Steele Upon a Mattress - Part Two
Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Lauryn Poynor <>


by Lauryn Poynor

Permission to archive.

"Mr. Steele," said Dr. Lindstrom eagerly. "If you'll step into my office, I
just have some initial questions, a brief background survey we do of all of
our patients."

"Should I wait outside, doctor?" asked Laura.

"If you don't mind, Miss Holt," said Lindstrom apologetically. "You know,
you look even lovelier out of uniform."

"Um, well, white isn't really my color," Laura joked, slightly embarrassed.

Steele scowled suspiciously, his eyes flashing from one to the other. "Dr.
Holt is strictly in civvies these days."

"The medical profession's loss, Mr. Steele."

"Undoubtedly," returned Steele, warily. Lindstrom's flirting with Laura had
done nothing to calm his nerves.

Lindstrom ushered Steele into his office and closed the door.

"Please take a seat, Mr. Steele. I can't tell you how delighted we are to
have you back at the clinic. As an actual patient this time."

"Well, I hadn't exactly planned on it but, ah, fate intervened as it were."
Steele leaned back in his chair and expelled a long sigh.

Lindstrom picked up a notebook and a ballpoint pen. "This is a standard
series of questions we ask all of our insomniacs. I hope you don't mind
indulging us. I assure you they are necessary to determine the pathology of
your particular case."

"I'm sure you know best, doctor. Fire away."

"Can you pinpoint the onset of the sleep problem? To the best of your

"Well, outside of my recent sojourn at your excellent facility, I would say
I haven't slept since I checked out."

"Really? Why, that's fascinating."

"That's not precisely the word I would have used, but you're the expert,"
Steele said dryly.

"It sounds as if your role-playing as an insomniac has had a powerful
effect on your subconscious."

"That seems all too evident, doctor. The question is how do we reverse it?"

"Well, we would first want to rule out any organic cause before we decide
on a course of treatment. We also need to be fully apprised of your sleep
habits and any lifestyle issues that might be contributory."

"Lifestyle issues?" Steele arched an eyebrow.

"A patient's lifestyle can be either a curse or a blessing when it comes to
restful sleep, Mr. Steele. Don't worry. All of that will be covered in this

"How comforting." Steele had no idea what sort of lifestyle was favored
but he was fairly certain his own was not among them.

"Insomnia is a very individual thing, Mr. Steele. Proper diagnosis and
treatment requires that we ask questions which may seem, well, a little
personal. This is all completely confidential, of course."

"Of course."

"Now then. What sort of sleeping environment do you have at home? Your bed,
for instance. Do you have comfortable bedding? A firm mattress?"

"I would describe it as quite comfortable. I've certainly spared no
expense. I must say the mattress has held up rather well under various

"Stresses? Such as?"

"The usual. Tossing, turning. I go through a lot of . . . positions in one
night, doctor. My mattress has responded quite admirably to the challenge."

"You'd call yourself a restless sleeper, then?"

"On occasion, yes." Steele allowed himself a smile.

"What about the noise level in your bedroom. Is it relatively quiet?"

"Well again, it varies."

"High level of street noise? Loud neighbors?"

Steele's thoughts drifted back to an orgasmic bout of bedroom Olympics with
the fashion model who lived two doors down. "I'd say the neighbors have
been a bit noisy at times but on the whole, quite satisfactory."

"Excellent. Now let's move on to your general sleep habits. Do you keep
late hours during the week?"

Steele repressed a flash of irritation; his various nocturnal activities
were strictly his own business. He decided an evasion tactic was the best
route. "I'm sure you understand doctor, that we detectives, like the
members of your own profession, burn quite a lot of midnight oil.
Dedication has its drawbacks."

"Believe me, I can relate. You might want to consider turning over some of
the casework to your staff. That attractive associate of yours, Miss Holt,
seems quite capable of handling the burden."

Steele had no doubt of it. Other than the recent sleep clinic case, his
workload had hardly been overwhelming. "I'll take that under advisement,

He wondered anew why Lindstrom seemed so interested in Laura. He was
practically drooling over her. Steele decided to test the waters. "Doctor,
forgive the intrusion but we're always concerned for the continuing welfare
of our clients. How are you faring these days? Sheila Marcus's death must
have been quite a shock to you."

"Very much so."

"I know that one is often tempted in these situations to er, compensate for
the loss of the loved one, search for outlets for one's grief, rebound into
new and perhaps ill-advised relationships. . ." Steele trailed off, unsure
of how to continue without seeming obvious.

"To be perfectly honest, Mr. Steele, Sheila's death has caused me to
re-evaluate things. I've filed for divorce, actually. My marriage was
really over a long time ago. Sometimes I think my life has been a quest to
find the perfect woman. Sheila was darn close. Wild, uninhibited,
impulsive. Happen to know any women like that, Steele?"

Steele flashed back to a memory of Laura doing an impromptu striptease in a
winery. "Not a one," he said with all the conviction he could summon. Why,
the man had the morals of an alley cat. Steele hoped Lindstrom's wife had a
good divorce lawyer.

"I'm not surprised. Sheila was one in a million. Still, I thought maybe a
bachelor like yourself . . ." Lindstrom let the inference hang in the air.

Steele regarded his rival with barely concealed distaste. "I rarely have
time for such frivolities, doctor. I live and breathe private
investigating. Give me mysteries to solve, clues to ponder, and I can fill
every waking hour. Well, at least I could before three days ago."

"Don't worry, Mr. Steele. We'll get to the root of your sleep problem. Just
a few more questions to go. What about your weekends? Do you make time to
relax, unwind from the pressures of the job? What did you do the weekend
before the case, for instance?"

Steele struggled for a moment to remember what he'd been doing and with
whom. He'd gone out to the ballet with Irina, an extremely limber Russian
exchange student. She'd spent the overture nibbling on his ear and
whispering amorous suggestions about a pas de deux they could perform
together. She'd promised it would take all night. Attention to the
activities on stage began to wander as much as their hands. They'd left for
her studio apartment an hour before the entr'acte. Steele sighed at the
memory; he'd never known barre exercises could be so stimulating.

"Took in a bit of culture. The Kirov Ballet is in town and I was able to
get tickets at the last minute. Russian dancers. So athletic."

"A pleasant evening out?"

"Splendid performance. I was in bed by ten."

"Very commendable, Mr. Steele. Is that a typical recreational activity?
What about the weekend before?"

Steele grimaced involuntarily as he recalled the details of a disastrous
sojourn to Tijuana. He'd gotten into a poker game with a card sharp named
"Fingers" who wasn't as sharp as he thought he was. When Steele pressed him
for the money they ended up at Caliente, watching the man's collateral, a
gelding named Pochismo get bumped like a pinata in the stretch, then fade
and finish fourth. Before the evening was over Steele had tried his luck
and several shots of mescal too many and concluded that by comparison, the
outcomes at California tracks were as predictable as atomic clocks.

"Mr. Steele?"

Steele was spared further unhappy recollection by the interruption. "Sorry,
I seem to have lost track. Could you repeat the question?"

"Your weekend?" Lindstrom prompted.

"Ah, yes. Went out of town to assist a colleague with a little, um,
financial snag. I hardly think it's relevant to your diagnosis, doctor."

"Fair enough. I just need to clarify a bit. How about weekdays? Do you try
to give yourself the occasional break from the office routine? Within
limits, of course. I realize you do have to be able to get sufficient rest
to get up bright and early the next morning."

Since Steele rarely strode through the office doors before noon the counsel
scarcely applied. The good doctor would be cheered to know that his new
patient spent most, if not all, of his waking hours trying to escape the
clutches of responsibility. Still, it would hardly be to Steele's advantage
to state the truth so baldly.

"I quite agree, doctor. Getting away from the pressures of business can
often stir one's creative juices. I think better when I relax."

"Relaxation is very key, Mr. Steele. I can see we have something to build
on here. In light of this, one admonition I always give my insomniacs is to
avoid certain stimulants: coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine. Are you on any


That answer required no prevarication. Steele had an almost pathological
dislike for taking pills and was wary of any sort of recreational drug use.
As for drinking, he did it mostly socially, and not to excess unless the
occasion called for it. He rarely drank alone. His nicotine intake was
governed by quality over quantity. He was willing to succumb to the
pleasures of a fine cigar. Other habits would be harder to break. He knew
he would regret the loss of those extra few cups of coffee in the morning.

"How about physical activity? Do you exercise regularly? Work out? Go
jogging? There's no better way to work off that extra adrenaline."

Steele gazed wearily up at the ceiling and fought an impulse to yawn. The
question was distressingly familiar. Was everyone in California a health
fanatic? It was bad enough that nearly every tryst with an eligible female
had to be fit in between aerobics classes. He'd managed to resist the trend
so far but the course of idleness certainly hadn't run smooth since he'd

"I find that a daily workout routine is the most beneficial for my
patients, Mr. Steele. I advise them to get a membership in a health club or

"I have my own methods, doctor. Unorthodox perhaps, but I manage to keep
myself reasonably fit."

Doctor's orders or no, Steele planned to avoid such depressingly
fashionable places like the plague. He'd been shocked to find that gyms in
Los Angeles had valet parking and juice bars. In his opinion, if a gym
didn't have a 20-foot square boxing ring, a heavy bag, and a smell like
stale sweat and cigar smoke it wasn't worthy of the name.

"I think we've covered most of the preliminaries, Mr. Steele. The important
thing at the outset is to establish a pattern that will give you at least
seven good hours of sleep each night. I want you to start keeping a sleep

"A sleep diary?"

"A log of your sleeping habits. What time you went to sleep, how many times
you woke up during the night, what activities you engaged in before going
to bed, and so forth. I need you to record this for at least two weeks."

"Won't you be keeping track of my activities here at the clinic?"

"You won't be required to stay here continuously, Mr. Steele. After you
check in and we run some diagnostic tests we'll hook you up to the
monitoring machine and see how it goes. Thereafter, you'll report here on
one more scheduled evening around eight o'clock and be hooked up until
morning. We hope to be able to alleviate the problem primarily through
those lifestyle changes we discussed."

"Lifestyle changes. Yes. I'm sure they'll work wonders," Steele said with
an air of certainty he entirely lacked. He'd rarely felt less sure of

"I'm going to give you a prescription for some sleep aids."

"Is that absolutely necessary, doctor?"

"Just to tide you over until we can get you scheduled at the clinic."
Lindstrom scrawled the prescription on a notepad and handed the slip to
Steele. "I regret to say that there will be a delay of twenty-four hours
until we can take delivery of our new equipment. I think you'll find it
most impressive. The SleepSentry 2000. It's the state of the art in sleep
monitoring. Why, the 'Sentry' almost has a personality of its own."

Steele raised a dubious eyebrow. "An engaging one, I hope."

Lindstrom chuckled. "I think you'll become rather attached to it."

"I can't wait," Steele replied with a singular lack of enthusiasm.

Lindstrom apologized again for the delay in admitting Steele to the clinic
and effusively assured him he would soon be getting the best of care.
Steele rose from his chair and followed the man out into the corridor. They
walked toward the waiting room area.

"Don't let it concern you, doctor. I'm sure I'll survive in the interim."

"There is some excellent literature on insomnia at the admissions desk. Be
sure to look the pamphlets over and call me if you have any questions.
There are some tips for sleep strategies you'll want to put into practice."

"I'll give them my undivided attention. Ah, Miss Holt. There you are."
Steele was relieved to see her, or indeed anyone who wasn't predisposed to
treat him as the subject of a lab experiment.

"I'll leave Mr. Steele in your more than capable hands." Lindstrom's
appraising eye fixed on Laura for what seemed, to Steele, like an eternity,
though it would have appeared to the unwary as the merest glance. "We'll be
admitting him in twenty-four hours for a full work up, the doctor
continued. "In the meantime I suggest that you give your employer every
assistance. We want to be sure that his workload is fairly light at this
crucial stage."

"As far as the office is concerned, Mr. Steele doesn't have a care in the
world. I'll see to it that he stays as uninvolved as possible." Laura
managed to deliver this pronouncement with only a light frosting of sarcasm.

"It's a strange phenomenon. Often busy executives find they can delegate
far more than they ever realized. The office can practically run itself if
they just loosen their grip."

"Mr. Steele runs the office with a light hand," Laura interjected smugly.
"Light as a feather, in fact."

"I have a firm grasp on the big picture of course," Steele said in an
expansive tone, hoping to dispel any notion that he was a mere figurehead.
"Whereas Miss Holt's forte is paying due care and attention to every tiny
detail." That smirk on Laura's face was most unattractive, he decided. It
was time to give her a dose of her own medicine. "I can rely on my trusted
associate to be tediously thorough. Toiling tirelessly behind the scenes,
no matter how trivial or menial the task -"

"You've made your point -- sir," said Laura with an annoyed stress on the

"I merely wished to ensure the good doctor that his patient wouldn't be
over burdened with the petty, nuts and bolts operations."

"I'm relieved to see I have no worries on that score," replied Lindstrom.

"Glad to be able to put your fears to rest, doctor."

"Speaking of rest, Mr. Steele, I've been looking over these sleep disorder
pamphlets and there are some very improving ideas in them." Laura dug
several folded sheets from her purse. "Even for people without sleep
problems. Daily exercise, keeping regular hours, following a set schedule -"

Excellent, Miss Holt." Lindstrom was impressed. "Mr. Steele should be
encouraged to practice his lifestyle regimen as much as possible."

"I'll do my best to see he follows it to the letter." Laura couldn't resist
a twist of the knife. "However trivial and tediously thorough the advice
may seem."

"If you're not careful, Mr. Steele, I may hire this woman away myself. The
clinic can always use someone of her obvious talents. And she would
certainly improve the scenery."

Lack of sleep was straining Steele's forbearance to the breaking point.
He'd had just about enough of the man's feeble attempts at seduction. His
voice took on a silkily dangerous edge. "A word to the wise, doctor. Miss
Holt isn't for sale. Or rent." The warning in his tone was unmistakable.

"I hope I haven't stepped on anyone's toes," replied Lindstrom, taken
aback. "I was merely paying a compliment -"

"Whatever you're paying it isn't enough. Come along, Miss Holt. We have
work to do." He pulled a speechless Laura after him by the arm.

"Remember," Lindstrom called after them, "you'll need to report back to the
clinic tomorrow at eight p.m. sharp."

Steele delayed their egress for the briefest possible moment. "I'm well
aware of the schedule, doctor. Good day."

Laura shrugged apologetically. "We'll be there," she assured the bewildered
medical man.

As soon as they were out of earshot she turned on him. "What left field did
all that come out of? Miss Holt isn't for sale? As if I were your private
property! I have news for you, Mr. Steele. Any interested buyers are my

"You can't mean you're considering it? Laura, the man's a philanderer. An
adulterer - "

"So he likes to play the field. He isn't the first." Laura jerked away from
Steele's grasp and marched toward the clinic entrance, irritation mounting
with each step.

Her voice echoed loudly down the corridor. "You think I can't handle
someone like him? A womanizer, a flirt, an annoyance? I'm a very artful
dodger, Mr. Steele, or haven't you noticed?"

"Point taken, Miss Holt. Your reflexes are excellent but -"

"I should write a book. I'd never run out of material. Every day at the
office is a new chapter."

Steele matched her stride for stride. "It's not your handling that worries
me, it's his. The man couldn't keep his mitts off Sheila Marcus and now
he's after groping the next warm female body he can find."

"That's all I am? A warm female body?"

"To a man like that, yes." Steele eyed her slender form with a
connoisseur's appreciation. "Although I will award him considerable points
for good taste."

"I'm immune to male flattery, Mr. Steele. His and yours."

"But of course you are. It's inconceivable for Laura Holt to have the
slightest chink in that armor of hers. No compliment to femininity gets
past her guard. I salute any man who tries to lay siege to the fortress.
Once more into the breach -"

"Are you defending Lindstrom? Or yourself?" Laura flung open the clinic
doors and strode toward the parking area.

Steele barely managed to dodge the doors on the backswing. He lengthened
his stride to catch up with her. "It's not the same thing."

"It isn't? Then kindly point out the difference, Mr. Steele. And bring a
microscope. I'm not sure it's visible to the naked eye."

"That shows a want of feeling, Laura." Steele seemed genuinely distressed.
"You really think I'm as cold blooded as that man in there?"

"I stand corrected. You're all heart, Mr. Steele." Laura's tone dripped
sarcasm. "Your efforts to get needy blondes and silicone starlets off the
streets and into a nice warm bed are strictly philanthropic."

"It's time you came in from the cold, Miss Holt. A few sessions with a
philanthropist would do you a world of good."

"And I suppose you're volunteering for the job. What a mensch!"

"I'd call it a mercy mission." Steele snapped, temper flaring. "The man who
beds you should get the Nobel Peace Prize."

Laura stopped in mid stride and gave him a look that could freeze an
Eskimo. "If you're hoping for a congratulatory call from Stockholm you're
going to have a very long wait," she huffed. "The next time you get the
urge to be charitable, heat up a blonde."

"I find that an excellent suggestion," Steele shot back. "At least they
start out above room temperature."

They glared at each other in frigid silence until Laura abruptly turned
away and stamped across the lot to the limo. Steele made it there in time
to see her push past Fred who was holding the car door open for her. She
flung herself into back seat, and slammed the door shut behind her with
hurricane force. His hand on the opposite door, Steele swore he could feel
his teeth rattle.

He got in on the other side, gratified by Laura's look of extreme annoyance
as he shut his own door almost noiselessly.

Laura's voice was tight with rage. "Fred, drive me to the office. And drive
Mr. Steele -- somewhere else. Around in circles -- to San Francisco -- or
Stockholm -- I really don't care."


Steele sank gratefully to the sofa, closed his eyes, and exhaled wearily.
The morning had been a disaster of epic proportions. During the ride back
from the clinic the silence between them had settled in like a layer of
permafrost. Laura had taken a sudden interest in a featureless stretch of
highway; Steele had tried and failed to concentrate on a crossword puzzle
from the daily paper. His skills still hadn't improved, though he did get a
thrill of satisfaction from scratching out a-d-u-l-t-e-r-e-r, the word for
seven across, and replacing it with I-i-n-d-s-t-r-o-m.

Steele hadn't really considered the man to be serious competition, but the
thought that Laura might want to entertain the notion, even out of mere
spite, was cause for losing sleep. And he'd done enough of that already.

He frowned at the bottle of little green pills on the coffee table and the
nearby glass of water. Should he give up, call it a day and take one? He
had nothing better to do. Laura had made it clear she didn't want him at
the office and it was a bit early to go looking for female company, even if
he were so inclined. The fact that he wasn't depressed him even more.

Steele twisted the cap off the bottle and removed a pill, swallowing it
down with a gulp of water. He recoiled as a wave of nausea swept through
him. He couldn't shake the persistent feeling that his fortunes had taken a
wrong turn when he wasn't looking.

The new identity that he'd assumed so confidently suddenly felt
claustrophobic. Was life as Remington Steele really different from that of
any other harried businessman in a three-piece suit? He'd spent a lifetime
thinking that respectability was the ultimate trap. Yet here he was, in the
clutches of the soft life, tossing and turning and popping tranquilizers
when once he'd been accustomed to sleeping in squats and on park benches.

Steele smiled grimly. If his old mates could see him now they'd say he was
a sad case indeed. That mortifying incident at the sleep clinic was proof
enough. It had taken him five minutes to pick the lock on the door to the
hospital records room. He hadn't slept much at the time, but lock picking
was rarely a skill that was performed under ideal conditions. Commonly, one
had to contend with an alarm system, a tight schedule and pitch darkness,
not to mention keeping an eye out for security guards or police.

He was right. He should have been able to do it in his sleep. He'd taken
his talents for granted for so long the possibility that he might lose what
he considered a god given ability had never occurred to him. His well
stocked arsenal of survival techniques was a reliable fixed point in a
world where nothing had ever lasted for long and addresses and identities
changed with the prevailing wind.

Since he'd arrived in Los Angeles and assumed the mantle of the famous
detective, his old skills seemed rather beside the point. He used them
sometimes in the line of duty but they were hardly as essential as Laura's
legwork or her well-schooled investigative methods. Even the minor
recreational detours he took from the straight and narrow hardly challenged
his powers. Perhaps those talents really didn't count for much any more.
But his stubborn pride and a sense of insecurity still gnawed at him.

Steele went into the kitchen and retrieved something from the bottom drawer
of the cabinet. He walked back to the sofa and sat down, placing the object
in the center of the coffee table. He regarded it speculatively from
several angles.

It was the complete mechanism of a high security pin tumbler lock. The lock
contained twelve shear cut pins randomly situated around the cylinder's
360-degree circumference. Each pin had to be picked and aligned vertically,
then twisted a set number of degrees to allow the cylinder to open. It was
virtually impregnable to a thief unless he took the usual route of drilling
it. Such crude methods, though effective, were anathema to a true artist.

The word on the street was that the manufacturer offered a reward to anyone
who could pick the lock, not that Steele had any intention of collecting
one. The considerable challenge would be its own reward. In preparation he
rose, walked over and closed the curtains and extinguished the lights and
put on a pair of dark glasses. He selected two finely crafted tools from
the set of lock picks in his jacket.

Steele sat perfectly still and began to focus on his task, conjuring a
mental picture of the lock's internal mechanism from a diagram he'd once
seen. His pulse quickened in anticipation. He held the tools delicately
between his fingers, approaching the object as if it were something rare: a
well guarded gem or perhaps a lover he'd long been waiting for. In no
hurry, he let his sense of touch guide him as he explored the mystery
before him with infinite care. Minutes later, his face in shadow, he
smiled softly at the satisfying click as the first tumbler fell into place.


Laura pulled the car into a space in the parking garage at Rossmore and
turned off the engine. She cranked the top back up on the Rabbit and ran
nervous fingers through her windblown hair. She still wasn't sure what she
was doing there but she'd felt restless and uneasy the whole afternoon.

She'd drifted through appointments like a sleepwalker, shaking a succession
of hands, acting businesslike and reassuring, her body going through the
motions but her mind elsewhere. More than once she thought of how Mr.
Steele would have handled the client, imagining him winning them over with
that singular brand of charm and persuasion that he seemed to employ
without apparent effort.

It was ironic, she thought, that once she had banished him from the office,
she couldn't stop thinking about him, wondering what he was doing, and if
he was OK. She found out later that Fred had dropped Steele off at the
apartment several hours ago after stopping by the drugstore to get his
prescription filled.

In the limo, she'd noticed Steele dozing off between filling in blanks on a
crossword puzzle. He'd looked drawn and tired, almost devoid of energy. She
could feel a sympathy that was almost maternal welling up inside her, a
rather puzzling impulse considering that a few minutes earlier her only
feelings for him had been homicidal. Unable to resolve the contradiction
she forced herself to look out the window at the non-existent scenery,
nursing a migraine while she replayed their argument over and over in her

It wasn't his jealousy of Lindstrom that drove her up the wall. She found
the doctor's behavior almost as disgusting as he did. What galled her
beyond endurance about Mr. Steele was that proprietary air of his, as
though they were more than just business associates and he had some sort of
claim on her. He seemed blithely unconcerned that this exclusivity he
trumpeted was a one way street. She was expected to live like a nun in a
cloister while he had carte blanche to have a stream of women trooping in
and out of his bedroom like it was Union Station.

Laura got out of the car and headed for the elevators, telling herself
every step of the way that a man like that deserved a few sleepless nights
and why should she care if Remington Steele turned out to be an incurable
insomniac? She punched the elevator button and wrestled with the nagging
voice inside her head; the one that said it all started with the Lindstrom
case and she'd gotten him into this mess and she was going to have to help
him out of it.

By the time she rang the doorbell to his apartment the voice was
considerably more subdued. What if he'd taken her up on her suggestion and
was with some blonde whose body temperature was higher than her IQ? What if
he was asleep? Then she really shouldn't disturb him, right? What if he
wasn't asleep? What would he think she was doing there?

He'd never believe she was just being caring and concerned. He'd think she
was jealous, spying on him, trying to catch him with someone else, or that
she'd come there to apologize. Or worse, that she'd come there because
she'd reconsidered and she wanted to spend the whole day in bed with him,
practicing massage techniques and --

The door opened.

"What the devil do you want? Can't you - " Steele stopped in mid tirade and
blinked at her. "Laura?"

"Mr. Steele."

"I'm sorry," they both said in unison.

"I though you were the annoying chap down the hall. He's been trying to
sell me insurance."

"You were asleep?"

That much was obvious, Laura thought as she took in his slightly dazed
expression, his tousled hair, his silk robe that was barely fastened at the
waist. She caught a tantalizing glimpse of the dark fabric of his briefs
before he quickly gathered his robe and tied the belt more securely. She
swallowed hard. This errand of mercy business wasn't going to be as easy as
she thought.

"I'll come back later."

"No, don't go, Laura. I was, um, just watching a movie," Steele improvised,
not wanting her to think she'd disturbed his sleep.

Laura stepped through the door with furrowed brow, listening.

"I don't hear the TV."

"Ah. . . with the sound off. Know the dialogue backwards. 'Scarface.' Paul
Muni, Osgood Perkins, United Artists, 1932. Re-discovered classic." Steele
quickly shut the door behind her. He ran his fingers through his hair.
"Would you like some coffee or something?" He straightened the sofa pillows
and motioned for her to sit down. She sank onto the cushions with a frown.

"I've dragged you out of bed."

His mouth twitched in a smile. "Not a problem. You can drag me back in."

Laura felt her skin flush at the proposal. "I'm sure you can manage on your
own, Mr. Steele."

"But it would be so reassuring to have you by my side in my hour of need."
Steele perched on the arm of the sofa.

"Hour of need? Are all insomniacs this prone to exaggeration?"

"Hard to say." Steele regarded her appraisingly. "We could try a few prone
positions and see what develops."

"This conversation is beginning to sound very familiar."

"Of course it does. Remember Charlotte Knight? Hot and steamy novels?
'Prone Positions'?"

"Are you suggesting -"

"A little bedtime reading? Not unless you brought along a copy."

"Why would I have a copy of one of her books?" Laura replied dismissively.

"Why, indeed?" Steele grinned slyly. "What a wonderful knack you have,
being able to describe them in minute detail without having read them. What
was the phrase you used? 'Every thigh is creamy white, every breast is
full and heaving.'"

Despite the triteness of the prose, Laura's imagination began to
hyperventilate. There was something about the way his voice caressed the
words that made them sound genuinely erotic rather than mass-marketed. And
that look. Why did he have to give her that look? As if he were imagining
them both en route to the bedroom door leaving behind a trail of hastily
discarded clothing. Although in his case he wouldn't have much to remove.
How was it that a man who'd barely slept for days could be this tempting,
could still make any passing female's palms sweat and her mouth water?

It was very disconcerting, not that she was about to let him know it. Laura
forced herself to meet his gaze. He was watching her with a slight smile on
his face as if he was well aware of the precise effect of his seductive

"Ha! You've read one, you've read them all," she volleyed back.

"And have you?"

"Have I what?"

"Read them all?"

"I may have skimmed a few," Laura replied with a show of disinterest. "When
we were working on the case." She picked at an invisible piece of lint on
her jacket.

"That reminds me, Laura. That copy of 'Twice Nightly' -- the one that you
inadvertently left in the file cabinet? It's due back at the library on

"Tuesday?" Laura blurted before she could stop herself. She quickly
recovered and tried to turn the tables. "What were you doing in the file

"Oh, just looking for stray clues."

"Likely story. You were snooping."

Steele's air of reasoned calm was unassailable. "Merely trying to take an
interest in our work. I'll admit I'm no expert but is it usual to file
erotic literature in with the gory details of murder, mayhem, and

"If you're determined to master our filing system, I'm sure I can teach you
the basics. Once you've caught up on your sleep and things are back to
normal you can start solving cases from A to Z - and each and every letter
in between."

Steele was affronted. "Filing? Laura, you can't seriously be suggesting
that the head of the agency engage in such menial activities."

A detective's work is never done, Mr. Steele."

"Wouldn't a division of labour be in our best interest? I find your rapt
attention to the mundane very liberating. You see, it frees me to look at
the large canvas. To make those great intuitive leaps -"

"Of faith?" Laura finished derisively.

"Of deductive reasoning."

"You can't have it both ways, Mr. Steele. Deductive reasoning and intuition
are two entirely different things."

"Excellent point, Miss Holt. Let's not limit ourselves, best of both worlds
and all that."

Laura crinkled her brow thoughtfully. The fact that Steele's slightly bent
perspective sometimes seemed to make sense was beginning to scare her.

"Why don't I make that coffee, Laura? You look as though you could use
some. That unappetizing brew you concoct at the office hardly qualifies."

Laura could hardly deny the awful truth but felt compelled to put up a
defense. "It keeps me going."

"Ah, but at what cost to your life expectancy?"

"Stop whining. You're as bad as Murphy."

"Really, Laura. There no need to insult a man who was going to offer you a
gift from the gods."

"What gift?"

"The finest coffee that has ever passed man's lips. An exclusive blend
direct from the Wallensford Estate in Jamaica."

"Jamaica? I usually buy what's on sale at Safeway."

"Allow me to educate your palate, Miss Holt."

"You don't have to -"

Steele was already halfway to the kitchen. "Two sugars, correct?"

Within minutes a pungent and distinctively rich aroma filled the air.
Steele breezed past the sofa and headed in the direction of the hallway.
"Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back."

Laura heard water running briefly, then Steele re-appeared a few minutes
later, drying his face with a towel. He was wearing pajama bottoms under
his robe and he had combed his hair.

Laura felt a twinge of disappointment. She kind of liked the
just-tumbled-out-of-bed look. His wardrobe at the office was always so
formal that she relished the chance of seeing him a little more unbuttoned.
This time was a bit more than she bargained for. She never expected to
catch that quick freeze-frame of him, standing there in his open robe half
naked. The sight had almost made her heart stop. She had a feeling that
glimpse would be replayed in her fantasies for quite a while. Too bad he'd
put those pajama bottoms on, she mused. Still, things were probably a lot
safer that way for both of them - not that any situation where they were
alone together was entirely safe.

He went into the kitchen to check the coffee and returned with two cups
filled to the brim with the heavenly brew.

"Sorry I disappeared on you. I was just making myself a bit more
presentable. I wasn't expecting company." He handed her a cup and sat down
next to her on the sofa.

"I should have called first. I'm sorry. I just wanted to, um, check on the
patient," she finished self-consciously.

"A doctor this charming who makes house calls is a rare find, indeed," he
teased, brightening at the prospect of a therapy session.

His hopeful look did not escape her. She had to be honest with him.
"UmàI'll stay for coffee, but I really can't . . . stay."

His mouth turned down at the corners a little in disappointment but she saw
the acceptance in his eyes.

"I understand," he said finally, setting down his cup. He leaned over and
kissed her forehead.

"You do? I was afraid you'd -"

"Laura." He smiled at her in a way that made her breath catch in her
throat. "It doesn't matter. I'm just glad you're here."

A feeling that was part pleasure, part relief swept over her. "Insomniacs
say the nicest things, Mr. Steele."

Steele chuckled. "Crossword puzzles do wonders for the vocabulary."

Savoring the aroma, Laura took a sip of her coffee. The taste was so
exquisite it almost made her toes curl. "This coffee is incredible. I think
I could get used to the finer things in life."

Steele arched an eyebrow. "Then my work hasn't been entirely wasted."

Laura lifted her mug in salute. "Maybe I could add another line item to the
office expenses."

Steele drank deeply from his own cup. "I will warn you that it could turn
out to be a rather expensive habit."

Laura shrugged. "We could all use a little indulgence now and then. Within

Steele regarded her with warm amusement. "Indulgence and reason are two
different things, you know."

"Touch_, Mr. Steele. The coffee went to my head."

"Damn, that reminds me."


"Coffee. I'm not supposed to drink it, doctor's orders. I guess I'll have
to get used to decaf." He grimaced at the prospect. "Bottoms up, Miss Holt.
It's all yours." He handed her his cup.

"Mr. Steele," Laura protested. "Now I'll be the one who's awake all night."

"Solidarity. That's the spirit."

Steele insisted she take the rest of the brewed coffee home in a thermos
and he gave her the remainder of the package of coffee beans.

"No need to let it go to waste."

"Get some rest now. You'll need to get your exercise in the morning."

"Exercise? In the morning?" Steele gulped.

"Part of your new and improved lifestyle, Mr. Steele. You'll thank me for
it someday -- when you're being chased by the police and are able to put on
that extra burst of speed."

"Be gentle with me, Miss Holt."

Laura was on her way to the door when something on the coffee table caught
her eye: a very sturdy and complex looking solid steel lock and a pair of
lock picks.

She inclined her head. "Planning to do a little breaking and entering
before bedtime?"

Steele improvised rapidly. "Just, um, product testing. I'm thinking of
putting some more secure hardware on my front door. Detective work can be a
very dangerous business."

Laura was sure he was up to something but decided to play along. "Good
idea. Make sure you give me a spare key."

"Oh, of course, Laura, what's mine is yours. You shall have unquestioned
entr_e to my flat at all times."

"As long as the agency is paying the rent."

"Quite right, Miss Holt." Steele hastened to agree.

"Good night, Mr. Steele." She swept through the door he opened for her.

She turned slowly as an irresistible force drew her back. She reached out
and gently smoothed back his dark hair at one temple, then leaned in and
kissed him hard, her body pinning him against the doorframe. His hair was
damp and his warm lips tasted of coffee. He barely had time to react
before she released him.

"Mr. Steele?"

"Ye-es?" he managed to gasp.

"About that hardware of yours." She looked him frankly up and down.

"Hardware?" Suddenly his pajama bottoms felt a bit tighter than they did

"On the coffee table."

"Oh. That." He glanced back at it distractedly.

"Do try to stay out of jail tonight. You need your sleep."

With that parting shot she walked away, leaving him speechless in the doorway.


Sleep Diary of Remington Steele

26 January, 1983

Sleep aids taken (1) (is this really necessary?)

Caffeine units (1 half cp Jamaican ambrosia, remainder gallantly surrendered)

Number of crosswords completed (0) (redeemed by creative spelling)

Number of cross words exchanged (too numerous to count)

Congratulatory calls from Stockholm (0) (but peace talks promising)

Number of times thought of strategies to warm up heat resistant partner
(98.6 and rising)

Number of prone positions
(solo) imposs. to say after restless night
(with partner) 0, unless verbal foreplay factored in

Congratulatory calls from Medeco Lock Co. (0) but success is own reward,
also fait accompli

Number of times solid steel(e) hardware caught the eye of lovely associate
(2) possibly more, judging from direction of glance

Number of times dreamed about testing mattress with lovely associate (3)
minus nightwear (2)
minus mattress (1)

Number of times solid steel(e) hardware interrupted sleep (3)

Number of times interruption followed by cold shower / emergency relief
measures (3)


Sleep Diary of Remington Steele (as related to Dr. Philip Lindstrom)

26 January, 1983

Sleep aids taken (1) as per doctor's orders

Caffeine units (.5) considerably less than adult daily requirement

Activities prior to bedtime

1. Vocabulary building exercise on drive back from clinic
2. In depth discussion with associate on agency filing protocols
3. Product testing of new security system (req.executive level expertise)

Times got up for extended periods during the night (3)

Est. hours of sleep obtained (3?)
Times sleep interrupted (5+)

To Part 3