Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

Steele in the Mood
Part 2
by
Debra Talley & Thekla Kurth

(This story is part of the Brendan Universe.)

 
 
Laura walked into her loft and turned on the lights. Dropping her clothes on the way, she headed for the shower. It was the first of many cold showers she would take that night. Troubled by dreams and unable to sleep, she spent the night tossing and turning in her lonely bed. Each time she awoke she took another cold shower, hoping it would help relieve her stress. Needless to say, she got very little sleep and what sleep she did get was far from restful.
 
She couldn't figure out what was happening to her. She'd always been able to curb her emotions and control her passions, reserving them for special, private moments. But today something had been unleashed in her-- something that knew no bounds. Today she had been absurdly passionate and the reality of that puzzled her, disturbed her--and even frightened her.
 
***********
 
Remington returned to his apartment, where he also spent the night tossing restlessly in his cold and lonely bed. He, also, was forced to take a succession of cold showers throughout the night. He awakened abruptly from a particularly vivid dream, disappointed to realize it was just that--a dream.
 
He smiled as he remembered his recent, sweet trysts with Laura in the limo and in the office. Her recent behavior was far from the norm for her. She was certainly right when she said they had always been so discreet in the past. Their romantic interludes had been few and far between. But today for some reason, they hadn't been able to keep their hands off each other. It was odd indeed, but still, it was a most pleasant change. Remington had a feeling wild, crazy, uninhibited, absurdly passionate Laura Holt had reemerged with a vengeance, and he was looking forward to getting better acquainted with that enigmatic creature.
 
Remington wanted more than the fleeting memories of Laura his dreams provided him. He wanted to fall asleep each night and awaken each morning with her in his arms. Why was it so hard to find the right words to let her know how he felt? Why, after loving her for four years, couldn't he verbalize his feelings?
 
Glancing at the clock, he noticed it was almost time for the alarm. Sighing wistfully, he crawled out of bed and slowly made his way to the bathroom for yet another cold shower.

***********

Mildred was almost never late, but today was the exception. Her alarm hadn't gone off. Then she couldn't find her car keys and then when she finally did, her car wouldn't start. She was almost ready to give up and catch the bus when the motor finally turned over. As a result of her morning misadventures, she and Remington arrived at the office the same time as Remington.

"Good morning, Boss. Sorry I'm late," Mildred said. "Everything seemed to go wrong this morning. First my alarm, then my keys and then my car."

Remington held up his hand. "Say no more, Mildred. Believe it or not, I've had a morning or two like that myself."

"Really, Boss?" she asked in amazement as they rode up together in the elevator. After getting a better look at him, she added, "You look like you had a rough night."
 
"I did, Mildred," he replied, not offering any details.
 
"Oh, come on, Chief! Maybe the rest of the day will be better!" she said hopefully, stepping off the elevator with him and walking down the corridor.
 
They found the agency door already unlocked. Remington pushed it open and held it for Mildred.
 
"Miss Holt must already be here," she noted.
 
"And knowing Miss Holt, she'll come waltzing out of her office any minute now, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and raring to go," Remington complained.
 
"You're just not a morning person, are you, Boss?"
 
Remington just grunted. All *he* wanted to do was go home and crawl back into bed for forty more winks. On second thought, however, he decided the couch in his office would do just fine.
 
Right on cue, Laura came charging out of her office. She was charged up and raring to go, but was far from being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
 
"I don't believe this!" she screamed, waving a newspaper. "Just look at this! This headline is outrageous!"
 
"Well, I really can't get a good look at it, honey, with you waving it around like that," Mildred said.
 
"Just look a that picture!" Laura demanded. "How dare they!? Haven't they ever heard of journalistic ethics? Or ethics, period?"
 
"Icy calm, Laura!" Remington said as he put his hands on Laura's shoulders. "Just calm down and tell us what this is all about. Slowly."
 
Laura shoved the paper under his nose, pointing out the front page headline and picture. "This! This is what it's about!"
 
Remington and Mildred both leaned forward to get a better view. The closer they examined the picture, the wider their eyes became.
 
Laura read the headline aloud: Famed P.l. Rips Dress Off Secretary's Back. Can you believe that? Won't they ever learn that I am *not* a secretary?!"
 
"Really, Laura, is that what you're so upset over? That the press called you a secretary?" Remington asked. "Actually, I'd say it's a step up from 'unidentified woman.'"
 
"That is not what I'm upset about. Well, not that much, anyway. I'm upset that the whole embarrassing incident from last night is printed right here in the paper for the whole world to see!"
 
"What embarrassing incident?" Mildred asked as soon as she had a chance.
 
"It's a convoluted tale, Mildred. We'll explain later," Remington explained. "Now give me the paper, Laura, so I can get a good look at it. "
 
She handed him the paper.
 
"The L.A. Inquirer, eh?" he asked, surprised. "When did you start reading the supermarket tabloids?"
 
"Since this morning, when we made the cover. I stopped at a convenience store on my way to the office this morning to pick up something up for breakfast."
 
"Doughnuts and coffee again, Laura?" Remington asked with a gleam in his eye.
 
Laura ignored him. "Anyway, I saw *this* while I was the counter paying for my purchases. Do you realize how humiliating it was finding this there, knowing everyone in L.A. would be staring at it while standing in line to pay for their groceries?"
 
"What embarrassing incident are we talking about here?" Mildred asked again.
 
"Page 4, Mildred," Remington told her as he handed her the tabloid.
 
"No!" Laura exclaimed, snatching it from Mildred before she the secretary had a chance to see it.
 
Then waving the paper in front of Remington's nose, Laura asked, "What are we going to do about this...this *trash*?! Answer me that!"
 
"Will you just calm down? You're blowing this all out of proportion," Remington said as he grabbed the paper, carefully studying the pictures and accompanying blurbs.
 
Mildred unsuccessfully tried to steal a look over his shoulder. This suspense was killing her.
 
"The Dirt prints a picture of you ripping my dress off, and you tell me to calm down?"'Laura screeched.
 
"You're taking this much too personally, Laura. It's not as though you are between these pages," Remington said soothingly.
 
"That's easy for you to say. You're not the one plastered on page four catching a chill!"
 
Mildred finally saw the photo in question. She gasped in shock and put her hand to her mouth. "Boss! You ripped Miss Holt's dress off!? In public?! How could you?!"
 
"There's a perfectly good explanation, Mildred."
 
"There better be!" Mildred declared. "I know the Agency can always use more publicity, but this time you've gone too far!"
 
"Believe me, Mildred; it was all perfectly innocent. It really wasn't Mr. Steele's fault," Laura explained, trying to get Remington off the hook.

"The best thing we can do is just ignore it and get on with the business at hand," Remington suggested. "It'll all blow over before you know it."

Remington walked over to the appointment book on Mildred's desk and flipped it around while Mildred continued turning studying the pages of the Dirt.
 
"Ah, yes. The L.A. Community Service Awards are today at noon," Remington reminded Laura, pointing to the entry.
"Of all days to be presenters at an awards luncheon!!" Laura complained.
 
"Nonsense!" Remington declared. "It's the perfect opportunity to show the press we don't give a fig about that revealing picture. Just don't wear the same dress--and for heaven's sake, don't wear that brooch!"
 
"You gave me that brooch!" Laura reminded him. "I have no intention of sticking it in my jewelry box and letting it collect dust!"
 
"Fine. But perhaps you'd better not wear it when we go dancing," Remington suggested. "Agreed?"
 
Before Laura could reply, Mildred started laughing.
 
"What's so funny, Mildred?" Remington asked. "We could use a good laugh about now."
 
"Oh, it's nothing, Boss," Mildred said as she started to close the rag.
 
"Mildred..." Remington warned as he grabbed the paper and tried to take it from her. "Give me that paper!"
 
"It's nothing, really," Mildred declared as she strengthened her grip, trying to jerk the paper from his hand.
 
"Well, in that case, you won't mind if we see it," Remington explained, finally freeing the paper from her grasp.
 
Remington and Laura skimmed the open pages together. It didn't take long before they spotted the object of Mildred's laughter. A headline halfway down on page 14 proclaimed, Prince Of Detectives Checks Out Ladies Room.
 
Remington didn't even try to stifle his groan as they read the sleazy article that followed.
 
"Look on the bright side, Mr. Steele," Laura said sympathetically, patting his shoulder. "At least there's no picture."
 
"At the moment, that's shallow consolation, Miss Holt," Remington sighed.
 
"You know what they say, Mr. Steele," Mildred reminded him. "There's no such thing as bad publicity."
 
Remington just grunted and tossed the offending paper onto Mildred's desk.
 
"Suggestions, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked.
 
"Mildred," Remington said as he squared his shoulders and straightened his tie."I want you to visit every newsstand, convenience and and liquor store within an hour's drive of here and confiscate every copy of this TRASH you can get your hands on. Maybe that will at least help minimize any resulting troubles."
 
Mildred squinted her eyes and stared straight at Remington. "Boss, life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble. "
 
Remington's face quickly changed from a scowl to a lopsided grin. "Anthony Quinn to Alan Bates, Zorba the Greek, 20th Century Fox, 1964. Excellent, Mildred!"
 
Mildred giggled like a schoolgirl as Remington gave her a resounding smack on the cheek.
 
"I'll, uh, just have Fred drive me around so I can swipe the incriminating evidence," Mildred explained as she grabbed her purse and headed toward the door.
 
"Every last one of them, Mildred!" Laura said loudly to Mildred's retreating form.
 
"Oh, and kids, better do something with those clothes in the chair over there. We wouldn't want to shock a client."
 
Without looking back, Mildred opened the door and was gone.
 
Laura and Remington just looked at each other and blushed.

*************

 
Shortly before noon, Laura and Remington were in the Auburn headed for the awards luncheon. Laura, sipping a glass of Mr. Pop-Top's cola, was leaning against Remington's shoulder.
 
"It was awfully thoughtful of Fred to bring the case of cola to the office before going on maneuvers with Mildred," Laura remarked as she dipped her fingers in the glass and let Remington lick the cola from her fingertip.
 
He took Laura's hand in his and kissed each fingertip before turning her face toward him for a long kiss. The Auburn swerved into the oncoming lane and an outraged motorist honked his horn. Amazingly enough, Remington somehow regained control of the car without breaking the kiss.
 
"It never fails, does it?" Laura asked, snuggling closer to Remington and walking her fingers up his thigh. "Someone always honks at us when we're kissing."
 
"You've got that confused, love. Someone always *shoots* at us when we're kissing," Remington reminded her as he slapped at her wandering fingers.
 
She merely wrapped both of her arms around his neck. "It makes no difference to me whether they honk at us or shoot at us, just as long as you keep kissing me," Laura purred, pulling his face close and giving him a heart stopping kiss.
 
Remington tried to keep his eyes on the road, but the Auburn swerved anyway. He finally managed to break the kiss and wrestle control of the car.
 
"Laura, I can't drive and kiss you at the same time. What say we find a nice secluded spot before we have a wreck?" Remington suggested.
 
"Sounds delicious," Laura said, taking another sip of her cola and then laying her head on Remington's shoulder.
 
"May I?" Remington asked, motioning to Laura's glass.
 
"Of course. We're partners, remember? What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine. Share and share alike, eh, Mr. Steele?" She handed her glass to Remington and began nibbling on his ear.
 
Suddenly Remington swallowed quickly and almost gagged. Laura looked up to see him pointing, cola glass in hand, at a sign that read: McCullum Park, 2 miles.
 
"Shall we, Miss Holt?" Remington asked as he gave Laura his best million dollar smile.
 
"Absolutely, Mr. Steele," Laura agreed with a devilish smile. "What could be more appropriate?"
 
Remington located the McCullum Park exit and followed the tree lined road to a secluded area. After parking the Auburn in a grove of shady trees, Remington leaned back and took one last sip of cola. Handing the glass to Laura, he watched as she enjoyed the last swallow.
 
"I always knew that someday we'd come to this particular moment in the scheme of things," Remington said as he gazed longingly into Laura's eyes and caressed her cheek.
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"You and I, finally having a romantic interlude in the Auburn. Of finally giving up our record of being the only owners not to make love in this car," Remington explained.
 
"Some records are made to be broken, Mr. Steele," Laura said as she loosened his tie and began removing his jacket.
 
"It seems awfully tight quarters in which to trip the light fantastic," he commented absentmindedly, easing her jacket off her shoulders
 
"Where there's a will, there's a way, Mr. Steele."
 
"Indeed, Miss Holt. Indeed," Remington muttered.
 
It was the last coherent statement either uttered for quite a while.
 
*********

Laura snuggled against Remington's shoulder as they sped down the highway. Both were smiling and feeling extremely content. Laura was pleasantly surprised when Remington joined her in a lusty version of the chorus to "Afternoon Delight." As the chorus trailed off in a gale of laughter, their eyes met in a heated gaze and once again they shared a kiss. This kiss, however, was short; Remington was forcing himself to concentrate on his driving.

"You realize we're already late," he said as he began to pick up speed.

"Oh, but it was worth it! After all, we were making history," Laura said dreamily.
 
"Yes. We seem to be making history quite often lately--in the limo, in the office, in the Auburn... Next thing you know, it'll be in the Rabbit," Remington predicted.
 
"Surely you jest! It has less room than in the Auburn!" Laura declared as she walked her toes up his leg.
 
He reflexively jerked and the Auburn lunged.
 
"Then we'll just have to be more inventive, eh?" Remington said, wiggling his eyebrows outrageously.
 
"Oh! Here's our turn--Wilmington Estates Country Club. Hurry!" Laura suddenly exclaimed.
 
"I thought you didn't care that we were late," Remington reminded her.
 
"Well, I don't. But there's no reason why we can't hurry now, is there?" she asked.
 
"Certainly, Miss Holt. Business as usual, eh?" Remington said.
 
"More or less," Laura said with a very unbusinesslike grin.
 
Turning suddenly and placing her head in Remington's lap, she dangled her legs provocatively over the edge of the car door. They rode in comfortable silence until they came within sight of the County Club.
 
"Up you get," Remington ordered as he pulled Laura into an upright position. "And don't forget your shoes."
 
She located her shoes behind the seat and quickly slipped them on.
 
"I'll let you out before I park the car. Maybe you can make our excuses before I make my appearance," Remington said as he slowed down and stopped at the main entrance.
 
Laura gave him a quick kiss and turned to open her door. Remington grabbed her arm, however, before she had a chance to climb out. She gave him a quizzical look.
 
"You really don't mind that we're late? I mean, you don't regret our little spontaneous interlude, do you?" Remington asked uncertainly.
 
"Mr. Steele," Laura said very seriously, "as you grow older, you'll find that the only things you regret are the things you *didn't* do."
 
Remington grinned. "Ah, Laura. Zachary Scott couldn't have said it better. Now go! Go!"
 
"I'm going!" she assured him as she rushed toward the steps.
 
Satisfied that she would be able to smooth things over, he pulled the Auburn out of the driveway and headed to the parking lot.
 
Before entering the building, Laura took a moment to straighten her clothes and hair. Then opening the door, she made her way to the main ballroom, where the awards ceremony was already in full swing.
 
She was standing uncertainly at the back of the room when the coordinator of the event rushed up to her. Laura noted that he looked like Peter Lorre.
 
"Please, tell me you're Miss Holt!"
 
"Yes, I am. I'm sorry we're late, but an emergency came up..."
 
"I don't care why you're late, Miss Jolt; I'm just relieved you're finally here. But where's Mr. Steele? He is with you, isn't he? Please tell me he's with you."
 
"It's Holt. Laura Holt."
 
"No offense, Miss Jolt, but Mr. Steele is the one everyone wants to see. If he's not here, there's really no need for you to stay."
 
Laura gritted her teeth and forced a replica of a smile. "Mr. Steele will be right in. He's parking the car at the moment."
 
"Oh, thank goodness! Follow me, Miss Jolt; I'll show you to your seat."
 
Laura merely smiled and followed him.
 
*************
 
Five minutes passed...ten minutes...fifteen minutes. Bored to death, Laura found herself wishing they had been even later. Without realizing it, she broke into a dreamy smile and began humming "Afternoon Delight." Everyone at her table turned and looked at her. She gave them a sheepish smile and muttered an apology. Nervously, she glanced at her watch. 20 minutes had passed and still Remington had not joined her. Surely it couldn't take that long merely to park the Auburn. Even a quick side trip to the men's room wouldn't cause that much of a delay.
 
After what seemed like an eternity, Laura checked her watch again. Twenty five minutes had now passed. She was more than a little worried. Nervously tapping her fingers on the table, she looked around the room.
 
She jumped as the coordinator suddenly appeared behind her. "Where is Mr. Steele?" he demanded, none too politely.
 
"I don't know. He should have been here by now," Laura explained.
 
"We can't delay your presentation much longer. As much as I dislike it, you'll have to make the presentation alone unless Mr. Steele arrives very, very soon. And I assure you, Miss Jolt..."
 
"Holt!"
 
"Whatever... I assure you, the press will not like it. Mr. Steele is the crowd pleaser.After all, he's the Prince of Detectives, while you're just a mousy little secretary."
 
"Now listen here!!!" Laura warned, pointing a finger in front of his beady little eyes.
 
She would have continued, but the crowd stood and applauded as a distinguished looking woman rose to accept an award. Laura gave a sigh of relief as the coordinator, taking advantage of the sudden diversion, quickly disappeared. Applauding along with the crowd, she once again looked at her watch.
 
Twenty seven minutes and still no Remington. Deciding something had to be wrong, Laura grabbed her purse and headed for the nearest exit.
 
**********
 
Laura discovered a woozy Remington locked inside the trunk of the Auburn. Luckily, her repeated calling of his name had roused him enough that he had been able to attract her attention by pounding. She carefully helped him crawl out of the trunk, a concerned arm around his shoulder for support.
 
"What happened?" she asked as she helped him lean against the car.
 
"I caught the black jack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in... It had no bottom," Remington declared dramatically as he winced and put his hand to the throbbing lump on the back of his head.
 
"Sounds like a case of attempted Murder, My Sweet," Laura said as she probed Remington's head for the injury. She knew she had found it when he yelped.
 
In spite of the pain Remington grinned mischievously, put his arm around her waist and pulled her close. "I'll gladly endure a whack on the head any time if it results in such desirable terms of endearment from you."
 
"What are you babbling about?" Laura asked as she continued examining his wound.
 
"You called me 'My Sweet'," Remington reminded her. "Ouch!"
 
"You know very well I was citing your movie reference."
 
Remington sighed. "Yes, well... I can still hope, can't I?"
 
Laura grinned. "Dream away, Lamb Chop."
 
"Lamb Chop?" Remington asked, disappointed. "Yes, well, hopefully someday... Laura, why are you crawling into the trunk? Believe me, the view is nothing to write home about."

Laura grabbed a white plastic container. "First aid kit," she explained. "I'm going to play doctor,"

"Really? Sounds intriguing, but I'm not sure I'm up to another romantic interlude so soon after my bout with Death," Remington explained.

Laura firmly took hold of Remington's shoulders and led him to the passenger's side of the Auburn. She opened the door, pushed him onto the seat, pushed his legs in and then closed the door.

Remington rather liked this attention.
 
"Just sit tight," Laura said as she climbed into the Auburn on the driver's side. "I'll drive around front and we'll go in from there. I can wash off the blood in the lounge."
 
"Blood?!" Remington asked, gingerly feeling the back of his head.
 
"Icy calm, Mr. Steele. I think you'll live."
 
*************
 
Remington sat in an overstuffed chair in the sitting room of the ladies lounge as Laura tended his head wound. The awards ceremony had ended and numerous people were milling around the lobby.
 
The coordinator suddenly descended upon them like a torpedo. "What kind of cheap stunt were you trying to pull, Mr. Steele?!!"
 
Remington held his hands up. "I can explain, Mr. Thorwald..."
 
"We waited and waited and waited, but you never showed up! We even changed our entire program because of your defection!" Mr. Thorwald said heatedly, his face turning purple. "I didn't like it, but I was even willing to let your secretary here make the presentation--and then she defected, too!" "
 
"Mr. Thorwald, my associate would have been perfectly capable of making the presentation without me," Remington said angrily. Laura touched his shoulder, reminding him to calm down. "Without her, there would be no Remington Steele Investigations."
 
"You've been uncooperative about this whole affair from the very beginning, Mr. Steele. I didn't even want Miss Jolt here to be your co- presenter in the first place, but you insisted! "

Remington stood up, his temper barely under control. "Her name is Miss Holt; at least have the decency to get her name right if you're going to insult her," he said tightly.

"How dare you talk to me like that, after ruining my awards presentation with your childish game of Hide-and-Seek! I am *the* authority on proper etiquette at affairs such as this, and I say a secretary has no business being a presenter at such a prestigious affair as this!"

Remington took a deep breath.
 
Laura patted his arm. "Mr. Steele, remember your manners," she warned.
 
"We are not questioning your authority, sir---but if manners prevent our speaking the truth, we will be without
manners," Remington declared.
 
"John Ford to Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley, 20th Century Fox, 1971," Laura explained diplomatically. "Mr. Steele is always making movie quotes; he is a great admirer of the movies. "
 
"I assure you, Mr. Steele, this is the last time my organization will ask you to be a presenter," Mr. Thorwald declared emphatically.
 
"One more crack--just one--and I will not only spit in your eye, but I will punch it black and blue," Remington promised. He squared his shoulders and buttoned his jacket. "Elizabeth Taylor to Madeline Sherwood, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, MGM, 1958."
 
Remington calmly held out his arm for Laura. "Shall we, Miss Holt?"
 
Laura took his arm and they left Mr. Thorwald fuming.
 
************

Remington stretched out in the Auburn the best he could while waiting for Laura to finish her call to Mildred at a roadside phone booth. His head was still throbbing, but not as badly as before. The pain medicine Laura insisted he take had helped.

He jumped when he heard Laura's door slam and watched as she took her place behind the wheel.

"I got Mr. Pop-Top's home address from Mildred. He lives in Bel Air," she explained, brushing her fingers across his slightly bruised cheek.

"Ah, Bel Air! Where necking at a bus stop is the only way to keep from getting arrested," Remington mused with a smile. "The stuff that memories are made of."
 
"I think you have that wrong; shouldn't it be, 'The stuff that *dreams* are made of'?"
 
"Perhaps, but what are dreams but memories that have yet to happen?" he asked as he took Laura's hand and kissed it tenderly.
 
"Thank you," Laura said quietly.
 
"For what?"
 
"For standing up to that chauvinist pig for me " Laura explained.
 
"Well, when he insulted you, he insulted me," Remington explained sincerely. "And thank *you*."
 
"For what?" Laura asked, bemused.
 
"For allowing me the honor of defending you. Not too long ago you would have clobbered me for that presumption," Remington said.
 
"Yes," Laura admitted. "I would have, wouldn't I?"
 
Remington squeezed Laura's hand and straightened up. "Well, on to Bel Air, where walking is a crime."
 
Laura started the Auburn and studied the traffic for a break. "We're lucky you got a look at that guy before he knocked you out. Hopefully, Mr. Pop-Top can identify him."
 
"You realize we're grasping at straws, Laura," Remington pointed out as a Laura pulled into the traffic. "We have no proof that my assailant works for Mr. Pop-Top or even that he's associated with this cola case."
 
"True, but we aren't working on any other cases at the moment. Besides, if we play our cards right, he just might give us more cola to sample. I don't know about you, but I'm thirsty," Laura explained.
 
"Excellent point, Miss Holt."
 
"We're going to need all the energy we can muster this afternoon," Laura explained.
 
"Oh? Why is that?"
 
"Have you forgotten? We promised to pick up Danny and his two friends at school and take them to the Observatory."
 
"Ah, yes; their science project!" Remington suddenly remembered. "And then afterwards, we have the pleasure of enjoying one of Frances' scrumptious meals. Yes, I'm rather looking forward to it."
 
Laura gave Remington a look of disbelief. "I still can't believe how you've taken to my family. You really seem to enjoy their company. You even enjoy giving Laurie Beth horsie rides and playing school with Mindy. And of course, Danny is thrilled that he's finally found someone who enjoys helping him put together classic model cars. I just don't get it."
 
"It's quite simple, Laura. Donald has given me a greater appreciation for a certain freeway exit," Remington explained mysteriously.
 
"Care to elaborate, Mr. Steele?"
 
"Uh, yes--and no."
 
"What kind of answer is that?" Laura asked.
 
"The best one I can come up with on the spur of the moment," Remington explained defensively.
 
"Whenever you care to fill me in, I'm all ears," Laura promised as she patted his leg.
 
"I'll bear that in mind," Remington promised. "Now, if you don't mind, I have a headache."
 
"Certainly, Mr. Steele. Just lay back and leave the driving to me."

Remington leaned back and closed his eyes, mentally kicking himself. Here he'd passed up another perfect opportunity to discuss marriage and a family with Laura. And once again, she'd even been the one to bring up the subject! Four years ago, marriage had been the farthest thing from Remington's mind. But now it was foremost on his mind. If only he could find the courage to broach the subject with her! If only she didn't have such a hang-up about marriage! If only he could find the right words to express what he felt in his heart! If only...

If only his head wasn't throbbing!

**************

Laura and Remington said their farewells and saw themselves out of Mr. Pop-Top's Bel Air mansion. Their visit had yielded no useful information, but it did quench their thirst. Remington unconsciously scratched his leg as they walked back down the circular drive towards the Auburn sipping on their 16 ounce bottles of cola.

"Well, at least the trip wasn't a total loss," Remington commented, scratching.

"I'd love to take several bottles of this stuff to dinner tonight. It's a shame we don't have any with us," Laura sighed.

"We've got to swing by the Agency and change cars," Remington reminded her as he vigorously continued to scratch. "We'll stick a few bottles in the car. Which car are we going to use, anyway? You must admit, it would give the kids a thrill to ride in the limo."
 
Laura laughed. "That reminds me--Mildred wanted to know why the back seat of the limo was sticky."
 
"What did you tell her?" Remington asked, raising an eyebrow.
 
"Nothing. I decided to give her something to wonder about."
 
Laura abruptly stopped walking and just stared at Remington. "Why do you keep scratching like that!?" she asked, irritated.
 
"After hearing Mr. Pop-Top complain about his broken leg itching, I have this uncontrollable urge to do some scratching of my own. Old habits die hard, I guess."
 
Laura edged up beside Remington and put her arms around his waist. "What say you let me do the scratching, Mr. Steele?" she volunteered.
 
"That sounds like an offer I can't refuse, Miss Holt. But unfortunately, Danny's school will be out shortly and we still have to change cars," Remington reminded her.
 
"Spoil sport," Laura complained.
 
"Just hold that feeling, Miss Holt. If I'm not mistaken, the Observatory has the perfect spot for a little intimate scratching," Remington said suggestively.
 
"Oh, Mr. Steele! You sly devil," Laura said admiringly.
 
Remington grinned seductively as he and Laura got into the Auburn and drove away.
 
**********

Laura and Remington entered the agency, surprised to find it was empty.

"Where's Mildred?" Remington asked, puzzled.

"I don't know. She didn't say anything to me about needing to leave early," Laura explained.

When a thorough check of the offices provided no clues to Mildred's whereabouts, Laura sat down behind the secretary's desk and began rummaging through the drawers. Remington, leaning against the desk, suddenly noticed something they had missed earlier.
 
"Miss Holt, why would Mildred have two empty glasses on her desk?"
 
"Good point, Mr. Steele. She always uses the same glass. She wouldn't have *two* glasses on her desk--unless she had a visitor." Running her finger around the rim of one of the glasses, Laura tasted it and declared, "Mr. Pop-Top's cola."
 
Remington leaned over Mildred's waste basket and pulled out four empty bottles of cola. "Brilliant deduction, Miss Holt," he said, reaching for his leg.
 
"Stop that!" Laura ordered, swatting him.
 
Just then they heard a loud crash. Each grabbing a bottle as an emergency weapon, they ran to the closed door of the supply room. Laura stood behind Remington as he flung open the door. They burst into the room, bottles held high.
 
"Mildred*??"
 
"Oh, Mr. Steele! Miss Holt!" Mildred sputtered, straightening her clothes and hair.
 
"Ralph!!??"
 
Ralph, the Century Center security guard, nervously straightened his uniform.
 
"What's going on here?" Remington asked, scratching his leg.
 
Laura swatted him. He merely gave her an irritated look and turned his attention back to Mildred and Ralph.
 
Mildred flushed and stammered. "Ah, uh...the coffee machine wasn't working, so I...I asked Ralph to come up and take a look at it."
 
"Ralph is a security guard," Remington pointed out.
 
"Yes, but he's also a...a handyman, in his spare time," Mildred explained.
 
Remington and Laura exchanged knowing looks.
 
"But the coffee maker was working fine this morning," Laura reminded Mildred.
 
"Went on the fritz ---just like that," Mildred explained, snapping her fingers.
 
Laura and Remington again looked at each other.
 
"Well, I guess I'll just be moseying along now," Ralph said as he shuffled to the door. " I'll see you later, Millie. Mr. Steele, Miss Holt..."
 
"I'll, uh, let you know if that adjustment you made did the trick!" Mildred called out as he disappeared from view. Holding her head high, Mildred returned to her desk, leaving Laura and Remington alone in the supply room.
 
Laura glanced at the coffee maker. "It's working perfectly," she hissed at Remington.
 
He merely smiled and shrugged. "I'm sure it is, Miss Holt, but we'll have to ponder this intriguing turn of events at a later time. We don't want to be late picking up the boys."
 
"In all the excitement, I'd forgotten all about it!" Laura explained as they walked out of the supply room and into the lobby.
 
"We're taking Miss Holt's nephew and his friends to the Observatory," Remington called out to Mildred as they headed for the double glass doors. "We'll be taking the limo. The kids should get a kick out of that, eh?"
 
Remington had the feeling Mildred hadn't heard a word he had said. She was off somewhere that only she knew and she had never looked happier.
 
As he and Laura left, they could have sworn they heard Mildred humming "Afternoon Delight."
 
*************

To be continued...

 
 

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.
 
 
dtalley@mindspring.com
 

This story copyrighted 1982-2002 by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington Steele
are used without permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.