- It's Steele Just Child's Play
- Debra Talley (with Thekla Kurth)
story is set in the Brendan Universe and is the 3rd part of the
- Feb. 10, 1995
"There's no place
like home," a very pregnant Laura Holt-Steele said to herself as
she entered her home through the front door. It always gave her an
unexpected thrill to enter unannounced and catch her family in the
midst of their activities. She didn't think of it as spying ;
rather, she thought of it as savoring the priceless bits and
pieces of her continuing wonderful life.
Being careful not to
make any noise, she placed her purse on the hall table and listened.
The air was alive with the sounds of her husband and children. She
smiled to herself and followed the nearest sound-- her piano-- into
the formal living room.
There she found Rory,
almost seven, pouring his heart and soul into the ivory keys. It was
clear he loved her piano as much as she did. He practiced his scales
with as much reverence as Laura had played Chopin's Prelude in D
Minor in her
empty loft so many years earlier. She took a mental photograph and
left her son to his music.
It was the sounds and
smells from the kitchen that attracted Laura's attention next. In the
silent shadows of the doorway she could see Remington and their
eldest son Brendan, age eight, up to their elbows in flour as they
kneaded dough on the counter top. She almost laughed aloud when she
saw the sprinklings of flour in their coal black hair. It was even
harder to restrain herself when she saw Abby, thirteen months, asleep
in her high chair. Sticky dough was smeared on her face, which was
resting on the high chair tray, and her hair was also "dusted." Laura
took another mental snapshot and left her gourmet chefs to their
The sounds of
laughter then drew her upstairs to the doorway of her own bedroom.
There she discovered her almost-five-year-old twins, Laurie and Remy,
in the midst of playing dress-up with Mummy and Daddy's clothes.
Mounds of discarded clothing were scattered about the floor. Laura
knew she should be angry, but at the moment she was busy making
- She was so caught
up in watching the scene before her that she almost didn't notice
when Remington, a sleeping Abby in his arms, joined her. She
motioned for him to be quiet and together they watched their
- Laurie examined
herself from all angles in her parents' full-length mirror and
frowned. Grabbing another throw pillow from the bed, she stuffed
it under her oversized clothing.
- "Do I look as fat
as Mummy?" she asked, studying her reflection.
- "You better not
let Mummy know you think she's fat!" Remy warned as be held up his
father's trousers' legs and stepped into his dad's favorite pair
of dress shoes.
- Laurie stepped
into her mother's high heel shoes and wobbled closer to her twin.
"Maybe we should hide Mummy's chocolate chip cookies, so she won't
get even fatter," she suggested.
- "You're just
saying that so you can eat her cookies," Remy accused as be
struggled to tie what he referred to as his dad's "measles
- "I'm not gonna
eat Mummy's cookies. Every time she eats lots of those cookies,
she gets fat and then she and Daddy bring home another
- "I thought you
liked it when we get a new baby," Remy said as he tried to
extricate his hand from the knot be had made.
- "I do like it!
But if I eat lots of chocolate chip cookies and get fat like
Mummy, I might have a baby, too! And I don't want one yet!"
- Remy jerked his
hand free of the knot and accidentally hit Laurie, easily knocking
her off balance in the high heel shoes she was wearing.
- "Why don't you
try Mummy's wedding shoes?" Remy asked.
- "Good idea,"
Laurie agreed. "Help me find them."
- They both got on
their hands and knees and began rummaging through Laura's numerous
pairs of shoes.
- "I found one!"
they exclaimed together, each holding up a once white, muddied
- "Why doesn't
Mummy throw these nasty things away?" Remy asked as they each
shoved a shoe on Laurie's foot and pretended to tie them.
- "You know how
mummies are. They like to save shoes. She saved our shoes,
remember?" Laurie reminded him.
- "Oh, yeah - the
gold ones on the piano. Think she's gonna turn these gold and put
them on the piano, too?" Remy asked.
- As they stood up,
one of Laurie ' s pillows slipped from beneath beneath her loose
clothing and fell to the floor. They giggled and then Remy helped
her adjust it. Laurie then plopped her mother's black honeymoon
hat on her head, batted her eyes at her Remy and slipped her arm
- "I'm ready,
Remy," she purred.
- "Mummy doesn't
call Daddy 'Remy'," he remind her.
- "Oh, yeah,"
Laurie said. Then clearing her throat and batting her eyelashes
again, she said, "I'm ready, Mr. Steele."
- "Indeed, Mrs.
Steele. We better hurry. We wouldn't want Humpty Bogart to start
without us, now, would we?"
- "Do you have
money for the tickets?" Laura asked, imitating her mother
- "I started
carrying cash the day after Brendan was born, but you still ask
every time we go out," Remy said, trying to mimic his father's
- "Just reminding
you, Mr. Steele."
- "I still say it
ruins the line of my suit. *You* carry it. No one will see it with
that abdo-abdo- of yours,"he said, pointing to Laurie's
- "Abdo-man. Gosh,
boys don't know anything."
- "Mummy doesn't
- "No, but she does
this!" Laura said as she began to whop her brother on the head
with a pillow she had pulled from beneath her mother's maternity
- Remy covered his
face with his hands and as a result didn't see Laurie stomp on his
- "Laurie, please!
Ow! Stop it!"
- At that moment
Bogart, the family sheepdog, galloped past Remington's legs and
into the bedroom. Laurie and Remy were knocked to the floor in a
fit of laughter as Bogart expressed his affection with big, sloppy
- Doing his best to
stifle his laughter, Remington made a mad dash down the hallway to
the nursery the sleeping baby still in his arms. Laura started
toward the twins, but changed her mind and followed Remington
- He was placing
Abby in her crib when she got there.
- Remington greeted
his wife with a broad grin, saying, "I think we should do
- "Here? In the
nursery? In front of the baby? You're depraved," Laura said,
- "No, not here; on
top of the piano," Remington said.
- "But Rory is
practicing his lesson," Laura pointed out.
- "Mr. Steele,
really. You know I have no problem expressing affection in front
of the children, but I think that's going too far!" Laura
exclaimed, swatting his arm.
- Remington looked
puzzled. "Are we talking about the same thing?" he asked.
- "l certainly hope
not! What *are* we talking about?"
- "Bronzing your
wedding sneakers and displaying them on the piano along with the
children's baby shoes. What did you think I meant?"
- Laura's sly smile
and raised eyebrows were answer enough for Remington.
- "On top of the
piano, eh? And you think *I'm* depraved," he teased. "Well, you
must admit, it would certainly give a whole new meaning to the
term 'tickling the ivories.'" Then burying his face in Laura's
hair, he kissed her neck and suggested, "Maybe we'd better put
that experience on hold until after the baby comes."
- "Good idea,"
Laura whispered seductively as she kissed him.
- He returned her
kiss with equal fervor and then pulled back to study her face.
"Speaking of magical moments, Laura..."
- "Don't you think
we should correct Remy and Laurie's misconception that babies come
from eating too many chocolate chip cookies?"
- "I'd rather
correct their misconception that I hit you every time we
- "Is it really a
misconception?" he teased.
- "I'm serious. I
didn't realize that was the message I was sending the children. I
don't want them to think it's okay to slug each other."
- "Yes, well, then
I suggest you remember that the next time you feel an
uncontrollable urge to destroy my foot with your high
- "Think what will
happen to them when they get to school," she said, ignoring his
comment. "All of their little friends will go around saying,
'Watch out for those Steele twins; they hit'."
- "Laura, we've
never had any problems with Brendan or Rory at school. The twins
will be no different-- unless, of course, they start tackling
anyone who starts to eat a cookie. Maybe it's time we sit them
down and tell them the horrid truth about . . . cookies,"
Remington suggested, unable to keep the twinkle out of his
- "Oh. I don't
know," Laura said as she moved closer to her husband. "Personally,
I've always found chocolate chip cookies to be a very powerful
- Leaning against
him, they took full advantage of the rare private moment and
shared another kiss.
- Suddenly a SWOOSH
came rushing through the open nursery doorway and a suction cup
dart attached itself to Remington's forehead. Laura tried not to
laugh, but it was hopeless and her lilting laugh soon blended with
the delightful sound of childish giggles coming from the
- "Some things
never change, eh, Laura?" Remington said with a sigh. "Someone
still shoots as us when we're kissing!"
- He pulled the
dart from his forehead with a resounding "Ouch!"
- "Courage, Mr.
Steele. It's just a flesh wound," Laura reassured him. "Want me to
kiss it and make it better?"
- "Later, perhaps,"
he said as he began easing his way out of the room, taking Laura
with him. "But first things first; right now I've got to capture
- In a flash,
Remington grabbed a giggling Remy, Laurie and Rory and the four of
them fell to the floor amidst gales of laughter. Shaking her head
and laughing, Laura carefully shut the nursery door shut so Abby
wouldn't be disturbed by the ruckus.
- "I'll kiss it and
make it better, Daddy!" Laurie offered, throwing her arms around
Remington's neck and giving him a resounding smack on the
- "Thank you,
sweetheart; it feels better already," Remington said as he started
to get up. He didn't get far, however, as all three children
climbed over him and began whispering in his ears at once. After a
moment, he put his finger to his lips, saying, "Shh, you don't
want to spoil Mummy's surprise, now, do you?" he asked.
- "Surprise?" Laura
- Rory was the
first one up, grabbing Laura's hand and pulling her toward the
stairs. In seconds the twins were helping their older brother lead
the way. At first they were all talking at once, but at Laura's
puzzled look, they began taking turns.
- "We were helping
Daddy clean up..." began Laurie.
Grandma's coming tonight..." added Rory.
- "...and you know
how Daddy has been looking for it ever so long..." contributed
- "...and the rules
say we can help him look . . ." reminded Rory.
- Laura opened her
mouth as if to object, but Remington interrupted her. "Ah - you
agreed to those rules, Mummy. And everyone knows your word is your
bond. Right, kids?"
- "Right!" all
three children hollered as they finally deposited their mother in
front of the family photo wall in the den.
- There on the
short bookcase under the photo wall sat the object of the
children's excitement - a framed, color photo of Laura and
Remington on Juan's tuna boat at the time of their first
- Laura shrugged
her shoulders to signify defeat. "Okay. You found it. I promise to
let it sit there for a whole week before I hide it again."
- "Oh, no!"
Remington said as the children protested loudly. "The rules say
- Laura sighed.
"Okay. If the rules say two weeks, then two weeks it is."
- Just then Bogart,
wearing Remington's measles tie, trotted down the hallway. Before
Remington could raise his voice in a threat, all three kids took
off after him.
- "Really, Laura. I
would have thought you'd be more original. I mean, the bottom of
the laundry hamper?" Remington asked. "You're not teaching our
offspring to be very good detectives if you can't find a better
hiding place than that."
- 'To the contrary;
I'd say it was an excellent hiding place. It took the six of you
three weeks to find it," Laura said as she chucked Remington under
- "Yes, well - we
didn't expect you to hide it in the same place twice in a
- "Ah, but a good
detective has to expect the unexpected, Mr. Steele," Laura
- "I'll remember
that in two weeks, when you hide it again."
- "After eight
years, this game is getting a little old, don't you think?" Laura
asked, frowning at the photo. "Mother will be absolutely mortified
to find that wedding picture on display along with our nice
Abigail is a true romantic. She understands the sentimentality of
our first wedding," Remington said, picking up the photo and
studying it fondly. "To me, you were just as lovely in your
ripped, muddy suit and sneakers as you were in your Irish lace."
- "You mean that,
don't you?" Laura said softly, her eyes sparkling.
Remington whispered as he drew Laura close and kissed her.
- This time it was
Brendan who interrupted them. When their eldest son cleared his
throat and just stood there, Remington broke the kiss and he and
Laura just looked at each other and laughed. Before Brendan could
explain, however, the timer in the kitchen suddenly went off.
- "I was going to
tell you the rolls are almost done," Brendan said.
- "Ah, yes,"
Remington said, replacing the photo and putting his other arm
around his son's shoulders. "Done to perfection, I'd say."
- Laura, alone now,
looked around the warn, friendly family room. She picked up the
tunafied wedding picture and smiled as she wiped fingerprints from
the glass. She really didn't object any more to displaying both
wedding pictures, but as long as the children enjoyed playing
Hide-and-Seek with the original photo, she'd go along with it.
They'd soon be all grown up and games with their parents would
embarrass them, so she'd enjoy it while she could
- Glancing out the
window, Laura could see Rory and the twins still chasing Bogart
around the back yard. Wishing she had the energy to join them but
knowing she did not, she kicked off her shoes and collapsed on the
couch. Her hand touched a solid object as she sat down and she
turned to see one of Remington's burglary scrapbooks. He'd first
shared them with her during their Le Renard case. It had made
Remington seem more human, knowing he'd collected things just like
any other red-blooded boy.
- Smiling, Laura
picked up the scrapbook and started flipping through it. Noticing
that only half the pages contained clippings, she decided this
must have been his last book. Since there weren't many articles
and Remington had dinner under control, she decided to read while
- As soon as she
saw the final headline, Laura sat upright and groaned. Marchessa
Collection Stolen, Mysteriously Returned.'The name of the
newspaper and the date were handwritten above the article. "The
Los Angeles Tribune," she read aloud. "November, 1994."
- Laura would have
assumed Remington was resuming his childhood hobby, except for one
thing - the handwriting belonged not to her husband, but to
Brendan. Quickly flipping back through the book, she carefully
checked the dates and the handwriting on each and every article.
When her task was finished, she sat back in shock. Every entry was
from the past two years.
- Scrapbook in
hand, Laura marched toward the kitchen.
- "Mr. Steele," she
clearly enunciated. "May I see you for a moment in my
- Remington turned
to see Laura standing in the doorway, her fingers drumming on the
scrapbook under her arm.
- "Ah, yes...of
- He dropped the
dish towel he'd been using and followed her down the hall into the
den, one corner of which was her office.
- Brendan, in the
midst of loading the dishwasher, watched them leave. Judging from
the tone of his mother's voice, he knew something was up. He also
noticed she was holding one of the burglary scrapbooks.
- When Remington
had first shared his scrapbooks with his son, he explained that it
was just something he had done over the years. Brendan had been
fascinated and had asked if they could start one together. After
some hesitation Remington had agreed, on the condition that it
would be their little secret. He had explained to Brendan that his
mother might not approve.
- But now she had
found out anyway.
- That was one
thing about Mummy, Brendan thought to himself. Secrets never
stayed secrets for very long. She always figured out who was up to
- He was curious as
to just what his mother had to say about the father-son scrapbook,
so he closed the dishwasher and quietly crept into the den, where
he hid behind a wing back chair in a corner. Fearing his hiding
place would be detected, he hurriedly eased himself beneath his
mother's desk. He'd once asked her why it was her desk and she was
the only one who worked at it. After all, didn't his father need a
desk, too? She had merely replied, "Your father's skills are hard
to define, Brendan. Very hard, indeed."
- Brendan was still
trying to figure that one out, but right now he was concentrating
on his parent's conversation. If he angled his head a wee bit to
the left, he was in the perfect spot to see all of the action.
Caught up in the excitement of the moment as he was, he never gave
a thought to the very real possibility of being caught.
- Laura held the
scrapbook for Remington to see.
- "My scrapbook,"
he exclaimed, feigning surprise. "Wherever did you find it? I was
wondering where it had gotten to."
- Brendan decided
one of his father's skills must be acting.
- "It was on the
couch," she replied tersely.
- "How in the world
did it get there?" Remington asked, still playing innocent.
- "You tell me. And
while you're at it, you can also tell me why every article in
there is less than two years old. Resuming your childhood
- Remington took a
deep breath, then said, "Laura, there's a perfectly good
- "The evidence
leads me to believe that you are sharing your...unique...hobby
with our son."
- "Now, Laura,
let's not blow this out of proportion," Remington pleaded.
- "When have I ever
blown anything out of proportion?" she contested.
- Knowing how
irrational she could be when she was pregnant, Remington held his
tongue and let her remark pass. Then taking her hand in his, he
calmly said, "As l recall, you asked me to help Brendan with his
- "I assumed you
would be reading children's stories--Irish fairy tales, or maybe
mysteries. But what do I find? First, he tells me the two of you
are reading Gone with the Wind. All right, that's not too
bad. But now I find this." Waving the scrapbook in front of
Remington's face, she continued her tirade. "I do not believe for
a minute that Brendan is doing this on his own. I know you're
helping him. You treasure these scrapbooks and you would never
turn the children loose with them."
- "If I recall
correctly, you once called them amazing."
- "Knowing you
collected something just like other children made you seem more
human. Granted, it's not the *kind* of thing most children
collect, but still..."
- He interrupted.
"And that's what you object to with Brendan, isn't it? It's the
*kind* of thing, eh?"
- "Yes!" Laura said
adamantly. "I'm not sure it's healthy for an eight year old to
collect larcenies. Are you?"
- "I believe it's
more than healthy for Brendan to share a hobby with his father.
Sort of a father-son thing."
- "Most fathers
play baseball with their sons. They collect comic books, or
baseball cards or videos... They *don't* encourage
- "Laura, I'm not
encouraging anything of the sort. And I don't take it as lightly
as you seem to think. I am merely sharing my childhood hobby with
my son. I don't see any harm in that."
- Brendan almost
spoke up, wanting to defend his father and their hobby, but the
phone rang. Since Laura was still busy protesting, Remington
- He listened for
quite a while before finally saying, "Yes, I see...No, no, don't
worry about it. We'll be there to pick you up... We're looking
forward to seeing you, too." He returned the receiver, saying,
"That was Abigail. Her flight has been delayed three hours...
Something about a pigeon denting the wing. Anyway, she's been
rescheduled on a later flight."
- "Great," Laura
mumbled. She hated it when something disrupted her neatly ordered
world. "It will be the children's bedtime by then. How are we
supposed to keep them awake? I'm not going to put them to bed just
to wake them up again when Mother gets here."
- "We'll work it
out. I'm sure Abigail didn't plan it this way."
- "Didn't she?"
Laura protested. The only good aspect was that it would delay her
mother's arrival by at least three more hours.
- "I've got an
idea," Remington said brightly. "We have the limo tonight. We'll
get the kids ready for bed and put them in the car. Then instead
of going straight to the airport, we'll stop at the drive-in.
They're showing The Little Mermaid."
- Laura mulled over
the idea. "Sounds good to me, but we'd better take plenty of
blankets and pillows for the little ones. They'll never make it,"
she said, yawning.
- "The little ones
won't make it, eh?" Remington teased.
- "I'm sleeping for
two," she reminded him, giving him the beginnings of a smile. "Now
back to the scrapbook-- I agree that Brendan will benefit from
sharing a hobby with you. I just wish you'd have been a little
- "Well, you keep
all the Atomic Man memorabilia locked in your trunk," he teased. "I
had to make do with what I had."
collection is priceless, I'll have you know," Laura argued, though
her anger was waning.
- "So are my
scrapbooks--to me, at least," he said softly.
- Laura nodded.
"All right. I still don't entirely approve, but I'll yield to your
judgment. I know you'd never do anything you thought would harm
our children. But you have to promise me you'll remind Brendan
that while the events in those articles are exciting, they're also
illegal, immoral, dangerous and terribly wrong."
- "That's a
promise, Luv. In fact, I'm way ahead of you on that one,"
Remington assured her, taking the scrapbook so he could put his
arms around her. "You have to admit, though, it must be confusing
for him to understand that crime doesn't pay, when we make a
living at it. We may be the good guys, but all Brendan knows is
that we profit because everyone else isn't as despicably honest as
- "As long as he
aspires to be one of the good guys."
- "I wouldn't have
it any other way," Remington assured her. Just as he leaned
forward to kiss, the doorbell rang. "Always something, eh?" he
muttered, going to answer it.
- Laura followed
him, not really surprised to see Jackie standing there when
Remington opened the door.
- "Jackie!" he
said, grinning as he reached for his wallet. "How much do you need
- Jackie laughed.
"Not this time. Can we talk?" Nodding a greeting to Laura, he
- Laura got the
message, saying, "I'll go get the children ready for
- Remington ushered
Jackie into the den. Brendan had been just about to leave when
they entered, but he quickly ducked back under the desk rather
than be caught.
- Remington leaned
back against the desk and asked, "What's the problem?"
- He regarded the
young pickpocket he had helped save from a life of crime. It had
taken a while, and over the years Jackie had gotten into his fair
share of scrapes, but Remington had always been there to bail him
out. He was now working for Monroe, a job Remington had helped him
get; after all, what good was being the largest single investor in
Monroe's company if he couldn't for a favor now and then? It had
now been nearly two years since Remington had needed to intervene
with the law on Jackie's behalf, and he was pleased with the
progress his young protege had made with his life during those
- "I'm getting
married," Jackie announced.
- "That's terrific,
Jackie. Joining the ranks of honest men, eh?" Remington said,
walking over and slapping him on the back. "This calls for a
celebration. I'll get the champagne." Walking towards the cabinet,
he added, "I hope Melissa realizes what a lucky girl she
- "Whoever would
have thought when she gave me that parking ticket last year we'd
be engaged now?" Jackie asked, plopping down on the couch.
- Remington looked
puzzled. "I thought you said you sweet talked her out of giving
you that ticket."
- Jackie shifted
awkwardly. "Yeah, well. Not exactly."
- "A word of
advice, Jackie. If in the future you feel the urge to alter the
facts to the little woman, don't. Your lies will always find you
- "Speaking from
- "Afraid so,"
- "I'll try to
- "Oh, and another
thing," Remington said. "*Don't* refer to her as 'the little
- "What *do* l call
her?" Jackie asked.
- Remington just
grinned. "Depends on the setting. Just be creative."
- "Anyway, we got
engaged last week and, naturally, I wanted to get her a
- Remington paled.
"Jackie, tell me you didn't..."
- "No, I didn't!"
Jackie assured him. "Well, not exactly, but I might just as well
have." He pulled a jeweler's box from his jacket pocket. "This one
is just as hot. When I was waiting to pick Melissa up after work
today, on her desk was a memo about the theft of this very
- "Are you
- "Am I sure? Man,
I know when something is hot! I can't give her a hot ring! She'll
- "Icy calm,
Jackie," Remington said, putting a hand on the young man's
shoulder upon hearing the rising hysteria in his voice. "Now, tell
me how and where you got the ring."
- Jackie took a
deep breath. "Well, when I decided to get the ring I started
looking around in jewelry stores, but everything was way too
expensive. I knew enough to stay away from pawn shops and Freddy
the Touch, even though at that point I was tempted."
- "Good boy,"
Remington said, patting his shoulder. "May I see it?"
- Jackie gave it to
him.While he continued telling his story, Remington examined the
- "Then at one
store, the owner asked how much I was willing to spend. When I
told him I could swing a down payment of $200 and maybe make
payments on $300 more, he said he just happened to have a ring in
the back that he'd let go for $250 cash. I guess I should have
been suspicious-- a ring of that quality, that cheap... But I was
desperate, so I took it."
- Remington held
the ring up to the light, examining it. "Yes, the stone minus the
mounting is easily worth ten times that amount."
- "He said he'd
created it for a customer who canceled the order after making a
down payment, so he could afford to make me a good deal. l thought
I had taken advantage of *him* until I saw the memo. But all that
time, he had swindled me."
- Jackie stared at
the floor, feeling both embarrassment and anger at having to come
to Remington for another favor.
- "Don't feel so
bad, Jackie," Remington advised. "Love does strange things to all
of us. Puts us off balance; blurs our natural instincts and
talents. Now, I think the first thing to do is check out the store
and the owner. We'll pay a visit to his shop tomorrow during
regular business hours and I'll get a feel for the situation.
Then, if the situation calls for it, we can always drop by later."
couldn't stop the ear-to-ear grin that took over his face. The
prospect of breaking in to any place always aroused his
- It also had the
same effect on Brendan, who was still hiding beneath the desk. He
quickly decided to follow them. After all, there was no school the
next day--and maybe he could even help.
- "Now, don't
worry," Remington said as he showed Jackie out. "This matter may
seem complicated now, but it will be easily resolved-- or my name
isn't Remington Steele."
- "Your name
*isn't* Remington Steele," Jackie laughed, standing on the front
porch. "Monroe told me."
- "Never mind what
Monroe told you. Exaggerations. All exaggerations," Remington
chuckled good-naturedly, dosing the door.
- He then went in
search of Laura, finding her in the kitchen feeding rolls to Rory
and the twins.
- "What did Jackie
want?" she asked, wishing she could bend over and pick up the
crumbs the twins were dropping on the floor.
- "We need to
caucus,"he said, taking her arm and guiding her into the hallway
and then over to the den door. As he did so, he sniffed her breath
suspiciously, asking, "Is that chocolate I smell?"
- "No," she said
- "Laura. I know
you," he pressed. "You're almost nine months pregnant and your
mother is due to arrive in approximately four hours. . ."
- "Don't remind
- "Really, Laura.
Remember the last time your mother was on her way here? I found
you in the doghouse sharing Bridge Mix with Bogart."
- "Once again, I
went in to change his flea collar and the box fell out of my
pocket," she said sharply. "Oh, all right! So I had one lousy
chocolate chip cookie."
- "Just one,
- "One, two, a
dozen. What's the difference?" she asked testily. "Now stop
changing the subject! What kind of trouble is Jackie in now?"
- "He needs my
- "Naturally; some
things never change. What is it this time?"
breaking into a jewelry store."
- "What?" Laura
hissed. "That's supposed to reassure me? Look, I know we decided
to be honest with each other about everything. But as you said,
I'm almost nine months pregnant. Need I remind you that I could go
into labor at any time, and we already have five other children?
Do you want to be present at the birth of your sixth child? Do you
want to be around to watch your children grow up? Or do you want
to only see them when I bring them on weekly visits to prison,
which is where you will be rotting if you attempt a jewelry store
- She had remained
remarkably calm during her speech, until the end when she
punctuated her point by stomping on Remington's foot.
- "What happened to
the giving wrong message to the little tykes?" he protested,
flexing his toes to make sure they weren't broken. "And we're not
pulling off a heist, Laura; we're returning something."
- "One generally
uses customer service for that, Mr. Steele. Or is it that you're
returning something Jackie's already stolen?"
- "He isn't a thief
anymore, Laura, he reminded her. "But you're partially
- "Care to
- "It's very likely
stolen, but Jackie didn't steal it...and neither did I," he added
when he saw her eyebrow twitch.
- He explained
Jackie's dilemma, then stepped out of harm's way and waited for
- "Splendid," Laura
sighed, leaning back against the wall. "And so naturally, he
couldn't wait to share his problem with you."
- "Laura, we're all
he has. I have to help him."
- "I know you do,"
Laura sighed. "It's just that Mother's coming, and she already
thinks we're leading the children straight to hell."
- Remington cupped
her chin in the palm of his hand and looked into her eyes. "Your
mother will never know," he assured her. "We'll simply..."
- "Spare me the
details," she said, shaking off his grasp and refusing to look
into his blue eyes. "It's getting late. You finish getting dinner
for the kids and I'll get Abby ready. She should be awake from her
nap by now. I called Mildred to see if she could pick Mother up,
but didn't get an answer. Fred's answering machine isn't turned
on, either. They're probably avoiding us."
- "It doesn't
matter, Laura. We have the limo tonight."
- "What good is a
chauffeur when we end up using the limo as a family van?" she
- She turned to
leave, then suddenly remembered something. "If you and Jackie do
get into trouble at the jewelry store, where do you keep the key
to the safe deposit box?"
- "In the bedroom
safe," Remington reminded her. "It used to be in my sock drawer,
but you insisted we move it to a safer place, remember?"
- "Did you move
your will, too?"
- "Yes., but I'd
have preferred keeping it under your panty hose."
- "What about the
insurance policy?" she asked.
- "I left that
under my briefs. It seemed more poetic," he told her, wiggling his
- "Only you would
find poetry in fire engine red briefs," she said, leaving him in
the middle of a comeback.
- Remington watched
her go and shook his head. Laura always went a little crazy
whenever she was pregnant-- and the older she got, the more
pronounced her craziness became. He was wondering how he would
survive the next week as he joined the kids in the kitchen.
- A few minutes
later, Laura came in with Abby and placed her in the high chair.
Brendan?" Remington inquired. "I thought he'd be with you."
- "I'll find him,"
Laura said, shaking her head with a sigh.
- Just as she
disappeared up the stairs, Brendan walked into the kitchen. He'd
stayed hidden in the den longer than he'd intended, but had
finally decided the coast was clear.
- "Where have you
been hiding?" Remington asked, looking up.
- Brendan gulped,
afraid his father knew he'd been spying. Finally, however, he
deduced that his secret was safe so he shrugged and casually
- That seemed to
satisfy Remington. "Well, wash up and eat. We're going to the
- An hour later
Remington had the kids fed and ready to go, but Laura was now
missing. He told the kids to wait for them in the car while he
went to find her.
- "Laura!" he
called, walking into their bedroom. Thinking she might be in the
bathroom, he walked to the doorway and called again. After a quick
search confirmed that the room was empty, he sighed and started
- Rory met him at
the bottom of the stairs.
- "I thought I told
you to wait in the car," Remington told his son.
- "Mum's out
there," Rory explained. "She sent me to tell you to hurry
- "Oh? Where was
- "She came from
- Remington smiled.
"Cookie in hand, no doubt."
- "Hershey bar,"
- "Where'd she get
- "She found the
one I hid in my sock drawer," Rory sadly explained. "Guess I
better find a better hiding place."
- Remington put his
arm around his son's shoulder and walked with him to the car.
- "A word of
advice," Remington said. "Never hide anything from a woman in your
sock drawer. That's the first place they look."
- "Where do you
hide things from Mummy?" Rory asked.
- "In *her*
drawers. They're such a jumbled mess, she'd never find anything in
- Rory giggled and
Remington shushed him as they approached the car and climbed in.
- "All set?" he
asked, climbing into the driver's seat.
- "What are we
going to see, Daddy?" Laurie asked.
- "Can I have
popcorn?" asked Remy.
- "You just ate,"
Remington reminded them.
- He started the
car and swung it around in the driveway. As he did so, he slyly
turned to Laura and asked with a smirk, "Enjoy your dessert?"
- Laura opened her
purse and removed the half-eaten candy bar. "I only had two bites!
laughed, then reached over and snatched it away from her. "You
should know better than to steal from your children."
- "I'm teaching
them not to hide food in their rooms. It draws ants."
- "Oh, I see,"
Remington said, lowering the window and tossing out what was left
of the candy bar.
- Laura folded her
arms and said, "That's littering, Mr. Steele. You realize you can
get arrested for that."
- "Always concerned
for my welfare, aren't you, darling?"
- Brendan leaned
forward and asked, "What's it like in prison, Daddy? Do people
really rot in there?"
- Laura and
Remington turned to look at each other, Remington raising his
eyebrow. It wasn't the first time their curious oldest son had
spied on them, but it *was* a habit they were trying to break him
- "Why do you want
to know?" Remington asked cautiously. "Did you hear someone
talking about rotting in prison?"
- Brendan realized
his slip. "I just wondered. Brett at school says if you get caught
littering, the police throw you in prison and leave you there
until you rot." He held his breath, wondering if he'd covered
himself or if his parents had figured out that he'd been spying on
- "Yes, well, Brett
may have been exaggerating a bit, but he's right about littering
being against the law," Remington said, exchanging another look
- "Daddy," Remy
asked, "are you going to rot in prison because you threw Mummy's
candy bar out the window?"
- Laurie started to
cry and was soon joined by Abby.
- Laura shot
Remington a self-satisfied smirk as he turned the limo around.
- "Don't cry,
sweetheart," Laura said. "Daddy's going to go back and get the
candy bar. He's not going to rot in prison."
- Brendan leaned
back in the farthest back seat and let out a sigh. Remy's
well-timed question had saved him this time, but he bad a feeling
be wasn't out of hot water yet. He'd seen the look his parents had
shared. He just hoped Grandma's visit would distract his mother so
much she'd forget to ask questions later.
- In spite of the
evening's shaky beginning, Laura found herself really getting into
the spirit of The Little Mermaid. She and Remington had
always considered it to be their favorite Disney movie. They even
bought a copy each time it was in video release, afraid the
children would wear it out and it wouldn't be re released for a
- They could really
associate with Ariel and Eric's frustration in Kiss the
had been hard enough in the "old days" for them to share an
intimate moment without being interrupted by Mildred, an
occasional bullet, or ringing phones. But now, with five children,
it was nearly impossible. Well, not *entirely* impossible, Laura
thought to herself as she smiled and folded her hands over her
abdomen--but certainly a challenge.
- She and Remington
had once been naive enough to believe that a sturdy lock on their
bedroom door would afford them a measure of privacy. But then,
they hadn't counted on their inquisitive eldest son believing that
locks were made to be conquered. The more intricate the lock
Remington installed, the more determined Brendan had been to pick
it. Like his father, he just couldn't turn his back on an
Laura had finally
come up with the solution. She had Remington reinstall the original
lock. Since Brendan knew he could handle that one with no problem,
the challenge was gone. As a result, their bedroom was once again a
safe haven--at least, until one of the children needed
- Laura was drawn
out of her reverie when her entire brood began singing
with Sebastian and his cronies. Good-naturedly, she added her
soprano to the chorus. When the number ended, Remington
impulsively leaned over Laurie and Remy's heads and gave Laura a
- "Daddy!" Laurie
reminded him with a great deal of indignation. "It's not time for
- "It's always time
to kiss the girl, darling. Always." To emphasize his point, he
quickly gave Laura another kiss.
- Rory and Brendan
leaned over the back of the seat, dodging their heads from side to
- "Hey! We can't
see when you do that!" Brendan declared.
- "You've seen this
movie dozens of times," Remington reminded them.
- "But we've never
seen it at the drive-in before!" Rory protested.
- "Yeah!" three of
his siblings said in agreement.
- "You and Mummy
can kiss any time!" Brendan reminded them.
- "Yeah!" the three
older kids echoed.
- "Any time, eh?"
Remington sighed, wishing it were true.
- Before be could
comment, however, there was a tapping on the outside of the car
window. Everyone turned toward the window at Laura's right and saw
the face of the overly cheerful Barbara Frick, who had been
Laura's college roomie on 4-East.
- "Icy calm,
Laura," Remington told his wife, knowing Barbara wasn't her
- "I hear you, Mr.
Steele," Laura said through clinched teeth. "I hear you."
- Remington pushed
the automatic window control and Laura was face to face with
Barbara's "treachly" smile. Treachly was a word Remington had
"coined" years earlier when he and Laura had shared a cup of tea
with her during a case. To Laura's amusement, he had said it was a
combination of treacherous and phony--and it certainly fit Babs to
- After exuberant
greetings all around, Babs shook her head in disbelief at the
sight before her. "Laura, Laura, Laura," she said in a sing-song
voice. "I never thought I'd see the day when you'd be attending a
G-rated movie at a family drive-in with a hubby and 1, 2, 3, 4
kids in tow."
- "Actually, Babs,
make that five..." Remington said. Then patting Laura's protruding
stomach, he added, "...with number six soon to join us."
- "Thank you,
dear," Laura said to Remington, hating every moment of the current
conversation. "And how many children do you have now,
- "The same two as
before. The only time our family expands is when we get more
Remington exclaimed in mock delight. "Did you hear that, dear?
Babs is getting her feet wet with goldfish!"
- "We have a dog!"
Remy loudly volunteered. "His name is Bogart. . ."
- "...because Daddy
likes to watch Humpty Bogart in the movies!" Laurie finished with
- "Does he now?"
- Not wanting to be
left out of the conversation, Rory added, "Bogart has fleas! Daddy
says he gonna get us all flea collars to wear so we won't catch
coughed. Laura tried to hide her laugh by quickly turning her head
away from Babs and towards her husband. His eyes were laughing,
Laura noted, but he was doing a good job of remaining in control.
The topic of flea collars always made them laugh, thanks to the
time before their marriage when a flea collar and Laura's sister's
flea-bitten dog had provided them with quite a bit of
- "Yes, well, you
should try goldfish. They never get fleas," Babs said,
- "Daddy won't let
us have fish," Laurie said.
- "Yeah," continued
Remy. "He says that when they die, they float on their backs in
the water and then you have to flush them down the.. ."
- "Mrs. Frick knows
all about dead fish, sweetheart," Laura said with a laugh.
- "Mummy, when
mermaids die, do they float on their backs in the water until
someone flushes them?" Laurie asked, looking intently at her
mother with wide eyes.
- "Don't be a
ninny, Laurie!" Rory chastised. "How could you flush a mermaid?
They're too big."
- "Well, if you
can't flush them, what happens to them?" Laurie asked, her lips
- "Someone comes
along in a boat and eats them," Brendan offered.
- "No!!" Laurie
protested, covering her ears.
- Remington glared
at Brendan. "They go straight to mermaid heaven, Laurie," he said.
"You don't need to worry about that now. Ariel is-"
- Mercifully, he
was interrupted by Abby's angry wails. All eyes went to the back
of the limo, where Brendan was scooting over to Abby's car seat to
check out the problem.
- "Wet again," he
- "Daddy! Daddy! I
want popcorn!" Remy yelled, bouncing up and down on the front
- Laurie quickly
decided popcorn was more important than dead mermaids and joined
the bouncing chorus. As she was sitting on Laura's knees, that
wasn't a good idea.
darling," Remington said as he reached across the seat and took
Laurie into his own lap. "Mummy doesn't need your bouncing on her
tummy like that."
- Abby continued to
- "Anybody gonna
change her?" Brendan asked. "She's getting mad."
- Babs patted
Laura's shoulder and gave her another treachly smile, saying,
"When I first heard that you and Remington were married, I admit I
had my doubts. It's a real relief to know that you're just a
traditional married couple like the rest of us."
- Remington gave
Babs his own devious smile and shook his head in agreement,
saying, "Yes, that's us, all right. Traditional, all the way.
Isn't that right, dear?"
- Laura turned
towards Remington, gave him a murderous look that betrayed the
smile on her face and turned back to Babs. "If you'll excuse me, I
think I'll change Abby now. But it was really nice seeing you
- When good nights
were finally said and Babs was almost out of earshot, Remington
called out, "Do come see us, Babs! You can't miss our house - it's
the traditional one with the white picket fence. lt's in the
hills. Look us up!"
- Babs suddenly
turned, yelling back, "In the hills?"
- Laura turned to
Remington, embarrassment and indignation on her face quickly
turning into a laugh.
- Rory was
confused. "We don't have a white picket fence, Daddy. Why did you
say we have a white picket fence?"
- "Daddy was
teasing," Brendan explained.
- "Mummy," Remy
asked, thoroughly confused. "How come when Daddy says something
that isn't true, it's called teasing. But when we say something
that isn't true, it's called fibbing?"
- Remington wasn't
about to get into a discussion on that topic at that particular
moment, so he quickly suggested Remy and Rory go with him to get
popcorn and drinks while Laura changed Abby.
- Actually, he
wasn't merely trying to postpone a discussion with the children
about teasing versus lying; he was hoping to avoid a discussion
with Laura about traditional married couples. Not that Barb's
comment had particularly bothered him, but Laura's wild eyes had
told him in no uncertain terms that it had bothered her. It would
be better to let her cool off a while.
- Remington stood
at the refreshment counter with Remy and Rory on either side of
him and a counter top of colas and popcorn before him.
- "Do you have any
money, Daddy?" Rory asked.
- "He means cash,"
- "I have not left
the house without cash in years-- not in your mother's presence
anyway," Remington explained in a loud whisper.
- When the cashier
looked confused, Remington merely smiled and patted Rory's
- "If there were
some parking meters around, we could help," offered Rory, giving
his father a wistful look.
- Remington took a
deep breath, got a stern look on his face and knelt down beside
his middle son. "I don't want to hear talk like that, mate. What
you and Brendan did three months ago was an emergency. You were
helping Mummy and Daddy. You and Brendan had to repay every cent,
- "We've been
through all of this, Rory, and you said you understood," Remington
explained patiently. "Now I don't want to hear any more talk about
breaking into parking meters."
- Slowly breaking
into a sheepish grin, Rory said, "I was teasing, Daddy."
- Remington's face
was expressionless for a moment, but then he laughed heartily.
Mussing Rory's brown hair, he stood up and once again faced the
cashier, asking, "How much?"
- Remington counted
the bills in his wallet, then said, "I only have eighteen. I don't
suppose you give family discounts?"
- "I told you we
needed a parking meter," Rory said, giggling before his dad could
- "Okay. I'll just,
uh, get the rest from my wife."
- "No way," the
cashier said. "You don't come hack, I'm stuck with all this food
your kids have handled."
- "Uh, well,
then...Here. I'll leave my watch as collateral," Remington
offered, pulling on the band.
- "I already have a
- "It's a
- "So is mine, and
I bet I paid a third of what you did."
- "Bought it in a
parking lot, eh?" Remington asked.
- "Something like
that," the cashier admitted.
- "My driver's
- "I don't care who
you are. I just want my $19.50."
- When both boys
began pulling on his pants leg,Remington looked down into their
- "Leave us,
Daddy-- like you left Mummy in Mexico," Rory said.
- "You left your
wife in Mexico?" the cashier asked.
- Remington started
to comment but then thought better of it and looked down at the
- "We can handle
it, Daddy," Rory declared. "We can be food guarders."
- "It'll be my
first case!" Remy exclaimed.
- "Is that okay?"
Remington asked the cashier.
- "Yeah, why not? I
think you'll come back for them."
considered the situation for a moment. "All right, mates," he
finally said. "Your assignment is to keep an eye on our food
without moving from this spot."
- "We'll wait right
here," Rory assured him.
- "They'll be
fine," the cashier declared. "But make it snappy, okay? Here comes
a car load and you'll be holding up the line."
- With one last
look at the boys, Remington quickly left the refreshment shack.
- He was almost
back at the limo when he met Brendan. "What are you doing out of
the car?" he asked.
- Brendan held out
a $IO bill. "Mum sent you this."
- "She did, eh?"
Remington scowled, but took it from him. "Come along; you can help
us carry everything."
- "She was right,
- "Brendan, your
mother is always right... even when it hurts."
- * * * * *
- lt wasn't long
before Remington and the boys climbed back into the limo with
popcorn and drinks. Laura was already sitting in the back seat,
Abby and Laurie on either side of her. Brendan climbed into the
front seat and helped his father distribute the food.
- "We guarded the
food, Mummy," Remy declared, sitting next to Brendan. "We didn't
even let the fat lady that bumped into Rory take it from us."
- "You were very
brave, sweetheart. But we shouldn't call people fat," Laura said,
- Her eyes,
however, were on Remington--and they were not smiling.
- "They did Humpty
proud," Remington bragged, handing her the change.
- "Just don't give
them cause to do it again," Laura said over her wax-coated paper
cup of cola. She knew she shouldn't be drinking the caffeine, but
surely a little wouldn't hurt.
- "I want to sit in
the front again," Laurie shrieked, bouncing up and down in the
rear seat and making Laura feel queasy.
- "Wait a second,
sweetheart; you know Mummy's tummy doesn't like to be bounced
about," her father instructed her. "Just hang on; I'll come get
- Remington walked
around to the rear door and climbed inside. Reaching into the back
seat, he lifted Laurie in his arms and held her suspended over the
rear of the front seat until Brendan could help her the rest of
- "I can't believe
this," Remington said softly into Laura's ear.
- "What?" Laura
- "This," he said,
"is the first time in years we've be allowed to sit together in
the back seat at a drive-in."
- Glancing at his
watch, Remington put his arm around his wife and prepared to enjoy
a few restful moments.
- * * * * *
- Remington looked
at his watch again; Laura was sure it was the fifth time, even
though she wasn't consciously keeping count.
- "You keep doing
that," she pointed out. "Is something wrong?
- "It's been
running slow; that's all," Remington explained as he shook it and
placed it near his ear.
- "You only use
that excuse when you're trying to sneak off someplace. Where is it
- "Don't you have
that backwards, Mrs. Steele? Under the circumstances, shouldn't I
be worried that *you'll* sneak off?"
- "Don't be silly.
I'm thrilled about Mother's visit"
- "Uh huh,"
Remington said, unconvinced.
- In a minute he
glanced at his watch again and thumped his fingers on the back of
the seat, tapping Laura's shoulder in the process. Then leaning
forward, he whispered something to Laurie. When he was sure she
understood, he settled back into his seat.
- Then after
glancing at his watch a few more times, he cleared his throat.
- Laurie suddenly
bounced to her knees and leaned over the front seat, announcing,
"I hafta go to the bathroom."
- "I'll take her,"
Remington offered, quickly climbing out of the car before Laura
could protest and opening the front door so Laurie could climb
out. Then scooping her up in his arms, he carried her towards the
rear of the drive-in.
- "Where we going,
Daddy?" Laurie asked.
- "On an
- "Like Peter Pan?"
- "Sort of,"
Remington explained, searching the area for something. Finally
spotted what he was searching for, he changed directions.
- "Isn't that
Mummy's car?" Laurie asked in a moment when she noticed the Rabbit
in the distance.
- "Hmm, I do
believe it is," her father stated, picking up his pace.
- "It's Jackie!"
Laurie exclaimed in delight when she was close enough to clearly
see the figure behind the wheel. "Daddy, why does Jackie have
- "lt's a surprise
for your mum," Remington explained. "She and I are going to watch
the last part of the movie here by ourselves while Jackie stays
with all of you. And you're going to help me surprise her."
- Laurie giggled,
then asked, "How, Daddy?"
- "You and Jackie
will go back to the limo. But right before you get there, he'll
hide while you run to the limo and tell Mummy to come look for me.
Tell her I need her help."
- "What do you need
her help for?"
- "Oh, I don't
know. Make something up."
- "We're not
supposed to make up things," Laurie chided.
- "This time it's
okay," Remington assured her. "When your mum comes looking for me,
I'll surprise her. Jackie will stay with all of you and then he'll
take the Rabbit home while we go get Grandma at the
- Laurie giggled
again. "Remy had his first case tonight. Is this mine, Daddy?"
- "I suppose it
is," Remington said. "Now, can I count on you, sweetheart?"
- "You have my
word, Daddy, and a Steele's word is her bond," Laurie assured him.
- "What is it,
- "I really do
hafta go to the bathroom."
- * * *
- Back in the limo,
Laura chewed her thumbnail, and glanced at her watch with a
determination that would have made Remington pale. She was just
about to about to organize a search party when the back door
opened and a breathless Laurie scrambled inside.
- "Mummy! Mummy!
- "Where *is*
Daddy?" Laura asked.
- "Over there!"
Laurie said excitedly, pointing behind the car.
- "Calm down,
darling. Why isn't Daddy with you?"
- "He's being
chased by three big lions! Hurry, Mummy, before they eat him!"
- "How did you get
away?" Laura asked.
- "Daddy was so
brave, Mummy!" Laurie exclaimed, really getting into her 'first
case.' "He pushed me in front of him and said he'd hold them off
until I could get help! You've gotta hurry!!"
- "Right!" Laura
said, taking charge. "Brendan, you and Rory watch the others.
After I lock the doors, don't let any strangers in. And I don't
care how badly anyone has to go to the bathroom, no one gets out
of this car!"
- Realizing that
Remington was up to something and that Laurie was obviously in on
it, Laura played along. After locking the doors, she looked around
and quickly spotted Jackie waving to her from behind a nearby car.
Waving back, she headed to the back of the drive-in where the
restrooms were located, trying to figure what out exactly what her
unpredictable husband was up to this time.
- As soon as she
was out of sight, Jackie tapped on the window of the limo. Laurie
unlocked the door and let him in.
- "Hi, kids,"he
said in greeting. "Pass me some of that popcorn."
- They did, while
Laurie told everyone about her first case.
- When Laura
spotted Remington leaning casually against the Rabbit, she
couldn't help but notice that he was in one piece.
- "Where are the
lions?" she asked, looking around.
- Following her
cue, he scanned the area around them, also. "Lions?"
- "Laurie said you
were being chased by three of them. I hated to tell her your slim
frame would hardly interest them."
- He looked
wounded, but then chuckled. "Lions, eh? Well, I told her to think
of something, but I didn't expect her to be quite so creative."
- "I don't see any
scratches," Laura remarked. "Any teeth marks I should
- "Only yours," he
said, wiggling his eyebrows. "But are you going to stand here
discussing them, or are you going to get in the car with me?" he
asked, opening the door for her.
absolutely right. Time's a wasting," Laura admitted, crawling in
and watching him walk around to the driver's side of the
- "Now, what are
you plotting this time, and what is my car doing here?" she asked
after he had taken his seat.
- "Jackie is
baby-sitting," he explained, holding out the popcorn Jackie had
left for them. "We'll share a few private moments and, after the
movie is over, Jackie will return this antique to the garage and
we'll all go after your mother."
- Laura stared at
him in disbelief for a few moments. She thought briefly about
defending her car, but then thought better of it. Laughed instead,
she said, "You old romantic, you."
- Taking a handful
of popcorn, she gratefully rested her head on her husband's
shoulder. "Private moments are so few these days. In fact, I was
just thinking about that earlier today," she admitted.
- "You were, eh?"
Remington asked, putting his arm around her.
- "I love all of
our children, and I've never regretted having them...but sometimes
I wish . . . Well, it's just that ..."
- When Remington
noted with concern that Laura was on the verge of tears, he
tenderly squeezed her shoulder, saying, "Out with it,
- "How can I
explain this? I know it's a terrible thing to say, but sometimes
I'm almost jealous of them," she admitted.
- "It just proves
my theory that you're human, Laura,"he assured her, giving her a
quick kiss on the forehead. "I'm sure every mother who ever lived
has felt that way at some point."
- "What would you
say if I told you that I didn't want any more children?"
- He was
momentarily surprised, but did his best not to show it. Then
giving her shoulder another squeeze, he asked, "Laura, do you
remember what did I told you when Brendan was born?"
- "You said it
didn't matter to you whether we had one child or twenty, but that
you would love each and every one we might have as if he or she
were the most special child on earth."
- "I'm relieved to
know that pregnancy hasn't diminished your memory," he said.
- "I certainly
never dreamed we would have such a large family, but Brendan was
such a joy and you were such a wonderful father and I loved being
a mother, so it was the most natural thing in the world to want to
multiply that joy. But... perhaps six are enough," Laura
- "Six seems an
adequate number," Remington agreed.
- "I'm not sure you
know what I'm trying to say," Laura confessed. "It seems *I'm* the
one having trouble with the words tonight."
- "'Come now,
Scarlett; you aren't suggesting separate bedrooms, are you?'" he
asked in his best Gable impression.
- "Of course no!"
she replied indignantly. "It's just getting to be more than I can
- "I understand,
Luv," he assured her.
- "There's so
little opportunity for spontaneity anymore, professionally or
personally," she explained further. "I don't really mind the
professional limitations, but I do find the personal limitations
frustrating. I mean, when was our last spontaneous romantic
- Remington thought
hard for a moment, then said with a smile, "Last month, when we
took a two hour lunch at Andre's."
- "That was nice,
but it was planned," she pointed out. "You're always surprising me
with unexpected long lunches, relaxing drives along the coast and
romantic walks on the beach. But I would hardly call any of them
spontaneous; they all took careful planning. You seem to thrive on
it, but I feel like a general orchestrating a battle when I plan
something as mundane as grocery shopping!"
- Remington buried
his face in her hair. "Laura, I know it's hard sometimes, but. .
- "Who would have
thought our life together would be like this?" Laura said with a
- "Any regrets?" he
- She thought a
moment. "No," she admitted with a smile. "None at all. Though it
would have been much simpler if I had married Norman the
accountant; he only wanted two kids and a Siamese cat."
- She never thought
Remington would take her last remark seriously, but even in the
semi-darkness she could see his bewildered expression.
- "But I wouldn't
have had nearly the fun," she said with a smile as she kissed his
- "I was afraid,
for a moment, you were going to say Norman *Keyes.* I mean, I know
pregnancy always make you a bit raving, but that would have
- Laura elbowed him
gently. "I guess what it all comes down to is that I belong to the
California generation who protested environmental destruction and
civil disobedience. I never thought I'd be so..."
she corrected, nearly spitting out the word. "Even Barbara called
us traditional. You heard her. And you were worse, with that
syrupy tone and treachly smile."
- She elbowed him
again, harder this time.
- "Laura! I'm sure
she won't accept my invitation to visit," Remington said in an
effort to placate her.
- Laura sighed. "At
least you rubbed it in a little by telling her we live in the
- "Well, we
couldn't find a big enough house anywhere else that offered the
same security," he reminded her.
- "Don't spoil it,"
she warned, though her voice was playful. "I just never expected
my life to turn out the way it has; that's all I'm saying."
- "You know, when
you think about it, Laura, we're probably the least traditional
couple in America," Remington pointed out.
- "You once
promised me that we'd be the happiest married couple in
- "And are we?"
- "Sometimes. We do
have a good marriage-- better than most. Certainly better than
Barbs and what's-his-name, and she thinks her marriage is
- "But you think it
could be better?"
- "I just wish we
could recapture some of the excitement, the thrill, the adventure
of the old days. You know, all of those things that both attracted
me to you and scared the living daylights out of me."
- "Ah, yes,"
Remington sighed. "The good old days when you fought my affections
tooth and nail."
- To his amusement,
her thoughts suddenly took a different turn. "Do you suppose that
old sensitivity spa still exists?" she asked dreamily.
- "What?" he asked,
startled. "Are you saying we need therapy? Come now, Laura, you
don't actually buy into all that gop, do you? There's a reason spa
is just another way of spelling sap. We don't need outside help."
- "No, of course we
don't," she agreed, chewing on her lower lip.
- "Want me to write
you another letter outlining the reasons I fell in love with
- "Couldn't hurt,"
she confessed with a smile.
- When her hand
came into contact with his as they reached for popcorn at the same
time, he caught her fingers and squeezed them.
- "It doesn't have
to be the spa," she explained. "Just someplace we can get away for
a few days, just the two of us. No phone, no kids, no relatives,
no Mildred... no interruptions of any sort. I want..."
- "What?" Remington
asked. "What do you want?"
- "More of what you
managed tonight. I want to be romanced again, without having to
enlist Jackie, or having to worry that we only have two hours
because the kids will be home, or that Frances and Donald are
coming to dinner, or. . ." Her voice trailed off for a moment, but
then she continued. "I need time just for us. I want time with
*you*-- the man I love. I never dreamed a commitment would mean
giving up so much."
- "I'm not sure I
understand," Remington admitted, a bit confused. "You have the
agency, you have me, you have our children..."
- "To hell with the
agency!" she suddenly blurted out. Then noticing his shocked look,
she quickly said, "I know, I know; I never thought I'd say that,
either. But you're missing my point: in gaining you, I've lost
- "Now I *am*
confused. How have you lost me?"
- "We've been so
caught up in the kids, work...Everything except each other."
- "I haven't meant
to neglect you," he said sincerely.
- "We've neglected
each other. Do you ever wish you could go back?" she asked, her
voice barely above a whisper.
- "Back to what?
The carefree days before we had children?"
- "No. Back to
before we met...Before you and I became us...Before you became
- "Absolutely not,"
he said with a smile, taking her into his arms. "I cherish *our*
life together, even if it does seems like a circus most of he
time. How could you even ask such a thing?"
- "I've heard you
discussing old times with your old mates, when you're playing
poker at the house."
Laura," he interjected. "That's all it is. You do it, too, you
know-- when you talk to Murphy or Bernice on the phone. Maybe what
I say is colored with fondness, but a lot of it is just talk
that's been dulled or embellished with the passage of time. My old
times were hard times, Luv. Living day to day is a lonely
existence. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd to be
where I am today."
- "Sitting at a
Disney movie with a very pregnant wife while a reformed pickpocket
watches your five offspring?" Laura asked.
- "Surrounded by
love," he corrected. "I have it all, Laura." On her look, he
added, "More time for just the two of us would be nice, but we're
- "In a
convertible-- and only until the movie ends," she pointed
- "Well, I've never
been one to miss an opportunity," he said, nuzzling her neck.
- Safe in
Remington's arms, Laura closed her eyes. And for a while, she
forgot all about the worries she had brought with her to the
- The screen had
been dark for several minutes and other cars were starting to
leave when Remington and Laura untangled their arms and legs and
- "I suppose we'd
better rescue Jackie," Remington said.
- "Must we?" Laura
asked with a sigh.
- "And I'm afraid
we're going to have to hustle to get to the airport in time to
meet your mother's flight," Remington said, glancing at his watch.
"She may already be circling."
'Surrender, Laura' from her broom, no doubt," she muttered.
- Remington let the
comment pass and helped her from the car. They walked, arms around
each other's waist, toward the limo. Neither was in a hurry to end
the few stolen moments they had shared.
- "What are you
thinking about?" he asked her.
- "That Hershey bar
you gave the kids."
- "Your mother
brings that out in you, doesn't she?"
- "Among other
things. Can we just drop it, please?"
- "She's the only
grandmother the kids have," Remington reminded her.
- "I know, and I
tolerate her for their sake," she said. But after a moment of
silence, she added, "No, I take that back. I love my mother; I
really do. We just don't communicate very well. Certainly not as
well as Mother and Frances."
- "If it wasn't for
the genetic chocolate thing, I'd wonder if you and Frances were
- "Me, too,"
confessed Laura, leaning against Remington as a car passed by
slowly. "Frances is perfect, but I have dozens of past aberrations
that Mother just has to drag up at every opportunity. Everything
from my running away to the laundry hamper to my arrest record.
Oh, she thinks she's being subtle when she says things like 'What
ever became of Wilson Jeffries?' or 'Do you ever see that nice
jail matron who kept that horrible woman from strip-searching
you?' But what she really means is 'Why can't you be more like
laughed. "How have you managed to keep my past sins from her?"
- "Oh, she thinks
you're perfect, too--except for the fact that you spend too much
- "Abigail said
times," Laura assured him.
- Remington laughed
again, saying,"You take after her, you know."
- "I don't harp on
our children's mistakes!" Laura said defensively.
- "No, you don't;
not even about Brendan and Rory's museum escapade. It's only *my*
little indiscretions that you keep bringing up, in your own subtle
- Laura stepped
away from him at that point and poked a finger in his chest. "And
speaking of your little indiscretions, I think leaving Rory and
Remy at the refreshment center tonight was far too
- "Laura, if I stop
being reckless, what's left?" he grinned, increasing his pace and
walking ahead of her. Then calling back over his shoulder, he
added,"I guess I'll just have to be traditional!"
- Laura found the
peace and quiet of the seldom-used formal living room almost as
comforting as the piano piece she was playing. lt had been a
hectic day and she had needed this time to herself. Sensing that,
Remington had sent her to "practice her preludes" while he,
Abigail, and Mama Katie handled bedtime hugs and prayers with the
- As Laura finished
her selection, she lovingly stroked the dark wood of her beloved
piano. It was her most treasured material possession, and the fact
that Remington had made monthly payments on it for years endeared
it to her even more. She thought back to that magical night when
she discovered Remington's gift in her empty loft, and she
couldn't help smiling as she thought of all the "possibilities"
that had since become realities.
- It was then that
Laura's reverie was broken by her grandmother. Putting her hand on
her granddaughter's shoulder, she said, "I knew I made the right
decision when I gave you my piano. It wasn't as elegant as this
one, but you loved it as much as I did."
- Laura patted the
bench beside her and Mama Katie joined her. "It was the thing I
missed the most when my house burned," Laura admitted.
- "Yes, I know,"
Mama Katie admitted, stroking the lovingly polished wood. "You
know, your mother was mortified when Remington gave you this
piano. Not that he gave it to you, mind you, but that you accepted
it without any protest."
- "Were you
mortified as well?"Laura asked, studying her grandmother's
- "Enlightened is
more like it. I knew that any man who knew you well enough to know
how much that piano meant to you was a very special man indeed.
And for you to accept it meant that you also saw that in him. l
just didn't think it would take you so long to admit it. But then,
you always were stubborn."
- Laura laughed and
gave her grandmother a hug. "I'm so glad you came! l just wish
you'd told us ahead of time!"
- "Why? So you
wouldn't have been dreading your mother's visit?"
- "Oh, dear. Is it
- "Laura, dear, it
doesn't take a detective to figure out that your mother's visits
set your teeth on edge."
- Laura looked
embarrassed. "I've disappointed Mother all of my life," she said
with a sigh. "Maybe I should have become a dental hygienist like
forbid--you would have been a terrible hygienist! You were
destined to become a detective, ever since you were six years old
and found my missing ring. I'll let you in on a little secret:
Abigail is the one who always wanted to be a dental hygienist."
- "Mother?!" Laura
exclaimed, shocked to learn that her mother ever had dreams of her
own than didn't involve running her daughters' lives. For a
moment, she felt a wave of understanding. "Where is Mother,
- "Probably in her
room, fortifying herself with Krunch bars." On Laura's
disbelieving look, Mama Katie continued. "Laura, being flustered
by a visit from your mother is not unique to you, you know. But
enough of that. What I'm really interested in is my newest
great-grandchild. I love all of my great-grandchildren, but I feel
a special bond with this one."
- "Remington has
said that about all of our children," Laura said. "He says he
feels a special bond with each of them. At the time I didn't think
that was possible, but I've learned it is. Each one is special in
his or her own unique, wonderful way." Laura smiled as she placed
her hand on her abdomen. "Even though this little one will be
number six, it's just as welcome as the first."
- "As a sixth child
myself, I'm very glad to hear you say that. My parents loved me,
but sometimes I felt like I just blended in with the rest. I
really wanted to be here for this one's birth, to let him or her
know from the very beginning that they're special."
- Laurie, in her
white nightgown and bunny slippers, choose that moment to burst
into the room. Holding up a silver charm bracelet, she exclaimed,
"I found it, Mama Katie!"
- "Well, you
certainly did! Where in heaven's name was it?"
- "I figured that
Bogart took it when he ran from your room, so I looked in his
doghouse and there it was! Do I get a reward?"
dear. Let's go get that dollar right now!"
- Laura took her
daughter into her arms and whispered in her ear, "When I was your
age, I only got a quarter."
- The three of them
walked upstairs to Mama Katie's room, but Laura waited in the
doorway. She didn't want to spoil a precious moment between
great-grandmother and great-granddaughter, nor did she want to let
Laurie see the tears of pride in her eyes.
- Laurie took the
dollar from her great-grandmother, gave her a hug and shook it
excitedly in her mother's direction. "Isn't it great, Mummy? My
- "It's wonderful,
sweetheart," Laura assured her.
- "I've gotta go
tell Daddy!" Laurie exclaimed as she ran out of the room and into
- "Looks like we
have another detective on our hands," Mama Katie observed. "And
she has a head start on you, doesn't she?"
- "Did you really
lose that bracelet?" Laura asked, raising her eyebrow
- "Why, Laura, I'm
surprised at you! Next thing l know, you'll be wondering if I
really lost that ring 30 years ago!"
- * * *
- Laura smiled and
hugged her pillow, unaware that her husband had been watching her
for several minutes, savoring the sight of her sleeping. Smiling,
he leaned over and gave her a series of kisses.
- Slowly opening
her eyes, she found herself gazing into the face of her husband.
Putting her arms around his neck, she pulled his face against her
shoulder. Then she shook her head and laughed.
- "What's so
funny?" Remington asked, kissing her ear.
- "I had the
craziest dream," Laura told him. "I'd invited Barbara Frick over
for tea because I wanted to show off our new picket fence."
- "Nothing like a
traditional dream for a restful night's sleep," Remington said in
- "Well, not
exactly. While I was in the kitchen getting ready, you and the
kids painted movie scenes all over the fence. I ended up joining
you and the cake burned to a crisp."
- "Color pictures
or traditional black and white?"
- "Both, actually."
fence covered with movie scenes. Think your subconscious is trying
to tell you something, Mrs. Steele?" Remington asked.
- "I don't know
about that, but my stomach is certainly trying to tell me
something. What time is it, anyway? I'm starving!"
- "I'll go start
the waffles while you get dressed," Remington said, pulling Laura
out of bed. When she was on her feet, he tenderly ran his fingers
across her chin, saying, "You're beautiful when you're pregnant,
- "Only when I'm
- "You're beautiful
to me all the time, Luv. But you're even more beautiful when
- It didn't take
Laura long to realize the house was empty. She heard no giggles,
no tears, no slamming doors and no scampering feet. She had
forgotten how quiet and lonely the house was without the sound of
children. Her own footsteps even echoed as she made her way down
the stairs to the kitchen.
- "Where is
every..." she asked, stopping in mid-question when she saw the
table set for two, complete with a lace tablecloth, candles and a
long-stemmed red rose in a crystal vase.
- Her eyes filled
with tears as she looked into Remington's glowing face.
- "Surprise!" he
said, planting a kiss on her cheek.
- Laura threw her
arms around him. "Every day with you is full of surprises."
- "Yes, well, I
don't want you getting bored," Remington said as he helped Laura
sit at the elegantly prepared table.
- "I think boredom
is one thing our marriage will never suffer from," Laura
- "I think Greta
Garbo said it best when she said, 'I'm afraid of nothing except
being bored' ," Remington said.
- He then watched
in awe as Laura poured half a bottle of syrup onto her waffles.
"Laura," he chastised. "If you eat all of the syrup you've poured
on your plate, the baby will be doing calisthenics."
- Laura smiled and
took a bite of dripping waffles. "He or she is past the trampoline
stage," she rationalized. "They're just waiting to be born now."
- "You've gained
all the weight the doctor wants you to gain," he pointed
- Her smile
remained, but she said, "I really hate it when you do that."
- "Chastise me
about my eating."
- "I wasn't
chastising," he explained. "I was just pointing out ..."
- He was silenced
with a sweet, sticky kiss. By mutual, non-verbal agreement, they
thus agreed to change the subject.
- "So, where is
everyone?" Laura asked, her mouth full.
- "Enjoying a day
out on the town with Fred and the limo. I think the agenda
included the zoo, the park, Pizza Circus, putt-putt and the toy
- "It was sweet of
you to plan their day so we could spend some time
- "Actually, Laura,
it was sweet of *Abigail* to plan their day so we could be alone."
- "It was Mother's
idea?" Laura asked incredulously.
- "Boggles the
mind, doesn't it?" Remington asked, raising his eyebrow. "She made
the suggestion last night while you were talking with your
grandmother. She wanted to give us a day to ourselves before the
baby comes and things get even more hectic around here."
- Laura shook her
head, feeling guilty. "And all that time I thought she was hiding
in the guest room eating my Krunch bar."
- "Well, come to
think of it, Abigail *was* eating a candy bar while we were
talking," Remington recalled.
- Laura laughed.
"Don't you get it? When Mother visits, I get nervous and eat
...choc... choc... chocolate." Laura shuddered as she said the
word. "And when Mama Katie visits Mother, Mother goes batty and
you find her eating chocolate, too."
- "Oh, I see. It's
a family tradition," Remington said, ducking to avoid the napkin
Laura threw at his grinning face.
- * * *
- Laura would
remember that day as the nicest gift she had ever received from
her mother. And, when she flipped through the pages of her mental
scrapbook years from now, she would love Remington all the more
for making it truly memorable. That it wasn't spontaneous hardly
- After their
leisurely breakfast by candlelight, they enjoyed a relaxing drive
in the Auburn up to the Griffith Park Observatory. Laura wasn't
able to climb behind the infamous Marty Klopman wall, but she
received an almost sexual satisfaction when Remington blotted out
Marty's initials with white spray paint and added his own in blue.
Upon leaving Griffith Park, Remington drove to "their spot" in
McCullum Park, where the two of them necked before taking a
romantic stroll through the woods. Laura had expected them to
leave the Park afterwards, but Remington instead surprised her
with the picnic lunch he had packed.
- After their
picnic, they sat through two sets of instant photos at the bus
station. Laura, despite hating the bloated face she always
imagined having when she was pregnant, felt like a teenager again
as they had their pictures taken inside the small, curtained
booth. She had forgotten how much fun it could be to act so
uninhibited with the man she loved. For the first set of four
photos, they tried to outdo each other making silly faces. The
second set recorded a single kiss that didn't end until Remington
reminded her they'd better grab their photos and run before a
reporter from the LA. Inquirer once again beat them to it.
- When they finally
drove into their own driveway late that afternoon, Laura was
pleasantly exhausted. It took practically no coaxing for Remington
to get her to take a nap before dinner, but she did make him
promise to wake her up in time to eat with the rest of the family.
For once, she was anxious to see her mother and thank her for
giving them such a special day.
- * * *
- Laura was asleep
when her family returned from their day's excursion. The children
were bubbling over with stories about their adventures, and
Remington proved to be an enraptured audience. When Abigail later
asked how his day had been, he merely smiled, kissed her on both
cheeks and said, "Thank you." That simple act told her everything
she needed to know.
- lt was then that
Jackie arrived. He had made previous arrangements to meet
Remington at the house at 5:30 so they could scope out the jewelry
store and formulate their plan for that night's visit. Remington
was still in such good spirits from his day's activities that he
didn't even object when Brendan asked to go with them.
- * * *
- Jackie and
Brendan casually looked around the jewelry store while Remington
feigned interest in a silver choker. During his discussion with
the clerk, he ascertained that the door was the only thing rigged
to an alarm system and that the ventilation duct near the ceiling
was probably large enough to crawl through.
- The next step was
to discover exactly where the ventilation duct led. That search
led them straight to the men's bathroom next door in a L.A.
- "Well, Jackie, my
boy, we've lucked out," Remington said, slapping him on the back.
"This little job will be child's play, assuming I can fit in the
vent. If you'll just give me a lift, we'll know for sure."
- Jackie cupped his
hands and gave Remington a boost. Then pushing the wire vent
aside, he pulled himself up into the gaping black hole.
- "It looks a
little tight, but I think I can make it," Remington
- "I can fit,
Daddy. Let me do it," Brendan urged.
- "No," his father
said as he jumped down from the vent.
- "But I'm little
-I can do it; I know I can."
- "No," Remington
- "But I helped you
return the Marchessa Collection..."
- Remington knelt
beside Brendan and put his hands on his son's shoulders, instantly
letting him know he'd gone too far.
- "It's not open
for discussion," Remington declared in a no-nonsense voice. "Do I
make myself clear?"
- "Yes, sir. I
won't mention it again."
- "Good. See that
you don't," Remington added for emphasis, making sure he got the
last word in. "Now, let's get home and eat dinner."
- * * *
- Laura had
forgotten how good her mother's pork chops and Spanish rice could
be. The family had just finished their relaxing meal when Kristy
Cordova O'Casey called and asked if she and her husband could stop
by for a short visit later that evening.
- Laura had know
Alan O'Casey since the early days of Holt Investigations; he was
her contact at the DMV and had helped her agency out on many
occasions. Then she and Remington had met Kristy during a high
flying case involving Kristy's circus and the mysterious crook
named Turk. When they had introduced Kristy and Alan it was, as
Remington put it, 'Kismet.' Kristy and Alan had now been married for five
years. During that time they had gotten to be good friends with
the Steeles--all of the Steeles.
- The Steele
household leaped into action in preparation for their expected
visitors. Remington volunteered to give the younger children their
baths. Laura supervised Brendan and Rory in straightening up the
house while Abigail and Mama Katie straightened up the kitchen. By
the time the O'Caseys arrived, the house and the children were in
- Before visiting
with Laura and Remington, the children insisted on giving Kristy
and Alan a grand tour of the nursery. Kristy always loved seeing
the Steele nursery. It was quite unlike any other she had ever
seen, but it was nevertheless very appealing. Alan easily carried
Kristy up the stairs behind the children, who were bubbling over
- "Now tell me
again, whose poster is which?" Kristy asked as Alan carried her
over the nursery threshold . She already knew---heaven knows
they'd told her often enough! But the kids enjoyed telling her, so
she always asked. It was a sort of game they played.
- Just as the wall
of the video room was covered with Remington's framed movie poster
originals, the wall of the nursery was covered with original,
framed Disney posters. After the birth of each child, Remington
had purchased the appropriate poster and added it to the nursery
wall. Each of the children were very possessive of their own
poster. Brendan adored his Lady & the Tramp, Rory loved his
Dalmatians, Laurie was enamored of her Snow White, Remy delighted in his
it was a sure bet that Abby would one day become just as attached
to her Sleeping Beauty.
- "Daddy has one
for Mummy, but it's a surprise; he's not giving it to her until
after the baby comes," Laurie said.
- "And what poster
will the new baby get?" Kristy asked.
- "If it's boy,
Daddy's gonna get Robin Hood," Brendan answered.
- "And if it's a
girl, he and Mummy are gonna get The Little
- "Aunt Kristy,
when mermaids die, do they get flushed?" Laurie asked, remembering
her concerns from the evening before.
- "I don't know,
Laurie. I never really thought about it before."
- "It would take an
awfully big toilet, silly," Rory said.
- Remington decided
that was a good time to rescue Kristy. "All right, kids," he
announced. "Give Mummy and Daddy a good night kiss. Grandma and
Mama Katie will tuck you in. And I wouldn't be surprised if they
knew a story or two."
- After hugs and
kisses were exchanged, Laura and Remington led the way back down
the stairs to the family room. Though Kristy wasn't very heavy,
Alan welcomed the chance to sit beside her on the couch for the
remainder of their visit.
- "I realize this
is short notice, but we have a favor to ask you," Alan began.
- "You know you're
always welcome here anytime, Alan. Now, exactly what is it that we
can help you with?" Remington asked, slipping his arm around
- "We've made
several visits to an adoption agency recently, and they seem
optimistic that we'll be approved for a child," Kristy explained.
wonderful!" Laura exclaimed.
- Laura thought
back to the dark days of Kristy's two miscarriages and their
subsequent decision to adopt. They desperately wanted a child, but
had been turned down by each and every adoption agency they
contacted. As long as they were traveling with the circus, their
lifestyle was considered too unstable for a child. It was only
right that now they should finally have the chance.
- "Do you ever
regret selling part interest in the circus and settling down?"
- "Never," Kristy
declared with no hesitation whatsoever. "When it came down to a
choice between keeping the circus or having a child, there wasn't
any question which I wanted most."
- "Besides, Kristy
is a superb gymnastics teacher," Alan added. "The children love
her. But then, how could they not?"
- "Well, that's
grand news, Alan, but what's this favor you need? Lining up
babysitters already?" Remington asked.
- "We want to use
you both as references," Alan explained. "They may even want to
personally interview you."
- "We'll be honored
to help in any way we can," Laura assured them.
- "And that *does*
include babysitting. All you have to do is ask," Remington added.
"We'll just throw yours in with ours. After all, what's one more,
- "Speaking of
babies, Laura-- exactly when is the newest addition to the family
due?" Kristy asked.
- "A couple of
weeks," Laura answered, patting her stomach.
- "Of course, Laura
hasn't gone full term yet; all of our children were born two to
three weeks early. Which means this one could arrive at any time
now," Remington predicted.
- Just then Laura
felt a pain and shifted her position with a groan.
- "I know I said at
any time, Laura, but I didn't mean it literally."
- "Relax, dear.
It's nothing," Laura assured him. "It's probably indigestion."
- "That hardly
reassures me. You've yet to admit that first labor pain."
- "Icy calm, Mr.
Steele. If you recall, the Spanish rice had green peppers and I've
never been able to tolerate them when I'm pregnant. I don't think
I'll be going into labor tonight; at least, not unless something
stressful happens to bring it on," she said, knowing Remington
would understand exactly what she was not saying.
- * * *
- A few hours
later, the children were safely tucked in bed and Abigail and Mama
Katie had retired to their rooms. Remington had left for the
jewelry store with Jackie, and Laura was trying to sleep. Problem
was, she couldn't relax. It wasn't that she was worried about
Remington's little trip; after all, the plan was simple enough.
The real problem was the green peppers. She finally gave up hoping
the discomfort would go away and took a spoonful of liquid antacid
before trying a different position in bed.
- Another cause of
her insomnia was the evening's visit with Kristy and Alan. Laura
was thrilled that they had tentative approval as adoptive parents;
they both yearned desperately to have children. But a little part
of her had wanted to tell them about the not-so-rosy side of the
picture. About the lost sleep, the crying and fighting, the loss
of privacy and spontaneity, the hours of worrying when they were
- Laura went to
sleep with that thought. She dreamed of a far different life than
the one she and Remington shared. She saw them celebrating their
10th wedding anniversary, not with candlelight and champagne, but
with a heart wrenching walk through a cemetery to visit the graves
of their stillborn children. When Laura awoke, she could feel the
tears on her face as she sat upright in bed. Even though she knew
it was only a dream, she still felt the need to crawl from her bed
and check on her children.
- Abby was sleeping
in the fetal position in her crib in the room she now shared with
Laurie. Laurie lay on her side, contentedly sucking her thumb. The
only time her oldest daughter sucked her thumb any more was at
night, and neither she nor Remington were concerned about it yet.
- Laura's next stop
was the younger boys' room. She was relieved that the new
arrangement had not bothered them. Brendan and Rory had shared a
room until recently, when an upstairs sitting room had been
converted into a bedroom for Brendan. That had let them move Remy
in with Rory and Abby in with Laurie, once again freeing up the
nursery. The move had made Remy feel grown up, and Rory seemed to
be enjoying the role of older brother. lt was something be
couldn't be when Brendan was around.
- Still, though,
she and Remington would soon have to make a decision. They had
kept two spare bedrooms as guest rooms for visiting family and the
occasional client they had to safeguard. As the children grew
older and wanted privacy, they'd either have to move them into
those rooms, convert some other room into a bedroom, or add onto
the house. Somehow, she couldn't see Remington giving up his video
- Laura smiled as
she saw Remy's bare feet sticking out from beneath the covers.
Just like his father, she thought to herself. Remington had the
same habit of kicking the covers from his feet while he slept. She
tucked him in again and made her way to Rory. He was covered up to
his chin with his stuffed leprechaun held tightly in his aims.
Remington had purchased King Brian during their Irish honeymoon
and the children took turns "owning" him. It was currently Rory's
- Laura then backed
out of the room, eased the door closed, and went to check on
Brendan. She opened his door and looked across the room, but he
was completely hidden by the covers; even with the light from the
hall, she couldn't see him. Crossing the room and gently pulling
down the sheet, she saw a carefully placed pillow in the spot
where Brendan's dark hair should have been.
- "Why, that
little... Ooh!" Laura declared, turning on her heels and stomping
out of the room.
- She continued to
talk to herself as she stormed to her room and hurriedly began
dressing in black slacks and top. "I knew we should have come down
on him harder after that fiasco with the Marchessa Collection!
But, oh, no! 'His conscience will punish him!' Ha! Just like his
father, that's his problem! Picking locks at age three! Ha! And
did he learn his lesson after breaking into the museum? Not bloody
likely! He kept it in a scrapbook! And now he's helping Daddy
break into a jewelry store!"
- During her
tirade, Laura experienced a couple of regular pains. By now she
knew it probably wasn't indigestion, but she begged for time to
get to the jewelry store so she could scream and make her men feel
eternally guilty for bringing on her labor!
- By the time she
finished dressing and made her way downstairs, Abigail was waiting
- "Laura, is
something wrong?" she asked, genuine concern in her voice. "I
could hear you babbling all the way down here."
- "I don't babble,
- "Why are you
dressed like that?"
- "I have to go out
for a while," she explained. "Brendan's missing."
- "Missing? Good
- "It's okay,
Mother. I have a pretty good idea where he is. I think he's with
Remington on a case, but the last thing Remington needs right now
is a child hanging around. Just keep an eye on the others until l
get back. I'll be back with Brendan as quickly as I can," Laura
instructed as she hurried to the front door.
- Another pain hit
her before she could open it, however. Looking back at Abigail,
she said, "I think you lucked out this time, Mother. You got here
just in time for your grandchild's birth."
- "Laura, you stay
right there! I'm taking you to the hospital!"
- "There's plenty
of time," Laura insisted. "You can take me when I get back. I will
not go into labor without knowing where my son is!"
- "Then I'll drive
you," Abigail stated, changing tactics.
- "Don't be
- "You can't drive
if you're in labor.What if you're in an accident?" Abigail argued,
taking Laura's keys from her hand. "No arguments, Laura; I'm
driving--and if you don't like it, that's tough.""
- Mama Katie, who
had gone unnoticed from her vantage spot in the hallway, said,
"You two go on. I'll watch the brood."
- So Laura in her
burglar's clothes and Abigail in robe and pajamas headed out the
- * * * * *
- It was Brendan's
sneeze that had given him away. He hadn't counted on Jackie's
stinking, baby powder filled sneakers being in the trunk. If the
car had still been moving, the sneeze probably would have gone
unnoticed. Unfortunately for Brendan, however, Remington had
already arrived at their destination and parked the car. He and
Jackie were going over last minute details when they heard it.
- Knowing how
anxious Brendan was to accompany them on this case, Remington knew
exactly who had sneezed. He quickly crawled into the rear of the
car and pulled down the seat, exposing the dark vastness of the
trunk. Then reaching into the darkness, he groped until he came in
contact with Brendan's arm. To say that Remington was angry would
be putting it mildly; he was livid.
- "Okay, Mate,"
Remington said in his most authoritarian voice, grasping his son's
arm and guiding him into the back seat. "Out!" Remington was
startled by the tone of his own voice; he usually he had to
consciously make himself sound stem, but not this time.
- * * * * *
- "Breathe, dear,"
Abigail said, bringing the limo to a stop at a red light.
- "I am breathing,
Mother," Laura hissed when the pain subsided. "How far apart
- "Twelve minutes."
Laura moaned. "Turn left at the next intersection."
- "I thought a limo
would be difficult to drive, but this is a breeze. Let me know
when Fred goes on vacation next time and I'll fill in for him."
Abigail realized it was a silly thing to say, but she wanted to
take Laura's mind off the labor pains. "I could do this all
night," she laughed aloud as she made the turn. "Are you sure
they'll be at the jeweler's, dear?"
- "Yes. There are
times, I'm sorry to say, when my husband is highly predictable.
Now hurry and take the next right before I take the wheel."
- * * *
- With his father's
help, Brendan scooted himself into the back seat and waited as his
dad angrily punched the rear seat back into place. Then from the
floorboard of the car Remington picked up a flashlight and shined
it in his son's face. Brendan squinted and tried to shade his
- "Just what do you
think you're doing here?"
- "l just wanted to
help," Brendan tried to explain, suddenly realizing the
foolishness of his reasoning. "l thought you might need some
- "Think back,
mate. What did I tell you this afternoon?"
- "You said no,"
Brendan said quietly, still squinting at the bright light.
- "What was that?"
Remington asked. "I didn't hear you."
- "You said no,"
Brendan repeated louder.
- "No, what?"
- "No, I couldn't
- "So you heard me,
but you hid in Jackie's trunk and came along anyway," Remington
said tersely. He paused momentarily, looking for the words to
express his anger and disappointment. "Do you realize just how
upset I am right now?" he finally asked.
- "Yes, sir,"
Brendan said softly. "I'm really sorry."
- "That's all well
and good if it's true, Brendan. Maybe your mother was right- maybe
I am setting a wrong example."
- "Do we have to
tell her about this?" Brendan pleaded.
- Remington was
outraged at the suggestion they keep this from Laura. "Yes, we
have to tell her! There's no way I'm..."
- Suddenly everyone
in the car heard tapping coming from the window beside Remington.
He looked up, fully expecting to see Laura or the police. Instead,
he saw Abigail frowning down at him. Unlocking the door, he
stepped onto the sidewalk to stand beside his mother-in-law.
- "Abigail? Where's
- "In the back of
the limo," she explained. "Having contractions about every eight
- Brendan crawled
out of the car and walked over to his father, but Remington
- "Hi, Grandma,"
Brendan said sheepishly.
- "You're in your
robe," Remington said, noticing Abigail's attire.
- "There wasn't
time to change," Abigail explained. Then turning to her her
grandson and straightening his hair, she said, "Just look at you.
You're a mess."
- "Sorry, Jackie,"
Remington said, leaning across the car, "but duty calls."
- "So I heard,"
Jackie said, walking around the front of the car to join them on
the sidewalk. "I'll take Brendan home. Mrs. Holt, do you need a
- "No, thanks,
Jackie," she said. Then sprouting an excited grin, she exclaimed,
"I'm about to be a grandmother! Again!"
- Hands firmly on
Brendan's shoulders, Abigail guided him toward the front seat of
- "Wait!" Brendan
yelled, jerking free and running to the limo.
- He found his
mother sitting sideways on the edge of the car seat with her feet
resting on the curb, as though she had tried to get out and had
- "I'm sorry, Mum,"
he declared breathlessly, throwing his arms around her. "It was
all my idea; please don't be mad at Daddy."
- "I'm not mad at
anyone, darling," Laura assured him. "I just want you to be safe."
- "I love you," he
said, trying very hard not to cry.
- "I love you, too.
Now go tell Daddy to get his tail over here before your new
brother or sister ends up being born in the limo."
- He hugged her
again and ran back to the car, where Abigail caught him and firmly
placed him by Jackie's side.
- "Tell his great
grandmother to sit on him until his father gets home," Abigail
- "Yes, ma'am,"
Jackie promised. "And Remington, tell Laura I'm wishing her good
- But Remington
wasn't listening; he was already running to the limo, with Abigail
at this heels.
- "Sit in the back
with Laura; I'll drive," Abigail insisted, getting behind the
wheel before Remington could protest.
- He helped Laura
back into the car and gathered her into his arms.
- "So it wasn't the
green peppers, eh?" he teased.
- "Not this time."
- "I'm sorry I
wasn't there to drive you."
- "Forget it;
Mother's having a ball. Just look for stowaways from now on,
- "We're going to
have to do something about him," Remington said, caressing her
- "Well, maybe he's
learned his lesson this time," Laura said hopefully.
- Remington wished
he could see her face, to see if she doubted that as much as be
- * * * * *
- Jackie looked
down at a sniffling Brendan.
- "She'll be okay,
kid. Having babies should be a piece of cake to her by now," he
- Jackie took the
stolen engagement ring from his pocket and looked at it. "Guess
this will have to wait," he said, tossing it into the air a couple
of times and catching it.
- On the third
toss, however, he wasn't so lucky. The ring slipped through his
fingers and fell to the pavement. Before he could grab it, it
rolled off the curb and dropped through the opening of the storm
- "Oh, no!" Jackie
groaned, getting down on his knees to take a look.
- Brendan joined
him, but they couldn't see anything in the darkness.
- "Wait!" Brendan
said, jumping up and running back to the car.
- He returned
almost immediately with the flashlight.
- "There, I see
it!" he exclaimed excitedly.
- "Yeah, but a lot
of good that does us," Jackie said dejectedly "Even your arms are
too big to fit through those bars."
- After a moment of
thought Brendan grinned. "Got any gum?" he asked.
- "What for?"
- "I have an idea.
We need chewing gum and shoe strings."
- Jackie looked at
his own feet and then at Brendan's. Both were wearing sneakers,
but velcro held them closed instead of strings.
- "There are some
shoe strings in the trunk," Brendan reminded him.
- "You should know"
Jackie teased as he headed for the car. "Well, come on! You can
get the gum out of the glove compartment while I get the
- Brendan's plan
was actually quite simple. He tied both strings together and then
stuck a wad of chewed gum on one end of it. As Jackie held the
flashlight, Brendan carefully lowered the string over the ring,
hooked it with the sticky gum, and gently raised the ring to the
surface, where Jackie grabbed it with a sign of relief.
- His relief was
- "What's going on,
fellows?" asked a police officer who had approached while their
attention was on the drain.
officer," Jackie said as he nervously got to his feet "We just,
uh, dropped something down the drain and were trying to get it
- "Exactly what did
you drop?" the officer asked, looking at Jackie
- Brendan stood
next to him and started answer, but Jackie interrupted.
- "It was nothing,
really," he stammered, putting the sticky ring in his pocket. Then
looking at Brendan, he said, "Come on, kid; let's go home."
- "Not so fast,"
the officer protested. "How about showing me what you just put in
- "Sure," Jackie
said, trying to appear nonchalant.
- He took the ring
out of his pocket and handed it to the policeman. The officer
ignored the mess the best he could and examined the ring. Jackie
looked at Brendan and wondered about what Remington would do to
him for not taking the kid straight home.
- "Okay, pal. Care
to tell me what you and the boy are doing with a hot ring at 2 am
outside a jewelry store that's under surveillance?"
- * ***
- Remington had no
idea how long he and Laura had been in labor at the hospital. He
didn't know if it had been minutes, hours or days. Time meant
nothing when they were going through this. The only thing that
mattered was that he and Laura were bringing a new child safely
into the world.
- The birth of
their children was both the best of times and the worst of times
for Remington, a combination of joy and pain. Yet Remington
embraced it, because he knew his own father would have given
anything to have attended his own birth. Daniel had been cheated
out of that moment, and Remington was determined that fate would
never rob him.
- But there was
something more. Somewhere in the dark recesses of Remington's
subconscious, he had always wondered if perhaps his own mother
would have lived had Daniel been there to give her strength. And
because of that deeply buried fear, Remington insisted on being
with Laura during each birth, to give her his strength and to keep
- He wiped her face
with a cool cloth and gave her hand another reassuring squeeze.
"You're doing great, Mrs. Steele," he said softly.
- "Don't call me
that!"Laura ordered through clenched teeth.
- Remington just
ignored her outburst. By now be knew only too well that Laura
wasn't responsible for what she said during labor. Her doctor had
told him years ago that when the real pains of childbirth set in,
most wives seemed to suddenly hate their husbands for "getting
them pregnant." Laura was no different.
- Before she could
say anything else Remington would have to ignore, another
- "Go with it, Mrs.
Steele. That's it," a female voice said.
- Remington hadn't
noticed the sudden appearance of the labor/delivery nurse. After
the contraction had passed and she had checked Laura's dilatation,
she addressed Remington, saying, "Mr. Steele, you have an urgent
phone call at the nurse's station."
- "Good lord,
woman; take a message. I'm having a baby, here!" he said,
- "It's the LAPD."
- "I said, take a
message!" he repeated.
- "It's about your
- Laura grabbed
Remington's arm and dug in with her fingernails.
- "Laura, please! "
Remington yipped as pried her fingers loose. "That hurts!"
- "Listen, buster,
don't you talk to *me* about pain! Now get out there and answer
that phone! And if it's Brendan, tell him we're trading him for
stock in Hershey's!"
- "Whatever it is,
it can wait," Remington argued. "I'm not leaving you." Then
looking at the nurse, he asked, "Can't you transfer it in
- "We don't ring
phones in rooms during labor," the nurse said. "It's policy."
- Laura sat up as
straight as possible. "If you don't talk to them, l will!
Brendan's just a baby! I can't have this one until I know the
other one is okay!"
- Remington pushed
her back against the bed. "Settle down! Brendan is old enough to
be patient. This baby isn't."
- "Just do it!"
Laura screamed, not on much in anger as in reaction to another
contraction. She gripped his hand tightly until it passed, then
- Giving in, he
followed the nurse from the room.
- It seemed to
Laura that he was gone for an eternity, but scarcely a few minutes
passed before be rushed back into the room and gave Laura a quick
kiss on the hand.
- "Well?" she
- "Your mother
sends her love."
- "Forget Mother!
What about Brendan?"
- Remington helped
her breathe during the next contraction, then said, "Really,
Laura, now is hardly the time to get into Brendan's
- Laura grabbed the
front of Remington's surgical shift and pulled him down to her so
they were eye level. "Mr. Steele, either you tell me what you
learned on the phone, or l'll break your neck," she threatened in
a low voice. "Don't think I can't."
- Dr. Kenneth
O'Malley, who had been through labor with the Steeles many times,
arrived midway through Laura's threat. "Sounds to me like you'd
better tell her whatever it is she wants to know," he advised
- "All right, but
first make her let go," Remington said.
- Laura turned
loose and Remington straightened up, rubbing his still throbbing
arm from her squeeze. "Evidently, Jackie and Brendan didn't go
straight home. They were picked up outside the jewelry store for
having a hot ring in their possession."
- "They can't
arrest a child!" Laura protested. "They're just doing this because
they know I can't come down there and kick them!"
- After the next
contraction, Remington did his best to reassure her. "I didn't say
they were arrested, Laura. Jackie explained everything to their
satisfaction and Melissa is on her way to the station to
straighten everything out. But they don't want to release Brendan
into Jackie's custody."
- "Then go down
there and get him!" Laura demanded, barely getting out the words
before the next contraction hit.
- "Looks like we're
almost there," O'Malley said, noting Laura's dilatation.
- "Forget it,
Laura," Remington said as he urged her to breathe. "I'm not
leaving until the baby comes. Subject closed. Brendan's not in any
danger and right now *you* are my top priority!"
- "Tyrant!" Laura
muttered as she gathered her breath for the next pain. "If you
weren't so damned handsome, I wouldn't put up with you."
- "Flattery is
cheap, Mrs. Steele. How about a little costly truth?" Remington
asked as he brushed Laura's damp hair from her forehead.
- Laura somehow
managed a weary grin, asking, "Mother sent her love?" After the
next contraction, however, she no longer saw humor in anything,
saying, "She probably wonders why I'm taking so long."
- "I told her you
were being as stubborn as always."
- "Excuse me,"
interrupted the doctor, "but if you two will stop bickering and
Laura will start pushing, I think we're about to have a baby
- * * * *
thereafter, Laura smiled through half-open eyes as Remington
gently cradled their new auburn-haired daughter in his arms.
- "She's beautiful,
Laura," Remington said dreamily. "Aren't you, darling? You're the
most beautiful baby in the world."
- Megan squinted
contentedly in the direction of her father's voice and yawned.
- "You've said that
about all of our children," Laura reminded him.
- "And I was right
every time, wasn't I? All six of them are the most beautiful
children in the world."
- "Yes, they are,"
- Remington gently
placed the little bundle in Laura's arms. Laura caressed the
baby's brow, saying, "She looks like a Megan, doesn't she?"
- "Yes, I believe
she does," Remington agreed. "Even though I never knew my mother,
Laura - never even saw a picture - somehow I feel Megan must look
like her. There's an Irishness about her." He lowered his head and
smiled, adding, "I suppose that must sound silly."
- "No, it doesn't
sound silly at all," Laura assured him.
- Leaning closer to
mother and daughter, he asked, "And does it sound silly, after an
these years, for me to still be saying I love you?"
- "Those words
never sound silly, Mr. Steele."
- "And do you?"
Remington asked her.
- "Do I what?"
- "Still love me."
- "Oh, absolutely."
- They shared a
kiss, which was interrupted by a nurse assistant's coming into the
room with a bouquet of flowers. They laughed as she set the
flowers on the bedside table.
- "Any guesses who
they're from?" Remington asked, reaching for the card. Removing
the envelope, he read aloud, "Congratulations again. Estelle
Becker." Still our staunchest supporter, eh? We'll have to send
her a new family portrait for her office."
- "She must pay
someone at this hospital to call her as soon as I go into labor."
Laura mused. "Think she still rubs it in to poor Gladys Lynch?"
- "And why not?"
Remington asked. "We're Estelle's biggest success story."
- "You'd think that
after nearly nine years and six children, Ms. Lynch would give up,
- The nurse's
assistant was on her way out of the room, but stopped at the door,
asking in disbelief, "You mean you have five more?"
- "Yes, well, the
first rule of orphanages and Irish families is there's always room
for one more." Remington explained. "At least, that used to be our
motto. We're starting to think perhaps five brothers and sisters
are enough for anyone."
- The assistant
smiled, shook her head and left. Remington laughed both at her
expression and at Laura's.
- "If you don't go
after Brendan, we may be short one," Laura reminded
- He leaned over
and gave Megan a kiss. "Don't worry, sweetheart. Daddy will rescue
your big brother before be rots in jail."
- He gave Laura
another kiss and turned to the door. Before leaving, however, he
turned toward them again, saying, "Oh, Laura, I'll send your
mother in to keep you company."
- Laura pretended
to reach for a pillow to throw at him and laughed in spite of
- * * * *
Melissa had been able to straighten things out for Jackie when she
arrived at the police station. Jackie agreed to work with the
police to help nab the fence and as a result, no charges were
filed. Melissa wasn't even angry that Jackie had been caught with
the stolen ring. She just wondered why he hadn't come to her with
the truth when he first realized the ring was stolen. He somehow
found the words to explain how he had feared her rejection, but
she quickly put that fear to rest. When all was said and done,
Jackie considered himself to be a lucky man.
- For Brendan,
however, the events following his and Jackie's apprehension had
literally been a nightmare. Jackie was relieved when Brendan
finally fell asleep. He didn't know how the child could sleep on
such a hard bench, but didn't they say children could sleep
anywhere? Brendan's sleep, however, was not the restful kind. As
bad as the actual events themselves were, in his dreams they were
ten times worse.
- Brendan finally
awoke with a start to find Jackie shaking his shoulders. As he
rubbed his eyes, he saw a haggard-looking Remington hurrying
towards them. Tears swelling in his eyes as he saw his father, he
quickly jumped up and propelled himself full force into
- Hugging his son
tightly, Remington sat wearily on the bench beside Jackie.
- "Are we glad to
see you!" Jackie declared.
- "Listen, Jackie.
I appreciate your waiting here with Brendan. They told me you had
been released, but wouldn't leave him here alone."
- "Hey, it's been a
rough night for him." Jackie said. "I mean fingerprinting, strip
- shots . . ."
- "Not Brendan;
me!" Jackie quickly explained. "The kid wouldn't let me out of his
sight for a minute! He was pretty shaken up-- not just about all
of this, but about his mom, too."
- Brendan had been
anxious about his mother, but at the same time had been afraid to
ask. Finally gathering his courage, he asked, "Is Mummy okay?"
- "Mummy's fine,
and you have a beautiful new baby sister," Remington announced
proudly to anyone within hearing distance.
- "Really? Mummy's
okay? I was afraid my sneaking out had upset her so much that...
that she wouldn't ever come home again."
- "Of course she's
coming home," Remington assured him. "Tomorrow, maybe. Day after,
- Brendan burst
into tears. "No, she's not. She's never coming home and you just
don't want to tell me! She's never coming home and it's all my
- Brendan received
small comfort from the loving embrace of his father's arms.
- Remington quickly
decided there was only one way to calm him. "Shh, shh. If Jackie
can go with us, we'll go to the hospital and see Mummy and Megan.
What do you say to that?"
- Brendan sniffed a
few times and blew his nose on the handkerchief his father held
out for him. "Really? Right now?"
- "As soon as I
talk to Melissa for a moment," Remington said as he sat Brendan
down beside Jackie on the bench.
- When he tried to
stand up, however, Brendan tightened his grip around his father's
neck. Remington just held him for a moment. Finally, Brendan
removed his arms from his father's neck and began biting his
nails, gathering his courage to speak again.
- He finally took a
deep breath and plunged ahead, saying, "I know you're real mad,
but I'm gonna try real hard to be good so you can love me again."
- Remington felt
his eyes fill with tears. Giving Brendan another reassuring hug,
he said, "Brendan, nothing you could ever do would make me stop
loving you. I may get angry at you and there may be times when I'm
disappointed in you, but I will always love you. No matter what
happens, you are still my son and I love you more than anything
else in the world."
- "Do you think
Mummy still loves me?"
- Remington smiled.
"I'm absolutely sure of it."
- After another hug
Remington went in search of Melissa, but he didn't have to look
very long. As soon as she had seen Remington enter the station,
she had headed his way. She had been waiting until he finished
talking with Brendan, and now she smiled as he walked over to her.
- "You know what
they say," Melissa said. "Nothing strengthens the character like a
- "In that case,
Brendan and I have both had our characters strengthened tonight,"
Remington sighed. "I certainly hope you and Jackie have nice
traditional children and never have to go through a night like
- "Oh, I don't
know," Melissa said with a smile. "I think I'd welcome the
challenge of having a child like Brendan."
- * * * ´
- In spite of her
concern about Brendan, Laura actually enjoyed visiting with her
mother. Abigail was mesmerized with her newest granddaughter, and
Laura couldn't help getting caught up in the magic. Laura was more
than relieved, however, when Remington called to say all was well
with Brendan. Without even realizing it, she suddenly found
herself telling her mother the situation with Brendan and sharing
her trepidations about parenthood.
- "Wouldn't it be
wonderful if they stayed like this forever?" Laura asked as she
caressed Megan's downy auburn hair. "So sweet and innocent and
loving. All Megan has to worry about is being warm, fed, dry and
loved. Sneaking off in the middle of the night and breaking into
jewelry stores and museums are the farthest things from her mind."
- "But she won't
stay this size forever," Abigail reminded Laura. "She'll grow up,
too. And she'll probably even sneak out of the house some night--
or at least think about doing it. She may even play in the runoff
tunnels with rats or do a fan dance on a bar in Acapulco."
- "Mother, please
allow me my illusions of innocence for a little while. Reality
will thrust itself upon us soon enough."
- "The reality,
Laura dear, is that none of us are perfect parents and no one has
perfect children. All we can do is love them and try to instill
good values in them. And when they take a wrong turn, we do what
we can do guide them back to the right path."
- "But we do that
with Brendan and he still keeps wandering off the path!" Laura
- "Growing up
doesn't have to be so much a straight line as a series of
advancements," Abigail reminded her.
- Laura laughed.
"Out of every disaster, a little progress is made, eh?"
- "Something like
- Laura looked
sheepishly at her mother. "You knew about the tunnels and the fan
- "Of course, dear.
But you were always such a free spirit. I knew I couldn't protect
you from everything; you had to try things and learn for yourself.
And I have a feeling Remington was much the same way as a child,
always trying new things, looking for excitement, living on the
- Laura laughed,
promising herself that one day she'd tell her mother about
Remington's bitter childhood. Then laughing at the irony, she
said, "You could be describing Brendan instead of us."
- "Yes, I know.
And, if Brendan turns out half as good as his parents did, then
you and Remington have nothing to worry about."
- "You think I
turned out okay?" Laura asked, genuinely surprised.
- Abigail squeezed
her daughter's hand. "You're a beautiful, successful young woman
with a wonderful husband and children who adore you. I'm proud of
you, Laura. I don't say that very often, but it's true. I love you
and I brag to anyone who'll listen about all you've done with your
life. I may not have approved of everything you did along the way
- and I'm probably never going to let you forget any of your
mistakes - but you're a brightly shining light, Laura."
- "I never thought
of myself that way."
- "Remington does."
- "How do you
know?" Laura asked.
- "I'm your mother,
dear," Abigail said in a voice that left no room for doubt.
- * **
- Remington cradled
the small bundle in his arms as he sat beside Laura on her
hospital bed. Abigail had already taken a taxi to the Steele's
home and Jackie and Melissa had taken Brendan to the snack bar for
breakfast, giving Remington and Laura a chance to talk. Brendan
had protested until Remington reminded him that he had refused
breakfast at the jail and hadn't eaten since he'd downed popcorn
at the drive-in the night before. When Remington last saw them,
Brendan had Jackie by the hand and was leading him and Melissa
towards the elevator.
- "I told you I
wouldn't let your big brother rot in jail, didn't I, sweetheart?"
Remington said to Megan. "Daddy gave you his word and Daddy's
- "...word is his
bond," Laura finished.
- Megan sneezed her
thoughts on the matter.
- "All right, young
lady," Remington protested. "Not even a day old and you're already
joining your mother to gang up on me, eh?"
- Laura reached
over to caress Megan's forehead and smiled. The smile, however,
was soon followed by a sigh.
- "So, do we tell
her that her big brother is a jailbird, or do we let her find out
on her own?" Laura asked. "Or do we just wait and let her read
about it in your and Brendan's burglary scrapbook? 'Son of Famed
Private Detective Spends Night in Jail.'"
- "Laura, please;
he made a mistake. There's no need to label him for life,"
- "I know, I know,"
Laura grumbled. "It's just that seeing Megan so tiny and innocent
reminds me of when Brendan was first born. We had all these
wonderful plans, but no where did we plan for him to be.. ."
- "...a seasoned
burglar before the age of ten?" Remington finished.
- "Not at any age!"
Laura protested. "I know you did a lot of the same things at an
early age, but you did it to survive! We give Brendan everything
he needs and much that he doesn't, so why does he do these
- "Because he has a
good heart," Remington reminded her. "He broke into jail because
he wanted to help us. He returned the Marchessa Collection to the
museum to keep us out of trouble. He sneaked out of the house last
night because he thought he could help Jackie and me."
- "Don't forget
Christmas when he also sneaked out, too."
- "Yes, to give
some of our Christmas presents to a family that wouldn't have had
Christmas otherwise," Remington pointed out.
- Laura smiled.
"Our own little Robin Hood."
Brendan's life isn't turning out like we planned, but a life
that's planned is a closed life. It can be endured, perhaps, but
it cannot be lived," Remington explained. "Think about it, Laura.
lf your life had turned out like your mother had planned it, you'd
be stuck in a sterile dentist's office all day."
- Laura laughed.
"I'd have made a terrible dental hygienist."
- "I agree. And I
think Abigail has finally accepted that."
- "She actually
paid us a compliment earlier today. She said that if Brendan turns
out half as good as we have, we have nothing to worry about."
- "It's nice to
hear the two of you are getting along."
got...closer... today. I don't know. I guess it's a..."
mother-daughter thing?" Remington asked, kissing Megan on the
nose. "So, what do you propose we do about our little con artist?"
- After some
discussion, Laura and Remington finally agreed on disciplinary
measures for Brendan.
- "Yes, well, I
guess it's time to find him," Remington said with a sigh, placing
Megan in Laura's arms. "And we tell him now what his punishment
- "Absolutely. For
discipline to be most effective, it needs to be immediate," Laura
- "I understand all
that" Remington assured her, "but do you think it'd be okay if we
let him hold Megan? Or is that like rewarding him for his
- "I think we can
let him hold her," Laura said.
- Remington smiled
his million dollar smile as he left the room.
- * * * *
- Megan was now
sleeping in the nearby crib and Laura was beginning to get
impatient. Finally her door opened and Remington stepped into the
room, Brendan shyly peeking around his leg.
- "What took you so
long?" Laura asked as she sat up and readjusted her pillows.
- "Brendan wanted
to get something for Megan," Remington said with a wink as he
tried to pry Brendan loose from his leg.
- Laura could tell
her son was upset.
- "What is it,
sweetheart?" she asked gently. "Tell me about it."
- "I can't,"
Brendan muttered quietly. "It's my fault you're here and I don't
want to make you feel worse."
- "It's not your
fault I'm here, sweetie," Laura assured him. "It was time for the
baby to come."
- "But it's too
early for the baby. It's not time! Kevin's sister came too early
and his mom and sister almost died!"
- "Brendan, come
here," Laura instructed softly.
- "You heard your
mum, mate," Remington said.
- When Brendan
still hesitated, Remington picked him up and sat him on the bed
beside Laura. Close to his mother, Brendan's composure broke and
he threw his arms around her.
- "Brendan, it's
okay. Don't cry, darling."
- "You didn't cause
the baby to come early, Brendan," Remington said. "Megan was just
anxious to get here, that's all."
- "Listen to me,"
Laura said as she wiped Brendan's tears with a tissue. "All of
your brothers and sisters were born a little early."
- "In fact, you
were the earliest of all," Remington added. "Sometimes babies do
come too early and yes, sometimes they have health problems. But
both your mum and Megan are fine."
- Brendan sniffled.
"You're really okay?"
- "Well, I don't
feel like running in a marathon, but I'm fine. Honest. And Megan
weighs nearly seven pounds; she's healthy as can be."
- "Don't you have
something to give Mummy?" Remington asked, handing Brendan the
plastic bag he was holding.
- Brendan took out
a small bag of chocolate kisses and handed them to Laura. Laura
groaned as she opened the package and ripped the silver wrapper
off a kiss.
- "How am I
supposed to lose that extra weight when you keep giving me
- "You don't need
to lose weight, Mummy. You're already beautiful," Brendan said,
giving her another hug.
- "What else do you
want to tell Mummy?" Remington prodded.
- "What I did
tonight was wrong," Brendan confessed. "I shouldn't have snuck out
of the house and I shouldn't have hidden in Jackie's trunk and
gone with Daddy."
- "Yes," Laura
agreed. "What you did tonight was very wrong."
- "Daddy said
you've already decided what my punishment is," Brendan said. "I
didn't give you the kisses for bribery, though. Honest, Mummy."
- "He's right. He'd
already gotten them from the snack machine when I went to get
- "I don't mind
being punished, Mummy. But do you think you can still love me?"
- Laura looked
angry as she cupped Brendan's chin and forced him to look at her.
"Listen here, sport," she said. "You can pull my fingernails out
with rusty pliers... You can bury me up to my neck with ants
dancing across my eyes..."
- "Laura, please.
You're getting disgusting," Remington said.
- "But nothing you
do-- and I repeat, nothing--will ever make me stop loving you.
Now, do you understand?"
- "Yes, ma'am."
- "Now, it's
because we love you that we're disciplining you. Do you understand
that?" Remington asked.
- "I guess so,"
Brendan said. "Sort of."
- "Since you acted
in an untrustworthy manner, for the next week you are to be in the
company of a pre-approved adult at all times."
- "That means your
daddy or me, or maybe Aunt Mildred or Aunt Frances or Grandma. But
you are not to be alone during non-school hours under any
circumstances," Laura elaborated.
- "That means no
more private time in your room after school," Remington went on,
knowing how Brendan savored his private time each day. Brendan
seemed to share his own need to get away by himself on occasion,
and Remington knew this part of the punishment would be the
hardest for his son.
- "Yes, sir. I
- There was silence
for a moment, which caused Laura and Remington looked
questioningly at each other.
- "That's it?"
Remington asked, a bit disbelievingly. "No protests? No
- "No, sir. I guess
I deserve it," Brendan conceded. "Can I see Megan now?"
- It still amazed
Laura and Remington that a child's attention could shift so
- "Of course,"
Laura said. "Scoot up here by me and let Daddy hand her to
- "Can I give her
my present first?" Brendan asked Remington.
- "Certainly. Show
it to Mummy while I get your sister."
- Laura gasped when
Brendan took the small gift box out of the plastic bag and showed
her the small silver claddagh necklace.
- "When did you
have a chance to get that?" Laura asked. "I thought the hospital
gift shop was still closed."
- "It is,"
- "Don't tell me
- "Certainly not.
Brendan saw it in the gift shop window. He wanted to get it for
Megan, so I had them open the shop for us."
- "But how did you
pay for it?"Laura asked Brendan as she continued to admire it.
- "Daddy loaned me
the money. I have some saved at home, and he said I could earn the
rest by helping around the house," he explained.
- "I told him I'd
pay half of it, but he insisted on paying for it himself. He
wanted it to be his special gift for Megan."
- Laura hugged
Brendan and gave him a kiss, saying, "You're a good brother. And a
- "Here you go,"
Remington said, gently placing Megan in Brendan's waiting arms.
"Say hello to Megan Kathleen Steele, the newest member of our
- Brendan was in
awe of the tiny sleeping bundle in his arms.
- Remington took
the necklace from Laura and carefully placed it around Megan's
neck, saying, "There you go, sweetheart; something special from
your big brother."
- "What do you
think?" Laura asked, wondering exactly what was going through her
son's mind at that moment.
- Brendan shrugged.
"I think... that the happiest days are when babies come."
- Laughing, the
three of them cited the movie quite reference in unison. "Olivia
de Haviland, Gone with the Wind, MGM. 19391"
- The next day,
February 13 to be exact, Laura leaned against the open doorway of
the nursery and savored the sight of Remington rocking Megan.
Hennessy Tennessy tootled the flute and the music was something
credit to ole Ireland is McNamara's Band.
boom boom boom...
- Laura's smile was
from deep inside her heart and made her feel warm all over. The
first time she'd heard Remington sing that song was when baby Joey
had been under their protection. At that time, she had predicted
that one day Remington Steele would be a good father. He had
scoffed and accused her of dreaming, but her prediction had come
true. In the eight years since their marriage, McNamara's
become the traditional family lullaby. And no matter how many
times Laura heard her husband mesmerize their offspring with his
crooning, it always gave her a sort of thrill.
- She stood quietly
until Megan was lulled to sleep and Remington became silent. She
then walked over to the rocker.
- "I was right,
wasn't I?" she asked.
- "About Remington
Steele proving to someday be a good father."
- "Yes, well. I
guess you were," he admitted. "But then, you've always known me
better than anyone else. Where's Megan's baby seat?"
- "Downstairs. You
can just put her in her crib."
- "I want us to
take a little walk outside," Remington informed her.
- "We shouldn't
take her outside this time of night," Laura reminded him. "Turn on
the monitor and we can take a receiver with us. There's one in the
- "Ah, yes - that's
where Mama Katie was when she pushed everyone aside and grabbed
Megan before anyone else had a chance," Remington chuckled,
lowering Megan into the crib. Then making certain she was covered
with a light comforter, he turned on the monitor and joined Laura
at the door.
- "It's the first
time Mama Katie's been here when one of her great grandchildren
came home from the hospital," Laura explained. "She feels a
special bond with Megan. Both of them are them are the sixth
- "Come on. I have
something for you," Remington said mysteriously.
- "More? You've
already given me the poster," she said as she nodded towards the
single, framed poster on the wall opposite the children's poster
wall. He had presented it to her after all of the children had
helped him hang Megan's Little Mermaid poster.
- "I wanted one
that best reflected all that you've done for me," he had told as
he removed the Beauty and the Beast lithograph from its brown
- "Ah, but that was
only the beginning," he explained.
- In response to
Laura's puzzled look, Remington took her hand and led her down the
- While he hooked
the receiver over his waistband, Laura picked up the vase of red
roses on the end table and sniffed them. "Even with the broken
leaves, they're absolutely beautiful."
laughed. "Did you see the way Abby kept trying to grab Remy's
rose? I was afraid she'd break his, too."
- Laura kissed
Remington on the cheek. "Having the children bring me roses
whenever we bring a new baby home is one of my favorite family
traditions. Thank you for starting it."
- "Yes, well, it
seemed the thing to do when we brought Rory home. Sort of a way to
make Brendan feel part of the homecoming."
- "Well, I
definitely think all of the children felt a part of Megan's
homecoming, thanks to the roses and to all the other family
traditions you've started over the years," Laura said with a
laugh. "I'll bet even the neighbors could hear the children
chanting 'Kiss her! Kiss her!' when you carried Megan over the
threshold. Mama Katie couldn't believe it when you kissed her five
- "I saw Laurie
explaining it to her," Remington said. "What exactly did she say?"
- "Something about
how your kissing the new babies the first time they crossed the
threshold would bring them the luck of the Irish."
- "Couldn't have
explained it better myself," Remington said. "I hope Rory wasn't
underfoot too much while Donald was taking pictures. You know, I
hadn't really noticed before, but I'd say Rory's developing an
interest in photography."
- "I noticed that
today, too. Oh, Donald said they'd have the pictures tomorrow
- "Good. Brendan
was asking when he could take a picture to school of him holding
Megan." Remington put his arm around Laura. "Come along, Beauty."
escorted his wife into their roomy backyard. She was pleasantly
speechless when she saw Remington's surprise. There beneath the
willow tree near the children's bedroom window sat a white
- "When you
commented that sometimes you'd like for us to return to the
sensitivity spa, I thought maybe this would serve the same
purpose," Remington explained as he guided Laura up the step and
sat beside her, placing the monitor behind him. "A place for just
the two of us, where we can spend some quiet times talking - or,
perhaps, not talking."
- The look on
Laura's face was all the thanks Remington needed.
- "It's beautiful,"
Laura said, putting her arms around Remington's neck and giving
him a romantic kiss. "I love it and I love you for getting it. But
you realize, of course, that our being alone tonight is the
exception rather than the rule."
- "Ah, but I've
taken care of that," Remington said.
- "You've talked
Donald and Frances into taking the children every night?"
- "Not exactly. I
just explained to the children that the gazebo is Mummy and
Daddy's private place and they're not to use it unless they're
invited by us. And, they are not to disturb us when we are sitting
here -- unless one of them has broken a limb or the house is on
- "Mr. Steele, your
creativity never ceases to amaze me."
- "I decided that
we do need more time alone, away from the kids. After all, the
best way we can ensure a happy home for our children is to make
sure our marriage never grows stale."
- Laura laughed. "I
don't think there's any chance of that happening."
- "But just a few
days ago, you were worried that we were becoming too traditional,"
Remington reminded her.
- "I was just upset
that night," Laura explained. "Besides, I realized you were right.
We're probably the most non-traditional traditional couple
- "Speaking of
tradition..." Remington said, reaching beneath the seat and
pulling out an iced bottle of Dom Perignon. "Since you aren't
nursing this time, what say we toast the tradition Frances and
Donald started when we first brought Rory home?"
- Laura shook her
head in disbelief and laughed as Remington pulled out two
champagne glasses and handed them to her. "I'm not sure they knew
what they were getting themselves into, though. It's wonderful of
them to keep the other children so we can be home alone the first
night with the new baby, but they may not have started that
tradition if they'd known we would have six children."
- "To Donald and
Frances, then - and a wonderful family tradition," Remington said
as they clinked their glasses and drank.
- "To our children,
for not being too insecure to leave the night a new baby comes
home," Laura said as they touched glasses again. "And to Megan;
may she have a wonderful life."
- "And to us,"
Remington said. "May the rest of our life be as marvelous as the
last eight years."
- This time they
intertwined their arms as they drank and then shared a slow, sweet
- Remington took
their glasses and set them aside. Then reaching into his pocket,
he took out something Laura couldn't see.
- "I, uh, wanted to
get you something special," he said. "Something that represented
not only my love for you, but our love for our children."
- He took her right
hand and slipped a multi-colored ring onto her ring finger.
- She immediately
recognized the significance of the seven stones. "It's a mother's
ring!" she exclaimed as she held the ring out where she could see
- "The, uh, Royal
Lavulite, stands for my birthday," Remington told her. "I mean, I
don't know when my real birthday is, anyway, so. . ."
- "...so you
adopted Royal Lavulite as your birthstone."
- "More or less,"
Remington admitted with a shrug.
- "A nice
traditional choice," Laura agreed, embracing Remington and hugging
him tightly."I love everything. Thank you."
- "I decided that
since our family is now complete, it was an appropriate gift.
After all, I've always thought of our children as priceless
- Laura was quiet
for a moment, then took Remington's hand in hers. "What I said the
other night about sometimes being jealous of the children-- I
never meant I'm sorry we had them. I love them - all of them - and
I can't imagine my life without them. I would have been happy if
we hadn't been able to have children, but I'm six times happier
and more blessed as things are now."
- "You are
remarkable, Laura. Truly remarkable. When I think of what my life
would have been like now if you hadn't loved me, it frightens me.
You've given me everything I need and everything I want."
Remington brought her hands to his lips and kissed them. "Gerald
O'Hara told Scarlett that land was the most important thing, but
I'm afraid I'd have to disagree."
- "You're disputing
a movie reference?"
- "It's been said
the Irish value family so highly because it was all they had in
the dark days," Remington said. "All I know is that *this*
Irishman values and loves his family and home more than anything
else in the world. And he values and loves the woman who gave him
that family and home. He just hopes she knows that."
- "She does," Laura
said. "And l can assure you, she loves and values that Irishman
just as much."
- They shared a
- Then Laura
laughed and leaned into his arms, saying, "You know, no matter how
traditional things may get, I can always count on one thing."
- "What's that?"
- "That you'll
always make each day special."
- She kissed him on
- Remington stood
and held his hand out to her. "Care to dance, Mrs. Steele?"
- "Indeed, Mr.
Steele. There's nothing I'd like better."
- There were no
stars in the sky. There was no sweet romantic music, and they
weren't in a castle ballroom. But Laura and Remington danced to
their own music and stared at the stars in each other's eyes. Soon
enough, children and reality would once again assume their places,
but for now the only place for Laura and Remington was in each
- The End
- Written Winter
1990; Revised Jan. 2000
- This story copyrighted
1982-2000 by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington
Steele are used without
permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.