Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

"Nightmares of Steele"
Part 4
Thekla Kurth & Debra Talley
This story is set in the Brendan Universe
Laura was greeted by five little voices yelling, "Hello, Mummy!"
Laura scooted Brendan, age seven, over to the middle of the front seat and climbed in beside him.
"Why did you bring the kids?" she asked Remington.
Remington swung the limo out into the street into the early evening traffic. "I really had no choice, Love."
"No choice?"
"I couldn't find a sitter."
"You're kidding. Who all did you call?"
"Everyone in the Western hemisphere," he sighed. "Now, exactly where is it we're going?"
Laura realized that she hadn't yet briefed him on the case. "L'Ornate," she said.
"L'Ornate? *Our* L'Ornate?"
"L'Ornate is under new ownership and management," she informed him. "Don't you remember how things had changed when we had that lovely candlelight dinner we had there?" she reminisced.
"Seems like ages ago," Remington wistfully sighed as Rory, sitting in the window seat directly behind him, kicked his seat.
"It was only two weeks ago," Laura stated.
Abby, age two, begin to cry. The four-year-old twins, Remy and Laurie, who were arguing over a window seat, had shoved her out of the way.
"There, there, Darling.," Laura murmured as she reached over the seat and hauled Abby up beside her, holding her while the tears subsided. Laurie and Remy didn't mean to hit you."
When the tears stopped Laura placed Abby on the seat next to Brendan, who took her chubby hands in his and kissed them. Abby laughed at him and started patting
his leg.
Laurie and Remy were still fussing, so Laura turned around and settled the window argument by giving the twins alternate fifteen-minute intervals at the window. With the children quiet again, she returned to the case at hand.
Remington perked up and the sudden calm. "Well done, Laura! You managed to stall the storm before Megan joined the fray!"
Laura glanced at Megan, a mere three months old, who was still sleeping soundly in her car seat in the backseat of the limo.
"I supposed she's learned to catch her sleep when she can," Laura commented. "Now, about the case...Mrs. Henry Higgins from Modesto has hired the services of the Remington Steele agency to get proof of her husband's infidelity. He sells insurance and has been making frequent--too frequent--'business' trips down here to L.A. She thinks he's been having an affair."
"That doesn't sound too suspicious in itself," Remington couldn't help commenting.
Laura continued. "After his last trip she found bills for a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, room service for two, flowers from the hotel florist and ladies' clothing from a boutique in the lobby. Poor Mrs. Higgins was adamant. I told her I'd see what we could find out."
"Really, Laura, must you take these sleazy marital cases?" Remington asked. "Especially without consulting me! I mean, the reputation of the agency is at stake here."
"Reputation, my foot. You're just sore because I took this case without first consulting you. That's it, isn't it? "
"I thought we were partners," he reminded her in a hurtful tone.
"We are," Laura agreed.
"But some partners are more equal than others, eh?"
Brendan had been watching his parents. He spoke up now, asking, "Are you and Mummy having a fight, Daddy?"
"No," both Remington and Laura replied at the same time.
"We're having a discussion," Remington added, glancing Laura.
"You sure have a lot of discussions," Brendan said.
"Adults do sometimes, Honey," Laura said as she stroked her son's dark hair. "It's nothing to worry about. Someday you'll understand. Now, is there anything else you want to talk about?" she sweetly asked Remington.
"We're here. L'Ornate. What now? Do we go in?" Remington asked, grateful for the opportunity to change the subject.
"No; just park across the street where we can see the entrance," Laura instructed. "As discreetly as you *can* park with a limo, that is."
"And then what?" Remington asked as he did as she instructed.
"We sit and watch and wait. Mr. Higgins has a 7 p.m. reservation. Did you remember to bring the camera?"
"Rory, please hand me that case on the floor of the back seat," Remington said as he turned to look at his son.
Rory grabbed the pink gingham bag laying at his feet and handed it to his father.
"That's the diaper bag," Remington pointed out.
"Sorry, Daddy," Rory giggled as he put back Megan's bag. "Maybe it's under the seat," he said as he undid his seat belt and crawled to the floor of the car.
"Are you sure you brought it?" Laura asked impatiently.
Remington shot Laura an irritated look, but before he could respond they heard Rory exclaim, "Here it is!"
Remington took the camera bag from Rory with a satisfied smirk. Taking out the camera, he began fiddling with it, finally putting on a zoom lens.
Laura took the opportunity to continue filling him in on the case. "Mildred did some checking on the computer. She discovered Mr. Higgins' bills usually come to his insurance office, but somehow the hotel bill that his wife saw was inadvertently sent to his home address instead. The other bills sent to his office are more of the same--suites and room service for two at expensively discreet hotels, flowers, jewelry, ladies' apparel..."
"Perhaps his partner is the one having an extra-marital fling," Remington suggested, recalling the time he first met Donald and Frances at the dentists' convention.
"He doesn't have a business partner," Laura pointed out.
"Oh. Well, so much for that theory."
"Mrs. Higgins said her husband is in L.A. now. This afternoon I tracked him down at the Beverly Wilshire. He was alone then, though."
"Well, while you were tracking down our Mr. Higgins, I was tracking down two escaped gerbils, waiting for the plumber after Abby tried to flush four Lego blocks and watching the chandelier in the dining room vibrate as Remy and Laurie used the bed right above it for a trampoline," Remington explained as he occupied himself taking pictures of her, Brendan and Abby. "Then I spent thirty minutes on the phone, trying to explain to the principal at Brendan's and Rory's school how we use lock picking as an exercise in manual dexterity."
"Why in the world were you talking to their principal?" Laura inquired.
"Oh, he called me--right after Brendan and Rory were caught picking the lock of an equipment locker," Remington explained.
"We needed to get another ball," Brendan tried to explain. "Some big kids threw our other one up on the roof."
Laura looked at him. "But that is still no excuse..."
Remington interrupted, saying, "I've already talked to them, Laura. They know that what they did was wrong. Right, mates?"
"Yes, Sir!" they both answered.
"Well, all right, then. Did you, ah, convince the principal of your theory?"
"He wants me to give a lecture on it at the next PTA meeting," Remington grunted.
"What?" Laura gasped.
"Don't worry, Laura. I politely declined, saying the press of business matters was too great. Besides, we probably couldn't get a sitter for that evening, either. By the way, here's the bill from the plumber."
Remington dug a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to her.
Laura gasped again when she saw it. "This is more than Henry Higgins' florist bill! Couldn't you have just used a bent hanger or something and tried to retrieve the Lego blocks yourself?"
"Laura, really. Are you suggesting that the great Remington Steele..."
"Forget I even said it," she said as she shoved the bill into her purse.
Looking up, she quickly pointed to a blue Thunderbird at the entrance." That's Mr. Higgins' rental car!" she exclaimed.
They watched a doorman hold the door open for a little gray haired man with a scraggly mustache and the blonde who was with him. A valet parked the car in the lot.
Remington snapped a few pictures of the couple.
As soon as they went inside, he put down the camera. "Okay; we've got the pictures as proof. Now let's go home."
"Not just yet," Laura said. "Sure, we saw him with a woman, but that doesn't prove anything."
"You think he's in there selling insurance to her? Come on, Laura. That woman has bimbo stamped all over her. Money-grubbing bimbo!"
"I saw nothing of the sort. We'll have to wait until they leave and then see where they go. If he takes her to his hotel..."
"What's a bimbo?" Remy asked.
Remington turned to Laura. "I believe I'll let you field this one, Mummy."
Laura turned around to the backseat to explain just as a hungry Megan woke up. Laura unstrapped her from the car seat while Remington got a bottle and burp cloth out of the diaper bag and handed them to Laura.
The other kids were starting to get restless, too. Remington produced a bag of cookies for them.
"Did you feed them dinner before you left?" Laura asked.
"We had hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes on our way home from the pet store," he answered, shuddering.
"The pet store?" she questioned.
"Umm...yes. You recall those two gerbils that went A.W.O.L. earlier today? Well, we never did find them so we replaced them with two goldfish and a turtle. We can't find the turtle now, either."
Laura just glared at him.
"Well, you're the one who thought the kids should have pets!" he reminded her.
Laura felt like screaming, but took a deep breath and forced herself to remain calm. "So you're telling me that we have two rodents and a turtle running loose in our house?"
"Um, I think that about sums it up. Now, what say we concentrate on the case at hand so we can hurry home and enjoy... better things? We can start with the lovely veal paprikish that I spent the afternoon cooking. I got the recipe from an Austrian countess," he explained as he leaned closer to Laura and wiggled his eyebrows ."And then later on, we can..."
Laura cleared her throat, darting her eyes at the children. "I catch your drift, Mr. Steele. And it sounds lovely. But for now, how about some music to set the proper mood?"
Remington smiled and switched on the radio. Loud rock music bellowed out, causing Megan, who was almost asleep again, to wake up and start crying. Abby soon joined her.
Remington turned the radio down, gave Brendan a scathing look, and switched stations to something quieter and more soothing. He picked up Abby and began to calm her. Eventually, the two younger ones were rocked and lulled to sleep by their parents. Laura placed Megan back in her car seat and Remington placed Abby on the backseat between Megan and Rory.
Remington leaned his head back and stretched his arms. "You know, this reminds me of the time Felicia and I were waiting for an older couple to leave their villa so we could go in and..." He looked at Laura, and then at Brendan. "Well, you know. Anyway, we were parked a short distance down the road in the hills above Cannes. The radio was playing. It was a beautiful, balmy night--the kind the South of France is known for. Then Felicia scooted across the seat toward me and..."
"I don't believe I care to hear the rest," Laura remarked.
"Who's Felicia?" Remy wanted to know.
"A bimbo," Laura automatically replied.
"Now, Laura, really. I wasn't going to say what you thought I was going to say. It was perfectly innocent. I was--"
"Isn't that the car you're watching?" Brendan asked, pointing. "It's leaving."
They saw the tail lights turn a corner a block ahead.
Remington quickly pulled out and followed.
"Turn right," Laura said, indicating the way he should turn at the corner. "Another right at the next corner... Left at the stop light."
They drove on a few more blocks. "Now left, I think."
Laura wasn't sure. She couldn't see the car anymore. They had been too far behind and had lost it.
"No, right," Remington said, turning the corner.
"How do you know?" Laura asked.
"When in doubt while tailing, always turn right."
"Where did you hear that?" she asked, bemused.
"I read it in last month's issue of the Policeman's Gazette."
"Since when do you have a subscription to the Policeman's Gazette?"
"Jarvis gave me one for Christmas," Remington explained.
"Really?" Laura asked. "That's fascinating. And since when did the two of you become chummy enough to exchange Christmas gifts?"
"Since I gave him our tickets to the all-star baseball game where Tommy Lasorda was playing."
"I wanted to go to that game," she complained.
"Couldn't. You were nine months pregnant at the time. I didn't want to take the chance that our child would be born on first base."
"Is that the car you're looking for?" Brendan asked, pointing again. "In that parking lot over there?"
There it was, parked in the lot of a sleazy motel.
"Why would they come here instead of going to the Beverly Wilshire?" Laura
asked, confused.
"I'll go in the office and see what I can find out," Remington said as he got out of the limo.
"I have to go to the bathroom," Laurie suddenly announced.
Both Remington and Laura looked around at their sleazy surroundings and groaned.
"Uh, can't you wait until we get home, Darling?" Remington asked.
"You can't ask a child to wait," Laura reprimanded.
"Women!" Remington exclaimed, exasperated. "That's just what Felicia said that night in Cannes! Of course, you've said it, too, on more than one stake out," he added.
"I was eight months pregnant at the time!" Laura explained."What was Felicia's excuse? Never mind. I don't want to know. Sheesh! I'll bet other women don't have to hear about their husbands stealing jewels in the South of France with their ex girlfriends!" Laura yelled.
"Well, for your information, Missy, it just so happens it wasn't jewels that night," Remington explained hotly.
"I don't care what it was! I don't want to talk about it!"
They were both talking loudly now. A couple got out of their car and were about to go into the motel office when they heard Remington and Laura shouting at one another.They got back into their car and left, deciding that this place was too noisy.
Then a bare chested man poked his head out of a nearby doorway and yelled at them to shut up, but Remington and Laura barely heard him.
"I'm beginning to understand why you take cases involving marital problems. Is it because in your little neurotic mind you still believe that one day I will leave you or have an affair? Well, for your information, I don't have time for an affair! Not between cooking and washing and cleaning and caring for the kids and putting in appearances at the agency!"
"We agreed to divide the responsibilities," Laura reminded him. "You *volunteered* to take care of the house and the kids so that I could continue to run the agency."
"Hey, buddy!" the guy in the doorway yelled. "Take the baby doll to another motel if all you two are gonna to do is argue."
The noise woke Megan and Abby again. Megan began to cry.
"You brought the baby, too?" The guy was incredulous. "I should have just stayed at home with my old lady and brats!" he muttered, as he slammed his door.
"And as for leaving, the only thing that I'm afraid of is that you'll leave and not take any of the kids with you!" Laura said angrily.
"You know you don't mean that," Remington said more quietly now, looking intently at her.
Laura put her hands to her face. "Look, I don't know what I mean anymore. Let's just forget about it, or discuss it later at home, when we've both calmed down."
"I have to go to the bathroom," Laurie reminded them. She had been waiting for a break in the "conversation."
Laura thought for a moment before saying, "I noticed a McDonald's a couple of blocks back. I'll take the kids there in the limo and then meet you back here. In the meantime, you can check in the office."
"Good idea, Love. I'll take the camera with me, just in case," Remington said as he opened his door.
Laura awkwardly climbed across the seat and got comfortable behind the wheel. Remington gave her a kiss and started to close the door. Before he could close it, however, he turned back to Laura.
"Wait a minute," he explained. "Hand me the diaper bag."
"Daddy, I've got to go *now*!" Laurie exclaimed indignantly.
"This will only take a second, Sweetheart," he promised as he rummaged around in the diaper bag, finally locating another camera which was small enough to be concealed in the palm of his hand. He slipped it into his jacket pocket, gave Laura another kiss and waved to the kids as Laura drove away.
At McDonald's, between taking all of her brood to the bathroom and getting all of them more drinks and French fries, Laura tried to satisfy Brendan and Rory's curiosity regarding the motel and its patrons. Where was Remington when
she needed him?!
Remington was at the motel, getting the absolute proof that Laura had insisted upon. He had passed himself off as a TV repairman to gain entrance into Mr. Higgins' room. Once inside the room with his quarry, he nodded pleasantly to the blonde who was reclining on the bed clutching a bed sheet to cover herself.
He went to the TV and quickly disconnected the antenna.
"Is this going to take long?" Higgins barked. He had pulled on his pants to come to the door, but that was all.
"Ah, not long at all," Remington answered, disguising his voice. "See, here's your problem." He held up the loose ends of the antenna wire. "Disconnected antenna."
"We don't need it fixed. We aren't planning to watch TV anyway," the blonde explained impatiently.
Remington connected the antenna anyway, taking pictures the entire time with the tiny, palmed camera.
"There," he said as he edged toward the door. "All taken care of. Wouldn't want our customers complaining that they couldn't get a decent picture.
"Wait a minute,buddy," Higgins said, suddenly suspicious. "What's that in your hand?"
Remington shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. He dropped the camera into one and searched for something else he could show instead. Luckily, he found something.
"Ah, nail clippers. Useful little gadgets, eh? Always come in handy in my work."
"Hey, that wasn't ... Are you one of those P.I.guys like Magnum? Did my wife hire you?"
"If you'll excuse me, I really do have to run now," Remington explained quickly as Higgins advanced on him.
Knowing he needed a head start, Remington balled up his fist with the nail clippers and put Higgins out for the count. The blonde screamed and jumped off the bed, charging at Remington.
Remington calmly opened the door. "Sorry, Love, but you're hardly dressed appropriately to be chasing me through the parking lot. Not even at this motel. Besides, I don't think my wife would like it very much."
He slipped out the door, praying Laura would be back with his means of escape.
Finding the limo parked at the farthest end of the lot, he quickly hopped in.
"Okay, Love; let's get out of here. I got the pictures," he explained breathlessly.
"You what?" she asked, kneeling over the backseat and trying to mop up a drink one of the kids had spilled. "You did?"
"I'll explain on the way home, but I suggest we leave now," Remington explained quickly as he looked nervously over his shoulder.
"Why?" Laura asked as she turned around in the driver's seat and started the car.
"Because any minute now, I'm going to have one very angry and upset lady on my tail."
"Really? Who is she this time?"
As if on cue, the door of the motel room flew open and out stomped the blonde, fully dressed now.
Remington glanced at his watch. "Forty-five seconds to get dressed. Must be some kind of record. When I left her, she was without a stitch."
"Maybe she's had a lot of practice," Laura dryly said.
She drove out of the lot and away from the motel.
"Now, do you care to explain before I start jumping to the wrong conclusions?" she asked.
Remington explained everything on the way home. Laura was impressed with his daring scheme, but she couldn't help chastising him a bit after they pulled into their own driveway.
"It was far too reckless for you to go barging in there alone without any kind of backup," she explained as she poked her finger into his chest.Then leaning over with a smile, she kissed him on the cheek and added, "But I love you anyway."
"You do, do you?" he asked with a sly smile as he returned her kiss. They had learned long ago to steal their kisses whenever and wherever they could.
Remy was the one who interrupted them this time. He was kicking the back of Remington's seat. Laura and Remington just laughed.
Remington helped Laura unload the limo as the children jumped from the car and started chasing Bogart around the yard.
"Tell Fred the backseat upholstery will need to be cleaned tomorrow,"Laura said as she stuffed empty cups and soggy napkins and into the empty cookie sack. "I did what I could to mop up the spilled drinks."
"It usually does need to be cleaned whenever the kids have been in it," he remarked.
Remington carried a sleeping Abby inside, followed by Laura carrying Megan, who was also asleep. The other kids trailed behind them.
"After we put the kids to bed, I'll reheat the veal," Remington offered.
"And then you can tell me about the Austrian countess,"Laura hinted.
"Ah, yes," Remington sighed as he began putting Abby to bed. "It was spring. Spring in Vienna is always lovely. I was leaving the opera one night when..."
Brendan tugged on Laura's arm. She bent over so he could whisper in her ear.
"I've already heard this story. Daddy told it to us last week for a bedtime story."
Brendan nodded. "The countess is a sixty-year-old lady. She was an opera singer."
"... when I saw this most stunning creature," Remington went on, oblivious to the whispering going on behind his back.
He turned and took Megan from Laura and gently placed her in her crib. "Has she been changed recently?" he asked.
Laura nodded. "At McDonald's. But you better check her again."
She then turned to Brendan, asking, "And who was the stunning creature?"
"The countess," Brendan replied.
"The countess? He calls a sixty-year-old lady a stunning creature?" Laura found this hard to believe.
Brendan continued, imitating his father's accent perfectly. "She was wearing a necklace of faceted, square cut diamonds. The largest in the center had to be at least twenty-four carats."
Even though Laura knew Brendan was just imitating Remington, it gave her cold chills to hear her son describe diamonds so accurately.
"Are you telling my story?" Remington asked his son when he finished giving Megan a good night kiss.
Brendan just shrugged and gave him a lop-sided grin.
Remington continued, "Actually, it wasn't just the necklace. As I spent time with the lady and got to know her, I discovered that she was a fascinating woman."
"And you shared recipes?" Laura teased. "Of course, the necklace meant nothing to you, did it?"
"Well, I wouldn't put it quite like that," Remington admitted.
"Then how would you put it?"
"Believe me, Laura. The countess is one woman you have no reason to be jealous of."
Laura just looked at him for a few moments and then sighed. "Look... I'm sorry about what I said earlier in the motel parking lot. I didn't mean what I said about you having an affair. I know you would never do that."
Remington put her arms around his neck. "Know me that well, do you?"
"Yes. I know you that well," she declared.
Their lips were about to touch when Rory, Remy and Laurie came running into the nursery and up to them.
"We found the turtle swimming in the toilet!" Remy exclaimed. "But then Laurie flushed."
Remington just groaned.
"We found the gerbils, too," Rory said. "In Daddy's closet. They made a nest in one of his shoes with the scraps they chewed from his suits."
Remington groaned again.
Laura laughed. She tightened her arms around him and kissed him. The kiss she gave him was designed to make him forget all about gerbils and turtles and plumbing bills.
Remington began responding, kissing her in a way to make her forget all about his past exploits and old ex flames and criminal tendencies.
To be continued...

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

"Life in the Steele Lane" Index

Disclaimer: The characters of Remington Steele are used without permission.
This story copyrighted 1985 by Debra Talley. It is purely for entertainment purposes.