Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

Steele in the Mood
Part 6
Debra Talley & Thekla Kurth

(This story is part of the Brendan Universe.)


Donald and Frances parked the limo in front of the house at 6 a.m. sharp. As they walked arm in arm up the driveway, Donald whispered something in Frances' ear.
"Oh, Donald!" Frances giggled. "We're not at the loft anymore, you know. We're standing in our own driveway and we have to start behaving like parents again."
"We should never act *just* like parents, Frannie," Donald reminded her. "I always appreciated the fact that my parents weren't embarrassed to show affection in front of us kids."
"Well, I certainly can't look to my own parents as good role models in that department," Frances admitted. "Guess you'll just have to remind me occasionally. I stay so busy with the children that sometimes I just don't have any energy left to remind you how much I still love you."
"It's okay, Honey Lamb; I know you love me," Donald explained. "Why else would you put those cute little love notes in my lunch every day day, or tickle me behind my ears when I'm in a bad mood? Those are the kinds of things a woman does only when she's madly in love."
"Oh, Donald," Frances sighed. "I love our life together, but I do wish we could have stayed away longer than one night."
"Think maybe we can persuade Laura and Remington to watch the kids this weekend so we can, uh, finish what we started?"
"We better not press our luck," Frances warned. "After all, we were lucky to get last night."
"And what a night. Eh, Frannie?"
They both giggled again.
"Besides, I think we'd better get Laura's bed fixed before we ask her for any more favors," Frances reminded him.
As they approached the back door, they were greeted by an unexpected sight. There was Remington, fast asleep, propped against the back door with Max stretched across his lap. An empty box of chocolate bonbons was clutched in his hand.
"My bonbons!" Frances exclaimed, grabbing the empty box and shaking it. "I don't believe it! He ate the whole box!"
"If Laura made him sleep with the dog, he probably needed something a lot stronger than chocolate," Donald noted sympathetically.
"But I told Mildred there were fresh sheets on the spare bed! There was no reason for Laura to make him sleep out here!"
"I'm sure there's a logical explanation," Donald rationalized as he bent over Remington and began shaking his shoulder. "Remington...Remington...Time to wake up, pal."
Max awoke with a start and ran off, startling Remington awake. Looking up, he saw Donald and Frances looming over him. "Oh, good morning," he said as he stiffly stood and stretched, scratching several times during the process.
"Not even married yet and the little woman already has you sleeping with the dog," Donald said, shaking his head in understanding as he gave Remington a slap on the back.
Remington screamed and grabbed at his back.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Donald apologized. "I didn't mean to..."
"It's okay, Donald," Remington explained, scratching his neck. "It's just that I've developed a rather nasty case of poison ivy,"
Frances swatted Donald. "I've told you a dozen times to cut down those bushes in the backyard!"
"I know, Frannie! I know!" Donald exclaimed. "I told you I'd get around to it and I fully intend to!"
"When?" asked Frances. "If you'd done it when I first asked you, then poor Remington wouldn't be sitting here how covered in poison ivy!"
"Wait a minute," Donald suddenly said, motioning for Frances to quiet down. Then pointing at Remington, he asked, "Remington, what were you doing in the bushes?"
"Ah...Laura and I were, uh, trying to get the flea collar on Max," Remington lied.
"Well, I hope you succeeded," Donald said, "because otherwise you'll be needing one as well, after spending the night with Max! That dog is absolutely covered with fleas."
Remington just groaned and scratched with renewed fervor.
"And why are you out here sleeping with the dog?" Donald asked. "Laura didn't *really* kick you out--did she?"
"I took a walk and somehow managed to lock myself out," Remington explained sheepishly. "Now, if you don't mind, Donald, could you please unlock the door? I have this uncontrollable urge to cuddle up with a bottle of calamine lotion."
Donald opened the door, allowing Remington and Frances to enter first. Remington grabbed the bottle of lotion from the kitchen counter and practically ran down the hallway, locking himself in the spare room.
The morning's daily activities began in earnest with everyone rushing to get dressed before breakfast was served at 6:30. The children stumbled out of bed and sleepily began getting ready for school. Frances fetched Donald's clothes from the master bedroom and he took a shower in the guest bathroom while Laura and Mildred dressed.
Laura was disappointed that Frances had returned in time to cook breakfast. After Remington played his late night version of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliette, Laura had stayed awake worrying about what to cook for breakfast. Coming up blank, she had finally decided to cajole Remington into using his gourmet skills to whip up some omelets. She knew his 'payment' for that particular favor would be outrageous, but it would be worth it. But now Frances was in the kitchen frying bacon and Laura would never have the pleasure of 'paying back' that particular debt.
She was still thinking with regret of missed opportunities when she and Donald collided in the hallway outside the master bedroom.
"I'm sorry, honey," Donald apologized. "It's a madhouse here this morning, isn't it?" Then noticing Laura scratching her arm vigorously, he asked, "Is something wrong with your arm?"
"Oh, it's nothing. Just a slight case of poison ivy," Laura explained lightly.
"Exactly what were you doing in the bushes?"
"Oh...ah...Mr. Steele and I were playing, uh, Hide-and-Seek-- with the kids," Laura lamely explained.
"Hide-and-Seek?" Donald said a laugh. "Laura, even after all these years, you never cease to amaze me."
"Ah, excuse me, Donald, but I better go give Frances a hand with breakfast," Laura said quickly, running off without a backward glance.
Donald just shook his head, still laughing. She and Remington may have been playing Hide-and-Seek, but he was willing to bet it wasn't with the kids.
Remington was adamant about confronting Mr. Pop-Top as soon as possible, so he and Laura inhaled their breakfasts and quickly said their good byes. By the time he got behind the wheel of the limo and they were finally on their way, he was fuming.
"I'm going to wring his neck," he promised Laura.
The limo swerved as he tried to reach a particularly awkward itch. His scratching was even more frenzied now, as he had fleas to contend with as well as the poison ivy.
Laura hated to laugh when it was obvious how uncomfortable Remington was, but she couldn't help it. "I seriously doubt you'll be able to stop scratching long enough to wring anything, Mr. Steele. Unless you can do your wringing with one hand."
"After all he's subjected us to these past few days, it's the least he deserves!" Remington declared, the limo weaving again.
"And exactly what is it he has subjected us to?"
"Well, for starters, I hold him personally responsible for our poison ivy and for my fleas. Not to mention the fact that he could have endangered our professional reputation when he gave us that--that--aphrodisiac cola under false pretenses. I mean, just think how embarrassing it would have been if we'd been caught at the office. . . "
"...or in the limo..."
"...or at the observatory. . . "
"...or on the ferris wheel..."
"...or in the Auburn..."
"...or in the bushes!"
"Remind me to take an ax to those bloody bushes the next time we visit your sister," Remington said, scratching his head. "And I might just take an ax to Max while I'm at it. I mean, if word ever gets out that 'the great Remington Steele' has fleas..."
Laura just laughed, scratching her leg. She scooted over beside Remington and began lightly scratching his back.
"Ah, Laura; I never realized what erotic fingernails you have," he sighed contentedly. "If you can just keep that up, I might actually be able to concentrate on my driving."
"I suppose that's a small price to pay for a safe ride," she admitted. "Just don't expect this kind of treatment every time you get behind the wheel."
"Forty-eight hours of poison ivy, fleas and uncontrollable passion!" Remington exclaimed. "Why can't we break away from all this, just you and I, and lodge with my fleas in the hills? I mean, flee to my lodge in the hills."
"I didn't know you had a lodge in the hills!"
"Groucho Marx to Thelma Todd, Monkey Business, Paramount, 1931," Remington explained as he pulled to a stop in front of the bus station.
"Why are we stopping here?" Laura inquired.
"We need a nice private spot where you can apply some calamine lotion to certain parts of my anatomy. Luckily, I remembered the perfect place."
"The bus station?" Laura asked in disbelief. "You *must* be kidding!"
"Trust me," Remington said as he opened the door and crawled out of the limo. "Harrison Ford to Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount, 1981."
"I thought it was Harrison Ford to Carrie Fisher, The Empire Strikes Back, 20th Century Fox, 1980," she contradicted with a grin as he helped her out of the car.
"It was a multiple choice movie citation," Remington explained, taking Laura's arm to hurry her along. "Now come along. This is a medical emergency. There's not a moment to spare."
Her curiosity aroused, Laura allowed herself to be hurried along.
Laura soon found herself sitting inside a curtained photo booth, the kind that gives you four pictures for a dollar. It was situated in a secluded corner of the bus station's waiting area. Remington had quickly discarded the necessary clothing and was in seventh heaven as Laura rubbed the soothing lotion over the various afflicted areas of his anatomy. Luckily, the curtains in the booth were quite long and afforded them privacy--but that privacy worked both ways.
The man standing outside the picture booth couldn't believe his good fortune. This was the third day he had been following Laura and Remington with his camera, trying to obtain proof for Mr. Pop-Top that his aphrodisiac cola really worked. And here they were, obviously having a romantic interlude in a photo booth! All he had to do was insert four quarters and he'd have undeniable proof that they had succumbed to "Temptation, the Cola of Love."
While searching for the correct change, he couldn't help but overhear the intriguing conversation coming from inside the booth.
"Ah, Laura, that feels absolutely wonderful!"
"I would have done it sooner, if you had only asked."
"I tried to, but Mildred wouldn't give me a chance. She was all over me every time I turned around. Oh, yes...Yes...Ahh, Laura! Don't stop!"
"We can't do this all morning, Mr. Steele! We have business to conduct, remember? Besides our confrontation with Mr. Pop-Top, we have that preliminary meeting with Vigilance Insurance concerning our new consulting contract."
"Really, Laura. Must you go after that contract? I'm don't think I can stomach working with Norman Keyes on a regular basis. He is determined to expose me as a fraud. Or at the very least, have me deported. Where would your precious agency be then?"
"Just calm down, Mr. Steele. I'm sure you're overreacting. You know this business deal is too good to pass up. Besides, I can handle Norman Keyes."
"I hope you're right. Ah, a little more pressure, Laura. If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right."
"How did you manage to get it there?"
"It wasn't easy, believe me! Now would you please just keep rubbing? I can't stay in this position forever, you know. Ahh,ahh... that's perfect, Laura! You know, you're very good at this."
"So I've been told. Now hold still; I know that's an awkward position, but I'm hurrying as fast as I can."
Obviously the desired results were achieved, because at that moment the conversation ceased and was replaced by a series of impassioned sighs.
Mr. Pop-Top's spy smiled to himself. This was turning out even better than he had imagined. He quickly deposited his four quarters in the slot and settled back for things to develop. He had a feeling these pictures would prove to be most revealing.
"What the...?" Laura and Remington both exclaimed as a series of bright flashes blinded them.
Before either of them could move, a hand reached inside the booth and grabbed the pictures as they began sliding through the slot.
"Hey!" Laura yelled, throwing aside the curtains.

"Laura! Wait!" Remington exclaimed, frantically grabbing both at his discarded clothing and the curtain.

"But they'll get away!" she argued.
"In case you haven't noticed, Laura, I'm not exactly dressed for a chase!"
"Well, then hurry up, Mr. Steele!!"
Unfortunately, she said it loudly enough for the entire bus station to hear. Curious about the disruption, the majority of the crowd turned their attention to the photo booth.
Laura and a pulled-together Remington emerged from the booth just moments later. Laura was still tightening the lid on the bottle of lotion as they began sprinting in the direction of the entrance.
"That's them," an elderly woman whispered to a friend as Remington and Laura hurried past.
Laura looked at Remington questioningly when they heard the remark.
"Must have read about us in the papers," he responded with a touch of pride, never breaking his stride.
"Yeah, but *which* paper?" Laura muttered cynically.
They ran out of the bus station but saw no sign of anyone suspicious who might have swiped the pictures.
"Come on," Laura said, heading for the limo. "Obviously whoever it was is long gone. Any idea what someone would want with those pictures?"
"I shudder to think," Remington replied. "Do you realize the compromising positions those photos will reveal?"
Ignoring his question, Laura asked instead, "Do you think they knew who they were taking photos of?"
"Probably," he replied with no hesitation.
"But why would they want photos of us?"
"I don't know, but I'd wager Mr. Pop-Top can give us some answers," Remington said, crawling behind the wheel of the limo.
Laura nodded in agreement. "We might as well go confront him. There's nothing more we can do here."
Two hours later, a furious Laura and Remington emerged from Mr. Pop-Top's Bel Air home.
"I still can't believe it!!" Laura exclaimed again.
"Imagine him using us as guinea pigs!" Remington declared indignantly.
"The nerve of that man, putting our professional reputation on the line like that!" Laura sputtered. "He didn't hire us to provide security for his new product; he only wanted us to try out his cola and see if its advertised benefits worked! Even that broken leg was just part of his perverted plan!"
"But you do have to admire someone who would purposely break his leg, Laura--no matter what the cause," Remington interjected.
"To think he gave us those free samples just so his spies could follow us around to get proof the cola was performing as expected!"
"Or rather, that *we* were performing as expected," Remington darkly uttered. "I shudder to think what proof they might have obtained."
"Well, they certainly had plenty of opportunity!" Laura said angrily, crossing her arms across her chest.

"Obviously, whoever used that photo booth to take our pictures was one of Mr. Pop-Top's spies gathering evidence," Remington deducted.

"Well, he couldn't have gotten much," Laura rationalized. "Certainly not what he expected to get, anyway."
"But he could have *thought* he got the proof he was after," Remington stated. "I mean, I was in what could be construed as a compromising position!"
"The only things those picture will reveal is me rubbing calamine lotion on your poison ivy exposed flesh," Laura said, trying to reassure him.
"Yes, but..."
"Look, there's really nothing more we can do. Mr. Pop-Top is in possession of those pictures by now--or he soon will be. Whatever he makes of them, he makes of them. If he thinks they are the proof he needs, fine. Then maybe he'll leave us alone."
"Remind me to have Mildred dump the rest of that cola at the office. I don't want a single drop of that stuff around. I don't even want to *see* another bottle of it."
"That may be easier said than done, Mr. Steele," Laura pointed out. "If that cola is placed on the market, we'll see it every time we go shopping."
"Well, I absolutely refuse to be a spokesman for it," Remington insisted.
"That was never Mr. Top-Top's intention, Mr. Steele. Didn't you listen to his proposed ad campaign?"
"As distasteful as the product itself," Remington stated.
"Actually, I kind of liked the jingle," Laura admitted. "I always did like that song."
To prove her point, Laura began to sing.
"You came; I was alone.
I should have known you were Temptation.
You sailed, luring me on.
My heart was gone; you were Temptation.
It would be thrilling if you were willing.
If it can never be, pity me,
For you were born to be kissed. I can't resist.
You are Temptation, and I am yours.
Here is my heart.
Take it and say we'll never part.
I'm just a slave,
Only a slave to you. Temptation."
Temptation, the Cola of Love.
"Going Hollywood, MGM, 1933," Remington added. "See, he couldn't even come up with something original."
"Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I think it's kind of cute," Laura said again, humming the tune.
"Laura, please. I have a headache."
"No need to be so testy, Mr. Steele."
"I am not testy. I'm just enraged, humiliated, and embarrassed about being used. My professional reputation has been scathed." Remington said, scratching harder with each word.
"Mr. Steele, please. Try to get a hold of yourself!" Laura said, grabbing at his hands to stop him from scratching. Looking at his fingernails, she shook her head. "I guess it's a good thing you don't have any nails, because if you did you wouldn't have any skin left."
"Laura, really!"
"Let's be reasonable. We'll just put the whole miserable thing behind us and hope nothing more comes of it. Agreed?"
"Well, I suppose *all* of it wasn't a miserable an experience," Remington conceded with a half-smile.
"No. Not all of it," Laura confessed with a smile of her own as she put her arms around his neck.
"Ah, Laura. Careful. Not in Mr. Pop-Top's driveway," Remington warned her. "He might send his spies out to take more pictures."

Laura quickly removed her arms and stepped back. "We certainly can't have that. Especially since we haven't even touched a drop of the stuff since last night."

"It certainly would have saved me a lot of heartache if he had discovered his secret formula a couple of years ago," Remington said wistfully.

Laura hit him.

"Really, Laura," he said as he rubbed his arm. "If you can't keep your hands off me, you could at least put them to better use."
"Can't," she reminded him. "We're still standing in Mr. Pop-Top's driveway."
"That's not quite what I meant. I was hoping you could put those erotic fingernails of yours to good use scratching my back."
"I scratch your back and you scratch mine," Laura replied with a grin. "Isn't that how it works, Mr. Steele?"
"Only too happy to oblige, Miss Holt, but only if you'll do the honors first."
"Get in the car, then," she instructed.
He did and she followed.
"Let's go to my loft and I'll scratch all you want. How does that sound, Mr. Steele?"
"Heavenly," Remington said as he backed out of the driveway, grateful to be leaving Bel Air far behind. Glancing at her, he added, "You know, Laura, I don't believe the cola was entirely to blame for our reactions."
"What do you mean? Of course it was," Laura contradicted. "We've certainly never been that uninhibited and spontaneous before." Seeing him scratch again, she suddenly grabbed his hand and said, "Mr. Steele, please! You know you shouldn't scratch; it will only make things worse."
"Laura, please don't nag."
"Why? Because it makes me sound like a wife?" she snapped.
Remington stared at her. Now, his mind told him. Laura had opened the marriage door again... created a small opening, so to speak. But instead of following his heart, he once again took the easy way out. "What I can't understand is why you have such a mild case of poison ivy and I seem to have borne the brunt of it," he said, mentally kicking himself.
"Mine is in places you'll never see," Laura said teasingly.
"Ah-ha! You're wrong there, my dear. I *have* seen those places."
"Just shut up and drive!" she ordered. Her poison ivy was starting to make her testy, also-- mainly because she had a burning desire to scratch but she didn't dare. She wouldn't give Remington the satisfaction.
"Maybe the flea collar had something to do with it," Remington speculated.
"You were wearing the flea collar. Maybe somehow that protected you from the poison ivy. I mean, it's possible, isn't it?"
"Mr. Steele, I really don't think Max's collar had anything to do with it. But if it'll make you feel better, I'll let *you* wear the flea collar the next time we play Hide-and-Seek in the bushes."
Remington just grunted and gave Laura a scowl. "You can make all the jokes you like, Laura, but if I don't get some relief soon, we're going to have to stop somewhere so you can apply another coat of lotion."
"Just don't make it another photo booth," Laura requested.
Luckily, they made it to the loft without any emergency stops. After hastily parking the limo, Remington bolted through the main entrance and headed quickly for the first floor landing. To Laura's total surprise, Remington practically raced up the stairs. She just stood there open-mouthed, watching him in total amazement.
"Hurry up with that lotion!" he yelled down at her from the second landing.
"Coming, Mr. Steele!" she hollered as she began her climb.
Remington was standing by her door scratching his chest when Laura caught up to him. Shaking her head and laughing, she fumbled for her key and turned the lock.
"Mr. Steele, I had no idea you could run like that," she teased as he slid the door open.
"Apparently pursuing you has some beneficial side effects," he said, following Laura into the loft and sliding the bolt back in place. "But I wouldn't want to make a habit of it."
"Of pursuing me?" Laura asked.
"My dear Miss Holt," Remington declared. "Not only have I made a habit of pursuing you, I've become absolutely addicted to it."
Laura was cautiously looking around, fearful of what condition Frances and Donald might have left things in after their impromptu romantic evening the night before.
"It appears Donald and Frances left things in pretty good shape," Remington remarked, following her into the kitchen.
"I know it's in here somewhere," Laura explained as she began rummaging through the cabinets.
"What are you doing? I thought you were going to rub some more lotion on my rash."
She set a box of tea bags on the counter and then continued her frantic search.
Picking up the box of tea, Remington said, "Tea? That sounds delightful, Laura, but I'd really rather wait until after you've..."

"I'm not making tea," she snapped. "It was just in the way. Ah ha! Here's what I'm looking for," she explained, holding up a box of baking soda.

"Baking soda?" he questioned. "Really, Laura; this is hardly the time to be baking biscuits!"

"Don't be ridiculous! It's for a soothing soda bath. I've heard it does wonders to relieve an itch."
Remington eyed her and then the baking soda box. "Alright," he finally said, "but only if you'll join me."
"Can't," she replied.
"Why not?"
"My tub is too small," she stated, ever practical.
"Well, then we can just go over to my apartment. Mine tub is big enough for two."
Laura just smiled and shook her head as she headed to her sleeping platform. "Take off your clothes, Mr. Steele," she instructed.
"Ah, Laura, you don't know how those words thrill me," Remington said as he shrugged out of his jacket and began unbuttoning his shirt.
"I'm not interested in thrilling you at the moment; I just want you to stop scratching so both of us can have some peace and... ARRGH!"
"What?!" Remington asked fearfully, running up the steps leading to her sleeping area.
"My bed!" she sobbed, pointing to the crumpled heap on the floor.
"Well, it is a trifle lopsided, but..."
"I'll kill them!" Laura insisted angrily. "They actually broke my bed!"
"That cola must have had quite an effect on them!" Remington said, getting down on his hands and knees to take a closer look at the damage. "Perhaps Mr. Pop-Top should have been spying on them instead of us."
"Well, what's your verdict, Mr. Steele?"

"It's really not damaged that badly," Remington informed her as he stood up and dusted himself off, though there was not a speck of dust to be seen. "With the right tools, a good handyman can probably repair it in about an hour."

"Fine. I'll arrange for someone to come fix it right away... and then I'll send Frances the bill!" Laura exclaimed, grabbing the phone book and angrily thumbing through it.

"Laura, what's the rush? Can't it wait until after..?"
"The rush, Mr. Steele?" she asked. "The rush is, where am I going to sleep tonight if I can't get my bed repaired?"
"My place?" Remington hopefully suggested.
Fortunately for Remington, the phone rang and Laura answered it before she had a chance to reply.
"Hello? Oh, Mildred... The meeting with Vigilance Insurance? No, we haven't forgotten. Are they there yet?... Well, stall them when they do get there. Mr. Steele and I will be there as soon as we can... Mr. Pop-Top? Yes, we confronted him... Yes, it's the cola, Mildred. He actually admitted it when we confronted him... Afraid so... Look, it's a long story and I promise we'll fill you in when we get to the agency. Needless to say, I've never felt so used in all my life."
Remington grabbed the phone. "Mildred, it's me... Yes, I'm fine...No, the rash is no worse, but it would be *better* if Miss Holt would administer some TLC."
Remington suddenly screamed into the phone.
"Sorry, Mildred; I didn't mean to scream in your ear... It was nothing; Miss Holt just stepped on my foot. Must have been a careless accident," he said, turning to glare at Laura. "Yes, Mildred, I'll tell her....Oh, and Mildred, would you be a love and dump the cola we stashed at the office?... Yes, every bottle... every drop. I don't want to see a single drop when we get there...That's the spirit, Mildred. Talk to you later, love."
Remington replaced the receiver and turned back to Laura. "She's going to pour it all out. She just hopes it doesn't clog the pipes."
"As long as she doesn't give it out to any clients," Laura remarked.
"She could serve the whole batch to Keyes and it wouldn't matter," Remington predicted. "I'd be willing to bet the cola would have no effect on him whatsoever."
"I wouldn't want to press my luck," Laura said as she reached for the phone. "I have to wait here for the handyman, but you go on ahead to the agency. You can start the meeting without me and I'll get there as soon as I can."
"Oh, Laura," he protested, "Don't make me face Norman Keyes by myself!"
"You're a big boy, Mr. Steele," she reminded him, patting his shoulder consolingly. "He's not going to bite you."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that, Laura," Remington groaned, buttoning his shirt with one hand and scratching his arm with the other.
"Hold it, Mr. Steele," Laura said as she removed his shirt and pulled the bottle of lotion from her purse. "You may not have time for that soak, but I can at least apply some more lotion."
"Bless you, Laura," he said as he closed his eyes, reveling in her tender touch.
He was quiet for so long, Laura wondered if he had dozed off. She was on the verge of waking him when he suddenly spoke again.
"I still don't see why you're so insistent we take this contract, Laura" he said again. "Are you sure I can't convince you to reconsider?"
Laura really didn't want to get into another argument about it.
"We'll talk about it later, Mr. Steele," she said, helping him into his shirt and buttoning it for him. Then handing him his jacket, she practically pushed him out the door.
Seeing that he was about to make another protest, Laura put her finger to his lips and said, "Later, Mr. Steele."
"Of course... later," he said, pausing long enough at the door to give Laura a hasty kiss.
Remington scratched vigorously down all three flights of stairs. He wasn't sure how he could get through the meeting without scratching, but he had no intention of letting Keyes know the real reason for his discomfort. Whereas the medication provided him with a measure of relief from his relentless itch, no medication on earth could protect him from Keyes' grating laugh.
He desperately tried to think of some way out of the Vigilance contract. He even considered using the old standby excuse about being summoned to an urgent meeting with the police commissioner. Laura could do damage control when she arrived, he rationalized. It would serve her right. After all, wasn't she was the one who had instigated the bizarre arrangement in the first place?
Remington was abruptly brought back to reality as he collided with one of Laura's neighbors at the foot of the stairs.
"Pardon me, madam," he apologized. "I'm so sorry."
The woman frowned as her dog sniffed at Remington and then growled. Remington suddenly realized the reason for that look: he was scratching, frantically.
"Terrible allergy... to, uh, fleas!" he explained quickly, saying the first thing which popped into his head.
"My dog doesn't have fleas," the lady said, offended.
"Of course not, madam. What I meant was I have fleas. I mean, I..."
"Perhaps you should get a flea collar, like my Trixie. Come along, Trixie," the woman said, leading her dog around Remington and then up the stairs.
"Yes, perhaps I should," Remington called behind her. "You're absolutely right. Thank you. I'll wear one to bed tonight. My associate wore one last night and...Madam?"
The woman vanished from view, leaving Remington standing at the foot of stairs looking and feeling foolish. He closed his eyes tightly, shook his head in disbelief and considered himself lucky that the limo was outside the door waiting to whisk him away.
Laura had almost finished cleaning up the handyman's mess when her phone rang. She answered it on the second ring.
The male voice on the other end of the line asked, "Is your bed ready to accommodate two yet?"
"Who is this?" she demanded, knowing full well who it was.
"Laura, really," Remington said. "Who else would ask you such a question? And if you dare say someone else's name, I'll be forced to administer a tongue lashing."
"I'd rather you administer some calamine lotion."
"You, too, eh?" Remington asked smugly.
"How's the meeting going?"
"It's not," he explained.
"What?" Laura asked in disbelief.
"I've been waiting here at the office for over two hours now and Keyes has yet to show up."
"Well, did he call? Did you try to call him?"
"No, he didn't and yes, I did, but he wasn't in."
"I'm on my way," Laura assured him. "Just sit tight."
"Laura, I don't think I can do that. Sit tight, I mean. I've been in near agony the last couple of hours."
"Well, get Mildred to put on another coat of lotion for you."
"She already did that," Remington explained. "But it's those, ah...other areas...that are driving me mad...The ones I'd rather not have her see, if you know what I mean."
"I get the picture, Mr. Steele. Just try to hold on a little longer. I'll be there to offer you some TLC as soon as I can."
Smiling to herself as she hung up the phone, she grabbed her purse and keys and hurried out the door.
A half hour later, Remington was standing in his office bathroom being tenderly administered to by Laura and a bottle of calamine lotion.
"Oh, Laura. I could swear you've got magic fingers!"

"Steady, Mr. Steele. How does that feel now?"

"Ah, it's truly a heavenly experience," Remington sighed.

"Now do me," Laura whispered.

"My pleasure. I'll be delighted to use my magic fingers on you."

"Oh, you sweet talker."
"You wear too many clothes though, woman. I'll never be able to get at you unless you take off..."
"Mr. Steele? Miss Holt?" Mildred asked as she knocked timidly, hesitant to interrupt whatever was going on behind the closed door. Her imagination was working overtime conjuring up possible scenarios from the brief bits of conversation she had just overheard.
"What is it?" Remington asked with a note of exasperation.
"Mr. Steele, Miss Holt, I hate to disturb you, but the president of Vigilance Insurance is on the phone. He insists on speaking with one of you."
Mildred thought she could hear Remington growling.
Laura quickly spoke up. "That's quite alright, Mildred. Just a minute." Turning to Remington, she said, "I'll speak to him. In the meantime, you better get dressed."
Mildred put a hand to her mouth. She hadn't meant to hear that, but she had.
Laura emerged from the bathroom to find Mildred standing outside the door in a dazed state. After starting to say something several times, the befuddled secretary finally just pointed to the phone.
When Remington walked out of the bathroom a few moments later, Laura was hanging up the phone.
"That was Vigilance insurance," she told him. "According to them, Keyes was unexpectedly detained and they want to reschedule the meeting for sometime next week. Mildred is setting it up."
"'Unexpectedly detained', eh?" Remington asked."Then why didn't he or someone else at Vigilance at least call to let us know? I don't know what he's got up his sleeve, Laura, but I'm willing to bet he stood us up on purpose."
"I agree that Keyes' behavior is unprofessionally, but we no proof his intentions are criminal," Laura pointed out. "Let's just forget about it for the time being." Moving closer to Remington's side, she seductively said, "Besides, you have yet to use those magic fingers of yours on me, Mr. Steele."

"And you have yet to give me that soda bath," he replied.

"In due time, Mr. Steele," Laura promised with a grin. "But first, why don't we do something this evening to take our mind off our various irritations?"

"And what sort of distraction did you have in mind, Miss Holt?" Remington asked, nuzzling Laura's neck.
She pushed him away, laughing. "Not that kind of distraction. Well, not exactly," she admitted, blushing. "I was thinking more along the lines of dinner and a movie. A nice long movie-- maybe even a double feature."
He nodded. "Sounds good to me. But what if the movie doesn't work as a distraction? I mean, what if I get an uncontrollable urge to scratch during the show?"
"It's a dark theater, Mr. Steele," Laura reminded him.
After applying another coat of calamine lotion to each other, Fred drove them to a small, quiet French restaurant where they enjoyed a romantic dinner. Afterwards, he drove them to a theater which was showing a double bill of Casablanca and It Happened One Night. Before the previews were even over, Laura felt something heavy on her shoulder. It was Remington's head. Completely exhausted, he was fast asleep.
Laura smiled to herself. The poor man was obviously worn out from the activities of the past few days. Laura gently shifted him more comfortably against her and settled back with every intention of watching the movie. Recent activities, however, were beginning to take their toll on her as well. Resting her head against Remington's, she closed her eyes for a moment. She just needed a brief kidnap-- or was it a cat nap? She was too tired to remember.
When she pried open her eyes some time later, the ending credits to the second feature were playing on the screen. She couldn't believe she'd slept through two entire movies! Yawning, she glanced at Remington. He was still leaning against her, sleeping like a baby .
"Mr. Steele?" Laura said quietly.
Receiving no response, she lightly stroked his cheek and called his name once more. He twitched but didn't awaken, so she gently nudged him. Remington mumbled something incoherent and snuggled back against Laura's shoulder, burying his face against her neck.
"Mr. Steele. Time to wake up. The movies are over," she explained.
"Wake Up, Little Susie," he suddenly mumbled. "The Every Brothers."
Laura chuckled. "You do old movies, Mr. Steele; not old songs."
Disoriented, Remington sat up and looked around the darkened theater.
"You fell asleep," Laura explained. "Actually, we both fell asleep."
"You fell asleep, too, eh?"
She nodded. "I guess we were both pretty tired."
"Yes, the last three days have been rather exhausting," he agreed as he yawned and shrugged his shoulders, trying to restore his circulation.

Laura could only nod in agreement.

With the exception of a lone usher who was busy cleaning, they were the only ones in the deserted theater.

"Perhaps we'd better leave before the manager comes to bodily throw us out," Remington suggested, placing a hand on Laura's elbow to usher her down the aisle.
"I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time, would it, Mr. Steele?" Laura teased.
"I've slept in my share of flea pits," Remington admitted. "Sometimes I was lucky and the usher didn't mind letting a dirty little street urchin sneak in through the side door and kip for the night. But on the nights I wasn't so lucky, I was usually thrown out on my ear. I can't begin to guess how many times I fell asleep with my ear pressed to the emergency exit; that way, even though I couldn't see the movie, I could at least hear it."
Shuddering at the mental image, Laura tenderly reached for Remington's arm. "Come along, Mr. Steele. Let's get you home so you can sleep in a proper bed tonight."
"With you?" he whispered.
"I assure you, tonight you won't be sleeping in a dark alley," she said as they left the theater, quickly locating the limo at the curb.
Fred was reading The Tribune. He handed it to Remington, saying, "There's an article in here about that Pop-Top case you should probably see."
"Oh?" Remington asked, taking the paper and climbing into the limo after Laura.
With Laura leaning over his shoulder, they read the article together.
"Apparently it's hard to get dependable help in any profession," Remington declared when they finished the article.
"Indeed, Mr. Steele," Laura agreed. "If only Mr. Pop-Tart had hired an *honest* spy to take pictures of us 'performing', you could have avoided that clonk on the head."
"Somehow, that's hollow consolation, Miss Holt," Remington said as he winced and touched his sore head.
"So Mr. Pop-Top was serious after all when he said someone was out to steal his secret formula," Laura remarked. "It's reassuring to know we weren't hired only as guinea pigs."
"You know, Laura, this reminds me of that no-calorie cookie case," he said. "Remember how everyone was trying to get their hands on the cookies and have them analyzed so they could obtain the secret formula?"
"One difference, though, Mr. Steele," Laura pointed out.
"Oh? And what is that?"
"We didn't eat the cookies and then reap the benefits," she explained with a grin. Before she could say more, however, she suddenly jumped, startled. "What was that?" she asked. "Something just rolled over my foot."
Remington leaned over and laughed as he picked up the bottle of cola which had been rolling around on the floor. "Looks like Mr. Pop-Top's spy overlooked this one," he explained.
"Get rid of it," Laura said with a laugh. "Just throw it out the window or something."
"Why, Miss Holt, that could be construed as littering. You wouldn't want me to be arrested for littering, would you?" Remington asked. Tossing the bottle into the front seat, he said, "Fred, dispose of this as soon as possible. Okay, Mate?"
"Certainly, Mr. Steele."
Remington leaned back into the plush seat, picked up the paper and began thumbing through the pages. "Well, I see that Detroit beat Dallas," he finally remarked.
"Since when do you read the sports page?" Laura retorted.
"Since there's an ad for a poison ivy remedy on it," he explained, showing her the ad for Aveeno. "And there's even a coupon!! That should appeal to your sense of frugality."
Laura grabbed the paper out of Remington's hands and quickly tore out the coupon. Then clutching the precious coupon in her hand, she leaned forward and said, "Fred, stop at that big market up ahead; Mr. Steele and I need to pick up a few things."
"Laura, do you want me to check through the paper for any more coupons?" Remington asked, a teasing lilt in his voice.
"My compulsions are an endless source of amusement for you, aren't they, Mr. Steele?"
"Certainly not. It's just that..."
Remington paused in mid-sentence and just stared at Laura, his mouth still open.
"It's just what?" Laura prodded.
Not wanting to insert his foot any farther into his mouth than he already had, he decided silence was his best bet. "Nothing, Miss Holt."
Crossing his arms in an exact imitation of Laura, he looked at her looking at him and then quickly turned to look out the window.
"Ah, Laura," Remington began conversationally, "notice that the article on Mr. Pop-Top's spy made no mention of the pictures he took of us in the photo booth? They must not have been on him. Do you suppose his pockets were stuffed so full of cola bottles that maybe there wasn't room for the photos?"
"He had probably already turned them over to Mr. Pop-Top," she rationalized. "What else would he have done with them?"
"Yes, what else, indeed?" Remington echoed.
As the limo pulled to a stop, Fred announced, "The supermarket."
"Come along, Mr. Steele," Laura said.
As she and Remington got out of the limo, Remington pointed to the cola bottle on the front seat. "Don't forget to get rid of the cola, Fred."
Fred nodded, saying, "I'll take care of it, Sir."
"You know, Laura," Remington said as they entered the market, "The size of the markets in this country never fails to astound me. One can buy almost anything here."
As they walked down the aisles, he couldn't help commenting on the items on the shelves.
"Boxed breakfast cereal... packaged cookies... granola bars..."
"Come along, Mr. Steele," Laura instructed. "Don't dawdle."
They turned into another aisle.
"Pet foods and products... Ah! Flea collars!" he exclaimed, picking one up and tossing one to Laura.
She tossed it back onto the shelf with a frown and continued down the aisle.
Remington continued commenting on various items as they walked along.
"No," she responded automatically.
"Jalapeno cheese..."
"Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies... "
"No. This is worse than shopping with a child!" Laura finally muttered under her breath.
"No; I have several pairs, thank you."
"Paper towels... breath spray... razor blades... shampoo..."
Laura sighed.
"Toothbrushes... vitamins... pregnancy home testing kits..."

"Ah, here we are--Aveeno!" Laura exclaimed with great relief as she grabbed the box. Turning, she began a restrained sprint to the checkout counter.

"Are you sure we don't need anything else while we're here?" Remington asked as he hurried to catch up with her.
"I'm sure!" she insisted as they took their place in the Express Lane checkout line.

As Laura began digging through her purse for her billfold, Remington entertained himself by looking at the magazines displayed near the register. The cover of the new L.A. Inquirer caught his eye, so he picked it up and skimmed it.

"Oh, good Lord," he suddenly muttered, grabbing Laura's arm. "Laura, look at this."

"Mr. Steele, really! Now what!?"she exclaimed, turning around to face him just as he pressed the cover to her face.
"Oh, good Lord!" she exclaimed, not believing what she was seeing.
There on the cover was a large picture of a bare chested Remington. The headline read: Remington Steele and Secretary Mix Business With Pleasure in Photo Booth. To see what develops, turn to p. 20.
Remington quickly turned to page 20. Both he and Laura gasped when they saw the rest of the photo booth photos. Even though they were in reality quite innocent, they looked extremely suggestive, displayed as they were on the pages of Los Angeles' sleaziest tabloid.
"Hey, isn't that you?" the gum chewing clerk asked as she leaned over to see what had caught Laura and Remington's attention.
"Ah, no," Laura quickly answered, grabbing the paper and hiding it behind her back.
"Remarkable likeness, though, eh?" Remington asked with a nervous laugh. "Perhaps our family would like to see just how remarkable this likeness is. If you'll just give us a minute..."
Laura watched stupefied as Remington began running from counter to counter, scooping up each and every copy of the offending rag.
"We'll take them all," he said breathlessly, plopping the entire stack down on the conveyor belt behind the Aveeno.
"We have a large family," Laura explained lamely, giving the cashier a weak smile.
"Whatever you say," the girl said as she shrugged and she began to total their purchases. "We just got them in a few minutes ago. You know, I really ought to send you to another line. You've got more than 15 items now."
"For heaven's sake!" Laura declared in frustration. "We're the only ones checking out!"

"Well, I guess it'll be okay, then. Let's see--the papers, plus the Aveeno, minus the 15 cent coupon...That comes to a total of $55."

"Pay the woman," Remington ordered Laura.

She glared at him, saying, "I'll have to write a check."
"Personal checks require two forms of I.D.," the clerk automatically responded.
Laura quickly wrote the check and dutifully presented her driver's license and a bank card. Then as quickly as she could, she stuffed her wallet and checkbook back into her purse and snatched the Aveeno.
"Come along, Mr. Steele," she demanded, grabbing Remington's arm and pulling him towards the door. "You can finish reading your papers when we get home."
She marched him outside, but couldn't get him to take his nose out of the tabloid. Exasperated, she opened the door of the limo and was just about to push him inside when he suddenly began to groan.
"Now what?" she barked.
"Oh, Laura; it just keeps getting worse," Remington said, showing her the blurb on the next page: Remington Steele Co-workers Wear Flea Collars to Bed."
"Oh, my," Laura uttered, frozen in place.
Remington pushed her into the limo's darkness and quickly followed her in. Sinking into the plush seat beside Laura, he sighed loudly and rubbed his eyes.
"Who do you suppose gave out this story?" Laura asked.
"I bet it was that neighbor of yours--the one who keeps her dog on a leash," Remington suggested. "Perhaps we should give her a muzzle."
"Mr. Steele, please," she groaned, retreating to the far corner and leaning against the door. "I'm getting a headache."
"Do you want me to run back inside and get you some aspirin?" he asked brightly.
Even though it was as dark as Egypt in the limo, Remington could feel Laura glaring at him.
"Just trying to be helpful, Laura," he said defensively.
"Where to, Mr. Steele?" Fred inquired.
"My apartment, Fred," Remington instructed. "Oh, and Fred, did you dispose of the cola?"
"Yes, Sir. I poured it down the drain at the car wash next door."
"Fine, Fred. Thank you. Now I have something else for you do to do. After you drop Miss Holt and me off, drive around the city and gather up every one of these rags you can find."
"Rags, Sir?" Fred asked.
"Yes, these rags," Remington said, throwing the entire pile of tabloids onto the front seat. "And then burn the whole bloody batch of them."
Remington leaned back and took a deep breath, suddenly asking, "Laura, just how much do you know about that neighbor of yours with the white poodle named Trixie?"
When Laura didn't answer, he leaned over and peered closely at her through the darkness. Realizing she was asleep, he smiled and pulled her into his arms.
To be continued...

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

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