The Alternate Link of Steele 2/?
Date: Monday, July 10, 2000
Adriana <>

Thanks Debra and Jax for beta reading!

Nancy, Archive away!

The Alternate Link of Steele 2
By Adriana

Police Headquarters. 2.34 PM
The loud slam of the iron cell gate echoed in Felicia's mind. She looked around, instinctively trying to figure out an escape route. The walls were ancient and moldy, as were the iron bars. Unfortunately, they were not made of candy either. Felicia was the sole occupant of the cell, and she thanked God for that. The last thing she wanted to do right now was to talk to someone. She needed time to think, however painful that might be.

She played back the events that had recently occurred and found it pleasantly comforting that she felt no regrets. Freddy's death had been necessary, and she knew Michael would never have killed him, so it had been her duty to do so. How strange, she mused, to think she felt it was her duty to help him. It was ironic, also, to realize that she had never really intended to kill Laura Holt. No matter how much she would have liked to see the woman dead, deep down she knew that would have hurt Michael so deeply, that he would have probably never recovered.

Felicia had to laugh at her pathetic reasoning, and the bitter sound echoed in the room for what seemed like hours. After her laugh subsided, she felt an awkward need to cry. However, the tears wouldn't come. It was as if her emotions were paralyzed, as if her feelings had shut down in order to allow her mind more room to concentrate.

Surprisingly, she realized she did have some regrets. She regretted the fact that she had most likely lost Michael forever. Not because she didn't know where to find him, but because she knew things would never be the same. Not after she had crossed the line she had vowed never to cross, not now that she had killed. But most of all, not now that Laura Holt had stuck her pretty nose in his life again.

"Well," she decided, "If there's anything I can do to get those two apart, by God, I will do it!"

"Por aqui, se±orita," Felicia heard the guard say.

She also heard the hasty high heel steps of a woman accompanying him.

Laura stood by the cell door. Her eyes locked with Felicia's with an intensity and determination that would have broken many, but Laura's glare failed to break her. Felicia held her gaze with equal strength and never left Laura's eyes until she was inside the cell, too.

"Tiene diez minutos," the guard told Laura, closing the door again and leaving both women alone. Neither of them had heard him, though.

Laura sat opposite Felicia and finally cast her eyes down, yielding this time, just because she needed to regroup before she attacked. She drew an imperceptible breath; then with slow, precise movements, she crossed her legs and lifted her head, meeting the cold blue eyes once more.

*Strange,* Laura thought. *The blue in her eyes is nothing like his, but it's not the color itself; it's the depth that it's within them. I can see endless depths into his eyes, yet I can't see but an icy iron barrier in hers.*

"I don't suppose you will freely volunteer any information on Mr. Steele's whereabouts, will you?" Laura said, wishing her voice not to betray her.

Laura used the name she had given him deliberately, setting the trap for Felicia to reveal the name he was using now. She had heard Freddy call him 'O'Leary', but she needed to be sure. Steele might have been using one name around him, but another one for traveling. Felicia had called him 'Michael'--And Michael O'Leary, Laura recalled, was one of his false passport names. She still needed to make sure.

Felicia merely smiled. She cocked her head slightly to one side and then frowned, as if she were considering the question.

"If you didn't think I would, why would you come here, Miss Holt? It is Miss Holt, isn't it? You're are not married, by any chance?"

Laura bit her tongue; she would not allow herself to loose her temper. "Well?" she said, not showing any signs of anxiousness.

"Well?" Felicia replied, even more sweetly.

Seeing the gentle approach was getting her nowhere, Laura decided to use a more direct one. Standing up with energy, she strode up to the cell door and looked around at the small quarters, the stench of the humid walls and the perspired mattresses becoming completely unbearable.

"You know you will rot in this stinking mud hole unless we make a deal? I could get you out, if only you'd help me," she said, cutting the thick silence that had fallen upon them.

Laura saw Felicia look at her calmly, and remembered the grace and complete control of her actions she had showed when she had shot Freddy. And she had shot Freddy to save Steele; that was the key to get her, Laura decided.

"I'm the only chance he's got," Laura added. "He won't stand a chance unless I find him before the police does."

Felicia chuckled with honest humor. "What makes you think you'll find Michael?

Laura smiled inwardly. So he was going by Michael, after all - or was is just the name he used with Felicia? She really couldn't know for sure.

"He can't be on the run forever," Laura reminded her. "Someday he will surface, and it won't be pretty."

"He has been on the run all his life. Believe me, he knows how to handle it," Felicia said, for the first time in their conversation showing at least a little emotion.

"No, not always. He wasn't running for three years." It was a stab in the dark, but if Laura knew anything about the woman sitting across her, it was that Felicia loved him more than her own life, and that, as Laura was painfully aware, had to hurt.

Felicia lowered her eyes and said nothing, the sadness of the truth touching her in the deep core of her being. Michael and she had always lived on the run. They were married, she realized, but they had never really settled up.

"I'm sorry," Laura found herself saying. *What the hell did I say that for!* she chastised herself. *Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!*

However, Felicia didn't seem to have heard her at all. She just looked at Laura with blank eyes, eyes that were growing moister by the second. Laura cleared her throat and stood up, turning her back on Felicia in a futile attempt to help the woman save face.

"If you love him, Miss Holt," Felicia said at last, her voice still steady but beginning to quiver. "I suggest you let him go. You have done harm enough."

"I am the only one who can help him!" Laura insisted.

Felicia shook her head sadly. "You have it backwards, Miss Holt. Michael might be the only one able to help you, but you're certainly not the right person to help him. If your own selfish interests overcome your judgment, then go on and try to find him. But I sincerely doubt that you will succeed."

"You're wrong," Laura said, believing it.

"I think your ten minutes are up," Felicia replied with determination. Standing up and going to the gate that imprisoned her, she told the guards in perfect Spanish that the interview had concluded.

Felicia saw Laura disappear behind the door and sat in her bunk, sinking her head in the cradle of her elbows. She finally let her composure go and cried unreservedly; tears flowing freely down her beautiful face. She could smell the rancid air polluting her lungs with every breath she took, and her mind decided she had better get out of there at once. Once she regained a little self-control, she cleaned her face as well as she could and called the guards again. She just needed to make her one phone call.


Hotel Espana. 8.02 PM
Murphy let out a loud sigh as he shook his head in frustration. "This is going nowhere. We'll never find him!" he said, looking at Laura, who was still completely immersed in the sheets of paper spread on her bed.

He and Laura had been going through all the passenger lists of most of the planes that had left Madrid International Airport around noon. So far, they had found nothing.

Murphy felt exhausted. He needed at least a few hours sleep; his leg was throbbing, his head was throbbing, his whole body felt as if he had been run over by a six-ton truck! For once, Murphy wished Laura would stop being so damn efficient and start being more human. But Laura was being human, he realized; in her own stupid way, she was trying to put her life together. She'd work herself to death, but oh, she would catch Steele!

"Damn him!" Murphy said quietly, looking at Laura and mentally caressing her tousled hair, hoping to relieve some of the burden she had on her shoulders. Then seeing that Laura hadn't so much as lifted one eye, he lay back on the bed and recalled recent events, looking for a clue.

After being thoroughly interrogated by Rodriguez and his men, Murphy had convinced him that they had nothing to do with robbery or with the murder of the security guards. After the fiasco of an interview with Steele's wife, it had been formally "requested" that he and Laura leave this case to the Spanish authorities; they would deal with the escaped criminal in their own way. In spite of all his, Laura's, and even Mildred's no-nonsense complaints, they had been dismissed as if they were simple amateurs, Murphy recalled, enraged.

And speaking of the devil...

"Shouldn't Mildred be back, already?" he asked.

Before Laura could even answer, the door bolted open and Mildred came in.

"Ok, hon," she told Laura happily, waving new sheets of paper in the air. "I've got the rest of them."

Laura jumped off the bed and speedily grabbed the papers, going through them at once. *Come on Laura, think!* she chastised herself. *He has to be here somewhere.*

"Thanks, Mildred," she half muttered as she sat back on the bed and began reading the fresh pile. *Could it be that I won't be able to find him? What if Felicia is right? What if he's vanished into thin air again? What will I do then? *

Laura skimmed the papers, neither of the names ringing any bells. *Maybe this in not the easiest way to do this; there are bound to be thousands of names. What are the chances I should find Mr. Steele among them?*

"Well, you won't find 'Mr. Steele'-- that's for sure. He won't be using that name," she said, unaware she was talking out loud, if barely in more than a whisper.

"What did you say, hon?" Mildred wanted to know.

Laura wasn't listening. She was completely focused on her reading, oblivious to the rest of the people in the room, to the rest of the people in the world, oblivious of everyone except her and her prey.

Laura was indeed feeling like a hunting hawk, and the feeling wasn't altogether pleasant. She needed freedom to fly, but first, she needed to be freed from her blinding hood. There was no falconer there to take it out for her, though. She'd have to do it by herself.

"Hunting hawks.." she muttered, her voice trailing into silence again.

Murphy and Mildred, a little bemused at Laura's behavior, looked at each other.

Murphy shook his head in denial as he allowed a small smile to appear. *God, when she gets carried away...* But then his smile suddenly vanished as he thought about Freddy Hawkes lying in a pool of blood at the airport... As he remembered the four museum guards sprawled on the marble floors, also deprived of their most valuable possession. So many deaths...

He looked at Laura and saw her suffering in silence. Then, making a huge effort not to go to her and drive her fears away, he shook all the dark thoughts from his mind.

"So how did you manage to get all those?" he asked Mildred while pointing at the heap of paper on the bed, his respect for the portly woman growing every minute.

"Nothing to it. piece of cake. So how did you guys do?" Mildred wanted to know.

"We've found nothing. We don't know which name Mr. Steele might be traveling under. I mean, the guy had five passports when we first met him."

"Blaine, Morrel, Fabrini, O'Leary, and Quintain. I know," Mildred interrupted. Seeing Murphy was looking at her with his mouth open in surprise, she gestured for him to continue.

*He should know better that to try and patronize me!* she thought, not without little pride. *I was doing this kind of stuff when he was still on his stroller.* Mildred then looked at Murphy, liking him. She could tell he and Miss Holt were close. Not as close as she was -or rather had been- with Mr. Steele, but as close as good friends could ever be. But she hadn't missed the look in Murphy's eyes whenever he talked to Laura, or the way he tried to protect her whatever the cost. Mildred would bet her life that Murphy was in love with Miss Holt, and sadly, she could also bet her life that his love wasn't returned.

"If he had five passports then, I mean, who knows how many he has now?" Murphy was saying.

Mildred looked at him and smiled. She had no idea what he was talking about. She opened her mouth to ask him, but her attempt was rudely interrupted.

"Of course!" Laura shouted, springing to her feet, papers in hand, with a triumphant expression on her face.

"What?" Mildred and Murphy said in unison.

"I got him. It was under our noses all the time. We just didn't see it," she explained, her mind reeling at a thousand miles an hour as she considered their next move. "Now, all we have to do is..."

"Wait, Laura. Wait!" Murphy cut her short. "Will you please remember we're supposed to be a team?"

Laura shook her head, a bit ashamed. *Yes, a team,* she remembered. *We're a team*

Laura smiled fondly at him, saying, "Here." Handing him the pages, she added, "Under the C's."

Murphy scanned the paper, but was unable to find anything. Shaking his head, defeated, he passed them on to Mildred, who was waiting impatiently. "I don't see it. It could be anyone"

Laura shot him an unbelieving look and began explaining further as she emptied her drawers, starting to pack.

"Do you remember the Hoskins case? The owner of that casino?"

"Yeah," Murphy said, though he still didn't get it.

"Do you remember Mr. Steele's friend?" Laura provided.

Murphy was beginning to understand. If only he could remember the older man's name...

"I see three Chalmers here," Mildred said matter of factly, having spotted the names at first glance. "Which one is he?"

Laura stopped packing for a second and gave Mildred a very disapproving look. "Read them," she said.

"Paul Chalmers, Christian Chalmers, Vivian and Harold Chalmers." she read, and then her face lit up.

Murphy wanted to kick himself for not seeing that sooner. "He had to have tickets for both of them," he said.

Neither he nor Mildred missed the momentary cloud that darkened Laura's features for only a second, but she hastily hid her pain and reassumed her packing.

"Harold. Daniel Chalmers called Mr. Steele 'Harry', didn't he?" Mildred realized as well.

"Exactly," Laura said. "And now that all of this is clear, we have to get going. Mildred, please book our tickets. We need to get out of Madrid, no later than tomorrow morning."

Both Mildred and Murphy were still a little dazed, and therefore unable to catch up with Laura's fast paced rhythm. They stood in silence as she finished her bags and stared at them, a questioning look in her eyes.

"Well?" she inquired.

Murphy just shook his head and started to move aside as Mildred looked back down at the papers she was still holding, looking for the destination of their trip. At reading the next town in their schedule, her face turned a bit pale and she swallowed, though her throat was dry.

"Miss Holt," she stammered. "Have you read where Mr. Steele went?" Mildred asked hastily, not wanting her fear to show too much.

Laura's determined look told her that she already knew, however.

Murphy was also looking at her, curious.

"Saint Petersburg," Laura answered, nonchalantly.

Mildred nodded, and waited.

"Saint Petersburg, Russia?" Murphy almost screamed. "Steele fled to Russia?"

Laura turned her back on them and moved her suitcase from the bed to the floor. "Seems like it. If you don't want to come, Murphy, I'll understand," she said, shaking inside, hoping he'd agree to go with her. However, she was not going to force him, or Mildred, for that matter. She'd handle it by herself if she had to.

"Laura, we can't go to Russia just like that!" Murphy said, his shoulders suddenly sinking as if they were made of lead.

"Sure we can," Laura said defiantly. "We're tourists!"

And with that ridiculous statement she left, Mildred and Murphy following smartly.

"Sure we can go!" Murphy hissed under his breath "The question is, will we return?"

End of Part 2
To Part 3