STEELE NOT QUITE STEELE
BY: LEAH B.
SUMMARY: This is my second attempt at RS fan fiction. This story takes place in the first season. Steele pursues a case that Laura has rejected.
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.
"Morning, morning, morning, Miss Wolf. Beautiful day, isn't it? Laura in?" Remington Steele practically glowed as he entered the offices that bore his name that Thursday morning.
"She's in your office with a new client," responded the office's secretary/receptionist, Bernice Fox. "And what are you so chipper about? Hit a squirrel on the way in to work?"
"Miss Wolf, I'm shocked," replied Steele. "To think I would take joy in harm befalling one of God's little furry creatures. Really. If you must know, I woke this morning with a feeling of optimism that I couldn't squelch if I wanted to. Remington Steele will make great things happen today."
"You have a mayor's crime luncheon with the police commissioner at noon. See if you can make being on time the "great thing" you do today. It would at least be an unusual thing," Miss Fox retorted without looking up at her "boss."
"Obviously, Miss Wolf," he came back without missing a beat, "your mind is too narrow, too constricted, too worn down by the humdrum of your everyday existence to envision true greatness."
"Whatever" she said impatiently, "And for the last time, it's FOX."
"Last time, Miss Wolf?" Steele smiled, "I really don't think so. Do you?"
"Arrgh," she exclaimed and threw a pen at him as he moved toward his office door. The pen fell harmlessly to the carpet at his side.
"No thank you, I have a pen," he said as he entered his office.
"Good morning, Miss Holt. I see you've gone ahead with the preliminaries. Excellent. Now, Mr. . . ."
"Brey. Michael Brey," said the man sitting in his office as they shook hands.
"Mr. Brey, it's a pleasure to meet you," Steel continued, "a true pleasure. I'm Remington Steele. How can I help?"
"As I've already told Miss Holt," Brey said, "I'm from Cleveland, Ohio."
"Bit distant to travel for a private investigator, isn't it?" Steele asked.
"Well, Mr. Steele," Brey continued, "I know people who know people, and I'm in need of a particular set of skills. And, well, I need the job done right. Your name came up. There isn't anything I won't do to fix this. I'm desperate."
"Indeed," Steele responded, "really. My name? All the way in Cleveland?" Steele glanced at Laura who only rolled her eyes.
"I've already told Mr. Brey we can't help him," Laura said.
"Miss Holt, might I speak to you in your office?" Steele inquired, then turned to Brey, "Won't be a moment."
"Certainly, Mr. Steele," Laura responded with false brightness as they made their way into her office.
"Miss Holt, he's desperate. He needs skills only Remington Steele can provide," Steele started.
"Look," she responded, "you don't even know what it's about, and I've already decided to reject the case."
"Why don't you tell me what it's about, and we'll consider it together, eh?" he went on.
"Why? Because it's not your decision," she said between clenched teeth.
"Just tell me what he wants," he pled, "where's the harm in that?"
"He says he's from Cleveland, Ohio," she said, her skepticism apparent in her tone.
"Laura, really. No one pretends to be from Cleveland," Steele replied.
She went on reluctantly. "His brother, Pat, got in a bit over his head and was involved in the theft of a very valuable piece of art."
"Art? Really?" His curiosity was piqued now, "what piece?"
"It's a Salvador Dali painting. The Battle of . . ." she hesitated.
"Tetuan?" he finished for her.
"Familiar with the painting, Mr. Steele?" she asked, eyebrows raised, suspicion in her voice.
"It's crossed my path once or twice," he answered, pulling on his ear. "So what does he want from Remington Steele?"
"He wants us to put it back," she explained.
"Why doesn't he just give it back himself?"
"Apparently, the brother has a fairly extensive criminal record, and Mr. Brey doesn't want him to go back to jail. The only result he can live with is for the painting to be returned and Pat not be connected with the theft," Laura said. "There's something about the whole arrangement that I don't trust."
Steele's eyes gleamed. "Laura, it's perfect. I'm sure I could . . ."
"It doesn't matter what you could do, Mr. Steele," she interrupted, "you aren't going to. Now, stop trying to play detective. Don't you have a committee meeting?"
"You know, Laura," he said, beginning to lose his temper, "I wouldn't have to play detective if you'd just let me be a real one."
"You can't," she sputtered, "you have no education in the area. No training."
"Laura, did you major in criminology at Stanford?" he asked.
"Security? Investigation? Detection?" he pressed, sensing he was onto something.
"No, of course not," she replied, her voice beginning to rise, "you know I majored in math."
"Precisely," he said with a look of victory, "all you brought to Havenhurst was a desire to be a detective, intelligence, a willingness to work hard, and an instinct for the job. What's to stop me from following in your footsteps?"
"Willingness to work hard?" she asked with a smirk.
"We don't have to be exactly alike, do we?" he said with a smile. "How about it, Miss Holt? Shape me. Mold me. Forcefully, roughly, if need be."
"Surely you're not suggesting that we apply to make Remington Steele an apprentice. You're supposed to be the head of the agency," she responded, her hands on her hips.
"We don't have to do anything official, Laura. Why can't you just teach me?"
"You function best in an advisory capacity," she said, sounding a bit unsure of herself.
"Really, I don't," he responded, frustration showing in his voice. "It's all getting a bit . . ."
She immediately went on the defensive. "You're free to leave, you know. There's nothing holding you here if the mantle of Remington Steele is getting a little tight."
He looked directly into her eyes. "Don't tempt me." What he saw there - mistrust, doubt - made him stop in his tracks. "You don't think I can be a real detective, do you Laura?" The day that had started so well was now irretrievably on the skids.
She refused to answer his question. "Look," she said with finality, "I'm not taking Mr. Brey's case, and you're simply not qualified to work on any of the other current cases. That's it." With that, she walked into Steele's office and bid Mike Brey goodbye. Steele stood in her office for a moment, as frustrated as he'd ever been in his life. What had he become that this woman could simply tell him "no" like he was six years old and he took it? Not bloody likely. He walked into the reception area to see Mr. Brey exiting the office and Laura heading toward Murphy's office. Their eyes met for a long moment, equally determined, but neither spoke. Then Steele made his way to the elevators and caught Brey.
"Mr. Brey," Steele said, "I'd like to help you."
"But your associate . . ." Brey started.
"What time do you leave town?" Steele asked.
"Not until 10:30 tonight."
"I'll meet you at your hotel at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the case."
"Great, Mr. Steele," Brey gushed, "I'm so relieved. I'm at the Hilton."
"Fine. Fine," Steele said as they shook hands. "See you then."
Steele returned to his office thinking he'd give Laura one more chance to listen to reason. Murphy was sitting on the sofa, and Laura came in with two cups of coffee in hand. "Thank you, Laura," Steele said, taking one of the cups. "So thoughtful. What's on our agenda?"
"That," Laura said as she grabbed the cup back from his hand, "is not for you."
"Oh," Steele replied with a surprised look. He quickly recovered and picked up Laura's notepad. "So, what are we working on?"
Laura snatched it back. "Murphy and I are working on a case. You are," she looked at her watch, "scheduled to meet with the mayor's committee on crime in 35 minutes. You'd better get going."
"Laura," he started to object, "not another long, dull gathering of people who like nothing better than to hear themselves talk."
"You should fit right in," she said with a smile. He glanced at Murphy who was wearing a large grin of his own and back at Laura who looked determined. She took him by the shoulders, turned him toward the door, gave him a push and said, "Now, go." As he stood there, still looking at her with a pleading expression, she pressed the intercom, "Bernice, please call Fred for Mr. Steele." As he walked through the door, head down in dejection, he heard Murphy behind him, "Alright, partner. I think we should pose as home buyers."
Steele stopped at the reception desk, a frown on his face, "Miss Wolf, please tell Laura that after the mayor's luncheon, I'll be heading out of town for a long weekend." He paused, a distracted look on his face. "I should be back on Monday."
"Is there a number where you can be reached?" Bernice asked. She couldn't imagine a circumstance in which they would actually need him, but she figured Laura might appreciate knowing where he was.
"Not really," Steele answered.
"We need to have some way of contacting you, if necessary," she insisted.
"Alright, Miss Wolf," he conceded. He gave her the number of Daniel's flat in London. Let Laura chew on that for a while. "Do try not to count the minutes until I return," he taunted as he disappeared through the door.
Laura came into the reception area a short while later. "Bernice, Murphy and I are leaving for the afternoon. When Mr. Steele returns, tell him . . ."
"He's not," Bernice interrupted.
Laura felt herself take an involuntary gulp of air. "What do you mean?"
"He asked me to tell you he's taking a long weekend, and he left a number," Bernice explained.
Laura looked at the number. "That's a London exchange."
"I know," Bernice answered, "but I got the feeling that wasn't really where he was going. And he said he'd probably be back Monday, but . . ."
"Oh?" Laura questioned.
"Yeah," Bernice went on, "he didn't volunteer the number. I made him give it to me. He seemed. . ."
"What?" Laura asked, starting to feel concerned.
"Low. For him, at least." Bernice sounded almost sympathetic.
"That's probably my fault," Laura explained, "I was a little hard on him."
"About what?" Bernice asked.
Laura went on slowly, "He wants to take a greater role in the agency. Do real detective work. I told him 'no'."
"Can I ask you something, Laura?" Bernice said a bit hesitantly, not sure she wanted to broach this subject.
"You know there's no love lost between our mystery man and me," Bernice started, "but, do you think he provides value to the agency?"
"What do you mean?" Laura asked.
Bernice went on, "Is he a valuable employee? Setting aside for a moment anything personal. Just on a business level."
"There is nothing personal," Laura assured her.
"I know. I know," Bernice nodded.
Laura replied slowly. "He is an asset. We get more and better press now than we've ever gotten. Clients love him. The bottom line has never been better."
Bernice decided to press the point. "Do you think he's happy?"
Laura looked flustered. "Happy? How should I know? I don't even know his name. How should I know what makes him happy?"
Bernice shook her head side to side. "Laura, that's not quite fair. I mean, do you think he's satisfied being Remington Steele?"
"No. Not entirely," Laura admitted.
"Again, strictly on a professional level," Bernice went on, "if I or Murphy came to you and said we wanted a different or bigger role in the agency, what would you do?"
Laura tried not to reject the question out of hand, although it was obvious where Bernice was going with this line of reasoning. "I'd listen and, if possible, find a way to make it work. Are you unhappy Bernice?"
"No, of course not," Bernice answered, a little annoyed that Laura was being flip. "You know it's not about me. I just don't see you treating him the same way, and I wonder why not?"
"It's totally different," Laura explained, "He wants to be a detective, but the public already thinks he is. I can't have him running around making rookie mistakes. People will see right through it and lose faith in Remington Steele. Then where will we be?"
Bernice wasn't quite willing to accept this explanation. "Do you ever make a mistake, Laura," she asked gently.
"Well, sure, " Laura answered, starting to sound a little annoyed, "but that's different."
"Look, Laura," Bernice finished, "It's your agency. I'm just trying to be a friend. I think he's frustrated and bored. No man will put up with that for long. And I don't quite see why, if you want him around, you don't find a way to make it work. You're very smart, Laura. I know you could if you wanted to."
"Hmmm," Laura murmured as she gathered her purse from her office and left with Murphy.
After the luncheon, Steele stopped by his flat to ring up Daniel.
"Hello, Harry," Daniel answered, "How are you?"
"Good, Daniel, good. Listen, mate, I need a favor."
"Certainly, Harry. What can I do for you?"
"Well, I gave the agency the number at your flat. So if anyone calls for me this weekend, could you say I'm in London but not available to take the call? You'll get the message to me."
"Where will you actually be?" Daniel asked.
"I'll be in Cleveland, Ohio, helping a client," Steele explained.
"A client? Won't Linda be with you then?"
"No, Daniel," Steele said hesitantly, "Laura decided not to take this case, but I'm going to work on it myself."
"Harry," Daniel said with surprise. There was a note of anxiety in Harry's voice that he hadn't heard since the younger man took on the role of Remington Steele. "It's not like you to defy Linda so directly. What is it?"
"It's nothing, Daniel, really. It's just that . . . I think I could really be Remington Steele. Really be a detective."
"So, what's the problem?"
"Laura won't let me. She's convinced it's best if I act as a figurehead. Not get directly involved in any cases, but I could do more. I know I could. I'm not incompetent."
"No, of course not, Harry. You are still perceived as one of the finest thieves in Europe. You could slip back into that life quite easily, you know."
"Don't think it hasn't crossed my mind, Daniel. I just want to prove to Laura that I can handle this case."
"Whatever you want, Harry," Daniel replied reassuringly.
Steele shifted his focus back to the task at hand. "By the way, do you have any contacts in Cleveland who would know about the Museum of Art?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Daniel said in a conspiratorial tone. Maybe it wasn't too late after all to rescue Harry from Linda's clutches
As the plane touched down at Hopkins International Airport, it occurred to Steel that he hadn't packed properly. It was the middle of March and it was snowing. He turned to Mike Brey. "Is this weather . . .uh . . . normal?"
"Sure, Mr. Steele," Brey said with a smile, "welcome to Cleveland."
It was Friday morning, and he and Mike weren't to meet the contact until 10 p.m., so Steele took the opportunity to get some sleep. Later that night, Steele entered a dark little joint called the Gray Wolf and took an empty seat at the bar. There were some small, rather grimy tables and the menu was written on a chalk board. "Handy," Steele thought to himself, "easier to change the offerings when the Board of Health citations start to roll in." The board seemed as if it was written in a foreign language - homemade pierogies? walleye? What is this stuff? The clientele was almost exclusively working class and Steele had to agree with Mike Brey that it seemed like the kind of place where people minded their own business. Or maybe not. A giant of a man sat down next to Steele and immediately started a conversation.
"Hey, buddy. Name's Bobby Alford. How ya doin'?" Bobby reached out a giant hand and grasped Steele's. Bobby had to go 6'5" and 260 lbs. with short blond hair and mischievous blue eyes.
"Hello," Steele said. "I'm John Robie."
Bobby turned to the bartender. "How about a boilermaker, Tommy? And one for John."
Steele started to object, "No thanks, really," but Bobby wouldn't hear of it.
"C'mon now. It's payday and I'm in the mood to buy."
Bobby immediately started the monologue that Steele dreaded. "So, you married, John? My wife, Maureen, she can be a real pain in the ass, but nobody better to have at your side on a cold winter night. You know what I mean?" Bobbie winked.
Steele glanced around, looking for a way to exit this conversation. "No," he started, "I'm not married."
"You're joking," Bobbie exclaimed. "Good looking guy like you? You must at least have a regular girl. Or. . ." Bobbie hesitated, "you're not," he gestured with his wrist.
"No," Steele smiled, "I like women."
"What then? Oh, I know. Too busy lovin' 'em and leavin' 'em to get tied down right? Felt that way myself for a while. But that was all before Maureen, damn her. Everything's different now. I'll tell ya, John, just lovin' 'em is a lot better."
"It's not that, exactly," Steele said slowly, thinking of Laura. Steele couldn't believe he was actually prolonging this conversation, but something about the atmosphere made him want to stay. Something easier about talking to a stranger. Anyway, Mike Brey hadn't arrived yet, so he had time to kill. "What makes it all different now?"
"Damned if I know," Bobby said, shaking his head. "One day, I was my own man, not much caring what anybody else thought, and the next, all that mattered to me was what Maureen thought. All I could think about was how to spend more time with her. Get her to like me, trust me. I never even wanted a family but every time I looked at Maureen, I just couldn't stand the thought of her having anybody's kids but mine. And all of a sudden, every other girl I met just seemed like a bad comparison." Bobby ordered another round of drinks. Steele didn't know whether it was lack of sleep or the unfamiliar drink, but he was already beginning to feel a little unsteady.
"Tell me something, Bobby, does she respect you?"
"Respect me? How do you mean?"
"Does she value your opinion? Does she ask what you think?"
"Not always," Bobby answered with a laugh. "In some areas, she couldn't care less what I think. I mean, we're a team. She's better at some things and I'm better at others." Bobby went on, "So what brings you to Cleveland, John? You don't seem like a native, if you don't mind my saying so."
"No, not at all." Steele leaned in and said, "I'm a private detective. Here on a case. All very hush, hush."
"Hey, look who's here," Bobby said at the approach of a woman in a business suit. "John, this is my sister, Jessie." Jessie was petite with straight, shoulder length blond hair and steady brown eyes. Steele guessed she was a few years younger than Bobby, and she somehow managed not to look out of place even though she was dressed more conservatively than anyone else in the Gray Wolf.
Jessie greeted Bobby with, "Hey, loser," and kissed him on the cheek. Bobby seemed a lot happier to see her than she was to see him. She looked at him, frowned, and shook her head, then turned to Steele. Her smile for Steele was genuine and warm. She shook his hand in a firm grip and said, "Hi. I hope my brother hasn't been too annoying."
"Pleased to meet you," Steele responded.
On hearing his accent, she paused for a moment, then turned back to Bobby. He moved over so that she could sit between him and Steele, and started before she could. "Here, let me get you a drink. Have a boilermaker with us." She made a face, and he went on, "All right. All right." He turned to Tommy, "You know what she wants."
Jessie and Tommy exchanged a smile. "Tommy, hi. How's Kate? I saw her and the kids last week at the Cavs game. Where were you?"
Steele turned to Bobby. "What's a Cav?"
"Basketball team, " Bobby answered.
"You know, Jessie," Tommy replied, "serving up good times to your brother and his friends."
"Ah. No rest for the wicked, huh?" Jessie laughed, "but don't you mean friend? There really can't be more than one."
Tommy laughed and turned away. He returned a few moments later with a glass of Chivas on the rocks and a separate glass of water. Jessie was already in conversation with Bobby. "So, I stopped by the house to give Matthew his present and wish him a happy birthday, and . . ."
"His birthday is tomorrow," Bobby said flatly.
"I know," Jessie went on, "but I'm going out of town in the morning and . . ."
"Vacation? Long trip?" Bobby asked.
"Short trip. Work," Jessie answered, "and I wanted to see him before I left. Anyway, Maureen asked me to stop up here on my way out and tell you to get your rear home." She turned to Steele, "Sorry to deprive you of what I'm sure was truly sparkling dialogue, but my brother really has to be going."
"Wait. Wait," Bobby objected, "you just got a drink. We'll finish these up and then I'll leave."
Jessie nodded and turned her attention to Steele in a way that made him nervous. "So, do you live in Cleveland?"
"No. I'm from Los Angeles."
"Oh. What brings you to our fair city?"
"Just a happy go lucky tourist out to see a bit of the world," Steele said with a grin.
Bobby added in a hushed tone, "He's a private detective. Here on a case."
Jessie looked skeptical. "Detective? There must be a hundred private investigators in Cleveland, some of them quite good. Why would someone bring in a detective all the way from LA? Who's your client?"
"I'm not really at liberty to say," Steele replied, but his eyes drifted to the door where Mike Brey had just entered.
Jessie followed his gaze. "Mike Brey is your client? He's connected. Well, not directly, but his brother, Pat, certainly is."
"Connected?" asked Bobby, looking puzzled.
"Ya know," Jessie smiled, "an 'I know people who know people' kind of guy. I'll make them an offer they can't refuse."
"Oh," Bobby said, understanding.
Jessie lifted her drink and looked at Steele. "What did you say your last name was?"
"I didn't," he replied. "It's Robie."
A smile crept slowly across her face, then she let out a guffaw and finished her drink. "John Robie, huh? Grace Kelly was just stunning in that picture, but Cary Grant was a little long in the tooth, don't you think? Well, good luck, whatever your name is." She hesitated and got a serious look on her face. "Be careful." She grinned, "Hate to lose a cute one." She turned to Bobby and poked him in the chest. "You. Go home. I'm calling Maureen from the car to tell her you're on your way." She leaned over to kiss her brother goodbye.
"Okay," Bobby agreed, "Have a safe trip."
She stopped. "Don't say that. It's a jinx."
"No," Bobby said, "it's like saying 'break a leg.' It's good."
"That's not analogous at all," Jessie argued, "you should say 'I hope your plane crashes' if that's what you're going for."
Bobby looked horrified and made the sign of the cross.
"You really are an ass," she laughed. "Bye," she waved to Steele.
As she left the bar, Bobby tried to apologize for his sister. "Sorry. She pretty much just says whatever she's thinking. Always been like that."
"No. No," Steele answered, "She's quite charming, really. What's her story?"
"Jessie?" Bobby answered, "Jessie is all about work."
"Really devoted to it, eh?"
"Yeah. I don't get it. She's smart, funny, not bad looking. And she can be real nice when she wants to. But no guy in sight. I mean, she goes out, but nothing lasts. And I always get the impression when she's talking to me that she's only using part of her brain for me and the rest is on something else altogether."
Steele smiled. "I know the type."
"Well, gotta go," Bobby laughed and walked out.
Steele stayed at the bar for a few minutes finishing his drink and sighed. He envied the easy banter between brother and sister. "When I have children," he thought, "I want them to get along like that." He pictured Laura, holding a little girl who had her soft brown hair and his blue eyes. He shook his head. "Children. What am I thinking?" But his chest felt tight all the same.
Steele spent Saturday reviewing the security specifications and site plans he'd received from Mike Brey's contact and looking up Daniels's source. By Sunday, he felt ready for a visit to the crime scene.
The area around the Cleveland Museum of Art was different than Steele had expected. It was all wide, tree-lined boulevards and had a very traditional feel to it. The Museum itself was a striking edifice with an enormous white pillared marble facade. Steele strolled through the galleries, stopping occasionally. It was fairly crowded for a Sunday afternoon, and he was able to blend in and make mental notes of entrances, exits, and security cameras without interruption. He carefully avoided the Dali exhibit and spent his time instead gazing at Monets and Caillebottes. As he entered a gallery virtually filled with "The Floor Scrapers" at various stages of development, he saw Jessie across the room with a tall, dark-haired man. She was in the middle of a story and she gestured somewhat wildly with her hands as she told it, her face animated. He smiled and caught her eye. She smiled back and continued her story.
Later, Steele heard a voice from behind him. "From the Gray Wolf to the Museum of Art. You are a well-traveled man, Mr. Robie."
He smiled and turned to find Jessie, sans date. "Worlds apart, are they?"
Well, miles anyway," she answered.
"Where's the good looking gentleman I saw you with earlier?" Steele asked.
"He went to collect our coats," Jessie explained.
"Date over so soon?"
She grimaced. "You get to the point where you can tell in the first ten minutes if it's going anywhere at all. Schmoey," she gestured vaguely in the direction of her date, "is not the one."
"That seems a little hasty."
"Not really," she said with a wry smile. "The good news is," she glanced at her watch, "if I can ditch him without too much fuss, I can get home in time for the late afternoon game of the tournament."
"The tournament?" he asked.
"Mr. Robie," Jessie exclaimed, "you didn't arrive in the states yesterday, did you? It's March madness." At his lost expression, she went on, "College basketball? The glorious field of 64?" He shrugged, a blank look on his face. "C'mon," Jessie said pleading, "there are some fine California teams participating this year. Don't tell me you've never heard of UCLA? USC? Stanford?"
"Stanford? Really?" Finally, a look of recognition.
"Good grief, Mr. Robie, you live in the USA now. Broaden your horizons a bit. Surely, you recognize sport beyond Arsenal."
She gave him an assessing look. "Is it your work for Mike Brey that brings you here?"
"Just an appreciation of the finer things," he responded.
She smiled. "It's too bad you didn't visit Cleveland a few weeks earlier. There was a Dali piece that was definitely worth seeing."
"Has it moved on to another city?" he asked innocently.
"To a private collection, I believe," she said, sure he already knew the circumstances. "There's a rumor that Pat Brey was questioned in connection with the . . . transaction."
"Really?" Steele responded, "Fascinating."
They looked up to see Jessie's date moving toward them.
"You will let him down gently, won't you?" Steele asked, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Don't worry," she grinned, "I've developed a certain expertise. The cat's on the roof, and we can't get her down."
Steele laughed out loud at this. She waved as she moved away. "Have fun, Mr. Robie. I'll be watching for reports of your exploits. Hopefully, you won't be mentioned by name."
It was Tuesday before he actually returned to work. She heard him walk in, practically yelling his greeting to Bernice. "Miss Wolf. I can tell by your expression that you are thrilled at my return. I feel much the same."
"Actually, I didn't think we'd ever see you again. When you weren't back yesterday, I have to admit I got my hopes up a little," Bernice retorted.
"Please, Miss Wolf, it's only a day. Is Miss Holt in?"
She gestured, "In her office."
"No doubt she will be equally overcome with emotion to see me."
"Yeah, right," Bernice responded, but she smiled knowing Laura would be relieved.
He knocked on Laura's door and walked in. "Good morning, Miss Holt. I see you're hard at work already. Splendid."
She put down the file she hadn't been reading and looked at her watch. "It's 10 a.m., Mr. Steele. How was your weekend?" She was dying to know but she refused to ask directly what he'd been doing or with whom.
"It was . . . invigorating."
"Invigorating," she questioned, "what was so invigorating?"
"Oh, you know, Laura. It's just good to get away sometimes."
"Away from?" She was pretty sure he'd wanted to get away from her, so she was a little afraid to ask.
"Oh, the hectic pace, the never ending demands, the endless commitments of Remington Steele."
"Bit much for you to show up at 10 a.m., go to lunch, and leave at 2 p.m.?"
"Come now, Miss Holt, being Remington Steele is far more than that. It's a 24 hour a day endeavor, really. I must make my every word and action fit the bigger than life public perception of the city's most famous sleuth."
How had she let him get so far off topic? "So, meet any interesting people this weekend?"
"Actually, yes," he answered and walked into his office, closing the door behind him.
Laura's mouth was open to continue, but he was gone. Bernice walked in from the reception area and handed Laura a thick envelope, "This just came, special delivery." There was no return address, and Laura didn't recognize the writing, but the post mark read "Cleveland, Ohio." Bernice left, and Laura opened the package. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled out a newspaper - Monday's edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer to be exact. "Who could be sending me this?" she wondered. A slip of paper fell to the floor, and as she picked it up, her thoughts turned to Mike Brey. Mr. Brey was from Cleveland. The typed note was short. It said simply -
If you don't want him, why not just make
a clean break of it? In any event, you're making
my task a bit easier.
Daniel Chalmers is sending me a copy of a Cleveland newspaper? I don't get it. As she scanned the front page of the paper, it began to become clear. The headline read:
DALI PAINTING MYSTERIOUSLY
RETURNED TO MUSEUM OF ART
"Why that . . ." Laura fumed as she read on.
Late last night, the Salvador Dali masterpiece, "Battle of Tetuan," stolen two weeks ago, reappeared in the Museum in the exact spot from which it had been removed. Museum security, considered among the best in the country, was bypassed, and not a single video camera captured the intruder on film. Cleveland's art community seems hesitant to look a gift horse in the mouth and is not pressing the investigation of the original theft. Police are baffled by this turn of events.
Laura paused to get her emotions under control, then picked up the paper and strolled as casually as she could into Mr. Steele's office. He was reading the paper - the Los Angeles paper - and drinking a cup of tea.
"Laura," he started, "come to share the details of a new case? Ask my opinion as to critical agency business? Offer yourself to me on the agency sofa?"
She couldn't suppress a small smile at that last remark. She sat on the edge of his desk, her legs hanging over the side and faced him. "I do want to talk to you about something."
Steele folded the paper he'd been reading and sat up straight in his chair. She looked lovely today. Tan wool skirt with a slit quite high up the side for business wear and a burgundy silk blouse that clung in all the right places. The collar dipped just low enough to catch a glimpse of a lace undergarment, and he was intrigued to say the least.
"Are you happy here?" she started.
"I'd be happier if you would agree to have dinner with me tonight."
She smiled. "Dinner sounds wonderful, but my question is purely professional."
"Of course. What time shall I pick you up?"
"Mr. Steele, please, I'm serious. Is your position here fulfilling for you?"
"I can think of several more . . .uhm . . .stimulating positions, but my current one is satisfactory." He let his eyes wander to her skirt, and more specifically the side slit.
Thinking his distraction could work to her advantage, she turned slightly so that her leg touched his. "See anyone you know this weekend?"
He knew she was digging and he should be more focused but it was damned difficult. "That doesn't sound like a purely professional question, Laura."
"An employer can take an interest in what her employee does on a weekend and still remain professional. See any sights this weekend?"
He pulled at his collar, thinking it was awfully warm in the office. "Found a charming pub," he answered, barely hearing himself speak. "Had something called a boilermaker." Was her skirt riding up a little? He could almost see . . .
She slid off the desk slowly and moved around behind him. She ran her hand along his arm and over his shoulders as she made her way around the chair. She let her hand linger on his neck, gently playing with his hair as she moved to sit on the arm of the chair. He couldn't take his eyes off her, and he began to feel a familiar tightness down below. He tried to get it under control. "Think about cool things," he told himself. Ice cream - he pictured Laura licking an ice cream cone slowly, sensuously. Ice cubes - he saw Laura holding a drink, swirling the ice slowly with her finger, taking a piece of ice and trailing it along her neck, down between her . . . "Damn. This is no good." Snow, sleet, that damned Cleveland weather - "okay, this is working."
He refocused his eyes on Laura, not sure how much time had passed. She was pointing to a newspaper she'd opened on his desk - the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He flinched slightly and caught the headline as he looked away. He forced his expression to go blank but not before she saw something in it that she found disturbing. What was it? "Damn him," she thought, "it's pride."
"Why Laura, what's this? Taken a sudden interest in Lake Erie? Midwestern values? Pike?" he asked innocently.
"Have you ever been to Cleveland?" she asked.
"No. I don't believe I have, although I'm sure it's quite quaint in its own way."
"Never been to the Cleveland Museum of Art?"
"No. Heard it's quite striking though."
"Any interesting pieces there?"
"Well, in the old days," he started, avoiding her eyes, "I kept up on such things, but now, I've no idea."
She tried another tack. She returned her hand to his neck to pull his head closer and balanced herself with her other hand on his chest. "I missed you this weekend," she whispered. She leaned in and gave him a very slow, deep kiss. She pulled back, a little breathless, and asked, "What was the name of the pub?"
"What pub?" he replied softly as he planted light kisses on her brow, her cheek, and made his way back to her lips.
"The charming pub you found this weekend," she murmured. She leaned in again for another kiss that started gently but soon progressed to something else entirely. As his lips worked over hers, she felt herself floating, her pulse racing, the office temperature rising of its own accord.
When they broke the kiss, he mumbled, "The Gray Wolf."
"What?" she responded, lost in his cobalt eyes.
"The pub," he whispered as she lowered her head for another kiss. His hand was on her waist, then her hip, then his thumb was running along the top of the slit in her skirt. Feeling herself nearing a total loss of control, she forced herself to move away from him. "I have an appointment," she said. "Pick me up at seven?"
"Sure," he murmured, his gaze raking over her.
She picked up the Cleveland paper and moved to her office, hoping he wouldn't follow. Given the line of his pants, she doubted he'd be getting up from his desk at all for a while. Back in her office, she paged through the paper. Her face broke into a wide grin as she saw it. An advertisement for 49 cent pierogies at a bar called the Grey Wolf. She had him. She wasn't sure yet exactly what she would do with him, but she was still smiling as she left for her appointment.
When Laura got home, there were a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates waiting for her. The note said simply, "I missed you too. Steele." Instead of picking her up, he sent Fred to bring Laura back to Steele's flat. Given what she had planned, Laura was pleased with this turn of events. As he let her in, Steele couldn't help but notice that Laura had brought along a satchel overflowing with files, but he didn't comment. As they sat down to dinner, Laura began a careful excavation. She knew. And he knew she knew. But neither was willing to confront the other openly.
"Did you see Mr. Chalmers this weekend?" she asked casually.
"Daniel? No, I didn't. Spoke to him last week though."
"Seems a shame to go all the way to London and not visit your friend."
"Who says I was in London?"
"You gave Bernice a number where you could be reached, remember?" she said with a smile. "It was a London number."
"Oh, that." Damn. He had entirely forgotten the exchange with Miss Wolf. "You're getting sloppy, old boy," he thought to himself. "Well, I wasn't far from there, but Daniel was in Paris this weekend," he said with a pained expression. If she'd called and spoken to Daniel, it was all over. Why the hell hadn't he called Daniel to check?
"Oh," she said, a disappointed expression on her face. Why the hell hadn't she had Bernice call the number? She decided to move a little closer to the target. "I saw in the Cleveland paper that the Dali painting that Mike Brey's brother stole was mysteriously returned."
"Mike Brey?" he asked with a quizzical expression, "Who's Mike . . . ah, the chap from last week. I suppose he must have found someone else to do the job then, eh?"
Maybe he wouldn't be able to resist taking credit, she mused. "Must have been someone extraordinary, don't you think? I assume security was increased after the initial theft. No ordinary thief could pull off such a job. It would take a real artist."
"Indeed," he said, quickly looking down to hide a smile. When he looked at her again, the smile was gone. "Do they have any leads at all?"
"No," she admitted. There it was again. That look in his eyes. He was just delighted with what he'd been able to accomplish.
As they cleared the table together, she tried once more, "Did you speak to Mike Brey at all after our meeting in your office?"
He paused. "I said goodbye at the elevators," he answered carefully and quickly changed the subject. "How about a movie? I've just gotten a copy of Charade. Cary Grant. Audrey Hepburn. Romance. Mystery. Deception. Intrigue. All the things that make life worth living."
"Uh uh," she shook her head. "We have work to do."
"Work?" he asked, remembering the satchel she'd carried in with her.
"We have a client meeting at 8 tomorrow," she explained, "and you need to be prepared. I've brought some file materials with me."
"Eight in the morning?" Steele asked with a scowl. His face brightened at the realization that she was bringing him in on a case from the start, without him having to force his way in. "Will Murphy be joining us?"
"No. It's just you and me on this one," she answered.
His smile broadened. They spent the next two hours pouring over historical information on the client, his business, his competitors, his security systems, and likely suspects. Finally, Steele leaned back and closed his eyes. Being Remington Steele could be a bit tedious, but at least he was working in close contact with Laura. He opened his eyes to see her rubbing hers. "Tired?" he asked. She nodded. "Here, turn around," he instructed. She turned away from him, and he began to massage her shoulders and neck.
"Mmm," she murmured, "that feels wonderful."
He gently worked her muscles, reveling in the freedom to touch her. Her hair smelled like . . . peaches. As she began to relax, he leaned in to sweep her hair aside and touch his lips to her neck. What a beautiful neck. To his surprise, she turned and put her arms around his shoulders, pulling him in for a slow, deep kiss. As she buried her hands in his hair, he leaned her back on the sofa and moved his hands from her waist upward. He stopped when he felt her tense. She pushed him gently up and away and gathered the files.
"Laura," he began, "I'm sorry."
She stopped and put her hand on his chest. "No. It's alright. It's more than alright." She brushed her lips against his. "It's just that we have an early meeting." She walked to the door and turned back to him with a smile, "Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Steele. Don't be late tomorrow."
He put his arms around her waist and held her for a long moment, lost in the warmth of her eyes. When they kissed, it was with the mutual understanding that they'd cleared a major hurdle. They each let a bit more show in the kiss than they intended - relief, joy, longing, and something else neither one was willing to name. "If I get everything I wish for, Laura . . . ." He left the rest unsaid, and lowered his head to hers for another long kiss. As he closed the door behind her, Steele let out the grin he'd been holding in all night. Somehow, his ploy had worked. Laura would give him a measure of independence now. Let him have a real say on cases. Really become Remington Steele.
As she made her way to the elevator, Laura felt as if her feet weren't even touching the ground. She was so glad he was back. She'd been closer to despair than she cared to admit. She'd have to keep him on a very short leash. Always under her or Murphy's watchful eye. And, of course, he'd have no real say in how they handled cases. He didn't have nearly the experience necessary for that. But it would be enough. He would stay.