By: Amy Stone
Summary: The story begins in 1980, before the time of either series, then picks up in 1987 where both series left off. Remington and Laura return to the US from Ireland, unaware that they have a double-agent and Lee Stetson as shadows.
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," "Scarecrow & Mrs. King," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network, the CBS Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
April 5, 1980
Whoever said, "In London, April's a spring month," was not sitting with Lee Stetson on that bench in front of Buckingham Palace. He sat there in the frigid wind, dressed in a dark blue three-piece suit with the collar of his tan and all-too-thin trenchcoat shrugged up around his ears, waiting for a man in a black leather jacket to ask him for directions to Harrods. He had been waiting for four hours.
To pass the time, he began talking to the red-jacketed palace guard nearest him. He talked about the weather, English food, and the amount of traffic. He knew the man's eyes would never waver and he would get no response, but there was simply nothing else to do.
Lee ran his fingers through his sandy brown hair and surveyed the street in front of him once more. Still nothing. His thoughts turned back to the guard as the corners of his mouth went up in a private smirk. Francine Desmond, his fellow agent and current girlfriend, would have been able to get a reaction.
He thought of her and the way she toyed with him while his subconscious continued scanning the foot traffic. She wanted to go skiing some weekend. Lee was an excellent skier, but he kept putting it off. He had even asked Billy to send him somewhere warm with white sand beaches and cocktail lunches. Billy had sent him to London. Maybe it was all pointing to the end of things with Francine.
Just as he was planning how to let her go easy when he returned to Washington, a man, about his age but with a mane of ebony hair and blue eyes peering out from under a tweed snap-brim hat, tripped over Lee's outstretched feet.
The man was tall and slender and was wearing a black leather jacket with the collar turned up. Lee waited for the question, but it did not come. The man continued on, hands jammed into his pockets, with only a, "Watch it, mate."
About one minute later, another man clad in black leather ran up to him.
"Which way to Harrods?"
"I'm not sure. I just got in."
The exchange ended with the courier pressing a slip of paper into the agent's cold palm.
"Scarecrow, I don't care how cold it was. Just tell me what the message said!" Lee's section chief, Billy Melrose, was apparently not in the mood for a transcontinental weather report from the young agent.
"It was just one name, Billy. Douglas Quintaine. That was all. No indication of whether he's the thief, a fence, or the tooth fairy, for that matter."
Billy softened a bit. "Well, I'll check it out from here and call you back. Give me an hour."
"Ok. Thanks, Billy." Lee replaced the receiver, then went into the bathroom of his small hotel room and opened wide the hot tap on the tub. He was thankful the hotel had American-style accommodations instead of one bath at the end of the hall. He planned to soak until Billy called back.
Lee was tempted to get in fully clothed, but he thought better of it. He neatly hung his suit coat on a hanger, then stripped to the waist. The bath was steaming. He added a touch of cold to the mix, then dropped his trousers and shorts to the floor. Lee yanked off his socks, then lowered his body into the tub.
As the water rose, his fingers slowly lost their blue tint, and his entire body turned pink from the heat. He laid back, eyes closed, enjoying the small delay in the case.
The telephone rang once and then was silent. Lee leapt out of the tub and ran across the room. When it rang again, he let it ring three times before picking up.
"Well, Lee, it looks like Quintaine is the man we're after." Billy ran through Quintaine's long list of aliases and past thefts as Scarecrow gathered a blanket around his still naked body. "We don't know a lot about him, but we do have a photo. Meet the courier at the same drop tomorrow at nine a.m. to get it."
Lee groaned as Billy continued, "He seems like just the type to steal a necklace worth $2.3 million right off the neck of the ambassador's wife."
"Thanks, Billy. I'll see what I can dig up between now and my return to hypothermia tomorrow morning."
Lee went from pub to pub all evening, meeting a variety of contacts with a variety of ideas on personal hygiene. One particularly grimy one was named Chalky.
"Wot ya want with 'im, now, heh?"
Chalky turned to the barman and held up two fingers.
Lee told him as little as he could, trying not to breathe in too much. When Chalky heard "necklace," he snorted.
The barman placed a pint in front of each man. Once he had returned to the shadows at the far end of the pub, Chalky spoke.
"Well, let me say this, then. Dougie is up to no good, but it's not your no good. Man you want's called Hampton. Lionel Hampton." Chalky furnished an address.
As Lee left the pub, he found himself now glad of the frosty night air. It suppressed the lingering fumes of the dirty little man who occasionally supplied him with valuable information for the right price. Quintaine must have been a friend, Lee thought, since tonight it only cost me a drink.
Lee Stetson briskly walked back to his hotel to get his car. After folding his six foot, one inch frame into the rusting blue mini, he jammed it into first and headed for 137 Churchill Street. As he drove, he thought of the courier sitting on that same bench tomorrow morning waiting for him even though he was not going to show. He hoped it snowed.
Hampton's flat was a tiny room on the fifth floor of an elevatorless, ramshackle building. Lee brushed away cobwebs and shooed away a rat as he pulled a special lens out of the folds of his coat and held it up to the peephole. He could see a pair of feet propped up on the television. It looked like Lionel Hampton was having a nap.
Scarecrow dropped to one knee before the lock on the apartment door. He removed his lockpicks from his collar stays and silently manipulated the tumblers. Once the lock yielded, he opened the door a crack, then slipped into the room. The feet did not move. Lee had the element of surprise.
Hampton was sitting in a red wing-backed armchair that looked like it had been through the Blitz. As Lee came up to the chair, he drew his gun and cocked it. The sound was enough. Before he had the chance to tell the man to freeze, the chair violently toppled over and a pair of hands blindly grabbed for him. The man was going on instinct and had never turned to look at Lee, so naturally he went after this armed intruder's right side. Lee Stetson was left-handed. He pulled the trigger.
After a quick look in the hallway to make sure no one heard the shot, Lee went back into the dead man's flat. He still needed to find the necklace and determine if Hampton was working alone.
Scarecrow did not enjoy shooting people, but he was enjoying tossing the room. The good guys never get to ransack a room, he thought.
He rifled through desk drawers, kitchen cupboards, and suitcases. He overturned the mattresses and checked the underside of the lamps. He even took apart the trap under the sink. No luck. Now frustrated, he went back toward the body. After turning in a slow circle to see what he had missed, he absent-mindedly righted the wing-backed chair. He stood there, staring out the tiny window, drumming his fingers on the back of the chair. Then it dawned on him.
He pulled a switchblade out of a pocket and tore open the cushions.
Two hours later, Lee Stetson was at Heathrow. He dialed Billy's number from a payphone.
"I got it, Billy, but Hampton's dead. I lost the trail after that."
"Hampton? Who's Hampton? I thought you were after Quintaine."
"The Quintaine lead was false," Lee replied.
"I'll call off the courier."
Lee huffed into the mouthpiece as Billy went on. "I still think you should read Quintaine's dossier when you get back. He seems like someone we're bound to hear from again."
"Well, get yourself on a plane back here ASAP. I've got something else for you."
A voice on the PA called his flight.
"I'm way ahead of you, Billy."
February 18, 1987
Laura Holt-Steele's eyes fluttered open as the sun rose over Glen Cree. It took her a moment to recall where she was. So much had happened in the past several days.
A split second later she remembered the owner of the masculine arm that was wrapped around her naked midsection. She closed her eyes and settled back in. He stirred as she did so and squeezed her tightly to him.
One blue eye opened, and he muttered, "Morning, luv." The eye closed again as a contented smile spread across his lips.
After a few moments, Laura wriggled out of her husband's embrace, being careful not to wake him. She unfolded one of the extra woolen blankets from the foot of the bed and wrapped it around her as she opened the doors to the balcony and stepped out.
As she looked out across the immaculate and rolling countryside, she replayed the events of the previous night in her head.
She and Remington Steele had watched on television as his newly discovered father, Daniel Chalmers, was buried as a national hero in both Britain and Russia. It was a fitting end for the con man, even if he did die before disclosing Remington's real name. She liked the name Remington anyway, or she would not have given it to her fictional boss in the first place. He seemed satisfied with it as well.
Then he had carried her up the stairs. After a brief interruption in the form of a telephone call from Anthony Roselli, the agent who was more interested in Laura than in deporting Remington Steele, they were in the cavernous master bedroom of the castle.
It had taken them four years and countless false starts, but something was different now. She welcomed his advances.
Out on the balcony, Laura tightened the blanket around her and closed her eyes. Neither had said a word. Laura's pulse quickened as she recalled his breathless kisses. His hands had searched beneath her heavy cotton sweater before she took it off. He had followed suit. As he pulled her to him again, she ran her hands across his chest as he tugged her slacks down. She had always been incredibly attracted to him physically, but the feel of his chest hair against her instantly doubled it.
In a moment, they were both naked. He did not lead her to the bed as she expected, though. He again picked her up and carried her across the dark oak floor, setting her down on the ancient rug in front of the mammoth fireplace.
The fire had burned low by the time they were finished. The room was developing a distinct chill, so they had bundled themselves into the bed, where they slept wrapped in each other's arms.
A kiss on the nape of her neck startled her out of her memories. She turned toward him and hugged him. He was wearing only his shorts.
"Remington, you scared me."
He stepped back and gave her an odd look.
"You know, Laura, until now, you've always called me 'Mr. Steele' when we're alone."
"Would you rather I called you Harry?"
He smiled and pulled her back to him. "You may have the wrong impression about that name."
She looked up at him and said, "Oh?"
"Yes, it is what my father called me for years, but it's also the name I gave him when we met. He couldn't very well correct me without a lot of explaining that he wasn't ready for. Besides, Harry may have suited the man I used to be, but..."
He paused and let her mentally fill in the rest. The look in her eyes told him she understood.
She turned back toward the view and took the few steps to the stone railing, expecting him to follow her. When he did not, she turned to face him again, only to find him gone.
Laura glanced around. Would he really leave her now after all that about "the man he used to be"?
She said his name. After a moment with no response, her brow furrowed, and then her eyebrows went up as a tear made its way down her cheek. This time she yelled.
Instantly, he reappeared at the doorway, adjusting the belt on his robe. Seeing the tear, he took her in his arms once more.
"Laura, darling, what's wrong?"
"I thought...I thought you were..." Remington felt her go almost limp as she finished, "...gone."
"Laura," he said, shaking his head to scold her for relapsing into mistrust. "Laura, you know. You know I am not leaving you."
They stood there silently for a long time, just staring into each other's eyes.
Laura watched his expression subtly change as his eyes dropped. Then his eyes snapped back up. He looked determined.
"Laura," he said forcefully. "Laura, I..."
She looked at him expectantly.
He took a deep breath as he silently cursed himself for being a damned coward.
"I'm freezing. Let's go back in."
June 13, 1987
Lee Stetson was also freezing. He hated this bench. He hated the courier for being late. He hated London for still being chilly on a June morning. He hated himself for not wearing an overcoat. Amanda would not have let him outside without one.
Amanda. How his life had changed since he last sat on this bench in front of Buckingham Palace. He and Amanda had been married for four months as of today. He had two strapping stepsons and a mother-in-law who liked him.
The only problem was Phillip, Jamie, and Mrs. West thought of him only as a serious boyfriend of Amanda's. Come to think of it, he hated that, too. He wanted to be home to build model rockets with Jamie and to keep Phillip from tweaking things under the hood of his Corvette. He wanted to tell them.
Lee was surprised at himself. He was not one to let things get to him to this extent. He took a sip from a stainless steel thermos filled with steaming coffee and shook off the mood. As he replaced the cap and put the container back at his feet, he spotted someone in a blue vest carrying a paper sack. The courier had finally arrived.
She did not approach Lee. She did not know who he was. Instead, she stood on the corner. She placed the sack on the ground and checked her watch. In a few minutes, a car arrived. She disappeared, leaving the small sack in the gutter.
He watched all this out of the corner of his eye. Then he reached down to collect his thermos, pulling on his shoelace as he did so. He got up, tucked the thermos under his arm, and headed for the corner. Once there, he feigned noticing his flapping shoelace. He bent to tie it and scooped up the sack. Besides the courier's delay, it was a flawlessly executed drop.
On the way back to his car, which was parked several blocks away, Lee ducked into a cafe. He ordered breakfast and, after the lone waiter disappeared into the back, opened the sack.
The small brown bag held a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich wrapped in cellophane.
Remington Steele woke once again in the immense four-poster bed in the Irish castle they were beginning to think of as home. They had spent nearly four months playing at being husband and wife. Remington found Laura particularly adept at making him wish their wedding was not slightly illegal, even if she did not realize she was doing so. He hoped he was making her forget she only married him to keep him from being deported.
They passed the time walking the grounds arm in arm, horseback riding, taking the odd research case that Mildred could handle from LA, and finding ways to get the servants, to whom Steele had given the castle, to go to town so they could have it to themselves.
He lay there, with Laura still asleep next to him, thinking that perhaps it was time to get back to work. He knew Laura was starting to lust more after a juicy case than yet another day in the picturesque countryside. He felt he could not possibly go from being his lordship to Remington Steele, detective, in one or two days, however. He slipped out of bed and spent an hour on the telephone downstairs planning a little diversion.
Just as he put down the receiver, he heard Laura rummaging in the kitchen. He joined her there and began preparing a gourmet breakfast.
As they ate, Laura brought up the agency.
"I think we need to go back soon. Mildred says we have quite a waiting list."
"I was thinking the same thing. I suppose the honeymoon has to end sometime."
"Well, Remington, we'll just have to continue it in LA," Laura said with a gleam in her eye.
"Why don't you let me make the travel arrangements while you call Mildred and let her know we're returning to our fair city?"
In the past, volunteering for menial tasks had meant he was orchestrating some scam, Laura thought.
"Why the sudden interest in playing travel agent?"
"Laura," he said, standing to clear the dishes. "It sounds like you think I'm up to something."
As he moved behind her to take her plate, he continued. "Well, I am."
She looked at him, not knowing what to make of his statement.
"What are you up to?" she asked, trying not to sound distrustful.
"My darling," he began. Then he leaned down, kissed her neck, and whispered, "It's a surprise. I promise you you'll love it."
Lee was back on the bench that afternoon. The morning's courier was on her way to an assignment in Jersey City. This time, the sack contained a coded message that he decoded in his hotel room. HRK NRF SLY MPH GRB NUF came out as "Michael Shayne rm. 317 Hil."
Lee stepped out of the elevator just as Shayne, a short fifty-eight-year-old with graying hair, was closing his door behind him. Scarecrow ducked behind a maid's cart and watched his quarry enter the stairwell.
Shayne headed for the train station. Then it was a ferry to Ireland. Lee was right behind him when he asked a porter for directions to Glen Cree.
Many miles later, Scarecrow watched as Shayne pulled off the road and got out of his car. Through binoculars, both could see luggage being loaded into a Rolls Royce and a small group saying farewells. When Shayne ran back to the car and floored it, Lee followed suit.
Shayne sped toward the castle, hoping to catch Remington Steele. He had something of an immediate problem, but he arrived just as the Rolls pulled out.
Lee's view, as well as the road, was temporarily blocked by a lorry delivering a refrigerator to a nearby farmhouse. He honked impatiently, then drove through a field full of sheep, taking the direct route to the castle. When he got there, everyone was gone. Shayne had disappeared. The people in the Rolls must have been his contacts, Lee thought.
He drove around back and found a gardener. A brief conversation and ten pounds later, Lee was on his way to the airport.
Lee Stetson watched from a safe distance as the chauffeur unloaded the luggage. The man and woman, his arm around her shoulders, headed for an unknown gate. When they were out of sight, Lee checked their airline luggage tags, which indicated their final destination as Washington, DC.
Lee found a telephone and called Agency headquarters.
"Billy's not here, Lee. What do you need?" Francine Desmond, able field operative and Billy's assistant, could supply almost any official help Billy could.
"Actually, Francine, I need you. I need a big favor."
"Billy's got you after Tupolev's network, doesn't he? This is an important one, Lee."
"That makes the favor even bigger, I guess."
"Just name it already, Stetson." Francine sounded stern, but he knew it was just her way of teasing an old and trusted friend.
"Flight 803 from Dublin is due in at Dulles some time tonight. I'll be on it, along with two suspects."
Lee described Laura and Remington Steele, then continued, "Just follow them for about an hour. Dulles is their final destination, so they'll probably rent a car. It shouldn't be too difficult."
Francine wrote down all the information, then asked, "Where should I contact you? At the Agency? On your car phone?"
"No, Francine. Call me at Amanda's."
Francine laughed, "Amanda's? Got a little lonely in Europe, did we? I still think you could do so much better than a suburban housewife with..."
Lee cut her off. "Save it, will you? This is important to me."
"It seems to be getting more and more important with you when it comes to Amanda..."
Lee talked over her. "Thanks, Francine."
"...if I didn't know better, I'd say you were seriously off the market..."
Lee repeated, more loudly this time, "Thanks, Francine."
As she continued, he hung up the telephone. He shook his head and smiled. He would never hear the end of this from Francine, but he got a chance to see his family.
While Laura checked them in at the ticket desk, Remington Steele ducked around a corner and called Mildred.
"Hi ya, boss. You and Miss Holt, I mean you and Mrs. Steele on your way back?"
"Yes, yes, Mildred. We're at the airport now. What did you tell her when she called?"
"I told her just what you said, boss. No pressing cases out here, but a possible client on your way in DC. I don't think she believed me."
"Probably not, Mildred. She knows I'm up to something. Is the car all set?"
"Your friend shipped it out two days ago. It should be in the hanger by now, all tuned up for a cross-country trip."
"Beautiful, Mildred. Remind me to give you a raise."
"Sure, chief. You kids have a great trip."
He replaced the phone and went back around the corner to collect their carryon bags. Laura was waiting for him.
"Where were you?"
"Mildred asked for a souvenir. Apparently, she didn't pick up enough while she was here, so I popped over to the gift shop."
"The gift shop is at the other end of the terminal."
"So it is, Laura." He kissed her, then picked up the bags. "So it is."
Once they were settled into their seats in first class, Laura said, "You're not even going to give me a hint, are you?"
Remington poured them each a glass of champagne before answering, "You know, Laura, anticipation only heightens the experience when it finally arrives."
His double meaning was not lost on her.
"You're absolutely right," she said, "but I'm a detective. I've got a mystery to solve."
"Well, you won't get anything out of me." He took a sip, then leaned in ever so slightly. "No matter what interrogation techniques you employ."
As Lee waved his way through customs with his ISP, he looked around for Francine. He spotted her by a newsstand where she was casually thumbing through a magazine. Lee joined her there, picking up a newspaper and avoiding eye contact.
"They're going through customs now. You should see them any minute now."
Francine turned a few pages.
Lee looked up from the Times. "Here they come. Got them?"
Francine did not move her head as she said, "Got them."
Michael Shayne had all four of them from his spot behind a cardboard cutout of a Swiss Alp.
"I owe you, Francine. See you later."
He headed for the long-term parking lot, then to 4247 Maplewood in Arlington.
Dotty West was pruning a rosebush in the front yard when she saw the familiar silver Corvette pull up.
"Lee, it's so wonderful to see you! I thought Amanda said you were going to be in Europe for a while."
He kissed her on the cheek, then replied, "I was, but I just got back. The production schedule changed. I have to be back in the editing room in an hour, and I need to talk to Amanda." About this ridiculous cover story, he added mentally.
"She should be back any minute. She was just taking the boys to soccer practice. Why don't we go in and have a nice cup of tea?"
"I'd like that. Thank you."
Mrs. West went into the kitchen to start the kettle while Lee sat down in a chair by the front window. He turned it so he could watch for Amanda's car.
"Lee? Lee?" Mrs. West had to repeat herself to get his attention.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"Would you like lemon or sugar?"
"Neither, thank you," he said as he picked up his cup and saucer and glanced back out the window.
Mrs. West was starting to become concerned. "Is everything alright, Lee?"
Lee let out a breath and smiled, relaxing a bit. "Everything's good, Mrs. West. I'm just anxious to see Amanda."
"You know, when Joe starting getting anxious to see Amanda, there were wedding bells on the horizon."
Lee began, "Mrs. West..."
She raised a hand to stop him. "I'm not trying to pressure you, Lee. I'm just being hopeful. Amanda cares for you very much, and I think you two make a handsome couple."
Lee nodded and sipped his tea as Amanda pulled up. He put his teacup on the coffee table and went up the few steps to the front door to meet her.
He opened the door just as she reached for it, taking her outstretched hand in his and pulling her into the house and into his arms.
"Lee! What are you..."
He did not let her finish her sentence. He kissed her hungrily, leaving Mrs. West to intently study the delicate flowers on her teacup.
When they finally separated, Lee whispered, "I need to talk to you."
Mrs. West, with a wink to Lee, excused herself and went back to her rosebushes outside. Lee and Amanda went into the living room and sat together on the sofa.
"What are you doing here? You were on a case in Europe."
"Tupolev's network seems to extend to the States."
"Should you be here? I mean, shouldn't you be out tailing suspects and meeting informants in seedy places? You said it was extremely important that you catch these guys."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I had the opportunity to see you and I took it. Francine will be calling in a while. She's following some people for me right now."
She put a hand on his cheek. "That's sweet of you."
"I do want to talk to you."
"Oh? About what?" Amanda was trying to decide if he was about to tell her he was going to be gone for a few months.
"I spent a lot of time on a bench in London waiting for a delivery. Twice."
She eyed him questioningly, but he waved it off and continued.
"It gave me the opportunity to think about us."
"What about us?"
"I love you, Amanda. You're my wife. You, Joe, and I are the only ones who know, except for Billy's suspicions. I'm tired of it. I want to shout it from the rooftops."
"But Lee, won't it be dangerous for us? The bad guys will use anything they can."
"You're right, so I guess I'll just settle for whispering it to a few people. We need to come clean to Billy, your mother, and especially," Lee said, "to my stepsons."
Amanda looked at him with wide eyes. Either he referred to Phillip and Jamie by name or as "the boys" like she did. She took this change in terminology exactly as he meant it. It was a sign that he was very serious about telling them he was their stepfather.
"How are we going to tell them?" Amanda asked. "We should have done it right away. Now it's going to be that much harder."
"We'll just have to think of something. Any ideas?" He leaned back into the couch cushions.
"I think we should explain this to Mother first. I just don't know what to say. She's going to be upset."
"Oh, I don't know. While I was waiting for you, she practically told me it was time to propose."
Before Amanda had time to respond, the phone rang.
"Amanda, it's Francine. Is Lee there?"
"Yes, he is, Francine. Just a minute."
"I'm not interrupting anything, am I? You know, I could call back in a few minutes." She enjoyed getting Amanda's goat.
Amanda did not answer. She shook her head and held the telephone out to Lee.
"Lee, how are things? Is your little suburban vacation going well?"
"It's fine, Francine. What's happening? Where should I meet you?"
"Well, they're still at the airport. You were right about a car being their next step, but it's not a rental. It's some kind of old white roadster. I saw it when they opened the hanger door. They went in, but no one's been in or out since."
"What are they doing?"
Francine turned up the corners of her mouth. "Let's just say they've gone beyond passing notes in study hall. I can't say I blame the woman. Your description of her was fine, Lee, but you neglected to tell me that the man was one of the sexiest in the known universe. I'll tail him for you anytime."
Francine gave Lee the hanger number. Lee was on his way after telling Amanda he would call as soon as he could with a plate number and some research she could take care of from Q Bureau.
Inside the hanger at Dulles, Remington Steele had stretched his long body across the seats of the 1936 Auburn Speedster, his feet up on the dash. He was watching Laura go from window to door to window, nervously looking out.
"There's someone out there."
"It's a busy airport, Laura," he informed her, stretching his arms and interlacing his fingers behind his head.
"It's the same woman I saw in the terminal. The blonde I thought was following us. You know, if you know her, you should tell me."
"I already told you, Laura. I've never seen her before. Why don't you forget about it and tell me what sights you'd like to see, what landmarks you'd like to visit, and, most importantly, whether you'd rather stay at the Ritz or the Hilton."
Laura pursed her lips at him, then turned back to the window. In a few minutes, she excitedly waved him over. He grudgingly obliged.
"A man in a sports car just pulled up. I can't see his face, but the blonde is pointing this way."
"I think you may be right. You're the trained PI. What should we do?"
"We see if they follow us."
"Laura, you don't suppose it's..." He stopped, not wanting to say the name aloud.
She turned and placed her hand on his arm.
"I'm sure it's not."
Remington nodded and let the matter drop. After activating the automatic hanger door, they climbed into the car with Remington at the wheel. When the door was open just wide enough, they sped out across the tarmac and onto an access road.
Lee jumped into action, leaving Francine to call Amanda with the plate number. He tore after them, then realized they had spotted him. He pulled off into an open lot, watching as they turned behind a building, then reappeared three buildings down. When they stopped their slightly amateurish evasion methods, Lee knew they thought they lost him. He followed at a more discreet distance.
"He's gone, Laura. I think we were just being paranoid," Remington said as they drove toward the Hilton.
"Maybe you're right," she said. Nevertheless, she took a final look at the traffic behind them.
As they pulled up in front of the hotel, he said, "Why don't you go ahead and check us in. I'll pop round and get a nice bottle of burgundy."
"Be back in a flash."
She got out of the roadster, closing the door gently behind her. He did not immediately speed off, so she spun on her heel to see why. He was just sitting there, looking at her. He quickly flicked his eyes forward and pulled away.
Remington drove for a while, heading nowhere in particular, the bottle of wine temporarily forgotten. He was thinking about Laura and their four months of wedded bliss. He thought about his life as Remington Steele. Mostly he thought about Laura.
The reason for his drive popped back into his head as he passed a small wine shop. He picked out a suitable bottle. As he paid for it, he decided there was one more stop he needed to make.
While he did so, Lee Stetson picked up his car phone and called Amanda at IFF.
"What did you get on the license plate?"
"The car was flown in two days ago from Los Angeles. It's registered to Remington Steele Investigations, a private detective firm based there. The man and woman are Laura and Remington Steele. They were recently married under slightly unusual circumstances. The INS thought the marriage was phony, but they were later cleared."
"Good work, Amanda. They sound ok. I wonder just how involved they are in all this. Check Steele out a little more. He looks awfully familiar."
"Can you narrow that down?"
"Not really. I've been trying to place him all day."
"Francine said to tell you Shayne is in the country."
There was a confused silence on the line.
"Lee, who's Shayne?"
"He's a British agent who works as a small-time double agent. He has an office in Washington, but spends a lot of time on the move. He contacted Steele in Ireland. If he made his exchange, why would he come here? Does Francine have a location on him?"
"No. They lost him."
"I guess I'll worry about him later. Right now, Steele is alone. Why don't you go over to the hotel and talk to the woman? Maybe you can get something from her."
Laura opened the door cautiously after carefully scrutinizing her visitor through the peephole.
"Mrs. Steele? Amanda Keane with hotel security."
"Is something wrong?" Laura ran through the possibilities in her head. The way her life had been going for the past four years, there were a lot of them.
"We're not sure. Do you know a man named Michael Shayne?"
Laura knew a Michael O'Leary rather well, but no Shayne. "I don't think so. Why?"
"He's called several times looking for you, even before you arrived. We thought we should check it out since you had no reservation, yet he looked for you here."
"My husband and I are private detectives. Maybe he has an urgent case for us."
"I don't think so."
The bluntness of the response surprised Laura. "Excuse me?"
"I'm sorry. It's just that Shayne is a bicycle messenger," Amanda lied. "He delivers here quite a bit. He said he had a rather unusual package from a..." Amanda pretended to consult a small notebook. She hoped her research held up. "Mildred Krebs."
"Mildred is our secretary. What was unusual about the package?"
"Well, he said it was a five foot tall stuffed heart with arms and legs." Amanda crossed her fingers.
Laura smiled. "That sounds like Mildred. Tell him he can deliver it tomorrow."
After a few more questions, Amanda was satisfied that they did not know anyone named Shayne. She went back to the lobby. Shortly after, Remington returned.
Laura opened the door. "Mildred sent us a present. A five foot tall heart."
Remington looked around. "Where did you put it?" he asked after not spotting it.
"It's being delivered tomorrow."
"That's fine. Laura, there's a beautiful sunset out there. Let's go for a drive and enjoy it."
"Why," she purred, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him, "when we can stay here?"
He ran his hands through her hair. "We've got the Auburn and no case. That means we can have a pleasant drive..." One of her hands moved down his back. "...enjoy the lights of the city..." Her other hand went to his shoulder inside his suit jacket. "...and no one will shoot at us."
"That sounds wonderful. What are we waiting for?"
They drove with a warm, summer evening breeze blowing through their hair. Remington had scouted a small overlook earlier. They parked, then she was in his arms once more.
A few minutes later, a low silver car coasted in, lights off. It stayed under the trees.
Laura and Remington were in no position to notice it. They were lost in each other. Remington hugged her to him, never wanting to let go. He raised his head slightly to kiss her once more. He began to say something, his courage up from her mood and the strange effects of the car. Then he saw the moonlight glint off the shiny silver automobile under a nearby tree.
"Laura," he whispered urgently, "he's back."
"The man who met the blonde at the airport."
"Can you see him? Who is it?"
"I can't see him, but I have a good idea." He slipped out of the car and cursed, "Antony."
Laura let out a surprised gasp. Before she could stop him, Remington was running, low to the ground, toward the other car.
Lee looked around and saw several concerning developments. The man was gone, and Amanda's car was just pulling in. She must have followed him.
Lee put his hand on his gun and quietly opened his door. Remington Steele's fist sailed in. He realized a split second too late that this was not Anthony Roselli. His fist landed solidly on Lee's jaw.
Lee fought back instinctively. He sent his own fist right back. He did not know the reason for the assault, but, at the moment, he did not care.
They took turns knocking each other down by throwing kidney punches, stinging jabs to the face, and wild hooks that did not always connect. Laura and Amanda, both now out of their cars, watched side-by-side as their husbands beat the tar out of each other.
"What's going on?" Amanda was not sure how to react to this turn of events.
"Remington thought that man was an acquaintance of ours who didn't exactly endear himself to my husband."
"So why is he fighting with mine?" Amanda let her secret slip in the confusion.
"Your husband? I think we better stop this and straighten some things out."
Amanda hastily agreed and ran with Laura toward Lee's car and the fracas that was escalating near it.
Remington and Lee had gone beyond a simple fistfight. This was not a fight that was going to end with the two men doing some male bonding. Remington was throwing punch after punch to Lee's stomach, doubling him over. Lee fell backward and Steele backed off a step. Lee was back up in an instant, delivering a violent kick to Steele's head, sending the detective to the ground in a heap.
Laura and Amanda took the opportunity to break it up. Amanda stepped in front of Lee. Laura knelt down by Remington, preventing him from getting up and starting it all again. Both men were almost comical. Blood streamed down their faces, and their hair had been violently restyled. Every visible inch of each was covered in dirt and developing bruises.
Amanda left Lee sitting on the hood of his car and walked over to the Steeles.
"I think we all need some time to cool off before we straighten this all out. We'll meet you at your hotel tomorrow morning." She returned to her car, locked it, then started for the Agency with Lee in the Corvette.
Once they were gone, Laura helped Remington back to the Auburn. Before he could say anything, she shoved a wad of tissues under his nose and walked a short distance away where she stood, her back to him.
"Why did you do that?"
Remington started to speak, but could not at first. He coughed and spit out a mouthful of blood. He managed to say, "I thought Tony had come back for you."
She faced him, a look of disgust firmly set in her features. "Let's just get you back to the hotel for now."
Once they had returned to their room and decided his nose was not broken, Laura asked, "Even if that was Tony, why would you do that?"
"Laura, I..." He stopped. "Who was that, anyway?"
"We'll worry about that tomorrow. Answer my question."
He began again. "Laura, I thought he was back. I wanted to settle it. What would you have had me do? Are you protecting him?"
"I'm not protecting him."
"Then what are you doing?" His voice had a hard edge to it.
She did not know what to say. She was not sure herself why she was upset.
"Laura, are you still interested in him?"
She made no sound. She was trying to work out how to say no without her voice wavering.
"Laura, answer me." He paused. "Please."
When he got no answer, he walked into the adjoining sitting room, closing the door behind him. He fished a small velvet box out of his pocket and placed it on the glass coffee table. He sat down heavily on the sofa and stared at it.
A few moments later, Laura opened the door.
"Remington, I'm sorry. You know that Tony..." She stopped abruptly when she saw the small box in front of him.
He raised his head wearily. There was a catch in his voice as he softly said, "Tony what, Laura?"
Her voice also came out quietly as she worked out exactly what was happening. "Tony is in the past. Over. Surely you can appreciate when something or someone is in the past."
"I can, Laura." He stood, then went on, "But I need some time."
He walked out.
Amanda was busy wrapping bandages around Lee's three cracked ribs when the Agency doctor came back into the room.
"You owe me for this, Scarecrow. Do you know what time it is?"
"I know, doc. Am I going to live?" he asked lightly.
The doctor replied, "You never can tell with you agents, but you're not going to die from cracked ribs and multiple contusions. That must have been some pounding you took. Go home and rest."
Amanda would not let him stay at the Agency as he wanted. She bundled him back to his apartment, reminding him of their morning appointment.
In the earliest light of the morning, Remington Steele returned to the hotel. He quietly unlocked the door to their suite and glanced around. Laura was not in the sitting room, so he went into the bedroom.
She was asleep, fully clothed and tucked into a ball, on top of the covers. Steele gently covered his wife with the half of the comforter she was not sleeping on, and then went back into the other room.
An hour later, the exhausted man on the sofa awoke with a start. There was a soft knock on the door followed by the subtle clicks of someone picking the lock. Remington silently placed the jacket that had been his blanket on the floor and padded to the door.
It opened a fraction. A cautious eye peered in, then went wide as it met Remington's stare.
The man stood, straightened his tie, and announced, "Steele, I need your services."
The accent was slight; the detective could not place it.
"Who are you?"
"That's not important right now. Go get your wife so I don't have to explain this twice."
Steele eyed the man, but made no move.
The man continued, "She is, after all, the only one with a legitimate investigator's license."
Remington's brow knit in confusion, unsure of what this man was after. Nevertheless, he went to wake Laura.
"Mrs. Steele, it's a pleasure," the man said as they all sat, Steele and Laura on the couch and him in a chair across from them.
This time it was Laura who asked, "Who are you?"
"I'll tell you that in due time. I need to be assured of your assistance and protection."
"We'll do what we can, sir," Laura politely replied. Remington nodded his agreement. They wanted to hear this. Both were looking for an explanation of the events that plagued their return to the US.
The man considered this, then spoke. "Very well. My name is Michael Louris. I work for the US government by way of the British government, usually out of Europe. Occasionally, I take a job for the Russians, but I am not a traitor. I act on orders from my Washington handler, feeding the Russians false or misleading information with a bit of the real stuff thrown in to keep up my cover. The problem is that he has now disappeared. And he's the only one who knows my work for the Russians is really for our side.
"I know Stetson is after me, my contacts, and my Russian superior. He thinks I've gone over. He also thinks you're one of my contacts."
Steele stopped him. "Who's Stetson? Why does he think we're involved?"
"Lee Stetson, codename Scarecrow, works for the Agency. He's the gentleman you had the little row with last night."
Remington rubbed his jaw in remembrance, then repeated, "So why does he think we're one of your contacts? We've never met before, have we?"
"No, we haven't, but I have been following you. I almost caught up with you in Ireland, but Stetson was on my tail. I suppose he thinks I made contact."
Laura said, "He may have thought that before, but the woman with him..."
"The blonde or the brunette?" Louris asked.
"The brunette. She came here yesterday asking questions. She seemed satisfied with the answers and didn't try to detain us last night. I take it she's not hotel security."
"She's his partner, Amanda King. The blonde you saw at the airport is another agent who works with them from time to time. After Mrs. King left you, you two left, followed closely by Stetson, then her. She must not have had the chance to talk to him. Then you," he pointed at Steele, "jumped him. I don't know what they think now."
He stood and went to the window, nervously looking out.
"I have papers to prove all this, but there is a more pressing matter."
A knock on the door interrupted him. After seeing through the peephole that it was Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Louris went into the bedroom, closed all the curtains, looked under the bed, and then sat down on it.
"Don't tell them I'm here."
Laura opened the door and greeted Amanda. Lee and Remington eyed each other warily.
Laura broke the silence. "Who are you two? You're not hotel security."
Lee replied, "No, we're not." He waved an official-looking identification card at them. "We work for the INS. I'm Steadman, she's Keane."
"You're Lee Stetson and Amanda King of the Agency." Steele was done playing games with this guy.
Amanda sighed and looked at Lee. When he nodded, she told them the truth.
"The man I asked you about yesterday, Laura...may I call you Laura?...is Michael Shayne. He's a double agent who has been giving the Russians information on US weapons, agents, and codes for years."
"I still don't know anyone by that name."
Remington spoke up. "I know that name."
Laura asked, "You do?"
"Of course. Michael Shayne, Private Detective. Lloyd Nolan, Marjorie Weaver, Twentieth Century Fox, 1940. Nolan plays a confident, unpretentious private eye who must keep track of Weaver, who is a heavy gambler. This was before Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe made shamus a household word. There was a whole series of films. Hugh Beaumont took over the role in the late forties, but the character was never quite the same."
Laura could see they were perplexed by this response. "You'll have to excuse Remington. Old Hollywood is something of a disease with him."
Lee asked, slightly annoyed, "Do you know the guy or not?"
Before Lee could ask another question, a gunshot cracked nearby. They heard the thud of a body hitting the floor. Then there was nothing. They all rushed into the bedroom.
The man Remington and Laura knew as Michael Louris was on the floor, a red stain spreading on the carpet beneath him. His chest was a bloodied tangle of tissue and bits of his shirt.
Lee crouched by the body, studying it. Then he pointed to the door that led to the hall. "Is that door locked?"
Remington checked it, answering, "It's locked."
Lee thought aloud, "The door is locked. The window is intact. I don't see a gun, so it can't be self-inflicted. How did they get in?"
He wandered the room, searching for any clue. He spotted a small hole in the wallpaper and pried a bullet out of it, then turned to Remington and Laura.
"Would you care to revise your answer to our previous question?"
Laura asked, "Which question?"
"Do you know Michael Shayne?"
"The answer is still no, mate," Steele said.
To Amanda, Lee said, "He must not have told them anything."
He turned to face Steele and Laura. He announced, "This is Michael Shayne. Let's get him to the Agency medical examiner; then you two can explain his presence in your hotel room."
While they waited on the autopsy, the pair of detectives explained to the pair of spies all the happenings since they left Glen Cree for the airport. Both Remington and Laura deftly omitted Anthony Roselli.
"I told you they weren't spies," Amanda whispered to Lee.
"We'll have to see if Shayne was telling the truth about his, uh, activities." He turned to Laura and asked, "He didn't give you anything? A name? A meeting place?"
"All he said was his Washington superior had gone missing, and he had papers to prove it all."
"He said Washington? Not US or American? That's something, at least. Ok. Amanda, you and Laura go up to Q Bureau and get a list of agents who are missing, presumed dead, or even on vacation."
Amanda asked, "What are you going to do?"
"Steele and I will wait for the report while he tells me why he gave me three cracked ribs."
Remington Steele tugged his shirt cuffs back into position under his suit jacket. He motioned to a concerned Laura, indicating that he would be fine and that she should go.
Once they were gone, Lee prompted, "Well, Steele?"
Remington considered his answer for a moment, then said, "Thought you were someone else."
He paused again. Through clenched teeth, he spat, "Roselli."
"There is no 'and'. He's an American chap who needed his teeth knocked in."
"That's all you're going to tell me? Who was he: an old enemy, a client who owed you money, your wife's ex-boyfriend?"
Lee saw the detective tense up at the last one. He tried to calm his new friend.
"Look, we're going to see a lot of each other until we solve this. You can trust me. We might as well get to know each other."
Remington weighed this. After a moment, he said, "Just how much do you know about Laura and me?"
"You mean Norman Keyes, the INS, and so on? It's all in your file. Your marriage was declared legal and the case dropped."
"But you don't know about Roselli."
"I know you helped him clear himself of treason charges, but that's all. I'd like to hear the whole story."
"It's a long one." Steele paused. "I can trust you?"
Lee shrugged. "Why not?"
"I don't think so."
Remington got up and went down the bare, overlit hall to a well-used vending machine. He returned with a bag of pretzels. The two men sat in silence, waiting.
Lee took the opportunity to study Steele's face. He still thought he looked familiar. He tried to picture the detective with a moustache, then with a beard. When he tried a hat, he had it.
"You're Douglas Quintaine."
Remington Steele choked on his mouthful of pretzels.
The late afternoon sun was hanging low in the sky as Amanda sat at the computer in Q Bureau, tapping keys and squinting at the screen. Laura stood behind her, leafing through a binder.
"That takes care of the CIA, NSA, FBI, and the Agency. What's left?"
"Secret Service, Customs, INS, IRS, DEA, and a bunch of others that I've never heard of," Laura replied, consulting the binder.
"You're not supposed to have heard of them."
"I guess so."
"Let's run them all. Give me the code for the IRS." Laura did so, then Amanda went on, "Lee said he wanted a complete list, but I don't think he realized how long it would be. Once we have all the names, I'll cross-reference the list by location and a few other things. That might help narrow it down."
"Good idea," Laura said, then closed the binder and set it on the desk. She wandered around the small office, looking at bulletin boards, mug shots, the vault door, the odd philodendron, and ended up back at the desk.
"You don't have any pictures."
Amanda looked up from the monitor.
"I mean, you share an office with your husband, but the only photos in here are of informants, traitors, and visiting heads of state."
Amanda hit print before answering, "No one knows."
Laura nodded her acknowledgement. They both looked around the office, not knowing what to say. Then Mrs. King spoke.
"This will be done in a minute. Would you like a doughnut? I didn't have a chance for breakfast this morning or for lunch, so I feel a little off. You know, I never let the boys out of the house without breakfast. They're always in such a hurry, but I tell them, 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.' Lee is just like them. He never has more than coffee if he can help it. I've been trying..."
Her voice trailed off when she realized she was babbling. She turned to the printer.
"It's done. Let's take it down to Lee and Remington and see what's taking them so long."
In the warehouse, a computer screen displayed a brief flurry of messages, then beeped.
"Someone has accessed your file, but it wasn't for long enough to get a trace. The access lasted .08 seconds." The accent was Russian.
A worried American voice replied, "What do you think it means?"
"It was too short for anything of importance. It may have been a routine check or some kind of update."
"Yeah, or it could be someone's on to me."
"I doubt it, but, if you are worried, I will send Vassilly and Marko to the hospital."
The American headed for the door, but the Russian stopped him.
"You will remain here."
Lee stared at the stack of paper in Amanda's hands.
"Five hundred and forty-three."
Laura handed him four more pages and said, "We narrowed it down as best we could. There are still a lot."
Lee did a quick estimate of the number of names on the four new sheets and muttered, "I guess I should have expected this."
He leafed through them, then looked at his watch.
"What's taking the medical examiner so long?"
As he said it, a lab technician in a white coat appeared.
"Why don't you all come in? Dr. Lathrop has a real puzzler for you."
They followed the young man through the frosted glass doors and down another hallway. The hall ended at a pair of swinging stainless steel doors. The young man held one open as they all went through.
"Dr. Lathrop is to your left," he said and disappeared back out the doors.
Lee and Amanda rounded the corner and nodded their hellos to the familiar face. Remington Steele was expecting a grizzled, stooped old man with a pocket protector full of pens and thermometers. Dr. Lathrop was a leggy redhead with model's looks and a miniskirt not much longer than her lab coat. The sight stopped him in his tracks.
Laura elbowed him in the ribs as Lee made the introductions.
"Robbie said you've got a head-scratcher for us, Abby."
"I thought so when I sent him out. I think I have it now. You said that there was no way anyone could have gotten into the room and that there was no gun. Come over here and look at the body. It gets better.
"The chest is blown apart. There are bone fragments, muscle tissue, bits of his shirt. The usual for a gunshot wound. The projected angle of the shot and the amount of powder on him are not usual, however."
Lee ventured, "So it was self-inflicted."
"In order for it to be self-inflicted and be consistent with the bullet you found in the wall, there would have to be both an entrance and an exit wound. We've only got one of those."
"So we've got a bullet, no way in or out of the room, and an entrance wound."
"I didn't say it was an entrance wound."
Remington shared a startled look with Laura, then addressed the doctor.
"You're not saying the bullet went from inside his chest out, are you?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
Laura exclaimed, "That's impossible! I was up nights trying to figure out how that could be done."
Amanda asked, "You mean you've come up against this situation before?"
"Sort of. I went to a reunion for an agency I used to work for called Havenhurst. We were each supposed to relate our best murder case. Then he," she pointed emphatically at Remington, "showed up with this story about a man alone in a locked room who is shot, but the bullet went from inside out."
Dr. Lathrop was curious. "What was the answer?"
"There was no answer. He made it up to show off. It can't be done." She looked at Shayne's body. "At least I thought it couldn't be done."
"I was without an explanation, too. For a while."
"What have you got, Abby?" Lee asked.
She pulled the sheet covering the body back with a flourish and indicated several small bits of plastic and wire.
Laura picked up one of the larger bits with a pair of tweezers.
"There's lettering on this."
She squinted at it under the light, turning it to get a better angle. She declared, "It's a pacemaker."
Remington said to his wife, "You see, Laura? I told you to ponder it, let it seep into your subconscious, and you'd figure it out."
Laura's response was a playful glare, then she said, "Now we just have to find out who put it in."
Vassilly and Marko were inconspicuous in their slightly dingy orderly outfits, but one nurse watched them intently as they passed her station repeatedly pushing the same overfilled laundry cart. She had seen them several times before and thought the short one was cute.
Cardiologist David Steenwyk ignored the three of them as he stepped into the antiseptic hallway and locked his office door. He strode to the elevator and pushed the down button. After a moment, the doors opened. He stepped in.
The elevator deposited him in the dark parking garage on the lowest level of the building. He whistled as he walked to his shiny German automobile and used his key ring to disarm the alarm. As it beeped in compliance and he sat down behind the wheel, Vassilly and Marko got out of a second elevator and walked to their car a few rows away. They followed the doctor home at a discreet distance and parked under a streetlight. The men settled in for another night of surveillance.
The orders were to keep the American spies away from the doctor, but not to kill him unless absolutely necessary. Dr. Steenwyk was a valuable, if unwitting, member of the organization.
Lee had decided it was too late to start checking hospitals. He was right; after six, only the night staff was there. They needed to talk to cardiac surgeons who only worked nine to four-thirty if they could help it. He suggested they go their separate ways for the night and meet at the first hospital on the list in the morning.
Just before they reached their cars, Laura watched as Lee pulled Remington aside and whispered to him, then got in his car and drove off with Amanda.
As Remington held the Auburn's door open for Laura, he asked, "Dinner and a movie, Mrs. Steele?"
"What did Lee say to you?" Laura asked as they drove down the dark, nearly empty road to the restaurant Amanda had recommended.
"Do you really want to know?"
"Of course. If it's a lead, I should know."
"It's not a lead. What he said wasn't even case related," he said cryptically.
"Now I have to know," she said, her investigator's instincts kicking in. "What would he say to you, and only you, that's not case related?"
Remington pulled off in front of the restaurant and parked.
"He knows, Laura."
"He knows what?"
"Everything." His voice betrayed no worry or regret.
"Everything? You mean everything? As in five passports, fictional boss, illegal marriage?"
Laura thought about this for a moment, then asked, "So what did he say? Is he going to kick you out of the country when this is all over? Arrest us? What?"
Remington chuckled, "No, no. It's nothing like that. Lee is an ok chap. In fact, what he said makes me wish I hadn't done my Gentleman Jim impersonation with him."
"Gentleman Jim," she repeated, trying to figure out the situation.
"Gentleman Jim. Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, Warner Brothers, 1942."
"I know that. You took me to see it once. Will you just tell me what Lee said!"
Remington sucked in a breath and took her hand. "Lee said, in that blunt American way of his, 'Tell her, you idiot.'"
Laura glanced down at her shoes.
"Laura, he's right. I am not going to preface this with a lot of indecisive prattle: I am in love with you."
She looked up, almost as surprised as he was that he actually said it.
He took her face gently in both hands and said, "I think we've both known that for a long time."
"You're right. I just never thought I'd hear you say it." She paused, then looked him in the eyes. "I love you, too."
He kissed her with urgency. They stayed locked together, ignoring passers-by and the passage of time. When they separated, Remington spoke.
"Laura, I know you saw the ring last night."
"Yes." She was unsure of his tone.
"Amanda! We're going to be late," Lee called as he knotted his tie.
She emerged from their bedroom, dressed and ready, but looking a little green around the edges.
"I don't think last night's dinner agrees with me."
"It can't be food poisoning or I'd have it, too. I ate the same squid you did."
"Maybe it's just the thought that I ate squid."
"Probably," he said, helping her into her windbreaker.
They walked to the car.
Amanda said, "Next time, I'm picking the restaurant."
"Laura, come back to bed."
"Business before pleasure, Remington," she replied, picking up the telephone and dialing.
"At least you've stopped saying never mix business with pleasure," he muttered as he rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
Laura called five hospitals before she hit paydirt.
"This is Laura Westlake with the AMA," she said in her best nasal bureaucrat voice. "I'm conducting a study on the differences in cardiac care for federal employees versus the general population. Do you know of any physicians at your institution who deal regularly with government workers?"
The female voice on the other end said, "You know, Dr. Steenwyk was just telling me about some concerns he has on that very topic. He has to use a difference pacemaker for government people. I'm sure he'd love to talk to you."
"Does he have time today?"
"He's extremely busy today, except for a few minutes right at nine. That's probably too short notice for you."
"I'll be there. Thank you."
She replaced the receiver and rapped on the bathroom door.
"Hurry up in there."
Remington dropped Laura at her appointment, then met Lee and Amanda. While they were en route, Laura spoke to Dr. Steenwyk.
"Miss Westlake, what can I do for you?" David Steenwyk was young and handsome. His manner told Laura he was a charmer.
"It's Mrs. Westlake," Laura replied.
Steenwyk mumbled, "Oh."
Laura continued, "Your nurse tells me you have to use special pacemakers on government employees. Why is that?"
"Well, some federal office buildings have a higher concentration or potentially harmful microwaves and other radiation due to special lighting, computers, and so forth. I use specially shielded pacemakers for people in that situation."
"Does the shielding cause any problems?"
"The clinical tests I've reviewed say no, but I'm beginning to wonder. Two patients have died in the last six months from unknown causes."
"May I have their names?"
"I can't do that. Doctor-patient confidentiality, of course."
"Of course. Let me ask you this, then. Was one of them Michael Shayne? He sometimes goes by Michael Louris."
"Michael Louris? He's dead, too?"
"It was his death that prompted my investigation."
The doctor opened a file drawer.
"I might as well show you this." He held a file out to her. "I put his pacemaker in two months ago. There were no complications. Until now."
Laura flipped through the pages. When she came across one written in a different hand, she asked about it.
"Before we decide on a pacemaker, we run tests, one of which monitors the patient's heart rate for a few days. The patient keeps track of his activities, and we see if the cause for the low rate or irregular beat is stress-related. That way we can try to correct the cause as well as the symptom."
Out in the hall, Vassilly and Marko were passing the time pushing the laundry cart up and down, keeping the elevator doors in sight. When Lee, Amanda, and Remington disembarked en masse, they took notice and followed them, at a discreet distance, to the nurses' station.
To the duty nurse, Remington said, "We're colleagues of Laura Westlake. She's meeting with Dr. Steenwyk. Can you direct us to his office?"
Vassilly and Marko became instantly alarmed. They had been looking for Scarecrow or one of his usual associates. Vassilly pulled a small transmitter out of his pocket and pushed its red button.
Inside the office, Steenwyk's chair exploded. Laura dived for cover behind an oversized leather couch.
Remington shouted, "Laura!" as he ran toward the sound. He threw open the door and burst in. He waved his hands in front of his face as he coughed out the smoke that had filled the room. He spotted Laura behind the sofa and pulled her out of the room.
"Anyone else in there?" he asked between coughs.
"Just the doctor, but he caught the full blast," Laura replied, then she remembered the file. She ran back into the thickening smoke and scooped up the pages from where she had dropped them, then reappeared in the hall.
Marko saw the papers and pulled a gun out from under the stack of sheets in his laundry cart. Lee saw it and kicked it out of the Russian's hand just as he pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the ceiling, causing a shower of acoustic tile particles.
Meanwhile, Vassilly also retrieved his weapon from the cart. He let off two shots in Laura and Remington's direction, both of which went wide. When he saw Marko break free of Scarecrow's grasp and lunge at the papers, he dove into the open elevator and waved for Marko to hurry up.
Marko snatched the file from Laura, narrowly avoiding capture by both Remington and Lee. He was almost to the elevator when Amanda launched a gurney at him. He tumbled over it, but landed on his feet. Lee tackled him as the elevator doors closed and Vassilly escaped.
While Steele collared Marko and Lee sat on the floor nursing his aching ribs, Vassilly returned to the warehouse.
Tupolev looked him over, then demanded, "What happened to you? Report!"
"Sir, the doctor's files have fallen into the hands of Scarecrow. We were not able to prevent it. They also have Marko."
"Marko is better off than you. You know the penalty for failure."
"But sir," Vassilly pleaded, "we could not have anticipated the involvement of the Irishman and the other American woman."
Anthony Roselli stepped out of the shadows behind Tupolev and said, "What Irishman and American woman?"
"They are working with Scarecrow. The woman spoke to the doctor alone. We did not realize she was involved until the others came looking for her."
Roselli pulled Tupolev aside and said, "You have to let me take care of this."
Tupolev was not persuaded. "The Agency is still grasping at straws. They do not know who they are looking for. You know these others. What are their names?"
Roselli told him.
"They would immediately begin investigating you. That would put undue stress on the network."
"You're not going to have them killed, are you?" Roselli was many things, but he was not a murderer.
"No. The more they fumble around, the feebler the US intelligence services look. It is an added bonus."
"What if they find something? Shayne's papers haven't turned up anywhere. Let me go try to throw them off."
"It may come to that, but for now, you will do nothing. If they find evidence they later discover is false, it may put us all in more jeopardy than we are in now.
"Why are you suddenly so concerned, Mr. Roselli? Scarecrow has been after the European end for weeks. He got nowhere. He will get nowhere here."
"Laura and Steele know me. I could convince them I'm not a traitor and give them a scapegoat. I did it once already. Besides, I'm getting stir crazy cooped up in this place." He waved a hand at the dank surroundings.
"Very well. I will give you an assignment. Locate Shayne's papers, but do not go near the Americans. Stay out of sight."
Tupolev raised his voice. "Vassilly, you have another chance. Keep him in line." He pointed at Roselli and continued, "If he disobeys my orders, shoot him."
Lee slammed the door to the interrogation room and jabbed at the elevator button. He banged the empty notebook against his leg as he waited. He continued to do so as he rode to his floor and walked down the hallway to the office.
"I hope you guys found something," he said to the group.
Amanda commented, "I take it you didn't get much."
Lee held the blank notepad up for them to see. "All I got was his name and that he speaks with a Russian accent. Beyond that, he gave me a story about working in the hospital laundry to pay his way through graduate school. He, of course, had no idea how the guns got into his cart."
"Well, you can cheer up. This file is a goldmine."
"What have you got?"
Laura, who was holding the file, spoke. "First of all, Dr. Steenwyk was suspicious of the special pacemakers."
"Then why did he use them?"
"Orders of the hospital administrator. We called him. He said he received a special request from the CIA."
Amanda added, "When we checked that out, we got nothing. Someone who knows the system, but is outside it, set up the whole thing.
"Look at the pages where Shayne was keeping track of his activities. He's not very specific, but there are some interesting things."
Lee took the file from Laura.
"This covers, what, three days? He spends all his time on the road, at his office, and meeting someone with the initial R. It looks like it takes him about fifteen minutes by car from his office to the meeting place."
He pulled a street map out from a desk drawer and traced a finger across it. "That's a lot of ground to cover unless we can narrow it down."
Laura said, "I think we can. After every meeting, his heart rate goes way down. He has to rest 'by the Reflecting Pool' before driving back to the office. They must have been drugging him."
Lee returned to the map. "That cuts the circle down to just a small sector. Let's go."
"Wait a minute," Remington said. "They know Shayne is dead, so finding the meeting place would be useless."
"Maybe, but it's the only lead we have."
"I think we should try to find the papers to which he referred."
"Francine's already been through Shayne's apartment, office, and car, not to mention your hotel room and half the hotel. What's left?"
Everyone was quiet for a moment.
Laura reasoned aloud, "Shayne knew he was in trouble and came to us. He knew you," she gestured at Lee, "were after him. He was afraid for his life. He asked us for protection, but didn't give us the papers, probably as added insurance for himself."
Lee added, "If I were him, I'd put them where you two could find them in the event of my death."
"But you've been through the hotel. Like you said, what's left?"
Lee shook his head and raised a hand in defeat. When no one spoke, he said, "Let's go."
They drove in convoy along the Potomac to the Lincoln Memorial. Parking spaces were scarce due to the tourists, but they found several in front of a nearby safehouse that was off the usual sightseers' route.
The group walked to the Reflecting Pool. Remington sat down on the edge and looked into the murky water, then looked up at the Washington Monument. This town has a different feel to it when you're on the right side of the law, he thought.
Laura broke his chain of thought. "Let's each take a direction and have a look around. We'll meet back here in half an hour."
Lee said, "Someone should stay here. This is, after all, where Shayne spent a lot of time."
Remington, who was busy tossing coins into the water, volunteered.
Lee and Amanda walked away. Before Laura followed suit, she asked, "Are you ok? You're acting funny."
Remington smiled at the woman who was both his wife and bride-to-be. "I don't mean to, Laura. I was just thinking about the last time I was here."
"Oh? I thought I'd heard all the stories of your sordid past."
"There are too many for that to ever happen. I'll tell you about it some other time. For now, you'd better go have a look around."
She kissed him briefly and strode off. Remington took a slow tour around the pool, trying not to look suspicious as he searched for other people doing the same. When he got back to his starting point, he sat back down. The sun was in his eyes, so he patted his pockets looking for his sunglasses. Not finding them, he headed for the Auburn to get them.
As he rounded a corner, the car came into view. A bright pink parking ticket was wedged under the wiper. Remington collected his sunglasses and put them on, then freed the ticket. He stuffed it into a pocket and strolled back to the pool to wait. The ticket would give him something to read.
Once he had reinstalled himself on the short concrete wall that ringed the Reflecting Pool, he pulled out the ticket. It was an envelope with an address to which to send fines on one side and a long checklist of possible offenses on the other. None of the boxes was checked. Perplexed, he looked inside.
He had read and reread the note several times by the time the others trickled back. Lee was the last to return empty-handed.
He saw the ticket in Remington's hand and remarked, "I see Washington's finest found our cars."
"No, they just found mine. Look inside."
Lee took the envelope, read the note, and said, "What are we waiting for?"
Laura answered, "It says for him to go alone. I don't like that."
Lee reassured her. "This address is on campus. We can be nearby without being noticed. Summer classes are in session, so there are still people everywhere."
The address was an office on the seventh floor of a tall, academic-looking building with freshly painted cinderblock walls and tile floors that were in need of waxing.
Lee, Amanda, and Laura waited in a small room that contained only a table surrounded by eight chairs, but that had a good view of the door Remington was knocking on.
A young man, no more than twenty-two with shaggy, shoulder-length blond hair and a T-shirt that listed the top ten reasons to be a grad student, opened the door and showed him in to a sparsely furnished office, closing the door behind them.
"You here to see the doc?"
Steele made a guess. "That's right."
"She's in the computer lab. I'll go get her."
The young man disappeared into an adjoining room. Remington made himself comfortable in one of the chairs across from the desk.
The door reopened a moment later. Through it came a woman not much older than the graduate student. She had closely cropped chestnut hair above the darkest of brown eyes. She breezed across the room as Steele stood and extended a hand.
She shook it firmly, then took a step back and looked him up and down.
With a sparkle in her eye, she said, "Please tell me you're Remington Steele."
"Oh good." She smiled in delight.
"And you are?"
"I'm sorry," she said as she situated herself, not behind the desk, but in the chair next to him. "I'm Catherine Wilcox."
"That young man called you doc."
"Yes, well, that's my title. I just can't get Frank to call me Catherine. Some students can't get used to that. Occupational hazard, I guess."
"What is it you're a doctor of?"
She pointed at a diploma on the wall. "Ph.D. in mathematics."
He nodded. After a beat, she said, "I suppose we should get to it. I take it Mike's dead."
Remington's expression did not change.
"Listen, Mr. Steele. I'm not as practiced at the art of doubletalk as you must be. Mike said that if he ever stopped making our meeting, I was to continue to go, but spend my time looking for a white Auburn. When I found it, I was to contact you, and you alone, and tell you everything."
"Why only me?"
"Mike didn't think he could trust anyone else."
"Before you begin, may I bring in my colleagues?"
"Mike said to speak only to you."
"I'll just tell them anyway. It will save us all some time if they're here."
Dr. Wilcox thought about this for a moment, then asked, "Who are these colleagues of yours?"
"There are three of them: the two agents we're working with and my wife and associate, Laura."
"Your wife?" Dr. Wilcox let out a long sigh. "I should have known when Mike wouldn't tell me anything about you."
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
She gave him a slightly embarrassed smile, then explained, "When I first got into all this a few months ago, I thought it was great. You see, I'm a fan of spy movies, and I was thrilled to be living one out. You know: danger, excitement, intrigue."
"I can understand that."
"You can? Mike thought I was nuts, especially when he started talking about finding me protection in case he had to disappear. You know how it always goes. The cop, spy, or detective always falls for the woman he's protecting. When I saw you, well, I thought I'd hit the jackpot." She laughed and added, "I think I need to get out of the office more often."
Remington Steele laughed with her, then went to get everyone. He introduced them as they filed in through the narrow door. Lee came in last and shook the professor's hand.
"How do you do? I'm Catherine Wilcox."
She held his hand longer than he expected, causing him to turn just slightly red in embarrassment.
Remington let his friend squirm for a moment, then whispered something to Dr. Wilcox. He grinned as an exasperated look crossed her face and she muttered, "Aw hell."
While Lee introduced himself properly, Remington walked over to Laura.
"What was that all about?" she whispered.
"The good doctor is something of a movie buff."
Laura thought, not another one. "And so?"
"Shayne came to us to protect her as well as clear himself. She was hoping this would work out like the movies where the leading man fell in love with his charge."
"It's too bad for her that this is more like those films where the leading man falls for his female partner."
He put an arm around her waist. "I wouldn't have it any other way, my love," he whispered back, then gave Laura a quick kiss on the cheek.
Dr. Wilcox sat down behind her desk. Lee and Amanda took the two chairs in front of it while Remington and Laura remained standing.
Remington said, "Start from the beginning."
Dr. Wilcox fished a thick manila file folder out of her desk and placed it in front of her.
"Have you ever heard of Project Windfall?"
Lee could not believe his ears. "Windfall?"
"What's that?" Laura asked.
Lee answered, "It's a coding system so secret, they came up with a new classification for it. One that's about ten times better than top secret. Only three people at the Agency even know Project Windfall exists." He turned to Dr. Wilcox and asked, "What do you have to do with it?"
"I designed it."
"But Dr. Alan Babcock gave the briefing."
"Dr. Alan Babcock doesn't exist. Mike made him up and had a friend play the role.
"When I was a grad student, I liked to toy with unsolved problems. I still do. I never got anywhere with them, but it passed the little free time I had when I wasn't studying, teaching, or in class. One day while I was proctoring a test, I was working on one of my favorites and had a flash of inspiration. I showed the result to a professor friend of mine. The next day, Mike showed up at my office and my friend suddenly decided to take a sabbatical in Switzerland. You know, you people are everywhere.
"Mike moved me here, got me this job, and has been keeping me a secret ever since. When he was sent to London, he knew both our side and the Russians were following him. From what Mike told me, our side was after him for treason, and their side was after him for me."
She pushed the file folder across the desk.
"This is all my research."
Lee flipped through the pages of indecipherable symbols and tiny graphs, then asked, "Why did Shayne go to Steele? Why didn't he come to us?"
"Like I said, you guys were after him for being a double agent. He didn't think you would hear him out. He knew his life was in danger, so he went in search of someone to keep me out of the line of fire. That someone was Mr. Steele."
Remington said, "Shayne mentioned papers to us. If we can find them, maybe we can find Shayne's superior and clear this all up. Do you know where he put them?"
"Yes, I do. Mike wanted a place where Mr. Steele could find them, but where someone called Scarecrow couldn't."
Four heads turned toward her.
Lee asked cautiously, "Why didn't he want Scarecrow to find them?"
"Because the Russians have been tailing him everywhere for weeks waiting for him to get to Mike and therefore to me."
Remington had moved to the window and was watching the parking lot. Laura blocked the door to the computer lab while Lee drew his gun and locked the outer door.
Dr. Wilcox looked at them all nervously and asked, "What's going on?"
Amanda answered, "I think we're in trouble. I don't want to alarm you, but he's Scarecrow." She gestured at Lee.
"Alarm me? I'm beyond alarmed." She went to the window and peered out. "If they're not already in the building, they will be soon. Where's the car?"
Remington did his best to point out the Auburn. "It's obscured by a tree, but it's close to the door."
"I wish we could see it."
"That's where Mike hid his papers. If they have figured that out, it would explain why they're not up here shooting at us all. Somebody has to get down there."
"I think it's too late for that," Lee said as he opened the door a crack. "There are six of them, all armed. They're searching room by room. We have to go. Now."
"There's a stairwell at the back of the lab."
Dr. Wilcox opened the door and spoke to her graduate student, the lone occupant. "Frank, remember when I said there might be a time when I'd ask you to do something for me with no questions asked?"
"Well, this is it. Take the files with your research and mine down to the incinerator, then get out of here."
"But that's my thesis."
"Don't worry about that. I have backups. These copies must be destroyed."
He scooped up an armload of folders and headed for the stairwell door.
"Don't come back here until I contact you. Now get moving."
Frank ran down the steps. Dr. Wilcox led everyone to the stairs, but went up.
"There's roof access up here. We can go down the fire escape on the far side, away from the cars so no one will see us. Then it's up to you."
Once they were on the ground, Lee gave orders.
"Amanda, take Laura and Dr. Wilcox and get back to the Agency. Steele, you're with me. Let's go."
Lee and Remington ducked around the corner and ran along the building until they could see the car. There was a man in the open cockpit of the Auburn busily trying to hotwire it.
Remington said, "He won't be able to start it. I've stolen a few cars in my day, so I know how to make a car theft-proof."
The Auburn roared to life and sped off.
"You were saying?" Lee asked as he ran for the Corvette.
Both men got in, Lee at the wheel, and they tore after the stolen car. Lee had no problem keeping up, but no matter what he did, the man in the Auburn would not pull over. He called for backup.
A few minutes later, a helicopter appeared. It was painted to look like a local traffic copter, but when the side door slid open, it revealed several paratroopers in black fatigues behind a Gatling cannon. It dropped down next to the speeding cars.
The man in the Auburn knew he was outgunned and pulled off the road. The helicopter landed on the road, and the paratroopers dragged the man back to it.
Lee was having the same problems interrogating this prisoner as he had had with Marko. He gave up and retreated to Q Bureau. He met Francine on the way.
"Any luck finding the papers?"
Francine nodded. "We got them. Your friend wasn't very happy with having his car torn apart until Leatherneck told him he'd have it back as good as new by tomorrow."
"Where are they?"
"Amanda has them. They're coded, so it may take a while."
"I don't think so. Those documents were meant for Steele, so they'd have to be in a code a civilian would get, not one of ours."
Lee held the door open for Francine, and they both went in. Amanda and Dr. Wilcox were at the computer, but Remington and Laura were not in the room.
"Where are they?" Lee asked.
Amanda pointed at the vault. "I sent Laura in to find a file about twenty minutes ago. Remington followed her." With a smile, she added, "We haven't seen them since."
Francine crossed the room and stood by the vault door, listening. Then she moved back by Lee.
In a hushed voice, she commented, "Boy, that vault must be larger than I thought. You and Amanda got lost in there while back. Now the Steeles have gone missing in there."
Before Lee could retort, Laura appeared, file in hand, followed by Remington.
"That file system of yours is impossible to decipher. You could save a lot of time by color coding or something," Laura offered as explanation.
Lee looked at Remington, who was trying nonchalantly to wipe lipstick off himself, and said flatly, "Uh-huh."
Francine cleared her throat and announced, "Well, I just came to take Dr. Wilcox down to the briefing room. Shall we, doctor?"
As Dr. Wilcox rose, the telephone rang. Amanda answered it, listened for a moment, then said, "Ok. We'll be right there."
She turned to Remington. "That was Leatherneck. There's a problem with the car."
Laura saw Remington's jaw clench. "Let me take care of it. You'll just get upset. Amanda, why don't we walk Dr. Wilcox down, then you can show me the way to the car."
When they had gone, Lee asked, "How far did you get with Shayne's papers?"
"The computer's chewing on it. I'm afraid I'm no good with these machines, so you'll have to handle it."
"No problem." He leaned over the keyboard and pressed a few buttons. "By the way," he said as he sat down, "how did things go last night? Is that lipstick on your collar a good sign?"
Remington tugged at his collar. "Things went beautifully, Lee. Beautifully." The corners of his mouth went up, and he closed his eyes.
The computer beeped and began printing noisily. Remington's mind turned back to the case.
"Is that it?"
"We've got it. There's a lot here, so it'll be printing for a bit."
The telephone rang again. Lee was busy with the printer, so Remington picked it up.
"Steele here." He listened, then handed the phone to Lee and listened to his side of the conversation.
"Yes, Billy. It's printing now."
"We'll be there in a minute."
"Now? What's up?"
"Just tell me, Billy."
Remington frowned as Lee went quiet and the color drained from his face. He replaced the receiver without saying anything else.
"Lee, what's happened?"
Lee did not answer. He just sat there, both hands flat on the desk in front of him.
Remington repeated his question with insistence.
Lee stared straight ahead and said quietly, "We have to go see Billy. They're gone."
Lee lifted his head. "Amanda and Laura."
Billy had given this speech to Scarecrow before, but this time Lee was listening even less than usual.
"Scarecrow, you cannot go after them. You're too close to it. Listen to me for once. I'm sending Francine."
Remington's fists clenched and unclenched. He hissed, "Stetson, do something."
Billy returned, "There's nothing he can do."
"Yes, there is, Billy. You know I will not leave it like this. I can't. Tupolev has gone too far."
Billy said, almost to himself, "Somehow, I don't think it would matter to you who kidnapped them." Then he said, "Don't make me give you a direct order. Turn your file over to Francine and go home. Both of you."
"Billy, we have to do this, and we have to do it now."
"Stetson, listen to me. This is now a direct order. Turn over the papers and leave it to Francine."
The muscles in Lee's face tensed, then relaxed. He waved for Remington to follow him and walked out of Billy's office.
"I don't care what you do, Lee, but I'm going after her. Them."
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to do exactly what I did when this happened before. We're going to get the women we love back."
Steele felt slightly better as they tore the pages from the printer in Q Bureau.
Lee read through them. "We've got names. We've got addresses. Tupolev's headquarters are in a warehouse on the Potomac."
He stopped abruptly and handed a page to the detective. "You're not going to like this."
Remington read the lines slowly. With an icy calm in his voice, he said, "If you want him alive, don't give me a gun."
Francine burst through the door, followed by four very large, angry-looking men whose poorly cut jackets revealed the telltale bulge of small arms.
"Neither of you are going to have guns. Billy gave you an order."
"Francine, they've got Amanda and Laura. Let us go."
"I can't. It's against Agency policy and Billy's direct order."
"To hell with policy and Billy!" Lee yelled.
"It's against common sense!" Francine yelled back. "You two are in a fine state to mount a rescue mission. Give me the files."
One of the gorillas stepped forward.
Lee saw Remington discreetly put a piece of paper in his pocket and nod. Lee handed Francine the printout, then handed his gun to one of the men.
To her four muscle-bound escorts, she said, "You can go now, boys."
When they had lumbered out, she put a hand on each man's arm. "I'll get them back for you."
Lee's expression changed slightly. "No, you won't."
Her guard was down for a moment as she took in his statement. He coldly chopped her on the side of the neck. They dragged her into the vault, and then the two unarmed men stole out of the room.
"We've got to get down to the briefing room and find out where Dr. Wilcox hid her research. If we can't get our wives back on our own terms, we'll have to trade.
"We may have a problem getting there, though. The briefing room is near Billy's office. If he sees us, the whole thing is shot."
They took the elevator and stepped out from among the coats just down the hall from the main office.
Lee said out of the corner of his mouth, "You know where Billy's office is. The briefing room is on the opposite side of the bullpen. Somebody's going to miss Francine soon, so we better make this fast."
The shades were drawn on the full-length windows that made up one side of Billy's office. Lee and Remington walked across to the briefing room and entered it as if they belonged there. No one took notice.
Catherine Wilcox was sitting alone, filling out forms.
"Hi, fellas. What can I do for you? I'd rather talk to you than write down my grandmother's maiden name in triplicate, that's for sure, but I'll warn you. I'm just about talked out from all the questions."
Remington said, "We've just got one for you. We need a copy of your research. Can you tell us where one is?"
"Mr. Melrose has the one that the fictional Dr. Babcock gave him a while back. That's the only hard copy Frank didn't burn."
Remington glanced at Lee, and then his eyes went back to the doctor. "That was the only one? There are no others out there to be discovered by the wrong people?"
"Like I told Mr. Melrose, that's it."
"How much is there?" Lee asked. "Can you reproduce it for us?"
"There's too much," she sighed.
Her hand went up to her mouth. "Oh my gosh. I forgot about the disk. I'd better tell Mr. Melrose."
Lee almost cut her off. "We'll take care of it. Where is it?"
Catherine sensed something was amiss, but she was not sure exactly what it was. Her eyes traveled from Lee to Remington.
"Why do you want to know?"
Remington's eyes narrowed slightly.
Lee was losing patience.
"It's a matter of life or death."
"For who?" she demanded. "Mike's already dead. Frank was brought in. No one else knows about any of this."
"We'd rather not say."
Dr. Wilcox's eyes had not left Remington. She was watching the look on his face change subtly as her conversation with Lee went on.
"There's a secret compartment in a bookcase in my apartment. Third shelf up on the left."
Remington's voice was low and sincere. "Thank you."
Laura and Amanda were escorted brusquely into the cold, dark space. The men who accompanied them, one of whom was now sporting a black eye, wandered off into the shadows, leaving the women alone for a moment. While they looked around trying to decide which way to run, a switch was thrown with a loud clunk. Three banks of lights flooded the crate-filled warehouse with a sickly yellow glow.
"How nice it is to meet you, Mrs. Steele, Mrs. King."
Tupolev's face was bathed in the green light of the computer screen, giving his already pale face a devilish hue. He turned off the monitor and stood.
"Much as I'm sure I will enjoy the company of two such beautiful ladies, I do hope our time together is short. By now, your partners have figured out what has happened and what I want in exchange for your safe return. It is so refreshing to deal with such professionals. I despise having to waste time on ransom demands."
Amanda and Laura glanced at each other, but did not respond.
Tupolev ignored their silence. "I think it is best if we separate you. Mrs. King, you will remain with me."
A bolt of lightning split the night sky as Tupolev's men reappeared and herded Laura to the opposite side of the building, where they handcuffed her to a pipe.
Remington and Lee, dressed in pilfered commando fatigues, rushed across the empty parking lot and crouched in a doorway on the eastern side of the warehouse. Both were rainsoaked and cold.
"Keep an eye out while I open this," Lee said, pulling a set of lockpicks and wirecutters out of a pocket.
Remington complied. He moved out of the way and tried to find a spot where the waterfall coming down over the eaves was not constantly drenching him. Finally, he resigned himself to never being dry again and let the water run down his face.
Lee pocketed his toolkit and announced, "We're in." His hand went to the doorknob.
"Wait," Remington said. "I see a small problem."
"What? There were two security systems. I got them both."
"I think," the detective said as he pointed out a small screw set into the doorjamb, "that our Russian friends have come up with something new."
The screw was holding a very thin wire, no thicker than fishing line, that ran up the side of the building and disappeared.
Lee asked, "What do you think it is?"
"I've no idea."
"How about suggestions?"
"You cut it and I'll hold my breath."
Lee let out a short laugh. "Ok. Here goes."
He cut the wire and listened. No sirens went off and no flurry of activity was heard inside, so he turned the handle. They ducked inside and immediately climbed up to the second floor.
"They must be down at that end. I see lights." Lee pointed to the far end of the warehouse. "Let's go."
They picked their way among boxes, crates, and bins until they reached a point where the floor abruptly ended and opened onto the level below. They stayed in the shadows and peered down.
Lee whispered, "The man at the desk is Tupolev. Amanda is off to the right, surrounded by guards. I don't see Laura."
Remington was worried.
"Where is she? And where's Roselli? I don't like this."
They watched quietly for a minute. Remington leaned back against a box.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder.
"Did anyone ever tell you that you look good soaking wet?"
He spun around. "Laura!"
She put a finger to his lips. "Shh. I have to get back to my pipe in about two minutes, so listen carefully. The guards by Amanda leave her about every ten minutes to come check on me. Sometimes they all go for a walk; usually, it's just two. I've been free for almost an hour now, and they don't suspect a thing."
Lee asked, "Have you seen anyone else? These odds aren't good, and I don't want them to get any worse."
"I've been all through the warehouse. They're it." She pointed to the mob of muscle around Amanda just as two men broke from the group.
Laura gave Remington a brief kiss. "Be back in a minute."
She vanished down a ladder, then came back into view on the far side of the bleak office space below. Remington watched in amusement as she reattached her handcuffs, told off the guards who were used to it by now, then picked the cuffs with a bit of wire as soon as they were gone. She materialized in the loft once more.
"How's Amanda?" Lee asked.
"She's fine. They're just holding us waiting for you. Tupolev is very confident that you'll trade Dr. Wilcox's research for us."
"That's only the last resort, but I'll do it."
Lee turned back to the scene below.
"Do they ever leave her?"
"They did once. The computer beeped, and Tupolev called them all over. I couldn't hear what they said, but the goon squad seemed a little more on edge after that."
Remington looked worried. "When was that?"
"A minute or two before I found you."
"Lee, I think we have another problem. They know we're here. We shouldn't have cut that wire."
"So what are we going to do?" Laura asked.
Lee answered, "I don't know. Tupolev was smart to separate you. If they find one of you gone, they're still got the other, and you can't work together to plan an escape."
"But I'm already out. As long as they think they've still got me, you can rescue Amanda while I create a diversion."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I'll escape. They'll concentrate on me."
Remington added, "But you'll be long gone."
Lee said, "Right. The car is around the back of the next building. Use the car phone to call in the Marines."
Lee and Remington scrambled down the ladder, leaving Laura to find her own way out. She skirted a few boxes and wove among the crates. She had almost made it to the back stairs when a hand shot out, clamped onto her arm, and dragged her into the darkness. Laura found herself on the receiving end of an ardent kiss.
"Laura, what are you doing here?" Anthony Roselli asked after he released her and checked that no one saw them.
"Laura, whatever case you're on, you've got to drop it. You'll louse up the whole thing."
"Tony, what's going on? What have you got to do with all this?"
"I'm undercover. This is about to break wide open. I've got to get down there and see what's going on."
"You don't know?"
"Tupolev and his men kidnapped me and a friend of mine. Remington and another friend are going to get her right now."
Tony's eyebrows went up. "So it's not 'Mr. Steele' anymore."
"No, it's not. If he sees you, he will not be happy."
"And what about you? Are you happy to see me?"
"Look, Tony. You once said that if I could honestly say I have no feelings for you, you'd leave me alone."
Roselli shifted his weight. "I did."
"Well, I don't, so back off."
He studied her face.
"And if you ever kiss me again, Remington will be the least of your worries."
Laura poked him hard in the chest with a finger, and Tony backed off a step.
Amanda turned around as best she could with her hands cuffed to a ring in the wall.
"Lee, am I glad to see you," she whispered in relief. "Be careful. The guards will be back any minute."
"I doubt that," Lee said as he and Remington emerged from their position behind a crate filled with VCRs. "They'll be busy for a while."
Lee did not need to elaborate. While he quietly released his wife, a commotion began across the floor. Excuses and orders were given in loud Russian, and the guards ran off in several directions.
Lee ushered Amanda back behind the crate. The three headed for the door.
"Wait!" Amanda whispered. "What about Laura?"
Remington replied, "She's out in the car calling in the cavalry. Let's get going before you're missed as well."
They resumed their dash for the exit, but stopped abruptly as a Russian goon appeared in front of it. Lee turned on his heel and scanned for another door.
"Mr. Stetson! Mr. Steele!" Tupolev's voice reverberated through the warehouse. "Please do not waste time trying to escape. All the exits are manned, and you have no backup."
"Then we're even, Anatole, since you've got no bargaining chips," Lee shouted back.
Tupolev laughed. "Mr. Roselli!"
Anthony Roselli stepped to the loft railing, a surprised Laura held at arm's length in front of him.
"It's a pleasure to see you again, Steele," commented Tony.
Remington scowled and acknowledged, "Antony."
Roselli continued, "Well, gentlemen, we can play musical hostages all night, or we can make this easy. Give us the research, and we can all go our separate ways."
Lee whispered to Remington, "We're boxed in."
Remington replied, "We've been played for fools all evening. Laura never made it to the phone, so your friends are not going to appear out of the woodwork to help us."
"You're saying we have to hand over the disk."
"What else can we do?"
Tupolev shouted once more, "Mr. Stetson! Do you have the research?"
Lee cursed under his breath and yelled back, "Yes!"
"Then you will turn it over to me."
Lee stepped cautiously into the light and reached inside his shirt.
"Lee, how nice of you to cooperate, but you'll forgive me if I do not trust you."
Lee drew his hand out and raised his arms as the Russian went on, "Give the disk to Mrs. King. She will bring it here."
Scarecrow winced. "No way. Then you'll have them both again."
"The point is moot. I have the four of you right now."
Lee stepped back and handed the disk to Amanda. He hugged her and said, "Just do what he says and we'll all get out of this." He could tell she was scared, but up to the task.
"I hope so."
Amanda walked across the cold concrete with the disk held straight out. Tupolev remained near the desk and let her cross the entire distance.
"Please sit, Mrs. King." He waved at the desk chair. "You will verify the contents for me."
Amanda sat, noticing her purse as well as Laura's on the floor by the chair leg. She pushed the disk into the drive and pressed a few keys.
Screen after screen filled with diagrams and formulae. Satisfied, Tupolev ordered Amanda to eject the disk.
She fumbled as she plucked the disk from the computer. It fell to the floor, but she recovered it with only a look of warning from the Russian.
He snatched it from her and shouted a command in Russian, then in English.
Up in the loft, Roselli said, "Bye, Laura," and vanished.
The Russian doormen did the same, as did Tupolev. Laura stood there for a moment in confusion, then joined the others below.
"Aren't we going to follow them and get it back?" she asked.
Lee answered, "We have no idea where they're headed, but I'll call the Agency and get a team on it."
"We're already on it, Scarecrow." Billy Melrose's voice, its tone decidedly nonplussed, rang out.
A swarm of agents burst in.
"The four of you will be lucky if you're not tried for treason!"
Lee began, "Billy, we'll get it back. Tupolev can't get far."
Amanda interrupted, "Boy, I do hope we get him. Jamie will be awfully disappointed if he doesn't get that disk back."
Lee gave her a quizzical look. "What?"
"That disk that Mr. Tupolev just left with. Jamie needs it for a school project. If we don't get it back, I guess I'll have to buy him another one."
Laura, Lee, and Billy remained confused, but Remington had it.
"You switched the disks when you dropped it."
Amanda grinned. "Yup, I did. The real one's in my purse."
Lee turned to his boss. "Well, how about that, Billy?"
"Maybe you won't be tried for treason. But you will have to answer to Francine," Billy laughed, "because she wants your head."
He headed back outside to direct the teams.
"Amanda," Lee breathed, "do you know how dangerous that was? What if he'd caught the switch?"
She took his hands. "Well, he didn't. I couldn't let him get away with that information. The security of the whole country was at stake."
Lee hugged her again, ignoring the Steeles who were doing the same.
Lee asked, "Are you alright? You look exhausted."
"I'm fine. I just need to go home."
"I'll take you home on one condition: a doctor checks you out first."
"Do you know what I have to go through to get you to see a doctor?"
"I know, but just humor me. You haven't been feeling well lately, and this can't have helped."
Amanda patted his hand and said, "Ok."
Lee wrapped his arm around her, and they started for the car. Over his shoulder he called, "Hey, Steele. Get a room!"
Remington Steele ignored him.
Laura whispered, "That's a good idea."
"I've got some unfinished business to take care of first, Laura."
"What business?" Laura asked. "The Agency will get Tupolev, and Amanda has the disk."
She paused, then added, "They'll get Tony, too."
"I don't think so, Laura. He's still here," Remington stated.
"He wouldn't hang around. There are agents everywhere."
"Yes, but you're here. You don't think he'd just leave after finding you again, do you?"
"He might. I told him to back off."
"Of course you did, Laura. You also told me to do that many times, though not in so many words. I never listened."
He left Laura there and walked out into the middle of the room.
"Antony! Shall we do this the easy way," he shouted, "or the hard way?"
There was no answer except the pounding of rain on the metal roof.
"I can have fifty agents in here searching for you in one minute," Remington yelled. "Or we can end this like gentlemen. Give yourself up!"
There was still no answer, so Laura tried, "Listen to him, Tony. Make it easy on yourself."
Tony's calm voice came from behind them, startling them both.
"You're right. I should have run when I had the chance."
Remington said, "You were up in the loft. How did you get down here without us seeing you?"
"If you were really ex-CIA, you'd know."
To himself, Remington said, "Hmm. I'll have to ask Lee."
Laura exclaimed, "I don't believe you two! One minute you're ready to kill each other, and the next you're having a civilized conversation."
"It's a fine line, Laura," explained Remington. "A fine line."
"Steele was right about why I'm still here, Laura."
She asked, "And?"
"And, no matter what you said or what you must think of me now, there was something in your kiss that told me I needed to hang around."
An incredulous Remington stammered, "What kiss?"
Laura ignored him and said, "Tony, I told you. I have absolutely no interest in you. At all. I'm in love with Remington."
Remington repeated, "What kiss?"
This time, Tony ignored him. "And is he in love with you? It seems to me you weren't quite sure about him in Ireland."
"A lot has changed since you last saw us."
Laura held up the back of her left hand for Tony to see.
"That's not the ring you wore in Ireland," Tony observed.
"Roselli," seethed Remington, "have you ever heard of a jealous rage?"
Laura's attention turned back to her husband. She said, "There's no need for one."
Roselli agreed, "No, there's not. I've got my answer now." There was a pained look on his face.
"That you do, Antony. Now I want one. Why did you do it? You're a detestable chap, but I never would have figured you for treason."
"This all started as a legit undercover operation. Then Shayne came to me with this coding system, and the money got very, very big."
"I've stolen paintings worth $100 million. That still wouldn't be enough to make me betray what I believe in."
"Well, Steele, I guess that's the difference between you and me."
"There are a lot more differences than that," Laura added.
Remington met her gaze with a smile in his eyes.
Tony stuck his arms out, wrists together. "Time to be taken away in irons, I guess."
"I seem to have left my shackles in my other suit."
Remington and Laura escorted a sullen Anthony Roselli out into the rain and into the custody of the Agency.
"Doc, what's the word?" Lee asked as the tired-looking doctor emerged from the exam room.
The doctor took the time to swat Lee's feet, which were propped up on the doctor's overfilled desk, with his clipboard before saying, "This is the last time I come in at all hours for you."
"I know, I know. I owe you. How is she?"
"I was overreacting."
"What do you mean, 'Sort of?' Do I have a reason to overreact? You said she was fine."
"And she is."
"Quit toying with me, doc."
"At this hour, just be glad I'm not using you for target practice."
"I'll just ask Amanda."
Lee headed for the exam room door.
"You know, Stetson," the doctor said, "you do owe me. And, depending on how much you want me to keep quiet, you may owe me very big."
Lee, confused, entered the exam room and shut the door behind him.
She was sitting in the lone chair in the room, fidgeting with a fingernail. She looked up and smiled.
"So, how are you?"
"I'm good. The doctor says I'm good."
"Then what's going on? Doc said something about keeping quiet." Lee paused. "You didn't tell him, did you?"
"No, I didn't tell him."
"I think you should sit down."
Lee complied by perching on the sink.
"Amanda, what is going on?"
"I don't know how to say this."
"You're not ok?"
"I'm fine, Lee. Really."
"Amanda," Lee pleaded, "the suspense is killing me."
"You know, I've only had a minute to think about this. I remember what I said to Joe, but that was different."
Lee raised his eyebrows.
"Amanda, are you trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me?"
"I guess so."
He leapt off the sink, scooped up his wife, and spun her around.
The doctor was just opening to door to leave when he heard the whoop of joy come out of the other room. He shook his head and smiled, then left.
"Lee," Amanda laughed, "you've go to put me down. You'll hurt your ribs."
She poked him in the side. He winced and deposited her on the floor.
"Now we have to tell Billy and your mother."
"My mother. What am I going to say to her?"
"Don't worry about it. We'll tell her together. Billy, too." He thought for a moment, then added, "But you've got to let me tell Francine."
It was nearly three-thirty in the morning when Laura lowered her grimy body into the immense tubful of bubbles.
"Laura, have you seen my watch?" Remington called from the bedroom. "It wasn't with the rest of my clothes at the Agency."
She called back, "No, I haven't."
He nudged open the bathroom door with his foot while rummaging through a suitcase. "Sorry, Laura. What did you say?"
"I said I haven't seen it."
"What could I have done with it?" he asked, shutting the suitcase and turning. "I just can't..."
He stopped when he saw her in the bath.
"So that's what's taking you so long in here."
"I was going to take a shower, but, after today, I really needed the relaxation of a bath. I can get out now if you want the tub."
She made a show of preparing to lift herself out of the water.
"This is where you're supposed to tell me to stay in here and enjoy myself."
He sat on the edge of the tub and turned up the corners of his mouth.
"Not if you're going to get out and walk all the way over there to get your towel." He indicated the shelf across the room where she had left it.
She sat back down and splashed him. Laughing, he held up his hands in surrender.
"Easy, Laura. I've been damp enough for one day."
"I still don't see why you changed your clothes," she said, running her finger under the lapel of his jacket. "Like I said, you look good soaking wet."
Remington eyed her lasciviously.
"One thing I've learned through the years is not to accept flattery from a naked woman."
"You can never trust them. They're always up to something."
"You know, you could be right."
She grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him into the tub.