Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

Never Too Young to Steele
by
Thekla Kurth and Debra Talley

This story is set in the Brendan Universe and the first part of the Brendan Trilogy.

Story begins in November, 1994
 
"What do you mean you're going to help me steal the Marchessa Collection?!" Remington declared, not believing what he had just heard. "Have you forgotten you're over six months pregnant?"
 
"I'm well aware of that fact, Mr. Steele," Laura explained, awkwardly tying her dark sneakers. "A little exercise will do me a world of good."
 
"Laura, we're not talking about a nice little jaunt through the park. We're talking about stealing a priceless collection of jewels."
 
"Just the tonic I need. You know the skin-tingling, blood-coursing, heart-pounding, head-swimming effect purloining has on me!" Laura said excitedly as she stood up and stretched.
 
"Please, Laura," Remington complained. "You're making me ill."
 
"In that case, perhaps I should steal the jewels and you should stay home," she suggested. Then seeing his frustrated look, she gently patted his cheek. "Relax, Mr. Steele. I've never felt better," she assured him. "And besides, you need me."
 
"Laura, I do not need you. Wait; let me rephrase that. I do not need your help on this particular case. I've already lined up some backup."
 
"Who?" Laura asked, standing toe-to-toe with her husband.
 
"An old...friend. But that's not the point, Laura. "
 
"Is that so, Mr. Steele?" she asked, hands on her hips.
 
"The point, Mrs. Steele, is that you are in no condition to be breaking into the art museum!"
 
"And I suppose Felicia is?" Laura asked angrily.
 
"Yes!... I mean, no! I mean...How did you know about Felicia?" Remington asked, totally flustered.
 
Laura, arms crossed, just stared at him in angry silence, tapping her fingers on her forearms.
 
Then realization dawned on him and he declared, "Mildred. It was Mildred, wasn't it? l knew I should have bought that woman a muzzle!"
 
"Why are you stealing the Marchessa Collection with Felicia?" Laura demanded pushing Remington backwards against the wall. "And this time I want the truth, buster!"
 
Remington thought a moment, debating whether to give Laura the truth or a fabrication. But seeing the determined look on her face, he quickly decided on the former.
 
"Everything I told you is the truth," he explained quickly. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "An old friend appeared at the agency and said word on the street was that someone was going to swipe the jewels. So, after careful consideration, I decided the best course of action was to take the jewels into protective custody, so to speak. My friend convinced me I couldn't do the job alone and graciously offered to help. I just failed to mention that Felicia was the old friend. And now, I really need to get going, Luv..."
 
Laura hated it when Remington talked fast like that. It didn't give her much of a chance to get a word in edgewise. But it also made her more determined to have her say.
 
"No dice," she stubbornly declared. "There is no way I'm letting you pull off this little heist with
Felicia."
 
"You almost act as though you don't trust me," Remington said, genuinely hurt.
 
"Oh, I trust you; it's Felicia I don't trust."
 
"But--but what about the children?" Remington asked, desperately trying to think of some way to deter Laura.
 
"It's all taken care of. Brendan and Rory are spending the night with Frances, Mildred can't wait to keep the twins, and Abby has the privilege of staying with Rocky."
 
"Rocky! You'd leave Abby with a woman who uses Who Sorry Now? as a lullaby?"
 
"The baby's crazy about her," Laura reminded him, slowly putting her arms around Remington and taking a different tactic. "Think about it, darling. After we steal the jewels, we'll have the whole house to ourselves. Maybe we can even steal a little time for romance."
 
To further prove her point, Laura engaged her husband in a kiss which was full of promise.
 
"Hmh-your plan does have its compensations," Remington conceded as they drew even closer for another kiss.
 
Right on cue, the phone rang.
 
As Laura reached around him for the phone, she and Remington became acutely aware of a clinking, scraping sound which was accompanied by muffled giggling and whispering. The phone rang twice more, but they didn't even notice. All of their attention was now focused on their bedroom door.
 
"I thought you locked the door," Laura mumbled under her breath.
 
"I did," Remington muttered.
 
They just sighed and shook their heads.
 
"Brendan!" Remington said loudly, using his most authoritarian voice.
 
The sound of giggling and the shuffling of feet was the only reply from the now deserted hallway.Remington shot Laura a stern look as she unsuccessfully tried to stifle a snicker.
 
"Brendan, you've got to the count of three, mate. One... two.."
 
Brendan, almost 8, guiltily appeared in the open doorway, followed by six and a half year old Rory, twins Laura and Remy, age 4 and a half, and Bogart, the family's English sheepdog.
 
"What have I told you about picking Mummy and Daddy's lock?" Remington asked his first born.
 
"That if I valued my life, I wouldn't do it again," Brendan answered.
 
"Obviously, you didn't believe me," Remington pointed out.
 
"I didn't want to do it, but I just had to know if I *could* do it," Brendan explained. "This lock was a lot harder than the other three."
 
"That was the idea, but obviously it wasn't hard enough," Remington explained. "I'm afraid this behavior calls for drastic action. I'm afraid you're banished from the video room for one week."
 
"Yes, sir," Brendan mumbled, shuffling his feet and lowering his eyes. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again."
 
"Well, now," Laura chirped, trying to lighten the mood. "Uncle Fred will be here any minute and you'd all better finish gathering up your things. I'll be there in a minute to check things out."
 
The kids scampered to their respective rooms, leaving Laura and Remington alone once more.
 
"Don't you think you were a little hard on him?" Laura inquired.
 
"This will be the fourth time I've had to change the bloody lock! I'd like to feel we could share a few kisses without the threat of an unexpected audience."
 
"I agree, but Brendan did admit he did it for the challenge."
 
"So?" Remington asked, puzzled by Laura's train of thought.
 
"Didn't the man I married once tell me he also enjoyed impossible challenges?"
 
Remington paused for a few seconds as enlightenment set in. "I, uh, see your point," he finally said. "Like father, like son, eh? Okay, perhaps a week was a bit harsh. I'll tell him his sentence has been reduced."
 
The doorbell rang.
 
"That's probably Fred. You get Abby's bag packed while I check on the kids," Laura instructed, hurrying to let in their chauffeur and friend.
 
**********
Laura and Remington were soon surrounded by children and overnight bags in the cozy interior of the family-friendly limo. Remy, Laurie and Rory were enjoying the seat of honor beside Fred. Laurie, sitting beside Fred, was feeding chocolate chip cookies to herself, Fred and her Cabbage Patch doll. Remy was wearing Fred's hat and busily studying one of the maps with a flashlight. When not shoving maps out of his way, Rory was examining his thumb print under a magnifying glass with the help of Remy's flashlight.
 
Laura and Remington shared the back seat with Brendan and Abby. Brendan was looking out the window and Abby was sleeping soundly in her car seat. Remington took advantage of the momentary lull and slipped his arm about Laura, gratefully snuggling against him.
 
The silence didn't last long, however; it never did. Amidst sudden shouts of "Mummy!" and "Daddy!", Laura and Remy clamored over the back of the front seat, crunching Fred's maps In the process and making quite a racket. They crawled into their parents' laps, jostling Abby and causing her to cry. Not to be outdone by her sister, Laurie began whining for a cookie. In an effort to be helpful, Rory hurled the cookie package over the seat, sending cookies and crumbs everywhere.
 
Bedlam reigned supreme.
 
"Ms. Krebs' apartment, Mr. Steele," Fred announced.
 
Laura and Remington both breathed a sigh of relief as Fred stopped the limo. Remington gathered the appropriate overnight bags and escorted Remy and Laurie to Mildred's door.
 
Brendan and Rory were soon deposited at the Piper's house. And shortly thereafter, Fred pulled up at Rocky Sullivan's apartment building. Remington gathered up the peacefully sleeping Abby and her bag and disappeared into the building.
 
Laura was surprised, however, to see him return with Abby just moments later. He handed his wife a piece of paper as he settled Abby into her car seat and then took his place beside her.
 
"An emergency concert?!" Laura read in disbelief.
 
"I never realized Who's Sorry Now? was in such demand," Remington said.
 
"This doesn't make any sense," Laura said, crinkling her forehead in confusion. "Rocky says she tried to call us earlier and got no answer. But we were home all afternoon."
 
"Yes, but we didn't answer the phone, remember?" Remington reminded her. Then leaning forward, he said, "Fred, better swing by the house next."
 
"What do you mean, 'Swing by the house'?" Laura demanded, sitting up straight.
 
"We'll drop off you and Abby, and then I'll have Fred take me on to the museum," Remington answered.
 
"Oh, no, you don't!" Laura exclaimed, punching Remington's shoulder. "We are both going to the museum!"
 
"Well, we can't exactly take the baby with us!" Remington pointed out, rubbing his shoulder.
 
"And why not?!" Laura declared in a very determined tone of voice. "Her backpack is In the trunk. She'll sleep through the whole thing. You know how sleepy her cold medication has made her today."
 
"Laura, be reasonable," Remington pleaded. "We can't take a baby along on a jewel heist!"
 
"Discussion closed, Mr. Steele. Abby and l are going with you to steal the Marchessa Collection and that's that. What could possibly go wrong?!"
 
Remington groaned. What could go wrong, indeed? This was one instance when he would rather not think of the possibilities.
 
Reluctantly, he ordered Fred to drive on to the art museum. With any luck, Felicia would be waiting for him there and *she* could watch Abby. There was no way he was going to let Laura win this argument, but because he knew arguing would only make her more unreasonable, he momentarily withdrew from their "discussion."
 
********
 
Fred soon arrived at the museum and parked the limo a discreet distance away. While Remington removed Abby's backpack from the trunk, Laura released Abby from her car seat and waited in the crisp night air. As she breathed deeply, she couldn't help smiling in anticipation of the events that lay ahead. Her pulse was already racing. It had been too long since she had been purloining with Remington, and she was already well on her way to a high, in spite of her husband's brooding mood.
 
Laura suddenly became aware of a foul smell. It was probably someone's cheap cologne, but for some reason the odor made her think of a rat. Scanning the surrounding darkness and seeing nothing, though, she quickly dismissed it as unimportant. Nothing was going to spoil her stimulating and thrilling romp through the art museum with Remington and Abby. After all, there were too few forms of true intimacy left; she was going to enjoy this one to the fullest.
 
What could possibly go wrong?
 
Remington strapped on the baby's backpack and Laura settled Abby into it. He then extracted the other backpack from the trunk, which was full of equipment they'd need for the heist, and handed it to Laura.
 
As she put it on, Remington tried to reason with her one more time, saying, "This isn't a good idea. Why don't you just wait here in the car with Abby? You'll be much more comfortable."
 
"Nonsense, Mr. Steele. Besides, you know you can't do this alone."
 
"Yes, I can," he argued. "It will just take a little longer."
 
"There's no use trying to talk me out of this. Now quit the small talk and let's go," Laura ordered as she started walking down the street in the direction of the museum.
 
"Stealing the Marchessa Collection was never this complicated the first time," Remington mumbled under his breath.
 
"Ah, yes, in Mexico City, as Richard Blaine," Laura said as she kept pace beside him. "Pining for the good old days, are we?"
 
"Things were easier then," he remarked. On her look, he added, "Easier, Luv, but definitely less interesting."
 
Stopping briefly, he gave her a quick kiss before they continued on.
 
Laura nibbled on the chocolate chip cookies she had picked up from the back seat and stuffed into her jacket pockets. Remington glanced at her as they walked along.
 
"A little pick me up," she tried to explain, even though she always ate when she was nervous and Remington knew it. "Besides, I have a perfect excuse now; I'm eating for two."
 
He frowned, reminding her, "You'll just have to a lose it later."
 
"I will," she assured him. "I always do, you know."
 
When they reached the museum, Laura looked around and asked, "Which will it be this time? The roof? A window? The sub basement?"
 
"Actually, the service entrance is much more feasible. Don't you agree?" Remington answered as he went to work, first on the outside alarm system, then at picking the lock on the door.
 
When it took him a bit longer than usual, he commented, "Lock seems to be a trifle sticky."
 
"Maybe we should have brought Brendan along," Laura dryly said.
 
"Oh, no. One child--um, one and a half," he quickly amended, "is more than enough on this case."
 
Before Laura could comment, a voice in the darkness startled them both.
 
"Michael, darling! I had no idea you were planning on turning this into a family affair."
 
Laura whirled around quickly to find Felicia standing there, elegantly decked out in her own black break-in outfit.
 
"Damn. I knew there was something I forgot," Remington said as he straightened up, prepared to quickly step between his wife and his ex-lover if the need arose. "Felicia, I meant to give you a ring and tell you there'd been a slight change in plans. As you can see, I won't be needing your assistance tonight."
 
"On the contrary, darling. From the look of things here, I'd say you're going to be needing it more than ever," Felicia coolly replied. "Isn't taking a baby along to rob a museum contributing to the delinquency of a minor or something?"
 
Laura sniffed. No, the wearer of the foul cologne she had smelled earlier was not Felicia. She estimated Felicia's perfume, which was probably shoplifted, at no less than $100 per ounce.
 
"We have everything under control here," Remington replied, not at all confidently.
 
He turned back to work on the lock, but Felicia made no move to leave. Instead, she was staring at Remington's back where Abby was sleeping peacefully In her backpack.
 
"She looks like you," Felicia said, addressing Laura.
 
"Thank you."
 
"It wasn't a compliment," Felicia cattily asked.
 
Remington hastily stepped in. "Actually, we think she looks like her grandmother, whom she was named after."
 
Felicia chuckled. "The great Remington Steele, whoever would have thought? You were certainly smitten, or should I say caught?"
 
"Felicia," he warned.
 
But she didn't heed him. "Of course, I never had to get myself pregnant to catch a man."
 
Laura reacted to the dig meant for her. "But you couldn't keep him after you caught him, could you, Felicia? And for the record, Brendan was born early, as were all our children."
 
Laura wondered if she'd get arrested on assault charges for scratching Felicia's eyes out.
 
"Ladies," Remington chastised, gesturing toward the door he had just opened. "Shall we forgo the cat fight for the time being? We do have a jewel collection to protect."
 
Laura and Felicia glared at each other, but both remained silent.
 
"That's better," Remington said in relief. Then turning his back to Felicia, he said, "Now, Felicia, make yourself useful and take the baby."
 
"Michael, darling, I don't do babies."
 
"You do tonight."
 
"Now wait just a minute," Laura hissed. "If you think I'm going to leave Abby with this-this-this BIMBO, you're crazy!"
 
"It makes a lot more sense than taking her with us during a robbery!" Remington shot back under his breath. "What If she cries? What if we're caught?"
 
"But we won't be," Laura Insisted.
 
"Hopefully, you're right," Remington conceded. "But do you want to take the chance that Abby could have a police record before she's even a year old?"
 
"Don't be ridiculous! They wouldn't arrest a baby!"
 
Felicia merely shook her head, sighed, and gently took Abby from the backpack on Remington's back.
 
"Will you two be quiet and get on with it?" she asked, rocking Abby in her arms in a surprisingly familiar manner.
 
Laura and Remington stopped arguing and stared at her in amazement.
 
"Hurry up, before I have to change her!" Felicia urged.
 
She walked away, but then turned around and seductively walked back over to Remington. With a sly smile, she eased her hand into Remington's back pocket.
 
"Felicia..." he warned.
 
Felicia calmly removed Abby's pacifier from the pocket and held it up for him to see. "Just in case," she said coolly.
 
"Ah, yes...Good idea," Remington stammered.
 
After watching Felicia disappear back into the shadows, he finally turned his attention back to Laura."Yes, well, where were we?"
 
"The jewels..." Laura muttered in a daze.
 
"Ah, yes! The wonderfully illusive Marchessa Collection!" Remington said, removing the empty backpack and replaced it with the equipment pack Laura had been wearing.
 
Motioning for her to enter the museum ahead of him, he asked, "Shall we?"
 
"But the baby..." Laura protested mildly.
 
"...will be fine," Remington reassured her. "Believe me, there's more to Felicia than meets the eye."
 
Laura glared at him.
 
"Forget I said that," he said quickly, ushering her inside the building.
 
Neither one noticed Felicia as she silently followed them through the door, still holding a sleeping Abby. Baby or no baby, wife or no wife, she had come to steal the jewels with Michael's help and that was exactly what she intended to do.
 
********
Remington and Laura surveyed the empty corridor and took note of the alarm system. There was only one way to make it across--by swinging. Remington took the necessary equipment out of his backpack, fired the line and fed it through until it caught firmly on the vent. After testing it, he quickly whisked across, with Laura following him. Unfortunately, she landed heavily in his arms and almost knocked them both over.
 
"All those chocolate chip cookies. Eh, Luv?" Remington remarked.
 
Laura threw him a dark look.
 
Moments later they were huddling behind a statue.
 
"The Marchessa Collection is housed in that room over there," Remington explained, gesturing with his hand. "But first, we have to disconnect the alarm system."
 
He proceeded to pull out and assemble an elaborate device on wheels powered by a remote control box, similar to a toy car. He guided it over to the alarm controls where the car fired a shot and, in a shower of sparks, blew out the alarm.
 
They cautiously edged their way into the room. When a guard making his rounds approached them, Remington and Laura quickly hid behind a statue. Unfortunately, Laura's pregnant belly was still in full view. Remington gasped when he realized the predicament they were in and tried to pull Laura back farther. Luckily, the guard was lax or lazy and never noticed. In fact, he never even bothered to check the alarm as he went on his way.
 
Remington sighed. "That was close. *Too* close. I told you this wasn't a good idea--you coming along."
 
"Oh, come on; we're already here," Laura snapped. "Let's just get this over with." Her mood had been getting progressively worse since Felicia's appearance.
 
They cautiously entered the room where the jewels were on display. After careful scrutiny, Remington deduced that the only way to get the jewels out of their glass case without tripping the alarm was through the bottom. Collecting the necessary equipment, he laid on his back under the case.
 
Laura handed him the needed tools, taking great delight in doing so. "Just like the old days, Mr. Steele," she commented
 
"Laura, please..." was his only response.
 
He made fast work of the display case and soon the jewels dropped into his gloved hand.
 
"Ah, my beauties," he sighed. "We meet again."
 
He then slid himself out from beneath the case, where Laura offered a hand to help him up.
 
The whole experience was giving Laura a definite feeling of deja vu. Her skin was tingling, her blood was coursing, her heart was pounding and her head was swimming. Therefore, she missed the faint scuffle of footsteps, the low murmur of voices and the disturbing scent from somewhere down the corridor.
 
"May I?" Laura dreamily asked as she eyed the jewels and held out her hand.
 
Remington held them away from her. "Now, Laura, you know the agreement--the jewels have to remain in the museum for insurance purposes."
 
"But, of course, dear," she assured him.
 
Remington didn't look convinced by Laura's words. Instead, he hefted the jewels in his hands and said, "Laura, Luv, reach in the pack and find me the pouch."
 
"I've got it right here," she said as she retrieved it from her backpack and handed it to him.
 
He deposited the jewels in the pouch with a flair which made Laura laugh. Then cautiously they walked down the corridor, around the bend, and began expertly searching for a safe spot in which to hide the gems.
 
"How about here?" Remington asked, indicating an antique desk shoved against a wall.
 
"Don't you think that's a little obvious, to just put them in a drawer?"
 
"Who said anything about putting them in a drawer?"
 
He pulled out the center drawer, reached into the abyss and felt around. There was a slight crack
and the bottom dropped a couple of inches.
 
"Just as I thought," he said. "A lot of these antique pieces have false bottoms."
 
Remington placed the jewels in the hidden drawer and the returned it to its original state. "All done, Luv. Shall we leave now?"
 
In reply, Laura wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into a kiss.
 
Remington parted them. "I must say your enthusiasm Is commendable. But really, Laura, you pick the oddest times and places to get romantic. Not that I have anything against stealing a little tete-a-tete in an art museum, but we are on a rather tight schedule, mind you."
 
"Later, then," Laura promised with a quick kiss.
 
"I will be looking forward to it," Remington assured her as he took her hand in his and they started their retreat.
 
Once again, they were startled by a voice behind them--but this time it wasn't Felicia.
 
"Well, well, well. If it's not my old friends, the Steeles."
 
Laura and Remington turned to find their old adversary Tony Roselli.
 
They didn't even try to hide their disgust.
 
"Last time we saw you, Anthony, you were rotting away In an Irish jail," Remington said.
 
"Yeah, well, maybe l can finally return the favor," Tony said with a sneer. "As a representative of Vigilance Insurance, I'd love to hear your explanation of this. You did know that Vigilance Insurance was carrying the insurance on the Marchessa Collection, didn't you?"
 
Remington was well aware of that fact, but he didn't let on that he did. He was surprised, however, to learn that Tony was now working for Vigilance Insurance.
 
"Don't tell me that Vigilance has stooped to hiring the likes of you. I would think they'd be more careful with their employees since Keyes."
 
Tony ignored Remington's cut. "We got a tip that someone was going to try to steal the Marchessa Collection tonight. And now here we catch you two in the act. Really, Laura...Oh, excuse me--Mrs.Steele--I always thought you were too smart to get duped into something like this."
 
Laura frowned. No wonder the odor of dime store cologne had made her think of a rat. What else would come to mind when faced with a vague, unpleasant memory of Tony? She now knew how to explain what a human rat smelled like. Tony's obnoxious smell--in fact, his very presence was actually making her sick and she found herself wishing she and Remington had thrown him onto the train tracks when they had the chance years ago on their honeymoon.
 
Before Laura could say anything, two breathless guards came running out of the room where the Marchessa Collection had been housed. Joining the four guards who were already with Tony, one of them shouted, "It's gone! The case has been broken into!"
 
"We've searched the museum and the grounds," another guard explained. "There are no signs of any more perpetrators. These two must be all."
 
Stealing a look at Remington, Laura could see her own questions echoed in his eyes: Where was Felicia and what she had done with Abby?
 
"I'll search them myself," Tony commanded. "They've no doubt got the jewels on them." Leering at Laura, he added, "From the look of things, she's probably hiding them under her sweater."
 
When he took a step toward her, Laura gave him the iciest look possible.
 
"You put one finger on her, mate," Remington warned in a soft but deadly voice, "and so help me, you're carne morte."
 
"You're in no position to make threats, 'mate'," Tony shot back. After a moment, though, he gestured to the guards, saying, "Search them."
 
Both Remington and Laura were searched. The guards, for obvious reasons, quickly and hesitantly searched Laura.
 
Nothing was found.
 
"They must have an accomplice," Tony reasoned, puzzled. "That's it, isn't it, Steele?"
 
Remington refused to answer. He merely glanced at Laura, who was nervously adjusting her cap. He knew Laura was worried about Abby and Felicia's whereabouts, but to his relief she was hiding it well.
 
"Okay, arrest them," Tony ordered. "We've at least got them on breaking and entering."
 
Remington whispered to Laura, "Think Mildred can scrape up the bail?"
 
Laura whispered back, "Don't worry. Leave it to me."
 
Just as the guards came to handcuff them, Laura clutched her abdomen. "Oh, my God. I think I'm in labor."
 
Remington rolled his eyes upward and mumbled under his breath, "What could possibly go wrong, eh?"
 
"No dice, Laura," Tony said, shaking his head. "There's no way you'd be here pulling off a jewel heist if it were anywhere near your time."
 
"That shows what you know," Remington said.
 
Laura groaned and doubled over. Remington put his arm around her for support.
 
"I suggest we get to the hospital quickly. Are you willing to take the chance she's *not* faking it?"
 
Under his breath, though, Remington asked Laura, "You are faking, aren't you?"
 
Before she could reply, Tony grabbed the handcuffs from the guard. "Give me those," he demanded impatiently.
 
Roughly cuffing Remington's left wrist to Laura's right, he said, "Baby or no baby, I've finally got you right where I want you. You want to give birth in jail, go right ahead."
 
Remington took a deep breath and gritted his teeth. Laura could tell his anger was about to get the better of him, and gently put her free arm on his shoulder in an effort to calm him. She soon felt the tension flowing out of him.
 
"Need I remind you, Tony, we've got every right to be here! Our agency was hired to protect the jewels and that's exactly what we're doing," Laura explained.
 
"Don't tell me; let me guess. You broke into the museum to protect the jewels. And then, just to be on the safe side, you stole them before they could be stolen-- sort of took them into protective custody."
 
Tony's laugh was making even Remington nauseous now.
 
"Take them away!" Tony instructed the guards.
 
Remington and Laura were marched away as Tony's laugh echoed through the large halfway. Trying to jerk her arm out of the guard's grasp, Laura angrily turned around and faced Tony.
 
"You can forget about being godfather!" she spat out.
 
"Wouldn't have you on a silver platter!" Remington declared loudly as he, also, turned to glare at Tony.
 
"I'm crushed," Tony exclaimed, louder than necessary.
 
Anthony Roselli had been waiting years for the chance to get even with the Steeles. When he had learned that the Remington Steele Agency was involved in this case, he had begged his superiors to put him in charge. He had forgotten how the Steeles had come to his aid and saved his worthless hide in London and in Ireland. All he could remember was that Laura had rejected him. She'd told him to get lost. She'd never given him a chance. She'd chosen her husband over him-- and Steele wasn't even really her husband! Tony still believed that. He didn't know how they had pulled their marriage charade off for this long.
 
Tony glared at Remington's retreating form, not just envying him, but hating him. And without even knowing why, Remington suddenly felt the hairs on his neck stand straight up.
 
When his arm was violently jerked moments later and Laura clutched her abdomen, Remington looked at her with genuine concern.
 
"That was real," he stated.
 
"Icy calm, Mr. Steele. The baby just doesn't like Tony any better than we do," Laura explained.
 
Remington grinned and affectionately patted Laura's protruding belly. "A good judge of character, this one."
 
"Where do you suppose Felicia went?" Laura asked, her voice barely a whisper.
 
"I expect that at the first sign of trouble, she made herself scarce."
 
"With our baby?"
 
"Abby will be all right, Laura."
 
"She better be."
 
When Remington smiled, she relaxed a bit.
 
"What say we sit in the patrol car and neck?" Laura suggested. "It'll drive them crazy."
 
"I like your style, Mrs. Steele," Remington said as they were pushed into the back seat of the patrol car and the door was closed behind them.
 
He and Laura lost no time in driving the guards crazy. After all, it was better than worrying about Abby.
 
************
The events that followed flashed by in a blur--fingerprintings, strip searches, questionings. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, Laura and Remington were locked in a jail cell together and left alone.
 
"This has undoubtedly been one of the worst nights of my life! " Remington exclaimed as he slammed his hand against the bars in frustration.
 
"I admit things didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped," Laura conceded.
 
"Good grief, woman! We've just been arrested for stealing a priceless jewel collection, Abby is missing, and our unborn child already has a criminal record!"
 
"Mr. Steele..."
 
"I *knew* I should have physically carried you back into the house, kicking and screaming if necessary. *Then* I should have locked you in a closet! I should never, NEVER have let you talk me into such a harebrained scheme!"
 
"Mr. Steele, after all these years, why do you still feel the need to dominate me physically?" Laura demanded angrily, standing beside her husband with her hands on her hips and fire in her eyes.
 
"I have never dominated you physically! Not that there haven't been times I wouldn't have liked to, mind you, but..."
 
"Hah!" Laura yelled, practically in Remington's ear.
 
"What do you mean, 'Hah!'?" Remington asked, his hands on his hips, also.
 
"You're a detective! Figure it out for yourself!" Laura responded, giving him a shove.
 
They stood glaring at each other for several seconds. Finally, Remington gentled put his arms around Laura's shoulders, pulled her close and gave her a kiss. Their anger gone, they settled into a comfortable embrace.
 
"I'm sorry, Luv," he said quietly. "The last thing we should be doing right now is bickering."
 
He led Laura to the cot, where they sat down.
 
"We're both jumpy," she admitted. "And you're absolutely right. You *should* have hog tied me and locked me in a closet. Going along with you on this heist was a foolish, unprofessional thing to do. I owe you an apology."
 
"Apology accepted," Remington said. "Truth is, I guess part of me really wanted you with me on this. It would have been like the good ole days."
 
"Are you saying you prefer the good ole days to our life together now?" Laura teased.
 
"Certainly not," Remington assured her. "But it's nice to finally have a past that *includes* some good ole days."
 
"You really think Abby's okay?" Laura asked, finally able to express her greatest fear.
 
"Felicia has her faults, but she won't let anything happen to Abby. I'm sure of that," Remington said reassuringly.
 
"I hope you're right," Laura said with a sigh.
 
"It'll be a while before Mildred can scrape up bail. Why don't you get some rest?"
 
"There you go again," Laura said, "trying to dominate my physically." Then in a surprise move, she smiled and patted Remington's arm. "But I'll overlook it this time if you'll join me."
 
"An offer I can't refuse," he said, giving her a quick kiss.
 
They wearily stretched out on the lumpy cot. It proved to be a very tight squeeze, with Laura taking up most of the available space.
 
"It's a good thing I prefer the lean look," Remington dryly remarked as he fought to remain on the cot. Then in an effort to hang on, he put both arms around Laura.
 
"Is that your foot on my leg?" she asked warily.
 
"Uh-huh," Remington cozily replied, snuggling even closer to Laura.
 
Suddenly the baby kicked. Laura abruptly changed position with a slight gasp and Remington found himself sprawled on the floor.
 
"Icy calm, Mr. Steele," Laura reminded him in a soothing voice as he wearily pulled himself up into a sitting position. "Just remember, there's at least one good thing about all this."
 
"And that is...?"
 
"Things can't possibly get any worse."
 
"How comforting," Remington remarked.
 
He got up and lay back down on the cot. Once again, he embraced Laura In an effort to stabilize himself.
 
Both tried to sleep, but found their concern over Abby wouldn't let them relax. They could almost even hear the faint familiar cry of a baby, but quickly dismissed it as nerves. But gradually, the familiar cry grew louder. Laura and Remington lay staring at each other until at last the cry filled the entire cell block.
 
Convinced it wasn't their imagination after all, they jumped up and rushed to the cell door just in time to see Tony approaching their cell. And following close behind him was a female guard holding a screaming, red faced Abby.
 
The guard began opening the door.
 
"I believe she belongs to you," Tony said with a sneer as the guard handed Laura her baby. "We found her under a display case in the museum."
 
Laura held Abby tightly and murmured comforting words as she turned and sat down on the cot. Soon Abby's screams began to subside.
 
The guard handed Abby's bag to Remington and once again locked the cell door.
 
"We confiscated any and all suspicious items, so forget about using anything in there to escape," Tony continued.
 
"Afraid we'd whittle down the bars with a diaper pin? Or assault the guard with a teddy bear?" Remington asked.
 
Tony's laugh caused him to grimace.
 
"Got to hand it to you, Steele. You gotta lot of nerve, taking a pregnant wife and a baby along on a jewel heist. This case is a real prize. I can't wait to write it up."
 
"You're forgetting one slight detail, Anthony. You haven't linked us with the jewels. No jewels, no case."
 
"I admit I was surprised when neither strip search showed up the jewels. But they'll turn up, with your prints all over them. I can wait. Who knows? Your baby just may be born in jail. It'll be a real family affair!" Tony said with a snicker as he left.
 
Remington spun around and glared at Laura, who was still sitting on the cot with Abby. "You were strip searched? Why didn't you tell me?"
 
"What was I supposed to do?! We're not exactly guests here! All I could do was grin and bare it."
 
Remington walked over to the cot, put down the bag and sat down beside Laura. He then gently took Abby into his arms.
 
"Come here, Luv," he sold soothingly as he softly patted Abby's back. "It's been a rough night, hasn't it? Yes, it has. I know exactly how you feel."
 
Kissing the top of his daughter's dark downy curls, he added, "Laura, hand me a diaper and I'll change her."
 
Placing Abby on the cot beside him, he unsnapped her pink sleeper and expertly began removing the old diaper while Laura, curious as to what had been taken into custody, rummaged through Abby's bag and warned him about what she would do to Felicia if the two ever crossed paths again.
 
"Laura," Remington mumbled above the diaper pins in his mouth.
 
Puzzled by his tone of voice, Laura looked his way. She followed his gaze down to Abby and gasped. There, inside Abby's diaper, was the leather pouch containing the Marchessa Collection.
 
"Well, we know one thing," Remington said.
 
"What's that?" Laura asked, still in shock.
 
"At least Abby wasn't strip searched."
 
Laura picked up the pouch and looked inside while Remington pinned on Abby's fresh diaper and snapped her sleeper. He then handed her to Laura and took the pouch.
 
"They're all here," Remington said as he checked inside. "And we're dead ducks if Anthony finds them on us. He'll never believe the truth."
 
"Well, you're the Duke of Deception! Think of something!!"
 
"Think of something... Think of something..." he muttered to himself.
 
Suddenly the three inmates were peppered with falling specks of dirt and dust. Abby sneezed while Laura and Remington, puzzled, looked up. More dust and dirt assaulted them. They looked questions at each other and quickly jumped to their feet, staring at the air vent directly above the cot. Momentarily, the screen slowly slid to one side and disappeared from sight and Brendan's smudgy face stared down at them.
 
"I'm Brendan Steele--I'm here to rescue you!" Brendan declared, somehow managing to keep a straight face. Then breaking into a lopsided grin that looked exactly like his father's, he added, "I've always wanted to say that!"
 
"Just exactly what do you think you're doing?" Remington demanded angrily as he watched Brendan dangle his legs over the edge of the opening and quietly drop onto the cot, then jump to the floor. "Haven't you been in enough trouble for one night, mate?!"
 
"I was worried about Mummy. I heard Aunt Frances say Aunt Mildred was having trouble raising bail and I thought I could break you out," Brendan explained. "I had to try, anyway."
 
"The challenge, eh?" Remington asked, raising an eyebrow at Laura. "Listen, mate, picking the lock on our bedroom door is one thing, but breaking into the Los Angeles County Jail is another thing entirely! Now climb right back up there and get of here before you get caught!"
 
"But I *won't* get caught. Rory's keeping them busy out front until we have a chance to make our getaway," Brendan said.
 
"You dragged Rory to this Great Escape? How about the twins? Are they also acting as decoys?"
 
"Of course not! And I didn't drag Rory along," Brendan said defensively. "He wanted to come."
 
"We'll discuss this later," Laura informed them. "But right now, the best way you can help is by staying with Aunt Frances and doing exactly as she says. Daddy and I will be fine."
 
"Your mother's right," Remington said as he grabbed the blanket out of Abby's bag. "You and Rory get back to Aunt Frances, and I want you to take Abby with you." Using the blanket, he quickly fashioned a baby sling by wrapping and tying it around Brendan.
 
"What's she doing here, anyway?" Brendan asked as Remington took Abby back to the cot and gently set her down.
 
"Rocky wasn't home," Laura explained. "Tell me, Brendan. How did you get here?"
 
"We rode our skateboards to the mall. Then I picked the lock on the Coke machine and got some change so we could take a bus," Brendan explained.
 
"Why did I have to ask?" Laura groaned.
 
Remington quickly returned the leather jewel pouch to Abby's diaper. Thankfully, she was sleeping peacefully after her harrowing adventures. Gently but securely, he then strapped her into the sling and secured her to her big brother's chest.
 
"I need something to write on," Remington told Laura as he pulled a pen from his pocket.
 
Laura searched vainly through Abby's bag.
 
"Here," Brendan said, pulling a folded piece of paper out of his black leather jacket. "I used it to write down the address of the jail."
 
"Good boy," Remington said as he turned Laura around to use her back to write on.
 
When he finished, he folded the paper and put it in Brendan's pocket.
 
"Now, listen very carefully," he instructed, sitting down on the cot and placing his hands on Brendan's shoulders. "You and Rory get to a phone and call Uncle Monroe without delay. Give him the note. He'll take the three of you back to your Aunt Frances." He put his hands on Brendan's shoulders. "From now on, mate, you walk the straight and narrow. No more of your stunts. Do I make myself clear?"
 
"Yes, Sir. The straight and narrow... even if it kills me," Brendan promised.
 
"That's my boy," Remington said as he tousled Brendan's hair and gave him a tight hug. Then standing up, he added, "Now, up you get."
 
Laura quickly gave Abby and Brendan a kiss. "Be careful," she pleaded. "And take care of your brother and sister."
 
Remington removed the mattress, stood the cot up on one end and propped it against the wall. Brendan climbed up the cot springs with a boost from Remington and carefully hoisted himself through the opening. With a final wave, he disappeared from view and slid the screen back in place.
 
Laura and Remington breathed a sigh of relief.
 
Laura couldn't help noticing the slight smile on Remington's face. "You'll have to do better than that, Mr. Steele," she warned.
 
"What do you mean?" he asked.
 
"Your fatherly pride," Laura explained.
 
"It's showing?" Remington asked.
 
"It's showing," Laura admitted. "Better get it out of your system now so we can lay down the law to him later."
 
"Sometimes being a father can be very difficult, Laura," Remington said with a sigh. "Very difficult indeed."
 
"But I do believe it's helped make an honest man of you, Mr. Steele," Laura noted.
 
"Hmh. Then why am I sitting in jail?"
 
"A temporary setback, I'm sure," Laura assured him with a kiss.
 
************
A little while later, Brendan and Rory regrouped a block away from the jail. They called Monroe but received no answer, so Brendan decided to read the note himself with the aid of his small pocket flashlight. He carefully read it three times before coming to a decision.
 
Then shining the light in Rory's face, he said, "I think we'd better call Uncle Fred."
 
**********
Twenty minutes later, Brendan and Rory were sharing the back seat of the limo with Abby and their skateboards. Brendan was snapping Abby's sleeper after finally locating the leather jewel pouch.
 
"Who'd have thought of hiding something in a baby's diaper?" Rory asked in disbelief.
 
"Gone with the Wind. Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, Selznick Pictures, 1939. Scarlett hides the murdered Yankee's wallet in Melanie's baby's diaper when the Yankee soldiers come to burn Tara," Brendan explained.
 
"I don't remember that scene and we just watched it again last week," Rory complained.
 
"That scene wasn't in the movie; it was in the book," Brendan said as he opened the pouch and emptied the entire Marchessa Collection into the plush seat.
 
"Wow!" Rory exclaimed in awe. "That must be worth a fortune!"
 
"I'll say! And if we don't hurry and put them back in the museum, Mummy and Daddy are dead
ducks."
 
"When did you read a big book like Gone with the Wind?" Rory asked, backtracking to the previous subject.
 
"I didn't," Brendan admitted as he examined the Marchessa Collection. "Daddy read some of it to me last month when I was home with the flu. He told me to always read the book a movie's made from, because usually the book is better."
 
Rory sniffed. "It sounds like Daddy is just trying to get you to read more," he pointed out as he reached out to pick up one of the pieces.
 
"Don't," Brendan warned.
 
"Oh, yeah; fingerprints!" Rory remembered. "But you touched them! Your prints are all over them!"
 
"How could I be so stupid?" Brendan groaned, hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Uncle Fred," he said, leaning over the front seat. "Can I please borrow your handkerchief and gloves?"
 
Fred handed them to him without comment.
 
Brendan put on the oversized gloves and carefully wiped the stone with the handkerchief, then returned the gems to the pouch. Turning the soft leather pouch over, he pointed to the wet spot. Both he and Rory giggled.
 
"I guess we should be glad that's all Abby did, eh?" Rory commented.
 
"Since Uncle Monroe isn't home, we're gonna hafta put the gems back ourselves," Brendan whispered to his brother.
 
Rory's eyes grew wide in disbelief and he started to protest, but Brendan quickly covered his mouth with his hand.
 
"Shhhh!!!" Brendan warned, leaning into Rory's ear. "We can't let Uncle Fred hear us; he'll never let us do it."
 
"We can't break into the museum--we're just two little kids!" Rory protested. "And besides, Daddy told us to stay with Aunt Frances!"
 
"Daddy didn't know Uncle Monroe wouldn't be home," Brendan explained. "And we *will* stay
with Aunt Frances--right after we return the jewels."
 
"But, Brendan..."
 
"Listen, I know I can do it; I can get us into the museum. And then we'll just leave the gems and run,"Brendan explained. "Besides, it wouldn't be right to keep the jewels. What if we get caught with them?"
 
"Well..." Rory said, still not convinced.
 
"Come on, Rory; we're a team. If you don't help me, I'll just hafta do it by myself."
 
After a few moments of silence, Rory shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "Okay, but what are we going to tell Uncle Fred?"
 
They thought a minute and then Rory grinned, saying, "Uncle Fred, Brendan and I were just wondering where the museum is. If you could just tell us where it is and hand us the map, we'll look it up."
 
Always eager to further the boys' thirst for knowledge, Fred played right into their hands. With the aid of Brendan's flashlight, they located the museum on the map in no time at all.
 
"Now what?" Rory asked in hushed tones.. "He's not going to just drop us off there, you know."
 
Brendan thought a moment, whispered something in Rory's ear, and then picked up a sleeping Abby.
 
"I wouldn't do this, Abby," he whispered into her ear, "except Mummy and Daddy need our help."
 
After a quick kiss, he began tickling her awake. Abby expressed her displeasure by crying, loudly.
 
"She's probably wet," Rory said, quickly getting into the act.
 
"Yeah, hand me a diaper, Rory," Brendan said.
 
Rory rummaged through the diaper bag, then sat up and said, "We're out of diapers."
 
"Uncle Fred, could you stop and get us an emergency pack of diapers out of the trunk?" Brendan asked.
 
"Coming right up," Fred said, finding a place to pull off the road and then getting out of the limo.
 
Brendan quickly put the gem pouch in his pocket. Then giving Abby a quick kiss, both he and Rory grabbed their skateboards, opened the door on the passengers' side, and took off running down the sidewalk. Thanks to their sneakers, their escape was noiseless.
 
Thanks to Abby's cries, Fred never even knew they were gone until it was too late. As soon as he closed the trunk, however, he noticed the passengers' door was standing wide open. Diapers in hand, he rushed to the door and looked inside.
 
As soon as he noticed the boys' skateboards were gone, Fred realized he had been had. Without a doubt, they were on their way to the museum. He wasn't sure what they were planning to do there, but he was sure it wasn't good.
 
Fred glanced at Abby lying on the plush back seat, still crying. Sitting down beside her, he started to open the newly retrieved package of diapers, but out of curiosity decided instead to check out the diaper bag first. Just as he figured, the bag contained plenty of fresh diapers. Shaking his head at Brendan and Rory's resourcefulness, he quickly changed Abby's diaper and then rocked her in his arms for a few moments. When she was once again asleep, he strapped her into her car seat.
 
As he sat there trying to decide what he should do next, he noticed Remington's note lying on the floorboard. He picked it up and quickly read it. Surprised by its contents, he read it a second time.
 
"Just like his father," he murmured, climbing out of the back seat and looking in the direction of the museum. Picking up the limo's phone, dialed and waited patiently through several rings. He was just about to hang up when a breathless voice answered, "Hello?"
 
"Mr. Henderson? Fred Smith, the Steele's chauffeur. I think you'd better get over to the art museum as soon as possible. I'll explain everything when you arrive."
 
"Sure, okay. On my way," Monroe answered.
 
Fred then climbed back behind the wheel and headed in the direction of the museum.
 
*********
Brendan and Rory had reached the museum's back door. Brendan tried the knob.
 
"Locked," he said.
 
"Then how are we supposed to get in?" Rory asked.
 
"Good thing I brought my lock picks along, eh?" Brendan replied as he pulled the small case from his jacket and set to work on the door.
 
Rory looked around nervously. "Are you sure this is the right thing to do?"
 
Brendan turned to him. "I told you, we have to put the jewels back in the museum or Mummy and Daddy are dead ducks."
 
"Then why did they steal the jewels in the first place?"
 
"To protect them. But they never meant for the jewels to leave the museum. They were just going to hide them there and then take them out later."
 
"Well, then how did they end up in Abby's diaper?"
 
"I don't know!" Brendan exclaimed testily, quickly becoming exasperated with his younger brother's endless questions. Besides, the bloody lock was not cooperating. "Look, it's a long story," he said apologetically. "Now shut up and let me work."
 
Rory was quiet all of three seconds before asking, "If we don't get the jewels put back, will Mummy and Daddy rot in jail?"
 
"Probably."
 
"Then we'll never see them again," Rory's said, his lip quivering. "And Mummy will have our new baby in jail and we'll never see it, either."
 
"Rory..." Brendan warned, but before he could finish, the lock clicked open. "Come on," he urged, his frustration forgotten for the moment as he slipped through the door.
 
Rory followed and they stood just inside the door, looking around the dark, empty corridor.
 
"Okay, where do we put them?" Rory asked.
 
"Shh, not so loud," Brendan cautioned. Whispering, he said, "I don't know. l guess where they were taken from. Some display case in a special room would be my guess."
 
Brendan started down the corridor, with Rory following closely.
 
"Guess we'll have to check every room until we find the right one," Brendan said, more or less talking to himself.
 
Halfway down the long corridor, he stopped suddenly and Rory bumped into him.
 
"Alarms!" Brendan exclaimed. "There are probably alarm systems all over. So how come haven't we set any off yet?"
 
He poked his head in the nearest doorway. Nothing happened, so he boldly stepped inside. And sure enough, as soon as one foot crossed the threshold, alarms sounded all over the place.
 
"Oh, no!" Rory screamed above the clanking as he turned to flee.
 
But Brendan grabbed him and pulled him into the room with him. We hit the right room--and on the first try, too!"
 
Brendan was delighted with himself, despite the ringing alarms. After a quick scan of the room, he
pointed and said, "See, there's the case for the jewels."
 
Rory's eyes followed Brendan's finger to the empty display case with the sign above it saying Marchessa Collection and providing a brief description of it. The two brothers just looked at each other and grinned.
 
************
Monroe got to the museum quicker than Fred expected. Fortunately he was already dressed, having just come in from a late date. And breaking every speeding record on the way didn't hurt any, either. He parked his car around the block from the museum, closer than where the limo was waiting, so he had to walk back to the limo and Fred.
 
"Okay, what's this all about?" he asked Fred as he walked up.
 
Seeing Abby sitting in her car seat, Monroe leaned in through the open window. "Hello there, darling," he said as he chucked her under the chin.
 
Abby moved around in her sleep, but didn't wake up.
 
"Poor little thing," Fred commented. "She's had a rough night; she must be exhausted."
 
He then handed Monroe the note he'd found on the floor of the limo and explained the situation to him--at least as well as he knew it.
 
At the conclusion, Monroe let out a huge sigh, saying, "What Mick won't get himself into next."
 
"Pardon?" Fred asked.
 
"Oh, never mind," Monroe said as he glanced again at Abby. "If she's had a rough night, what the others are going through must be worse. Well, first things first. I'll get the boys out of the museum and bring them back here; then you can deliver them to Frances. Tell her it wouldn't hurt if she'd lock them in a room." Monroe chuckled, but then quickly sobered. "After I capture the boys, I'll go over to the jail and see what I can do for Mick. Maybe we can at least get Laura out of there."
 
He made no mention of the jewels, but in his mind he was already trying to work through how he
was going to return them to their rightful place unscathed.
 
Monroe retraced his steps back to the museum and beyond to the back door, his mind whirling with this bizarre turn of events. There had been times he had envied Mick, but this was definitely not one of those times he longed to be in Mick's shoes. Mick had at last found what he had been looking for, what made him truly happy, and had settled down to a relatively peaceful life--a life that Monroe wished he could get a handle on.
 
Monroe studied the neat lock picking job on the back door of the museum. Shaking his head, he couldn't help smiling. "I never should have given that kid a lock pick set for his birthday," he admitted to himself.
 
Brendan was just like his father. Monroe could only hope the other kids would take more after their mother. Not that he didn't take almost as much pride in Brendan as Remington did. But one like Mick was enough. More than enough.
 
Monroe turned the door knob as every alarm in the place seemed to go off.
 
***********
 
"We're going to get caught, and then we'll be dead ducks, too!" Rory whimpered as he and Brendan stood in the middle of the room that had housed the Marchessa Collection.
 
"You're driving me crazy!" Brendan yelled at his brother. Then smiling a lopsided grin, he said, "The Thin Man. Myrna Loy, William Powell, MGM, 1934."
 
"This is no time to be quoting from old movies!" Rory scolded in a quiet shriek. "Just put the jewels back and let's get out of here!"
 
"Okay, okay," Brendan said as he reluctantly set the jewel pouch on top of the display case. Patting the pouch one final time, he couldn't help saying, "Farewell, my lovelies."
 
He and Rory beat a hasty retreat from the room, running for all they were worth down the corridor. Behind them they could hear the sound of running feet, but neither of them dared to look back. They reached the back door just as it opened and tumbled straight into the arms of a surprised Monroe.
 
"Uncle Monroe!" an equally surprised Brendan and Rory said in unison.
 
The words tumbled out as both tried to explain at the same time.
 
"We broke in and put the jewels back..."
 
"...but we set off the alarm when we did... "
 
"...somebody's behind us...
 
"...we could hear them running after us!"
 
"Good Lord," was all Monroe said.
 
He scooped them up, half dragging, half carrying them as he high tailed it down the street. Fortunately, his car wasn't too far away. He deposited the boys in the car, shoving them over on the front seat, and quickly jumped behind the steering wheel. They roared off to the sound of fast approaching sirens.
 
"Where are we going, Uncle Monroe?" Rory asked.
 
"Hopefully, not to jail," Monroe replied under his breath. Then louder, in an authoritarian tone, he said, "Brendan and Rory Steele, consider yourselves busted. I'm taking both of you into protective custody."
 
**********
Despite Brendan's earlier mood of near giddy elation, he was unusually silent and withdrawn on the ride to Monroe's apartment. This was just as well for Monroe as he drove casually but quickly on the nearly deserted early morning streets. Taking a roundabout way to his apartment building, he kept glancing nervously at the rear view mirror.
 
They made it there safety, though. Monroe offered a silent prayer as he parked his car in the underground parking garage and then ushered his two charges out of the car and into the elevator.
 
Rory's mind was set at ease almost as soon as they entered Monroe's apartment. Assured that his Uncle Monroe would take care of everything and his parents wouldn't rot in jail, he quickly curled up on Monroe's bed and fell asleep.
 
Brendan, on the other hand, spent a lot of time wandering about looking at this and touching that as he struggled with his conscience.
 
"Hungry?" Monroe asked.
 
"Um ... not really. Well, yeah, I guess so," he finally admitted.
 
"Be right back then," Monroe said as he walked into the kitchen.
 
He returned a little while later with a cup of coffee for himself and a glass of milk and some cookies for Brendan.
 
Brendan was busy examining his video equipment.
 
"Ah--don't--" Monroe started, not wanting him to mess with it. Then noticing the boy's sullen mood, he asked, "What's the trouble, mate?"
 
Brendan turned his blue eyes on Monroe, wearing an expression he had seen many times on Mick's face as well.
 
"I don't really know," Brendan admitted. "A little while ago, breaking into the museum... Well, it felt good. I guess I should feel guilty about those kinds of things--breaking in, stealing, you know. But I don't... and I don't think Daddy and Mummy do, either."
 
Shuffling his feet, he went on. "But they want me to be good--to walk the straight and narrow. And I try; I really do. How am l ever going to explain to them what I did? And that I liked doing it? Is that why Mummy and Daddy do it? Because they like it, too?"
 
********
Back at the jail, dawn was just beginning to break. Remington and Laura, thinking everything was finally under control--the jewels in Monroe's capable hands and the children all where they should be--had settled down again on the lumpy cot. After much shifting, they'd finally each found a semi-comfortable spot and had drifted off into an exhausted sleep.
 
Sometime later, they both jumped at the sound of a key grating in the lock.
 
"You're free to go," a guard said gruffly as he held open the cell door for them.
 
Remington and Laura threw puzzled looks at each other, but gratefully climbed out of bed and followed him.
 
"Where's the kid?" the guard asked.
 
Remington smiled innocently. "Our 6 year old son climbed in through the vent and broke her out."
 
"Sure he did," the guard said, shaking his head. "I hate to admit that Roselli was right about anything, but I guess he was right about you two."
 
After they signed for and were given their personal belongings, Remington and Laura were met by a detective who explained the circumstances to them.
 
"Seems there was another break-in at the museum last night," he began.
 
Remington and Laura exchanged surreptitious glances.
 
"Well, at least we think it was a break-in. The alarm system was triggered and the back door jimmied."
 
"But you didn't catch anyone?" Remington asked.
 
"No. Funny thing, though. The Marchessa Collection turned up sitting on top of its display case,
safely inside a leather pouch."
 
"The entire collection?" Laura asked.
 
"Yep. And we dusted every piece for prints. Nothing; wiped clean."
 
He waited for one of them to respond. When neither said a word, he continued. "We called the museum manager and he got on the phone with representatives of the insurance company. They figure maybe you had a right to be there since you'd warned them the jewels were in danger and they were under your protection. Seems they're used to your unorthodox measures, Mr. Steele, and didn't see anything wrong with you letting yourself into the museum. So, it appears we really don't have anything to hold you on."
 
Remington and Laura sighed and headed out.
 
Remington whispered to Laura, "If Monroe didn't even bother putting the jewels back in their display case--only left them lying on top still in the pouch-- and he managed to set off every alarm in the place, he must really be losing it."
 
"Well, let's just be grateful he did get them back, no matter how he did it, and that he thought to wipe everything clean," Laura said.
 
"It wasn't necessary. We wore gloves," Remington reminded her.
 
On their way out they passed Tony. Remington and Laura never imagined they'd actually see Anthony Roselli cry, but his head was in his hands, bowed over a counter.
 
Looking up as they walked by, he said, "I'll get you, Steele. And you, too, Laura. One of these days you'll realize that your biggest mistake was walking away from me that night on the beach."
 
"No, Tony," Laura corrected. "My biggest mistake was letting you drag yourself along on my honeymoon. Honeymoons are for two; three's a crowd--an *unwelcome* crowd."
 
"You *invited* me, lady," Tony corrected. "You were stringing me along and you know it."
 
"Come along, dear," Laura said as she grabbed her husband's arm. "We certainly have more important things things to do than talk about old times with Anthony."
 
"Of course, dear," Remington agreed.
 
"Laura, all you hafta do to find me is turn around," Tony called after them. "I'll always be right behind you."
 
Under his breath, Remington muttered, "Somehow that thought is not comforting." Louder, however, he said, "That's right, Anthony. You'll always be one step behind us."
 
"And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the day when you catch up with us!" Laura shot back.
 
Remington put his arm around his wife and led her away from Tony's ugly presence.
 
As they stepped into the foyer, Laura asked, "Should we call Fred to take us home?"
 
But Fred was already there with Abby in his arms.
 
Laura quickly took Abby from him and smothered her with kisses
 
"Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele. I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm afraid we have a problem," Fred began. Remington put his hand on Fred's shoulder, saying, "Why don't you explain everything in the car, mate?"
 
After they got into the limo, Fred turned around to face his employers. He told them about how Brendan and Rory had tricked him and made a clean getaway, more than likely riding their skateboards to the museum. He then highlighted his conversations with Monroe, both when he had called for help initially and then later near the museum. He assured them Monroe had gone after the boys, but unfortunately they had returned when the alarms and sirens sounded. He had waited near the museum for them as long as he dared, but had finally driven away just before the police arrived.
 
"I've called Mr. Henderson's apartment several times, but there's been no answer," Fred explained, filling them in on the latest development. "So I came here hoping to see you and Mrs. Steele. I got here just as you were being released."
 
Remington turned to Laura and said, "Well, this certainly explains the unprofessional return of the jewels. It wasn't Monroe at all; it was Brendan."
 
Laura touched her husband's arm. "When we find Brendan, be gentle with him. He was only doing what he thought would help us."
 
Remington exhaled and grinned. "Well, at least he's started in a grand manner. When I was his age, I was still picking pockets."
 
Laura looked disapprovingly at him. "For God's sake, don't tell him that. And wipe that grin off your face before you even speak to him."
 
Remington sobered. "Yes, of course, dear."
 
"Were you really picking pockets at Brendan's age?" Laura asked as she strapped Abby into her car seat.
 
"Mmh-hmh," Remington noncommittally answered. "But the story of my meager beginnings in the trade will have to wait for another time. Right now our top priority is locating Brendan and Rory."
 
Laura nodded in agreement as Remington picked up the phone and dialed Monroe's number. After a few seconds, however, he hung up.
 
"No answer?" Laura asked anxiously, chewing her thumbnail.
 
"No, but if you'd just retrieved two children who were breaking into a museum and setting off every alarm in the place, would you answer the phone?"
 
Laura was not reassured. She continued to bite her thumbnail, saying, "But they're just babies!"
 
Remington took Laura's hand from her mouth and softly kissed it. It always amused him how she bit her thumbnail whenever she was pregnant and worried--a habit she had gotten from him.
 
He smiled and gently patted her hand. "Don't worry. I'll go to Monroe's and see if they're there. And if they're not, I'll wait for them," he promised. With his free hand, he lightly touched Laura's chin and turned her face towards him. "Laura, I'm sure they're both fine. Monroe won't let anything happen to them."
 
"I know," she conceded. "I just hate not knowing where they are. First Abby, and now Brendan and Rory."
 
Remington leaned over and gave her a comforting kiss on the lips. She surprised him by pulling him closer and giving him a deeper kiss, as though she desperately needed the reassurance the kiss offered.
 
At that moment Abby began to cry. Somehow, Remington managed to reach around Laura without breaking their embrace and remove the baby from her car seat.
 
"I'll change her," he offered as he finally broke the kiss.
 
With great expertise he grabbed a fresh diaper and began his task. "Home, Fred," he mumbled around the diaper pin in his mouth.
 
"Home?" Laura said, her mood changing instantly.
 
"Yes, home," Remington repeated loudly in an effort to be heard over Abby's angry cries. "I'll take the Rabbit and go to Monroe's while you and Abby get some rest."
 
"But we're not all that far from Monroe's neighborhood. And besides, I want to go with you," Laura complained.
 
Remington just sighed as he continued to work on Abby. "Laura, be reasonable. You've had a rough night and you need your rest. I'm merely thinking of what's best for you and the baby. If they're not there yet, I may have a long wait. Humor me, please; I'll feel better knowing you're safely tucked away at home."
 
"I can't possibly sleep with the boys missing!" Laura insisted.
 
"Don't you trust me to bring them home safety?"
 
The racket Abby was making wasn't the only reason Remington's voice was getting louder.
 
"That's not the point!" Laura said angrily. "But then, you're not their mother; you wouldn't understand!"
 
"No, but I'm their father! And I'm just as concerned about them as you are. But I'm also concerned about Abby and the baby... and yes, you!"
 
"Fred, stop the car!" Laura ordered.
 
"What?" Remington was so surprised he momentarily stopped trying to comfort Abby. She responded by crying louder and he resumed bouncing her on his shoulder.
 
As soon as the car stopped, Laura opened the door and started to climb out.
 
"Where are you going?" Remington asked.
 
"I'm going to find my children!" Laura declared. "If you won't take me, I'll just go by myself!"
 
She tried to make a graceful exit, but failed miserably.
 
"Laura! Laura, wait!" Remington called.
 
Laura slammed the door and stomped off down the street. Remington wanted to go after her, but he had his hands full with a crying, squirming Abby.
 
He merely sighed deeply, saying, "Take it from me, Fred. Living with a pregnant woman isn't easy."
 
"I'll keep that in mind, sir," Fred promised. "Want me to follow her?"
 
"Yes. Follow her. And if I can keep Abby quiet for ten seconds, I'll call Monroe again. With a little luck, we may all get home by dark."
 
It took Laura all of five minutes to regret her impulsive exit from the limo. Not only had she jeopardized her own safety by wandering off alone in such a run down neighborhood, but she had taken too great a risk with her unborn baby's safety as well. She realized she should have listened to Remington and just waited at home. At least there she could have made herself comfortable while waiting to hear about Brendan and Rory.
 
A clap of thunder brought her out of her revere. Great! All she needed now was a good soaking! She hurried toward a building with an awning. The baby kicked and she admonished it to keep still. The farther she walked, the more she began to realize the futility of it. She was miles from home, miles from Monroe's and miles from the agency, and she knew she couldn't walk far in her condition.
 
The baby kicked again, but this time Laura didn't admonish it. After all, didn't she deserve to be kicked for behaving so childishly? In a small way, the kick made her feel less guilty.
 
She reached cover as the first drops of rain started to fall. A search of her pockets produced only cookie crumbs. So much for calling a cab. Now what? She could call the limo and reverse the charges, but she wasn't ready to put up with a smug husband just yet. Still, she couldn't stay where she was all night.
 
Surveying her surroundings, Laura noticed a drunk sprawled In the gutter. Two more were sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against a boarded up building. When she realized they were studying her, she decided to look for another shelter as soon as the rain eased.
 
Across the street was a run down theater, its marquee boasting a triple X-rated movie. The sight of that brought back memories of another time she and Remington had been forced to survive on the street. Well, she resolved, if she could do it then, she could do it again. Of course, she had not been pregnant then, nor had she been entirely alone, but no matter...
 
A bum staggered up to her.
 
"Hey, honey," he whispered. "How about a quick one? I can pay."
 
He held out a fistful of crinkled, filthy dollar bills mixed with coins of various denominations.
 
Laura cringed. "Ah-uh--maybe some other time," she sputtered as she quickly turned to leave.
 
The bum grabbed her arm and whirled her around. "Aw, come on. I don't mind a little fat.
 
Laura had finally had it. The hours of frustration and despair had taken their toll. She balled her hand into a fist, drew back her arm and threw a hard right that knocked the surprised bum to the ground. Checking to be sure no one was watching, she then grabbed the bum's money and took off running.
 
In a dark corner she huddled and counted her plunder. "Eight dollars and thirty-two cents? Even in my condition, I'm worth more than that!" she complained in outrage.
 
She decided it would suffice, however. At least she could call a cab. Only one phone cubicle was in sight, so she ran to it. She knew she must be quite a sight: a figure in black running in the rain with her hands clasped beneath her very pregnant belly. Well, let them run this late in term and see how they liked it!
 
After losing four quarters, Laura decided the phone was broken. Hitting it did no good, but it did relieve some of her frustration. Realizing she couldn't spend the rest of her life standing in a downpour on a street lined with winos, Laura squared her shoulders and hurried across the street to the theater. As discreetly as possible, she paid her $5 and entered the sleazy lobby.
 
A strange man was using the only phone, so Laura stood near the door to wait. Two other creatures of indeterminate gender were leaning on the wall beside the phone. In fact, there was an array of odd looking persons in the lobby, and all of them were leering at her.
 
On second thought, she'd be better off waiting inside the theater. If she was lucky, no one would notice her in the dark, and she'd still be close enough to the lobby to regularly check on the phone. She quickly purchased a large chocolate bar, some popcorn and a soda. Eating was one way Laura dealt with being nervous, and even the disgusting way the grimy little man behind the counter handled her popcorn wasn't enough to curb her appetite.
 
If only the food could take away the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach caused by the disappearance of Brendan and Rory.
 
She entered the darkened theater and found a seat near the back. Cold, hungry and miserable, she settled into the broken seat and began nibbling her food.
 
In spite of herself, she was soon mesmerized by the actions on the screen. One of the couples was in an acrobatic position she didn't think she and Remington could even obtain, much less maintain. It didn't look humanly possible! She could feel her face growing hotter and realized she was blushing.
 
Suddenly a tall, dark form loomed over her. She was so engrossed in the movie she didn't even notice his presence at first.
 
But then a low, sexy voice shattered the silence, asking, "Mind if I join you?"
 
Laura screamed. She couldn't help it.
 
Remington calmly sat beside her and brushed the spilled popcorn off her lap. He made himself comfortable and settled back to watch the movie, munching on his own popcorn.
 
Laura fought the impulse to throw her arms around him and cry in relief. Instead, she became defensive. "I've told you before; I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself!" she said under her breath.
 
She hadn't meant to say that; it had just came out.
 
"Of course you are," Remington agreed, borrowing her drink for a sip. He had ordered one, but refused to drink it when the man put his fingers in it. Since he was greatly outnumbered in the lobby by regulars who might resent his actions, he had given the man a withering look, paid for it and then set it on the floor near the doorway.
 
"I suppose you're going to tell me you were just dying to see this movie," Laura commented.
 
She hadn't meant to say that, either; she had *meant* to ask about the children.
 
"Surely you couldn't expect me to pass up The 39 Steps to Erotica. Judging from your crimson coloring, I'd say it's a real rip snorter. What did I miss?"
 
"Nothing," Laura said as she finished off her chocolate bar and reclaimed her drink. "Where's Abby?"
 
"Fred took her to Frances," he replied.
 
"What about Brendan and Rory? Are they all right?"
 
"They're in protective custody at Monroe's. He called right after you leaped from the limo."
 
"How'd you get in here? I know you never carry cash," Laura accused.
 
"I opened a parking meter," Remington muttered, matter-of-factly.
 
"I might have known."
 
"And what's that supposed to mean? If you hadn't lost your bloody temper and stormed off, there wouldn't have been a need for me to borrow from the city! " Remington bellowed as quietly as he could. "Don't put a guilt trip on me!"
 
"If you'd carry cash, you wouldn't have to resort to crime," she argued. "I think you go around with empty pockets on purpose, just so you'll have an excuse to keep in practice!"
 
"Is that a fact? And just how did you get in here, missy? I happen to know your pockets were as bare as mine."
 
"That's a professional secret," she insisted.
 
"Really, Laura. Decking a guy with a right and then taking his money is not exactly what I would call professional. I believe it's called 'rolling a drunk.'"
 
"You mean you saw the whole thing--and you didn't lift a finger to help me?!" she protested quite loudly, forgetting where they were.
 
"You can take care of yourself, remember?"
 
"That bum tried to buy my bod for $8.32!"
 
"Considering the circumstances, I'd say he was being more than generous."
 
"Oh, you would, would you?"
 
"Yes, l would."
 
Remington borrowed her drink again and was sipping when Laura calmly stood up and dumped her entire box of popcorn over his head.
 
"Really, Laura," Remington quietly admonished as he brushed the kernels from his hair, thankful that none had fallen into the drink. "You're not setting a very good example for the baby."
 
"*I'm* not setting a good example?" Laura declared.
 
"SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!" yelled several movie patrons.
 
Laura quickly did so and folded her arms.
 
She and Remington sat in silence for a few moments.
 
"Feel better?" Remington finally asked.
 
Several more moments of silence passed before Laura finally spoke, asking, "Is Abby really with Frances?"
 
"Safe as a bug In a rug," Remington assured her, his choice of words influenced by the plush white throw rug currently serving as the scene of romance on the screen.
 
"And Brendan and Rory are really at Monroe's?"
 
"I'd wager that at this very minute, Rory is in an exhausted sleep and Brendan is struggling with his conscience."
 
Laura began munching on Remington's popcorn and nestled as close to him as she could. He tenderly placed his arm around her shoulder. Balancing the popcorn box on the armrest between them, they leaned in close for a kiss. In contrast to the antics on the screen, their kiss was not passionate or electrifying. Rather, it was gentle and loving and reassuring. Afterwards, they embraced each other.
 
Remington felt a tear fall on his neck and responded by kissing Laura's hair.
 
"Let's leave," she whispered in his ear.
 
"But wouldn't that be considered rude, Mrs. Steele?"
 
"Maybe," Laura answered. "But we have children to tuck in, Mr. Steele."
 
The lights in the theater came up. The few patrons glanced over where the noisy and rather amorous couple had been seated. All that was left of them was a half filled popcorn box on the arm rest.
 
The End
 
Originally written 1986;
Revised 1988, and Jan. 2000
 

 

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

"Life in the Steele Lane" Index


dtalley@mindspring.com
 

Disclaimer: The characters of Remington Steele are used without permission.
This story copyrighted 1986 by Debra Talley. It is purely for entertainment purposes.