STEELE 'O MY HEART: ATTORNEY AT STEELE
By: Susan Deborah Smith
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.
Laura Steele was announced, and the door to an inner office was flung open.
"Laura!" William Westfield strode forward, extending both hands to her.
She clasped them, an uncertain smile on her face. "Thank you for seeing me, William."
He hadn't changed. His smile was still warm, his eyes still frank and twinkling. "Personal or professional, Laura," he told her, "you're always welcome."
* * *
She'd called and hung up three times before she felt able to explain, clearly, to the receptionist who she was and why she wanted to see Mr. Westfield.
"Holt," she said. "When he knew me, my name was Laura Holt."
There was a slew of immigration lawyers listed in the phone book; she could have chosen any of them. The attorney who handled legal matters for the agency could have suggested someone. Instead, she went to someone she knew, someone whose specialty was not immigration, whose specialty was criminal law, from both sides. She thought that maybe he could make a recommendation, one she could trust.
* * *
"You're always welcome," he said, with the same sincerity, the same smile she remembered.
Of course she'd expected a friendly reception from him, even though she knew she didn't deserve one. Not so long ago, she'd agreed to go away with him for a weekend - because she liked him? because she was angry with Steele? both? - and instead had left him sitting alone on the plane with barely an "I'm sorry."
As soon as Laura was seated in his office, someone brought in coffee; as soon as that someone was gone, she acquainted William with the facts - most of them - so just in case he had the wrong idea about her visit, he wouldn't hang onto it.
"You've been going to Immigration interviews without counsel?"
"Well, a few."
"Laura, Laura." William shook his head. "Would you go alone to an audit at the IRS?"
"Of course not."
"Same thing. INS is like the external arm of the Internal Revenue Service. Just as unreasonable, just as dangerous."
She smiled ruefully. "I'm getting the picture."
"What makes them so interested in you?"
"Oh," she said. "Well. Um." She turned her wedding ring around her finger. "It turned out that Mr. Steele - I mean, Remington's status was a bit - irregular."
He nodded. "And?"
"And - he blew off a couple of meetings - "
"And he was on the edge of deportation, so we got married."
"Laura, I'm no immigration expert, but I do know that marrying someone for the sole purpose of avoiding the laws of the United States is considered fraud."
"That wasn't the sole purpose."
"Of course not!" Laura was indignant.
William leaned back in his chair. "Just checking. Can't blame a guy for trying."
Laura sighed. She was still annoyed, but she couldn't help smiling. "Our first wedding was kind of fake," she explained. "It was an emergency, and Steele tends to be - a little creative with the facts, sometimes. But we are really married. We have a real license. We stood in a real church. He's my husband, and I can't take much more of this."
* * *
Of course she'd told her husband all about her plan, which occurred to her when they received yet another summons to come down to the Federal Building and meet with yet another representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"He's an immigration lawyer now?" Steele asked.
"No, but he's a famous lawyer," Laura replied. "That should scare them."
He looked at her with a measured gaze. "Wouldn't they be more frightened by someone who knows what he's doing?"
* * *
Remington had always had a pretty good idea of what had gone on in Laura's mind as the Westfield case drew to a close. He had screwed a few things up - he admitted that; he might even allow that he'd been a bit insensitive at times - and even though the whole Bureau of Investigative Services investigation had been a put up job, Laura hadn't known that, and neither had he, until the very end. It certainly looked as though his incompetence had cost the agency its license. It certainly looked as though he hadn't cared what happened to her. It certainly looked as though there was another fish in the sea who might be more of what she wanted than Remington Steele was turning out to be.
Laura confirmed it. "For a few minutes - a day - I thought he might be the one."
"A man you'd known a few hours - "
"Look, you have to admit things weren't going too well for us just then."
"Yes, but was that a reason to - "
"I came back to you, didn't I?" she interrupted. "And what did I find? An emptied out apartment, no word, no hint, no clue ... "
"You were going away with him."
"You didn't know that. Don't try to make it sound like I was wrong, like you were doing me any favors."
"I got the license back," he reminded her. "The thing that meant more to you than anything in the world."
"It was the only thing I had. I certainly didn't have you."
"You didn't want me, either. You made that very clear."
"Oh, for God's sake."
She turned and walked away, slamming the bedroom door, and the bathroom door, too, for good measure. When it began to look like she was camped out in there for the duration, he got undressed and lay down. After a while, the door opened. Laura came and sat on the edge of the bed.
"I was going to go away with him," she said, in the dark. "You know that. I was ready for a change - in some direction, and in so many ways William is - was - the kind of man I needed. But as I got on that plane, I realized how much I loved you, and how I needed to tell you that. So I came back. I went to your place to tell you, finally, that I wanted us to be together, really together, if you did, too. That I wanted to do something about our relationship. I had myself totally psyched up for it, ready for anything. But not - that. Not what I found. Which was nothing."
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
Laura didn't hear him. "And when I did find you," she went on, "it was like nothing had changed. We were right back to where we started."
"I wanted to give you something," he told her. "Something like what you wanted from Westfield. Something reliable. Something you could count on. A man with a name, with - "
"And you couldn't tell me. You couldn't write a little note to say that's what you were doing."
"What if I failed?" he asked, staring up at the ceiling. "I did fail."
"You did the best you could," she replied. "That's not failure."
"Sometimes it is."
"All I wanted was for you to tell me. 'I don't know who I am, Laura.' 'I've made up names all my life to hide it, Laura.' I wasn't asking for much."
"More than anyone else ever got from me," he offered. "But never quite enough."
* * *
Discussion of any subject, now, led them to recur to the one occupying the rest of their thoughts.
"What does he know about immigration?" Remington demanded as they went up the steps of the Hall of Records.
"Everyone who works for him is legal."
"What, the lady who does his cleaning?"
"Yes. And that's not so common around here, either, you know."
Both Remington and Mildred had been paying their cleaning ladies in cash for years. "Of course I know that," he snapped as Laura went to the desk, showed her I.D. and explained what they needed. "And I suppose that makes him enough of an expert to help us."
"He's nice," Laura insisted. "I thought, maybe, you might like him, too. We could be friends. We don't have enough ... " She didn't say "any." " ... friends."
"We've got plenty of friends," he replied. "There's Mildred - "
"Mildred's more like family," Laura countered. "So don't say - "
"The Pipers," he suggested, weakly.
"My point exactly."
It seemed to him that they were just fine as they were, having everything, lacking nothing. What could possibly be troubling Laura? All of a sudden, she wanted to go out and make friends? What for? To play mixed doubles sometimes? Remington admitted it might be a benefit to have a reliable set of someones to play against, so he asked,
"Is he married?"
"I don't think so."
Laura, a trained detective, would know for sure, so Remington assumed Westfield had made a play for her.
She replied, "Only a faint suggestion."
He supposed he couldn't blame a man for trying. Well, he could - he did - but the torch Laura was carrying seemed so dim.
"That's the last I'll hear about it, too," she added. "It's not like ... "
She didn't even have to say the name.
"No, of course not," he agreed, quickly. He had no desire to raise that spectre, no wish to go over that ground again.
"The Hendersons!" he said suddenly, later.
Laura lifted her head from the pillow.
"Friends of ours. Monroe and Janine."
The long silence proved him right.
He smiled in the dark. "Let's call them up tomorrow. Make a date for brunch on Sunday."
* * *
The subject wasn't quite closed; he knew that. He also knew that Laura seemed to think she'd persuaded him, because on her way out to check on a lead, she handed Westfield's card to Mildred.
"Tomorrow afternoon," Laura told her. "Or Monday. The later the better."
Remington leaned back against his desk and watched Mildred as she placed the call. She spoke briefly to the person on the other end, then wrote something in her planner. Then she hung up and went into Laura's office. After noting the same message on Laura's calendar, she came into his office.
He handed her his date book. "Does that name mean anything to you, Mildred?"
She stared at the open calendar. "What name, chief?"
Grabbing it out of her hands, he held it up and pointed to what she'd just written.
"Westfield?" She shrugged. "He's a lawyer."
"Never heard Mrs. Steele mention his name before?"
Slowly, she shook her head. Then she snapped her fingers. "That case! When we lost our license and then you took off."
She pushed herself up to sit on his desk. "Those were some pretty bad days."
They thought about those days for a moment. Then Mildred started to chuckle.
"Then he's just a case."
"The way you were carrying on," she explained, "for a minute there, I thought he might be some kind of old boyfriend of Mrs. Steele's."
Remington scowled at her.
"He is? Since when?" When he didn't answer, she said, "Well, so what? There's plenty of those around." She started ticking them off on her fingers. "There's the guy who runs the bank, and the guy at JPL, and that stock broker ... "
"Thank you, Mildred."
"It's not like he's the Italian Stallion or anything," she added, with a hearty guffaw.
He merely looked at her.
She seemed shocked. "Mr. Steele," she exclaimed. "You're not thinking - "
"Of course I am, Mildred," he said impatiently. "I'm thinking that Mrs. Steele has scared up some old love to sabotage my case with Immigration. Yes, thank you very much!"
He went around and flopped in his chair and stared out the window. He could feel her eyes on his back.
"Yeah, that sure sounds like Mrs. Steele, all right," she agreed. "So what's the real problem?"
"Okay," she surrendered. "I'm not mixing in."
"Aren't you? When did you adopt that policy?"
A while later, she returned with a cup of tea. Remington was still gazing at the view.
"Mrs. Steele thinks we haven't got enough friends, Mildred," he told her, accepting the cup.
"She's right, there," Mildred replied. "You can never have too many friends."
"We have plenty of friends! I told her so. But she persists in this ridiculous notion that Westfield and I can be chums."
"You never know."
"Yes. Well. All I can say is, I'd better not come home some night and find him sitting in my living room, wearing my dressing gown."
Mildred blinked. "You lost me."
"'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House'," he explained. "Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas. RKO. 1948. Happily married Cary Grant comes home one night to discover Melvyn Douglas comfortably ensconced in his living room."
"I remember that one!" She sighed and shook her head. "That Myrna Loy. Imagine, getting to choose between Cary Grant and Melvyn Douglas ... "
Remington's glare awoke her from her reverie.
"But wasn't it all pretty innocent?" she went on. "It's a little hazy, but wasn't there some explanation, like the car broke down, or the road was washed out, and that's why he had to stay the night? You know, the usual romantic comedy stuff."
"My point is," Remington interrupted, "Melvyn Douglas was an old beau of Myrna Loy's and they all tried to be friends and see where it got them!"
Mildred came around on another tack. "He's a lawyer. You two need a lawyer."
"He's not that kind of lawyer! I'll wager you know more about immigration matters than he does."
She patted his shoulder. "Maybe she just wants to show you off a little. Let the guy know how well she's done for herself. That college reunion's coming up fast. You gotta be prepared."
"For what? Chief! Come on! You're the guy who won her heart! You're not that banker or the guy from JPL. You're Remington Steele!" She straightened his lapels and dusted off his shoulders. "Now get out there and start acting like it!"
* * *
Sunday morning dawned, the kind of late winter day that sold people on California. The sun was bright, burning off the marine layer early, and by one o'clock, it was warm at the beach.
"We were beginning to worry about you, my friends," Monroe Henderson observed, rising as Laura and Remington approached. "It's not like you to be late. We thought perhaps the old heap had finally given up the ghost."
Laura gave him a hug and bent to air-kiss Janine.
As Remington held her chair for her, he replied, "That old heap is twice the car - "
"Twice," Monroe repeated. "Do you hear that, my love? The man claims his vehicle is twice - "
While the men continued their argument over who drove the better, sharper, flashier, more powerful car, Laura unfolded her napkin and took a sip of water.
"And how've you been?" Janine asked.
"Fine," Laura replied. "Fine. How are you?"
"Right as rain," Monroe added. "But what about this anniversary trip of yours? We haven't seen you since you returned. Some romantic destination, wasn't it? Newark? Liverpool? Salt Lake City?"
"Monroe, get a grip," said Janine. "You know it was Paris."
Monroe snapped his fingers. "Of course, my love, the very spot." He asked Laura, "How was Paris?"
Laura smiled. "Fine. Wonderful. Paris was wonderful."
"Even in such a damp and dreary a month as February?"
"Even in February."
"No tourists," Remington explained, reaching for Laura's hand. "Except us."
"Do you hear that, Monroe?" asked Janine. "Paris is fine, any time."
Monroe turned to his old friend and said, "I'm afraid your sterling example of husbandship is giving me a bad name, Mick. I find myself judged by a higher standard."
Remington frowned at this suggestion of Monroe's poor showing in the marriage game. "Janine, are you saying this man won't take you to Paris?"
Opening the menu, Mrs. Henderson replied, "That man won't take me to Vegas."
* * *
Before dessert arrived, Janine excused herself; Laura automatically rose and went along. She freshened her lipstick and studied herself in the mirror, vaguely dissatisfied.
"I keep after Monroe," Janine was saying. "Why don't we take a vacation? You know what he says to me?"
"You got it. Business. At least your Steele doesn't hand you that excuse."
Laura laughed and tucked her lipstick away. "Actually, I'm the one who's more likely to say that."
Janine glanced at her quizzically in the mirror as she washed her hands. "Well," she said finally, "at least you two can compromise. To hear him tell it, Monroe's life used to be one big vacation. Then we get married and now he decides to make up for it."
"The man loves his work," Laura observed.
"He loves me, too. Shouldn't that count for something?"
"Don't you think it does?"
"Oh, sure. I'm not complaining. It's just that a weekend in Mexico doesn't seem like much to ask. And what about when we have kids? Where's that weekend in Mexico then?"
"You could leave them with us," Laura told her, in an overflow of feminine sympathy.
Janine flashed a smile. "Girl, I'm going to hold you to that! I'll tell Monroe, baby, we are leaving these kids with the Steeles and heading for Mexico!"
A bit alarmed at the enthusiastic reception of her impulsive offer, Laura fished for details. "And that will be ... "
"Whenever. I'm not in any hurry to get fat and chase babies. But here's the latest." Janine blotted her lips on a tissue. "He wants me to quit my job and work with him. I said, honey, I love you dearly, but who could stand to be around anybody twenty-four hours a day? And of course you know what he had to say to that!"
"Laura and Mick?" Laura suggested.
"Laura and Mick," Janine confirmed. "I told him, I am not like that Laura Steele. That's one handsome man she's got, and me, too, but all day long, every day of the week? A girl needs to breathe. I don't have the patience. How do you do it?"
Laura started to respond, but ended up shrugging helplessly. Grabbing her purse off the counter, she replied, "I guess I've done it for so long, I can't imagine any other way."
Janine nodded sympathetically, probably thinking Laura was in some kind of a rut. "Not only that," she added, "my parents didn't put me through school to sell stereos and big screen TVs."
Laughter couldn't be repressed. That was the one thing Laura had in common with Janine Henderson: Both women were university graduates whose husbands had acquired a considerable store of unusual knowledge by traveling varied and sometimes dark and bumpy roads. She wasn't sure how much Janine knew about Monroe's past, or the origins of his friendship with Steele; for that matter, she wasn't sure how much Janine knew about Steele, or even, if Janine knew a lot herself, how much she thought Laura knew about Steele. They kept things nice and glossy, friendly, but on the surface.
As they came back out onto the terrace, Laura saw Monroe lean in and say something to Steele. Steele nodded and smiled and reached for the bottle of Chardonnay.
It was as if lightning had struck her. Laura had a flashback, a weird sense of déjà vu; she faltered, missed a step, caught her toe on something. Putting out her hands, she fell against Janine.
* * *
"Now there's a sight, eh, Mick?"
Remington, pouring more wine all around, glanced in the direction indicated and saw their lovely wives approaching. Janine certainly looked nice in a suit of butter yellow perfectly coordinated with her handbag and shoes, but Laura ... Laura was radiant in a spring frock she'd bought on their anniversary trip.
Monroe was right; he was a lucky man, indeed, and a smile broke out on his face.
Instead of smiling back, however, Laura stumbled and seemed to faint.
Out of his chair like a shot, Remington grabbed hold of her, Monroe taking over for Janine on the other side, and they guided her to her seat. The waiter, approaching with their desserts, hastily set down his tray and offered assistance, which Laura declined.
"Stupid," she was saying. "Just clumsy. Must've been a loose tile or something." She gulped down some water, then smiled as if it were nothing.
Janine fanned her with a church bulletin she'd pulled out of her purse. "You sure you're okay? You're not pregnant or something?"
"Oh, my God," said Laura. She shook her head and patted Remington's hand on her shoulder. "No. No! Nothing like that. It's nothing, really. I just tripped."
The worriers subsided, Remington last.
"I'm fine," she said, looking him straight in the eye.
He looked back at her, somewhat reassured. "The sight of me put you in mind of other things and you lost your footing, eh?"
Relaxing a little, she told him, "That must've been it."
"There we are, then," said Monroe. "Although I think it was you, Mick, who took a tumble at the sight of this lady. Remember, Janine, when I told you that a particular lady had caught my old friend, hook, line and sinker?"
"He told me that about eighteen times," Janine agreed.
"Have you been talking to my mother?" asked Laura.
"That's right, Monroe," said Remington, watching Laura dig into her chocolate mousse cake. "You and my mother-in-law use a striking similarity of imagery when discussing matters of the heart."
* * *
Instead of heading home, Steele turned the Auburn north, and they drove up the coast through Malibu and beyond. Laura tied her hair back with a scarf and leaned back, enjoying the sun on her face.
"Sure you're all right?" Steele asked, after about fifteen miles.
"Mmm, fine," she replied, laying her hand on his thigh.
"You're not - "
He guided the Auburn around a slower-moving car. "Positive?"
Steele could count on his fingers, so he gave up that line of questioning. To forestall further worry or speculation, she said, "I just - got distracted for a second, didn't look where I was going. I was thinking ... " She rolled down the window and put out her other hand to amuse herself with the laws of aerodynamics.
"About ... "
"Oh, I don't know. Monroe's wedding, I guess." She laughed a little to divert him, to lighten the mood. "That was about the weirdest forty eight hours I've ever spent."
"What? When we came back and found out we were dead?" He glanced over at her. "Yes, I'd say that ranks right up there. 'The Lost Weekend' if ever there was one."
* * *
After much persuasion, Steele finally agreed that her idea wasn't totally bad, so on Monday, after giving a final report to the current client, they drove downtown to the offices of William's office. He was completely professional when Laura introduced them, friendly, even.
"This second name," Steele said, looking at the business card, "I take it must be Mrs. Westfield."
William smiled and shook his head. "Ms. Westfield," he corrected. "My kid sister." Following Steele's train of thought, he said, "There is no Mrs. Westfield, at the moment. Unless, of course," he added, a twinkle in his eye, "you mean my mother."
"Ah, no, Westfield, not at all," Steele returned with a polite laugh. "Just checking the lay of the land here at Westfield, Westfield and Kaufman."
He glanced at Laura as if to suggest he'd actually found something out as William gestured to two comfortable leather chairs in front of his desk.
"Why are they paying so much attention to you?" William asked, getting down to business. "What do they have?"
Steele jumped right in. "They don't have anything except slander, suspicion and - "
" - some things that are a bit difficult to explain," Laura interrupted.
William looked up from his notepad. "Such as?"
"Look, William," said Laura, "we were together four years."
"More than four years," Steele put in.
"And we would have gotten married someday, anyway."
Steele smiled at her. "I love the way you say it with such conviction."
"So yes, I married him to keep him from being deported, but only because I couldn't conduct my business and our romance at long distance."
"You keep saying your business," William observed. "Isn't he - I mean, wasn't he - Didn't you say he was your boss?"
"He was never my boss." This with a certain vehemence.
"We're partners. From the beginning."
Clearly William was thinking of all the publicity that surrounded Remington Steele, the mental image he'd developed before he ever met the man. "But I thought - "
"A ruse," Steele explained with his trademark relaxed confidence. "To reassure a sexist public who might not have full confidence in a lady detective. Laura's expertise, my good name, a bit of PR and - "
"A legend is born."
"Well," William allowed. "It's not like you picked a stranger off the street."
Laura laughed uneasily at this and glanced at her husband.
When William asked, Steele handed over his Irish passport. The attorney flipped it open, studied it and the bits of paper stapled to it by INS.
"Paris," he said, reading one of the stamps.
William wrote something else on his pad. "This was issued after your marriage," he noted, handing it back.
"It's a long story," Laura replied.
* * *
Too late it had occurred to them that the fake US passport wouldn't get him back into the country, too late did they realize that he might be as stranded as if the INS had deported him in the first place. They'd been lured out of the country on a fabricated case, and it began to seem as if they'd done Immigration's work for them.
Fortunately, Mr. Steele's pivotal role in uncovering the KGB mole in the British secret service had won him wide media attention, and it occurred to Laura that Ireland, if asked, might be willing to claim him as a native son, even without a shred of documentation.
So he filled out the passport application form - "Date of birth?" he read, the first question that stymied him. "Put down what you think it is," Laura told him. "I'll put down what you think it is," he replied - and they went to Dublin to see how far they could get away with it. The minor functionary to whom they presented the forms had to fetch her boss; her boss had to consult his boss, who called the assistant secretary.
To preserve the formalities, the assistant secretary conferred with the second secretary, who conferred with the general secretary. None of these men needed to consult a history book to be reminded that Ireland after the Second World War, right up until recent memory, had lacked the wherewithal to investigate, let alone improve, the circumstances of every child like Mr. Steele.
"What was the name of the family you were placed with?" he was asked.
"I don't really remember," he answered. "It might have been Monahan. Or Murray. Or Kerry. Or Cullanan. Or Flynn. Or Boyle. Or McHugh. Or - "
The government man put up his hand in surrender. "Or all of 'em put together, I suppose."
Steele nodded. "And they weren't the only ones."
"But is there anyone who can remember you? The church where you were baptized?"
Laura was at her most glib and persuasive when describing the sad details of her husband's personal history, and began to recite the names of the various people who might have vouched for the circumstances of Mr. Steele's birth but who, alas, were dead. Not to mention Mr. Steele's discovery of the KGB plot and Mr. Steele's restoration of the reputation of the American agent and Mr. Steele's ...
"Are you sure you've never kissed the Blarney Stone, Mrs. Steele?" asked the general secretary of the Foreign Affairs department, who granted the passport himself.
"No," she replied, "but I've kissed Mr. Steele."
* * *
"You left the United States without advance parole," Westfield was saying, "but somehow it was granted retroactively? And on a passport that hadn't been issued at the time of your departure from the U.S.?"
Steele glanced at Laura. "Someone owed us a favour," he explained.
"Is that someone still able to - "
"No!" Laura exclaimed.
Both men were startled by her vehemence; at least one was pleased.
She reached across and took Steele's hand. "We don't need any more of that kind of help," she said. "I'm sure the facts of our case, properly presented, speak for themselves."
* * *
It couldn't hurt, having a high-powered attorney at their elbow, even one who didn't know all that much about the labyrinth of immigration. Laura knew they were being harassed; she'd talked to other couples who had never endured a visit from INS agents, who had never been interviewed separately, who were told to come back in a year, not every sixty days.
It was William's plan to put INS on their guard. If a hearing were scheduled, he'd go to work putting together a team of specialists. For now, he wanted to do Laura a favour, if she'd let him.
* * *
Laura thought, of course, that by now this ordeal would be over. After a year of marriage, she thought for sure they had proof enough to satisfy the most suspicious government investigator; long ago, they'd proved it to themselves. How many hurdles had they gotten over in the last thirteen months? Thirteen, she realized. Unlucky? Of course not.
It was just that every time INS reared its ugly head - always after sufficient time had passed to lull them into a false sense of security - every time she saw one of those official government envelopes in the mail, Laura couldn't keep her thoughts from racing back to the fiasco that set them on this road.
That Steele could even have contemplated a civil marriage - Laura was always careful to insert that word "civil"; he had sworn up and down that that's all it was going to be, a convenience, a necessity to avoid deportation - with someone else was a measure of how bad things had become between the two of them.
Whenever she gave it some thought, Laura could date the beginning of the decline in their relationship to Monroe Henderson's wedding. The weekend in New York, to which she'd agreed with some trepidation, had turned out to be exciting and romantic. The wedding itself was very nice, the reception afterward the most fun she could remember having in a long, long time.
Steele was a wonderful dancer, and this was a chance for him to show off. His pal Monroe was almost as good; Laura caught a glimpse of him every now and then, twirling his bride out and spinning her back. Everyone was having a great time.
With Steele's full attention, Laura had felt happy, free even, and the idea began to form that maybe this was it, maybe this was the corner and they were ready to turn it.
Accepting the need for a breather after yet another dance, Laura went back to their table while Steele fetched more champagne. After discreetly checking her makeup, she set her purse down on the floor and looked around. Champagne in hand, Steele turned from the bar and was stopped after a few steps by Monroe. The two men exchanged a few words, and Laura saw Steele's eyes flick in her direction. His expression changed ever so slightly and then changed back again. Laura blinked and Steele, catching her eye, lifted both glasses. He then made some other remark to his friend, who turned and gave Laura a smile and a little salute.
When he arrived with the champagne and sat and bent his head toward her to tell her he'd requested a particular number from the band, Laura couldn't be sure of what she'd seen, or what she thought she'd seen. She only knew that when they got back to the hotel, she was very tired, and when Steele said good night and ran his hand slowly down her back, she'd pressed herself against him and kissed him and then said good night, as usual.
Something about what Monroe said, whatever it was, and Laura could guess, had scared him, had, probably inadvertently, cast doubt on the status quo, made him think once again about the trap his life as Remington Steele might become. Monroe's wholesale shedding of a previous life, and wholehearted embrace of a new one, signified by his thriving business and his marriage, somehow began to represent at once a reproof of Steele's guardedness about commitment and a warning not to enter one unconfident.
Steele backed off, just a little, bit by tiny bit, and Laura, in response to this backing off, or even, she thought sometimes, beating herself over the head, in response only to that brief shadow she thought she'd seen in Steele's eyes, began to be more remote, just a little more distant every day until finally, they didn't know where they were anymore. They were together, sure, but together how? And for what? Just for business? Of course not. But they never made any progress.
In a way, the deportation crisis had been a good thing. It had forced them to break down a few barriers, anyway, but Laura yearned, still, for the time they'd lost, wished, hopelessly, that they hadn't had to start practically from scratch, wondered whether acting on her plan that night at the Plaza- to take him back to her room and screw his brains out - would have made things better or worse.
* * *
Remington unlocked the door and held it for her. As Laura went in, he grabbed her by the wrist, slammed the door, jerked her back and pinned her against the wall.
Surprised, she struggled briefly against his kiss, then gave herself up to it and encircled his neck with her arms. When he pulled back at last, she gazed at him with knitted brow; her dark eyes were humid and questioning.
"Just wanted to remind you who it is you're married to," he explained, "and who you're going to all this trouble for."
"I've never forgotten," she replied.
As he turned away, she plucked at his sleeve.
"Don't stop now," she told him.
* * *
He didn't stop, although he thought maybe he should have. Possibly it wasn't right, to make love to her when he wasn't sure whether what he was feeling was love, or desire, or anger, or even just plain annoyance. It was stupid, he thought, to make love to her not two hours after they'd been sitting in Westfield's office, when she might still have the attorney on her mind.
If she did, he didn't notice. She was the same Laura - his Laura - gasping out his name as she always did, murmuring the same kinds of things, touching him exactly the right way, moaning and writhing whenever he did the same for her. When they finally lay quietly together, exhausted, she relaxed and curled herself up against his strength, caressing him with the same tenderness, the same wandering, idle, delicate fingers he expected. At the moment, it was exactly what he needed.
And of course, it was just like Laura - his Laura - to blast this peace and reassurance by bringing up the name of Westfield as part of what she no doubt thought was a pleasant, innocuous remark.
"He's nice, isn't he?" she said, after dinner.
In fact, Remington's impression of the attorney as a decent sort of chap only made him more prone to agitation and soon after, when the dishes were in the dishwasher and he was locking up for the night, he found himself deliberately provocative.
"I didn't go back to him, though, did I?" Laura countered hotly. "When it looked like you were gone for good, I didn't go back and say, oh, you know what? I want you after all."
"Of course you didn't. Because no man would put up with that. Except me."
"Why did you then?"
She knew the answer to that, as well as he did. "What about this, then, eh?" he asked. "What if Felicia wanted to help us? What would you say to that?"
"That's different. Besides, what could she possibly - "
"Ah - " He held up a hand. "Just a minute. Let's say she could, somehow. What then?"
"You and she had something. A history together. She wants you back. She's always - "
"Oh, and Westfield? Westfield doesn't want you back?"
"We were never together!"
"But you might have been," he reminded her. "Think about it, Laura! The man comes into your life, and two days later, you're ready to get on a plane and go away with him for the weekend. I know you four years - four solid years - and you never did the same for me. And don't say that's different."
"It is. And if you can't figure it out - "
"You said he made a pass."
"It wasn't a pass."
"He just - It was a perfectly normal question, given the circumstances!"
"Which was - "
"Whether we're really married."
* * *
At an opportune moment - Mrs. Steele was out of the office somewhere - Mildred knocked on the doorjamb and glanced furtively around. "Chief?"
Mr. Steele looked up.
"I have the report you asked for."
"Excellent, Mildred, excellent! What have you found?"
She approached with the file. "William Westfield," she read. "Thirty seven years old - thirty eight next month - graduate of Duke University and Yale School of Law. Passed the bar and started at the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York; moved to L.A. in 1975. Assistant D.A. till 1982, in private practice since."
He considered this silently a moment. "Personal?"
Turning over another page, she said, "On the board of directors of a women's shelter, sponsors a community outreach program to introduce disadvantaged young people to the study of law, supports the local symphony and public television, plays golf once a month with some other Yale lawyers ... Never married."
"Gay?" Mr. Steele suggested hopefully.
Mildred looked at him reprovingly over her glasses. "Chief ... " she warned.
"Merely grasping at straws, Mildred. Grasping at straws."
* * *
William went with them to their appointment and sat working on notes for another case while they waited. Laura could see Steele watching William out of the corner of his eye; she looked at her watch and leaned against him. After a moment, he seemed to melt a little against her.
"Your mother called," he said after awhile. "Did I tell you? She wants us to come out for Easter."
"Great," she replied.
"I had Mildred book the tickets."
"Good," she said. "That's good." It was easier to face her mother with Steele by her side; her husband could cope with his mother-in-law very well, and Laura didn't have to.
When the INS agent called their names - "Laura Holt? Remington Steele?" - William was the one who stood up.
"I'm William Westfield," he explained, handing over his card. "I'll be representing Mr. and Mrs. Steele today."
Laura admitted considerable pleasure at seeing the INS official look a bit taken aback.
"This isn't a hearing," he said.
"It is a legal matter, regularizing Mr. Steele's status, and Mrs. Steele - that's Laura Steele; I don't think you have the update in your file, but I brought a copy of the registered change of name from - "
The official had to admit that he already had a copy of that document.
"You do?" William replied, as if surprised.
"Mr. Westfield?" said Laura. Putting her hand on Steele's thigh, she pushed herself out of the chair.
Steele got up, too.
"Another INS agent asked me about that. She seemed to think an official change of name was further evidence of fraud."
William turned back to the official and looked quite amazed. "Really? Why is that?"
The flustered agent pulled himself together. "Let's go to my office, shall we?" he suggested.
* * *
Once they were all seated in the cramped office, Westfield pulled out a calendar.
"Mr. and Mrs. Steele aren't due to apply for removal of Mr. Steele's conditional status until October," he observed, flipping pages back and forth. He looked up, directly at the government official. "Yet they've been called in for a number of interviews, virtually all of which go over the same territory and with the same result. They've also had their privacy violated on numerous occasions by INS agents making unannounced visits, both to their home and to their place of business. What is it, exactly, that you expect to find?"
The INS man hemmed and hawed, talked about this and that, but it was all old news: The circumstances of their wedding were highly suspicious, and it was the mission of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to uphold the laws of the United States.
It was a relief to let Westfield do most of the talking. Laura was right; it looked like the very name of Westfield was putting the fear of God into these minions of INS. After a brief discussion, in which the attorney pointed out that while the Steele wedding might have seemed a bit rushed, it was in fact the culmination of a relationship dating back a number of years, and cited numerous incidents of what seemed to be evidence of discrimination or harassment or both or something, the INS agent excused himself to discuss the case with his supervisor
When the official came back, he sat down at his desk and folded his hands. "Thank you for coming to see us today, Mrs. Steele. Mr. Steele, you'll receive a letter in October, reminding you to file form I-751 - that's the Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence - within ninety days of the second anniversary of your initial application for legal residence. Once the application has been processed, you'll be invited to another interview. Be prepared to present leases and deeds for any property you occupy as joint tenants or own as co-owners, as well as - " Here, he glanced at Laura. " - birth certificates of any children."
This seemed to be good news, a relief from surprise visits and inconvenient, immediate, urgent appointments, so Remington, in a spirit of congeniality, said, "We don't have any of those yet, but believe me, sir, we are trying."
"What!" Laura exclaimed.
"Children, Laura. I mean children."
Laura fixed him with a furious gaze. "Why are you telling him this?"
"Because it's true."
Her expression twisted.
Completely baffled, he added, "Isn't it?"
His wife blew out an angry breath. Then she folded her arms on her chest and turned pointedly away. The set of her shoulders spoke volumes.
He stared at her, then exchanged an uneasy glance with Westfield, who suddenly had reason to delve into his briefcase with no sign of coming up for air any time soon. The man from Immigration looked on curiously.
Remington turned to him and pleaded, "Now do you believe we're married?"
* * *
The trio was silent on their way out of the office, silent on their way down the elevator, silent as they left the building. Then Laura stopped abruptly and turned to Westfield.
"Thank you so much for your help, William," she said, shaking his hand firmly. "Remington and I really appreciate it." She offered her husband a sunny look before adding, "We'd like to get together some time - dinner, brunch, maybe? We'll call you."
"Great. I'll look forward to it."
"I'll be in the car, dear," she said to Remington, before turning on her heel and stomping off down the street.
"Some temper," Westfield observed.
Both men continued to watch the slender figure of Laura Steele recede in high dudgeon. It was only in the imagination that storm clouds gathered in her wake.
"I don't think you'll have any more trouble," Westfield said presently.
"I mean, with INS."
* * *
True to her word, Laura was waiting in the car. Her silence pushed out at him as he opened the door, enveloped him as he got in and started it up. They drove home in her silence, he watching the road with excessive care, she taking an acute interest in the scenery.
She said nothing in the elevator, nothing in the hall; she waited until they were both inside and the door was shut before she turned and demanded, "What the hell was that all about?"
"I should ask you the same thing. We were all wondering: Me, Westfield, the chap from the government ... "
"Why did you tell that man 'we're trying'." She gave his words a smarmy emphasis.
"Aren't we?" He followed her into the bedroom, where she was kicking off her shoes. Then she was in the bathroom, running water in the sink. "We are trying, aren't we?" he repeated. "Or at least, we're not trying not to."
Laura washed her hands.
"Have I missed something?" he asked her. "Laura - you haven't - Have you gone on the pill?"
She looked up.
"Of course not," he agreed. "You'd tell me, wouldn't you? I mean, you wouldn't hide it from me."
She turned off the water. "Of course I'd tell you!"
"Of course you would," he murmured. What was he thinking?
Laura probably wondered that herself. She threw down the towel and faced him. "It just sounds so pathetic!"
"'We're trying.' It sounds like we have to work at it. Like it's not working. Like we can't!"
"It does? That's what it sounds like?" To him, it seemed like the kind of thing lusty married people said, to make their ongoing passion sound respectable.
"Or like we're just doing it to have one more piece of evidence for your case. I don't know which is worse."
"But none of that's true," he countered. "Is it? We don't want a family to parade in front of the INS man. We just want - a family."
"We are a family," she interrupted. "You and me. And we want a baby. So if we have one, as the result of yet another wonderful, passionate night - then great! Right?" Her gaze was fierce and intense. "But those nights - " Her voice developed a faintly urgent, strangely desperate tone. " - don't have any other real purpose, except you and me. Do they?"
He blinked at her.
His lack of comprehension made her shrill. "You don't make love to me with the idea that ah ha! maybe tonight we'll make a baby."
"No. No, Laura," he answered soothingly. Sometimes, after, he'd hold her in his arms and wonder, but before, and in the moment, nothing could be further from his mind.
"That's what I mean," she insisted, relief showing in her face. "There are sad, pathetic people out there who - who have to time it, and wait, and then really work at it, and it just - It consumes them. That's not us."
Yet, Remington thought. That's what she left unspoken. Not us yet. After all, it had only been a few months since they'd decided to throw everything away and let nature take its course. They weren't in any big hurry; they had plenty of time.
"No, love," he agreed. He opened his arms to her, and she stepped into them, warily at first, then holding him tight. He smoothed her hair, laid his cheek against it, closed his eyes. "That's not us at all."
* * *
Laura insisted on paying William Westfield for his time - she hadn't meant for his help to be a favour; she didn't want him to think she was trading on something that wasn't even friendship.
"Then why choose me?" he asked.
"Because I knew you'd help us. I knew you could make them back off."
"There's a thousand lawyers in this town who could've done that."
Of course there was another reason. "I wondered," she said, "if you remembered me. If you hated me, or thought I was a jerk."
"I was angry," he admitted, "and disappointed. But even when I was angriest, I had an idea you were doing the right thing."
"It was a long time before I was sure I had. Mr. Steele and I - well, we've had our ups and downs."
"I think you mentioned that, once."
Laura laughed. "I saw your name, sometimes, in the paper, on some big case."
"I'd see yours, sometimes," he admitted, "and I'd wonder how you were doing. Of course, when you started being Laura Steele, I kind of had an idea."
They walked on a little, and Laura turned and looked back. Shading her eyes against the glare coming off the building, she waved in the general direction of the eleventh floor. "This probably sounds silly," she admitted, "but I was hoping we could maybe all be friends."
Now it was his turn to laugh.
"I mean," she went on, "there's no reason for us not to be."
"I can think of one or two," he told her.
"But not real ones," she insisted. "It's not like there was ever anything ... "
"There could have been," he reminded her.
"Yes," she agreed. "There could have been."
What could she say about it that wasn't in some way insulting? She'd chosen one man over another; how would she feel if Steele had chosen one of those bi - well, one of his former associates - over her? And then tried to explain it?
"I made the right choice, William," she told him finally. "If I hadn't, if I didn't think so, I couldn't be talking to you now. If I had the smallest doubt - "
"I know. If I thought you had any doubts, I wouldn't be here, either." Then he smacked his forehead. "What am I saying? Of course I would!"
Laura smiled and shook her head. "I wish," she said, "I had a best girl friend I could introduce you to. Someone who would really deserve you."
"Oh, I do all right on my own," William replied. "And any time I need help, my mother is right there with a list of available girls - women - who've recently ended unhappy marriages and are now ready to plow ahead into another."
* * *
The fee Westfield insisted upon, for the several hours he'd spent on their case, was to put Remington Steele Investigations on retainer for his firm. He and his partners weren't exactly satisfied with the service they'd received from the various agencies they'd used in the past, but William had been hesitant to call the Steele agency, he confessed, because he hadn't wanted her to think, or her husband to think ...
Remington appreciated this candor. It helped when things were up front. "Do you mean to say," he demanded, "that for the last two and a half years, Remington Steele Investigations could have been reaping the benefits of an association with your firm? Laura, are you as wounded as I am?"
"Probably not." She looked up at him in a way he found very reassuring, like that cheerful, casual wave she'd sent up from the plaza below. Just a wave, not like she thought he was watching, but if he was, just to let him know it was okay.
Westfield reached across the desk. "Good working with you, Steele. As soon as we have something, we'll give you a call."
"Excellent, Westfield, excellent," Remington replied. Possibly he was laying it on a little thick; Laura rolled her eyes. "Looking forward to it."