The Alternate Link of Steele
By Adriana
Part 1

Hotel Casablanca. 10:24 PM

"So?" Felicia asked him upon his entrance. He looked worried, that wasn't good. He was just giving her that look, that look that had kept her away from him so many times in the past. He didn't say a word though. Oh, God. Please don't let her take him away from me. Please!

He ignored her question and went straight to their closet; beginning to sort out the items they were going to need. After his close encounter with Laura tonight, he had decided it was best to leave town as soon as possible. A few phone calls had been enough to put them in the clear for the time being, but good timing was essential. He knew Laura would be detained at least another couple of days in Madrid, because of Murphy. So they would have at least two days head start.

He was busily packing the few items that had been scattered around the room into their luggage, when he felt her insistent stare on the back of his head. He didn't want to talk to Felicia right now. Anything he might say would be a giveaway, and he knew it. Finally the silence began torturing him as well, and the fact that she stood there motionless did nothing but increase his discomfort.

"I thought we agreed you would have everything ready, Felicia." He said, his voice as matter-of-fact as he could manage.

Since she didn't do or say anything, he was forced to look up from the suitcases, and send her an inquiring glance. His stare, however, only produced an even more enquiring look from her in response.

"Tell me what happened." She asked good-naturedly. Don't push him too much, just be reassuring, and gentle, and everything will be fine.

He let his head fall between is extended arms, as he supported his weight on the hard walls of the suitcase, and sighed. Yes, she needed to know; it was only fair.

"Well," he began, as he raised his eyes to her. "Miss Holt made it pretty clear that she will not let this go. So we have to get a move on. And fast."

He had decided he would keep his real reasons for fleeing to himself. Who knows? Maybe he will be able to forget Laura now that-

He chuckled softly.

Who was he kidding? He had enjoyed his little brush with Laura Holt. No, enjoyed wasn't right, he had needed it. It had been vital to him as the fresh air he was breathing. Once again she had issued a challenge he found himself unable to decline; it felt almost surreal that after all this time, Laura was still able to irritate him and awaken his competitive side this much.

"What is so amusing?" Felicia asked, obviously not as amused as he.

"Sorry," he quickly responded, "It just seems unbelievable that we've managed to avoid the police of every country in Europe, and now we have to ditch all our plans because of a five-foot-five American detective, that's all."

Felicia frowned as she looked at her husband again. She didn't like the sound of this, nor the way his eyes were sparkling. "Do you think she'll be able to find us?" she asked, a little afraid.

"Of course not, dear" he answered immediately, and saw her face relaxing somewhat. "But she will try. And we don't want to tempt Lady Luck too much, do we?" He finished his statement by closing the suitcase with a loud bang.

"So, everything's fine then?" She sounded askance.

"For the time being, and as long as we move fast," he answered with a confidence he didn't feel. He lifted the suitcases and moved towards the door, but she stood rooted to the ground.

"Coming, darling?" He flashed her his best smile.

He hadn't done that in years. He had lied to her face and tried to charm his way out, something he had thought he had left behind when he had married Felicia. Like a true con, his guilt was rather weightless, the confidence that oozed from his eyes astonishingly potent. Only a little voice within kept nagging him restlessly, but he knew better than to listen. Damn Laura Holt!

*********************** *************************** ************
Hotel España. 10.32 pm.

Lying flat on her bed with her head hidden in her pillows, Laura Holt was going through hell. How many times did she have to go trough this, how many times could one woman be left by the same man? She needed to stop it, to avoid it getting at her so deeply. Perhaps if she concentrated on something else: in finding the book, for instance. Or better yet, finding out why he had left in the first place. Er, no. Must get priorities straight. Think book!

Laura looked at the ceiling and tried to think what would she do, had she had the book in her hands. She thought of two possible scenarios and immediately knew the strategy wouldn't work. What she needed to go was to get into his head. What would he do?

Get married to the first blond bimbo in sight, that's what. He had married Felicia. It was almost ridiculous! Why her and not me? What's so wrong with me? Why every man in my life has left me? Why? Why? Why?

Laura was so immersed in self-pity that she didn't hear Mildred knocking on the door.

Mildred had been standing outside Laura's door for five minutes. She had woken up with a start and thought she had heard Laura shout. She had tried to dismiss it what she had heard as just a bad dream, she tried to sleep again. However, sleep had not come, and instead, an uneasy feeling had crawled inside her stomach. Mildred had known in her gut that something was amiss. So she had gotten up, and gone to check on Miss Holt. Five minutes had passed and Laura still didn't open the door.

"Miss Holt!" she tried again "Honey, are you awake?"

Inside the shady room, Laura removed the pillow she had over her tear covered face and sat up right on the bed.

"Shit!" she cursed in a low voice, as she heard Mildred call her name. Put yourself together, now! she ordered herself. Stop thinking about that bastard, he won't return. He's said goodbye.

She got up from bed and went quickly to the tiny bathroom to wash her face, suddenly very angry. "I'm coming, Mildred!" she shouted, " Just give me a second!"

Ha! If he believes I won't go after him just because he kissed me, he's got another thing coming. It had been a very nice kiss, admittedly. Her insides tingled and she involuntarily shivered with desire.

"I just wanted to know you were fine, hon" Mildred called from outside " Are you ok?"

Liar! You wouldn't give a shit if Murphy fine. Who are you kidding? She splashed some water in her face, Mildred's words ringing in her confused mind. Her eyes were blazing with ire.

"I'll nail his brit ass to the wall!"

"You'll nail whose ass?" came Mildred's muffled question from the other side of the wooden door. "What's going on there, Miss Holt?"

Laura stopped cold in her tracks. Shit! Did I say that out loud? She looked at the mirror in alert. I look like hell, no wonder they all leave. She took a hand towel and dried her face. Men! Taking a deep breath she briskly walked towards the door and stood, fuming, in the face of a very concerned Mildred.

"What's wrong Mildred? What are you doing up this late?" she asked, rather harshly.

Mildred looked into her eyes for only a brief second and immediately knew something was indeed very wrong. Miss Holt had obviously been crying. "Nothing, hon. I just thought I heard you shout a while ago, I wanted to make sure you were fine."

"I am fine, Mildred!" She exploded "There's no need for you to treat me like a child. I am not a child, I'm not your daughter, so if you don't mind, I would like to go back to sleep!" Laura finished irritably, and slammed the door behind her.

Mildred stood outside, completely baffled for a few seconds. Finally, when Laura's words had sunk in, Mildred shivered under her robe, as tears began to threaten her. She slowly turned around, went back to her own room and closed the door very quietly.

Inside the loneliness of her own private hell, Laura wanted to kick herself. The four walls surrounding her, the extent of her prison, seemed to get closer and closer. She sank to the floor beside the bedroom door and hid her face in her hands. Great, Laura. You have just managed to scare away the only person left in this world that gave a shit about you. She didn't even try to hold her tears now, and crawling painfully into bed once more, she cried herself into a troubled sleep.

****************** *********************** *********************
Hotel España. The Following Morning.

Laura waited outside Mildred's door for a few minutes. Either she wasn't there, or she didn't want to see her. Either way, she knew Mildred had every reason to be angry but deep inside, Laura still had hoped she would have understood. With great effort Laura restrained herself from breaking in. That would have only made matters worse, so she finally retuned to her own room to get ready and face the new day.

****************** *********************** *******************
Madrid International Airport. 11:56 AM.

Freddy Hawks lifted himself from the chair he had been occupying the last twenty hours as soon as he saw the handsome couple walking by. Both of them were looking sharp and in quite a hurry. They weren't carrying much luggage, so the book had to be somewhere else. Could it be that O'Leary had left the book in the hands of the young lady he had visited the night before? Freddy hadn't seen that sort of exchange between them, but he knew O'Leary was very resourceful when it counted. He could have left the book somewhere where she would find it. It certainly had looked as if he trusted the woman. Where does that leave you, Felicia dear? He smiled mischievously, but then his face straightened. Where does that leave me?

Freddy watched them closely as they checked in, trying to figure out a way to discover whether they had the book with them, or whether it had been dropped elsewhere. Should he follow them, or should he stay here and get the book from the pretty brunette? Could he afford to let them go, even if they did not have it? Would he have to get rid of the other girl, too?

Too many questions, too little time, he decided as he pulled a gun and began approaching them.

******************* ********************* ********************
Hospital de la Comunidad. 10:30 AM

"She said what?" Murphy almost cried, his eyes avidly searching the grief stricken face of Mildred.

Mildred took a deep breath and looked steadily into Murphy's eyes. She felt lousy about betraying Miss Holt's confidence, but someone had to put some sense into her head. Since it was obvious that Laura didn't want her help, Mildred hoped she would at least listen to Murphy. She wouldn't tell him about last night, of course. That was strictly between Miss Holt and herself.

"She told me the night of the robbery she had seen Mr. Steele, or the former Mr. Steele, that is. She said he was a member of the gang that took the book. The last man that entered the room."

Murphy recalled the events of that fateful night. Yeah, he remembered the fifth guy. The man had stood still as a rock in the middle of the fire, and commanded his men without even the need of uttering a word. He had stood in front of the armed man, silently requesting the gun. To place Steele's face under the mask was not a hard task. He always knew Steele had wit, and great doses of sheer luck, but Murphy had never seen him act so coldly and rationally as he had witnessed so recently. He had to admit the man had lots of guts. God damn him to hell!

Murphy raised his hatred-filled eyes to Mildred. "Was she positive?" he asked, barely keeping himself in check.

Mildred nodded. And then proceeded to tell Murphy all she knew about Steele and the blonde woman. Murphy had no idea who the blonde was, but now he recalled the expression in Laura's face when she had first seen her. Should have known there was more in her than met the eye.

"So you don't know who she is, then?" Murphy asked Mildred.

"No idea, but she and him must go way back, because-"

"She's his wife," said Laura in a little voice.

Both Murphy and Mildred turned to see her at the same time, neither of them knowing what to do next. Laura looked so defenseless, so vulnerable. For a few seconds nobody moved, but suddenly Laura ran towards Mildred and held her tight.

"I'm so sorry Mildred," Laura said between sobs. "I thought you had left, too"

Murphy was taken aback by what he was witnessing. He had never seen Laura in such an emotional state as this. He met Mildred's eyes as the portly woman held Laura back, and rocked her quietly. He knew better than to intrude in a time like this, so he remained silent.

"There, there honey. Clam down, that's it" Mildred was whispering in Laura's ear. "I would have never done that."

Laura recovered a little, and allowed Mildred some space. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"I know honey, don't worry about it, ok? What will Murphy think? Come on."

Laura suddenly remembered her wounded partner lying in the bed and looked at him, finding solace in the eyes of a man who was deeply concerned about her. No judgment, no embarrassment, just caring. She made an effort to compose herself and quickly sat beside Murphy's bed.

"I thought you were being released today. I came to pick you up, what happened?"

"I am being released. I wouldn't be in this bed if it weren't for Mildred arriving earlier. I asked the doctor to come back in a while."

"Oh," she said, quite relieved, " So how much has she told you?" she asked unexpectedly.

"Everything she knew, I think. We just want to help you, Laura," he promised.

Laura looked at Mildred, silently asking her exactly how much. The older woman's reassuring glance told her she had not betrayed her trust.

"How did you find out he was married?" Mildred finally asked.

Laura sighed deeply and told them both how all had happened, everything but their meeting in her room. That she kept to herself, for it was hers to deal with, and hers alone.

"So what do we do now?" Mildred wanted to know, once they all knew were they stood.

"We have two targets, so to speak" Laura began "Hawkes killed all those men, and shot Murphy. But they have the book."

"But Hawkes will go after them, Laura" Murphy reasoned, "So I think we'd better try to nail Steele first," he finished, saying the name with disgust.

"Dear God!" Laura suddenly burst out "The book! He's leaving. I have to- I mean, we have to- Oh God!"

"Honey, please. What's going on? " Mildred said.

Laura was already in her way out, grabbing her purse without even looking back at them.

"I need to get to the airport at once!" and with that she stormed out, leaving Murphy and Mildred more confused than they had been before.

"Laura, wait!" Murphy screamed at last, but she was gone. He turned to the older woman, while attempting to get out of bed. "Come on Mildred, help me up!"

********************** ********************** ****************
Madrid International Airport. 12:05 PM

"What have you done with it O'Leary? I won't ask you again," Freddy hissed.

The three of them were now heading towards the public restrooms, Freddy's gun carefully hidden inside his jacket pocket, but it's presence painfully unmistakable on the small of his prisoner's back.

"I don't have it Freddy, I've told you a dozen times," he said again.

His eyes wandered quickly around the airport lounge trying to figure out a way to escape. If Freddy managed to lead them to a more private place, he and Felicia were as good as dead. The huge lounge was thriving with activity. People were coming and going in all directions, but all of them too busy to notice their predicament. He looked sideways towards Felicia. She seemed calm enough; maybe she had seen something he had missed.

"It's been delivered Freddy, It's no use trying to get it back" Felicia said, her voice icy.

Freddy looked at her for a brief moment, trying to decide whether to believe her or not. Her eyes defied him, as she smiled quietly. Freddy thought of the way she had bossed him around that night at the museum and suddenly wanted to wipe that smirk of her face. He pushed his gun into her ribs. "You're lying!"

Felicia shot a warning glance at her husband. He was staring out the doors of the main gate. Felicia followed his eyes and spotted two policemen walking the faraway corridor.

"I assure you she's telling the truth. The book was delivered last night," he said, as outwardly calm as she had been. His mind was occupied with trying to devise an escape plan, but all he could think of was the two policemen, as much of a danger for them as they were to their captor. However, with enough distraction, Felicia and him would get a chance to run to their plane.

Freddy looked at his prisoners, not knowing whether to believe them. If they were telling the truth, of course, he would have to kill them. They were too much of a hazard. But what if they still had the book somewhere? Then he'd loose it forever. No, Freddy decided, I cannot kill the both of them right now.

"Oh, yeah?" Freddy said after a moment's thought, "So who's got it now then, the brunette?

"No." he replied instantly, without even thinking what he was saying. His eyes caught Freddy breaking into a vicious smile.

"What brunette?" Felicia asked, her voice even colder that before.

He looked at her and said nothing. He wouldn't give Hawkes the pleasure of having him at his complete mercy. When he heard Freddy laughing out loud, he knew he had stared to tread the narrow margin between keeping cool and breaking the bastard's neck.

"Oh?" Freddy exclaimed with feigned ignorance. "You mean you didn't know?"

"Leave her out of this Hawkes, this is just between you and me"

Freddy chuckled. I've got you know buddy, I've found your soft sport and you're crazy if you think I'm gonna let you go that easy. Not while you have that book! He risked a glance at his prisoner and laughed at the anger in his eyes. Hate me all you want, you cocky bastard, you can rest assured the feeling is mutual.

But while Freddy saw nothing but despise in the blue eyes, Felicia recognised in them a much more deeper feeling, and feared for all of them. She knew instantly who the brunette was, Lisa- No, not little Lisa but Laura, Laura Holt, the woman that had become her nemesis. The woman that had taken Michael's heart and broken it to pieces, the woman she had feared would never leave them alone, the woman who was just approaching the main gates!

Laura's head was again running a thousand miles an hour. If they had left the country, it would be impossible to find them, or at least, very difficult. If she hadn't been able to find him the last time, why would this time be any different? She crossed the automatic sliding doors of the airport lounge and scanned the place quickly. The place was huge. How would she find them there? Laura spotted two policemen, but she had no poof, and, to make matters worse, she herself was a suspected murderer. She walked around for a while, but it was useless. They were nowhere to be seen.

Felicia, on the other hand, was closely watching Laura's every move. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Freddy killed Miss Holt? That would certainly save everyone a lot of trouble! Yes, but still Freddy would be on our backs. She smiled tightly, with some disappointment, and dismissed the idea altogether. She couldn't wish anybody's death more than she could wish her own. So, she must consider another alternative. She must get Miss Holt's attention!

"What woman Michael?" she asked, her voice a little too loud.

He looked at her, returning her angry gaze measure by measure. What is she doing? Doesn't she realise she's giving him leverage? She'll get us both killed! He searched her eyes for an answer, but her cold stare didn't give anything away. Maybe she's trying to do something.

"There's no woman. He's lying, Felicia" he said.

"I'm not lying. You went to her place yesterday night, I followed you O'Leary." Freddy said, still smiling, " Now tell her the truth!" he yelled, and to emphasize his point, he pressed the gun deeper into his captive's back.

"You what?" Felicia shouted, hoping to create a diversion and attract Laura's attention.

"All right, all right," he conceded, and then he looked steadily into Felicia's eyes. " I went to Laura's last night, I just-" He stopped, as if in doubt. He was sure now that Felicia was up to something. She knew he had been at Laura's last night. "I just had to."

"Why you bastard!" Felicia exclaimed, and shaking herself free form Freddy's grip, she slapped Michael across the face. "You liar! You told me you would never see that that little urchin again!" She cried, this time looking in Laura's direction, his eyes following hers.

"Stop it, both of you!" Freddy warned them, momentarily letting himself off guard.

Before he even knew what hit him, Freddy was sent sprawling to the floor, his gun falling a few feet away from his hands. He tried to reach it but O'Leary moved faster. In one agile and precise movement he lunged forward, knocking him over, and secured the gun.

"Up! And don't try anything," O'Leary warned him in a tone that accepted no rebuttal.

Two seconds later Freddy was reluctantly on his feet, the gun on O'Leary's hand now openly visible.

Laura was about to give up when she heard the screams. She looked at Felicia for a brief second, in which their eyes fought a silent, and yet dangerous battle. You won't get away, she vowed. Not this time!

"Michael" Felicia warned him, signalling towards Laura with her head.

He looked up, and saw Laura turning towards the policemen.

"Damn!" he said, as he looked around, desperately trying to think what to do. I can't let Freddy here, he reasoned, he would turn us in without a moment's hesitation. He met Felicia's eyes, his confusion evident. Nevertheless, he took her by the arm and started toward the boarding gates. Their flight had just been announced.

"What are we doing with him?" Felicia finally asked him.

" I don't know, I don't know. Just walk, we don't have much time."

Damn her! Damn Laura Holt! His mind was in a whirlwind. He looked back and saw Laura trying to explain motioning the police officers to follow her. Come on, give me two more minutes! I can buy another ticket for Freddy and we'll deal with him once we're safe. Yes, that's it. I'll turn him around during the flight, if we make it to the plane.

"Felicia, I need you to go to the check in desk and buy a ticket for our friend Freddy here," he said, suddenly all charm.

Both Felicia and Freddy gave him and enquiring look.

"We don't want him to stay here and be fed to the wolves by our adoring Miss Holt, do we?" he explained, trying to sound convincing. He saw Freddy relaxing a little, but knew it wouldn't last long. He had to be careful.

Felicia couldn't give credit to her ears. Had Michael gone mad? There was no way Freddy would stay put! She looked back towards Laura for a second, and saw she and the two police officers were beginning to understand each other. Out of the blue, Felicia realized there was only one thing to do.

"Why don't you go Michael, you have all the papers and the money. I'll take care of him," she took the gun and smiled at her husband with a look she hoped conveyed all the love she felt for him.

He didn't think twice, there was no time to loose. "Be right back" He pecked her on the cheek as he took off. He had less than five minutes.

Meanwhile, Laura was asking herself where the hell had all her Spanish lessons gone. Shaking her head with frustration, she began imitating a gun with her hands. It was then that she saw him take off. Damn it, where is he going now? Her mind returned to the business at hand, as the two policemen frowned, not too happy with her gun holding demonstration. They were eyeing her suspiciously. Giving up, she smiled at them, lifting her hands in the air, and rapidly walked away.

On the farther corner of the lounge, Felicia and Freddy were engaged in a battle of their own. Freddy was being held at gunpoint, however discretely, but still felt he had an as up his sleeve.

"So what are you really planning to do?" he asked her, with a light twinkling in his amused eyes. He was indeed playing a dangerous hand. "I mean; you know he's going to disappear with the book, and that lovely brunette, don't you?

Felicia smiled coldly at him. She wasn't going to let his obnoxious remarks bother her. "I already knew he had gone to her apartment," she stated, " We had arranged that meeting in order to know exactly how much she had seen the night of the robbery. You did know she was the one in the museum, didn't you?"

"No" Freddy admitted "But I don't care, I can get rid of her as easily as I got rid of the rest of the buggers. But I bet your husband wouldn't approve, he seems quite attached to her."

"Stop it!" she warned him, and saw him smile his triumph.

"I mean," he continued viciously, "If you considered the way they were kissing last night It didn't seem as if he was very willing to let her go."

"Stop it this instant!" She said, as she raised her eyes and saw Laura running towards them.

"Or?" Freddy purred, "Are you going to shoot me? Right here in the middle of one of the world's busiest airports?

Laura saw Felicia raising the gun. Don't do it, you stupid woman! She opened her mouth and no words came out, she was getting nearer and nearer. Just a few more yards, just-

"Felicia don't!!!!" He shouted, also running as fast as his legs allowed him to.

A muffled, yet audible, shot stopped them both cold in their tracks.

Felicia saw Freddy fall down, and held the gun tightly. She looked calm and peaceful as she met her husband's horror stricken eyes. He walked slowly towards her. She tore her eyes away from his and saw Laura approaching too.

Freddy saw the three of them nearing him as life began slipping painfully away. "Damn you to hell, O'Leary!" he sputtered, and then after taking one last breath, he died.

Felicia finally drew her eyes from the dead body of Hawks, and set them on her husband.

"You should be going, Michael. The plane's about to leave," she said, calmly.

"I'm not going anywhere, Felicia." He was equally calm.

Felicia ignored him and directed her armed hand towards Laura. "You will let him go, or you die here, too. There's no difference between one murder and two."

Laura held her gaze, but didn't say anything.

"I won't go," he repeated.

Laura thought she heard some noise in the background and quietly turned around. There, barely across the panelled doors of the lounge, were Mildred and Murphy, who was limping quite noticeably, followed by Sergeant Rodriguez.

Felicia raised her eyes and saw them too; knowing time was short, she coked the gun. "You will go, darling, or she will die. I promise you she will."

"Felicia, please don't do this." His tone was gentle; his eyes were begging her to stop.

"Michael, I won't say it again. Go!" she demanded. And this time, she saw him lower his head, looking defeated.

"This is not the way it should have been," he said, getting near her, and stroking her face.

"I know." She replied, and then leaned over and kissed him. " I love you."

He didn't reply.

Laura saw them kiss, and suddenly hated him, and hated her, and hated herself more than she could have ever thought possible. She saw him get lost in the crowd, even as Mildred and Murphy came closer and tried to call her attention. She heard Rodriguez order Felicia to drop the gun, and her body followed all the motions as if in remote control. Her eyes never left his lean figure disappearing into the gates, then into the plane, and finally into the pale blue sky. Even when she could not see him, the eyes of her mind followed.

Five minutes later the situation was under control. Felicia was being escorted by the two police officers towards the exit, and she was sitting in one of the lounge chairs, with Mildred. Murphy was still talking with Rodriguez, trying to make it clear Laura had had nothing to do with what had just trespassed.

Finally Murphy joined Mildred and Laura. "Are you ok?"

"Fine," came her faint answer.

"What the hell happened? And where's Steele?" he asked, visibly angered.

Laura sighed, her eyes lost in the vastness of the airspace outside the glass windows.

"He's gone," she replied calmly. But he will not stay gone.

End of Part 1
To Part 2