The Alternate Link of Steele 6
Date: Saturday, July 22, 2000
icaro <>

The Alternate link of Steele 6
By Adriana

Riverside Manor, Kensington, London, 6.00 AM

"I honestly don't know, my dear. But whoever got you out has very good connections." Daniel Chalmers said into the phone.
Not half an hour ago, Felicia had called to thank him for releasing her from prison. Daniel had learned about the events of the past week, and his world had almost collapsed. All his careful planning over the years seemed to have proved completely useless.

He hadn't had time to arrange Felicia's liberation after she had called the day before. There was no way he could have arranged that in such short notice. He didn't have the faintest idea who could have.

"Where did you say Harry is supposed to be right now?" he asked her, not bothering to hide his concern.

"If he followed the original plan, he should be somewhere in Iran, but I doubt it," came Felicia's sympathetic response.

"Why Iran?"

"Michael had a contact there." Felicia said. Then hiding her tremendous pain, she added, "he didn't say whom."

Daniel sat back on the couch and tried to think. *Iran? Who does Harry know in Iran? He's never been there before.* He shook his head trying to clear it. It was useless.

"Felicia dear, I think there's nothing we can do at present. Will you be coming over?" he asked her, even though he was endanger himself by doing so, since she was most likely going to be followed.

"Do you think that's wise, Daniel?" she asked sweetly.

"I don't think you have a choice, dear," he replied, using a severe tone.

After he hung up, Daniel stood up and walked over to the small oak bar just beside the fireplace. He poured himself a glass of fine scotch and sipped it thoughtfully.

"Iran." he said to himself.

His eyes carelessly traveled to the old world map that was so artfully framed over the mantelpiece. He choked with the liquor as suddenly every piece of the puzzle automatically fell into place.

"Oh God! Iran borders Russia!" he yelled, his mind reeling a thousand miles a minute. *Of course, Bulbakov!* Daniel shuddered at the implications of what he had done so many years ago, and suddenly his shoulders sagged under the weight of his responsibility for the events which had just occurred.

"Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry."

************** ******************* *****************

Police HQ, Saint Petersburg, 8.10 AM

"She knows your name?" Bulvakov asked, menacingly, ass he closed the door behind him and faced an enraged Steele

"She knows that name, and she knows many others, but that won't help her at all, will it?" Steele said, not flinching at all.

"No, it won't." Bulvakov agreed. He then smiled as he considered that fact. "Harry Chalmers?" he asked with a playful tone.

Steele shrugged and said nothing. "It's just a name," he said finally.

"But-" Bulbakov added pointedly, ".she traced it back to you. How?"

Steele sat back in the chair he'd been occupying earlier, suddenly feeling very tired, even too tired to lie anymore.

"Daniel and she met years ago." He said simply.

"Indeed!" Bulbakov replied. Laura Holt was becoming a bigger nuisance than he had foreseen.

"She won't be able to find me, Kira." Steele stated, believing it.

*That's what you think, Misha,* Bulbakov thought. *But what if she does? What if she finds you outside of Russia, when I have no hold on you?*

"By the way, Felicia was released an hour ago. I think our deal can proceed as planed," he said, gauging Steele's reaction.

Steele's heart missed a few beats. *Felicia is safe!* he thought happily, and couldn't help but smile ever so discretely.

However, Bulvakov didn't miss that smile. "I never thought you'd go back to working with her."

Steele looked up, pain flooding his eyes. "I went back to working with you as well, didn't I?"

"That was surprising, also," Bulbakov retorted.

"The past is the past, and it's best we leave it at that. Don't you agree?" Steele said.

* The past is gone, there's nothing but here and now. It is safer that way; it hurts less. There is no past, and there is no future. Don't think about the future, mate, * he told himself, *Don't you dare dream about the future!*

However, the picture of two brown eyes leaked into his mind. His eyes traveled on their own accord to the mirrored window were he had seen those eyes not ten minutes ago. In slow, agonizing, will power effort, he forced the image away.

"I agree." Bulbakov had said, and now was holding his hand out for Steele to shake it.

"I'll expect you tonight with that bookmark, Misha."

Steele looked at the hand and took it firmly.

"You have the money, of course," he said.

"It will be delivered to you by my men once I check to be sure the piece is original." Bulbakov replied, darkly.

"You don't trust me?" Steele asked, ironically, holding the hand with a little more pressure than he should have.

Bulbakov tore his hand away and laughed bitterly as he met Steele's blue, flickering eyes.

"You should know by now, old friend, that I don't trust anyone," he said. *You, least of them, you clever matyeryebyets*

Steele nodded. The sentiment was mutual.

"What about the Americans?" he asked, finally.

"What about them?" Bulbakov replied, innocently.

"You said they'd be safe," Steele replied, his voice controlled and icy.

"They are in the hands of the Police. They are safe, if they are innocent." Bulbakov said, taunting him further, wanting to go how far he could push the man. "There's nothing I can do, Misha."

"There's plenty you can do," Steele said, his voice dangerously low.

Bulbakov didn't reply; he was enjoying this way too much. He subtlety knocked on the door and a police officer came in.

"I'll be taking this one out. Where are the Americans?" he asked the man in Russian.

"They are still with Sergeant Grechko, Major Tashkin," the man replied, calling Bulbakov by his official KGB name.

"Good." The he turned into a gibberish fast Russian he was sure Steele couldn't understand. "Tell fucking Grechko I want them in that soukhoz in an hour. If this leaks outside the Station, you will be demoted. If any of this reaches the American consulate, I'll see to you and all your family be sent to Lefortovo prison for a long, long time. Understood?"

The officer nodded, saluted and marched away. Bulbakov smiled, the man was terrified, he could tell. Then he turned to Steele and motioned for him to follow.

"How long will you be keeping them here?" Steele asked.

"It's not within my power to determine that."

Bulbakov began to handcuff Steele, tightening the bindings more than he needed to. Then they began to walk out.

"You can give all of them bloody diplomatic passports if you want to, so spare me the lies." Steele said as they walked down the long corridor that led to the street.

"I'll see you at eight tonight, Misha. Now shut up." Bulbakov said as he pushed Steele outside where a black Zil with no license plates was already waiting with the motor roaring.

*************** ******************* *********************

Farm-house, Outskirts of Moscow, 1.48 PM

Murphy swallowed a last gulp of douta - a thick soup made out of sour milk and rice- and wiped his mouth with a small paper napkin.

"How do they eat this?" he exclaimed, feeling extremely frustrated.

On the other side of the large plastic table where twelve other people were having lunch, Mildred shrugged as she drank some water.

"I thought it was quite good, actually," she said. Seeing the cook was coming over with second helpings she put out her plate.

"Pozhalusta" - Please-, and then as she was served, "Spasibo."

Murphy shot her an inquiring glance. "I thought you didn't know any Russian," he said, self-conscious that they were the center of attention.

"It's amazing what you learn if you hang around the right kind of people," she countered as she smiled at a toothless neighbor, who smiled warmly back.

"What did Miss Holt say?" Mildred wanted to know.

Mildred had stayed at the soukhoz while Murphy and Laura had been driven to the Police HQ. She had been relieved she didn't have to deal with sergeant Grechko again, but she also wished she had been there to help. Still, she had not been summoned, so she had stayed.

"She didn't want any lunch." Murphy said. " I can't blame her," he added, looking distastefully at the food.

He looked around and saw the thin, tight skinned faces with eyes that bore into him so deeply he could hardly breath. *I hate Russia, and I hate being here in this stinking place. and I hate been treated like a damned criminal. And most of all, I hate - HATE- Remington Steele!*

"I mean what did she say about the interrogation?" Mildred clarified.

"Oh. Sorry. I wasn't thinking." Murphy apologized. "It seems Grechko asked us both pretty much the same thing. The robbery, the deaths." Murphy didn't go on, and just made a vague gesture with his hand.

Mildred nodded, the young man looked exhausted and drained. She'd have to ask Miss Holt personally, after she was rested, that was. Mildred was sure Laura would be much too tired to talk right now.


Upon entering their room, however, Mildred discovered that was not precisely the case.

"You know Mildred, I think that whole interrogation was a big sham, " Laura said, her brow knitted closely in the center of her forehead.

"Miss Holt, I though you'd be sleeping," Mildred said, surprised.

Mildred saw Laura shake her head with resolution. "It seemed as if he couldn't have cared less about what I was telling him. And I know there was someone else out there!"

"What are you talking about, honey? You'll have to give me a few more details."

Laura finally looked up and met Mildred's baffled look. She smiled, and then told her about the detached way in which Grechko had conducted the interview, and the fact that he seemed overly concerned about what happened behind the windows.

"Whoever was out there was calling the shots, not him. Grechko is no more in charge than we are. and I think he likes it about as much as we do," Laura said.

"What are you saying?" Mildred asked, "You think he might help us?"

"No, not now. But maybe if we give him a little time, and show him some reason. I think maybe he might."

They both fell silent for a few moments, considering this new turn of things.

"You know, hon. I think you should tell Murphy. He seems pretty despaired, and well. I think he's behaving kind of weird." Mildred said, very carefully.

Laura got up from her bed and gave her a quizzical look, asking, "What do you mean? He seemed fine to me on the way from the station."

Mildred shrugged her shoulders "I don't know honey. He just seems so sad."

"I'll talk to him later, Mildred." Laura said, turning around and laying back on her bed, avoiding eye contact with the older woman.

I can't face Murphy right now. He has every right to be upset, and I can't blame him for feeling that way. Coming here was totally crazy, and what I did was selfish. *I just couldn't let him go!* She wanted to shout, but instead she bit her bottom lip and refused to cry.

Laura knew now her coming here had little to do with the book, which she was still determined to get back, but about straightening the record between her and Steele. Dragging Mildred and Murphy had been unfair, inconsiderate-- and way too dangerous.

Moreover, Laura thought, even if she could persuade Grechko to help them, there was hardly any chance they'd let her do any investigating. * What can I do? I'll never find him,* she thought grimily as she closed her eyes and surrendered herself to sleep.

*************** **************** ********************

Bolshoi Prospekt bridge. 7.31 PM

The black Zil sped down the bridge and headed to Smolenskoye Cementry. In the back seat, Steele was trying to cool his nerves. The light bookmark he had in his breast pocket seemed to crush his chest, not allowing fresh air in. He tried to lower the window of the car, but the handle was stuck. Cold sweat began to form in his forehead.

"What's wrong with this? Can't the KGB afford good cars?" he asked the driver in Russian, surprised the language had come back to him so easily. Even though if he didn't speak it like a native, his accent was almost passable.

"Yeb Vas, amerikanet!" the driver answered, not too merrily.

"Anglinskii," Steele automatically corrected.

The driver grunted. Evidently, the difference was not too great. Steele smiled in spite of himself. *If I'm lucky, this'll be over tonight,* he thought, confidently *Lucky and smart. I must get Bulvakov to get all of us out of Russia safely*

He thought it was strange that he was thinking of all of them as a a team of people he had to protect. *Team?* he almost laughed. *Hardly!*

The Zil came to a stop just off Maly Prospekt, on the south end of the Cemetery. An old late eighteen-century building rose before Steele.

The driver pointed up, and took a pistol out, aiming it accurately. "Third floor. And don't try any tricks. I'll be watching you," he told Steele in Russian.

Steele nodded, as the man was bigger than him, taller than him, and with a gun. Obediently, he went inside, feeling the hatred-filled gaze of the man in his back.

Three blocks of stairs later, Steele was faced with a long corridor. He walked to the one door that wasn't barred with a heavy piece of timber, his mind already reeling with his proposal to Bulbakov.

He opened the door carefully and stepped in. He found himself in a small antechamber, decorated in faded, old, tsarists style. There was a tall marble side-table beside the left wall, bare but for one item: a small note.

Steele picked up the paper; it read: "Leave the bookmark here, the money is in the next room across from the door."

Steele looked up and saw the carved wooden door that lead towards the main salon, then he looked at the paper again, reading the rest of the message. "Before you leave, however, there's another problem that needs your attention. You have one hour. I'll collect you at 9.00. Bulbakov."

Steele retrieved the bookmark from his breast pocket and laid it down on the table. He then put the note in his pocket and immediately felt his pocket watch. He made a conscious effort not to open it; he knew it was best to leave as inconspicuously as he could.

*What the hell does he want now?* Steele asked himself as he pushed the heavy door open.

The room was murky and barely lit, since the two large windows were barred and the heavy velvet curtains drawn drawn. Once Steele's eyes got used to the surrounding darkness, he easily spotted the small leather case containing the money only a few feet away from the nearest window.

He took two paces in that direction before noticing the figure sitting down in one of the tattered loveseats. Steele felt every muscle in his body tense as his nerves sprung to full attention.

There in the darkness, not ten feet away, lay the sleeping form of Laura Holt.
End of part 6.
To Part 7
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