FAMILY STEELE: STEELE IN THE CLAN (PART 3)
By: Phaedra Phelan
Summary: A married Laura and Remington go to England to meet the rest of his family and also meet the unfinished business of one of their most important cases in a situation of the most grave danger.
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 nearly three in the afternoon in late May of 1988 that Fred, the Steele's chauffeur dropped Remington and Laura Steele with all their luggage at Los Angeles International Airport for their long awaited flight to London. They were on their way to visit David Chalmers and the rest of his family there and they planned to spend a fortnight there. Mildred was going to join them during the visit because she just couldn't bear the thought of missing this event in what had truly become her family now. The British Airways 747 nonstop flight would be twelve hours long but Remington and Laura were hopeful that their luxurious accommodations in the first class cabin would help Laura to withstand the rigors of the long flight in her pregnant state.
Laura's obstetrician had said that Laura would have to be back in Los Angeles by June fifteenth at the latest. That would put her back home safely by the beginning of her fifth month. After that she was to be grounded for the remainder of the pregnancy. This was the last possible time that this trip could be taken before the delivery.
Remington Steele was dashing and impeccable in his finely tailored navy suit and pale blue hand tailored shirt that made his blue eyes even more startling in their brilliance. His excitement was evident as he anticipated the long awaited visit that would link him once again with his family, the Chalmers family. In the back of his mind there was anxiety for Laura because she did seem to be literally growing right before his eyes, but the sight of her now so evidently pregnant filled him with pride.
Laura wore what had become a favorite look of Remington's since she began to show her pregnancy. She had a bought a collection of knitted jersey dresses that were designed to show off rather than camouflage a woman's pregnancy. The one she chose to wear for the flight was bright blue and it skimmed her belly and then clung gently to it before dropping to just above her knees. She wore a matching pair of jersey slacks so that she could be completely comfortable on the long flight. Her hair was shining and was quite long, the hormones of pregnancy making it grown even faster than normal and her features had the glow that only pregnancy brings. Remington did not attempt to hide his obvious passion for her.
"You look lovely today, Laura. I just wish that you had not felt the need to hide those knockout legs from my sight. You know how I love to look at them, darling. And we're going to be on that plane for twelve long hours."
"Well, Remington, I really wanted to oblige you but my belly is getting so big that I was afraid that I would have a hard time sitting modestly for twelve hours. I am afraid comfort won this round." She smiled up at her husband who bent and kissed her forehead, looking her up and down with his penetrating blue eyes, completely absorbing the sight of her.
"Come, darling, they are calling our flight."
Remington took Laura's hand and they maneuvered their way through the airport and to the gate where their flight was already being called. Laura walked briskly, not noticeably slowed down by her pregnant state. She had continued to practice ballet each morning and to visit the gym and do the exercises that Dr. Brathwaite permitted and she really did feel quite good.
They were quickly on board the spacious Boeing 747 in the upper cabin and before they knew it they plane was in that powerful roll that told them that they were finally really taking off.
Remington had a glass of champagne and Laura had bottled sparkling water while they held hands and just stared at one another like two moonstruck teenagers as they clicked their glasses together.
"To a wonderful visit in London, darling," Laura said.
"To a healthy and safe visit for you and that package you are carrying, love."
Laura settled back into the comfortable seat. Remington was to be sure that she walked the cabin every hour and she knew that he would do it. She was so very aware of the life within her. The fullness in her breasts and belly were a constant reminder of what existed between the two of them and she had begun to feel movement in her womb as well. She looked over at her husband and knew that she had made his life quite difficult since the pregnancy got underway because she herself had not really understood the conflicting emotions that she had felt. She was glad that she had been able to conceive early in the marriage. At thirty she realized that her biological clock was ticking and bringing children to this marriage had become a top priority with her.
She recalled the afternoon just a week earlier when she and Remington had gone together for the appointment with her obstetrician, Dr. Sandra Brathwaite. Dr. Brathwaite was a tall elegant Barbadian woman, known in the Los Angeles professional community for her ability to manage high risk pregnancies. Her husband, Ian Brathwaite, was a noted gynecologist as well and they shared a suite of offices. Although Laura's pregnancy was going very well, the fact that she had suffered a life-threatening injury at the outset coupled with Remington's RH positive blood type made her pregnancy one that needed serious monitoring. Dr. Howe had referred her to Dr. Brathwaite when she was hospitalized from the gunshot wound and there was still some doubt as to whether she would carry successfully.
Laura recalled the day especially because that was the day they were going to observe the baby with ultrasound and Dr. Brathwaite wanted them both there for the event. Laura had not known it but her doctor was at least eighty-five percent sure that Laura was carrying twins although she did not want to tell them until she was certain. However Laura had suddenly begun to grow very fast in her third month. Dr. Brathwaite was quite familiar with the symptoms. She had heard two heartbeats as well.
Remington stayed in the examining room with them as was his custom while Dr. Brathwaite checked Laura carefully. Then she begin the ultrasound monitoring, carefully applying lotion to Laura's exposed belly.
"Now I wish you both to observe something very important here. Look, here is your baby's heart beating on the left and-here, on the right is the heart of your other baby beating. You folks are having twins, you know." The West Indian lilt in her voice only added to the happiness in her voice as she made her pronouncement.
"Oh, my God!" Remington's and Laura's eyes both filled. Remington took Laura's hand and then kissed it as they both stared at the monitor, fascinated by the sight of the babies inside Laura's womb.
"Twins!" Laura was stunned.
"Laura, babe, look at what we did. Good Lord!"
"Yes, you did it, I fear. Mr. Steele, I understand that there is a genetic predisposition for twins is on your side of the family.
"Yes, I-I am a twin-fraternal-but there are both fraternal and identical twins in my family for several generations."
"Well, there is a lot we do not know about the way the genetics of twins works, whether fraternal or identical. We do believe that the female carries the genetic predisposition for fraternal or what are known as dizygotic twins. In other words, there are women who ovulate in double time and these women have a much higher incidence of twins. These twins come from two separate eggs and, though some of us believe that just sharing the womb space with another affects children in unique ways, we are still awaiting proof of this. The other kind of twin, monozygotic or identical twins show no discernible genetic pattern. In other words we don't know where they come from. Of course we are constantly learning. There are a lot of mysteries where twins are concerned."
"So there is no way that we can know whether we have two little monozygotes or dizygotes in there?" Remington quickly latched on to the biological terminology with his typically British penchant for precise language.
"No. I had one patient here who gave birth to two sets of twins as well as a single birth in five years. She was such a tiny little thing. You'd never dream that she had five children under the age of six."
"So you're telling me that if this is a result of my ovulating in double time, I will have to be careful or we could have a house full of children just like that."
"A veritable bairnteam, Mrs. Steele. I'll wager that Mr. Steele knows the term." Sandra Brathwaite smiled at Remington Steele.
"A Scotch-Irish term for a flock of children, Laura," Remington explained.
"When they are born, we will know whether we've got monozygotes or dizygotes, and you folks can decide what kind of family planning you might need. For now, our top priority is bringing two healthy babies into the world."
"Absolutely, Dr. Brathwaite," Remington agreed.
"Can we tell the sex of the babies at this point?" Laura asked.
"It is very difficult at just over seventeen weeks. We will do another ultrasound when you pass the five month mark and we can tell more. Have you felt much movement, Mrs. Steele?"
"Some flutters, not a lot."
"Well, these babies are going to become very active shortly so get ready for that. I want to watch these little ones very carefully."
"You know that we had planned to go to London next week. Is that still possible?"
Dr. Brathwaite sighed. "Well, let's put it like this. I'm not ruling it out, but, you go in the first class cabin. You get up and walk every hour that you are on that plane, Mrs. Steele, and I want you back here in Los Angeles no later than the fifteenth of June. And not another trip after that. Deal, Mr. Steele?"
"Yes, ma'am," Remington replied with exaggerated meekness. "And, doctor, seeing that you have been so involved with us from the start of this pregnancy, please feel free to call us Remington and Laura."
"Only if you will call me Sandra." She smiled, happy for them. "Since we have become so close, I must tell you that I too am pregnant. You can't see my belly with the lab coat but I am very proud of myself. It looks like twins for us as well."
"That's wonderful news, Sandra. Had you been trying for a while?"
"Oh, yes, my dear. My husband and I for ten years have been trying to have our baby. I have had serious problems conceiving. I just am so happy. So-now you know what is going on in my life. Are there any more questions on yours?"
"Should we be aware of any special restrictions-on our personal activity?" Laura raised the question that she knew was upon Remington's mind.
"Yes. No acrobatics, no marathons from here on out. Otherwise, you may continue as normal. Just remember you've got two little people in there."
Dr. Brathwaite had quickly recognized the extreme passion between the Steeles, and she knew that imposing an unreasonable prohibition upon them would only drive them bananas and that they would probably not observe it anyway.
"All right, you two. Go have a great vacation and I will see you the fifteenth of June. In the event of any problem at all in London, here is the card of a colleague of mine who is excellent. Call on him." She turned to leave the room and then remembered. "And don't be forgetting to ask the receptionist to give you a picture of your ultrasound."
Remington and Laura left the doctor's office in a state of euphoria. They could not believe the news. They drove straight home and when they got into their apartment they could not wait to get into each others arms.
"Oh, my darling Laura, what have we done together?" Remington had kissed his wife over and over all over her face.
"I don't know, Remy, I don't know. I am just ecstatic-beside myself with this news."
"Come, love." Remington took her by the hand and led her into their bedroom. It was midday and sunlight was pouring into the room. He unfastened the loose shirt type dress Laura was wearing and slipped it off her shoulders so that he could look at her. Laura unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it up out of his trousers so that their bare flesh could touch and they stood like that holding each other for a long time in silent communion. There was no need to talk.
Finally Remington picked Laura up in his arms and carried her to their bed. Lying down beside her, he gently felt her rounding belly all over.
"It is quite formidable what's going on here, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Laura whispered, smiling through her tears. "I should have known. Frances kept telling me that I had to be more than four months because I'm getting so big. She's the expert, you know-on children."
"Well, I dare say that after this you will be an expert yourself." Remington was rubbing her belly all over it, feeling for his babies inside of Laura. "You will be able to write a book on breast feeding and the like." He loosened the front closure of her bra and gravely regarded her swollen breasts with their darkened aurolae, his eyes twinkling in disbelief. "Amazing. You are actually becoming voluptuous-and not just in your psyche-all these interesting new features," he teased, his smile meltingly seductive.
"Well, this is not going to last, so you'd better enjoy it now. I'll probably go back to my flat-chested self when this is all over. Anyway, I don't know if I'm going to breast feed."
"You don't want to?"
"Part of me wants to-the curious analytical part that wants to experience everything, Remington, but they-these, she gestured to her breasts-might not be so-'perky' after that. You might not find them as attractive."
"Laura, I find everything about you attractive. I promise to be intrigued by your bosom for the rest of our lives, Madam, and you won't have to look like an ingenue forever for me to love you forever. I know that eventually gravity will take its toll on both of us."
"You mean that, don't you?" Laura was surprised.
"Of course. I never had the opportunity to suckle at my mother's breast. And they say that that affects children. Perhaps that is what made it so difficult for me to commit, to settle down. Let's give our children everything that we can, love. Love them in every way that that you can. I am looking forward to seeing you with a babe at your breast, nursing away. Besides, nursing makes the-breasts infinitely more interesting. Trust me, Laura."
"More of the information gleaned from your multi-faceted history with women, I am sure." Laura said pointedly.
"I've forgotten where I gleaned that knowledge, but, suffice it to say that I know it to be true." Remington winked at her and kissed her bosom now as he caressed her expanding freckled belly. That was when he and Laura felt the first real movement. One of the infants softly but definitely moved as Remington's hand passed over it. Laura felt it and caught Remington's hand with hers.
"Oh, Rem, did you feel it? The baby moved again and then on the other side Laura felt movement from the other infant. She looked at Remington with glistening eyes as the babies became noticeably active within her from very moment.
Remington kissed her belly over and over tears in his eyes, falling completely in love with his children.
"It's a miraculous thing, unbelievable," He whispered over and over, embracing Laura's swelling girth.
Then his lips found Laura's, searching the depths of them, drinking the essence produced in her mouth by just the taste of his, communicating to her the intense need he felt to join his flesh with hers.
"Rem," Laura sighed as she responded to the longing she saw in his cobalt blue eyes with her own yearning. "I love having your babies inside me. I love being married to you. Oh, Rem!" Laura flung her arms around her husband, hugging him as hard as she could.
"Laura, we are so very married, aren't we? I believe that we have finally become the 'Pepplers.' For some reason I--I just, for some reason, want to call you my 'little girl' today. Would that upset you terribly, darling?"
"No, it wouldn't upset me. I truly feel like your little girl today. I'm giving up, surrendering to you, to your care, to your protection. No more reservations. All my defenses down." She traced his handsome features as she regarded the man she had married and thought of how much things had changed between them. "Please don't let this happiness I have with you be a strange dream. If I were to ever wake up and find you gone. . ."
"I wouldn't know how to leave you, darling. I have not seen or thought about any woman but you for the last five years. I'm dead in the water on that score. You can pick up the pieces of me and do whatever you want with them, darling. I am just as vulnerable as you. I love you and I'm not afraid to bare my whole soul."
"And why do you especially want me to be your 'little girl' today?"
"It was when I saw your face, when Dr. Sandra said you were carrying twins-you looked positively enchanted, like a child that had been given a truly special gift, Laura. I knew then that you truly wanted this pregnancy for yourself, not just for me. I had never seen that look on your face before, love."
"I don't think I ever felt like that before."
Remington and Laura lay in their bed together all that afternoon. They obeyed Dr. Brathwaite. There were no acrobatics, and if it was a marathon, it was run very gently, but they loved so passionately and ardently that now, as Laura sat on the Boeing 747 speeding to London, her cheeks flushed deeply at the memory of it.
Now as the plane soared eastward, she felt one of the babies kick her. She caught her hand to her belly and gasped and Remington immediately reacted.
"The baby-one of them just kicked me-hard." She took his hand and put it on her side where she had felt the kick and this time Remington felt it too. Then both infants kicked gently inside her womb. Laura's eyes filled and she grinned from ear to ear as the lively little ones she was carrying became very active. "I guess I will get a lot of this in the next few months."
Remington cleared his throat, smiling, "They must not care for the altitude, love."
They ate the meal that the flight attendant brought them with gusto. Actually Laura ate hers and half of Remington's. Her appetite had increased dramatically and she was even amazed at the quantity of food she was consuming.
"Miss, I wonder if you could bring another portion of that delicious grilled salmon. My wife is quite literally eating for more than one these days."
"Why, Mr. Steele, we will be glad to bring you more. It's very nice to have you folks flying with us this evening. Are you quite comfortable, Mrs. Steele?"
"Yes, quite." Laura smiled.
"How far along are you, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Actually I am only four and a half months, but I'm having twins."
The mature flight attendant just smiled. "Well, we are prepared here in the event of any emergency, so don't you worry at all. Just enjoy the flight to Heathrow. We should arrive there in about nine more hours. In the meantime, you get up and walk around whenever you wish. It's a smooth flight we're havin' this evening." Remington caught the Irish lilt to her voice.
"Do I detect a bit of Irish brogue there?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Steele. My family is from Glen Cree. We heard about all the excitement there at Ashford Castle last year when you became the 'Lord of the Manor.'"
"The former servants are running it as a corporation now. It's a guest hotel. We plan to get back there for a visit after the twins are born."
"Why, I'm knowing all about it. Mickeline O'Flynn, he's my brother-in-law."
With that, Maggie O'Flynn became like an old friend of the family and took special care of Remington and Laura for the rest of the flight.
Back in Los Angeles, Mildred had gone back to the office to tie up a few loose ends. Remington and Laura had recently hired Alessandra Henry, the former secretary from UNIDAC, to help in the office in view of Laura's pregnancy advancing. Also, they had decided to take on their housekeeper Maria Figueroa's son, Hector, and train him as an apprentice. He was studying at UCLA and showing real promise. When Mildred came in this evening she found Alessandra in a dither.
"Miss Krebs, Miss Krebs, there was a very important phone call for Mr. Steele from his uncle, Sir David Chalmers, in London while you were out. He said that under no circumstances should the Steeles come to London at this time. I tried the car phone but Fred said that he had already dropped the Steeles off."
"You know, one of these days they are going to make those phones so that you can carry them with you. Wow, I don't know what to do. They're probably somewhere over Nebraska by now."
"Maybe you should call Sir David Chalmers. Here is his number."
Mildred went to her desk and rang up the London number.
"Yes, Chalmers here." His voice was serious, subdued.
"It's Mildred Krebs, Sir David, the Steele's-assistant."
"Oh, thank God, Mildred. I'm trying to get word to my nephew that the trip is impossible at this time. A very dangerous situation has come up-cannot talk now."
"But they've gone already. They're half way across the United States by now."
"By Jove, I was afraid of that. All right, Mildred, I will handle it from this end."
"Do I need to come now? I was planning to come by the weekend anyway."
"No, keep to your schedule, Mildred. We'll be in contact later."
Sir David Chalmers hung up the phone and Mildred stood mystified.
"Something is going down, but he couldn't talk about it. Alessandra, I am going to have to go to London tonight. Do you think that you can run this place for the next two weeks?"
Alessandra was completely ditzy, but extremely intelligent. Now she looked at Mildred with her huge grey eyes and nodded. "I'll just do what you have taught me so far. And Hector will help me. I think that we should do just fine."
Mildred gave her a last minute briefing and left to pack for her flight to London.
* * * * * *
By the time that the big plane was in its final descent into Heathrow Airport, Laura was extremely tired of the flight. She had walked back and forth regularly, but her back was hurting and her feet were beginning to swell. All she longed for was the comfort of a real bed.
"It won't be long now, darling." Remington patted her hand and kissed it. He was tired as well, but very excited at the prospect of meeting the rest of his family."
As the plane landed and they exited, the first person that they saw was their old friend, Chief Inspector Lombard, from Scotland Yard. He came right up to them.
"Mr. Steele, walk with me. It is very important for your safety and that of your wife that you ask no questions at this point. There are agents-all around us, but there are others."
"Laura, something's up. Come, darling." He took her hand in his and they quickly followed Lombard through customs where their matters were expedited speedily and soon they were walking briskly through the airport to a waiting limousine from Scotland Yard.
"So, what's going on, Inspector?"
"Your uncle, Sir David Chalmers, informed us of a plan that our Bolshevik counterparts have to exact some sort of pay back for the Fitch/Kamadov affair of last year. Losing Kamadov and all the information that he had when he defected was quite a loss to the Russians. He fingered half a dozen other key double agents besides Fitch in British and American Intelligence. The whole affair was quite a coup for us. The trail from Daniel Chalmers unfortunately led back to Sir David, who has maintained a position of complete anonymity as far as British Intelligence is concerned. In short, his connection with you was discovered."
"My God, why didn't he say?"
"It all just unraveled last night. He tried to call you in Los Angeles to delay your trip, but you had already departed. Actually, you would have been in danger in Los Angeles as well. These people are not bound by any geographical location, you know."
Lombard continued, "We feel that they will try to perhaps kidnap you or, better still, given the condition of Mrs. Steele, kidnap her and use that as leverage to exact the release of some key Russian operatives held in British prisons. We do not know how much they know about Sir David's connection with British Intelligence, but we must protect him at all costs. He is a veritable wellspring of information."
"Do we know what their plan is, Inspector?" Laura was totally aware of the danger that they must be in and wanting information.
"We were afraid that they might try something at Heathrow-hence the ring of security. They can't do anything when we know who our enemy is."
"And where is Antony Roselli these days?" Remington's tone was dry, even sardonic.
"Matter of fact, he is the one that inadvertently mentioned Daniel Chalmers being your father when he was being interrogated in Dublin in the aftermath of the Sterling Fitch affair. Before that there was no established connection. Of course Kamadov's attachÚ, Nikolai Perousha, knew quite a bit and apparently someone else there in Dublin was a mole and communicated certain strategic information along the pipeline. We have dealt with that, but the damage had been done and we have not found the mole."
Remington and Laura exchanged glances that needed no words. The picture was clear.
"So what now, Inspector?"
"We are going to take you to Sir David's and we are going to protect you there, while we try to catch these fellows." He paused and regarded Laura Steele. "I must congratulate you both. It is obvious that you folks are expecting an addition to your family."
"Laura is expecting twins, Inspector. I cannot expose her to any danger. I will put her on a plane back to America right now if that will protect her and our children. Nothing else is more important. I have never involved myself willingly in espionage for just this reason. I want no leverage of this sort. I am trying to have a normal life here, Inspector, and I am damned furious about this!"
"Your anger is understandable, Steele, but you allowed Roselli to recruit you in that whole Helmsley/Fitch matter and that opened you up to be used in this way."
"Even worse, it opened up my-father-and Sir David and the rest to be used as well. Where is Roselli now?"
"We don't know. He is out of communication with us-trying to track these people down. He is quite despondent about the whole matter. But that is another story. Now we are going to get you to your family. There will be people guarding you at the Chalmers estate at all times. Let us work this out on this end, Steele. You do realize that even in the America you would not be safe until this matter is resolved."
"Excuse me, Inspector, but I have to speak with my wife for a few moments." He turned his back to the Inspector and spoke quietly to Laura. "God, Laura, I can't have anything happen to you. This could get very sticky. I do not like it at all. If anything untoward happens, I will give myself in exchange for you. I will die before I let anything happen to you, Laura. I must say this now, because you must know where we stand. Don't try to save me, if it means that you will endanger yourself or our children. Promise me, Laura."
"Remington, I can't. I love you."
"Do you love these, Laura?" He touched her belly gently with just his fingertips.
"You know that I do."
"Then you will promise me. We have to know where we stand in the event something happens, where the parameters are. Then we can both be strong no matter what happens."
"I-I promise." Laura's eyes were full, but she understood her Remington as never before, as the man of principle that he had become, as the protector of his family.
Remington turned back to the Inspector.
"I think that we are ready. Take us to my uncle's home."
When they reached the Chalmers home in the fashionable London enclave Mayfair, Remington and Laura put their situation out of mind for the moment as they absorbed the beauty of the mansion, with its beautifully cultivated gardens. David Chalmers and his sister were waiting for them and embraced them warmly.
"Laura, look at you. You did this to this lovely girl, my son!" David Chalmers was very happy to see Laura in such radiant health again, just blooming and so gloriously pregnant. He kissed her on each cheek. "This is my sister, Chl÷e."
Chl÷e Chalmers was an attractive seventy year old, alert and active, tall and well-built, her steele gray hair cut into a stylish coif. She stood very erect as she welcomed Remington and Laura.
"Dear me, look at you-all grown up and a handsome devil. Oh, Harry, I have waited so long for this day. She kissed her nephew and hugged him tightly.
"This is my wife, Aunt Chl÷e. Laura. . ."
"So you are the bonny lass that is carrying the treasure of the family. My, my, I think that we shall get on famously." She kissed Laura and then put her hands on Laura's pregnant belly, feeling the offspring she was carrying. Laura loved her immediately.
Remington and David Chalmers retreated to the library after tea. They needed to assess the situation that they found themselves in.
"Remington, you have no idea how distressed I am at this turn of events. The whole thing came to light only just before you left Los Angeles. I have prided myself on maintaining my cover throughout my career. My work with MI-6 has been under the deepest security possible. I cannot imagine where the leak is. And, in reality, it is blood they want. It is the only way that they can save face. Our only salvation in this is to find out who they are and to deal with them in the most severe manner possible-without causing further loss of face."
"My Laura is in danger, Uncle David, and at a time when she is least able to defend herself. I-I cannot tell you how deep it continues to become between us. Whenever we think that it can not become more profound, then we discover more. Seeing her as she is now, pregnant with our children, I would gladly die myself before I let anything happen to her." Remington's expression was resolute and David Chalmers knew that his nephew was truly ready to sacrifice himself for the woman he loved.
"I would hope that everyone would come out of this unscathed, my son. Your Laura is truly beautiful carrying-positively radiant. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to see her like this. You have been blessed."
"I realize that, Uncle David, but if I have the opportunity to offer myself to those traitorous dogs, I will do it to protect my wife and my children. Please do not interfere if that happens, unless you can absolutely secure Laura's situation. May I have your word on that?"
Sir David Chalmers nodded and poured brandy for the both of them from a decanter on his desk.
"I truly want to see Harriett and her family but I cannot jeopardize their safety. Please put all of those arrangements on hold for the moment."
"Remington, your secretary, Mildred, rang up. She will be in on the morning flight from Los Angeles."
"Well, we might need her. She was coming anyway. I just don't want her in the line of fire either. God! This is a bloody mess here. Please excuse me, sir. I need to be with Laura tonight. The thought of anything happening to her is so. . ." Remington's voice cracked and he was unable to continue. His uncle embraced him warmly.
"I understand, son. Go to your wife. She needs you with her now."
* * * * * *
Remington and Laura finally ended up in their guest quarters in the east wing of the house. Laura quickly sought the comfort of bed, exhausted, but happy to be with Remington and finally analyze these very special moments for him as well as discuss the dangerous situation they were in.
The room was spacious, beautifully decorated with ornate antique eighteenth century furnishings. Remington and Laura lay in the canopied bed, their arms around each other.
"It's unbelievable, isn't it? Finding your family like this. Do you feel as if you're finding something that has been long lost to you?"
"Yes, it's strange. This is where I should have grown up, Laura. Would these 'things' have made me a different person? I guess that they would have. I certainly wouldn't have been picking pockets just to survive."
"These are your roots, what you sprang from. All the terrible things you went through could not change that this is really what you are, Remy. I didn't change you. I only helped you to find who you actually are, a man of character, a man of fine background-strong, resolute."
"I know one thing. All the suffering, all the bad times in dumps all around the world were worth it, if they finally led me to you, Laura." Remington kissed his wife now, his lips passionate upon hers and she responded with her own passion for him.
"I'm ravenous for you. They say this is one of the side effects of pregnancy after the morning sickness wears off."
"It's a marvelous side effect-not that you aren't passionate enough by nature, darling." Remington looked deeply into Laura's eyes and his voice became very serious. "My darling Laura, you realize that we are in grave danger, don't you?"
"Yes, I do. It's different-with me being like this, isn't it? We don't want to take the same risks with our children that we are willing to take with ourselves, do we?"
"No, we do not. We cannot. But we have been forced into somewhat of a corner here. I could kill Roselli for what he has done in compromising this whole family like this."
"You wouldn't kill him."
"I tried to beat the crap out of him in Ireland."
"So that's why both of you were so bruised and banged up. You were fighting each other!"
"Uh, huh, and we had a good one, we did. He said that I was using you to keep my United States residency, that I was no better than a pimp."
"Tony said that!" Laura was incensed.
"I saw red and swung first. We fought all over the square at Glen Cree and I finally-just barely got the best of him. The explosion in that house the double agents set up overshadowed it and the fight was forgotten. But we had a bloody good fight we did-over you, darling-like a couple of wild moose in rut fighting over the female in heat. That's what it was about-pure and simple."
"What were you proving?"
"That I was the better man, that I deserved to have you, that I could take on any comers and end up with you. It was all very basic, my darling, pure and simple and earthy. All that testosterone stored up, love. I wouldn't have that kind of energy now unless I felt that you or our children's lives were threatened."
"And we are in danger here. I know that we are."
"In the event something happens and we are separated, take cover. Do not try to outrun these people in your condition. Blend in, try to look like the common folk around you. Braid your hair up-whatever. Use every bit of knowledge you have gained from me of the con game, because you may have to pull off a tremendous con if they get you. But I will find you-wherever you are."
Laura was overcome with emotion for her husband. She had never imagined the strength of character that she now saw in him. She realized now that it had always been there, untapped and undeveloped. He had come into his own as a man, and he was hers and she was very thankful that her life was in the hands of Remington Steele at that very moment. That day in London was one that she would never forget as long as she lived, because that was the day that she lost all doubts as to the character of the man that had become Remington Steele.
"But, Laura, putting it quite succinctly, I-I need you tonight. . . to make love to you."
Laura nodded and opened her arms to him.
Remington took his wife now and it was completely serious between them on this night when they both realized that their future life together could well be in jeopardy. There was none of the usual lighthearted banter, no humor, no playfulness as they drank wet passionate kisses, each searching the depths of the others mouth as if they could not possibly get enough of the essence they craved so much. They reveled in the taste of one another, their kisses continuing to escalate in intensity until they were soon both frantically caressing and touching one another in an agony to join together. Remington kissed his wife's breasts and he kissed her full belly, rubbing it all over as he wept for his children. A passionate fervor caught both of them up as Remington drew Laura onto him. They came together with jolting power, the force of the special rhythm of their connection rocking them, stunning them. They cried because of their fear that something would destroy the complete passion that they shared, and they cried because the pleasure was so consuming. Remington groaned out to his Maker as he felt the familiar pressure building in the pit of his stomach. A soft keening wail of anguish escaped Laura's lips as it happened for her while Remington's release came like thunder claps and bright flashes of lightning in his brain.
"God, dear God! Laura!" he gasped and then his words were unintelligible as his wife shook and quivered on his chest, her teeth rattling out of control while her own release and surrender came.
When they both lay quiet in the huge bed, a peace seemed to wash over them.
"Laura, darling. . . I love you more my own life."
"The thought of anything happening to you. . . Rem."
"We will pray for a resolution of this terrible matter. . . a quick resolution. Lord, I can't lose you now."
Remington hugged Laura tightly as their passions gathered strength again.
"I feel a marathon coming on, Remy," Laura whispered.
* * * * * *
About four in the morning Remington got out of bed, leaving Laura sleeping soundly. He donned a black turtleneck sweater and black slacks and walked throughout the house and about the maze-like gardens outside. He wanted to check security for himself. There was a very subtle but very tight ring surrounding the perimeter discernible only to someone who knew exactly what to look for, but Remington still felt helpless. He did not dare leave Laura alone, unprotected, and yet he couldn't find out anything here. Actually, he had no idea where to start on this one.
Remington Steele stood in the shadows near the Chalmers mansion watching a security van parked on the street in front of the property. Suddenly he became aware of another person nearby. He glanced over his shoulder to see Tony Roselli.
"So, it's you." His dislike for Roselli was clearly evident in his voice.
"Yeah, it's me. We keep getting involved in the same cases, don't we?"
"They are your cases, Roselli, not mine. Why did you compromise my family by revealing the connection I had with your case with Fitch and Helmsley and that lot? You claimed to care so much for Laura and yet you put her in this kind of danger." Remington's tone was measured but it was obvious that he was seething with anger at Roselli.
"I didn't really think that you and Laura would still be together. I figured that you could take care of yourself. I know how that sounds but it's the truth." Roselli shrugged his shoulders.
"You never understood about Laura and me, did you?"
"No, I must admit that I didn't and I don't."
"Laura and I had been in love a long time before you came onto the scene. There is history between us that you could not possible comprehend."
"So you two legalized your marriage."
"The marriage on that fishing boat in international waters was legal all the long. You knew that, Roselli. You misrepresented the circumstances with the INS so as to exert leverage upon me to recruit me."
Roselli was silent in acknowledgment that what Remington said was true.
"So who is behind this. What do you know, Roselli?"
"I know that they have found Kamadov and they plan to liquidate him."
"They've infiltrated the CIA's witness protection program? Has anyone warned Kamadov?"
"I don't know. Frankly I couldn't care less about what happens to Kamadov. He was an opportunist, not a man who genuinely wanted to defect." Roselli paused. "On the other hand, his aide, Nikolai, was quite an informant, but he did not reveal who we're dealing with on this side of the pond. He's back in Moscow and we can't touch him."
"You know, Roselli, I never could understand a 'free lance agent' like yourself. Whom are you really working for and what is your objective in all this? Where do you live, man? You show up like a piece of floating debris whenever and wherever a crisis develops."
"I'm just a man trying to do a job."
"Soldier of fortune. So that's it. You prostitute yourself to the highest bidder. And you had the nerve to call me a 'pimp.' Man, you're in crap up to your neck. I'm surprised you haven't suffocated in it." Remington regarded Roselli with complete disgust. "Daniel advised me to never get involved with espionage and he was so right. I rue the day we laid eyes on you."
"Maybe it's time for me to 'come in from the cold' and I just don't know how to do it," Roselli offered somewhat lamely.
"Get into the house. I don't want to be seen out here with you. Dawn will break soon and I need further information from you." Remington walked back to the house ahead of Roselli without even looking back at him.
"So Daniel Chalmers was your father?"
"And Sir David Chalmers is my uncle. You know that of course." Remington did not say anything further, stopping short of telling Roselli more than what he felt he knew already.
Remington led Roselli into the large spacious kitchen of the home and put on water for tea as he continued to question him.
"So whom are they using to carry out this operation?"
"Best I can find out, they are hiring operatives for this so that no one can be traced by to the Bolsheviks."
"And whom do they want to snatch?"
"You. . . Laura. . .any member of your family could be at risk."
"With what objective-money, ransom?"
"No, they will kill whoever they get-to teach British and American intelligence a lesson." Roselli's tone was somber.
Just then Laura came into the kitchen. She had awakened to find Remington missing, put on a soft grey sweatsuit and come looking for her husband. She looked radiant, her hair still somewhat mussed, her state of pregnancy clearly evident.
"Oh, my. . .Tony is here."
"He found his way somehow, darling," Remington said wryly, "and not bearing good news."
"Laura. . ." Roselli was speechless at the sight of her.
Laura extended her hand and he shook it.
"I see that you are well. You're beautiful. . .like. . . that. I guess that congratulations are in order-to both of you."
Laura put her hands around her expanding girth. "We're having twins. We were trying very hard to start a family and it finally happened." Laura reached for Remington's hand. "I am a happily married woman, Tony, happy beyond my wildest dreams." Her expression and the way she looked at Remington left no question in Roselli's mind.
Remington kissed Laura's cheek and held her hand, his eyes so full of his love for her that Roselli just turned away.
"So what is the bad news, Remington, other that someone is going to try to kidnap one of us."
"The operatives are mercenaries, darling, and they have to kill us to collect. I'd rather deal with a loyalist to a cause any day than deal with a hired gun."
Laura stopped short and Remington drew her close and continued. "I just feel so helpless, like a bloody 'sitting duck.' I can't abide the thought of anything happening to you or our children."
Sir David came into the kitchen now in his dressing gown and was astonished to see them all gathered so early in the morning.
"My word, it's a convention we're having. Roselli?" He nodded to Antony and turned to his nephew. I need a word with you, Remington. And, by the way, they're bringing Miss Krebs out here now. She landed at Heathrow about two hours ago."
"Mildred?" Laura asked Remington.
"She came early when she realized there could be problems. I think that we may need her to do some research for us."
"I'm glad she's here."
As Remington followed his uncle out of the kitchen and into the library, Laura and Roselli were left alone.
"So, you and Steele made it after all, I see."
"Yes, Tony. We were always going to make it. I am truly sorry if you held out false hopes. I tried to make it clear to you back in Ireland."
"But when we kissed on that train, Laura. I thought-I felt the passion from you."
"Maybe you did, but, if that was the case, it was because I was imagining you to be him. That was wrong of me. You deserved better treatment than that."
"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. They say all's fair in love and war, and I guess that I just lost the war. It still doesn't change my feelings for you. I can't help that." Roselli paused, unable to continue. "You look fabulous pregnant. I just wish it was me that got you like that. I fell in love with you, Laura. . . and I guess that is just the way it is. I thought that by now you and Steele would have parted company. I didn't realize that I would be jeopardizing you by jeopardizing him. I'm sorry."
"You need to go back to archaeology, Tony." Laura's tone left no mistaking her feelings. "You are not a very good agent. You don't do your homework. You didn't even bother to check to find out if Remington and I were still together. That is very sloppy, Tony. If my husband loses his life, trying to protect me from these people, I will never forgive you."
It was nearly seven o'clock and the Chalmers' cook, Anna arrived, quite surprised to find her kitchen already in use so early in the morning. Anna was in her late twenties, a fetching leggy strawberry blonde, whose slight Cockney accent betrayed her humble roots.
"Ow, look 'ere! My kitchens full a'ready this morning,"
"Mr. Steele and I couldn't sleep-jet lag and all. And Mr. Roselli dropped by. I think that he's is just leaving."
"Well, e's an 'andsome one. You can sit as long as you like, Mr. Roselli."
"Call me Tony. My friends call me Tony." Roselli appraised the tall good-looking blonde woman in her black fitted skirt and white apron and smiled.
"And mine call me Anna, Anna Whittington."
Laura was about to leave when she heard Mildred's voice. She had just been chauffered up from Heathrow.
"Mrs. Steele-you're okay. And Mr. Steele?"
"He's fine. He's with Sir David right now."
"And what's he doing here? Don't tell me. . ."
"Mr. Roselli is just leaving. He came by to share some information with us about this case."
"Yes, I'm going." Tony Roselli got up and left the house by way of the kitchen entrance.
Laura and Mildred walked into the broad front hallway together.
"I thought we'd seen the last of the Italian stallion. He's like a bad penny, you know. Well, I guess he could figure out what you and Mr. Steele have been up too."
"He was surprised, even shocked, Mildred. He said that he wished that it had been him that got me pregnant."
"He meant that," Mildred said matter-of-factly. "He was after your-well, you know, from the day he found you out there in the jungle. I still haven't figured him out completely, have you?"
"No, and I don't really think that I want to." Laura stopped for a moment and changed the subject. "Someone is trying to kidnap Remington or me as payback for the hit they took last year when that whole scheme with Kamadov and Fitch was uncovered. That is what Sir David was trying to let us know before we left LA."
"And they don't know who they are?"
"No, it could be anyone. They have apparently hired mercenaries. Also, Kamadov's cover has been blown. They are trying to relocate him now, but it is difficult to know who the mole is."
"You're pregnant. They would kidnap a pregnant woman!"
"Not just kidnap, Mildred. These people get paid to bring in bodies."
"Remington is frantic, Mildred." Laura's eyes started to tear. "He wants to protect me and, and we just don't know. . . how. These babies in me-I have to protect my babies, and I don't know how. I'm frightened for my babies, Mildred."
Mildred embraced the younger woman and Laura gave way to tears in her arms. "I am just so soft, since I've been like this, so emotional."
"Well, you have something to be emotional about, Kiddo. But you'll come up with something. And I am here to help."
At that point Remington came into the foyer and saw Laura crying on Mildred's shoulder. He took her hand and led her into the library where Sir David still was.
"We just got word over by fax. They have Kamadov. They are holding him in an undisclosed location somewhere in California. They want to make him pay for his defection. To back off they want something in return or they will liquidate Kamadov," Remington summarized the situation.
"I think that we should all dress and get ready for this day. It could be an eventful one. Breakfast should be ready in about an hour. We do have a new cook, compliments of our security people, so it may not be up to standards for this house. Our regular cook, Martha, is in her sixties and definitely not up to the kind of excitement that is possible in this situation."
"So Anna is an operative." Laura was surprised.
"Yes, one of ours, top drawer clearance." I will not have anyone in the house that I do not know personally. There is far too much at risk here."
"There certainly is. I should have known that you would take every precaution. I talked with Roselli, but I don't know if I have the whole story. Tony has a way of revealing things in snippets, you know. He, being sort of free lance. I consider him a mercenary actually." Remington's tone was full of cynicism as he described Antony Roselli.
"Well, that is what he is. We have just always considered him to be in our camp, so to speak. But money is the name of his game."
"I think that I have heard all that I want to hear of Tony Roselli for now, Remington. I am feeling that jet lag again. I think that I will take a nap before breakfast. I am so tired right now."
Remington kissed Laura and she left the library.
"I gather Laura doesn't exactly favor Tony Roselli?"
"It's a somewhat convoluted tale, but the bottom line is that Tony Roselli made a very decided play for Laura last year. He was quite persistent-even when he knew that Laura and I were married. He couldn't see what was and is between us."
"Then the man must have been deaf and blind. It is so obvious between you and Laura."
"Well, he didn't want to see it. I don't think he still is able to reconcile himself to the fact that Laura is my wife, carrying my offspring. Even in this mess, he thought somehow that he could throw me to the wolves, so to speak, and that it would not affect Laura. He is a very carnal man, actually, wants what he wants without regard for anyone."
"We will have to remember that that is part of the mix, Remington. In a high stakes game like this, nothing can be discounted."
Breakfast was a family affair. They all tried to forget the stress of the situation as they sat down to a typical hearty English breakfast. There were fresh baked scones, two or three kinds of sausage, bacon, eggs Benedict, a variety of fresh jams and marmalades and a special lapsang soochong tea that was a favorite of Sir David. Of course, there was plenty of excellent coffee, Kenya AA, fresh ground and brewed to perfection.
Aunt Chl÷e was in high spirits. She knew that there was something afoot but Sir David had followed his lifelong policy of simply notifying her that a problem existed but protecting her by sparing her details.
"Laura, I just can't get over how you are just blooming." She turned to face her. "Look at you."
"Thank you, Aunt Chl÷e. Would you like to see?"
"Oh my dear, I surely would."
Laura lifted her sweater and pushed down her slacks in front
so that she could show Chl÷e all her swollen freckled belly.
"Oh, my, how lovely, how lovely!" Chl÷e patted Laura's belly."
"Come here, David. Look at the bairn she's carrying."
David Chalmers rose from his chair and came to Laura and bent down and gently touched her swollen midsection.
"Thank you, my dear. It is truly beautiful what you and Remington have done together." He kissed her forehead.
"I wish that Harriett could come. If we get this case resolved, then we will have a real family reunion, won't we?" Laura said.
"Hear, hear, I'll drink to that," Remington said, lifting his teacup in salute.
The rest of the morning was a comfortable time for them, a time of reminiscing, of discovery, of similarities, of all the things that make a family a family. And Remington was the center of all of it. Only Laura could see the anxiety in his deep blue eyes, that betrayed the stress he was under with their lives in jeu.
Later, Laura and Remington went back to their rooms. Aunt Chl÷e was puttering about in the library looking for pictures of Daniel and David as children and other memorabilia for Remington. Sir David dressed and went in to his office to work on the case from there. He had set up his computer for Mildred to search for information right from his house. All seemed to be stable.
Remington was quite tired after being up so early as well as the normal fatigue from jet lag so he lay down with Laura for a nap. Mildred was exhausted as well and she turned in, planning to sleep for several hours to recover from her long flight in.
Mid-afternoon, Laura awakened and seeing Remington sleeping peacefully decided to go downstairs for a cup of tea. Anna had seemed an interesting type for an agent and she wanted to talk with her.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she heard Chl÷e. She was trying to revive the Anna, who lay unconscious on the kitchen floor, bleeding from a severe wound to her chest. Then she saw the figure approaching Chl÷e from behind.
"Look out, Chl÷e!"
At that point, Chl÷e, startled looked right in to the barrel of an automatic weapon with silencer attached. Another man approached Laura from behind, clapped his hand over her mouth and literally picked her up off her feet. They wore stocking masks over their faces and Laura knew that it was useless to resist.
She was completely overpowered. She knew that to fight this attack could seriously jeopardize the babies in her womb. Chl÷e was quiet, her eyes wide in terror as they were pushed out of the back door of the house and into the back of a van just like the security van parked in front of the house.
Laura looked at Chl÷e and shook her head, indicating that she should say nothing, just before they were both blindfolded.
"Who are you people?" Laura spoke authoritatively.
"Don't worry about who we are. It won't matter, Mrs. Steele."
"Well, what do you have this old woman along for? Don't you know she has Altzimer's disease. She doesn't know anything and she doesn't remember anything. She's crazy. You might as well ditch her while you can because she is nothing but trouble." Laura squeezed Chl÷e's knee, giving her a cue.
"Who are you, old woman?" The man riding shotgun said.
Chl÷e just grunted and said childishly "Are we going to the store? I want to go to the store? Take me to the store. Are we going to the store?"
"Hush, fool," he said to Chl÷e, then to the driver. "I am not going to put up with some crazy old bat on this caper. Stop the car when we get on highway A1."
They rode in silence for some minutes except for Chl÷e's childish banter, and they came to a halt and the other man opened the back door, dragged Chl÷e from the car, pushed her down on the ground, got back in the car and they took off again.
Laura was quiet. She had gotten Chl÷e out of danger. That was all that mattered. Whatever the situation, Chl÷e would have been a liability and she would have been hurt. Now Laura had to try to think and think clearly. Security had been breached, and by someone who knew just what was going on in that house. Here she was, with only the clothes on her back, in a very dangerous situation.
Remington awakened from his nap and reached for Laura. The house was strangely quiet and he immediately sensed that something was terribly wrong. He went cautiously down the stairs and toward the kitchen. That is when he saw Anna lying in a pool of blood on the floor. One look told him that she was dead. At that moment Remington saw the what looked like a letter "T" apparently scrawled by Anna in her own blood just before she died.
Remington swore, realizing what had happened.
"Laura! Laura! Mildred!"
He ran back up the stairs and into the room where Mildred was and found her sleeping soundly.
"Mildred, wake up! Wake up!" They've taken Laura! They have Laura. . . and they have killed the cook."
Mildred wakened, startled and disoriented from fatigue and jet lag.
"What, Mr. Steele?"
"Get up, Mildred! We are in trouble here. They've kidnapped Laura and apparently they have Aunt Chl÷e as well."
"Chief! What is going on?"
"We are going to break this one wide open, Mildred, wide open. We have to. They have Laura. God!"
Remington ran to the security van in front and apprised them of what had happened and in just a few minutes the place was crawling with officers. Sir David Chalmers and Chief Inspector Lombard were notified, but there was no trace of Laura or Chl÷e.
About an hour later, someone spotted Chl÷e Chalmers walking along Highway A1, disheveled and exhausted. She told them what had happened and how Laura had tricked them into letting her go.
"That girl is brilliant, Remington."
"Yes, she truly is, Aunt Chl÷e. I just hope she is brilliant enough to stay alive until we can find her."
Remington walked slowly up the stairs to the bedroom where he and Laura had last been together and closed the door behind him. He went to one of the huge ornate tapestry-covered chairs and sat down. The bed was still disheveled from their afternoon romp and the sight of it was too much for him. He closed his eyes as the tears came. He could not hold them back. His hands gripped the arms of the chair and he felt a silent scream that seemed to come from the inmost core of him. Suddenly sick to his stomach, he went into the bathroom, crouched over the toilet and vomited till there was nothing left to throw up.
"Oh, God, keep my wife safe. Help my Laura," he groaned.
Sir David Chalmers came home at the first word of what had happened. He was devastated. Anna was a seasoned operative and had been like a member of his own family. And Laura, it was impossible to imagine that they just came in and took her like that.
He walked into his home and went straight upstairs to Remington. When he knocked on the bedroom door, there was no answer. Finally he opened the door and went into the darkened room. Remington was sitting in the chair near the bed.
"Remington," Sir David spoke softly. When Remington turned to face him, he saw that he had been weeping.
"They have my. . .wife. Laura. Uncle David, they are going to kill my woman and I can't do a thing to protect her."
"Here, here, Son, we will find her." Sir David approached his nephew and Remington met him halfway and fell upon his neck.
Sir David embraced him and tried to calm him, his cool British aspect deeply affected by his nephew's pain over Laura's kidnapping.
"I'm sorry. I truly am. I am just overcome and don't know where to turn on this one." Remington tried to regain control of his emotions. "I knew that this a was possibility, but the shock of it actually happening was. . . If she were her normal self, I wouldn't be so completely devastated. She knows how to get out of the most dangerous situations. But the pregnancy handicaps her. She cannot forget for a moment those twins in her belly. Her hormones will not let that happen-and that will compromise her severely. Under normal circumstances she runs like a deer-over fences and walls. She's run the triathlon in Los Angeles. No one can catch her if she gets a head start on them. But she cannot do that in her present condition. She will have to rely totally on her intellect to survive this one."
"Then I would say that her chances are still quite good, my son. She's a brilliant girl. She will compensate for what she lacks physically at this time, don't you think?"
Remington finally composed himself and he and Sir David went downstairs to decide on a plan of action.
Mildred saw Remington's red-rimmed eyes and knew that he was going through his own private hell.
"What do you think we should do here, boss?"
Just at that moment the phone rang. Sir David answered and then handed the phone to Remington, his face grave. Remington's answers were three terse "yes" replies. Then he turned to Sir David and Mildred.
They want me as well. Within seventy-two hours I must report to the place that they will designate or they will kill my wife."
"It's the ransom call. They are using your love for your wife to force you to surrender to them. And they will not let Laura go if you surrender yourself. They will surely kill her and you as well. Two bodies are worth more than just one."
"I know-but I have my orders. Let's start brainstorming this thing."
Remington started to pace in the library. "We are dealing with mercenaries. These have no conscience and no mercy. We need to know who they are working for."
"We know that they are working for the Russians. That is clear." Mildred offered.
"Then there is that letter that Anna scrawled in her own blood. It must be some sort of clue as to who her assailant was. A cross of some sort or perhaps the letter 'T'. . ." Remington was thinking out loud.
"If it's the Russians who are behind this, then we have to get to them somehow, don't we, Boss?"
"That is true. We need an entrÚe to the Soviets, someone to appeal to higher-ups in Russian Intelligence that can 'call off the dogs,' so to speak."
"But why should the Russians want to call off the dogs as far as you and Miss, I mean Mrs. Steele are concerned?" Mildred raised the question.
"What have we done for them lately, Mildred. We have to think like the Chinese. If you can establish that there is a favor owed, then that favor will be given and the more noble the deed, the more noble the favor. I learned a great deal about that when I lived in Hong Kong ten years ago. A lot of the concept is addressed in the book "Noble House," James Clavell, Delacorte Press, 1981. (They really should get around to making the film some day.) The taipan of a powerful Hong Kong company travels to Beijing to ask an old friend for a favor that can save his company from ruin." Remington paused. "At any rate, we must bypass these bad guys and get to the top, or as near the top as we can. Otherwise, all is lost. What positive experiences have we had with the Russians, Mildred?"
"The Remington Steele Agency?" Mildred asked.
"Yes, yes, the agency, Mildred. There is something in the back of my mind." Remington was pacing back and forth.
"Do we really have time for this approach, Son? You have only seventy-two hours before they expect you to surrender yourself to these people or they will kill your wife."
"You realize how hard it is to trace an assassin, a hired killer. We know that the chances are slim there. I want my children to come into this world and I want to be here to welcome them. I have to try any and every approach to this puzzle."
"Boss, the only Russians we dealt with were in that case about the caviar. You know. . ."
"The police officer from Moscow! Yes! Ivan, what was his name? Yes, Stranikov! Ivan Stranikov! And he was especially partial to Laura. Deniesovitch was the Commissar of Caviar and Stranikov was sent here by the Russian government to shadow him. When Deniesovitch was killed, there was quite a flap, and we helped Stranikov save the reputation of the Russian caviar industry by exposing a plot to undermine it. How could we forget that spoiled overgrown brat, Bingham Perret, and that case. Find out what Stranikov's position in Russia is now. I want to make contact with him. He was grateful for what we did for him. In fact I think that they gave him some sort of medal in recognition for what happened in America over the fish eggs issue."
"I'll start checking, Chief. He left us an address. I'll call Alessandra on that for a start."
"I'm going to need a visa for Russia, Uncle David."
"I'll take care of that. I must yield to your judgment in this matter, but you realize that we don't have much time."
* * * * * *
Meanwhile Laura was being led into a barn in the country outside of the city of London and into the tack room where she was to be held. She had been extremely quiet during all her ordeal to this point because she did not want to disturb the babies she was carrying. She was praying that they would not drug her.
"Okay, here you are, lady. Cause any problems and it will be your problem."
"What are you going to do to me?"
"I just picked you up. Someone else calls the shots in this caper."
"I'm pregnant. Don't you see that I'm pregnant?"
The man with the mask still over his face attached her leg with a chain to the solid wood table bolted to the floor of the tack room and left her in the room without answering her.
Laura surveyed her surroundings. They were obviously in the country but she had no idea where. The last patch of road had been very bumpy, evidently very poorly paved. Laura thought of Remington and for the first time tears flooded her eyes. She knew that he would be frantic now. She only hoped that the uncanny ability and intuition he had developed for solving problems would come into play and override the anxiety that he was no doubt experiencing. And she was extremely hungry. The babies did not know her circumstance and her craving for food was almost making her ill.
After Laura had been confined in the tack room for almost three hours, the door opened and someone came in. By then it was dark, and Laura could not tell whether it was a man or woman at first, but then she caught the scent of expensive perfume just before a lantern was lit.
"I guess that I am your caretaker, so you should know-oh, my God, it's you, Laura"
"Felicia! What is going on?"
"I am a free lancer, darling. They hired me to keep watch over a woman who is-pregnant?"
"Yes, I am pregnant."
"Yes, me-and Michael. Michael Harrison Daniel Chalmers O'Sullivan. I promised that I would tell you that if I ever found out."
"So he really was Michael, after all. And he was Daniel's son?"
"Yes. Daniel told us just before he passed away."
"Why that's incredible, Laura."
"And you and Michael are-married?"
"Yes, it's weird but true."
"I don't find it weird actually. Michael told me that he was committed to you when last I saw him in London two years ago during that affair with the Earl of Claridge. Amazing that he was willing to impregnate you with some of his precious semen. He was so obsessed with keeping it from the rest of us. Well, a girl has to know when she's been beaten fair and square."
"I'm having twins, Felicia."
"Twins! Good Lord! Michael fathering twins."
"And I am so hungry and I have to go to the bathroom."
"Well, here. There is a pot somewhere. I'll help you. You must understand these primitive conditions are not my choice."
Felicia went to the corner and found a chamber pot and brought it over to Laura and Laura gratefully relieved herself into it.
"Can you leave this nearby. When you're pregnant, you have to go all the time."
"Sure. I have no stomach for this affair, Laura. I know you, and I have-I cared for Michael. I did not realize what this job was about. I certainly did not realize that you were pregnant with Michael's babies." She reached into a bag she was carrying and produced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a liter of milk. "I apologize for the cuisine, but I guess it doesn't make much difference to you at this point."
Laura reached for a sandwich and devoured it happily.
"It's fabulous. These babies are totally lacking in discrimination in matters of food at this point."
Felicia looked at Laura and there was melancholy in her eyes.
"I envy you your happiness, Laura. I often wonder what life for me would have been like if I'd had children."
"I'm sure your life is very-exciting?" Laura was searching for an appropriate description of Felicia's life on the shady side of the law.
"Michael was-exciting. My life is another story. But tell me about it, Laura-girl to girl-how you got Michael. You owe that to me at least."
Laura smiled, glad for the diversion. She had really never talked to anyone about the intimate aspects of her relationship with Remington Steele, but Felicia knew him, had been his lover. It seemed somehow different talking about him with her.
"Well, it was very hard for us to finally get together. I think that I fell in love with him the first time I saw him, but he seemed so wild, and dangerous to me. I was afraid to let him have his way with me."
"I knew that he was a goner when I came for that caper with the 'Five Nudes of Cairo.' He was different with me. He had a different feel, and I knew that it was because of you."
"When he would kiss me, it would just make me crazy, Felicia, and he knew it. At first he still was going out with all these women, a different one every night, and then he just stopped."
"You mean that Michael stopped sleeping around? I can't believe it."
"That's what happened. I guess it was like that for about three years.'
"You made Michael go celibate for three years! Oh, you dear wicked girl!" Felicia laughed out loud.
"I know. It sounds unbelievable, doesn't it?"
"Really. He must have been impossibly randy."
"Yes, I guess he was. And that made me even more reluctant, no matter how strongly I was attracted. I felt that if I gave in to him like that, he would leave me once he got what he wanted, that it would just be physical between us, you know."
"Well, that had been his pattern. We were on again, off again for years but it was because neither of us laid down any rules for the other. I wanted to, but I knew that he would never accept that. I was willing to take what I could get from Michael-while wishing for more. You were wise to make him wait, but I don't know how you were able to resist for so long. He is so-persuasive."
"Well, one night we had to stay together in a motel while we were working on a case. They had detonated a bomb in Remy's hallway and set another one in my apartment. Remy saved my life by breaking into my place and defusing the bomb that was rigged to my lock. We were both pretty terrified, Felicia, and we simply turned to each other. We didn't even think about it. I was cold and scared and he was trying to keep me warm. We started touching, petting like we always did, kissing. One thing led to another and suddenly there we were. He knew that I had always pushed him back at some point, but we were beyond any point I had ever reached with him. And I couldn't stop him. I didn't want to."
"And how was it for you? I know Michael. He babbles and talks like a crazy man, calling on the Lord?"
"Yes, he does." Laura smiled, thinking of Remington in the throes of ecstasy. "But I had never experienced what I experienced with him. I'd never been truly satisfied, if you know what I mean. I don't know-inhibitions, fears, the wrong man, the wrong situation."
"Poor dear. What a shame! And Michael, or Remington, as you call him, took care of that, didn't he? He would never leave a woman high and dry, so to speak. Such a gentleman in matters like that."
"I experienced the full gamut of sensations that you hear about. I saw stars-the midnight sun-whatever. . .that free fall of a marvelous teeth-rattling surrender, like jumping off a cliff and not caring whether there is someone waiting to catch you or not. I finally let go completely." Laura paused, overcome at the memory of that moment.
"And so that is when he shared his precious semen with you?"
"Actually, yes. He didn't intend to, but he forgot-until it was too late."
"My dear girl, you scored a major coup whether you realize it or not. Michael never once forgot that little matter-never. He was in love with you and for the first time in his life, he was truly thinking about his feelings and nothing else."
"After that night we went tried to go back to our normal pattern but it was very difficult for us. We couldn't forget that night, but I still wasn't sure that he was emotionally committed to me. Well, I guess that I'm not being totally honest. I knew it with my heart, but I was so concerned that he only wanted to do 'it' and didn't want to say how he felt. We were with each other all the time, most evenings and some part of most nights, but we refrained from relations really. . .except for a few instances when we were just unable to contain ourselves. Then we got married last year. Our problem was that Remington just couldn't say 'I love you' and that is what I wanted to hear. I couldn't say 'I love you' till he said it. It was a vicious cycle that almost derailed us emotionally."
"What happened to change that?"
"I was shot while we were working on a case just a few months ago. It was very bad. Remington was with me when it happened. When I was lying there bleeding, he just held me and cried and kept telling me that I couldn't die because he loved me. I forced myself to stay alive off those words, Felicia.. On top of that, when we were listening to the criminals talk, they had mentioned the date of the month. At that moment he realized that I was late with my period. When I was lying there in his arms, he told me that I was probably pregnant."
"He keeps track of your periods?"
"Ever since we'd been involved, he always knew. After a while he would come over and rub my feet and make me tea and just lie in my bed watching old movies when I had bad days."
"You have completely domesticated that wild fellow, Laura. I congratulate you."
"I don't know what happened, Felicia. He is, you know, so-beautiful-his body is so beautiful. . ." Laura's voice faltered for a moment and fanned herself with her hand to calm the fire that just the thought of Remington stirred in her. "I guess it's that I think of myself as so plain, and he is so very fancy, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is the most beautiful man physically that I have ever known."
"And these are the babies we found out about that night." Laura held her belly protectively.
"Laura, may I touch-them."
"Sure, Felicia. I guess that you would be almost like-an aunt to them? I haven't talked girl-to-girl to anyone like this since my first secretary Bernice. She was the one that knew that I was a goner for Remington from the start. Here, see, I am growing so fast now."
Laura pulled up her sweater to show Felicia her swollen belly.
"Lord, you're covered with freckles. Are you like that all over?"
"Yeah, funny, isn't it. He loves them, thinks they are a great turn-on. He calls them my 'personal jewelry.' I always hated them so-till I met him."
Felicia touched her all around, feeling for the infants. They moved and Felicia's huge beautiful eyes lighted up and misted as she felt the offspring of the man that she too had loved, moving in Laura's womb.
"Oh, my, what a wonderful thing you and Michael have done, Laura. What a beautiful thing! Thank you for sharing this with me."
"Thank you for understanding, Felicia. I know that Remington really cared for you when you were together. You were the one that he would still mention from time to time of all the women he had been with. You know, sometimes I am so overwhelmed by him. I feel so inexperienced in comparison to him-not that I came to him without experience by any means-but I want to always be able to keep him interested and satisfied. He has such a tremendous sensual appetite."
"Well, my dear, you starved him for more than three years. He has to make up for all lost time." Felicia smiled, still finding it amazing that her old friend and lover, Michael, had gone abstinent to win Laura's hand. "But I am going to share with you some of the knowledge that I have gained in my very active life. A lot of it has to do with pressure points, trigger points that can be very stimulating. The Asians are really big on that sort of thing and the results can be interesting, to say the least. There are several quite good books available on the subject."
"I'm all ears, Felicia."
* * * * * *
Back at Sir David's Mildred waited for a response to the call that she had put through to Moscow for Ivan Stranikov. It turned out that Alessandra discovered that he was now the Commissar of Caviar for all the Soviet Union and that his office was in fact in the Kremlin itself. All of this information had heartened Remington considerably.
Sir David had another operative in the house now, taking the place of Anna, who had lost her life so tragically earlier that day. Her name was Sarah, a plain, extremely quiet but competent woman in her mid-forties. She took charge of the household, making tea and supper, and just generally calming them all.
Sarah was especially good with Chl÷e who was still quite distraught over the experience of the morning. Seeing a young woman mortally wounded on her kitchen floor, and then being dragged out of the house at gun point with Laura, had not done her any good. She was worrying herself sick about Laura and her unborn babies and there was nothing that could be said to console her.
"Sir David, I think that you should call your family physician to prescribe something for you sister that will put her out for a while. We will go fetch him-no one that you have not dealt with before comes in here till this is all over." Sarah was quite concerned for Chl÷e Chalmers.
When they brought Dr. Giles out, he prescribed sedatives all around, but no one aside from Chl÷e would take them. They were all too tense with the situation that was upon them.
After midnight, the call came through from Ivan Stranikov. It was morning in Moscow.
"This is Remington Steele, Ivan. You remember that we worked together on some caviar issues year before last when you were in America."
"Da, yes. . . Mr. Steele, how are you? And how is Miss Holt, your associate?"
"We are surviving, Ivan, but I need to come to Moscow today to discuss with you a matter of the gravest importance, a life and death matter in fact. I need your help, Ivan. Would it be possible to see you immediately upon my arrival?"
"Certainly, but how to get visa for you."
"That part is arranged. I will be on Aeroflot flight 242, arriving at 20:20 this evening, Moscow time."
"I will have car there for you, Mr. Steele."
Remington turned to Sir David and smiled weakly. "We're on, sir. We're on. I will be ready to leave shortly. I dare not miss that flight."
"We're trying to work on the other side of this and figure out where they might have hidden Laura. Chl÷e was picked up on Highway A1. Where could they have been headed? She could be anywhere between here and Dover. Did anyone see a security car like ours in a strange out-of-the-way place? These are the questions we need answers to." Sir David was sorting and analyzing.
"I think that we need to keep those who know about my trip to Moscow to the barest minimum. Timing being of the essence here, we need no interference."
"Certainly," Sir David replied. "We are certain that there is someone on the inside that we know nothing about. When you leave here, it is possible that you will be followed. You will outrun whatever is out there and then we will follow them-hopefully back to whomever is running this affair."
"Good idea," Remington concurred.
"Boss, you go get ready. I really feel that this is the best move. Ivan Stranikov was quite a guy. I have some info that Alessandra faxed to me just a few minutes ago as well. She is still connected with her people at UNIDAC corporation and they do know how to get all kinds of classified information. You can take it along with you to try to sort it out."
"It looks like Alessandra, for all her dizziness, is going to prove to be a valuable addition to our staff. Share it with Sir David as well. We don't know where this thing is going to take us in the final analysis."
"And that's the truth, Mr. Steele."
"I only pray that we can stave off these boys long enough. I can only do what I can, Mildred. I'm worried about Laura out there alone. If I allowed myself, I would lose it completely, Mildred. I just can't focus on that aspect of things right now." Remington started to leave to prepare for the trip and then turned back to her. "And, Mildred, find a supply of video tapes of detective shows of American television from somewhere. I remember Laura saying that Ivan loved that sort of thing. Shows like 'Hill Street Blues,' 'Miami Vice,' 'Spencer for Hire,' the real gritty stuff. You can throw in some 'Matlock' and 'Adam-12' too. Nothing like bringing along a suitable gift. I dare say that he doesn't need any caviar or vodka." Remington smiled wryly.
"You're in luck, Remington," Sir David said. "Your aunt is positively addicted to that sort of thing. She belongs to one of those clubs that sends tapes from America to her every month. Mildred should be able to make up quite a package from her supply."
It was nearly three a.m. London time, when Remington Steele headed for Heathrow Airport in one of Scotland Yard's unmarked security vehicles accompanied by Chief Inspector Lombard. It was an altogether undistinguished-looking English Ford. About three miles down the road, a van pulled from a side road and began to follow them.
"We picked someone up, Chief Inspector," their driver Wendell, an experienced agent of Trinidadian background announced, "but we'll outrun the buggers."
As the driver downshifted and the car seemed to literally lift off the ground.
"God, man! What kind of motor is in this thing?" Steele looked at Lombard and grinned. "I feel like I'm in a James Bond movie!"
"Jaguar XJ6 engine and transmission, Mr. Steele. They will never catch us. Our people should be following them now." Lombard permitted himself just the suggestion of a smile as they settled back for the rest of the ride to Heathrow.
"Nothing like the element of surprise, eh?"
"Our people will be at Heathrow. We will be with you till the moment you step onto that plane, Steele. We here take this whole affair very personally, you know. We want nothing more than to see you and your wife safely back together looking forward to your 'blessed event' along with the rest of your family."
Soon they were at the airport and Lombard and Steele were escorted to a security area. It was still quite early-only about four a.m. and Remington was quite agitated but prepared to wait for his 8:20 a.m. flight."
"Time to go, Mr. Steele. Your reservation on Aeroflot was a diversionary tactic. We're sending you on a private jet from British Intelligence. No nonsense. We can't have any room for error here. We just did not know how secure the lines at Sir David's were. We are ready to get underway. Our people in Moscow will contact Stranikov when you are in flight to let him know of the change."
Remington smiled, remembering the Royal Lavulite business and Laura's similar diversionary tactics that had protected the gem. 'Great minds think alike,' he mused.
Remington boarded the sleek British Airways private jet airliner and in just a few minutes they were barreling down the runway at Heathrow flying east into the predawn sky. There was one flight "attendant," a cheery baby-faced English chap with rosy cheeks, Arnold, who served tea and scones about an hour into the flight, and otherwise only came forward when summoned. Other than Arnold there appeared to be only the pilot, co-pilot and Remington aboard as he settled down for the six hour flight to Moscow.
A third of the way through the flight, Remington sensed something awry. He was about to drop off for a nap when an alarm somewhere deep in his subconscious senses sounded and he decided to make his own survey of his surroundings. He summoned Arnold, who immediately appeared in the forward cabin.
"Arnold, have you been aft at all?"
"No, sir. There should be nothing back there. It was all secured before we boarded. You sense something, Mr. Steele." Arnold, an experienced operative knew the importance of intuition in matters of this sort, having seen it demonstrated first hand many times.
"Perhaps. I'll check the aft cabin, and the loo. If you walk into a situation that appears be stable and I am tapping with my index finger, you will know that it is quite the opposite really. If you walk into an unstable situation, I dare say that you know exactly what to do, mate." Remington's tone was quiet and measured as he spoke to Arnold.
As Remington walked toward the back of the plane, the hairs of the back of his neck seemed to stand on end. He approached the toilet and jerked the door open whereupon he saw Tony Roselli sitting there.
"I thought you were the man with iron kidneys. What made you come back here?" His tone was sarcastic.
"A sixth sense perhaps-a basic mistrust that has grown by leaps and bounds in the last twenty-four hours. What else could there possibly be, eh?"
Remington turned his back on Roselli and walked slowly and deliberately back to the forward cabin but his mind was going full speed now. He saw the letter in his mind the letter "T" that Anna had scrawled in her own blood just before she died and suddenly it all fell into place.
Remington sat down in his seat, crossed his legs and surveyed Roselli.
"Why don't you sit down, Roselli? Are you planning to try to kill me at forty-two thousand feet? Pretty risky business, I dare say."
Antony Roselli sat down opposite Remington. Steele's cool exterior was disconcerting. He was not sure of just what or how much he knew. He knew that Steele was a formidable enemy and that he could not make a mistake at this point.
"I would like to know what you are doing here. . . on this plane."
"I thought a trip to Moscow might be nice. They say the weather is great there in May."
"Flippant answers do not become you, Roselli. What are you doing on this plane? How did you know that I would be on this plane? This is top security clearance."
"Well, I have top security clearance."
"No, you do not." Remington stated it as an indisputable fact.
"I can't let you talk to the Soviets. It is as simple as that. I had a deal with them and I can't let anything screw it up."
"A monetary deal, I assume."
"Yes, a monetary deal. I don't care about the politics of it."
"I wish you did, Roselli. It might give your life some meaning."
"I cannot permit you to talk to Stranikov or anyone else there. I made a deal to deliver the ones responsible for that affair in Ireland last year, a deal that involves a lot of cash."
"And Laura and I were the ones you fingered. I thought you cared about Laura."
"Laura doesn't care about me. She had her last chance yesterday when I saw her at Sir David's. Apparently she was just leading me on last year, toying with my affections. I don't like that. She is yours, carrying what is yours in her belly, proclaiming her love for you by every look, every word. It's over. If she dies, you will have paid the ultimate price. I really did not plan on this detour. It was all to go down on British soil. But you went off on this tangent and I have no choice but to stop you."
"You and Fitch were partners in reality. You botched the double agent work you were contracted to do and Helmsley knew it and told Fitch. It was either you or him. That's why you didn't kill him at Ashford Castle last year. You couldn't kill your fellow double agent, could you?"
"You ask too many questions, Steele. You should be trying to find out where your wife is."
"My wife's fate is in her hands and God's."
"Well, she is on a farm somewhere between London and Dover. I will tell you that. The rest you will have to find out for yourself. I give you that in memory of what I felt for her."
"Why did you kill that girl-Anna?"
"She knew the name of the game she was in. She knew the risks."
"You flirted with her yesterday when you met. I saw it. Did you press your advantage and take her out in an unguarded moment while she was in your arms. It was obvious that she knew her attacker and trusted him. You do know that she left a calling card-the initial 'T' drawn in her own blood." Steele's blue eyes were like flint as he regarded Roselli.
Roselli blinked, shocked that Steele had discovered so much.
"You wouldn't kill Fitch, but you kill a woman who is protecting Laura and me with her own life. You are quite a piece of work, Roselli. That crap you are up to your neck in is beginning to reek unbelievably. You were in bed with the Bolsheviks from the start, weren't you? Kamadov knew that there was a double agent afoot but he did not know that it was you till he saw it in the papers. You carried off the con quite well. You should have left well enough alone. But you couldn't, could you? Your incompetence came back to haunt you once again. They were blaming you for the loss of Fitch and you had to blame it on someone else to save your own neck. That is where Laura and I came in, isn't it, Roselli?"
"You have things all figured out don't you. But I have the upper hand here. I do know that you are unarmed, but I am not."
Remington leaned forward to Roselli. "Just what kind of life would you have offered Laura-if she had accepted you? The wife of a mercenary, a man with no loyalties to anything or anyone, dragged about from one hiding place to another-never altogether legitimate. Do you think that she would have accepted that kind of life and continued loving you. That tart in Mexico would not even accept that from you."
"I believe that I have heard enough." Roselli took his revolver from the waist of his trousers.
"You will go down with this plane if you shoot that gun at this altitude."
"I don't really care. Do you know that?" Roselli raised his voice and was unaware for a moment of Arnold approaching.
"You needed something, Mr. Steele?"
"No, we're fine here." Remington tapped the arm of the chair with his index finger.
"You are certain of that? I see we have an additional guest."
"Didn't you hear him say 'No?' Get out of here!" Roselli shouted at the steward, looking in his direction for just an instant.
Remington Steele took advantage of that moment and lunged forward knocking Roselli from his chair, causing the gun to skitter out of his hand. Roselli reached for a knife that he was carrying and forced Steele down to the floor of the plane with the knife at his throat.
"This is not the Glen Cree town square, Steele. You are going to die here."
Remington, with a supreme effort thrust Roselli up and away from him. Roselli staggered back and onto the blade of Arnold's waiting knife and was dead before he hit the floor.
"Thank you, Arnold. Unfortunately, this saga has had an unhappy ending for Mr. Roselli."
"I do my job, Mr. Steele. I had no choice other than to protect you. Mr. Roselli practically committed hari-kari."
"And so he did." Remington surveyed the disarray in the cabin. "Let's get to Moscow. And in the meantime, patch me through to British Intelligence. They need to know where to look for Laura. Those mercenaries will kill her if we don't find her in time. They have no way of knowing what has gone on here."
The remainder of the flight to Moscow went without incident and just after three o'clock Moscow time they glimpsed the famous minarets in the skyline and shortly afterward touched down at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.
As he disembarked from the plane, Remington Steele was met by a Russian official who simply beckoned that he should follow him. He was expedited through customs and into a waiting limousine and whisked away through the drab streets of Moscow to the Kremlin. He walked with confidence and complete ease, a picture of cool aplomb in his impeccable clothes and with his refined demeanor, a Burberry trench coat draped over his shoulders to ward off the chill of the Russian spring.
"Commissar Stranikov is waiting for us in his office." These were the only words spoken by the official during the ride.
Remington followed the official down a hallway in the Kremlin to an office marked, "Commissar of Caviar." The door opened and there sat Ivan Stranikov.
"Welcome, Mr. Steele. How good of you to come to visit Russia." Ivan Stranikov grinned broadly, welcoming Remington Steele in and, at the same time, dismissed the waiting bureaucrat.
"I am glad to have come, Ivan, but I wish that it were a trip under more pleasant circumstances."
"I detect urgency in your voice and of course I wish to see you. I explain to my superiors that you are the one that saved Russian caviar industry last year and it was 'piece of cake' as you Americans say. Sit down, Mr. Steele."
Remington made himself comfortable in the chair Stranikov offered and prepared to state his case.
"One moment, Mr. Steele." Ivan went to a refrigerated side cabinet and produced a plate of caviar and a bottle of vodka along with two glasses. "Our finest Beluga golden roe and a glass of Smirnoff."
Remington graciously accepted the vodka and offering of caviar.
"My mission is one of the utmost delicacy, Ivan. There are certain individuals highly placed in your government who have targeted me and Laura."
"Miss Holt? I was really impressed with her."
"She and I were married last year."
"Congratulations, you are, as they say, lucky dog. She is very beautiful woman. I notice last year that you are very close."
"Well, last year when we were on our honeymoon in Ireland, we unwittingly became involved in a plot involving a couple of double agents who were playing both ends against the middle, so to speak. A Russian mole high in British Intelligence, a man named Sterling Fitch, was unmasked; another man, a Russian in the Irish embassy in Dublin, a certain Sergei Kamadov, defected to America in the process. We did not realize it at the time but a mercenary by the name of Antony Roselli, was, in reality quite involved in the whole thing. In fact, it was he who had botched some other matters resulting in the death of another double agent named Eric Helmsley at Roselli's hand. Roselli fingered my wife and myself as the ones who engineered the whole thing and thereby embarrassed Russian intelligence. We have been made a target. My wife Laura has been kidnapped by mercenaries hired by Soviet operatives and she is being held somewhere outside London. I am to surrender to these same mercenaries by tomorrow evening or Laura will be murdered."
"My God, this is possible?"
"To add to it all, Laura is nearly five months pregnant-with twins. You can imagine my situation. My thoughts turned to you-a friend who might be in position to render a very special favor. You are actually my last resort." Remington's voice cracked very slightly. "I love my wife very much."
"What do you want me to do, Mr. Steele? Tell me what you want me to do. I understand favor, what that means. It is the way of our allies to the east, the Chinese. You did special favor for me and for Russian people, Mr. Steele. It is my opportunity to repay that favor to old friend. There is no greater obligation than that of favor."
"Tell your superiors at the KGB that we are not their enemy. We are not mercenaries and we are not working as agents for any country. The man responsible for the problems last summer is lying dead on the plane I came in on. Call them off, mate, and let my wife and myself go on with our lives and we will all be eternally grateful. You should know that they have located Kamadov in America and have targeted him. He was being sheltered at his own request. Actually he had no desire to defect last year, but was forced into it by the circumstances that developed around Fitch."
"This is quite a list, Mr. Steele. I will say this. I will convey all of your requests to those who make such decisions. I feel certain that when I tell them of your contribution to Russian caviar industry, they will call off this operation against you and your wife. About Kamadov-I do not think they will help there. But he is experienced. He can handle himself and drop out of sight again. I would prefer not to mention him. But is there anything specific you want to say about Kamadov?"
"I can say that I saw him in his casket-no more, no less." Remington smiled wryly and Stranikov caught his meaning.
"So the only thing that could be said is that perhaps we have case of mistaken identity-since you personally saw Kamadov in casket. I remember that he was given state funeral as national hero last year."
"Do as you see fit, Ivan. I trust you and your judgment. This is Russia and you are the expert. There is only one more thing. Last year my late father was arranging to determine the fate of a certain Robert Peters, an American who was being held here. His daughter, Marissa Peters, was trying to establish his whereabouts. Any information about this Robert Peters would be deeply appreciated as well."
Ivan smiled graciously and poured more vodka for Remington. "I suggest that you go to room we have prepared for you as our guest and wait for answer. I will call as soon as possible."
"Thank you-with all my heart, Ivan. And I have here-a small token of our thanks, compliments of Laura and me. She told me that you are fond of American detective shows so I brought along a collection of a couple dozen of our most popular ones that are running now-'Miami Vice,' 'Hill Street Blues,' 'T. J.Hooker,' others."
"Now that is very special gift. Bolshoe pasibo, Mr. Steele." (Thank you very much, Mr. Steele.) Stranikov smiled broadly as he received the package from Remington Steele.
"Please call me, Remington, friend."
Remington extended his hand, but Stranikov embraced him warmly and Remington responded in kind as they parted.
Remington Steele sat in his room in a residence building near the Kremlin and waited. He felt good about the meeting with Stranikov but his anxiety continued to grow for his wife.
The Russians had extended him excellent hospitality. The room was stocked with liquor and other refreshments-evidently one used for visiting diplomats. About 20:00 hours a fine meal was brought in to him-borscht rich with sour cream, a hearty plate of tiny dumplings stuffed with pork, and a slice of fruit torte. It was altogether satisfying and Remington had not realized how hungry he was. Just as he finished eating, there was a knock on the door. He opened to admit Ivan Stranikov.
"Good evening, Remington. I see you enjoy hearty Russian food."
"It was excellent. Thank you for your kindness and hospitality, Ivan."
"I will not waste time, Remington. I have spoken to those who speak to others. You understand that the Commissar of Caviar has no involvement in matters of espionage."
"Oh, yes, positively," Remington replied.
"They have answered me that you have nothing to worry about in the matter of yourself and your wife. All is being attended to as we speak. They will call back the people who are holding your wife. Unfortunately, the man who was killed on your plane was one who gave the orders and countermand must come from someone higher in authority. You cannot know who this is-for obvious reasons."
"I understand. Thank you, Ivan. Thank you. I must leave your country now. My heart is with my wife and my unborn children back in London." Remington nodded and Stranikov nodded in response.
"I have wife and children too. Family is only thing really important. Politics, career, all else means very little in grand scheme of things, Pravda?"
"Come and visit Russia again. Things are changing here. It may be much different next time. We shall see." Stranikov seemed certain of that. "I have brought gifts for my friend from America. Fine Russian Beluga Malossal caviar, packed in dry ice, and a case of Smirnoff vodka, with my compliments. There is also surprise for your wife. My Tatiana and I know marriage can make you very happy. There is special joy with the woman you love, no matter where you live. She was figure skater and now coaches Russian team. We hope to visit you when we come to America with team again." Ivan Stranikov's eyes registered complete understanding of Remington. They were simply men, not Russian or British, or anything else, men who knew that wife and family were more important than any brand of nationalism.
"That will be wonderful, Ivan. We will look forward to that." Remington paused and took Ivan by his shoulders, his voice hoarse with emotion. "I thank you, Ivan, and Laura thanks you."
"Thank you for helping us avoid unnecessary international problem. Do svidaniya. I think we become like brothers now because of such a favor."
"Yes, I believe that we do." Remington and Ivan kissed each other on the alternate cheeks in Russian fashion. "Do svidaniya, friend. . .and brother."
There was another knock on the door and Ivan Stranikov delivered Remington Steele to a officer who took him to a waiting car that would carry him to Sheremetyevo Airport for his return flight to London.
Remington was whisked through customs and onto his waiting plane where the crew got off the ground quickly and headed off into the western sky. Arnold came back to report to Remington Steele.
"You know, sir, that we have another passenger-in the aft cabin. The Russians brought him here before you arrived. They said that you would know what it was about. His name is Robert Peters."
Remington smiled. "Yes, I do know what it is about, Arnold. Extend all hospitality to Mr. Peters. He is a American that the Russians had been holding for more than a year incommunicado. We are taking him home to his daughter in England. Call ahead to British Intelligence and tell them to find Marissa Peters and advise her that her father is coming home. I never realized how many favors fish eggs could buy," Remington murmured the last sentence almost in a whisper.
"Nothing. Arnold. Just a personal reflection on what is really valuable in this modern world."
* * * * * *
On the farm east of London where Laura was being held, things were becoming complicated. Laura had not seen Felicia for several hours when suddenly she came into the tack room in a very agitated state.
"Laura, things are breaking apart in there. Orders have come down from the top that the operation has been canceled. These chaps are very angry. You know it's all a money game with them, and this means they will not be paid. They have no recourse when the employer is the Soviet government. I think that they are planning to demand ransom for you from Michael and they play very dirty. I'm letting you out of here, right now. I have no intention of letting them hurt you."
"Felicia, what will happen to you?"
"Don't worry about me. We will worry about those little ones you are carrying." Here, put on this old long dirty coat and these awful old boots and smear your face with the dirt and grease from this room. Here is an old worn-out straw hat. Pull it all the way down on your head. Pick up that stick in the corner and walk like you are ancient and crippled, dear girl. You can't move fast, but you can fool them. There is a flock of goats across the road. Go over there among them and they will not see you."
"The ultimate con, eh?" Laura said quietly.
"Yes, I sure that being with Michael all this years has given you considerable insight on how a con works."
Laura's eyes filled with tears now and she reached out to Felicia and the two women hugged each other tightly.
"They will hurt you, Felicia."
"Do not worry about me. For the first time in my life I am going to do something that is truly unselfish, Laura, and it somehow feels rather good, very good in fact."
"Felicia, if I am carrying a little girl, I want you to know that we will give your name to her. I am so happy that we got to understand one another-even in these terrible circumstances."
"Thank you, Laura. Please tell Michael that I love him and all of the beautiful children that you will have with him. I am sure that these will not be the last little ones." Felicia wiped her eyes. "Now you get out of here right now."
Felicia went to the back of the tack room and opened a sliding door, permitting Laura, who by now had donned the dirty, grimy clothes, to slip outside. Once outside Laura oriented herself for a moment to the sunlight and then saw the farm across the road and the flock of goats that Felicia had mentioned. She was very stiff from having to stay put for so many hours and it was not difficult to walk like an old woman. Discerning that the coast was clear, she took her time and limped on the stick over toward the flock of goats.
'Don't rush. Don't act as if anything is out of the ordinary. Even if they see you, it doesn't mean they see you. It's all a matter of perception, perception, perception.' The words were spinning around and around in her head as she tried to remember everything Remington had ever told her about running a con because she was in no condition to outrun anyone or jump any fences now.
As Laura got to the road, she heard the gunshot. She knew what it meant. Felicia had given her life to save her. Her eyes brimmed but she could not give way to her emotions now. She could not allow Felicia's life to have been given in vain. She heard the barn door slide open but she did not look back. She just kept limping along on the stick.
One of her captors ran past her, and glancing back at her yelled, "Old woman, did you see a pregnant girl out here?"
"Ow, no, ain't seen no one, blimey," Laura replied in her best Cockney accent and kept limping along, muttering to herself.
The man crossed the road, looked around in all directions, and then ran back toward the building where they had been hiding out without looking in Laura's direction again.
Laura breathed a thankful sigh and continued walking, crossed over to the other side of the road and walked among the flock of goats who pressed around her as if they knew her. It was nearly four in the afternoon and Laura knew that she would have to wait till the mercenaries made their getaway before she could try to leave the area. She had to maintain her cover. She wanted to just find a quiet place and cry but they might come and search again for her and she had to stay where she was.
It was nearly fifteen minutes later when she saw the same van that had brought her leave, but minus the security markings it had born. She kept her head down, shooing and fussing with the goats, as they drove slowly past obviously still looking for her. Laura stood in the muck of the farmyard and was as frightened as she had ever been in her life. She knew that she had to collect herself somehow. The shack of a house had a small porch on front and Laura limped over to it and sat on the porch step in the afternoon sun. One of the goats had followed her, taking a liking to her and was nuzzling her hand. Laura patted it and scratched its head as the van circled once more looking for her. Laura thanked God that she had not tried to walk away too soon. She could hear her own heart pounding in her chest as the van moved slowly down the road. The infants inside her sensed her anxiety and became suddenly extremely active.
"Oh, please, little ones, just stay calm," Laura whispered to her babies. "I know you don't know what in the world is going on, but whatever it is, you don't like it. Remy, where are you? How can I summon the strength to find you?" She heard sirens in the distance and wondered, hoping that the mercenaries had been spotted.
Just as she was trying to decide just what to do next, a nondescript English Ford came slowly around the curve. The car stopped on the road in front of the house where she was sitting on the step. She started to put her head down when she heard the car door open.
"Ma'am, is it possible that you have seen anything out of the. . ."
"Lombard, Chief Inspector?"
At the same moment, Remington saw the tilt of head that he knew so well and he was out of the car in an instant, running across the grass, past Lombard and reaching Laura, who saw him and collapsed into a dead faint.
"Oh, Laura, darling!" Remington pulled the dirty old hat off her head and her chestnut braids fell to her shoulders as she struggled back to consciousness.
"Rem, I-I am so glad that you are here." They kept driving around looking for me. I was doing the con-I was doing it, but I was so scared."
"How long ago did they last come by, Mrs. Steele?"
"About fifteen minutes ago. They wouldn't leave the area. I was just waiting for them to leave. They are in an old dark blue van, some sort of English make that I don't recognize, but the hubcaps are all missing and you can tell that the signs have been peeled off."
"Is this house empty?" Lombard asked.
"I think so. I haven't heard anyone inside or seen anything except these goats."
"Let's get you inside, Laura. They may come round again."
"I'll have Wendell take the car to the back and call for help. A dark blue van with missing hubcaps? We're going to get these blackguards this very day, Steele," Lombard said resolutely.
"Remington, I think that. . .they, they killed Felicia."
"Felicia was here?" Remington stopped short.
"They had hired her to guard me. They had no idea that we knew each other. She set me free because they were going to kill me when the operation was somehow called off. She gave her life to save me and to save our children. She's in that barn over there-in the tack room. That's where I was held."
Remington opened the door to the house and they went in. It appeared that it was probably only used by the shepherds who tended the sheep and goats in the enclosure nearby.
"Oh, my God, Laura," Remington drew his wife into his arms and kissed her mouth.
"I was so scared for our babies, love."
"I was frightened for you-and for the wee ones. Oh, Laura, when I discovered you were missing, it was terrible. I was quite literally ill."
"After I got out of there, I was so afraid that I couldn't carry off the, the con. Felicia gave me these things, and you had told me what to do, but my life depended on it. I didn't dare try to make my usual run for it like this. One of them ran right by me and asked me if I'd seen a pregnant girl."
"And what did you do, love?" Remington was smiling with pride.
"I could only think of one thing. I did my best Eliza Dolittle imitation, 'Ow, I ain't seen no girl, blimey,' and he kept on running. Oh, Remy, my own heartbeat was like thunder in my ears."
"Laura, darling, you worked the con beautifully. It saved your life. My God, I love you so much." Remington kissed Laura soundly.
"The babies started to be so active when I was working the con. It felt like they were doing somersaults in me but they've calmed down now."
"I guess they know that Daddy is here." Remington patted her belly affectionately.
"They can hear, you know. They know you're here now. But I'd better check things out with that colleague that Sandra Brathwaite referred us to when we get out of here.."
Laura started to take off the grimy overcoat that Felicia had given her and Remington helped her take the oversize rubber galoshes off her feet.
"Let me find the toilet in this place." Laura opened a door in the far corner of the room and went into the somewhat primitive loo. She hardly recognized her dirt-smeared face when she looked into the cracked mirror on the wall. There was just a bar of strong brown soap, but she used it to wash her face and hands before she went back out to her Remington.
When she came out with her face scrubbed clean and her hair unbraided, Remington, just looked at her and caught her up in his arms, kissing her over and over on her lips and on her freshly washed cheeks.
"Oh, Laura. . .babe. . ." He closed his eyes and hugged her. "Thank God, you are safe."
They heard Lombard's footsteps on the porch of the shack and a moment later he came into the house as they hastily tried to restore a measure of decorum between themselves.
"The van just went by again. It's good that you remained under cover, Mrs. Steele. I have called ahead and they will get them when they try to turn onto A1. They cannot escape the net we have about them."
Remington spoke quietly. "There is a woman over there where Laura was being held, an old friend who got caught up on the wrong side of this matter. We fear that she was killed in retaliation for freeing Laura. We are going over there, Inspector."
Remington and Laura walked across the yard and to the other side of the road where the barn for the other farm was located. A car from Scotland Yard was parked there and the house and grounds were being thoroughly searched for any piece of evidence.
When Remington and Laura went into the tack room where she had been held, they saw Felicia. Her chest had been blown apart.
"She never had a chance and she knew it," Remington said softly as he knelt and closed the eyes of the woman with whom he had had so much history. Then he stood up and took Laura into his arms. She was sobbing now as seeing Felicia dead brought her to full realization of just what Felicia had done for her and for Remington. "We'll take care of her, love. We'll see that she is properly buried."
"Oh, Remington, she was so happy for us-for you. She said that for first time in her life she wanted to do something for purely unselfish reasons."
"That is probably the truest thing she ever said. I am so thankful that she was the one here with you in this ordeal. I only wish I could tell her how grateful I am." Remington closed his eyes, as a bittersweet grief over this woman, with whom he had once been passionately involved, swept over him.
"I told Felicia that if one of these babies is a girl, I would name it after her. I want to do that. Maybe something like Chl÷e Felicia. We can figure that part out later."
"We do not want to forget what she did here today. All the shady things, all the deception ended here today, in this room."
"Yes, it did." Laura was crying in her husband's arms now.
"Let's go, love. Our family is waiting for you. And I have to tell you the rest of the events of the past thirty-six hours while you were held here."
They walked out into the fresh air of the spring evening. It was dusk now and Scotland Yard's people were mopping up the operation.
Chief Inspector Lombard approached. "I have a car to take you back to Mayfair, to Sir David's home, Mr. Steele."
"Thank you, Lombard. I hope it's that nondescript old Ford. Laura will love that ride. May we have a few minutes before we leave here. I need to speak with Laura."
Remington turned to Laura, his face serious. There is so much that I have to tell you, Laura. I went to Moscow yesterday."
"I went to Moscow to ask Ivan Stranikov for a favor-that favor being to intercede in our behalf with the Soviet government. He is the Commissar of Caviar, you know."
"Ivan Stranikov-of course? He would have been the logical choice. Rem, you were brilliant to think of him."
"I was desperately trying to think of anyone in the Soviet bloc that we had had dealings with and who might help us. I struck gold, darling. Protecting the Russian caviar industry does buy a lot of favor."
Laura smiled. "Ivan was such a nice man."
"Also, since I was there, I mentioned the situation with Kamadov as well as the Robert Peters matter. I figured that I had nothing to lose. I let him decide what he wished to take up with his contacts. At any rate, when I boarded the plane to return to London, Robert Peters was on the plane. They had delivered him to us."
"That is great news for Marissa Peters."
"Yes, she was there to meet her father when we landed. I know all too well that feeling."
Remington turned to Laura, taking her hands in his. "There is something else that you must know, darling. On the flight to Moscow I discovered a stowaway in the toilet in the aft cabin. It was Antony Roselli."
"Tony?" Laura's expression was one of puzzlement.
"He was working with the mercenaries that kidnapped you, Laura. The plan originally was to involve only myself. He was so sure that you and I would not have 'made it,' let us say. He was a double agent just like Sterling Fitch. His bungling of operations was what made Fitch determined to eliminate him. All that business last year-he was involved. Kamadov knew that he was a double agent but 'played' Daniel and Marissa so as protect Roselli's cover."
"Oh, my God," Laura was stunned.
"Roselli was the worst kind of double agent-the kind that has complete access to the highest levels on both sides and whose loyalty is determined only by the amount of money he is paid. He was on that plane to stop me from going to Moscow to seek intercession for our situation. When things came to a head at forty-two thousand feet, there was a struggle. (He had a gun, of course.) Arnold, the operative who was with me on the plane-his cover was as the flight steward-took him out."
"Yes, darling. He's dead. He basically committed hari-kari upon Arnold's knife blade.. I know that you were-fond-of Roselli and that this is particularly difficult news for you. But he was a dangerous man. I understand why he was drawn to you. The poor devil probably could not help himself, but he was completely unbalanced by his attraction to you. When he saw us again a few days ago and realized that we were 'together,' procreating no less, he apparently decided that he wanted you dead rather than with me. The sight of you so gloriously pregnant by me just sent him over the edge apparently. All of this came out in our 'talk' on the plane before the whole thing dissolved. I am truly sorry, love. I wish my news could have been otherwise."
Laura's eyes were full as Remington took her into his arms.
"How could I have misjudged him so."
"You weren't the only one obviously. He had contacts all the way along the pipe. As fast as we decided on a plan, he knew about it and worked against us. It will take a long time to find his contacts and some of them will probably never be known."
"Remy, thank you for not letting him get to me."
"You did think about him-for perhaps a moment last year, didn't you?" Remington looked at his wife, his expression wise and knowing and yet kind and sympathetic.
"For just a moment-when I was very angry with you. He was so after me, you know."
"I do know. He had a real heat for you."
"But I couldn't forget you-the way you made me feel, the way we worked together, the way I loved you, Rem."
"I am truly sorry that he proved to be this sort of chap, Laura. I would rather have stood on my own merits as a man any day against Roselli. I didn't need him out of the way to keep you, did I?" Remington tilted Laura's face up toward his with the tip of his finger.
"No, you didn't." Laura and Remington just stared at one another, caught up in the powerful attraction between them.
"Let's go from this place, love."
Remington and Laura got into the car with Chief Inspector Lombard and headed back to London.
When Remington and Laura arrived at Sir David's mansion in Mayfair, there was a festive air about the whole place. The house was completely lighted up.
"Laura, I think that Uncle David has gathered the rest of the family to meet us."
"I am such a mess, Remy. I haven't even had a shower for three days."
"Laura, they know that you were held prisoner. Just meet everyone and then you can go upstairs and take a shower and change clothes. Trust me, you look just fine, all things considered." Remington touched her lips lightly with his and then took her by the hand and they went in to his family.
Remington's sister, Harriett, and her husband Peter were waiting in the sitting room with their two young children. The sight of Harriett stopped Remington dead in his tracks.
Harriett got up and came to Remington. They reached out to one another and when they drew near to one another they just extended their hands and touched the others face with their fingertips.
"Oh, my God! I cannot believe it." Harriett said, her blue eyes brimming with tears.
"The other part of me-the part that was missing all these years. Dear me!" Remington and Harriett embraced tenderly.
"Harriett, this is my wife, Laura." Remington drew Laura to him with his other hand. "We're having twins soon. There is nothing that could make me happier than sharing this moment with you."
"This is my husband, Peter, and these are our children-David Sean, and Chl÷e Ann. Come, children, and meet your Aunt Laura and Uncle Remington." Remington just stared at his twin sister. She was really so much like him-tall, slender, her hair like coal and her blue eyes the same cobalt hue as his own.
"She is the image of your mother, Remington," Sir David said. "I see her and I see Margaret Ann."
"Peter Rourke, Steele. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. And you, Laura, I hope this ordeal hasn't upset you unduly. You are carrying quite well, it seems."
"And, Laura, you go right upstairs. I know that you are dying to get freshened up after your ordeal." Harriett looked at Remington. "She is lovely, Remington-so lovely."
"Let us go upstairs and let Laura get refreshed. We will be back in just a few minutes."
"Supper will be ready in about an hour, Remington," Aunt Chl÷e announced.
"Come, darling." Remington and Laura went up to their room and Laura and Remington both got rid of their clothes and went straight into the shower together.
"It's a wonderful day for you, Remy, a wonderful day, isn't it?"
"Yes, darling, for all of us." Remington's voice was husky. They embraced and kissed under the hot water as they showered together. When they were finished, they dried each other and with much difficulty and in spite of distraction with each other were able to get dressed in fresh clothes.
"I don't know whether I'm more tired or hungry or in need of you, Rem." Laura was altogether beautiful in a knee length jade green silk caftan trimmed with gold soutache braid paired with matching silk pants. Remington had slipped on a pale blue silk shirt and soft dark blue linen slacks and sports jacket. They were quite the handsome pair as they came back downstairs together just in time for supper.
"We have something that was sent compliments of Ivan Stranikov, the Commissar of Caviar in Moscow," Remington announced to all as Martha, the Chalmers regular cook, brought out a silver tray laden with the Beluga Malossal caviar garnished with fresh lemon slices, served along with ice cold Smirnoff vodka.
Laura looked at Remington and said, "You know Tony never liked fish eggs. It's ironic, isn't it that the Commissar of Caviar would be the one to thwart his plan."
"There is much irony when one considers Roselli. Of course you know that I never trusted him for a minute." Remington now spoke to Mildred. "And you didn't either, did you?"
"You know how I felt about him. Of course I never would have thought that he was a disloyal mercenary who would threaten your lives."
"You know I realize now that he was following us back in that jungle in Mexico. I had never been able to figure how he just popped up out of the jungle like he did. He was looking to recruit you all along, Remington."
"Well, my trusty computer revealed that Roselli and Norman Keyes were in a financial 'arrangement.' Keyes was paying Roselli on a regular basis for 'services rendered' of some sort. My guess that he decided to pay off Roselli by giving him you, Mr. Steele, to assist in carrying out that business with Helmsley and Sterling Fitch."
"British Intelligence has established a definite connection between Keyes and Roselli," Sir David interjected. "Keyes was set up in a palatial mansion in Las Hades, not the sort of thing you buy on an insurance adjuster's salary. He was involved in some pretty shady activities-even drug smuggling-and Roselli worked in tandem with him."
"Mr. Steele drew attention to Norman Keyes in the insurance cases where our agency was involved. That kind of publicity was not good for a man like Keyes. He and Roselli were looking for some way to discredit Mr. Steele so as to get him out of the picture," Mildred offered.
"The problem with Roselli was his incompetence," Remington stated, leaning forward in his chair. "He continually made mistakes and that got him in difficulty with his Bolshevik friends. Then every time he tried to 'fix things' he made another mistake."
"Remington, I am so impressed with what you and Laura do," Harriett said. "Is it always like this?"
Laura smiled and shook her head. "No, I don't think we could handle it at this level of intensity all the time."
"Well, we are going to take things very calmly for the next few months. With Laura expecting twins, we are going to step back from some of the more sensational types of cases." Remington patted Laura's belly affectionately.
"Peter is a pediatrician. He is very, very good. Of course he could pitch in if you had an emergency, Laura," Harriett said, snuggling up close to her handsome blond husband, resting her hand upon his thigh. She obviously was possessed of the same passionate nature as her twin brother and Peter enjoyed it to the full.
"That reminds me. I have to talk to this obstetrician that my doctor in California referred me to while here. I know that the excitement of the past three days has not been ideal, not say the least."
"We have to get Laura back to Los Angeles by the end of next week or Dr. Sandra Brathwaite will have our heads. That is the deadline that she set and we will have to try to get back by then and just stay put and wait on the wee ones." Remington kissed Laura's cheek. "In the meantime-to Ivan Stranikov, our thanks for his kind intervention on our behalf." They all raised their glasses.
Sir David's cook, Martha, brought in a sumptuous meal of roasted cornish hens and imported wild rice and truffles, served along with all the trimmings. The long dining room table was full as they sat down together as a family for the first time in the lives of Remington and Harriett.
As they were regaling themselves to satisfaction, there was the sound of the doorbell.
"Ah, that must be our other guest," Sir David Chalmers said, tossing his linen napkin to the table and rising to his feet to welcome Jacqueline DuBois, as coolly beautiful as always with her thick blond page boy and designer clothes. This evening she was stunning in a pale blue pants suit of softest leather with one of her signature butterflies of bugle beads trimming the jacket lapel.
Laura, Remington, and Mildred exchanged glances and smiled.
"Bon soir, toutes le monde. I am so happy to see everybody."
"What brings you to London, Jacqueline?" Laura asked.
"I have to buy tissu, fabric, for my dresses-in Italy, so I stop through on way home at invitation of Sir David."
"Yes, happily that all this dangerous business is over and now we can spend a few lovely moments together." Sir David smiled at Jacqueline.
After the meal they all retired to the drawing room of the home once again. Peter and Harriett's children were fascinated with Remington and Laura.
"You look fat, Aunt Laura," Chl÷e Ann said, patting Laura's round belly.
"That's because I have two babies inside here. Come, put your hand here and you can feel one of them move."
Laura stroked the hair of the seven year girl child, who was enthralled at the movement in Laura's womb. She was dark-haired like her mother whereas her younger brother, Sean was fair-haired like Peter Rourke. Laura looked at children completely differently now that they were expecting their own. Sean climbed up onto Remington's lap, and made himself comfortable.
"I think that he senses that you and I are twins, Remington," Harriett said. "I tried to explain this to them but I believe that there is more than that at work here."
Remington regarded his twin sister who sat across from him. "You are quite a looker, you know."
"I've been told that. You are a handsome dog yourself, dear big brother. You have no idea what a problem it can be to look like this. Well, I guess that you do really. Peter helps me keep focus. We've been married for nine years now and it has been wonderful for us. We wish the same happiness for you and Laura. It is very evident what you have between you."
"There is so much lost time, isn't there, so much to talk about. We need to just sit down and talk for hours."
"I brought pictures and other things that you might like to see, Remy. I know that you and Laura are exhausted from the ordeal of this case, so tomorrow we can go through that."
"Fantastic, Harriett." Remy looked down at Laura who was dozing against his shoulder. "I think I should put my wife to bed. She has been through quite a lot these past three days. I am still rather new at this marriage game. I try to avoid making mistakes, but sometimes I misread the signals, as well as I know this woman."
"We are going to put these children to bed as well, Remington," Peter said. "You know that you must put children to bed early, Steele, or you and your wife will be hard pressed to have that needed 'private time.'"
"Thanks for that bit of advice, Peter. We will keep that in mind. It appears that Uncle David is well entertained this evening with Madame Jacqueline and Mildred and Aunt Chl÷e are good company for each other. It would seem that we could all steal away quite easily and not really be missed, eh?"
Harriett was sending her children before her up the stairs, and Peter watched her, unable to take his eyes off her long-stemmed figure as she walked up the stairs behind Sean and Chl÷e Ann.
"Good night, Peter. Sleep well," Remington said, smiling at his brother-in-law's obvious passion for his sister.
Remington turned his attention to Laura who was asleep on the sofa, completely exhausted. He picked her up in his arms and carried her upstairs.
"Oh, Remy, I am so tired. . . so tired," Laura murmured, her arms around his neck.
"I know, love, I know." Remington kissed her lightly on her forehead as he took her up the stairs and to their bedroom. "It's all coming down upon you now."
When they got into their bedroom, Remington, laid Laura down and proceeded to undress her. He loved help her this way, especially when she was ill or very tired.
"Oh, Remy, I have missed you these past three days." Laura drew her husband down to her waiting lips.
"And I have missed you so." Remington kissed Laura tenderly and for a very long time, savoring the taste of her mouth, exploring all of it. "I must let you sleep for a while, love. We will wake up later and make up for lost time."
"Are you sure, love? I have to take care of you, you know," Laura said dreamily. "I don't want you to suffer for lack-of affection."
"I am sure, darling. You take care of me very well." Remington pulled her cotton gown down over her head and eased her back onto the pillow, but not before he kissed her belly tenderly. She seemed to have expanded in just the three days that they had been apart. "Oh, my, look at how we are growing here," he murmured to his offspring, snug and secure in their mother's womb.
Remington got ready for bed himself. He looked at himself in the mirror. 'You know who you are, sport. You finally have your family. All the questions you've had for so long are being answered.' He shook his head as if unable to believe it to be possible and went off to bed. He knew that Laura would be asleep-the exhaustion from the experience of the past few days demanding rest. They would waken later in the night, talk about the things that had happened, and make love to one another. There was no need to rush. They were all safe now. Remington got into bed and lay close against Laura so that he could embrace her and the precious burden she carried for them and soon fell asleep.
Downstairs in the drawing room Sir David and Jacqueline DuBois were still in animated conversation. They had hardly noticed as everybody left for bed.
"It is beautiful, your family, David, how they love each other. I think that you should be very happy these days."
"I am content, Jacqueline. Remington and Laura-look at them. They are so very much in love. Remington was inconsolable when he discovered that she had been kidnapped. It was quite difficult to see him so shattered. But now Laura is safe and the bairn are safe. Harriett and Peter can't bear to be apart. I expect that they will have another little one soon."
"Do you think that you will ever love again, cher?"
"I think that I am loving now, cherie." Sir David Chalmers took Jacqueline's hand and drew her into his embrace. "Jacqueline, Jacqueline, je t'aime. Je t'aime." Daniel's lips sought Jacqueline's, his hands in her thick blond hair and they were lost in each other as the kiss went on and on till they were breathless when their lips finally parted.
"Cher David, cher David, qu'est-ce que c'est?"
"C'est l'amour, cherie," David Chalmers whispered. "For the first time in many years I am completely involved, Jacqueline."
"C'est trop vite, cher."
"No, it is not too fast. We are mature adult people, Jacqueline. We have no reason to hold back, darling."
David Chalmers drew Jacqueline partly onto his lap and kissed her again, his arms wrapped around her now as the diminutive Jacqueline let him take her completely onto his lap and yielded to his kiss once again.
"Cher, I cannot stop the kissing. Oh, cher," Jacqueline sighed.
"Marry me, Jacqueline, and share the rest of my life with me. I need to give myself to you. I would that I could take you to my bed upstairs just as my nephew Remington carried Laura to his bed, or as Peter followed Harriett, panting after her. Would you consider me, cherie?"
Jacqueline was stunned. She knew that she and David Chalmers had found something very special together from the day they first met. A couple of weeks before he had come to Paris when she showed her line of gowns and that was when they had first kissed and felt the full power of the physical attraction between them.
"Oui, je croire que oui, mon petit chou," Jacqueline's porcelain-like complexion flushed as she said 'yes' to Sir David. "I never knew that I would feel this way again. It has been so long time-no man, no boyfriend, no need, and now there is such need, such besoin."
"I think that I should take you to your hotel, Madame-for the sake of the children." They reluctantly disengaged themselves from one another and Sir David and Jacqueline left the mansion together to spend the balance of the evening at Jacqueline's hotel.
Remington awakened at about two a.m. as was habit with him. Often he just lay awake with Laura sleeping in his arms, but he usually found himself hungry and would prowl the kitchen for a snack of some sort. This night he got out of bed, pulled a robe around his slender physique and went downstairs to the well-stocked kitchen of the Chalmers house to look for food.
There was a light on in the kitchen and who was there but Harriett sitting with a glass of milk and crackers..
"Oh my, look at this," Remington said. "Do you do this as well?"
"Almost every night. I can't sleep through the night without eating it seems-high metabolism."
Harriett pushed the box of crackers toward her twin brother and got up to get him a glass for milk. She didn't ask, seeming to know that he would want the same thing she had.
"Funny thing about being in the womb together isn't it? You knew I would want the same thing." Remington said as he accepted the crackers and poured the glass full of milk.
"Even though we're not identical-I think there is a lot more to learn about fraternal twins, don't you?" Harriett said.
"Yes, I totally agree. It's strange-being with you. I don't feel any sense of separation. It's like I've known you all my life. Do you feel that way?"
"Yes, Harriett's voice broke slightly. "I missed you and I didn't know what I was missing." Her blue eyes were full of tears and Remington's were brimming as well.
He gripped her hand in his and Harriett put her other hand on top of Remington's for a long moment before they sat down with their snack again.
"How was it for you, Harriett-growing up?"
"Well, I was adopted by a distant cousin of our mother-with the stipulation that I never be contacted by anyone from either family and that I never be told that I was adopted. Things went all right, I guess, up to a point."
"You were-safe, Harriett? I mean sexually. You are beautiful and you would have been vulnerable."
"I-I though I was-safe-but when I was twelve. . ." Harriett stopped and looked at her brother, her eyes full of her pain. "My adoptive father raped me. It was bad enough that he was my adoptive father but I didn't know that. I thought he was my father. He told me that it was my fault, that I had lured him somehow. It happened repeatedly." Harriett couldn't go on. "My God, you're the first one I've ever told. Oh, my God!" She was crying in earnest and Remington took her hand and drew her close, holding her till she calmed.
"Finally I ran away from home when I was fourteen. I had found a letter from David Chalmer's on my 'mother's' desk asking to have visitation with me. I tried to contact him but my 'family' sent me away to private school. I thinik my mother knew what had been happening and wanted me out of the picture. I was just so glad to be away from him. I would have gone almost anywhere."
"Where is the blackguard now?" Remington's voice was brittle as ice.
"He died when I was sixteen-heart attack. I was so glad. I was so glad that he was dead." Harriett sobbed the words.
"So you've known Uncle David since when. . . ?"
"I finally met him when I was twenty-one. He had paid for my college education. I came here to London-looking for him and I found my family, Remington. I found peace. I still hate Daniel for leaving me so unprotected, but David and Chl÷e are like parents to me. And you? What happened to you?"
"Well, I was tossed hither and thither. Nobody wanted to keep me. I guess they were all poor and I was just another mouth to feed. When I was ten I was put into an orphanage of sorts, but there-in that place I was violated by a perverted bruiser of a man, a Mr. McGinty. He cuffed me so hard that I lost consciousness. When I came to, he was raping me."
"Oh, yes. But I ran away that very week-joined the circus I did. I had to make my own way after that-no schooling-odd jobs-living in the streets or with con artists and pickpockets. But no man ever took advantage of me like that again.
"I met Daniel when I was fourteen. I had picked his pocket in the street near Harrod's and he caught me in the act. He offered me shelter, mentoring. At first I didn't trust him, but I found him to be straight up along those lines. He never told me he was my father till he was dying. And it wasn't till David Chalmers came to Los Angeles that I even knew my real name."
"And here we are-separated for so long but both wanting soda biscuits and milk at two in the morning."
They sat in comfortable silence for a couple of minutes and Remington spoke again.
"It's good with you and Peter, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes." Harriett responded. "He is so passionate. He meets all my needs, and I need a lot of that kind of comfort." Harriett found it very easy to talk with her brother even on this intimate matter. "Your Laura-it's obvious what's going on there, big brother." The term of endearment warmed Remington's heart.
"Yes, we are very close. It's fervid, intense. Sometimes I wonder if I'm too passionate. Lord knows I can't stay away from her."
"So it's magic between you two, eh?"
"Oh, yes! I met Laura just over five years ago. . . went to America on a slightly disreputable mission and found myself trying to steal the very gems that her agency had been hired to protect. You see, 'Remington Steele' was an elaborate ruse she had designed to mask the fact that she, a woman, was in point of fact, running her own private investigation business."
"My, she is brilliant, isn't she?"
"Oh, yes, that's putting it mildly. But I stumbled upon the truth, and assumed the identity of Remington Steele."
"You wicked, wicked boy!" Harriett said gleefully. "You did not dare to do that."
"Yes-absolutely! I didn't intend to, but it just. . . happened. We have both since realized that we fell in love right then and there."
"So what happened? Did you two get-together-you know?"
"That is the hard part. Laura distrusted me-more that she was attracted to me. She turned me down over and over. I had been accustomed to being very active sexually-a veritable rolling stone-and here was a woman who wanted commitment! I gave up all the women. I went basically abstinent-to prove that I was serious in my intentions. Finally, after a series of fits and starts that took over three years, we came together. It was beyond my wildest imaginings, Harriett."
"Did you tell her? Did you commit?"
"Oh, yes-finally I bared my heart and soul to her. I love her without reservation. When I realized that she was-in such danger this past few days, I was devastated. I see her now carrying our babies and I cannot imagine life without her." Remington smiled wryly. "Of course we have our moments. This marriage game is a lot more complicated than either of us could have possibly realized, but we are learning and loving. It quite profound between us."
"I hope she has an easy time with the twins. I have had an extremely difficult time with both of my children. I guess I'm like our mother in that respect. Peter and I want to have another but we have to realize that it will be a rough time for us."
"Thinking of our mother out there in the country, pregnant with twins and not even realizing that she had 'two' in her belly, brings such sadness to my heart. She was truly left in the lurch, wasn't she?"
"Remington, have you been able to forgive Daniel for leaving her and us in such an unprotected circumstance?"
"I don't know actually. I thought that I had. After all, I spent twenty years around him. But I look at my Laura now, carrying our own twins, and I cannot imagine leaving her like that. I was crazy with anxiety when she was kidnapped three days ago. She's my woman and she needs me to take care of her now."
"I have not forgiven him." Harriett stated it as a matter of fact. "As you tell me more about Daniel, I may change my mind, but it will be hard for me. I didn't even know that I had a twin till last year. We were raped, abused, subjected to all sorts of terrible things because he was an irresponsible rake."
"I know. It's tragic, isn't it?"
"And yet here we are-united thirty-two years later. I am so glad to have you back."
They stood up and embraced one another warmly, the closeness of two who had shared the same womb easily manifest. Remington held his sister's face in his two hands and looked in the blue eyes that were so like his own, the clear flawless pale complexion, the thick black hair falling gently to her shoulders, and he kissed her gently on her lips.
"My God, we have so much to be thankful for, don't we, Harriett?"
"Yes, we do."
"May we meet at this time again tomorrow?"
"For milk and soda biscuits? Yes, I dare say that we will."
They both went back upstairs to return to bed. As they walked up the stairs, they heard Daniel Chalmer's BMW motorcar pulling into the garage.
"Uncle David returning from his midnight tryst with Jacqueline. Let's not embarrass him by catching him coming in past curfew," Remington said, chuckling as they tiptoed up the stairs.
It was nearly five in the morning when Remington awakened to Laura's caresses.
"Umm, darling, you're awake, I see."
"Yes, I was so tired earlier. . . so tired. The babies woke me up. I guess they want to change positions. They are still moving around."
Remington felt her belly and marveled again at the movement of the little ones.
"God, I will never get used to this-feeling my children like this." He kissed the back of Laura's neck.
"This is our time, Laura. I love waking up in the hours just before daybreak with you in my arms like this. Some things that seem so difficult to speak about are so easy when we are like this."
"Remy, hold me tight."
Remington held his wife even closer.
"I was so scared with this case developing the way it did. And now, knowing that Tony was so involved. . . I feel afraid to trust my instincts again. How could I have been so blind to what he really was?"
"We all have blind spots from time to time. Nobody is perfect, Laura. Roselli came along when you were stressed with the circumstances of our marriage. He may have seemed to be a straightforward sort of fellow, an alternative to a rake like me."
"But you were never fooled. And I did not consider you a rake."
"I behaved like a rake in that fiasco with Clarissa. I almost lost you forever that day. You have no idea how I felt on that street in Los Angeles when I had to ask you to marry me under those circumstances. And how I felt when you agreed."
"I finally realized that I wanted you, Remy. I had to admit that I wanted you." Laura paused for a long moment. "But Tony. . ."
"You never liked him from that evening he brought me to you at Las Hades."
"He didn't like fish eggs."
Laura giggled in his arms. "Well, if you don't pass the fish eggs test, you don't pass, do you?'
"Not at all, not in my book."
Remington paused and then remembered . "Laura, I have a package for you from Ivan. I forgot all about it." He got out of bed and retrieved the beautifully wrapped box Stranikov had sent to Laura and gave it to her.
Laura carefully removed the unusual wrapping paper and then Remington helped her open the cardboard box. Inside was a lovely set of hand-painted Matryoshkas nesting dolls. As she opened each one, there was another and another till there were seven in all.
"They are beautiful, aren't they?"
Laura was thrilled and immediately got up and put the dolls in a row on the dressing table near their bed and then climbed back into the bed and nestled close to Remington.
They lay silent for a while and then Laura spoke again. "Your uncle seems quite taken with Jacqueline. Did you notice them?"
"Umm. . . He went to Paris two weeks ago to see her when her show opened. I think my uncle may have finally met his match, Laura. She is quite a woman."
"They are quite captivated with each other, aren't they? They can't hide it. I hope that we are still that amorous when we are their age. What is he, sixty-five or so?"
"Jacqueline is nearly sixty, but you would never know it. He isn't acting at all like a man in his mid-sixties. Jacqueline is quite a woman. She will keep him interested, I am sure."
"And you-you will keep me interested, darling." Remington whispered to Laura, who turned toward him now and kissed him, catching her hands in his thick black locks. Finding the top of his head, she searched for a certain special spot and pressed it firmly with her fingertips.
Remington groaned softly as pleasure, pure and simple, surged throughout his body.
"Laura. . ."
"Just part of a special belated wedding present from Felicia, darling." Laura laughed softly and welcomed her passionate husband into her arms.