Hennessey tootled the flute
And the music was something grand;
A credit to old Ireland was McNamara's Band.
She was startled when a male voice suddenly joined in with her soprano on the chorus:
Ba Ba Ba Boom, Ba
ba ba boom;
Ba Ba Ba Boom, Ba ba ba boom...
Remington was standing beside her, his blue eyes laughing. She reached for him... and he was gone, like a thief in the night.
Feeling a chill, Laura quickly hugged herself in an effort to get warm and returned to the living room. She picked up the lighter, intending to start a fire in the fireplace, but then changed her mind. It wasn't her body that was chilled, she realized, but rather her heart. Slowly, she sank down onto the plush carpet beside the couch, hugging her knees and burying her face.
"Mr. Steele, where are you?" she asked, her trembling voice echoing through the empty apartment.
"Why, Laura, don't you know by now that I'm not going anywhere?" Remington's voice asked.
Immediately alert, Laura looked up, her eyes falling upon her mystery man, who was now sitting beside her in front of the fireplace. He reached over to touch her cheek, but then paused as the telephone rang. When it rang a second time, he vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
"Wait!" Laura pleaded, her fingers grasping at nothing but air. "Don't go!"
Realizing the moment was gone, she quickly stood up and hurried to answer the phone, praying the whole way that it was Remington.
"Miss Holt?" Mildred's voice asked. "Have you heard anything from the boss yet?"
Laura could have sworn she heard the faint sound of Remington's laughter. Shaking her head, she smiled. Leave it to Mildred to interrupt a romantic interlude between them even when they weren't even together!
"No, Mildred. He hasn't called," Laura assured her.
"I tried to call several times, but the line was busy."
"I was making a few calls. You know, the emergency room, the morgue..."
"Oh, Miss Holt," Mildred said nervously. "You don't really think it's come to that, do you?"
"No, Mildred, I don't think it's come to that," Laura explained. "But now at least I know he's *not* there... At least, not yet."
"You really gonna stay there all night?"
"Yes. I'll just dig up a pair of Mr. Steele's pajamas and some blankets and camp out here on the couch."
"I wish there was something I could do."
"Just pray he has a good explanation, Mildred," Laura said. "Because if he doesn't, I'm going to break both his legs."
"Oh, you don't mean that, honey... Do you?"
"Ask me in the morning."
"I'm sure things will look better then, Miss Holt," Mildred assured her.
"Good night, Mildred," Laura said.
She hung up the phone before Mildred could even say good bye. Then picking up one of the couch pillows, she hugged it to her chest and sighed.
A few minutes later, she stood and walked into Remington's bedroom. Rummaging through his dresser drawers, she located a dark pair of silky pajamas and quickly changed. Then walking across the room to his mirrored closet, she opened both doors. Spotting some blankets and a pillow on a top shelf, she pulled them down and headed back into the living room. After a brief stop in the doorway, however, she turned and walked over to the bed, exchanging her pillow for Remington's. Then picking up his over-sized Humphrey Bogart book from the bedside table, she relinquished his room to the darkness.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Between making numerous phone calls and getting better acquainted with Humphrey Bogart, Laura got little sleep that night. What sleep she did get was disrupted by nightmares. She was actually relieved when daylight began peeping through the balcony drapes. After dressing in the same clothes she'd worn to the mystery dinner theater the previous evening, she called a cab and headed to her loft for a quick invigorating shower. She had a feeling it was going to be a rough day, and she would need all the help she could get.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
If Wednesday had been a bad day, then Thursday was an absolute nightmare. The good news was that Remington had been seen the night before; the bad news was that he had apparently gambled away the Agency during an all-night poker game with the man who was currently redecorating the offices. At least, that's what their alleged new boss, Harry Cranston, claimed.
Laura had wanted to kick their new acquaintance out on his ear--and she would have, too, if he hadn't produced a promissory note signed by Mr. Steele himself. In actuality, it wasn't even Mr. Steele's agency to sign away in the first place, but to prove it, she would have to come clean about her little charade and admit her deception to the world. If push came to shove, she wouldn't hesitate to take that step, but first she'd consider her other options.
Her first course of action was to prove that Remington's signature on the promissory note had been forged. It certainly looked like the real thing, but Laura was convinced it was a fake. She had Mildred put in a call to Reuben Saltzman, the Agency lawyer; surely he could do something to disprove Cranston's claim.
Every instinct in Laura's body told her that Remington was innocent. For one thing, except for that time during the Peppler case when he was trying to flush out the killer, she had never seen him drunk; it simply wasn't his style. And for another thing, he would never have stood her up to play poker with the likes of Cranston. They had been planning their evening at the mystery dinner theater for a month, and he had been looking forward to it.
As much as it scared her to admit it, the only explanation was that something had happened to him. In all likelihood, he had been injured or perhaps even kidnapped. Heaven knows the Agency had made its share of enemies over the years. But as bad as each of those scenarios were, they were both preferable to the alternative, which Laura refused to even consider. Remington simply couldn't be dead...It was better to believe he had signed the note than to believe he was dead...better to believe he had betrayed her than to believe he was lying lifeless in an alley somewhere...better to believe he had callously gambled away her Agency than to believe he was in the morgue beneath a white sheet, his blue eyes closed forever...
Deciding she simply couldn't stand idly by and watch as Cranston carted off the office furniture, Laura grabbed her purse and left. Mildred called after her, but she didn't answer. She couldn't answer; she couldn't bear to have Mildred hear the fear in her voice.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Laura left no stone unturned in her search for Remington Steele, even going so far as to hunt down Weasel and enlist his help. She even considered calling Daniel, but finally decided he was too far away to do anything more than worry. Finally, after deciding she'd been up every blind alley within a sixty mile radius of the Agency, she called it a day and drove to her loft. She considered returning to Remington's apartment for the night, but decided there were too many ghosts there.
Normally she climbed the three flights of stairs to her loft with boundless enthusiasm, but tonight she was barely able to take them in slow motion.
"I'm surprised at you, Laura," a male voice said.
Laura turned her head and saw Remington standing beside her, shaking his head.
"*I* could take these stairs faster than this!" he declared.
She closed her eyes and shook her head in an effort to clear her mind, and when she opened her eyes again, he was gone.
When she finally reached her door and unlocked the padlock, she was out of breath. Leaning against the door, she sighed, wondering how she could get through yet another night of uncertainty and fear.
"Just put one foot in front of the other, Miss Holt," she heard Remington say.
"One foot in front of the other," she repeated as she took off her shoes and headed to her sleeping area. "One foot in front of the other..."
Gathering her night clothes, she walked into the bathroom and attempted to drown her fears and frustrations with a hot shower.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As Laura slowly wandered through her loft, she quickly discovered that it was just as haunted by the presence of Remington Steele as was his apartment. When her house had been destroyed two years ago, it had been Remington who helped her set up housekeeping in her newly converted loft. He had tried his best to talk her out living there, referring to it as 'filthy warehouse with the single luxury feature of a toilet,' but she was determined. The novelty of it had appealed to her sense of adventure, and it seemed to her the perfect place for a new beginning.
Once he had finally accepted that she was bound and determined to live there, however, he had thrown himself into the project of helping her furnish it. Laura had never dreamed that shopping for furniture, linens, pots and pans could be such fun. But then, she'd never before done it with Remington Steele. She found herself smiling at the memory of the two of them bouncing around on half the mattresses in LA, 'testing the springs,' as he had called it.
She remembered how disappointed she had been upon learning it would be two weeks before the rental company would have the manpower to complete preparations on her loft. Staying with Remington the first night after the explosion had turned out to be a blessing, but she wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there for two weeks while the work on her loft was completed. She had finally decided that as long as she had a bed and a working bathroom, she would just camp out on her own floor.
Thanks to Mr. Steele's resourcefulness, however, that hadn't been necessary. At his insistence, the two of them had spent the day shopping for household items while Mildred held down the fort. Laura could still remember her shock at the end of the day when, loaded down with packages and carry-out, Remington had pushed aside the loft's heavy door and she had stepped inside her sparkling new home.
The already wonderful
surprise had become even more special when she learned later that
Remington had contacted the rental agent and made the arrangements
himself for the clean up crew himself. Her eyes grew misty even now
as she thought of her mystery man walking into Wallace's mission and
offering work to a handful of down-on-their-luck men. No one could
ever accuse Remington Steele of forgetting where he came from, and it
was one of the many things she loved about him. It was his
remembrance of those bitter days that had caused him to become the
empathetic, caring individual she knew today.
Laura walked over to her most prized possession and ran her hand across its smooth finish. The piano's rich black color reminded her of Remington's luxurious hair, while its keys reminded her of his radiant smile which never failed to make her heart flutter. She slowly lowered herself onto the bench and stared upwards for a few seconds. Then shaking her head and smiling, she began to play Chopin's Prelude #4 in D Minor. She had learned later that Remington had been standing beneath her window, listening, when she had first it played on that memorable night so long ago. Now, as the tears filled her eyes and clouded her vision, she prayed that he would once again have the chance to hear her play.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Laura had never been happier to see Remington than she was when he finally staggered into the Agency late Friday morning. It didn't even matter than he was unshaven, unkempt, unwashed and unfocused; he had never looked better. Without giving it a second thought, she had flown straight into his arms and thrown her arms around his neck. Just the night before, she had feared she might never have the chance to do that again, and as a result, she was reluctant to release her hold on him.
As it turned out, Remington knew even less about what was going on than she and Mildred did. But that didn't deter Laura; it merely made her more determined to get to the bottom of the situation. As far as she was concerned, Harry Cranston was already dead meat.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Mildred had been home from her undercover assignment with Remington less than two hours when she received a frantic phone from Laura. It seemed that he had been caught at the scene of a major diamond heist and was now in jail. Realizing Laura was in no condition to drive, Mildred insisted on picking her up, refusing to take no for an answer.
Laura was waiting outside her apartment building when Mildred pulled up and stopped. She insisted she was alright, but Mildred knew better; she knew Laura only bit her fingernails when things were at their bleakest. When the older woman tried to assure her that the Agency would bounce back, Laura almost took her head off, exclaiming, "I don't care about the the Agency, Mildred; I care about the man!" Not knowing what to say to that, Mildred said nothing.
Reuben arrived at the jail shortly after they did. Mildred noticed he seemed even more fidgety than normal, if that was possible, but she really didn't have time to ponder it. After being informed that Remington could have only one visitor, they were left alone to decide among themselves which of them it would be. With no discussion, Mildred insisted it should be Laura and began hustling her in the direction of the interrogation rooms.
What happened next came as a total surprise to all three of them. Laura Holt, intrepid investigator extraordinaire, suffered a panic attack. Not a mild twinge of fear, but a full-blown, spit-in-the-sky, 'somebody-help-me-I-can't-breathe!' panic attack. Looking at Mildred with terror filled eyes, she quickly excused herself and hurried off in the direction of the ladies room.
Having worked for the IRS Fraud Squad, Mildred knew a panic attack when she saw one. Telling Reuben to move it or lose it, she not-so-gently shoved him through the door which lead to the interrogation rooms. Then taking a deep breath, she headed with purpose to the ladies room and prepared for major damage control.
Laura was standing before the mirror and clutching the sink with white knuckles, looking for all the world like a frightened deer caught in the headlights. Mildred had never seen her like this, and as a result, was unsure how to approach the situation. Fortunately, though, it didn't take her long to settle on a tactic.
After disappearing into the nearest stall, she marched up to Laura and handed her a wad of tissue. "Blow," she instructed in a no-nonsense manner which left no room for argument.
Laura did as she was told and quickly disposed of the soggy tissue in a nearby trash can.
Mildred, never one to beat around the bush, went straight to the heart of the matter, asking, "What happened to the woman who told me just yesterday that you have to put faith in people?"
"I don't know," Laura admitted. "I think she just caved. I just... I just couldn't face him. "
Mildred paused for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. "Miss Holt, by any chance did you consider the possibility, however fleetingly, that Mr. Steele might have had something to do with the robbery?"
Mildred could tell from the haunted look in Laura's eyes that she had hit the nail on the head. Putting her hands on Laura's shoulders, she said, "Miss Holt, fear gets the better of us all sometimes. When it does, you just kick it in the teeth and forge ahead."
"Oh, Mildred, I know he's innocent of all of this... I do. I hate myself for thinking otherwise, even for a second. But..."
"Hon, there are no buts..." Mildred began.
"It's not him I have doubts about now, Mildred... It's me," Laura confessed. "How can I face him after I let him down just now? He's going to realize I didn't want to see him--What's he going to think of me?"
"He'll merely think you're human; nothing more, nothing less," the older woman assured her. "Besides, maybe it's better that Reuben went in anyway. After all, his judgment won't be clouded by a lot of emotional baggage."
Mildred was rewarded with a slight but sincere smile as Laura said, "Thank you, Mildred, for helping me find my backbone."
"Oh, it was there all the time, Hon; you just needed someone to remind you where it was."
As Laura squared her shoulders and looked her squarely in the eye, Mildred was relieved to see that the fire had returned to the younger woman's gaze.
"Mildred," she said, sounding like her old self once again, "we're going to get to the bottom of this. After all, one man's theft is another man's justice."
"That sounds like one of Mr. Steele's movie quotes," Mildred said with a laugh.
Laura grinned. "Hawkeye Pierce, actually. M*A*S*H. CBS-TV."
"Mr. Steele would be proud."
"Okay," Laura said, slapping her hands together for emphasis. "Let's blow this ladies' room and get to work."
"I'm right behind you, Miss Holt. Those dirt bags are going to rue the day they messed with us," Mildred predicted.
It wasn't over yet, she realized, but Miss Holt would be just fine. And more likely than not, heads would soon roll. Indeed, it couldn't happen soon enough, as far as Mildred was concerned.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After conferring with Reuben on the latest developments, Laura and Mildred rushed to the Agency to check things out for themselves. It was just as Mr. Steele had said--all signs of Harry Cranston and Debbie Rabello were gone. Every piece of furniture, every picture, every name plaque, every file, was back in its regular place. It was as though the last forty eight hours had never happened; the only thing to indicate they hadn't imagined the whole thing was the large gaping hole in the floor beside Remington's desk.
As baffling as this mysterious turn of events was, it proved Laura's faith in Remington had been justified and that he had been set up from the very beginning. And more importantly, it proved that B.J. Sinclair was hardly the innocent victim she had claimed to be. Laura wanted to confront their seductive prey right then and there, but Mildred convinced her that wouldn't be a wise move. Laura was a keg of powder just waiting for a spark to set her off; if she confronted their adversary in that highly volatile condition, she might blow the whole case.
What Laura needed was a way to let off some steam, and Mildred knew of no better way to accomplish that purpose than by bowling a few rousing games at her favorite all night bowling alley. It was the perfect solution; they could relieve a little tension, calm a few frayed nerves... and even eat a few chili dogs in the process.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Remington Steele was exhausted, but he didn't know which was more tired--his body, his mind or his heart. It had been three and a half hours since the conclusion of his endless interrogation concerning the diamond theft and the mind boggling twists and turns of the previous two days... three and a half hours since Norman Keyes had laughed in his face and sworn to see him in Leavenworth... three and a half hours since Reuben Saltzman, the Agency's lawyer, had returned to his law office to begin preparations on his case...
With the passing of each minute, Remington's anxiety about Laura's absence increased. He was desperate to see her, to assure her that he was indisputably innocent of the robbery. The bottom line was, he didn't care what Keyes thought... He didn't care what the LA Police thought... He didn't even care what the public at large thought... But he *did* care what Laura thought. Why hadn't she been in to see him? Why wasn't she standing beside him right now, getting all the facts and planning their strategy? He had seen her worm her way into the cells of enough distraught clients to know she could have found a way to get to him if she wanted to.
Was Laura afraid this latest turn of events would jeopardize the Agency? Remington considered that thought, but dismissed it. Even when he had vanished without a trace for 36 hours, Laura had been convinced they would get to the bottom of the situation. She had even believed in him when all the evidence pointed to his guilt... when every clue she followed up had ended in a dead end... when ultimately she had nothing else to go on other than his word. Even then, she had believed him. She had every confidence they would get to the bottom of things, and he had enough faith in her detecting abilities to know she would have done just that.
But he had been in custody for hours now, and had neither seen Laura nor heard from her. Could it be that she didn't want to see him? Did she perhaps have some small doubt about his innocence? Did some tiny part of her fear he was actually guilty as charged? Remington lowered his head and sighed, closing his eyes against the bitter possibilities he couldn't bear to face.
If Laura no longer believed in him, if he had truly lost her trust, then it didn't matter what happened to him. She was the one who had set his heart free, who had helped him find his self respect, who had shown him the satisfaction that could be achieved through helping people. She was the one who had loved him, in turn making it possible for him to love himself. If she were to turn her back on him now, she might as well rip his heart out and scatter it to the four winds. To be sentenced to a life without Laura was more than he could contemplate, for without her in his life, he would have no life.
In an effort to push aside his fears, Remington lay down on the small cot and tried to reconstruct his evening. It had begun when he and Mildred had broken into Cranston's apartment searching for clues using the address on the envelope he'd lifted from the great impostor's pocket. Luck was with them and they had uncovered three bogus passports, all sporting Cranston's picture. Using a nearby pencil and note pad, he had written down the passport names, intending to return to the office later that evening to run a check on the Agency computer.
Of course, he never got that far; once he had seen the words Remington Steele Investigations on the double glass doors, he never gave the computer research another thought. Looking back now, he realized he should have called Laura immediately. Looking back now, he realized that lowering himself through that hole in the floor of his office had been pure lunacy. Laura would never have fallen for something like that. Laura was the brightest, most insightful person he knew; she would never allow herself to be duped like that.
He sat up suddenly, realizing the truth of his final thoughts. He had been selling Laura short; here he was thinking she didn't trust him, while the truth of the matter was, he wasn't trusting her. What was it Mildred had shared with him as they had huddled together under the table in Cranston's apartment? She had said she hoped he was worth it, and he had agreed with her. But then she went on to relate what Laura had told her earlier that day. She had said, "When you know something deep down in your heart, when you really know, you don't have to argue about it, you don't have to prove it. Just knowing, that's enough."
Remington smiled; he could have sworn Ben Cartwright had said much the same thing to Little Joe while he and Laura had been watching Bonanza the week before. It had sounded good when Ben said it, but it sounded even better coming from Laura. Putting his arms over his head and lacing his fingers, he took several deep breaths. No, this wasn't over yet; not by a long shot. He'd surely see her first thing in the morning, and if she was indeed experiencing a bit of doubt, well, she was entitled. He would just have to reassure her that her confidence and trust in him were well founded, that they would get through this together, and that what didn't destroy them would only make them stronger. And more importantly, he would assure her that he wasn't going anywhere... At least, not without her.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Neither Laura nor Mildred got much sleep in what was left of the night, but after bowling a couple of games, they were prepared to meet the day. The two of them were at the Agency brainstorming ways to raise Remington's $500,000 bail when Norman Keyes called, more or less demanding that Laura meet him within the hour at the apartment on Rossmore. She had already made plans to see Remington at the jail, but Mildred convinced her that she should find out what the conniving slime ball had up his grubby little sleeve.
Laura reluctantly agreed to his demands, but not before taking the time to jot down a quick note for Mildred to deliver to Remington when she visited with him. Even though she was unable to see him face to face, she wanted to reassure him that she still believed in him. Her moment of weakness still haunted her, but she couldn't think about that now. Now, she had to direct all of her attention to clearing his good name.
"I'll think about that tomorrow," she told herself. "After all, tomorrow is another day." Realizing she had just given a movie quote, she chuckled and added the citation. "Vivien Leigh. Gone With the Wind. MGM. 1939."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
If Mildred hadn't been confident that Mr. Steele loved her, she would have been hurt by the look of disappointment on his face when she visited him in jail the next day. As it was, she just took his brooding looks and angry words with a grain of salt. Even though her encouraging words didn't do much to improve his mood, she was sure Miss Holt's note would. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, however, she merely suggested he skip ahead to the 4th chapter of the red book, guaranteeing it would improve his disposition.
She had no idea how close Remington came to missing the note entirely. Overcome by feelings of frustration and hopelessness after returning to his cell, he had tossed both of the paperback books against the wall. It wasn't until he'd worn himself out pacing, fifteen minutes later, that he noticed the folded piece of paper laying on the cell floor. Leaning over and picking it up, he immediately recognized that his name had been written in Laura's neat, precise script. Taking a few steps backwards and sitting down on the cot, he swallowed hard and opened the note, reading slowly in an effort to savor the blessed words which flowed from the page into his aching heart.
I know this is tough, but we're going to get through it
like we've gotten through everything else--together.
Remington smiled and felt some of the tenseness leave his body. After reading it two more times, he actually began to relax. In spite of the circumstances, he smiled slightly. Then folding the note and tapping it, he put it in his breast pocket and gave his pocket a pat.
He decided it was time to change strategies. Since worrying had obviously gotten him nowhere, perhaps he'd try thinking of Laura instead...the way her lips glistened when she talked...the way her glorious body moved when she walked...the way her hair bounced on her shoulders and shimmered like gold when she walked in the sunshine...the way her velvety brown eyes lit up like beacons when she was devising a theory...
For the first time in a long time, Remington wished he had a pencil and sketchpad handy. Since he didn't, however, he made do with what he had. Closing his eyes, he conjured up Laura's smiling image and began to sketch...
It wasn't the real thing, but it would do for now. Indeed, it would do nicely.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Pausing in the open doorway leading to his balcony, Remington took a moment to compare the flesh-and-blood Laura who now stood before him with the mental portrait he had sketched of her in jail. He decided that even though his drawing had not really done her justice, it had still served its purpose. The intense concentration his rendering had required had enabled him to turn his thoughts from himself and to focus them instead on Laura. He knew his feelings for Laura ran deep, but until that moment, he had not known *how* deep.
With the exception of Daniel, most of the people in his life had come and gone. He had physically spent time with them, but he hadn't known them any better than they had known him. Even when surrounded by other human beings, he had always been alone. That was the way he had always liked it...until now.
When he saw Laura shudder and hug herself in an effort to keep warm, he walked up behind her and enfolded her in his arms. As he brushed his lips across her neck and gave her an encouraging squeeze, she sighed contentedly.
"Still contemplating a jump from the nearest available building?" he asked.
Laura smiled and turned herself in his arms so she could look into his eyes. "Thankfully, the faith I placed in my partner was warranted. Though I'm not sure he would say the same about me."
"Nonsense," he replied, tilting her chin towards him. "You're not the first person to have a panic attack, Laura. What matters is that you overcame that fear." Receiving no reply, he asked, "Would it make you feel any better to know that I suffered a panic attack of my own while I was in jail?"
"Really?" she asked, surprised. Than after a slight pause, she added, "I suppose a night behind bars would have that effect on just about anyone."
"It wasn't the fear of prison that scared me, Laura; it was the fear that you wouldn't believe me. I could survive living behind bars if I had to; I could even survive everyone else doubting me. But... I couldn't survive without you in my life... without you trusting me."
Pausing, he tenderly brushed away the tears which were glistening on her cheek.
"I'll admit, I used to think I didn't need anyone," he confessed in a whisper. "I used to live like Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked among eight million people. But then one day I saw a footprint in the sand... and there you were."
"Trust me on this, Mr. Steele. You're not alone anymore, " Laura promised.
"Neither are you, Miss Holt. Neither are you."
Standing on Remington's balcony, surrounded by the bright lights of the city and the glistening stars in the heavens, they sealed their pledge with a kiss.