Deja Vu, Steele
"Laura, I'm telling you that MacKensie is our best chance to get a lead on whoever is behind these art thefts."
"And I told you, we will not do business with the mob!"
The man called Remington Steele looked heavenward as he paced back and forth across the carpet of his Century City office. Before him was his associate and creator, Laura Holt, leaning against the front of Steele's desk, arms folded, in a pose that reflected her unhappy frame of mind.
"Do you know what I had to go through to get a meeting with MacKensie?"
"Do you know what I had to go through to build the reputation of this agency?" she countered. "I will not have you ruin that with one of your 'associations'."
Steele was boiling. "I was under the impression our client was the first consideration. You don't believe Freddie actually stole that Renoir?"
"Of course not," she replied, getting just as angry as he was. "But there is a better way to learn who did without making a deal with organized crime!"
"Laura, do you really believe I would put the agency at risk?" he asked, looking at her intently. She hesitated. "I see you do!" he exclaimed. He turned and grabbed his overcoat. "Then I leave it to you. I have a meeting to attend."
"I forbid it!" she cried.
"You heard me."
"No," he replied with a cold stare. "I don't think I did." As he looked at her for a moment, his expression softened momentarily. "Laura, come with me," he asked.
She shook her head. "I can't do that," she replied. "It's not only unethical and illegal, it's a waste of time. The mob isn't going to tell you who was behind those art thefts."
"We'll never know standing here," he returned and headed purposefully for the front door.
"Go on!" she cried, furious. "Ruin everything I've worked to build! Leave and never come back. See if I care!"
He only hesitated once, just outside the door as he offered her one last look. That picture of his face would be forever burned into Laura Holt's mind. The fire in those blue eyes that mirrored his determination, but with a hint of sadness just before he turned and disappeared. No, she would never forget that moment in time, because it was the last time Laura was to see Remington Steele alive.
It was two o'clock in the morning and it was pouring rain as Laura Holt followed the police lieutenant who had called her down to this alley in the less desirable part of town. It was all she could do to keep walking after the policeman. She wanted desperately to run away. Dimly, she realized the lieutenant was talking to her.
"...and we feel it was a planned hit by a rival of MacKensie's in the organization. Someone must have leaked the information that MacKensie was meeting with Steele. It gave them a chance to hit him without his usual security." He stopped and Laura realized they were standing before two blanket covered mounds. "This is not going to be pleasant for you, Miss Holt. Perhaps there is someone else who could..."
She shook her head. "No, I have to know."
"All right," he replied, then putting his arm around Laura for support, he nodded grimly at a uniformed officer who lifted the blanket off one mound.
Laura stared in horror at the sight before her. The familiar tan raincoat was soaked in blood. As the blanket has been removed, one side of the coat fell away to reveal the white shirt underneath was spotted with red. Her heart pounded so hard she was sure it would burst as her eyes travelled at last up to his face. It was untouched except for a trace of blood at the corner of the mouth that was being washed away by the rain even as she watched.
Finally her gaze moved to his eyes. They were open in death and the fiery blue of just a few short hours ago had disappeared. They were empty now--clouded over so that they seemed gray-white. Cold. Vacant. There was no trace of the spark that had made them the eyes of Remington Steele.
"Miss Holt?" the lieutenant gently shook her.
"Y-yes?" she barely whispered.
"Can you identify this man as Remington Steele?"
Remington Steele. Remington Steele. Remington Steele.
The name echoed absurdly in her mind. She watched in horrified fascination as the rain washed away the puddle of blood beneath the body; a river of red flowed past her cream colored heels and out into the street. The man she knew as Remington Steele was no more and the last of him was being washed away forever.
"Miss Holt, are you all right?" the policeman asked again.
No, her mind cried out. Her tears mingled with the rain on her cheeks as she nodded almost imperceptibly. "Yes," she whispered. "It's him." The lieutenant tried to turn her away as the officer dropped the blanket once again over the corpse. "No!" she cried and pulled out of his grasp, dropping to her knees beside the covered body. A hand protruded from beneath the blanket. She reached out and took it into her own. Bending low, she held the cold, wet palm against her face and cried.
There was so much left to say, and now it was too late.
Remington Steele was dead.
Laura knelt on the freshly mown grass beside the earthen mound and ran her fingers over the carved out letters in the granite monument. She had no idea how long she had been here. Time didn't seem to mean anything since that night. How many weeks had passed? She couldn't remember. She didn't really care.
"Laura," came a voice from behind her.
She didn't turn around. "Please, Murphy, I need to be here."
"Laura, you're only hurting yourself. You've got to start putting your life back together."
What life, she thought. There was no meaning anymore. She had tried, but it was no use. She might as well have died with him that night for all the life that remained inside her.
"Laura, let me take you home. Mildred is very worried."
And so are you, my friend, aren't you, she thought. Murphy had virtually abandoned his own agency in Denver for the last few weeks to come down and try to help rescue the Remington Steele Agency from the throes of death it had suffered since the like fate of its figurehead. Without Remington Steele, the agency was falling apart. It also didn't help that Laura didn't seem to care. She had no interest in the cases and could hardly bring herself to come to the office. Every time she looked at those doors she saw his face as it was that last night when she had sent him alone to his death. As a result, Mildred and Murphy were carrying the full load. It wasn't fair to them and Laura had come to a decision.
"Murphy, I'm closing the agency," she said quietly.
"You're what?!" he replied in surprise. Sinking to his knees beside her, he forced her to face him. "You're just going to give up and watch all you've worked for go down the drain?"
"It's already gone, Murph," she replied. "We might as well admit it. Without Remington Steele, there is no Remington Steele Investigations."
"We did pretty well before he came along. We could do it again."
She shook her head. "No, Murphy. You have your own agency now and you should be there not here. You have your own life and it isn't fair to you or to Mildred for me to go on the way I have."
"But the agency meant everything to you," Murphy pleaded.
"Once," she felt the tears fill her eyes and spill down her cheeks. "Now, I can't stand the thought of it. It was for the good of the precious agency that I argued with him that night. It was because I didn't want the agency's name besmirched that I refused to go with him. Now he's dead, and I can never forgive myself for letting him walk out that door alone."
"My God, Laura, you can't go on blaming yourself. If you had gone, you'd probably both be dead."
She nodded. "Yes." It was something she wished for every night as she lay alone in her bed, that she could have died with him. This existence was pure hell now.
Murphy shook her hard. "Laura, you're scaring me to death."
"I'm sorry, Murphy. I'll be all right. It will just take time. But I can't face being a private detective again. I don't know what I'll do, but I'll survive." She forced a smile that seemed to make Murphy relax a little. She knew she had to cut loose from her friends or she would drag them down with her. "Now, you go back to the office and tell Mildred for me, will you? I know it's a rotten job, but I just can't face her right now."
"Are you going home?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No, I have something to do--something I've been putting off for weeks. It's time I faced it."
"Mr. Steele's apartment. I'm going to clean it out so the rental agent can find another tenant for it."
"I could do that for you," he offered.
She shook her head. "No, it's something I have to do myself, and I have to do it alone. Please don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
Murphy didn't appear to be convinced, but he knew there was no arguing with Laura. "All right," he sighed reluctantly. "But you have to promise to call us if it gets to be too much for you."
"I will," she smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "I promise." With that she got to her feet and walked away.
Murphy stood alone in the cemetery and watched her go. Then he looked down at the gravestone before him. "I hope you knew how much she loved you," he said out loud.
Laura had been at work for hours alternating between throwing herself into her task and succumbing to her tears. There were so many memories, so many things that were him. She had taken the movie posters down first, unable to stand having them in view. As she packed his books, she could hear him quoting an old movie here and there as they struggled with a perplexing case. She could feel his presence all through the apartment. Finally, she sat down again on the sofa and had a good long cry.
It was then that she noticed a video tape in the recorder. Curiosity got the better of her and she took it out and looked at it. Somewhere in Time, the title read. She remembered hearing about the movie, her mind automatically heard his voice citing it in his own inimitable manner: "Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Universal, 1980," but she had never seen it. It was most likely the last thing he watched before he died. Something seemed to compel her to put the tape back in and turn on the machine.
As she watched the film, she found herself mesmerized. She couldn't take her eyes from the television screen. It was like the answer to her prayers.
And yet it wasn't real. It was just a movie. Fiction Fantasy. But how appropriate it felt for the answer to come to her through a movie. As the credits rolled, she knew what she had to do. Perhaps she had lost her mind. The truth was she really didn't care. If there was the slightest chance...
She moved into the bedroom and stretched out on the bed. She concentrated with all her might on a night a couple of weeks before the shooting. Filling her mind with nothing but thoughts of Remington Steele, she closed her eyes and lay perfectly still. After a few moments, she opened her eyes and looked around. She felt very silly all of a sudden, because there was no change at all in the room. She started to get up, then something inside her made her try just one more time.
This time, she forced herself to relax, to not try so hard. She thought about his face until she could visualize every feature in detail finally settling on his eyes. An image of those beautifully expressive eyes so cold and empty in death broke through and she gasped at the memory. Forcing it out of her mind, she once again conjured up the visage of Remington Steele alive and smiling at her.
Suddenly she had an overwhelming desire to open her eyes. She could feel a presence and all at once she was certain she was not alone. Slowly she opened her eyes and turned her head.
He was there. Lying beside her on the bed, eyes closed, breathing evenly in sleep. For a long moment, she simply stared at the image before her, almost afraid to draw a breath of her own for fear of breaking the spell. Finally summoning up all her courage, she reached out her hand and touched his dark hair. She could feel it! It was real! She gasped in surprise and sat bolt upright on the bed. The movement caused the sleeping man to stir and his eyes blinked open.
Laura stared in disbelief as he lifted his head and looked around him, right through her as if she weren't even there. Then he shook his head and fell back on the pillow, closing his eyes once more.
"Remington," she whispered, but there was no response. "Please, Remington, hear me. If I could only tell you how sorry I am--how much I love you."
The eyes opened once again and the head raised from the pillow. For a moment she thought he saw her, looking deeply into her eyes if only for a second, then he looked past her. "Laura?" he whispered.
She felt the tears on her face even as the figure began to fade. Suddenly the room began to spin and she fell back on the now empty bed. When she opened her eyes, she was alone again and she realized she had returned to where, or when, she began.
It had worked. She had been there, perhaps not completely, but she had gotten through. If she could get through again, warn him of what was going to happen, but even as she thought about it, she realized it was useless to try and reach him. She could never convince him in what he would be sure to pass off as a dream. There was only one hope.
Grabbing her purse she ran out of the apartment and headed back to her loft. When she got there, she didn't even bother to turn on the lights. She moved directly to her bed, stretched out and began to concentrate on the night before the argument--the night before the last day of Remington Steele's life. She held one thought in her mind. She had to reach back to her own mind and plant there the seeds of knowledge about what was going to happen. She knew it was possible. She had to succeed. The alternative was to live the rest of her life without the man she loved. She would succeed. She would.
She woke up well before time for her alarm clock to announce the beginning of another work day. She looked toward the windows, certain they would be open and causing the draft that seemed to be chilling her to the bone, but they were closed and locked. Sitting up, she wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her hands over the chill bumps on her flesh. She knew she had had the strangest dream, but right now, she couldn't remember any of it. That worried her. Something inside her told her it was important she remember.
As she dressed and drove to the office, the sense of urgency grew. She couldn't understand what it was that was making her feel this way and try as she might she couldn't remember anything about the dream. About mid-day, Mildred noticed how distracted she had been and asked if something was wrong.
"No," she replied. "It's just that I had a very strange dream last night."
"Wanna talk about it?" the secretary/receptionist asked.
Laura shrugged. "Wish I could. I can't remember anything about it. It's just that I still have this strange feeling that it was very important." She tried once again to concentrate on the dream.
Mildred looked at her with concern. "Well, I'm sure if it is, you'll remember it."
Laura shook herself free of the spell long enough to give Mildred a reassuring smile. "When Mr. Steele comes in, Mildred, please let me know."
"Sure thing," she replied as she left Laura's office, closing the door behind her.
It was several hours later before Remington Steele put in an appearance at the office. Mildred, in fact, was just leaving as he came in. Laura heard her call to him as she went out the door, telling him that Laura wanted to talk to him.
With a glance at the clock, she got up and moved to the door that led from her office into his. She opened it and leaned through. "About time you showed up, Mr. Steele."
He smiled broadly. "Ah, but I think you will agree what I have come up with was worth my absence."
Curious, she stepped in and closed the door.
"Doing anything tonight?" he asked.
"I don't know. What did you have in mind?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh, how about getting a little closer..." he paused meaningfully before continuing, "to proving that Freddie didn't steal that painting from the gallery."
"You have a line on the thief?" she asked excitedly.
"Not yet, but I have a suspicion after tonight we will." He smiled a very pleased-with-himself smile as he proceeded. "I've spent the better part of the day tracking down a lead and I finally managed to make contact with Peter MacKensie."
"Peter MacKensie? Isn't he the head of one of the mob factions operating from the docks?"
"Precisely," Steele replied. "I've had occasion to meet him before. He has agreed to check his network of fences and see if he can come up with a name for us."
"And just what does he want in return?" Laura asked darkly.
"Nothing right now, but I'm sure he'll think of something we can do for him."
"Something illegal, I'll bet."
Remington frowned. "I made it very clear to him that this was not a back-room deal. Whatever the payoff is, I'm sure I can handle MacKensie."
"I don't believe it!" she replied. "You have involved this agency with an organized crime lord? Remington Steele Investigations does not do business with the mob!"
Remington began to pace back and forth in front of her. "Laura, I'm telling you that MacKensie is our best chance to get a lead on whoever is behind these art thefts."
"And I told you, we will not do business with the mob!" she replied folding her arms before her defiantly.
"Do you know what I had to go through to get a meeting with MacKensie?"
"Do you know what I had to go through to build the reputation of this agency? I will not have you ruin that with one of your 'associations'." She rubbed her temple. She had the beginnings of a first-class headache.
Steele exploded. "I was under the impression our client was the first consideration. You don't believe Freddie actually stole that Renoir?"
"Of course not," she replied. "But there is a better way to learn who did without making a deal with organized crime!" Her head was really beginning to pound now.
"Laura, do you really believe I would put the agency at risk?" he asked, looking at her intently. She hesitated. There was something she was trying to remember. Something she had to remember and right now. "I see you do!" he exclaimed when she didn't answer. He turned and grabbed his overcoat. "Then I leave it to you. I have a meeting to attend."
"I forbid it!" she cried. Inside her head, a voice began to scream.
"You heard me."
"No, I don't think I did." The hardness of his expression melted after just a moment. "Laura, come with me."
"I can't do that," she replied, her hand massaging her throbbing temples. "It's not only unethical and illegal, it's a waste of time. The mob isn't going to tell you who was behind those art thefts."
"We'll never know standing here," he said as he headed for the front door.
"Go on!" she cried, furious. "Ruin everything I've worked to build! Leave and never come back. See if I care!"
Leave and never come back.
Leave and never come back.
LEAVE AND NEVER COME BACK!!
The phrase echoed more and more loudly in her head until she thought it was going to explode. She looked up and saw Steele just outside the door looking at her. There was a sadness that cooled the fiery blue of his eyes--a look that was naggingly familiar. An image in her brain that could never be erased, that would haunt her for the rest of her life. Then, he turned and walked out of view.
And suddenly she knew.
Images flashed before her eyes: an alley and two bodies covered with blankets, rain that poured relentlessly from the sky as the blanket was removed from one of the bodies, the familiar coat, the ruined shirt, the empty eyes, the blood washing away all that remained of Remington Steele's life--and with it, her own. This was the moment. This was her only chance to change it.
But he was already gone.
"No!" she cried and bolted for the door, but by the time she reached it, he had disappeared into the elevator. Frantically she pressed the button. When no elevator appeared after a few seconds, she bounded for the stairs. By the time she reached the parking garage, he was nowhere to be seen.
She ran for her car and headed out of the garage just as a gentle rain began to fall. There was no hesitation about which direction to take. She knew where she had to go.
By the time she had reached her destination, the rain was falling harder and occasional lightning cut through the darkness leaving even greater darkness in its wake as the flash caused the sensors on the streetlights to switch them off. The thunder rolled as she pulled her car up to the curb, got out and ran toward the alley praying she wasn't too late. As she rounded the corner, she saw the two men further down the alley talking. Her mind flashed to the two blanket covered mounds and she broke once more into a run.
"Mr. Steele!" she cried. The two men turned toward her.
"Who the hell is that?" MacKensie demanded.
"My associate, Miss Holt," Steele replied in confusion. "Laura, what is it? What's wrong?"
"This is a trap," she breathed as she reached his arms. "Mr. MacKensie, someone who wants you dead found out about this meeting and is going to try and kill you."
MacKensie reached inside his coat and came out with a .38 in his hand. At that very moment, a car pulled across the entrance to the alley and two men with ugly looking automatic weapons climbed out and headed up the alley. Steele shoved Laura behind some crates as MacKensie opened fire. His hand gun was no match for the automatics. Laura watched with horror as the rounds struck his body causing it to jerk like a marionette until the strings were cut and it fell limply to the ground. The gun fell from the crime boss' hand and slid toward where Steele and Laura were hiding, but not quite close enough.
Remington started to reach out for the gun, but Laura caught his arm. "No, please, they'll kill you!" she cried.
"Laura, let go. They will kill us if I don't get that gun!" With that he jerked away from her and lunged across the open space for the .38. Laura was frozen with fear, certain she was about to see him die right before her eyes. Remington scooped up the gun and rolled across the wet alley floor toward the cover on the other side. Bullets struck ground very close behind him as he made it behind a large dumpster, managing to hit one of the men before crouching behind cover. The other managed to duck behind another stack of crates.
Laura watched in fascination as Remington tucked the gun in his belt and exerted all his strength on the dumpster. The rusty wheels on the huge metal container squeaked in protest as it began to slowly move across the alley toward Laura's position. As soon as it met the crates, Laura moved behind the dumpster with Remington and together they started it moving down the alley toward the gunman.
Apparently seeing what was about to happen, the gunman opened fire on the fast approaching dumpster, but to no avail. It crashed heavily into the crates, crushing them and the gunman behind them into the brick wall. Remington took out his gun and moved to check the man's condition.
It was over. He was alive and safe. Laura closed her eyes in gratitude and relief. Suddenly, she heard the sound of movement behind her. She turned to see the first hitman training his gun at Steele's back.
"NO!" she screamed as she lunged for the man. She wasn't fast enough to reach the gun, but she did reach the bullet. She was vaguely aware of the impact of the slug as it struck her in the side.
"Laura! No!" Steele cried.
As she fell, she heard another shot. She waited to feel that one too, and when she didn't, she was certain Remington had also been shot.
"Laura!" she heard his voice cry. Before her she saw the gunman lying very still with a growing flow of red from a hole in his forehead.
She felt Remington's arms lifting her off the wet ground, cradling her in his arms and she knew he was safe. Looking up through the shower of rain pelting her face, she saw the anguished expression on his face.
"It's all right," she assured him. "Everything is all right now." His features began to fade into the darkness and she knew she was about to lose consciousness. As she closed her eyes, she smiled. "I love you," she whispered just before she lost all contact with reality.
Laura awoke to find herself lying in a hospital bed, and the first thing she saw was the face of Remington Steele looking down on her in concern.
"Hello there," he said with a smile as he saw her looking at him. "It's about time you woke up."
"How long have I been out?" she asked.
"Almost 30 hours," he replied, "but the doctor says you are going to be just fine."
"That's good to hear," she replied as she touched the bandage around her side.
"The bullet went straight through without hitting anything important," he explained. "But I must say you had me worried." He took her hand in his and squeezed it. "In fact, I've been so worried, I've hardly got any sleep at all."
"Poor thing," Laura replied with a grin.
"Well, it was all your fault. I even imagined you were there with me."
"What?" she asked.
"It was very strange. Something woke me up and I would have sworn there was someone in the bed with me, but when I looked, there was no one." He paused, looking very far away. "And yet, I had the strongest feeling you were there." He shook his head. "It scared the hell out of me. I grabbed the phone to call the hospital. I'm sure the nurse I spoke with thought I was insane. Laura? Laura, did you hear me?"
"What? Oh, yes, of course. I'm sure it was just a dream brought on by the shooting." She looked away and smiled to herself. She had been there.
"Laura, are you all right?" You're acting a little strange."
She grinned and squeezed his hand. "I'm fine, or at least I will be. Now go, get out of here and get some proper rest. I promise this time I won't appear in your bed."
He relaxed into a smile, then bent over and gave her a kiss. "You get some rest, young lady, and I'll be back a bit later." Impulsively, she reached up and pulled him tight against her. "Hey, there!" he said as he almost lost his balance. When she released him, he was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "Laura, luv, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she smiled. "I'm just acting silly. Go on, get out of here before I really get mushy." He hesitated, but she shooed him away.
Maybe it hadn't all been just a nightmare, just some strange precognition. Maybe it had all happened: the argument, the shooting. Perhaps Remington Steele had indeed been dead and she had spent weeks in hell knowing that she could have done something to stop it, knowing that she would have to spend the rest of her life without him. She remembered it all in great detail now. Could it really have just been a dream? And what about Remington's night visitor?
She shook her head. Maybe it really didn't matter anymore. Her world was back on track. She thanked God for second chances and vowed not to let this one go to waste.
I remember the first time I saw the ad for Remington Steele in the TV Guide fall preview issue. I had seen Manions of America not long before and I recognized Pierce Brosnan as having played "Rory" in that mini-series. I told a friend of mine that he was the most gorgeous hunk of man I'd ever seen and I didn't really care if this new detective show had any plot or not. I was going to watch it just to drool! Well, it turned out it did have a plot, and a premise that captivated a lot of us. I've written several Steele stories, most of which have been published in the Relativity series. I still count myself as a die hard fan of the show and of the actor. And he's good for my ego when I start thinking how old I am. We're the same age and if he can look that good....