"Pardon me, Miss Holt, but what case is that? I wasn't aware we were working on any cases."
"I'm sorry. I guess I forgot to fill you in on this one," Laura apologized.
"Once again, it appears you've forgotten to tell me what cases I'm supposed to be working on," Remington replied. He was aiming to be just as icy as Laura had been these past weeks. "Seems you've been doing that a lot lately--perhaps as an excuse to avoid talking to me, eh?"
"No, it's just that..." Laura stammered. "Oh, never mind. Anyway, about this case--l've already done all the preliminary legwork."
"And an admirable job you've done, I'm sure."
Laura frowned at Remington's condescending tone, but continued with her explanation. "Anyway, I've come to the point where I need your help."
"Of course! You're in need of my expert, unparalleled advice." Remington eagerly leaned forward, a grin plastered across his face.
Laura gritted her teeth. "Well, not exactly advice. It's just that I need your help to carry out the next part of the plan."
"Ah, so you're admitting that you need my help with a case," he remarked.
Suddenly she stopped pacing and turned toward him. "Come on. Let's get this over with. There's no point in trying to delay it any longer."
Remington remained firmly planted in his chair. "Before we go anywhere, Miss Holt, I'd like to know exactly where we are going and why."
He had the distinct impression that Laura was holding something back from him and he wanted more information before getting involved.
Laura sighed heavily. This was not going to be the piece of cake that she had hoped. "We're going to the county courthouse," she explained.
Remington sat waiting for more, but nothing more followed. "Yes? The courthouse? And why precisely are we going to the courthouse?"
'To help some unhappy, distraught people who have been duped."
"A case of fraud, eh? I'm always happy to help those in need."
"I'm glad to hear you say that. Can we go now?" Laura turned to the door only to be stopped by Remington's voice.
"But you still haven't told me what kind of fraud this case involves or why it involves a trip to the courthouse," he reminded her.
Laura whirled back to him and in one breath exploded. "It involves marriage fraud. Someone has been performing invalid marriages over the past two months. I know who it is, but now I need proof. Three days ago I took out a marriage license in our names and now we're going to the courthouse to be married by this same individual."
Remington sat open-mouthed. "Let me get this straight, Miss Holt. You're suggesting we get married?"
"That three days ago you took out a marriage license for us?"
Laura nodded again.
Remington broke into a wide grin. "Well, in that case, perhaps I should propose." He stood and took Laura's hand, saying, "Miss Holt, will you do me the honor..."
"Hold it!" Laura exclaimed, pulling her hand away. "It's not what you're thinking. We need to catch this man in the act of performing a fraudulent marriage. The best way to do that is to actually have him perform one on us so the authorities can nab him."
"And so you just naturally chose us for the honors."
"It seemed like the best way. Even if we go through with the ceremony, the marriage will in no way be legal."
"Perhaps not," Remington conceded.
"What do you mean by that? I know for a fact this man's marriages aren't legal," Laura refuted.
"But I assume the marriage license is valid," Remington said as he held out his hand. "Can I see it?"
"Of course it's valid!" Laura insisted indignantly as she dug it out of her purse and handed it to Remington..
He glanced over it briefly before Laura snatched it back out of his hands. "I went through all the proper channels to get the license. But a marriage license in and of itself does not make a marriage valid. Lots of people take out licenses and then never go through with the wedding. That doesn't make them legally wed." She stopped for a moment and in a small voice added, "Even Wilson and I took out a license once."
Remington did not know what to say concerning Laura's sudden confession, so he said nothing.
Quickly, Laura was all business once again. "Well, are you game, Mr. Steele? Should we get married?"
Remington brightened. "Oh, absolutely, Miss Holt. Absolutely," he said enthusiastically, glancing down at himself. "Perhaps we should swing by my place first, so I can change into my tux. That would be more appropriate, don't you think?"'
"What you're wearing is fine," Laura replied, taking in his superbly tailored suit and immaculate appearance.
"But certainly you'll want to change into something more suitable for a wedding," Remington remarked, indicating Laura's conservative gray wool skirt and blazer, the bow on her white blouse being the only feminine touch to her attire. "What you're wearing is fine for the office, but for your *wedding* I'd think..."
Laura laughed. "Let me remind you, again, Mr. Steele-- We are not really getting married."
"But we're going through the pretense of it, aren't we?"
"That's the jest of it, yes." Laura snapped. "But what I'm wearing--what we're both wearing--is fine. So let's just drop the subject."
Remington shrugged as if to say 'suit yourself.' He then took Laura's arm and escorted her from his office. "I must say, you make a beautiful bride, my dear."
Laura halfway smiled in reply.
Unknown to either of them, the door to Remington's office had been slightly ajar during their conversation. It wasn't open enough for Mildred to hear everything that was said, but she had caught some of it. From those overheard words, she put two and two together in her own way.
Mildred had a wide, happy smile on her face as Remington and Laura walked through the reception area.
Laura noticed her ear to ear grin and said, "You're certainly pleased about something, Mildred. Did you win the Irish Sweepstakes?"
"No, not exactly, Honey, but maybe you and the Boss..."
Laura looked at her strangely, so Mildred changed tactics. "Will you be gone long, Boss?" she asked.
"Rest of the day, Mildred," Remington answered smugly. "With any luck, the rest of the week."
He winked at Laura, but she pretended not to notice.
"Well, where can you be reached, Boss, in case an emergency comes up?" Mildred asked.
"We're going to the county courthouse for starters..."
"I didn't know that you had a court appearance today," Mildred remarked.
"Oh, indeed, Mildred; a very important appearance," Remington smiled.
"Come along, Mr. Steele. We're wouldn't want to be late," Laura said, tugging on Remington's arm.
"No, you wouldn't want to be late," Mildred agreed as she pushed Remington and Laura out the door.
As soon as they were out of sight, Mildred picked up the phone. "LA TRIBUNE? Good. Have I got a hot scoop for you!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Laura headed for her Rabbit in the parking lot, but Remington insisted on driving them in the Auburn. 'Going in style,' he called it. He would have preferred going in the limo, but it was Fred's day off and Laura refused call him.
Laura gave Remington more details in on the case during their drive to the courthouse. It seemed that several happy newlyweds had abruptly discovered they weren't legally married after all. Each of them had been married in the past two months by the same Justice of the Peace at the county courthouse. More accurately, by someone posing as a Justice of the Peace at the county courthouse. Laura had pinpointed the suspect and then had set her own plan into motion
Remington parked the Auburn outside the courthouse. As they got out and walked up the steps, he asked, "Now, how does this plan of yours work? What part do I play, besides that of the proud and happy bridegroom?"
"We go through the ceremony like any other couple. I've notified the authorities and they will be waiting outside the judge's chambers. Our newly performed wedding will be declared invalid and the culprit will be apprehended."
"And what about those poor, distraught couples who found they've been living together without the benefit of marriage vows?"
"Most of them have already been remarried properly," Laura replied absently.
They came to the end of a corridor and stopped outside a set of double doors.
"Here we are," Laura said. "Ready?"
If Laura had only known how ready Remington was for such an event! He tried to hide his true feelings, however, as he answered. "Anytime you are, Darling."
He held open one of the doors for her, following her as she entered the chamber. The Justice's chambers were empty and purely out of habit, they both began looking around.
"Have you, uh, ever seen this bogus Justice of the Peace?" Remington asked as he nonchalantly began examining item's on the neat-as-a-pin desk.
"No, not exactly. But the name is right," Laura explained as she thumped the impressive name plaque on the desk.
"Ah-Albert Hall. The Man Who Knew Too Much!" Remington exclaimed as he grinned, rocking back and forth on his heels.
"Don't you have that backwards? Aren't *we* the ones who know too much? About the marriage fraud, I mean."
"No, no. The Hitchcock movie," Remington explained
"Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day, 1953...," both quoted in unison.
"Ah, Laura! I'm impressed!" Remington said delightedly.
Laura swallowed nervously. "Yes, well, back to Albert Hall. He's a short distinguished looking man about 65 with salt and pepper hair. He should be easy enough to recognize."
She began biting her nails as she nervously paced back and forth in front of the desk .
"Tsk, tsk, Laura! For shame!" Remington chastised with a grin. "Don't you know that nail biting is my department?"
Laura quickly jerked her hand from her mouth and began tapping her fingers on the desk instead. "I guess I am a little nervous," she admitted shakily.
"Icy calm, Miss Holt. Icy calm," Remington said soothingly as he slowly approached her and gently took her hands in his.
His touch sent shivers through her in spite of her determination to abide by her impulsive Cannes' decision. She'd lost count of the times she regretted making that decision. Why did he have to be so noble and honor her childish request anyway? She had too much pride to admit she was wrong; that she desperately needed him. She just kept hoping that sooner or later he'd get fed up and force the issue. In order to achieve that end, she'd been as standoffish and icy as possible--most of the time. But there was an exception to every rule, and now was one of them.
Remington sensed the thaw in Laura's icy front and made the most of it. Silently, he leaned in for a kiss. Luck was with him and Laura responded. Her response was tentative at first, but quickly became more passionate. It had been too long since their last kiss and soon their arms were around each other.
When they finally broke the kiss, they were content to just be in each other's arms.
"I never knew the cure for nail biting was so simple," Remington teased. "We should have tried this years ago. It would have worked a lot better than nagging. And even if it hadn't, it would certainly have been a lot more enjoyable, eh?"
"Still nervous?" Remington asked as he slightly rocked Laura in his arms.
"I'm just anxious to get this over with," Laura explained.
"Spoken like a true bride-to-be. Look at it this way-- the worst that can happen is that we'll wind up being married," Remington explained. "And just think of what an enlightening experience that could turn out to be."
That did it! The thaw ended as quickly as it had begun and Laura once again turned to ice. She roughly pushed herself away from Remington.
"Need I remind you, Mr. Steele, that this is strictly business? So just wipe that smirk off you face before I do it for you!"
"Don't blame me for this situation, missy!" Remington declared. "It wasn't my idea for us to come down here and get married! If you recall, you proposed to me! I didn't propose to you!"
"Good! Because I wouldn't marry you even if you did ask! I certainly wouldn't be marrying a conniving, treacherous con man with nothing more on his mind than a wink and a tumble!"
"Is that a fact?" Remington asked, his blue eyes blazing. "And what about you? You're a demanding, over-organized, list-writing workaholic who thinks having a little enjoyment is one of the 7 Deadly Sins!"
"At least we agree on something!" Laura angrily declared.
"And what would that be?" Remington asked.
"We wouldn't be caught dead married to each other!"
At that moment the rear door to Justice Hall's chambers opened and a short distinguished man about 65 with salt and pepper hair entered the room. Laura and Remington quickly became the picture perfect loving couple. Their arms went around each other and radiant smiles covered their faces.
The Justice smiled at the happy couple, saying, "I'm sorry I kept you waiting."
"That's quite all right. My lovely bride-to-be and I managed to entertain ourselves," Remington explained.
Laura's heel spiked Remington's foot and he grunted loudly. In retaliation, he forcefully pinched her behind.
"Remy's such a tease!" Laura said with a laugh as she involuntarily jumped and tried to slap Remington's hand away.
"Yes. Well, I can see you two are anxious to proceed with the ceremony. Did you bring your own witness?"
Laura began stammering nervously, so Remington quickly took over.
"Actually, we're eloping. We wanted to surprise everyone."
"Of course; no problem. I'll just call a bailiff," the justice explained as he picked up the phone and made the necessary arrangements. In just a minute, a bailiff appeared in his chambers.
The traditional ceremony was brief. In spite of the fact that the ceremony was not legal, Laura still balked at promising to obey her "husband." Remington caught her look of disgust and it was to his credit that he did not laugh aloud.
Laura was surprised when Remington removed Judy Peppler's wedding band from his pocket and placed it on her finger at the proper moment. She wasn't aware he had retrieved it from the wall safe at the Agency, but she had to admit it made the marriage seem more convincing. His kiss was very convincing, also. Laura found herself almost believing they were actually being wed.
Congratulations were offered all around. The justice and bailiff completed the marriage license and it was handed to Remington. Without even looking it over, Remington carefully folded it and tucked it into his inside jacket pocket.
Laura and Remington walked down the long courthouse corridor into a circus of flashing flashbulbs and noisy reporters. Laura had expected the authorities to be present, but she was embarrassed and surprised by the unexpected and unwanted press attention.
Suddenly Mildred came running towards them, fighting her way through the circus. Throwing her arms around them, she gave each of them a big hug. "Oh, I'm so happy for you two kids!" she gushed as she dabbled her eyes with a hanky. "I just know you two will be the happiest married couple in America!"
"Mildred, please!" Laura said under her breath as she forced a smile.
"Just save the sentiments for later, Mildred," Remington suggested as he gave her a warm smile. He was enjoying Mildred's misconception.
The Justice then exited his chambers and suddenly found himself the center of attention.
"Justice Bailey, how did you manage to keep the secret that renown detective Remington Steele and his secretary were about to be wed?" shouted the loudest and most aggressive reporter.
Flashbulbs flashed. Somewhere in the back of their minds Laura and Remington heard the drone of the reporters, but they were suddenly oblivious to everything except the name the reporter had used.
"Justice Bailey?!" they gasped in unison as they faced each other with wide eyes.
Remington and Laura reached simultaneously for the marriage license in Remington's inside breast pocket. They jerked it open and read it. It was indeed signed by a Justice Stuart Bailey. They slowly stared at each other, speechless.
Slowly, a lopsided grin spread across Remington's face. "If I'm not mistaken, my dear Miss Holt, this means our marriage is totally legal and binding."
To be cont...Part 2