FAMILY STEELE: BABES IN STEELE (PART 4)
By: Phaedra Phelan
Summary: Remington and Laura become parents in the midst of a case that places them and their young family in peril.
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.
It was the middle of August, 1988, in Los Angeles and typically dry and hot as Laura Steele entered her seventh month of pregnancy. She was in wonder constantly at how she could actually be carrying two little ones inside her. On this morning as she awakened-or was awakened-by the active movements of her babies, she rubbed her belly gently trying to calm them, and thought about her life and how it had changed since she had married Remington Steele.
Remington lay against her back, his arms encircling her as this was the closest way that they could sleep together with her belly so large now. He was nearly as close to her as when they had been intimate in the early predawn hours. Laura smiled to herself, amazed that Remington's passions continued unabated, even as she became so huge and ungainly; but she was completely secure in his love now and with no further questions as to his constancy or devotion. His declarations of his commitment, his hunger for her, his warmth and sensuality all poured out for her were daily reminders that he belonged only to her.
Laura stretched her legs and, as she did so, was seized with one of the leg cramps that had begun to plague her in the latter stages of pregnancy. When she cried out, Remington was instantly awake.
"What? Laura, what is it?"
"My leg, my leg!"
Remington took her calf and began to massage it so that the cramp gradually eased.
"There, there, old girl, is it all better now?" Remington kissed Laura's face twice and hugged her. "I think I fell asleep without saying 'thank you' earlier-for giving yourself so passionately to your needy husband."
"You're very welcome, Mr. Steele," Laura said graciously.
"You are so beautiful to me like this, Laura."
The sun was pouring into their bedroom window now upon their bed and Remington's eyes devoured her with his gaze.
"I would never have thought I would feel beautiful like this, but you make me feel this way."
"It's because it is true. You're like a gorgeous orchid in full bloom, so fragrant, lush, soft." Remington inhaled the scent of Laura, the fragrance of "Rive Gauche" imprinted with her own personal scent that he knew and loved and that excited him so.
"The house we buy must have an eastern exposure in the master bedroom. I love waking to you in my bed in the bright morning sun, don't you?"
"I do," Laura responded. His eyes were so blue with the morning sun in his face, his coal black hair tousled from sleep, his overnight's growth of beard all combining to make him intensely handsome to Laura. She loved him in the mornings like this. "I wonder if I will ever get used to waking and finding you in my bed."
Remington felt her belly where the twins seemed to be doing their own version of morning calisthenics.
"My, my, little girls, your mum is feeling you today. You're running out of space in there, eh?"
"Look at us. We're practically parents, aren't we?"
"Dear Lord, yes, Laura. And you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."
"I'm so heavy that my navel has turned inside out, and my breasts are dripping and you say I'm beautiful?"
"That's just nectar, love." Remington touched her dripping breasts and then kissed his fingertips in a gesture that told her just how he felt..
"I go to Dr. Sandra this morning you know. She's getting pretty huge herself. Amazing that she and I are both carrying twins, isn't it? Of course they have been trying for so many years and are finally being rewarded."
"Well, we didn't have to try for years, did we, love?"
"No, we didn't."
Remington became reflective. "Laura, we have to decide about the future. Are we going to just let nature take its course or are we going to plan our family?"
"What do you want to do?"
"My darling, the question is for you."
"I don't really know. You know Dr. Sandra is going to just take a couple months off and then she plans to have her babies with her at the office. Her husband is a gynecologist as well, and his office is in the same suite, so that makes it pretty convenient for them. I think that I would like to arrange things like that."
"That's fine, but that doesn't address the question I've raised, Laura. You realize that you have banned those foil packets that you hate from this house."
"Remy, you spoiled me. When we came together the first time, it was for the full package and I feel shortchanged if I don't get every bit, every drop of you. Isn't it mine?" Laura raised her brows questioning him with tongue in cheek.
"In the words of the song, Laura, 'everything I have is yours.' " Remington shook his head slowly remembering the moment when they first came together completely and it still made his heart skip a beat.
"And you don't prefer me on the pill."
"It takes away all the mystery, darling. That fascinating mystique of the ebb and flow of your passions that I love so much."
"So that doesn't leave us much in the way of choices, does it?"
"I think it will depend on how this 'blessed event' goes. If we have two little dizigotes in there, we will have to take some measures to avoid having what Dr. Sandra called a 'bairnteam' within the next five or so years."
"Of course, if we have two little monozygotes here, then perhaps we will not have to worry about me being super fertile."
"If you manage well, we can let things float and see what the Lord brings us. If you have any serious problems, I will take whatever measures are necessary to protect your health. I can't face raising two little girls by myself, Laura."
"Danielle Chlöe and Felicia Cassandra Steele." Laura felt her children inside her, calling them the names that she and Remington had selected and nodded. "I wish that Felicia could see me now. She was so happy that you were going to be a father, Remington."
"Felicia Cassandra was quite a girl, Laura. She knew that I was in love with you before I could even tell you. You remember when she came into the case involving the 'Five Nudes of Cairo?' She put her arms around me and told me that she could tell that I had been 'smitten.' I knew it too. I had never felt for anyone what I felt for you. The reason I could not leave Los Angeles after that first case with you was because I could not leave you. You affected me so, Laura."
"And you me-but I was terrified. I wanted you-and that scared me."
"I was afraid as well-for different reasons. I sensed that it would not be something that could be easily put aside if we came together. The chemistry was too powerful. And it only got stronger and stronger, Laura."
"And here we are-married, about to become parents, trying to find our way together, love." Laura tenderly stroked Remington's thick black locks.
Laura knew their life was going to have to change as parents. It would be difficult, but she knew that a family with Remington was what she wanted more than anything else. And she didn't want to risk losing him in some tragic accident. Her own near brush with death several months earlier had demonstrated to her the delicate tightrope they walked between security and catastrophe.
"So, if I drop these babies like the proverbial house cat, then we go for it. Maybe we have four or five children before my clock runs out and then we sit back and watch them grow up. Deal?"
"If that is what you want, love."
"That's what I want."
The expression Laura saw in her husband's face was all the confirmation she needed that he wanted the same thing.
"Laura, I love you so much. I want the same thing-but only if that is what you are sure you want to do."
"Frances and Mother may not know it, but this pregnancy thing is something I can really do. I have really felt good pregnant-in spite of this." She addressed her huge belly. "I'm pretty darned good at this."
"Yes, you are darling," Remington kissed her tenderly.
"Now will you help me get out of bed, please? We have to get to that appointment."
Remington found it hard to believe that Laura, who normally was so agile now needed assistance out of bed, but she had rapidly become a prisoner of the burden she carried. He did not dare let her shower unassisted for fear she might slip and fall in her ungainly state, so they showered together most times now. It had become a special time for them.
Remington recalled the words of Balzac who said, "He who enters his wife's dressing room is either sage of consummate wisdom or a fool." He felt decidedly wise as the intimacy that they shared in these moments only forged a stronger and stronger bond between them.
As they dressed and Remington made tea and toast, they continued to talk. Laura had outgrown all of what Remington affectionately called her "preggie dresses" with the twins, and had found it necessary to buy a whole new collection of things that could accommodate her girth. This morning she choose a new white sleeveless blouson type dress that was most flattering in her full blown state, her thick burnished hair and freckled skin presenting an alluring contrast to the white silk of the dress.
"I love that look, darling." Remington looked her up and down, as physically stimulated by her appearance as in her svelte pre-maternity days. "God, I don't know what it is but you just turn me on these days, belly and all."
"You are incorrigible, Remy."
"I'm in love with you," he stated simply as he stood staring at her.
Laura caught her bottom lip in her teeth in the mannerism that he adored and Remington just closed his eyes, trying to restore a measure of self-control. They really had no time to get involved this morning, but he was precariously close to the edge of calling the doctor's appointment off and going back to bed with his wife. Laura's voice called him back to the matters at hand.
"I've spent a fortune on maternity clothes, you know."
"Keep them. I'm sure we will use them again." Remington winked at her and made her blush.
"You are planning ahead and I haven't even had these babies yet." Laura manifested mock shock.
Remington grinned and just beckoned her to come and have breakfast-holding out a chair for her.
As they began to eat, conversation continued in the same vein.
"Laura, you mentioned having a place for the children in the office. You should order a duplication of the furniture you have here for the baby, don't you think?" He gestured in the direction of the baby paraphernalia arranged in a corner of the dining room for the time being.
"Sure. That would work."
"You know that the office is going to carry on quite well. I hope that both you and I work in this agency primarily in an advisory capacity from here on out. No more taking unwarranted risks for either of us, eh? We want no orphans left behind if we can help it, love."
Laura nodded as Remington continued.
"The money is not an issue now-with the holdings Uncle David turned over to me. The investments alone will make us very comfortable. Alessandro and Mildred are working well together in the office. Mildred is becoming a very good operative."
"And Hector Figueroa is very good in the street, isn't he? The internships are going quite well, aren't they?" Laura was very happy to have Hector getting into the business with them. Ever since Acapulco, she had been especially partial to him and wanted to see him succeed.
"And Maria's cousin, Esperanza, is going to help you with the twins. I want them to hear Spanish from the start, Laura."
"So what do you want to do about the house, love? Are we going to buy the Romov place up in the hills? I would like to be as far from Daniel and Frances and Tarzana as possible."
"It's an investment-large enough for any brood we might have. The money is not an issue, It needs no work and Madelena has offered us a great deal there. A half million for a house in the Hollywood Hills is really a steal these days."
"We need to see if the master bedroom has an eastern exposure" Laura said softly.
"Absolutely. Let's go by there after we leave Dr. Sandra's."
Remington and Laura left their apartment and drove to Sandra Brathwaite's office. They were in a 1980 pre-owned Mercedes sedan-white with burgundy leather upholstery. It had become increasingly difficult for Laura to fit into the Auburn in her state of advancing pregnancy and Remington had bought the spacious pre-owned automobile just the day before.
"Darling, I think that we are really going to like this motorcar. We are going to need to have room for car seats and all that sort of paraphernalia, you know."
"At this point it is just wonderful, love," Laura said as she relaxed in the comfortable front seat.
In Sandra Brathwaite's office, Remington and Laura sat down, waiting their turn to be seen. The well-appointed office was full of women in various stages of pregnancy, but Laura was carrying the largest belly by far and everyone smiled at her and Remington. They had come to form a kind of club and the dashing Remington Steele and his lovely wife were an integral part of it.
Just as Remington and Laura were called for their appointment, a young distraught woman ran into the office. It was Miriam Hollingworth, one of the regulars during her prenatal care. She had obviously already delivered her baby, but she was near hysteria. She followed Remington and Laura into the empty examination room.
"You've got to help me, Mr. Steele. I know that you are a private investigator. They stole my baby. They took him!"
By this time Dr. Sandra was in the room. She was taller than Laura and better able to handle the weight of twins in her belly as she stood with her hands pressed into her back listening to Miriam's story, but she and Laura were obviously kindred spirits.
"Tell me, child, what is going on here. What happened? You were to call me when you went into labor now."
"I-I couldn't. I couldn't afford the hospital." The woman was white as a sheet.
"And just when did you have this baby now?" Dr. Sandra demanded.
"This morning, about two a.m.-at the birthing center on Pico. They-they took my baby. They wouldn't give him to me. They said I had signed papers to put him up for-for adoption."
At that point Miriam fainted dead away.
"Get an ambulance to take this child to Cedar's at this office's expense. She has apparently lost a lot of blood." She turned to Remington. "Put this girl on that table, please. I must attend to her and I will see you shortly, Laura."
Remington easily picked up the semi-conscious young woman and put her on the examining table and Sandra Brathwaite proceeded to check her vitals as Remington and Laura went back to the waiting room.
"What was that about, Laura?"
"Well, I do know that Miriam is a young widow. She came to Sandra because she nearly miscarried early on at the time of her husband's death. I've heard of these places that traffic in babies but I've never seen first hand how they operate."
"Where is the baby? They just can't take a baby like that." Remington was quietly incensed. For obvious reasons this kind of crime committed against a defenseless infant touched him greatly.
"They figure she's by herself, no money, no protection. They will probably deny that she's ever been there, much less delivered there. They offered her money and they figured that she should be glad to take it. They don't know that this is her last link with her recently deceased husband."
At that point they were called back in by Dr. Sandra.
"Those blackguards stole her baby. Can you imagine it! I sent her to hospital. She wasn't even properly cared for there. There must be something someone can do. She had a baby boy-white-healthy. That's a valuable commodity these days on the baby black market."
Dr. Sandra kept talking excitedly in her clipped Barbadian accent as she examined Laura. "You know you're gonna drop these babies soon, girl. You're beginning to dilate. And they have changed position. I would stick close to home and husband because they can come anytime. When twins get tired of being in there, they do come out, you know."
Laura smiled, looking up at the woman who was her doctor and now had become her friend.
"Me? I think I carry a little longer. We'll see. But I getting so heavy. My God, it can't be much longer." Sandra sat back on the stool where she was perched to examine Laura. "Now what can we do about Miriam Hollingworth? She asked you to help her."
Remington and Laura's eyes met but they knew that this case was the very thing they had just said that they would avoid.
Dr. Sandra continued, "Look I am sick and tired of these traffickers in human beings. I will help. Just tell me what to do. Couldn't Laura and I go to this place? We're both just as pregnant as you can get."
Laura chimed in. "We could say we're unable to keep these babies, want to know what to do and see it they make an offer. Then we can nail them."
"No, it's too dangerous. Neither of you is in any condition to handle any situation," Remington stated.
"You can be with me, Remington. Be my boyfriend, that disreputable English chap you like to play when convenient. You 'knocked me up' and now we need money. We're illegal here. We're in a spot."
"And you and Sandra know each other?"
"I'm just a good friend. I knew her from London. These people don't want black babies. I won't be in any danger that way. They want white boy babies. They don't have to know what she's having. I'm there in the event Laura goes into labor. She's close, you know."
"And what would your husband Dr. Ian Brathwaite say about all this?"
"He knows that I am my own woman. I have gone into all kinds of situations to save women or their children from being harmed or endangered."
"But you were not at the point of delivering twins. I am compelled to point this out, Sandra."
"I am a Barbadian woman. I know how to deal with a Barbadian man. I will deal with him. Here is the name of this so-called birthing center and the address. Miriam said that her baby has a distinct strawberry birthmark on his right leg. She saw it when they held him up. If that baby is around there, you should be able to identify it easily enough. You call me or page me and tell me when you're ready to do this. You can't wait, you know. That baby can be halfway across the country before you know it."
Laura and Remington were quiet as they left Dr. Brathwaite's office. Finally, when they were in the car, Remington was the one that spoke.
"You want to help that girl, don't you?"
"Yes, and especially because I'm pregnant. I feel the attachment that she must feel for her baby, the pain of that kind of separation. If someone were to take these babies I'm carrying now?" Laura held her own belly protectively. "Remington, I can't even imagine how terrible I would feel. I never thought of myself as a particularly maternal person before, but these are my children. I feel them. I know them already. I can even tell the difference in the way each one kicks me."
"It could get messy, Laura. We know that. I won't do this without serious backup. I can't risk you or Sandra. She looks like she's about as near to going down as you are."
"Okay. We have Mildred and Alessandra check this place out on the computer. They can find out a lot-where the money is coming from, where it's going, who this Dr. James Carroll is that runs this place."
"Hector and I will try to infiltrate the place late tonight. We'll see what we find out. If it's a go, we do it tomorrow-the set up-the sting. Detective Jarvis is called the minute you and Sandra walk into that place. We want no monkey business."
Laura reached for Remington's hand and he squeezed it tight.
"Now let's look at Madelena's house again. We are going to need it very soon, I fear."
They drove up into the Hollywood Hills to the house where Sergei and Madelena Romov had lived. Madelena and Matteo Torelli were getting married in a month and he had his own home nearby. Madelena was only too happy to find a buyer for the expensive piece of property and she made it well worth their while in gratitude for their help in catching Romov's killer and saving her life.
Madelena was away so her housekeeper let them into the house. The place looked quite cheerful in the light of day-not at all like that night four months previously when Remington and Laura had visited there, and had found Howard Markham threatening Madelena's life.
"Madam Romov said she thought you would come. You may look wherever you wish. She says that you are her friends." She looked at Laura and smiled. "You will need this big house very soon, I think."
Laura smiled in response "Yes, I think so." She took Remington's hand and they walked together throughout the house.
The home consisted of a series of generous rooms built around the swimming pool. There was an inside corridor that led to all the rooms as well as entry to the pool from the same corridor. The living room overlooked the city of Los Angeles and, down the hall from the living room the master bedroom commanded the same eastern exposure and view of the city. There were French doors opening from the bedroom onto a private patio complete with hot tub.
"I think this will work, darling, don't you?' Remington said, the corners of his mouth turning up in a charming smile.
"Yes, I think it will work very nicely, thank you."
There were four other bedrooms and a huge fully appointed kitchen with dining room adjoining which fascinated Remington. The house was going to be perfect for them-and they knew the price was a steal.
Laura and Remington left on cloud nine, their housing problem resolved. They would never have to move from a house like this. And they didn't say it, but they both were thinking that the house could easily hold a large family.
"How are we going to swing it, Remy?"
"We'll sell one of those silver mines in Canada that Uncle David passed on to me. I can sell the mining rights for roughly three hundred thousand dollars. I've already done some investigating. We'll take a note for the rest."
"Uncle David gave you how many mines up there?"
"Three to me and three to Harriett. I know that he would approve of an investment like this. We will have no more house worries, love."
They drove on to the office after visiting the house in the hills and gathered the staff to tell them about the case at the birthing center involving Miriam Hollingworth.
Remington sat on the edge of his desk in his accustomed fashion and Mildred took her customary place. Alessandra perched nervously at full attention on the edge of her chair, her huge gray eyes wide. Hector stood leaning against the wall and Laura sat in Remington's chair, the only place she found comfortable these days.
"A case has come up that Laura especially feels we should concern ourselves with. It has to do with black market adopting of babies, babies that have literally been bought and in some cases even stolen from their rightful parents. Laura, why don't you relate the scenario we saw played out this morning."
Laura detailed the events in Sandra Brathwaite's office involving Miriam Hollingworth.
"Now Laura proposes that she and Sandra Brathwaite and myself go undercover there as if we are desperate for money and-very pregnant. We see if they bite. If they do, the police are there to handle it. They are forced to reveal the whereabouts of Miriam's newborn son, and all is well that ends well."
"Miss Holt, are you in shape for a caper like this? Suppose you go into labor?" Mildred asked.
"That's why Dr. Sandra Brathwaite will be there."
"But, Mrs. Steele, isn't she-very pregnant as well?" Alessandra asked.
She is just not quite as 'very' as I am. And Remington will be there as my n'er do well boyfriend from across the pond who is irresponsible and illegal and so on-."
"How do we find this girl's baby, Señora Steele? A baby is a baby." Hector raised the question.
"Miriam saw her baby before it was taken away. He has a large strawberry birthmark on his right leg. You can't miss it."
"Hector, you and I are going over there tonight to check this place out. This will be your first night time reconnaissance expedition, but this is how you learn. I will pick you up at ten o'clock here in the limo. Wear black clothes-black turtleneck sweater and slacks, black shoes. You will follow me and do what I tell you."
"Fantastico, Señor Steele!"
"And ladies, you will do a complete computer check on this Dr. James Carroll who runs the Pico Central Birthing Center. Find out all you can-where he comes from-where his funding comes from-who's backing him-any other locations. We are going to find that baby."
Remington dismissed everybody and he and Laura were left alone in the office.
"Well, there you have it, darling. Call Sandra and tell her that we will do it. I just hope I don't live to regret this one."
"Come here, love." Laura held her arms out to Remington who came to her and she kissed him hard upon his mouth, her hands caught in his thick black hair.
"Laura, you are so full, so ready to give birth that it frightens me and we're talking about a sting operation."
"I want to do it, Rem. If you say no, I'll back out. These are your children as much as mine."
Remington looked at Laura for a very long moment and finally nodded.
"Okay, but if I say we pull the operation, we pull it. I've got your safety and Sandra's safety to worry about and four babies! Good Lord! I must be crazy to do this!"
"Remy, you are not crazy. You are wonderful and I love you. And you will take care of all of us."
And Remington Steele knew in his heart that he would do the best he could to please this woman that he loved so very much.
* * * * * *
Laura, Mildred and Alessandra worked into the evening on the case. Finally Mildred found something at about nine o'clock.
"This James Carroll is untraceable before five years ago. Does that tell you something?"
"Maybe Carroll is an alias. Maybe he is a doctor who lost his license in a malpractice suit. See if you can find anybody whose credentials match his in those kinds of cases for the last five years," Laura suggested, as she stretched, trying to relieve her aching back.
Mildred and Alessandra continued their search for anything that might be a lead and they soon hit pay dirt.
"Mildred, there have been two other birthing centers in Los Angeles that have had this same James Carroll listed as their principal physician-one down in Compton and another in Inglewood. Same set up as this one. Each one shut down after being in operation only six months. There is something fishy going on here." Alessandra's gray eyes were even bigger as she found herself on this trail.
"I wish that we could talk to some of those women who went to those centers," Mildred said. "Also, I don't like the look of the tax returns on these birthing centers. There is a lot of money passing through there. And it's not the small potatoes that you get delivering babies for impoverished women. Somebody is paying big bucks into the operation for something."
"Tomorrow you go to the hall of records, Mildred, and see who you can locate through birth records that had babies delivered at any of these locations. We want to talk to some of these women. If we get these people arrested, we will need corroborating testimony from anyone else whose baby was taken against her will."
Remington was delighted with their progress but it was getting very late in the evening and he was thinking ahead to the plans for the next day.
"I think that you ladies can go home. Hector and I are going over to that place now. Laura, I don't want to have you at home alone right now. Mildred, would you go with her?"
"Sure, Boss, no problem."
Remington had changed into his black nighttime reconnaissance clothing, and he and Hector were ready to go check out the birthing center.
"I wish I were going with you, love," Laura said, "I think you are positively ravishing in black."
Remington winked at her and kissed her. "My sentiments exactly about you. Remember that night we went after "The Five Nudes of Cairo" together? You were absolutely fetching-so naïve, so innocent."
"I was scared to death. I had never done anything like that and I didn't know what possessed me to accept your invitation."
"You didn't?" Remington smiled that knowing and irresistible smile that still flustered Laura.
"Well, I guess I do know what possessed me." She blushed, remembering those early days of such passionate attraction.
"I'll be home before too late." Remington kissed her, this time tenderly and more thoroughly, and left with Hector.
The Pico Birthing Center was a storefront clinic building in a seedy part of Los Angeles. Remington and Hector went into the alley behind the building and there found the rear entrance to the clinic. It was quiet and the building was dark so Remington told Hector to try his hand at using his tools to work the lock on the door.
"Really! Señor Steele," Hector whispered.
"Have a go at it. There is only one way to learn this."
After a false start or two, Hector was able to open the door and they found themselves inside the building in a long dark hallway.
Remington took the lead and they quietly worked their way through the building to the offices. They were empty and Remington and Hector went in and easily located the file cabinets and computer with their flashlights.
"Use your hacking skills and check the computer, Hector. I'll look through this file cabinet."
Hector quickly gained access to the computer files..
"Mamma Mia!" he breathed softly as clinic patient records rolled into view. He put a diskette into the machine and copied information as Remington searched through folder after manila folder .
Remington found a folder with Miriam Hollingworth's name on it and pulled the information. Another one with financial payment records and one with a list of names, perhaps prospective parents from across the country looked very interesting. Remington put all of the papers inside his sweater and signaled Hector that it was time to leave.
"Let's see if there are any patients or babies here." They walked down another hallway and became aware of a lighted area with a lone nurse in attendance.
"Put on the mask, Hector. We don't want to be recognized here. If that baby is here, we are going to take him to his mother tonight. Grab that nurse and lock her in that closet while I search for the baby.
Hector slipped stealthily up to the nurse who was nodding slightly. He easily caught her off guard, put his hand over her mouth, and pushed her into a laundry closet, using a chair back to bar the door. He did not have the heart to strike the woman but told her to be quiet or he would do so. The Spanish-speaking woman was terrified and whimpered in fear from inside the closet.
"Tie a gag around her mouth. We need quiet, Hector." Remington said.
"I can't. She's an old lady."
Remington just glared at Hector and ran to search the nursery area. There was only one infant there but he had the telltale marking on his right leg.
"Voila, there we have our little one. Yes, yes, here we are." Remington crooned softly and scooped up the baby and hurried out, signaling Hector to follow him.
They ran through the building and out the rear and into the waiting limo, making a clean getaway.
"Ah, yes, here we are, Hector. The bearer of the Hollingworth name in the flesh. Cedar-Sinai, Fred." Remington picked up the car phone and paged Dr. Sandra Brathwaite. Then he called Laura.
"Señor Steele, we did it! We did it!"
"Yes, we did, but Hector, you must be a little less compassionate. That woman could have gotten us killed or hurt if there had been an armed guard around, and she had made a row. Either you gag a person in that situation or you knock them out cold or you put them where they cannot be heard if they make noise. Do you understand me? I plan to live to see my children grow up, barring some unforeseen circumstance, and I do not want to have to bring any sad story to your mother about you either."
"I am sorry. I will remember the lesson. Forgive me."
"In any case, we have the baby. Tomorrow we go in and finish the sting. They will surely want another baby to replace the one that they lost tonight."
Dr. Sandra Brathwaite met them at the hospital, received the Hollingworth infant from them and carried him up to his mother.
Miriam cried when she saw her baby and took him into her arms. She immediately checked his leg and verified his identity.
"His father had this same birthmark. He was killed in a motorcycle accident when I was just three months pregnant. She looked at Remington and then to Hector who just stared at Miriam.
"Thank you, Mr. Steele, and?"
"This is one of my assistants, Hector Figueroa."
"Thank you, Hector, for my baby." Miriam held out her hand to Hector who just smiled, apparently mesmerized by this young defenseless woman.
Remington and Dr. Sandra stepped out into the hall.
"I guess that I should have warned my young associate about the lure of defenseless young widows. He is a very sensitive young man."
"Well, she needs a lot of compassion, Remington." Sandra Brathwaite smiled knowingly. "But she will be fine now. We will do a blood test to verify identity but I am sure that we have the baby we are looking for."
"We are going over there tomorrow morning, Dr. Sandra. We will meet at your office at nine. I want to get this thing over with. We got this baby but that doesn't stop the trafficking. We have to stop James Carroll."
"I will be there. Thank you, Remington. You're first rate, you know."
"Tell me that when this is all over and I will be happy." Remington was weary now and only wanted to go home and be with Laura.
He found Laura and Mildred drinking tea, waiting up for him. Laura had changed into white shorts and a huge bright blue tee shirt that stretched over her belly. Remington stared at her shapely legs with evident appreciation and sat with his arm around her as he explained what had happened at the Pico Birthing Center that evening. They were all quite elated that the baby had been retrieved.
"It was all quite simple. There was only one nurse guarding the baby. They had no idea that Miriam had any resource that she could turn to for help. They knew that she would probably have had to check in to a hospital and that would give them the time they needed to arrange the transfer."
Remington pulled the sheets of paper from under his sweater and the computer diskette from his pocket and handed them to Mildred. See what you can determine from these. There is a list of names-perhaps those who want babies. This information will help us.
"I'm going to take this home with me and work on it tonight, Chief. Let me go and get started. I will be in touch with you early in the morning before you leave."
"Fred will take you home, Mildred. We will see you tomorrow."
Remington turned to Laura after the door closed behind Mildred.
"Laura, I love you so very much woman. It was the right thing to get that baby back."
"More satisfying than retrieving "The Five Nudes of Cairo" or Royal Lavulite, Mr. Steele?"
"Infinitely more satisfying than retrieving a painting or rare jewels. That baby was so tiny, Laura, completely helpless." Remington touched Laura's belly with the fingertips of both hands, letting just his fingertips pass all around it. "It is a wonderful thing that is happening here, darling."
Remington bent and kissed Laura's lips gently and they went off to bed.
Laura had a rough night, tossing and turning, her back aching, her legs cramping. The babies were extremely active and every position that she found seemed to be the one they did not like at all. Finally at around three a.m., she just sat up in frustration. Remington instantly awakened.
"Are you all right, love?"
"I think that I am just having a bad night. These babies won't let me rest and I just can't get comfortable."
"Let me massage your back and legs. Let's lie back down here."
Remington deftly worked on her back and then her legs and Laura calmed somewhat. When he finished, Laura just reached for him, drawing his arms around her.
"Please help me sleep, Remy. You know what to do."
Remington kissed her then, gently but thoroughly upon her mouth.
"Oh, Laura, I want to leave you in peace tonight-to just hold you close to me. We can let that be enough."
"It isn't enough, Remy, not tonight."
"Oh Laura, my darling Laura," Remington whispered as he covered her face and neck and bosom with moist kisses while his hand tenderly caressed her, his fingertips brushing her lightly but so skillfully that Laura just sighed and melted in his embrace. She was in such a state of tumescence due to her advanced state of pregnancy that just coming together with Remington brought her to a state of near ecstasy. Remington simply held her joined to him, not allowing her to move, as he whispered his ardent expressions of his love for her, till the climactic moment, as passionate as any they had experienced, but so tender in quality swept over them.
"Yes, yes, Remy, yes. . ." Laura murmured as she finally fell asleep.
Remington lay awake for a long while. He knew now the extent of his love for this woman. It was his love for her that had enabled him to show such restraint when his own nature called upon him to fully satisfy himself. 'You're a changed man, sport,' he mused. 'I would have never dreamed of Kareeza with Laura, but there is a time for all things and we found our time for it tonight.' He lay nestled close to Laura, finally falling asleep long after midnight.
The next morning Laura was very tired. Remington hardly ever found himself waking Laura, but this day he did.
"Love, we must do this thing today if we are going to do it," he said as he helped her from bed.
"We have to do it. I'll be all right. I am just tired and sleepy." She looked at him and smiled. "By the way, what was that you did to me last night?"
"That was Kareeza, darling, an ancient method of marital relations well known in Asia that is designed to prevent the excessive taxing of a partner who is physically not up to par. A certain Maria Stopes wrote extensively on it in her treatises on marital love. I trust you found it to your satisfaction?" Remington smiled wisely at his wife.
"Yes, actually I did. I would never have imagined it, but I did. You are full of tricks, Remington Steele." Laura put her hands on her hips, looking quite adorable to Remington in her nightgown with her belly so heavy.
"That is part of my responsibility. There is so much to know, my dear, so much to learn about our sensual natures. I hope that I will never bore you, because I shall never be satiated with you, Laura."
Laura held out her hands to Remington and he kissed her on both of them. He bent to kiss her lips and, finding her belly a real obstacle between them, they both began to laugh at the incongruity of their situation.
"You know, love, these babies are going to have to come out and find their own space. I want so to feel the length of your lovely form against mine again."
"Well, I think you are not going to have to wait long, love. I feel like I am just going to topple over on my face this morning."
They dressed for their visit to the Pico Central Birthing Center as the common poor people who might be vulnerable to such a scam. Laura wore an old bleach-stained soft denim skirt that stretched around and over her and a faded yellow tee shirt that she pulled over it. Old sneakers and socks completed the outfit. She braided her hair and put gum in her mouth and was ready to go. Remington wore what Laura liked to call his "disreputable Liverpudlian look," jeans, cheap leather jacket, silver chains, his black hair slicked down with grease, a toothpick in his mouth.
Fred picked them up at nine o'clock in the limo and they picked up Hector and Mildred as well. They were all going to be needed this day. The plan was to pick up Dr. Sandra at the parking lot of her office and she was there waiting for them.
Sandra was a sight as well, wearing torn bleached out bell bottom jeans and a garishly flowered maternity top that just barely stretched to handle her own substantial girth. Her hair was braided into a dozen plaits going in every direction and she wore large cheap, imitation gold earrings.
As Sandra got out of her Volvo sedan to meet them, a tall elegantly attired black man got out of the passenger side of the car.
"My husband, Ian-Dr. Ian Brathwaite. This is Remington Steele and his wife, Laura, darling. Pay no attention to how they look. You know what we are doing now."
Ian Brathwaite stared at the group for a long moment. "I am very happy to meet you, Laura, and you, Mr. Steele. My wife has regaled me with stories of some of your exploits."
"It is a pleasure, Dr. Brathwaite. And call me Remington, please."
"I am Ian as well. I feel that I know you folks already. But, Remington, might we speak privately for a moment?'
Remington and Ian walked together to the edge of the parking lot without speaking. Then Ian turned to face him.
"I understand what you are doing, Remington. I understand why you are doing it. I understand why these women of ours want to do it. I just want you to know that the most important person in my whole life is standing over there and she is carrying the only children that we will probably ever have. I have heard my Tabby cry countless nights over the emptiness of her womb during the past ten years of our marriage. The surgeries, the endless procedures-do you have any idea how a woman obstetrician suffers if she wants children and cannot conceive?"
"I think that I may have just a little idea." Remington reflected for a long moment. " 'Tabby?'"
"Sandra Tabitha. I have known her since I was eight years old and I have loved her all of that time. She was a long-legged skinny black child with plaits all over her head like those she's wearing today, and I knew then that one day we would grow up and I would be with her. I loved her before I even understood what love between a man and a woman was all about. Do not let anything happen to my woman, Remington. I cannot stop her from doing anything that she has a mind to do. She is a true West Indian woman, you know. But please, take care for her. Only you, seeing your own wife as she is now, can understand the panoply of emotions I am feeling at this time, and know that I am trusting you with all that is valuable to me in life."
"I understand, Ian. I feel just as you. Why don't you drive over to the street where this is going to happen? You can be part of the scene. We are going to have the police involved as soon as these scoundrels show their hand. You can take your wife right from there when it's over."
"I think I will follow you over. There is a shop that sells West Indian products, curry powder and such, near there that I have visited on occasion. I know how to blend into the scene."
The two men shook hands, ending an encounter that was to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship between them.
Remington got back into the limo where now Dr. Sandra, Laura, Mildred, and Hector were already and they took off.
"And what was that about between you and Ian?" Dr. Sandra asked.
"I'll wager that a woman as brilliant as you are has just about figured what your husband said to me." Remington said, feeling the pressure of the situation now.
"He is following us."
"Yes, he is following us. I invited him along. He has a right to be there if he wishes. Those are his babies inside you." Remington's tone indicated that he was in no mood for further discussion along those lines.
Sandra Brathwaite sat back and was quiet. She looked at Laura and then looked at her again.
"Are you all right, Laura?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I just woke up with a back ache."
They arrived in the block on Pico above where the birthing center was located. Fred turned off the main street onto the side street and into an alley.
"All right everybody. This is the way this is going to happen. Laura, Sandra, and I are going into the center and try to get them to engage us. Hector, you will come in looking for your 'girlfriend.' Act crazy, like you know that she is there. Keep going in and out of the place. Mildred, you will come in after Hector's first appearance. You will be in your IRS investigator role, come to audit Dr. James Carroll's operation. We want to create enough distractions to keep everybody occupied and off base there."
"How will I know when to call in the cops, Señor Steele."
"I will open the door and you will hear me say 'I think that about does it for me.' You will know that we have what we need. Pick up the phone in the front and call the police in. If anyone gets in your way. . .?"
"Stop 'em. I got it. I won't make the mistake I made last night a second time."
"You and I may have to-immobilize Dr. James Carroll and his assistants while we wait for the local constabulary to arrive."
"Constabulary, Señor Steele?"
"Police, Hector," Laura translated for Hector.
"At any rate, we will do what we have to do to stabilize the situation." Remington looked out of the window of the limo. "We should have let Monroe know about this. His place of business is just about a block from here. He would be quite useful in this situation, I dare say."
"Do you mean Monroe Henderson?" Sandra Brathwaite asked.
"Yes, you know him?"
"I sure do. We grew up in the same part of London."
"We were mates growing up."
"I wouldn't have imagined that you and Monroe ran in the same circles."
"It's a small world, Sandra. Monroe and I broke a lot of bread together." He spoke to Fred in the front of the limo. "Fred, call Monroe's place and tell him that we are about to be in a situation over here at the birthing center on Pico. Tell him that we are under cover but that we might appreciate him walking by there in a few minutes."
Remington looked around him. "We are ready now. Laura, Dr. Sandra, and I are going over there now."
Remington got out of the limo and reached back in to help Laura out of the car and then Sandra Brathwaite, who still had her eyes on Laura.
They made the short walk around the corner and halfway down the block to the Pico Central Birthing Center. The morning was warm and sunny and they did blend in with the scene. Dr. Ian's Volvo was parked near the corner on the opposite side of the street. As they turned to walk into the center, Remington glimpsed Monroe walking toward them. He put his finger against the side of his nose in the "sting" sign and nodded as he accompanied the women into the center.
The receptionist was a Mexican woman probably in her thirties, tall, quite hefty and serious looking. The room was cheaply decorated and furnished with plastic furniture, the magazines on the tables outdated and dog-eared. There were no other prospective patients in evidence, so Remington walked up to the desk.
"Say, Miss, who do we see about havin' a baby here. You see my girlfriend here. She's ready to go any minute now."
"Have you been here before?"
"No, we ain't been 'ere before?"
"So how about your friend? She having a baby too?"
"Me? What you think? I sure 'avin' baby but I not 'avin' it 'ere. I come with me friend today." Sandra put her hands on her hips dismissing the question.
"She's pretty big. What's she havin'?"
"I'm havin' twins they say. Can't you tell?" Laura looked at the woman defensively as she chewed furiously on the gum in her mouth.
"Wait just a minute." The receptionist picked up her phone and spoke to someone else in the inner office. "Yes. We got a girl gettin' ready to have twins out here. Yeah. . . any minute it looks like to me." She put the phone down and turned her attention back to the three.
"You go in there and the birthing counselor can talk to you."
"Listen you people, we got no time to talk to counselors. The girl is havin' the bloody babies soon." Remington paced, exasperated.
"We have to know what you want to do with these babies. That's why you have to talk to the counselor."
"All right, all right, we'll talk. Where is she?" Remington feigned capitulation but paced impatiently.
"So what are you pacin' for? You're not the one knocked up with no money here!" Laura snarled at Remington.
"Listen! Be still! You see why I walking with them today. They fight like cat and dog, you know," Sandra explained.
About that time Hector walked in and cut across the conversation that was in progress.
"Listen, hermana, I'm looking my girlfriend. She was coming here today."
"There ain't nobody else here yet."
"Well, I'll just wait. She's coming here. She's pregnant and we ain't got no money, no insurance." Hector took a seat in one of the plastic chairs on the other side of the reception area, stretched his legs out and put his cap over his face, pretending to take a nap.
"You two go in the office over there. Talk to the counselor."
Sandra got up to follow them.
"No, you wait. They don't need you in there. You sure you don't want to see the birthing counselor too. You gonna have your babies soon too." The receptionist looked Sandra up and down.
"Now you stay outta my business."
"So your baby's daddy, he's black or white?"
"I told you stay outta my business. If I be havin' a white man, it be no business of yours."
"A lot of people want mixed children. You should talk to the birthing counselor if you don't want to keep the babies."
At this unexpected development, Hector was all ears.
Sandra probed further. "Okay, where's another counselor. I talk to someone. If I want to let these babies go, I not gonna do it for nothin. Are we talkin' money 'ere?"
The receptionist was somewhat cautious but, at the same time sensed that here was another possible catch for their baby mill.
"Well, sure. We take care of you free if you give up the baby."
"I talkin' real money-real money." You got some papers. I fill 'em out and talk later."
The receptionist started looking in a drawer for forms.
Meanwhile, inside the office, the counselor, a middle-aged Anglo woman was talking with Remington and Laura.
"Now we got to get back to England, you see, Miss . . .?"
"Washington, Mable Washington."
"Miss Washington, he means we got no green card, got no money. He went to Vegas, lost every penny and here we are." Laura offered.
"Well, we can deliver your babies. That is not a problem. But we do need to know what you plan to do. Are you going to keep them or do you want to put them up for adoption?"
"You ain't fit to be no father and I ain't fit to be no mother." Laura looked at Remington and gestured in disgust.
"Now you was the one supposed to be usin' protection. I wasn't plannin' on bein' a father no more. I already got three babies back in England and I sure don't need no more over 'ere on this side o' the pond. You gonna pay for these babies, you will. We need money."
"Well, there are monetary considerations, but they are verbal-nothing on paper of course."
"If you think she's gonna give up her babies without a written agreement on the money, forget it." Remington rose as if to go.
"Wait, wait, just a minute," the counselor said. "I think I do have some forms here."
At that moment Mildred came in and confronted the receptionist in the outer lobby.
"I am from the IRS. Dr. James Carroll. I need to see him pronto."
"Miss. . .?"
"Miss Krebs." Mildred flashed identification as an IRS agent. "Hop to it, Miss Garcia."
Inside Laura turned to Remington. "I'm not feeling well. You better get the doctor." At first Remington thought she was still in the character, but he heard the anxiety in her voice and it was Laura's natural voice.
"She's in labor now. Let me get the doctor in here." The birthing counselor turned to go into another room as Laura clutched her belly.
"Remy!" Laura suddenly felt warm liquid gushing from her, soaking her skirt and running off the chair to the floor. "The water, the water has broken. Oh, my God."
Remington opened the office door and called for Sandra.
"She's in labor, Sandra! Hector! I think we're finished here!"
The receptionist realized at that moment that something was awry and stood up to her full height to confront Sandra. Hector moved quickly to get between Sandra and the imposing woman. He remembered his mentor's warning and struck the woman with a powerful uppercut. She was stunned but not out. Sandra took the opportunity to go into the office where Remington was trying to aid Laura.
At that moment Mildred was being pinned against the desk by the huge woman, who had regained strength. Monroe stormed through the door and grabbed the woman, quickly dispatched her with a blow to her jaw, shoved her into the toilet and propped a chair under the door handle to lock her inside.
"God! Was that a woman or a man? What's happening, Mildred?"
Mildred pointed to the office and went to call the police on the phone at the desk.
Dr. James Carroll had come into the counseling office from his own office when Laura went into labor. This case was just what they had been waiting for, babies whose parents had no legal status, no means of seeking recourse against them.
"Let me handle this. I'm Dr. Carroll. The tall blond man still did not realize what had happened."
"Get away from my wife," Remington demanded.
"Your wife? What's going on here? Mable?" He turned to the counselor and that was when Monroe and Hector came charging through the door. Another guard, a man appeared from the back and the mêlée was on. Monroe and Hector made short work of the guard and they wrestled the counselor to the floor. Remington saw James Carroll reach to open a drawer in the desk. He knew he was reaching for a gun and slammed the drawer shut on Carroll's hand.
"Aaah!" The man cried out and Remington struck him with his fist in his typical boxing fashion and shoved him up against the wall.
"This is it, mate. This game is over."
The sound of sirens announced the arrival of the police.
"Remington, help me with Laura. She's going down now. We haven't time. Where is your delivery room?" Dr. Sandra demanded from Carroll.
He just shook his head in disbelief and pointed the direction to the room across the hall from where they were.
Remington picked Laura up and carried her to the room and placed her on the table. She was groaning in pain. Police were all over the place now, taking James Carroll and his three accomplices into custody, searching the building for any others.
Ian Brathwaite came over now as he saw the police enter the building.
"You can't come in here, sir," the police sergeant said, stopping him.
"My wife is in there. I am a medical doctor and I have reason to believe that someone in there is in need of medical attention."
Mildred and Hector stood stunned as Dr. Ian Brathwaite went to assist his wife with Laura.
"O, Dios mio!" Hector said softly. "This is wild. This is really wild."
"You did real good, Hector. You did what you had to do."
"Mildred, when all hell breaks loose, it's automatic, ain't it?
"You bet it is."
They heard Laura groaning in pain from across the hall.
Detective Jarvis came to Mildred.
"What is going on here with Steeles?"
"Laura Steele is having twins. She was due but she thought she had time and could do this. Her physician is with her. She didn't have time to take her to a hospital. These people are selling babies on the black market."
Jarvis scratched his head. "We'll take these people in and shut this place down. Remington Steele can fill us in later on the details. We have twenty-four hours to take care of that. I would guess Steele is engrossed in other events now. Have him call me as soon as there is a break in the action. Did you say twins?" Jarvis just smiled, threw up his hands, and walked out. "Seal this up as a crime scene when these people leave," he directed the men left behind.
Laura was already in hard labor within fifteen minutes of her water breaking, with contractions every two minutes.
"Oh, God, Remington, help me! It's happening so fast. I can't hold the baby back." Laura cried as the pains intensified. She had tried to be modest and hold her legs together but now all modesty fled as she opened her thighs wide to give birth. The contractions were coming so fast that she was gasping for breath. She felt her pelvis resist and then give way and cried out as the most intense pain she had ever felt surged through her.
"God, Laura! Oh my God!" Remington said as Laura was gripped his hand for dear life. Remington felt his own knees weaken at the sight of her in the throes of childbirth.
Dr. Ian Brathwaite, was watching Remington closely. "Hang in there, Steele. Your woman needs you to hold on to."
"The two of you, hold her legs so she can have these babies." Sandra said. Remington and Ian held her legs steady and Laura gave a push now and Remington Steele saw the head of his little girl coming into the world.
"Laura was drenched in perspiration, breathing as she had learned in the birthing classes she and Remington had attended. "You know you're lively, girl. You're having the babies right now. Receive your firstborn, Remington." Laura delivered Danielle Chlöe Steele squalling and fussing, into her husband's waiting hands.
"Dear God, look at her," Remington said as he stared in wonder at his tiny little girl in his hands.
That wasn't the end of it because Laura was sweating and pushing again.
"Oh, Sandra, I can't hold it back. It's-its' coming so fast." Laura groaned in pain as she felt her body opening up to give birth again.
"Don't try to hold it back. You cannot hold it back, mother. Come on, now. Let's see that other little girl now."
Laura was pushing and grunting as she felt her body easily giving way to the head of the second baby. "Oh, Remy, she's coming." She smiled at Remington triumphantly just before she bore down hard again and cried out in a final moment of agony as the second little head came into view.
"Yes! Yes! Laura, she's coming. Oh, darling, you're beautiful."
"Take your baby girl, Remington Steele." Sandra said with satisfaction as Felicia Cassandra Steele came into the world and into her father's hands. She wasn't crying but her blue eyes were open and she looked at Remington and squirmed happily and yawned in his hands.
"Good Lord, she's looking at me. Laura, we have our little girls."
Laura was crying for joy now but completely exhausted, as Sandra put her babies onto her. Remington was crying too as he just gazed at Laura and then kissed her tenderly, unable to believe that they were really now parents of these two beautiful babies.
Sandra Brathwaite looked at the fat little girls with their blue eyes and black silky hair and shook her head. "Remington, didn't you put your mark on these babies, man? You did a good job, Laura. I knew you were going down today and you knew it too, didn't you?"
Laura nodded and smiled. "I was trying to make it, but they just wouldn't wait."
Sandra Brathwaite started to finish with Laura but then suddenly she groaned and caught her own belly as water began to stream down her legs, soaking her jeans.
"Oh, God, Ian, I'm in labor. Finish with Laura."
Remington stood stunned, looking at Sandra standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid.
"What the bloody hell is going on? Would someone tell me what is going on?" Remington's voice carried all the frustration of the moment.
"Get Mildred in here, Remington. We have problems here, man." Ian saw the situation escalating in a way that concerned him greatly.
Remington called for Mildred who rushed in from the next room. And to Hector he said, "Phone Cedars-Sinai for two ambulances. Laura just gave birth to the twins and Dr. Brathwaite is in labor now. Pronto, Hector!"
Hector Figueroa stood stunned. "O Dios mio! Dios mio! What the hell is going on today?"
"I basically said that already. And then come back in here and wash your hands so you can help us. We are somewhat overwhelmed here." He added softly. "I just became a father, Hector." He turned to his old friend Monroe who just smiled and shook his hand. "I'm a father, Monroe." The two men embraced as Remington gave way to silent grateful tears.
Mildred was in the room attempting to comfort Dr. Sandra while Dr. Ian finished cutting the cords and taking the single placenta from Laura. Sandra Brathwaite had gone directly into full labor
"Remington, I hope that Sandra can hold out. She really needs to be at hospital for this, you know. Laura is doing just fine. Where is Mildred?"
"She's with Sandra, Ian."
"Good. That is good. Man, I am nervous, you know. I don't need to be the one doing this for my Tabby. These women are giving us a hell of a scare today."
Dr. Ian Brathwaite wrapped each of the Steele babies in a large towel, wrapped Laura in a blanket and, leaving her with Remington, went into the adjoining room to attend to his wife.
Laura looked up at Remington and just smiled a marvelous special smile that no one other than Remington ever saw.
"You look so satisfied with yourself, darling. You pushed our babies out so fast. You were enjoying it at the last, weren't you, just grunting and pushing your babies out."
"Sandra would say I dropped them like the proverbial house cat, wouldn't she?"
"I dare say she would." Remington smoothed Laura's damp hair from her face. "I love you so very much, Laura."
"Let me look at them again, Remy."
Remington took Danielle Chlöe first.
"Now this is Danielle. She has a tiny mole on her left foot just like the one that you have. That is the only thing that I can see that is different." Remington gave Danielle to Laura and picked up Felicia Cassandra in his arms.
They opened the towels and examined the tiny little girls together from head to toe, in total wonderment at what they had done together. Laura lifted her top and put Danielle to her breast. Her tiny mouth puckered and began to make sucking noises. "Oh, Remy, look!" she cried as the infant took right to her breast and began to nurse. She cried softly as her little girl sucked naturally and easily. Remington put the other baby to her other breast and she hesitated at first but when Laura brushed her breast against her tiny lips, she decided to have a go at it and began to nurse as well, much to Laura's delight.
"I am jealous, you know," Remington teased and they just laughed softly together, bonding with their tiny offspring.
Meanwhile, in the other room, Sandra Brathwaite was in hard labor, as her husband held her legs and Mildred held her hands. Sandra dropped into the patois of her youth as the pains escalated
"Oh, Ian, what I ask for, Ian? Why I ask to have these babies?" Sandra cried as the pains came fast and furious. "Oh, Lord, I canna' hold them back, Ian. I havin' the bairn right here right now."
"Tabby, love, it's all right. It's all right. Let it happen. You canna' 'old back the bairn. You're completely dilated. I donna' want to slow you down now."
"Mildred, let Hector hold her hands. He's stronger. You come here and take the babies when they come. God! Tabby, you're crowning."
"Ian! Help me!" Sandra gasped and screamed, as the hardest pains came. Hector stood behind her at the head of the delivery table and she gripped both his hands in hers and pushed with all her might. The baby's head came into view and Sandra groaned and cried out in pain as she delivered her firstborn son into her husband's capable hands. The tiny little boy baby cried in his father's hands and Ian just shook his head in disbelief. The man who had delivered so many babies was stunned at the birth of his own child.
"Here's your boy child, Tabby."
He put the baby on his wife's still swollen belly and Sandra gasped and panted as she tried to collect herself for the second baby. Meanwhile the ambulances arrived and they put Laura and her babies into it and sped off to Cedar-Sinai.
"I can't stop her now. She's crowning again. Give us a few minutes and we'll be ready." He turned his attention to his wife again and Sandra wailed in agony, gripping Hector's hands for all she was worth, as she felt the second little boy baby crowning and then coming out into his father's hands.
"My goodness, my goodness," Mildred said over and over as she received the second baby into a large turkish towel.
"It's all over, love. It's all over." Ian Brathwaite was smiling now in triumph as he kissed his wife and helped the attendants load her up for the ride to the hospital.
Hector Figueroa staggered backwards against the sink in the room and nearly passed out.
"Miss Krebs, what happened here?"
"Two women had twins, Hector-at the same time, in the same place. We caught the baby traffickers and all is well that ends well. We have enough on this bunch to send all of them up the river for a long, long time. This is what life is all about, Hector. It doesn't get any better than this."
They walked out to the other room where Monroe was standing, just shaking his head.
"I can't believe it-Remington Steele-a father. I just can't believe it. And I know Tabby Brathwaite. We used to live on the same block in London years ago. Actually I tried to give Ian a run for his money with her. I lost, of course. It's quite amazing."
They went out into the street and Mildred and Hector got into the waiting limo and bade farewell to Monroe as the curious crowd that had gathered when the excitement broke out, finally dispersed.
Laura finally ended up in her hospital bed later in the afternoon. She was exhausted but completely happy. She was just about to drop off to sleep when the nurse rolled Dr. Sandra into her room in a wheelchair. They just looked at each other and started to smile.
"Please do not make me laugh, Laura, I'm still hurting, you know. I was sure that you were going down today. I could tell by lookin' at you. I can always tell when a woman is about to go down. And you knew something was going on, didn't you?"
"I just wanted to finish this case. I knew that we could do it."
"Well, we gave the men a fright I think. My husband Ian has delivered so many babies but he was so nervous today. And Remington! I thought he would pass out when he saw the baby crowning."
"It just all happened so fast, Sandra. I am so glad that they all are healthy. You weren't due for a couple more weeks at least."
"The excitement brought it on. Twins come when they want to. And look at us in these braids and things here up in this hospital. We got them though, Laura. We stopped those thieves in their tracks selling babies. They offered me, you know. I let them think my babies were mixed racial and they jumped to give me papers and tell me how much money I could get."
"What did you and Ian name your sons?"
"Ian Geoffrey Remington and Marc Gregory Harrison Braithwaite. We decided to add the other names in today after our experience with you folks. They weighed only five pounds four ounces and five pounds five ounces, but they are just fine. They will keep them a couple days to get their weight up a bit and then they will come home. And your little girls are beautiful, Laura."
"They weighed six pounds two ounces and six pounds four ounces. They are so beautiful, Sandra. They even nursed and it felt good. I could feel the colostrum coming down. My dear husband was beside himself with joy seeing me nursing them like that."
"Where is he now?"
"He went home to change after he got me settled here. The 'disreputable Liverpudlian' look was not what he wanted here in the hospital."
"You know you did a good job of it today, Laura. Speaking now as your physician, you dropped those babies so easy, you did."
Laura smiled proudly. "Well, you didn't drag things out either."
"I know. But my problem has been conceiving. Ian and I will have to make ourselves happy with these two little boys. We spent over fifty thousand dollars trying to have these babies. On the other hand, you and Remington, you can have as many children as you want. You are perfect for childbearing, Laura. Just be sure that you know that when you feel that first pain, you are going to deliver within no more than half an hour. The next time could be even faster."
Laura was elated even though she was tired and very sore from labor. Frances had always made her feel just a bit uncomfortable because she was single for so long after Frances was well established as a wife and mother. She had never really felt a desire for children till she became intimate with Remington. It was then that the passionate feeling between them had nurtured her maternal instincts until the urge to procreate became impossible to ignore.
"Sandra, when can I see my babies again?"
"They will bring them back in a little while. Why don't you try to go to sleep? They are not going to give you a minute's rest when you take them home. I will release you tomorrow. I just wanted them to check you out and check the babies out because that so-called clinic there was a mess, you know. Of course, babies used to be born out in the country in the bush and they all did just fine. But we just want to make sure."
"You are going home tomorrow also?"
"Yes, but my room is just across the hall, so I will see you some more. I have my Ian to keep check on us. We will be just fine. I am content, Laura. I have my children. All the other is fine-the career in medicine, the success, but nothing tops this in my book. I will do all the other again, but I had to take time out for this." She paused, reflecting on the unusual day they had experienced. "That was a good thing we did today, Laura."
"I know, Sandra. And we could never have carried it off if we weren't pregnant like that. We had one chance and we took it."
"They will bring your babies to you again soon. It's good you started nursing right away as soon as they came."
Laura smiled. "I wasn't sure that I wanted to breast feed-till my baby took to my breast like that and started to suckle so easily. She took all of it, Sandra. I guess I'd heard so many horror stories about how hard it is sometimes. Maybe I need to sign up for those La Leché League classes."
"I don't think you really need those classes. Perhaps you may visit a couple of classes to meet other women who are breastfeeding. But what came naturally for you is very difficult for some women. If they took to you like that, then I would certainly recommend that you breast feed for a few months at least. Have the full experience, Laura. But you will have to eat a lot of food to feed twins and yourself as well. We will monitor to make sure that all three of you are getting enough calories." Sandra Brathwaite sat back, fatigued. "I must go lie down now and we talk later, Laura." The nurse rolled her back across the hall.
A little later Frances came in to see Laura.
"Oh, Laura, I am so happy for you and Mr. Steele-Remington. I came as soon as he called to tell me what happened. Are you in a lot of pain?"
"No, I'm just tired. It has been a pretty exciting day, Frances." Laura smiled and for the first time in her life, she did not feel inferior to Frances in any way. "The babies are beautiful. They are so beautiful, Frances."
At that time the nurses came and brought the two little ones to Laura so that she could nurse them.
"Dr. Brathwaite says that you are breast feeding and we don't want that interfered with, Mrs. Steele."
"You're breast feeding, Laura? I'm surprised. It is very difficult, you know. I had such a time with that."
The nurse put little Danielle Chlöe in Laura's arms and she kissed her baby tenderly. It was the first time she had seen them cleaned up and dressed. When the baby began to smack her tiny lips, Laura just cooed back to her and put her to her breast where the baby began to nurse contentedly.
Frances was stunned to see the younger sister, who always seemed incompetent in matters of house and home, breast feeding so successfully.
"Give the other baby to my sister and let her hold her for me till this one finishes."
"How long were you in labor, Laura?" Frances asked as she rocked Felicia Cassandra in her arms.
"Well, it was so fast that it was a blur. I think it was about a half an hour. I just remember my water breaking and the next thing the babies were coming out."
"Oh my, Laura, you are quite the little mother here. I was in labor for hours and hours with each of my three." Frances looked at the beautiful baby in her arms. "She looks just like Remington-blue eyes, black hair. Are they identical?"
"They say they are. There was just one placenta and they were in the same amniotic sac together. They're monozygotic twins."
"What is this ones name, Laura?"
"That's Felicia Cassandra and this is Danielle Chlöe. I think we'll probably end up calling them Cassie and Chlöe."
"I know where Danielle Chlöe comes from, but where did you get Felicia Cassandra?"
"That was the name of the woman that saved my life in England when I was kidnapped. Remington knew her for a very long time and I had known her for almost as long as I've known Remington. I would not be here if it weren't for her, not to speak of these children. She was beautiful and blond and classy and in the final analysis she was my friend."
Laura handed Danielle Chlöe to Frances and took Felicia Cassandra to her other breast to nurse as she talked with her sister.
"Laura, I am really impressed with you and how you are just fitting into this role. I must phone Mother and tell her how you are doing. She will be coming down from Sacramento to visit next week, you know. She will be so proud of you."
'For the first time ever,' Laura mused, but she didn't care any more. She was her own woman. She had her career, she had Remington, and they had these beautiful children. It didn't matter any more who was right or wrong. She and Remington were a family.
At this point Remington bounded into the room, dressed impeccably, looking fabulous and completely happy, bearing a huge arrangement of red roses.
"Hello, Frances, so good of you to come." He kissed Frances lightly on her cheek and then went to Laura's bedside and kissed her tenderly. "Oh, my, it's meal time, eh? You look like you have really gotten the knack of that, darling." He took Danielle Chlöe from Frances and sat down. "Oh my, they have you all bathed and dressed. . . let me see. . ." He pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny foot, saw the identifying mole and said "Danielle Chlöe. We will have to check them out and see if there is a more easily accessible mark, Laura darling."
"I am going to run along now. I have to pick Daniel up at UCLA. We will be over after you come home, Laura." Frances kissed Laura and Remington and took her leave.
"Laura, I could not wait to get back here to see you again. How are you feeling, darling?"
"I feel like someone walked all over me in big heavy boots. I am so sore. But they say that that is normal. Dr. Sandra came wheeling in and said that I can go home tomorrow."
"I will be so glad. I miss you there already."
"I never really got things set up. I thought that I had another week or so."
"Not to worry, love. I asked Mildred and Alessandra to set up the nursery in the corner of our dining room. They are over there now. That should work until we move into the house. And I phoned Uncle David in London, as well as Harriett and Peter in Dublin with the good news. Harriett and Peter want to come out here next week and spend a month. I think that Peter is seriously considering relocating. He thinks that Harriett needs to be closer to me-the twin thing, you know. Once you know that you have a twin you don't want him or her halfway around the world. Of course we have to think about Uncle David and Aunt Chlöe still in London. Someone needs to be close by them, don't you think? They are not getting any younger, eh?"
"It's amazing-you have family issues now, Remington.
"Bizarre, isn't it? My having to consider how to look out for older relatives. But I love it. We can put Harriett and Peter at the loft while they are here so that they can maneuver as they wish. He would have to go through some process here to get his certification to practice medicine in America."
"But it looks like Jacqueline DuBois and your uncle are keeping pretty steady company. You and Harriett may not have to worry about him as much as you think."
"You're right. It's obvious what has happened to them, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is."
Laura smiled and lay back on her pillow and just gazed at her husband.
"You are beautiful, Remy. You are the only man I've ever known that I constantly feel compelled to tell how beautiful he is. From that first day we met-I said to myself 'he is just so beautiful.' I look at you now and I wonder how did I end up with you, Remington Steele. You were the one all the other girls were supposed to get. What happened?" Laura reached to touch Remington's smoothly shaven cheek and then her fingertips just grazed his lips.
"We simply fell in love, Laura. Because you are you and I am me."
"Sandra was right. The babies look like you just spit them out. They are truly going to be Daddy's little girls, Remy."
"Do you see this one just lookin' at me?" Remington grinned broadly as his tiny daughter gazed into his adoring eyes.
"She knows who you are. She has been hearing you all these months talking to her."
"The other one looked at me just like that when she first came out. Like-so this is what you look like, Daddy." Remington cherished his child in his arms, still unable to believe that the babies were really finally there with them.
"This one is just hungry, I think. She doesn't care right now. She just enjoys sucking away."
"I will never forget today, Laura, seeing you just open your legs up and push those babies out like that. When I saw the first head coming, opening you up like that-oh, my God-it was like nothing I have ever seen, darling. You didn't tear or anything. It was tremendous. The screaming in agony to give birth was made me feel like my heart was being dragged right out of my chest, Laura. And I couldn't do anything to help you. But when the second baby was coming and you were grunting like that, working to bring our little girl into the world and you smiled that smile at me. . ." Remington's eyes met and held Laura's.
"Take your other child, Remy. I think she's finished and wants to be with her daddy too."
Remington Steele took the other little bundle and sat down with a baby in each arm, his blue eyes misting slightly.
"When I think of how I conceived these little ones, it's amazing, you know. That was such a crazy weekend up in Sacramento with my family."
"Well, we were endeavoring to give some formal status to our marriage since they were all excluded from the actual event. They wanted to have that reception, inviting all their friends to meet the new member of the family. I thought the idea of repeating our vows in front of them was a good one and would substantiate the validity of our marriage. I was even going to get us a license through-normal channels."
"And then you found out that your friend Juan Rodriguez was not as phony as he had seemed."
"I guess I should have known that his familiarity with the marriage procedure, ceremony, etc. should have indicated that he was much more than he appeared to be. I knew he performed marriages as a side occupation but I hadn't had time to research him thoroughly that day."
"A notary public in fact, a man licensed to perform marriages and very well-used in the Hispanic community."
"I thought the certificate we received in the mail after we got back from London was just-well, I didn't take it seriously, Laura."
"But when we went for the 'license,' and we were already 'married' in the state records, that kind of clinched it, didn't it?"
"So here we go up to Sacramento to be with all those people and all I wanted to do was be with you, Laura. There was no privacy-Frances and Daniel's children running all over the place, your mother in and out of our room every time we turned around. Did she really think that that was our idea of a getaway weekend?"
"Mother could never imagine her children having sex. Frances says that she walked in and out of the room that she and Daniel were in every time she took him home with her. They just never plan on being together when they are at mother's house. She walked into their bedroom the very first time they came to visit as a married couple. They weren't doing anything but it sure discouraged it for all time to come."
"But yet she could plan a weekend away with some fellow she met at a dental hygienists convention."
"That was mother-not her children, not her girls."
"It was a lovely reception, Laura, aside from that little-problem. Your mother had that minister from down the street give us our vows in front of them-in English this time."
"You know, looking back on it, I liked the one on that fishing boat with Juan officiating in Spanish better. It was truly unforgettable. I was such a mess but I loved you so much that day. That was the day I put everything on the line emotionally, agreeing to marry you like that. I couldn't let you go. I had to swallow all my pride and practically suggest that you marry me."
"I'm glad that you did, Laura. I'm so glad that you did." Remington just smiled at his wife as he rocked his babies in his arms.
The nurse came back for the Steele babies. They were both fast asleep as Remington reluctantly surrendered them to her and moved his chair closer to Laura's bed so that he could rest his arms on the bed as he talked with her.
"I had figured that you were ovulating so this was going to be a good time to try to impregnate you, but we had only those forty-eight to seventy-two hours and they were fast running out and you were so anxious to-to be served, let us say."
"I was frantic for you, Remington."
"I dare say that we were both pretty frantic for each other. Ovulation kicks in all that anthropological stuff-all those special pheremones making you kind of single-minded about perpetuating the species."
"That's when you decided that we should play that wicked trick on my mother. I still can't imagine that we did that." Laura giggled, remembering.
"Well, if we have to be around her for the duration there had to be an understanding," Remington said, chuckling as he remembered. "She held all of us hostage-Daniel and Frances and you and me."
"When she started into that bedroom announcing that she needed something from the closet, and you rolled over onto me and started calling on the Lord and groaning like you do."
"Well, you fell right into it." Remington pitched his voice higher and imitated Laura in ecstasy. "Remy! Remy! Stop, Rem!"
"Please, it hurts when I laugh." Laura tried to stifle her laughter as she remembered that night. "She almost injured herself stumbling over the furniture, trying to get out of that room. I really felt bad afterward."
"I didn't. She didn't come near that room for the rest of the weekend."
"She has never ever mentioned it to me. She didn't even look me in the eye for the rest of the visit."
"Nor I." Remington took Laura's hand between his and rubbed it in his characteristic manner. "But we had some peace and we made our twins that night, didn't we?"
"I will never forget that night, Remy."
"And I dare say Abigail will never come near our door when we are in her house again."
Remington and Laura sat quietly together holding hands. That is how Mildred and Alessandra found them.
"Wow, do you look great, Mrs. Steele. No one would imagine what you went through today," Mildred said.
"We just went to see the babies in the nursery. They are so beautiful, Mrs. Steele," Alessandra said.
"Dr. Sandra is just across the hall. Did you see her little boys too?" Laura asked.
"Oh, yes. They are right beside your two little girls. She is some doctor, isn't she? Delivering your babies and then going into labor herself like that," Mildred said.
"So what did you find out about the case when you sorted out the stuff you got from the clinic?" Remington was curious as to the extent of what they had stumbled upon.
Mildred responded. "Well, there was major tax evasion for starters. We started following up the list of prospective adoptive parents, calling them inquiring as to whether they were still interested in adopting and whether they were financially prepared, etc. Those calls confirmed our suspicions on that score. Dr. James Carroll lost his license to practice medicine in New Jersey five years ago and moved west. He has had this set-up in several places here in California. The people were just too poor to do anything when he took their babies-no money, no recourse. It wasn't till he took Miriam Hollingworth's baby that it opened up the whole rotten scheme to be investigated by someone who cared. Between what you and Hector picked up over there last night in the files and from their computer, Chief, and what we got today, they are finished."
"Amazing that Miriam's coming to Dr. Sandra's made it possible to know what was going on," Laura said. "And that our being pregnant gave us the cover that we needed. They had no idea that they were being set up."
"Well, our Hector certainly got a workout these past two days. I think that he is going to be an excellent operative. Miriam Hollingworth seemed rather impressed with him as well," Remington said, raising his brow significantly.
"Boss, you should have seen him try to take out that huge woman at the front desk in the clinic. He socked her and it barely phased her. It was good that Monroe was there. Even he had his hands full subduing her." Mildred chuckled as she recalled the scene.
They all chuckled as Remington told how he felt when, after Laura had delivered her twins, he turned to see Dr. Sandra clutching her belly, standing in a puddle of water.
"It was like my worst nightmare. Ian Brathwaite had warned me that he wanted nothing to happen to his jeopardize his bairn and here his wife was about to give birth in this same place. God, was I in a quandary! We were about to be up to our ears in babies in that place."
"You certainly were," Dr. Ian Brathwaite said as he rolled Dr. Sandra into the room. "I have never experienced in my life what I experienced today. I am just very happy that everything turned out well for all concerned, mate."
"Dr. Sandra, look at you!" Mildred exclaimed.
Sandra Brathwaite held her two infant sons in her arms, smiling from ear to ear.
"My goodness, look at these little ones. You did a great job, Dr. Sandra. You and Laura proved to be neck and neck, I'd say. Thank you for being there for us and helping us all the way through this. We can never repay you." Remington kissed Dr. Sandra on her cheek and then he and Ian clapped one anothers shoulders before Ian rolled his wife back into her room across the hall from Laura.
"We're going home now, Boss. Alessandra and I got your place all set up for Chlöe and Cassie-I guess that's what you're going to end up calling them. That sounds really cute, I think."
"Yes, Mildred, I think that is what we're going to call them," Remington said. "Thank you both, for everything-everything."
After everyone left, Remington turned back to Laura, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned the top buttons of his pale blue shirt. He was exhausted by the day but very happy and it all showed in his languid blue eyes.
"Dr. Sandra said that I can have as many babies as we want. I just have to realize that I will probably deliver in a half an hour or less from the first pain. She said that I am what the West Indians call 'lively.'" Laura laughed softly.
"You are pretty proud of yourself, aren't you, darling?" Remington said, reaching for her hands and holding both of them.
"Yes, I really am. I can't believe it, but I really am so proud and happy-and everything."
"I am proud of you as well, and I am thankful that you and the twins are healthy and strong. Laura, there is so much to be thankful for. I watched you carry those babies and I watched them coming out of you and-and now we have our children. . . to cradle in our arms, to cherish. God, I just love you so very much." Remington's eyes were glistening and Laura felt warm tears drop onto her hands as he bent his dark head to kiss them.