The four exited the loft.
"Morning, Mildred," Laura said as she, Remington, and Murphy entered the office. "Let's go to Mr. Steele's office and you can tell us what you've got, okay?"
"Gotcha," Mildred said, grabbing the manila folder on her left and following the trio into Remington's office. Remington sat in his chair behind the desk. Laura sat on the front right edge of the desk, and Murphy sat in the guest's chair in front of Laura. Mildred approached the desk and assumed a presentational stance as she addressed the three detectives.
"Okay, I ran Agent Bailey's name through the computer. Turn's out he's legit, all right. He's been with the FBI for the past eighteen years. Special Agent for the narcotics division for the last twelve years, and before that he was an L.A. field agent."
"And Charles Fairchild? What did the FBI have to say about him?" Laura asked.
"Ah, that's the interesting part. I fed his name into the computer and came up with bubkis. Turns out that all information in the FBI computer pertaining to Charles Grey Fairchild, Jr. has been classified as confidential information, and only authorized personnel are allowed access to it." Mildred finished her presentation with a proud, broad smile.
"Confidential information? Authorized personnel? This case gets more complicated and confusing by the minute," Remington remarked, leaning back in his chair.
"What's so special about this guy that the FBI doesn't want him touched?" Murphy asked.
"We think he may be involved in a drug smuggling operation," Laura related.
"Yeah, but if he's a criminal, why mark his files confidential? Wouldn't you want them open to the police and such so you can trade information and nail the guy faster?" Murphy challenged.
"I'll admit, that does seem a bit odd," Laura mused, her brow furrowing in deep thought.
"Hey, guys," Jenna greeted everyone as she marched into the office, now donning a pair of black slacks and a thin, short-sleeved sweater. "Did I miss anything interesting?"
"Quite a bit, actually," Remington answered as Jenna sat in the remaining guest chair in front of the desk. "It seems our Mr. Fairchild has been labeled as confidential information by the FBI."
"Confidential information? A playboy-turned-bum is being protected by the FBI? Boy, I've seen some weird mysteries before, but this one really beats all I've ever seen," Jenna commented.
"I have to agree with her. This one takes the taco," Mildred responded.
"Well, no matter how baffling it is, we've got to find out what Charles Fairchild is up to, and soon," Laura said.
"Yeah. After all, you two have a wedding planned for tomorrow," Mildred reminded. Laura looked back at Remington.
"Oops, I almost forgot about that," Laura said, half-jokingly. Remington smiled delicately at her.
"I didn't," he said softly. "Case or not, you're marrying me tomorrow." Laura smiled back to him warmly.
"I wouldn't miss it for anything," she assured him.
"Well, then, let's get this case wrapped up, shall we? Murphy, Jenna, can we count on your help?" Remington asked.
"Of course," said Jenna.
"Sure," Murphy responded.
"Splendid. Mildred, we'll need your help as well," Remington said, rising and walking around to the front of the desk to stand next to Laura. "I suggest we stake out that warehouse and confront our Mr. Fairchild face to face. Hopefully, we can wrap all this up before lunch."
"Then we'd better get started," Laura said, hopping off the desk and walking over to retrieve needed equipment from the storage closet to the left of Remington's desk.
"Well, so much for lunch," Remington muttered to Laura as they watched the front of the warehouse from the front seat of Laura's car. He glanced with annoyance at his watch, and sighed heavily. "I mean, all we've seen is one delivery truck and a few workers. Now, the place is dead, it's 2:30, and there's still no sign of Charles Fairchild. This isn't worth missing lunch for."
"I'm sure you'll survive, Mr. Steele," Laura said, scrunched down in the driver's seat, her eyes never leaving the warehouse entrance.
"Mmm," Remington groaned. "That's what I love about you, Laura. You're so comforting at times like this."
"Cheer up," she said, turning to him. "By this time tomorrow, I'll be feeding you wedding cake." Remington smiled, gazing at her adoringly.
"Yes. My wife will be feeding me our wedding cake." He laughed.
"What?" Laura asked, puzzled by his amusement.
"Oh, I was just thinking. Before, I not only would never have said those words, but I certainly wouldn't have ever gotten pleasure out of them. That is, until I met you," he finished softly, smiling romantically at her.
"I guess it just took meeting the right woman," Laura said softly, returning his smile.
"Well, I certainly did that," he said, leaning toward her. Laura met him halfway, kissing him softly. Their kisses intensified, and Remington brought his hand up to her left cheek, pulling her even closer to him.
"Heads up," Murphy's voice came over the walkie-talkie laying between them. They broke their kiss in disappointment, and Laura picked up the walkie-talkie.
"What have you got, Murph?" Laura responded.
"Our boy is heading your way. Alone."
"Yeah, I got him, too. He's heading for the front door," Mildred chimed in over the walkie-talkie from her vantage point further down the street from Laura and Remington.
Laura and Remington watched as Charles Fairchild came into view, wearing an outfit similar to the one he wore to the bar the night before. He glanced around, then disappeared into the warehouse.
"Come on," Laura said to Remington, climbing out of the car and heading toward the warehouse. Remington quickly followed, signaling to Murphy and Jenna on the roof of the adjacent building and to Mildred down the street that they were moving in.
Laura and Remington cautiously approached the slightly ajar door that Charles had disappeared through. Peeking in, they carefully pushed the door open and slipped silently inside.
The warehouse was fairly empty toward the front. In the back, it was filled with large wooden crates, all tightly sealed. A fork lift sat abandoned off to the left. On the right was an office door. A large window next to the door had its blinds lowered, but the lack of luminescence behind the white blinds made it obvious that there were no lights on in the office.
"No sign of Charles," Laura said quietly, grimacing in frustration as they walked slowly forward.
"No sign of anyone," Remington muttered, walking close to Laura with caution.
"It is a bit odd feeling, isn't it?" Laura said softly. "Considering the activity earlier, it seems like there should be someone here."
"Unless someone is here, hiding behind one of those crates," Remington whispered. "Just like in Beverly Hills Cop. Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Paramount, 1985."
"I know. I saw it," Laura muttered impatiently, not wanting to think about what might be in store for them. Suddenly, the sound of wood hitting the concrete floor shattered the silence of the warehouse. Remington and Laura stopped, looked at each other apprehensively, and moved forward again, heading toward the source of the sound.
Remington took the lead, fists raised and ready for a punch, as he and Laura cautiously rounded the crate near the sound. They came up behind a man crouched down in front of an opened crate. He appeared to be holding something. As Remington moved to grab the man's shoulder and turn him around, the man rose and spun to face them, cocking his .38, all in one fluid motion. The two detectives froze.
"All right.," Charles Fairchild said, pointing the gun steadily at Remington's chest, "I know you've been following me. Who are you, and what do you want?"
"I'm Remington Steele, and this is my associate, Laura Holt-Steele. We're private investigators. Your mother hired us to find out what's happened to you. She's very worried," Remington explained in a nervous rush. Laura was staring intently at the object on the floor in front of the crate that had occupied Charles prior to their arrival.
"Obviously you didn't want to tell Mommy about your business," Laura said flatly, glaring at him in disapproval. Remington glanced down and noticed the large plastic bag of white powder sitting in front of a hollowed slot in the bottom of the crate. Another bag of powder was still in its place in the crate.
"I don't suppose that's black market talcum powder, eh?" Remington said, looking again at Charles.
"No, it isn't, and you shouldn't be here to see it. You'll blow everything," Charles hissed.
"What are you talking about?" Laura asked, angry at being deceived again.
"Answer the lady's question, Grey," a voice said from behind Charles. Suddenly, the sound of multiple guns cocking surrounded the three. Six men stepped out from behind crates, followed by a seventh, clad in a three-piece suit, who strode casually up to Charles. Charles lowered his gun, uncocking it.
"Well, Charles? Care to explain what's going on? I would like to know myself why a pair of world-famous dicks have been tailing you for the past two days. You weren't planning on informing them of our little operation, were you?" the man said, smiling at him politely, a menacing look hidden in his strong-lined features.
"Come on, Max, you know I wouldn't do that," Charles protested. "I'm loyal to you. Haven't I been there for you no matter what the past few months?"
"Yeah, you've been a real pal. Always getting exactly what we need when we need it. Very convenient, all these contacts of yours. Of course, you lied to me about your name. You forgot the Fairchild part," Max returned. Charles paled, and swallowed nervously. "You should have told us that your old lady was loaded. So why didn't you?"
"I don't know what you mean," Charles said.
"Oh, well, perhaps Mr. Steele here does," Max said, turning to Remington. "Didn't you say his old lady hired you? Wanted to find out what her baby boy was up to? Didn't know he was shipping and dealing? Or is that not the real reason you're here?"
"I don't know what you mean," Remington said, trying to sound indifferent. Laura stood staunchly beside him, doing her best not to tremble with fear. Her stomach felt knotted, and her knees felt as if they wouldn't be able to support her much longer. She stood as close to Remington as possible, wanting to protect him as much as she wanted him to protect her.
"Oh, come on," Max protested loudly, his voice echoing eerily through the warehouse. "You mean to tell me that the great Remington Steele is only pursuing a case involving a worried mother? I know you're reputation! I know how the police love you, and how you've been rumored to have done things with the CIA. You'd be the perfect informer for little Charles here to spill his guts to. Right, Chuck?" Max turned his attention to Charles again.
"Look, I told you, I'm loyal to you, Max. I didn't even know why these guys were following me until just a couple of minutes ago when they told me. I'd never tell them nothing, I swear," Charles protested.
"He's right. He's told us nothing. We were just hired to find him," Remington interjected. "Now that we have, we'll be on our way to let his mother know that he's all right." Remington turned as if to leave, but the armed man beside him stopped him with a poke in the ribs from his gun. Remington turned slowly back to face Charles and Max.
"I don't think you'll be going anywhere, Mr. Steele," Max said. "You've seen too much. How do I know you won't go to the police and tell them about our special crates, and how we like to add to our customers' pleasure? I can't allow that. I'm a businessman, just like you. And you know, as a businessman, that profit is the name of the game, and you should never let anything stand in the way of profit," Max finished ominously. He turned again to Charles. "All right., Chuck. You say you're loyal to me? Fine. Prove it." He gestured to Remington and Laura. "Kill them."
Remington and Laura glanced at each other, knowing that escape was impossible, since they were hopelessly outgunned.
Charles looked shocked momentarily, then stared at Laura and Remington apologetically. "Okay," he said, cocking his gun.
"Freeze! FBI!" a voice called out. Suddenly, each man surrounding the detectives had a gun pointed at his temple. The men were quickly disarmed, as a swarm of FBI officers moved into the area.
"‘Bout time, Bailey," Charles said, grinning in relief and lowering his gun, uncocking it for the second time. Agent Albert Bailey walked up between Laura and Remington, and went over to shake Charles' hand. He faced Max, who was being roughly put into handcuffs.
"Maxwell DeFore. Thought you could never get caught, huh?" Agent Bailey gloated. "I knew we would get you eventually. Drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute, interstate smuggling, international smuggling. We have a whole bagful for you, DeFore."
"You got nothing on me. That's sugar in that bag," Max said, nodding toward the bag still on the floor.
"Maybe, but the bags we found at your other warehouse didn't have sugar in them. But I tell you, Maxie, the find couldn't have been sweeter for us." Agent Bailey grinned broadly.
Max paled. "I talk only to my lawyer," he said, furious.
"Get him out of here," Agent Bailey ordered. "Get them all out of here." The officers dragged their prisoners out of the warehouse. Agent Bailey turned to Laura and Remington.
"Told ya you were in over your head," he said matter-of-factly. "Good thing we kept tabs on you today, or you two would be dead. DeFore was on to you the moment you questioned his pigeon at the pawn shop."
"Jack?" Remington asked, puzzled.
"Yep. He called DeFore as soon as you left and told him all about you asking after Charles. You were tagged to go down from that moment forward. If we hadn't planned on this little get-together here occurring, you'd probably both be dead."
"You mean that guy knew we'd come here looking for Charles and find out that this warehouse is full of drugs?" Laura asked in confusion.
"Oh, this isn't the real stash," Charles explained, gesturing to the bag on the floor. "I'm sure this was just put here for my benefit. The real stuff's at his other warehouse across town. He suspected me of being a patsy for the cops. He never actually told me where he hid the drugs, thinking that he could catch me looking for them. Of course, I managed to find out where the real shipment was going, and the other officers were supposed to have raided it a few minutes ago, while I kept DeFore preoccupied here."
"Yeah, it worked beautifully. We got the whole shipment," Agent Bailey said cheerfully.
"So, you're actually a federal agent?" Remington asked, pointing to Charles. Charles nodded. "That explains why your files are confidential; so you can infiltrate the underworld without them being able to find out who you really are."
"Yeah, that's right. I've been working this case for months, but I knew it was getting down to the wire, and we'd have to stop this guy soon. He was planning on moving his operation, and we wanted to catch him before he did. So, I bought my gun and knife from Jack's Pawn with my real credit card, knowing that he'd call Max and tell him that I was a phony. I knew Max would try to trap me. I managed to find out his plan, and we worked out one of our own. I never counted on my mother hiring you, though. See, she doesn't believe in work, especially work like this, so I never told her what I do. She wouldn't understand that I love it. I guess I have to explain it to her now, before my next assignment, so she won't hire anyone else to find me," Charles said jokingly. "Anyway, we knew you wouldn't back off easily from this, so we added you to the plan, knowing that Max would figure that I was informing you instead of the police. That way, with you posing as the middle man, he wouldn't figure on who's really on his tail, which gave Bailey here more maneuvering room."
"So all those threats you made to us were part of the plan?" Laura asked Agent Bailey, aggravated.
"In a way," Agent Bailey answered. "We knew you'd either agree to back off or you'd keep coming. Either way, we were going to trap DeFore."
"Then you did bug our apartment," Remington said.
"What?" Agent Bailey asked.
"You didn't bug our apartment?" Remington asked.
"No," Agent Bailey answered defensively. "Why should we? You didn't know anything more than we did, and you knew a hell of a lot less than that." Remington and Laura looked at each other in bewilderment.
"Then Jenna was right. It had nothing to do with the case," Laura said.
"Then what did it have to do with? Who would bug us and why?" Remington countered.
"I think Jenna has some explaining to do," Laura said grimly, a look of defiance on her face.
"There you guys are," Jenna said as she, Mildred and Murphy approached the group.
"Speak of the devil," Remington muttered to Laura.
"Are you guys all right.?" Murphy asked. "We came down off the roof, and by the time we got to the front door, we were stopped by an army of FBI guys who were sneaking into the building."
"Yeah, we're fine," Laura said, sighing exhaustedly.
"Charles Grey Fairchild, I presume?" Jenna asked, pointing to Charles.
"What's going on here?" Mildred asked in total confusion.
"It's a long story, Mildred. Let's go back to the office and we'll explain it all there. That is, if you don't need us anymore," Laura said to Agent Bailey.
"Nah, you're free to go. We probably won't even need you to testify, but we'll let you know if we do."
"Great. Let's go. Oh, and Jenna. We want an explanation about those bugs in our apartment when we get back to the office. We want to know what you know about them," Laura ordered. Jenna looked nervously at Murphy, who sighed uncomfortably.
"I'm sure you'll get one, Laura," Jenna said, looking back to her sister.
"I can't wait to hear it. Let's go," Laura said, leading the party out of the warehouse and back to their cars.
"What a story," Mildred said after Laura finished her explanation of the events in the warehouse. Mildred sat in a chair opposite the couch in Remington's office. Laura sat to Mildred's left, supporting herself on the arm of her chair with her left elbow and crossing her legs. Remington sat to Mildred's right, his jacket flung across the back of his chair, his top button unbuttoned, and his tie undone and hanging loosely around his neck. Jenna and Murphy occupied the couch across from her, sitting as close to each other as possible.
"Speaking of stories, it's your turn, Jenna," Laura said, turning to her sister. "What do you know about the bugs in our apartment? Who did it, and why?"
Jenna sighed and stared into her lap for a moment. She turned her head and looked at Murphy, who was biting his lower lip nervously. He took a deep breath and nodded to Jenna.
"I think, um, Murphy had better explain. Right, Murph?" Jenna asked.
"Yeah," he said quietly.
"Murphy? What do you know about this?" Laura asked curiously, a hint of concern in her voice.
"I...uh...I planted the bugs. They were mine," Murphy said in a rush.
"What?" Remington said, sitting forward.
"Why?" Laura asked, turning in her chair to face Murphy fully.
"I was hired to. The fraud case I said I was working on? It was about you two. I was hired to find out if your marriage was legit, or if Steele somehow conned or blackmailed you into a phony marriage." Murphy felt his insides wrench at the thought of hurting his friends like this, but he felt a wash of relief at being able to tell them the truth.
"Hired? By who?" Laura screeched.
"A guy named Tony Roselli from the Department of Immigration and Naturalization. He came to my office in Denver and said he wanted me to take the case because I could get close enough to you to find out the truth. I took the case because I wasn't sure if I could believe this guy, and I wanted to know the truth for myself."
"Damn him," Remington whispered. "I thought we ended all of this in London."
"That rat!" Mildred yelled. Laura just sat in furious silence, gripping the arms of her chair until her knuckles turned white.
"Look, I knew I shouldn't have taken the case, but I had nothing else to lose. I had to shut down the agency, and Jenna was gone. I just figured it'd give me an excuse to leave everything in Denver behind. I never meant to hurt you guys, I swear. Laura, you know that I'd never want to hurt you. In fact, I took this case to make sure you wouldn't get hurt. Not just by Steele. I didn't trust this Roselli guy. I got the feeling from him that he cared more about getting you than nailing Steele," Murphy explained.
"Did you honestly think I'd use Laura and hurt her like that, Murphy? Did you honestly believe I cared so little about her?" Remington asked evenly, anger and hurt penetrating his voice. Murphy sat in silence for a minute.
"Yeah, I thought the Remington Steele I knew was capable of it," he confessed. He looked directly at Remington. "But that's not you. Laura's right. You're not the guy I met four years ago. You're totally different. I know you really love Laura, and I know you'd never do anything to hurt her. That's why I called Roselli this morning and told him I was off the case. I told him I believed you were really in love, and really married. He blew up, just like I thought he would, so I told him to forget everything, and I was quitting the case."
"He's telling the truth," Jenna defended. "He called this morning before our shower. I heard the whole conversation. Literally, because the guy was yelling so loudly over the phone that I could hear him plainly."
"So how did you know it was Murphy that planted the bugs?" Remington asked, his anger dying down and curiosity taking over.
"I worked for Murphy, remember? I have a bit of knowledge of electronics. I built the bugs Murphy used, so I recognized them immediately. That's how I knew how to disable them," Jenna explained.
"I'm so sorry for the deception, guys, but I'm glad to know the truth. I know you love each other," Murphy said, glancing back and forth between Laura and Remington, "and I'm very happy for you. I hope you can forgive me someday. I'll understand, though, if you don't want me at the wedding tomorrow." He looked guiltily at Laura and Remington. Laura still said nothing. Remington cleared his throat.
"Well, that wouldn't be very good. It would be hell for me to find another best man on this short a notice," Remington said.
"You still want me to be your best man?" Murphy asked incredulously.
"Of course. After all, you were merely doing your job. Besides, you put us over that job in the end. We can't blame you for that, can we?" Remington excused. Murphy smiled gratefully, as did Jenna. "Can we, Laura?"
"No," Laura said quietly. "It's not Murphy's fault. He's too much of a friend." The utter fury in her face was becoming more and more prominent. She looked at Murphy. "I don't blame you, Murphy, and I forgive you for everything. There's only one person who's to blame." She bolted out of the chair and headed for the door, grabbing her purse that was hanging from the coat rack on the way out.
"Laura? Laura!" Remington called, rising and going after her. But it was too late. Laura stormed out of the office, leaving Remington, Mildred, Murphy and Jenna staring after her.
A disturbance outside his office startled Tony Roselli from his paperwork. He looked up as Laura burst in, obviously furious, with Tony's secretary following, desperately trying to stop her.
"You bastard!" she spat at him, a look of pure fire in her eyes. "How dare you!"
Tony motioned his secretary out of the room. Once they had their privacy, Tony addressed Laura calmly.
"Is there a problem?" he asked blankly.
"Problem? A problem?! You used one of my best friends to spy on Remington and me, and you ask if there's a problem?! You promised Remington that he'd have no more trouble with Immigration after he did that favor for you in London! And now you pull this! How could you, Tony?!" Laura screamed.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Tony said evenly, trying not to show his tension.
"Don't lie to me, Tony! Murphy told me the truth! I know what you've done, and I will never forgive you for it!" Laura said, walking up to his desk and leaning forward onto it. "Since you obviously didn't get the message in Ireland, let me make it perfectly clear here. I love Remington, and he loves me. We are husband and wife, and just in case there's any doubt, it will be taken care of tomorrow. I am happy with him, and only him. I told you in Ireland that I wanted you to accept my friendship, because I couldn't ever give you anything more than that. Well, obviously you refused to accept the fact that we can't have a romantic relationship. And in the process, you've destroyed any chance at a friendship as well!" She stormed away from his desk and toward the door. Laura stopped and turned back to Tony. "Leave us alone, Tony. You stay away from my friends, you stay away from Remington, and you stay away from me!" She turned to leave, yanking the office door open.
"Laura, don't go!" Tony called after her in desperation. "Laura...I love you."
Laura froze at his dramatic statement. She stiffened, and slowly turned to face Tony. Her face was full of cold hatred and fury.
"Go to hell, Tony."
Laura stormed out of the office, leaving Tony staring after her in pain and bewilderment.
Laura walked wearily back into the office after walking off her anger with a few turns around the block. Mildred looked up from her desk as Laura entered.
"There you are, Miss...uh, Mrs. Steele," Mildred greeted her. Laura stopped at Mildred's desk and laid her purse on the edge.
"Try Laura," she said, smiling to Mildred. "After three years, I think you and I should be on a first-name basis with each other. Besides, it's less confusing, at least until tomorrow. And I can't have my maid of honor calling me Miss Holt or Mrs. Steele."
"Okay, Laura," Mildred said, smiling gratefully.
"Ah, Laura, I thought I'd heard your voice," Remington said, emerging from his office. He walked over and grabbed Laura by the shoulders, gently turning her to face him. "Are you okay?" he asked softly, staring deeply into her eyes with concern.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Laura said, staring at the floor. Remington moved his hands to her neck, gently tilting her head up with his thumbs. Laura looked up to him and smiled gently. "I really am okay, now."
"I take it you went to see Tony then? To straighten all this out?" he guessed.
"Yeah," Laura sighed.
"And?" Remington asked softly.
"Let's just say, I think he's finally gotten the message that you're the one I want," she related tensely. "I don't think he'll bother us again."
Remington nodded. "I understand. But, just in case, I called a few friends of mine who'll be at the wedding tomorrow. They'll be keeping an eye out for him, in case he gets any bright ideas about stopping the ceremony." He smiled softly. "So everything's prepared. We have the blood tests and the license, and the wedding is set. Nothing is going to keep us from being married tomorrow, Laura. I promise."
"I know," Laura whispered, smiling gratefully to him. They stared at each other for a moment, before Remington remembered that Mildred was next to them. He cleared his throat to end the moment.
"Now, I have a proposition to discuss with you. Why don't we go into your office for a moment, eh?" he said, holding out his arm toward her office. Laura gave him a puzzled look as she moved toward her office. He joined her in her office and closed the door.
"I've been in my office talking with Murphy and Jenna about their working days together, and the fact that they're hopelessly unemployed now, and it got me thinking," Remington said, folding his arms and tucking his hands against his sides. "After being away from the office for most of the past three weeks, you must admit, we're a bit behind on our paperwork, correct?"
"True," Laura admitted, half-leaning, half-sitting on the end of her desk. She analyzed Remington for any clue as to what he planned on proposing.
"And originally, we planned a two-week honeymoon after our wedding so we could go to both the villa Daniel left me in France and the cottage he left me in London. However, we decided that we couldn't afford to shut down the agency for that long business-wise, right?"
"Yes...are you building up to something here?" Laura asked, her curiosity blending into impatience.
"What if we didn't have to shut down the agency? Then we could honeymoon for the entire two weeks and not have to worry about our business suffering," Remington explained.
"How could we keep it open? Mildred couldn't run it alone," Laura pointed out.
"What about Murphy and Jenna?" Remington countered. "They're both licensed private investigators, and Murphy's worked here before, so he knows how to handle things. They could easily handle running the agency, with Mildred at the helm, for the next couple of weeks."
"What about Mildred? You remember how badly she reacted when you hired that intern. How is she going to react to this?" Laura questioned.
"I've already discussed this with her privately. She understands that this will in no way diminish her standing in this office. She'll still be in training. In fact, with all of us working together, we'll not only be able to catch up on everything, we'll be able to increase our case load."
"Are you suggesting that this become a permanent arrangement?" Laura inquired with shock.
"Why not? We'll just reconvert Murphy's old office back into an office, and he and Jenna can share it. We could at least give it a try, for a short time, anyway," Remington persuaded. Laura sighed, deep in thought.
"I don't know," she said. "I mean, I'd love to have Murphy and Jenna here. I just don't want any personality conflicts to spring up from this, like they did when I worked at Havenhurst. Too many detectives in one office can cause problems."
"Laura, we're talking about five detectives working together, not seventy," Remington defended. "Besides, Murphy and Jenna may not agree, or they may decide to leave later. I just thought that this would be an immediate solution to everyone's problems, and could possibly lead to a good situation for the future for all concerned."
Laura sighed, still thinking. Remington studied her face, trying to figure out what her response would be. Finally, she looked up at him, a tiny smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"I suppose we can give it a try," she said. Remington grinned broadly in gratefulness and relief. Laura's own smile widened. "Besides, I wouldn't mind extending our honeymoon another week."
"Wonderful!" Remington cried excitedly, smacking his hands together. "Let's go tell them the good news, then, eh? Oh, but let's tell Mildred first," he said, exiting to the lobby area and going over to Mildred's desk. She looked up as he approached, followed closely by Laura.
"Mildred, it's all clear. If they accept, the deal's on," Remington told her.
"Gotcha," Mildred responded.
"Are you sure you don't have a problem with this, Mildred?" Laura asked worriedly. Mildred smiled.
"Nah...the boss explained to me that we'd all be equals, and that I'd generally be in charge of the office while you're gone. Besides, they're cute kids. They kind of remind me of you two. I like them," she assured. Laura and Remington smiled to her.
"Thanks, Mildred," Laura said, reaching out and squeezing Mildred's hand.
"Mm-hmm...you're the best," Remington said excitedly, leaning over the desk and planting a loud kiss on her cheek. Mildred chuckled, blushing slightly.
"Oh, get out of here," she said, waving them away with her right hand.
"Excellent advice. Shall we, Laura? We have two new employees waiting in my office for a good job offer, and we have a wedding rehearsal to go to in a couple of hours," Remington said, putting his arm around her and guiding her toward his office, where Murphy and Jenna were waiting.
Laura sat on the bed in her silk bathrobe in the penthouse suite of the Huntington Sheraton hotel. The day she had been waiting for was finally here, and she was never more ready to get a day over with than she was at that moment. The room was full of people buzzing about. Jenna was preparing to fix Laura's hair while chattering with Frances Piper about Murphy and their new positions at Remington Steele Investigations. Frances was laying out the makeup she planned on using on Laura as she listened. Abigail Holt was volleying between nervous chatter with others in the room, pruning Laura's wedding dress, which was lying carefully across the bed, and crying over Laura's impending ceremony. Mindi and Laurie Beth were busy trying to amuse themselves as best they could in a room full of nervous adults. Mildred was trying to get her hair and makeup ready before donning her maid of honor's gown. Laura felt as if she would go nuts if she didn't get way from all the activity in the room. She rose from the bed and sneaked out to the suite's sitting room, closing the door behind her. She sighed, glad for the moment of silence.
Laura looked around the room. It hadn't changed much in four years. The walls were still a pale blue, and the same antique-style furniture still crowded the room. It seemed like only yesterday that she had stood here and watched the mystery man she now knew as Remington Steele walk out the door, and supposedly out of her life, forever. Instead, he had stayed, and assumed the role of Remington Steele permanently. She remembered his farewell in here, when he had kissed her hand gently and told her how he enjoyed "impossible challenges." Well, he'd certainly overcome an impossible challenge. He had completely won Laura's heart.
A timid knock at the suite door interrupted her memories. Dreading the destruction of her brief privacy, Laura strode across the room and opened the door. Remington stood on the other side, dressed in the black slacks and white shirt of his tuxedo. He strode into the room before she could say a word.
"What are you doing here?" Laura hissed, glancing nervously at the bedroom door. "If anyone catches you, we'll both be in trouble."
"Don't worry, I'll go soon. I just had to get away for a moment. It's a madhouse downstairs," Remington explained.
"I know what you mean. It's the same in there," Laura said, nodding her head toward the bedroom door.
"I also had to see you. I wanted to be sure you were all right. You seemed so quiet last night after that whole fiasco yesterday afternoon, and you hardly spoke at breakfast," Remington said, concern crossing his handsome features. Laura sighed and paced into the middle of the room.
"I was a complete and total fool to ever trust him, and I must have been insane to be even remotely attracted to him," she said, her stomach turning at the thought of Tony. "What was I thinking?"
"Well, I blame myself," Remington admitted, following her into the room. Laura stopped and turned to him, startled by his statement.
"Why? It's wasn't your fault," she said.
"Wasn't it? God knows I had certainly hurt you enough with that whole deportation thing. I certainly can't blame you for trying to find comfort elsewhere. I mean, you should have left me altogether for what I did. But you didn't. You stood by me, despite everything." He hung his head for a moment, then looked up at her, his eyes displaying a mixture of amazement and love. "After all I've done to you over the past four years, I don't deserve someone as wonderful as you, Laura. You're more than I could ever ask for," he said, walking up to her and stroking her cheek with his right thumb.
"You've done a lot of wonderful things for me over the years, and the good easily outweighs the bad," Laura consoled. "Despite everything we've put each other through, I'm glad we both still feel it's worth it enough to fight for." Remington stared at her adoringly, his blue eyes softening.
"I think the battle's finally over, though. We've both surrendered, and we've both won. Wouldn't you agree, Mrs. Steele?" he asked, taking her face gently in his hands. Laura smiled.
"Definitely, Mr. Steele," she answered in a whisper. They leaned toward each other, exchanging a passionate kiss. Remington moved his arms around her slender form, and Laura wound hers up his back. They held each other tightly for a moment, enjoying the feel of each other's arms and the warmth of each other's lips. As they pulled away, Abigail came through the bedroom door and let out an aggravated cry.
"What are you doing here? Out, out, out!" she cried to Remington, walking over to him. Remington kissed Laura quickly before releasing her. Abigail grabbed him by his left elbow and dragged him toward the door.
"Shame on you, Mr. Steele! You know it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding! Now, out!" she said, her gruff tone hiding an almost playful one.
"Please, Abigail, I'm about to marry your lovely daughter. You can call me Remington now," he pleaded, stalling her at the door and pouring on the charm.
"Oh, well," Abigail smiled bashfully. "I suppose you're right. Since you are about to be my son-in-law, I suppose it's all right. to call you Remington."
"Of course it is," he said dramatically.
"Well, I...what am I doing? No more tricks, Mr. St...Remington. You have to leave. You'll see Laura again soon enough. Now, goodbye," Abigail said, opening the door and pushing him through it. Remington shrugged to Laura as he was forced out. He blew her a kiss before the door was shut and the chain-lock put in place by Abigail. Laura laughed heartily at his antics, glad for the release of tension.
"Laura, are you sure you want to marry him?" Abigail questioned jokingly, an exasperated look on her face.
"Positive," Laura answered, still giggling. "At least I'll have someone around to make me laugh when I need it, right?"
"Oh, you'll definitely have that," Abigail said, walking over to stand before her daughter. She took Laura by the shoulders. "Laura, I know we've had our differences in the past, but I want you to know today that, well, that I'm very proud of you and all you've accomplished. You've made a great success of your life, and now you have a wonderful man to spend your life with. I know you and Mr. Steele...Remington...will be very happy together, and I wish you all the best."
"Thank you, Mother," Laura whispered, tears welling up in her eyes. She embraced her mother tightly, crying with joy. After a moment, her mother pulled away to reveal tears on her own face.
"Well," Abigail sighed. "We'd better go in there and finish getting you ready. After all, there's an impatient young man out there who's waiting to make you his wife. We don't want to keep him waiting too long." Laura smiled and nodded, and they returned to the crowded bedroom together.
Remington paced impatiently outside the ballroom, wringing his hands nervously.
"Relax, will you? You're driving me crazy," Murphy said, an amused smirk on his face as he adjusted the oversized gray-and-black-striped tie of his tuxedo.
"Oh, sorry. I was just hoping I could make you nervous, so I wouldn't be alone," Remington snapped, frowning and continuing to pace.
"I'm sure Laura's just as nervous as you are," Murphy consoled.
"Yes, but she's upstairs. We're down here. We can't exactly share our nervousness, can we?" Remington countered.
"Yeah, and after that little stunt you pulled a little while ago, I'm sure Abigail has the door barred and guarded now," Murphy laughed.
"I just wanted to see Laura, to make sure she was all right.," Remington explained.
"Cheer up. In a few minutes, it will all be over, and you and Laura will be married. Then you can share all the nerves you want." Murphy grinned wickedly. "Of course, knowing you two, you'll probably be getting on each other's nerves more than you'll be sharing them."
Remington stopped and glared at Murphy. Slowly, the corners of his mouth turned up. Finally, he burst out laughing, calming slightly. Murphy joined in on his merriment.
"You're probably right, Murphy," Remington admitted. "After all, if Laura and I didn't drive each other mad so much, I don't think there would be much to our relationship at all."
"I don't know," Murphy taunted. "You sure chased each other an awful lot. You even managed to snatch her away from me. Lucky for Jenna and me."
"Yes, well, the victory belongs to Laura, without question," Remington confessed. "If she hadn't believed in me and what we had between us, we never would have made it this far."
"Well," Murphy said seriously, "I just want you to know, I'm very happy for both of you. I know you'll take care of her, and I know you'll be happy together for a long time."
Remington smiled gently and extended his hand. Murphy accepted it firmly, and the two shook hands.
"Thank you, Murphy," Remington said sincerely.
"My pleasure. Harry," Murphy replied. The two laughed and released each other's hand just as Maxwell Donahue strode up, also donned in a tuxedo.
"Um, I just came to inform you that Laura just came downstairs and we're ready to go," he said in a jittery voice.
"Thank you, Max," Remington replied, his nervousness returning. Max exited, leaving Murphy alone to calm Remington's nerves yet again.
"Remind me who that guy is again?" Murphy asked, pointing his thumb in the direction of Max.
"Maxwell Donahue. He used to play Atomic Man on television. He's an idol of Laura's, and a former client. He's also a good friend," Remington informed.
"And he's giving Laura away?"
"Mm-hmm. Laura's father... couldn't make it...and Laura felt Max was the best choice. It seems Laura and her father used to watch Atomic Man, and she credits Max with a lot of good memories of her father. I think it makes her feel closer to her father to have Max giving her away," Remington said, a hint of sympathy in his voice.
"Well, we'd better get in there," Murphy said, clapping Remington on the back.
Remington took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Right, right," he said.
Murphy opened the door to the ballroom and ushered him in, following close behind and shutting the door.
Remington was amazed at the transformation the ballroom had undergone since the wedding rehearsal yesterday evening. The tables had been removed from the room, and the chairs were lined up in neat rows, divided evenly into two sections by a middle aisle. The chairs were almost completely occupied by friends and past clients. In front of the left corner of the far section of chairs, a keyboard had been set up, and a woman sat playing a soothing tune as the final guests filtered in. A large dais was set up at the front of the ballroom, and a smaller dais sat just in front of it, which would serve as the altar for Laura and Remington. The back of the large dais was bordered with a huge, white trellis, which was interlaced with ivy, white and blue-dyed roses and blue-and-white streamers. A large, three-pronged candelabra stood in the middle of the dais. Two dark blue candles were fitted into the outer holders, and a large white candle sat in the middle. Two large flower arrangements sat to each side of the candelabra, filled with vibrant greens, whites and blues.
Laura had chosen the deep blue color for the wedding. She had wanted it, she said, because it reminded her of Remington's eyes. He wasn't sure if such a dark color was supposed to be used in a wedding, but now he was glad he had given in. The room looked magnificent.
Remington and Murphy took their places in front of the right side of the small dais. The preacher stood at the front of the large dais, and smiled kindly at Remington, who returned his smile and nodded. The preacher signaled the woman at the keyboard, and she instantly began a new tune. Remington recognized the tune. It was one of his and Laura's favorites. They had danced to it many a time in his apartment. Remington smiled. Laura had thought of everything.
The double doors at the back of the ballroom opened, and Danny and Mindi Piper walked slowly down the aisle and took their seats in the front row. They were followed by Frances and her husband, Donald, who took their seats beside their children. Next, Jenna was escorted in by Jackie, a friend and past client. Then, Abigail was ushered in by Monroe, an old friend of Remington's. She sat in the seat on the edge of the aisle. Monroe sat down in the seat just behind Abigail.
Mildred was the next to come through the door. She radiated in her shimmering blue dress, and she held a small bouquet of white roses. She smiled and winked to Remington as she turned away from him and took her place opposite Murphy on the other side of the small dais. Laurie Beth came in last, and the doors were closed after her. She dropped delicate white rose petals down the aisle from her small basket as she walked. She walked around to stand behind Mildred. Remington took one more deep breath to calm himself. He knew who would come through the doors next.
As if reading his mind, Murphy spoke.
"This is your last chance to back out, you know," Murphy whispered, leaning close to Remington's left ear as "Here Comes the Bride" began. Remington turned slightly to answer Murphy's tease with a smirk, but stopped midway as he caught sight of Laura as the doors were once again thrown open. His breath caught in his throat as she started down the aisle. In the four years he'd known her, he had never seen Laura looking more beautiful than she looked now. Her cream-white dress sparkled at the bodice with tiny sequins and pearls. Lace trimmed the scoop neck, and a thin, white mesh led to the pearl-trimmed lace collar. Her hair was pulled neatly into a bun, with a few curls trickling around her face. The long satin skirt gave way to a lace-trimmed train, which whispered across the floor as she walked. She carried a large bouquet of roses--some white, some dyed a deep blue--in her right hand, and her left was looped in Max's right arm. She walked slowly toward Remington, never taking her eyes off of him. Remington slowly leaned back toward Murphy, his eyes never leaving Laura.
"Not a chance, Murphy," Remington answered. Murphy chuckled softly.
Laura smiled broadly at Remington as she walked alongside Max. She stopped before the altar. Laura and Remington stared at each other as the last bars of music played. The preacher took his place before them, and opened his Bible.
"Dearly beloved," the preacher began, smiling at the congregation. "We are gathered here on this joyous day to join in matrimony this man and this woman." He gestured toward Remington and Laura, who continued to stare at each other with a mix of adoration and nervousness. "Who gives this woman to wed this man?"
"Uh, her family and friends do," Max said, smiling at Laura, who tore her eyes from Remington long enough to flash Max a grateful smile. Max took Laura's hand from his arm and handed it to Remington, who took it gently as he grinned gratefully at Max. Max took his seat on the front row next to Abigail. Remington and Laura stepped up onto the small dais and faced the preacher.
The preacher continued with the ceremony, but neither Remington nor Laura heard. Remington could feel Laura's hand trembling. At least, he hoped it was Laura's. For all he knew, it could have easily been his. Suddenly, Abigail loudly burst into tears behind them. The preacher stopped briefly, smiled at her uneasily, and continued with the service. Remington shot Laura a playful gaze, grateful for the relief of tension. Laura felt the relief as well. Her trembling subsided slightly, and she seemed to be fighting the urge to laugh out loud.
"Remington Harrison Daniel Steele, do you take this woman, Laura Elizabeth Holt, to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and keep her, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for as long as you both shall live?"
Remington looked at Laura, his blue eyes burning intensely with love for her.
"I do," he said. Laura grinned broadly at him. The preacher repeated the vows for Laura. She continued to stare at Remington as she gave her answer.
"I do," she replied softly, glancing briefly at the preacher as she spoke. She turned again to Remington in time to catch his broad grin, which mirrored her earlier one.
"May I have the rings, please," the preacher said. Murphy took his cue, digging deeply into his pocket and withdrawing two delicate golden bands, each set with a small diamond. He handed them to the preacher, who blessed them accordingly. The preacher handed the smaller ring to Remington as Laura handed her bouquet to Mildred. She held out her left hand to Remington, who took it gently.
"Place this on Laura's finger and repeat after me," he instructed. Remington took the ring and slid it onto Laura's left ring finger.
"I give you this ring," Remington repeated as the preacher spoke, "as a token and pledge of my undying love, faith, and devotion to you. With this ring, I thee wed."
He smiled as he noticed Laura shudder slightly with tears of joy. She took the other ring from the preacher, and placed it on Remington's finger with difficulty, since her hands were shaking violently.
"I give you this ring..." she began, her voice cracking slightly with tears and nervousness. She took a quick, deep breath to continue. "...as a token and pledge of my undying love, faith, and devotion to you. With this ring, I thee wed." She sighed again, grateful that she had been able to speak. Remington smiled gently at her.
"I ask all of you now," the preacher resumed, "that if there is anyone here who feels these two should not be joined, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
Both Laura and Remington held their breaths, praying that nothing more would come between them. There prayers were met by blissful silence.
"Then let Remington and Laura come forward and light the unity candle, as a symbol of the start of their new life together. Let the two now become one." The preacher stepped aside, cueing Laura and Remington.
They stepped up to the large dais, and crossed to the candelabra. Laura pulled the blue candle from the left holder, and Remington pulled the candle from the right. They tilted the candles sideways over the large white one, until they created a large flame over the wick.
After a moment, the wick took hold, and the white candle began burning brightly. Laura and Remington blew out their blue candles and replaced them in the holders. Remington took Laura's hand and guided her softly down to the small dais. They turned around to face the preacher once again. He smiled down upon Laura and Remington, and held his hand up high between them.
"By the power vested in me by the state of California and before God, I now pronounce you, husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," he concluded.
Remington and Laura turned to face each other, staring at each other for a moment in love and relief. Remington pulled Laura into his arms and kissed her with all the passion he possibly could. Laura returned his passion willingly. Their kiss lingered for a moment, before they slowly pulled away. The preacher motioned for them to turn toward the audience.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the preacher announced. "may I present Mr. and Mrs. Remington Steele."
The music began again, and everyone clapped and cheered at the announcement. Laura looked at Remington, and the two laughed as they started down the aisle, Laura's arm looped in Remington's.
"We finally did it, Laura," Remington announced as they cleared the double doors at the back of the ballroom. He pulled her into his arms. "Now, lady, is that enough of a commitment for you? Hmm?" he teased.
"More than enough," she laughed. They kissed again, but the kiss was quickly broken by their laughter. They hugged each other tightly, relieved to be finished with the ceremony; relieved to finally be together as husband and wife.
"Can we go on our second...third...fourth...whatever... honeymoon now?" Remington asked, pulling back slightly to look at Laura. She laughed aloud.
"Not yet," she said as the rest of the wedding party began filtering into the hallway. "We have to take pictures, then go to the reception. Remember, I have to feed you wedding cake. Besides, there's an added bonus."
Laura smiled. "Our champagne was provided by the hotel. It's in a magnum. And our first dance will be to ‘As Time Goes By.’ All just for you."
Remington smiled broadly. "I love you, Laura Holt-Steele."
"Steele. Just Steele. From now on, it's just Mrs. Laura Steele," she said, smiling softly. "And I love you, too."