Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division
 
 Steele for Better or for Worse
Part 7
by
Debra Talley and Thekla Kurth


Laura and Remington changed into jeans, dark sweaters and dark jackets and were ready to leave in a few minutes. Laura and Mildred left the condo first and waited in the hallway while Remington lingered to turn off the lights. In the dining room on an impulse he picked up Laura's cards, which were laying on the table face down. He quickly flipped them over and gave a loud sigh. His final hand had been a full house, but Laura only had two of a kind.
 
"Oh, for what might have been," Remington said regretfully.
 
"Did you say something?" Laura asked.
 
Remington turned to see Laura standing between the dining room and living room.
 
"Only thinking of another missed opportunity," he explained woefully as he set the cards back down.
 
"I hadn't drawn yet," Laura reminded him. "I still could have beaten you, you know."
 
Somehow he doubted it.
 
She put her arm around him as they walked out together. "We could always pick up where we left off," she suggested.
 
He shook his head. "Afraid not. The moment's lost somehow."
 
She knew what he meant. "Another time then, Mr. Steele?"
 
"I'll hold you to it."
 
********
 
They drove to Keyes' house in Mildred's car. The house was dark and empty. Remington made quick work of the lock on the front door and they went through the house with a fine tooth comb, each of them taking a different room to speed things up. There was very little in Keyes' house. It was nice, but extremely impersonal. Mildred even commented on it.
 
"The mark of a good con man," Remington explained. "Never leave personal items around to be traced back to you."
 
"Guess you should know, Mr. Steele," Laura dryly muttered.
 
He gave her a threatening look and then started going through the desk drawers in the study. It was the only room they had yet to check. Discovering Keyes' address book, Remington grinned brightly. Thumbing through it, he quickly located Clarissa's name, address and telephone number, along with the names of several other girls. He continued thumbing through the book, hoping to find a clue as to where Keyes might have taken her.
 
"Ladies, have a look at this," he said, pointing to an entry under the J section.
 
Looking over his shoulder, Laura read it aloud. "'Big Jake's Sea Surf Motel, Venice.' Think it's worth a shot?"
 
"I wouldn't be surprised if our Keyes turns out to be a long time customer," he responded.
 
"Then what are we waiting for?"
 
"After you, Mrs. Steele," he gestured.
 
They left the house the same way they'd found it, dark and empty.
 
****************
Mildred pulled up to the motel in Venice. "What a flea pit," she exclaimed.
 
"Thank you, Mildred, but I believe we can do without your comments," Laura said.
 
"Shall we check it out, Mrs. Steele?" Remington inquired.
 
"The sooner the better," Laura responded, climbing out of the car.
 
Remington followed her into the motel's office. A sleazy clerk put down his Playboy and looked at them across the grimy counter. Laura inwardly shuddered. She reminded herself that she was a private eye. and this was just part of the job but she shuddered again, anyway.
 
"A room?" the clerk asked flatly. "$16.00 an hour, paid in advance. Cable and X-rated movies are extra. Tonight it's a 3-D feature." He reached under the counter and began fumbling around. "Do you want the glasses?"
 
"Ah, no," Laura said. "Actually, we're just looking for someone. A man in his fifties, bald, short, stocky, smokes cheap cigars."
 
"Our guest register is confidential."
 
Remington pulled out his wallet. "Would President Jackson help?"
 
"He might. But we get a lot of men through here that fit that description."
 
Laura thought surely he must be joking. "How about in the last two hours?" she asked testily.
 
Remington peeled off another bill. The clerk grabbed both bills, hefted up a register and began flipping through it. "Norman Keyes, room 11," he finally said.
 
"Thanks for your help, mate," Remington said, taking Laura's arm and leading her out.
 
"Sure I can't interest you in that movie?" the clerk called after them, holding up the 3-D glasses.
 
"We're married," Remington explained with a shrug of his shoulders.
 
"Could've fooled me," the clerk declared, returning to his magazine.
 
Laura and Remington walked down the outside walkway. "Maybe we should have taken that room, eh?" he asked, slipping his arm around Laura's waist. "I mean, it might be our only chance to be alone."
 
She looked at him to see if he were serious. He just grinned.
 
"You really want our first time to be here, in a place like this?" she asked.
 
He sighed. "I suppose if we've waited this long for that magical moment, then surely we can wait for a place more worthy of the honor."
 
"Here we are. Room 11," Laura said, pointing to the door in front of them. She leaned her ear against it, but heard nothing.
 
Remington pulled his lock pick out of his jacket pocket and picked the lock. Looking at each other, they cautiously pushed open the door.
 
The room was empty. They looked at each other again and shrugged, walking into the room for a closer look. Laura looked with disgust at the waterbed with purple satin sheets, the heart shaped pillows and headboard, and the mirrored ceiling.
 
Remington turned on the TV. "Maybe we should at least take a quick look at that movie, eh? See if it contains any clues pertinent to the case."
 
"Mr. Steele, please. We're in a hurry here. Remember?" Laura reminded him.
 
But Remington continued to stare at the set, seemingly unable to move.
 
Laura walked over to him with the intention of pulling him away. Instead, she was also drawn to the action on the screen.
 
"Good Lord!" she uttered in disbelief.
 
"Must really be something with those 3-D glasses, eh?" Remington inquired.
 
Just then they heard a noise in the bathroom and hurried to the closed door. Remington cautiously swung it open and found Clarissa staring wide eyed at him. She was bound and gagged in the bathtub.
 
"Oh, you don't know how glad I am to see you two!" she exclaimed as he untied her. "How did you find me?"
 
"We'll explain in the car," Laura said, "but I think we'd better get out of here fast."
 
Clarissa couldn't have agree more.
 
Remington paused and gestured to the TV on their way out. "By the way, Clarissa, did you have a chance to watch the movie? I'm curious as to how it comes out."
 
Both Laura and Clarissa looked at him in disbelief, each taking an arm and dragging him from the room.
 
*************
When they were safely on their way, Clarissa told the intrepid trio about her nasty experience. Norman Keyes had apparently been following her since her release from jail. He'd seen his chance to nab her at the bowling alley and had taken her to the motel. But then he was received a page on his beeper, tied Clarissa up in the tub and told he'd be back. Then he had left.
 
"Well, one thing's for sure," Laura stated. "Keyes is still on the loose and when he comes back to that motel and finds an empty room, he is going to be one upset man."
 
"That's putting it mildly," Remington agreed.
 
"And if he's been following Clarissa, then he knows she's been staying with me," Mildred added.
 
"Which means he might come back," Laura finished. "Any suggestions?"
 
Remington and Laura looked at each other and sighed.
 
Then with a touch of regret, Remington said," Well, they say there's safety in numbers. You'll both just have to spend the night with us at our apartment."
 
"Oh, kids, we couldn't do that to you," Mildred protested.
 
"Mr. Steele is right," Laura agreed. "No arguments. We're all going back to Mr. Steele's... I mean, to our apartment."
 
She gave Remington a look of wistful longing. He took her hand and held it during the ride back home.
 
******
As soon as they entered the condo, Remington shuffled into the bedroom to gather pillows and blankets for their guests.
 
Mildred continued to apologize. "I'm so sorry to do this to you kids, tonight of all nights. Maybe we could just go to a hotel or something-- check in under an assumed name."
 
"Nonsense, Mildred," Laura answered. "You and Clarissa are staying right here."
 
"Here you go, ladies," Remington said as he emerged from the bedroom with an armful of blankets and pillows.
 
Clarissa took some from him and pushed two chairs together, seat to seat.
 
"I'll make do with these chairs," Clarissa explained. "Mildred, you can take the couch."
 
"Thanks, Honey," Mildred graciously conceded.
 
"Maybe we should think of investing in a fold out cot for overnight guests. Eh, Mrs. Steele?" Remington joked.
 
Laura didn't answer; she had just noticed the scattered clothes and cards from their previous activities in the dining room.
 
"Oh, my!" she said, blushing. With a little laugh, she quickly walked to the dining room and began gathering up the scatters items. "Here we are with unexpected guests and the place is a mess! You know how it is when you come home from a hard day at work. You just can't wait to hop in the shower and change into something comfortable, so you just drop what you're wearing on any old place."
 
"Uh huh," Mildred said, winking at Clarissa. Neither she nor Clarissa believed a word of it.
 
"I really want to thank you again for everything you've done to help me," Clarissa said as Remington and Laura, carrying their clothes, started for the bedroom. "It seems I've been nothing but trouble, but yet you still...Well, anyway, thank you."
 
"Think nothing of it, Clarissa," Remington said. "Hopefully, tomorrow we'll nab Keyes and get to the bottom of all this.Then it will all be over and we can get back to our normal lives."
 
Laura nodded her agreement. Once again they provided Clarissa with Remington's pajamas, but Mildred insisted on sleeping in her bowling outfit. After wishing everyone good night, Remington and Laura retired to their bedroom.
 
********************
 
Remington leaned against the closed door in the bedroom and just stared at Laura. "So close and yet so far," he sighed regretfully.
 
"Well, Mr. Steele, I guess we might as well call it a night, too."
 
"Hmm," he grunted as he shrugged out of his black leather jacket.
 
Laura collapsed on the bed and sighed. "The timing never seems to be quite right, does it? When one of us is ready, the other isn't; and then when both of us are ready, something always seems to come along to thwart our plans. Sometimes I wonder..."
 
Settling beside her on the bed, Remington gloomily remarked, "At this rate, we may be celebrating our 50th anniversary before we get a chance to consummate our marriage."
 
"Suddenly that motel room doesn't sound like such a bad idea after all," she said. "Any place where we could be alone would seem like Shangri-La."
 
He tried to cheer her up, putting his arm around her shoulders and pulling her in close. "Well, with any luck, by tomorrow night this case will be history and then it *will* be just the two of us."
 
"Promise?" Laura asked wistfully.
 
"Look at it this way, Laura: the anticipation only increases the pleasure."
 
"Then the pleasure should be explosive, considering we've build up more than two years worth of anticipation," she dryly replied.
 
He gave her a final squeeze. "Come along, Luv. Bedtime."
 
Wearily, Laura stood up. She gathered her nightgown and headed for the bathroom to change. "You're not going to sleep in the bathtub again, are you?" Laura asked anxiously as she paused at the door.
 
Remington did not relish the idea of another night spent in the tub. Sighing, he said, "Not unless you wear that long black gown with the strategically placed lace. "
 
She looked down at the sheer silk and lace she held in her hands. "Why? What's wrong with it?"
 
"You're a detective. Figure it out."
 
The meaning came to her and she blushed. Walking over to the closet, she pulled out another of the nightgowns what Mildred had so thoughtfully provided.
 
"Maybe you'd prefer this one?" she asked, holding up a long, white completely sheer gown made of silk and lace.
 
Remington could only stare at it, speechless, imagining her wearing it.
 
"Or this one?" she asked as she held up a gown of peach colored silk that would mold to every curve of her body. "Or perhaps this little getup?" she asked, indicating a short frilly baby doll set of black lace with bikini panties.
 
Remington could only gulp. "Uh, no. Perhaps your original selection is the best choice after all."
 
Laura carried it into the bathroom with her and quietly closed the door.
 
A few minutes later she came back out wearing it. Remington had already changed into his black silk pajama bottoms and robe. He had a sheet in his hands and was contemplating the ceiling.
 
"Mr. Steele, what are you doing?" Laura inquired.
 
"It Happened One Night, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, 1936," he explained.
 
"What?" she asked, totally confused.
 
"I'm trying to figure out how to hang this sheet to divide the bed," he explained.
 
Laura didn't need an explanation; she had figured out the movie reference. She grabbed the sheet from him and declared, "Oh, for heaven's sake! It can't be so bad that we're reduced to this."
 
"Laura, you don't know what it's like laying next to a person, just inches away from them, wanting them so much it hurts but knowing it's impossible. It's torture, sheer torture. That's what it is," he explained.
 
"Yes, I do know what it's like," Laura quietly admitted, looking into Remington's deep blue eyes. "But this isn't going to help," she said as she wadded up the sheet and tossed it onto the floor.
 
"Then I guess it's the bathtub," he sadly lamented as he started in that direction.
 
"Remington, don't go. Please," she pleaded softly as she touched his arm to stop him. "Do you remember the case involving that missing old prospector's journal?"
 
"Ah, yes. Everyone suddenly developed a case of gold fever. But what does that have to do with this?"
 
"Don't you remember?" Laura asked. "We had to camp out in that old ghost town and you neglected to bring along my sleeping bag, so we had to share one."
 
"If I remember correctly, we didn't actually share; we took turns," Remington corrected.
 
"Yes, the first night. But the second night we slept together."
 
"Such fond memories," he sighed. "Huddled together for warmth, our bodies pressed together in close proximity."
 
"Don't you see what I'm getting at?"
 
"No," he said. "I haven't got a bloody clue what you're getting at."
 
"If we could share sleeping accommodations then like two, mature responsible adults, then we can certainly do it again now. And if you'll remember back to the case, nothing happened that night."
 
"Not for the lack of wanting," he muttered.
 
"Now, Mr. Steele," Laura said patiently as she hopped into bed and patted the pillow next to her. "Why can't we go to sleep together like two, mature responsible adults."
 
"Easier said than done," he muttered, still unconvinced.
 
Her brown eyes looked up at him, pleading. She wanted to sleep with Remington next to her. She needed the reassurance of his presence.
 
Reluctantly, Remington took off his robe and joined Laura under the covers. Just to be on the safe side, however, he lay as far away from her as was physically possible.
 
"I hope someday when we look back on this, we'll be able to laugh about it," Remington said.
 
"Years from now, when you talk of this, and you will -- be kind," she replied.
 
He chuckled.
 
"Tea and Sympathy, Deborah Kerr to John Carr, MGM, 1956," they said in unison, both laughing.
 
Remington reached over and took Laura's hand in his. "If we can maintain our sense of humor, we're going to be OK," he assured her.
 
She smiled in agreement and squeezed held his hand.
 
Surprised by the comfort they each felt from the simple act of holding the hand of the one they loved, they soon fell asleep. But two nights without sleep had taken their toll on Remington. He slept, but it was a troubled sleep. He had lived by his wits long enough to smell trouble, sleeping or waking, and his subconscious was in overdrive.
 
Somewhere in the misty fog of his mind, he and Laura were once again playing strip poker.
The stakes had just been raised. Laura lost the hand, slowly stood up, and provocatively
began removing her last remaining article of clothing - a black teddy. Remington smiled
and noisily licked his lips, even in his sleep. But then the spell was broken as a lawn chair
came crashing through the balcony window, shattering the glass around the living room.
Remington and Laura instinctively hit the floor. The entire apartment was quickly enveloped
in thick nauseating smoke which smelled amazingly like a cheap cigar. Suddenly, a spine
prickling laugh filled the room, echoing bizarrely off the very walls. Laura and Remington
scrambled to their feet and stared into the thick smoke. It suddenly parted and Norman
Keyes stood before them, thoroughly enjoying himself.
 
"I see you were expecting me," Keyes declared triumphantly, gazing appreciatively at Laura.
Remington knew that there was no way possible that Keyes could actually see Laura through
the smoke, but he quickly grabbed his discarded jacket from the floor and tied it around Laura's
waist like a skirt. Keyes just laughed louder. Remington started to lunge at him, but Laura
grabbed his arm. Remington literally bit his tongue as he abided by Laura's wishes.
 
Abruptly, Keyes' laugh disappeared and his look turned deadly. He removed his half smoked
cigar and pointed threateningly with it in their direction, saying, "I'm on to you, Pretty Boy.
I know all about your little scheme to nail me at tomorrow's game. And let me tell you something--
I'll catch up with you. I don't know when, but I'll catch up. Every time you turn around, just
expect to see me standing there. Because one day you'll turn around and I *will* be there! "
 
"I'm impressed, Norman," Remington said calmly.
 
"What do you mean, you're impressed?" Norman demanded angrily.
 
"John Wayne to Montgomery Cliff. Red River. 1948."
 
"Very funny, Steele. Make your little jokes - but just remember that I'll have the last laugh!"
 
Remington made a desperate lunge for Keyes, but found himself clutching nothing but a
smoldering cigar. Keyes fingernails-down-the-chalkboard laugh filled every nook and
cranny of the apartment.
 
Tossing restlessly in his sleep, Remington kicked one leg off the bed. He rolled his head from side-to-side several times, but did not awaken. In his state of exhaustion, however, his normally well honed instincts weren't quite up to par. He didn't notice the thump against the window or the sound of the bedroom window being raised.
 
To be cont... part 8
 

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.
 
 

dtalley@mindspring.com

 
This story copyrighted 1982-2005 by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington Steele
are used without permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.