STEELE 'O MY HEART XVII: FROM THE ORIGINAL STEELE
By: Susan Deborah Smith
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: Things come full-circle.
Disclaimer: This "Remington Steele" story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with "Remington Steele," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
It had been a slow morning. The Van Sant case had been wrapped up, and the Steeles were sequestered in their respective offices, writing reports.
Mildred, awaiting drafts of those reports, worked a crossword puzzle.
She looked up as the door opened to see a statuesque brunette stroll in. The woman cased the joint with quick eyes, then smiled.
"You're Mildred, aren't you?" she said.
Mildred raised her name plate and set it down again. "Mildred Krebs. Can I help you?"
"Laura told me all about you." The brunette stuck out her hand. "I'm Berniece. I used to have that job. Is Laura in?"
Berniece shook her head. "Let me surprise her." She stepped lightly over to the door, turned the knob and leaned in.
"Miss Holt," she said, in a rich contralto.
Laura looked up from a desk piled with papers. Astonished, she could do nothing but stare at Berniece; then she jumped up and threw her arms around her.
"Berniece!" she exclaimed. "Berniece! My God, I don't believe it! What are you doing here?"
"Checking up on you. What else?"
"God, you look great!" Laura pushed paperwork aside and sat on the edge of the desk. "This is such a shock! Tell me! Just in for a visit, or what?"
"Jack got a studio gig, working on an album. Could take a month, so we packed up the kids and came on out."
"This is terrific. I'm so glad to see you. How many are there now?"
"Just two. Still two," said Berniece. "Tony's three, and Tiffany's twenty two months."
"Quite a handful."
Laura tried to see out the door. "So where are they?"
"Jack took them over to his Aunt Rose. This visit is strictly girl talk." Berniece leaned against the file cabinet and crossed her arms on her chest, sizing Laura up. "So what about you? How are you doing? You look -- " She hesitated. "How should I put this? You look like there's one on the way."
Laura sat up straighter. "You mean it shows?"
"Only to the trained eye."
"January," said Laura. "Around my birthday."
"Congratulations!" said Berniece. "So, you married?" She grinned. "Of course you are. So who is he?"
Laura aimed her pencil at the door. Berniece turned around, then back.
Laura smiled and nodded.
"I don't believe it."
Extending her hand, Laura displayed the gold and platinum band.
Berniece whistled. "So when did all this happen?"
"Last year. We sent you an announcement."
"Bills I get. Wedding announcements -- mailman must take 'em home with him."
"I got a card from Remington Steele Investigations. But that wasn't too revealing."
"Berniece, I'm sorry. I thought we had the right address."
"Laura, don't worry. Every time Jack gets a gig, it's 'Honey, we're movin' uptown.' So we move two blocks. Big deal. I've moved twelve times in the last five years."
"But you're happy, aren't you?"
"He's the best, Laura. He really is."
"What about him?"
"The best," said Laura.
"This calls for a major lunch," said Berniece. "Let's go!"
Pulling her purse out of the drawer, Laura followed Berniece into the reception area.
"Have you met Berniece?" she asked Mildred.
"Briefly." Mildred's smile was warmer on this go-around.
"We're going to lunch," Berniece explained. "Cancel her meetings."
"Lots of catching up to do," Laura added.
"Mildred," interrupted a voice from the door. "What is this exactly?" Remington came over, waving a batch of receipts in their general direction.
Berniece leaned on the desk and gave him a smile. He was surprised to find himself looking into big, brown eyes that he seemed to remember from the distant past.
"Miss Wolfe?" he said, fishing.
"Close enough," she replied, straightening with a disgusted sigh.
He opened his arms to her. "My, my, my," he said. "Miss Wolfe. What are you doing back in the City of Angels, eh?"
"Looking up old friends. I must say, I'm surprised to see you here."
"Are you? Can't think why. Name's on the door, business to be done. Laura, can you make sense of this?"
"Berniece and I are going to lunch," Laura told him. "Put it on my desk; I'll have a look at it when I get back."
"Ah, very well. Nothing pressing I'm sure." He shrugged. "Have a nice lunch, then, ladies."
Laura stood on tiptoe to kiss him, then linked arms with Berniece and went out.
Remington watched after them. "One of the founding members of the firm, Mildred," he said.
"You mean, she was here before you were?"
"She knows everything?"
He was somewhat painfully aware of how much Miss Wolfe -- that is, Miss Foxe, or rather, Mrs. Violetti -- did know. "Miss Wolfe," he said, "carried on the illusion that Remington Steele existed for quite a while before I arrived on the scene to fill his shoes."
"Wow!" Mildred whistled. "Somehow I didn't picture her looking like that."
"Yes, Miss Wolfe always did prefer that rather obvious sort of glamour."
Laura and Berniece were soon seated at a table on the terrace of a Century City restaurant.
"So tell me everything," said Berniece, glancing cursorily at the menu.
"Every last detail."
"Every last one, huh?" Laura took a deep breath. "Well, we've had lots of adventures, a few brushes with death, plenty of close calls and endless misunderstandings. We also got married, and we've been living very happily ever after ever since."
"In spite of the close calls and endless misunderstandings?"
"Or because of them."
The waiter came by to leave drinks and take their order.
"So?" said Berniece.
"So that's it? You and Skeeziks on the old homestead living happily ever after?"
"More or less."
"So tell me," Berniece prompted. "More or less."
"Berniece, if I told you everything, we'd be here for days."
"I've got time. Come on, Laura. One story. One good story."
Laura was forced to recount the adventure wherein Mr. Steele had hired some actors to portray the principals in a fictitious case, with the intention of luring her away to a romantic weekend in San Francisco.
"God, you're kidding!" said Berniece.
"No, I'm not."
"He went to all that trouble, just to get you alone?"
"All that trouble."
"I hope you fell into his arms right there."
"No," said Laura. "Actually, the thing blew up in his face. It turned out that one of the actors he'd hired was actually in some trouble, involving the San Francisco police, numerous prominent citizens, the mob, God only knows what else -- "
"So you didn't fall into his arms right there."
"Two weeks after we were married."
"It's a long story."
"I told you, Laura. I've got time."
Berniece got the same story Remington's grandmother got, with the added fill-in of the truth in some areas. It made perfect sense to Berniece that the fake passport was at the heart of the difficulty, and that the imposture could have led to such a crisis. Knowing her former employers as she did, she could also comprehend very easily the personal difficulties which led to Remington hiring a hooker to pose as the bride, and to Laura finally also posing as the bride.
"So you were just going to fake it?" she suggested. "What do they call it, a 'civil marriages?' No romance, in other words, as we say."
"I don't know what I was going to do," said Laura. "I didn't want him to go, I didn't want somebody else to have him ..."
"He sorta grows on you, huh?"
"Yeah. The whole thing was just so typical. Nothing but lies and deception ..."
" ... and romance and mystery and excitement and everything you like."
"Yeah, that too."
"Okay. So you held him off for two weeks, is that it?"
"No. Actually, Immigration wanted proof of a honeymoon, so off we went, and we sort of reconciled ourselves to our lives and what we wanted from each other."
"Okay." Berniece settled down to her quiche, ready for romance.
"Except this Keyes character was still onto us and framed Mr. Steele for murder on what was supposed to be our wedding night, so I spent that one alone, and the next one, trying to dig up evidence, and the one after that I forget why, and then when we were back in L.A., ten more things went wrong, and we ended up in London, pursuing a case that turned out to be a fake. Meanwhile, this really really awful woman from out of his murky past shows up--"
"Not the blonde!"
"No, a brunette. About six and a half feet tall. And then Tony--"
"Tony? said Berniece, sniffing out a new complication.
"This guy I met in Mexico."
"On your honeymoon?"
"Sort of. Well, Tony turned out to be a CIA agent, and we got involved in this spy thing. So when we got to Ireland--"
"Mr. Steele inherited a castle there."
Berniece's eyes were glazing over. "Of course."
"In Ireland the spy thing got worse, and it turned out that Mr. Steele's father -- "
"Wait. Yo. Hold it. His father. His father was rich and left him a castle?"
"Oh, no, the Earl of Claridge left him the castle."
"Why would the Earl of Claridge leave him a castle?"
"For a while it looked like Remington was his son."
"But actually it was Daniel Chalmers."
"No! Remington's father."
"That guy that had the hots for your mother?"
"Was his dad?"
"So that's it."
"No, no, no. We're still working on why you didn't just drag him off into a corner somewhere and jump him."
"Well, you know how we are."
"And things never seemed right. Just when things were progressing very nicely, something would interrupt, or he'd do something, you know, in that inimitable way of his, something sneaky that he didn't bother to explain, and then Tony -- "
"The CIA guy?"
"Right. Tony didn't help matters."
"What did this Tony look like?"
"He looked good," said Laura.
"He thought I was ready for romance."
"I should think so, after two weeks."
"And then his father died."
"Wait. Wait, wait, wait. You kids are supposed to be on your honeymoon, but you haven't laid a hand on each other because of his father, the CIA, a murder frame, a dead earl, and some kind of a spy thing?"
"You never looked like a quitter to me, Laura."
Laura laughed. "The important thing is," she said, "we did actually manage to steal away by ourselves for awhile, and ..."
"It was worth it."
"Thank God!" Berniece signaled the waiter for another drink. "I used to watch you kids. I used to think, they'll either kill each other, or they won't."
"I shouldn't be surprised. Remember the time he stranded you in that museum, and we all thought held made off with the goods?"
"How's your mother?"
"Still in Connecticut? Lucky you!"
"Frances is out here, though. In Tarzana."
"You think that's bad, don't you?" said Berniece. "Wait'll the kid is born. You'll be so glad she's there. You'll be so glad to have someone to dump it on, just so you can go out to dinner. If I didn't have Jack's eight sisters, I'd go berserk."
"I haven't given that any thought."
"Really. It's great. Tarzana's just far enough away."
Laura managed to coax some details of New York life from Berniece, who nevertheless managed to turn the conversation around again.
"So," she said. "His real name's Chalmers?"
"No. It's Remington Steele."
"Come on, Laura. Give."
"He really is Remington Steele," Laura insisted. "But at least I know where he was born and why."
"So tell me."
"He was born in Dublin. His mother was an accountancy clerk name Mary Rose Riordan, who met Daniel Chalmers in London. Apparently they had quite a nice thing going when he was arrested for some stupid con. She went home to Ireland, but her father threw her out, so she moved to the city and found work, and her son was born there and she died."
"No," said Berniece, feeling sad all of a sudden.
"She had a rheumatic heart," Laura explained. "He was turned over to a foundling hospital, adopted, and I guess shunted around by people who didn't want him much. The Riordans tried to find him, and couldn't, and I guess Chalmers spent years trying to track him down, once he got out of prison."
"How'd you find this out?"
"Chalmers was dying. He confided in me, and I forced him to fess up to Steele. Then I was sick last year, and I filled the time doing legwork through the mail."
"Sick with what?" demanded Berniece.
"Toxic Shock Syndrome. Another long story."
"Why did I ever leave this town?" Berniece shook her head.
"Because you met a wonderful man and you were ready for a change."
"You got that right."
"Tell me some more about you," said Laura.
"Pales by comparison. Got married, two kids. Period. Nice, settled life."
"There must be more to it than that."
Berniece smiled. "Nope. I tell you, Laura, when I hit thirty, I was ready to settle down. Jack came along at just the right moment."
"Sometimes I do miss the crazed excitement of trying to keep Skeeziks from sticking his foot in it again." She grinned. "How's he doing?"
"Really well. He's turned into a pretty good detective. I still have to sit and listen to all these movie quotes, but half the time he's on target."
"And you are in love," Berniece pronounced. "For how long? six years? What's your secret?"
"Picked the right guy, I guess. Got lucky."
"There you go," said Laura. "I got lucky."