- Steele Upon a Mattress - Part
Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003
- Lauryn Poynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
STEELE UPON A MATTRESS - PART TWO
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
"Should I wait outside, doctor?" asked Laura.
"If you don't mind, Miss Holt," said Lindstrom apologetically.
you look even lovelier out of uniform."
"Um, well, white isn't really my color," Laura joked,
Steele scowled suspiciously, his eyes flashing from one to the
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
indulging us. I assure you they are necessary to determine the
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
Steele said dryly.
"It sounds as if your role-playing as an insomniac has had
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
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
"How comforting." Steele had no idea what sort of lifestyle
but he was fairly certain his own was not among them.
"Insomnia is a very individual thing, Mr. Steele. Proper
treatment requires that we ask questions which may seem, well,
personal. This is all completely confidential, 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
expense. I must say the mattress has held up rather well under
"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
"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
"Well again, it varies."
"High level of street noise? Loud neighbors?"
Steele's thoughts drifted back to an orgasmic bout of bedroom
the fashion model who lived two doors down. "I'd say the
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
were strictly his own business. He decided an evasion tactic
was the best
route. "I'm sure you understand doctor, that we detectives,
members of your own profession, burn quite a lot of midnight
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,
seems quite capable of handling the burden."
Steele had no doubt of it. Other than the recent sleep clinic
workload had hardly been overwhelming. "I'll take that under
He wondered anew why Lindstrom seemed so interested in Laura.
practically drooling over her. Steele decided to test the waters.
forgive the intrusion but we're always concerned for the continuing
of our clients. How are you faring these days? Sheila Marcus's
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,
new and perhaps ill-advised relationships. . ." Steele trailed
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
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
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
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
before the case, for instance?"
Steele struggled for a moment to remember what he'd been doing
whom. He'd gone out to the ballet with Irina, an extremely limber
exchange student. She'd spent the overture nibbling on his ear
whispering amorous suggestions about a pas de deux they could
together. She'd promised it would take all night. Attention to
activities on stage began to wander as much as their hands. They'd
her studio apartment an hour before the entr'acte. Steele sighed
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
What about the weekend before?"
Steele grimaced involuntarily as he recalled the details of a
sojourn to Tijuana. He'd gotten into a poker game with a card
"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,
gelding named Pochismo get bumped like a pinata in the stretch,
and finish fourth. Before the evening was over Steele had tried
and several shots of mescal too many and concluded that by comparison,
outcomes at California tracks were as predictable as atomic clocks.
Steele was spared further unhappy recollection by the interruption.
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
financial snag. I hardly think it's relevant to your diagnosis,
"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?
limits, of course. I realize you do have to be able to get sufficient
to get up bright and early the next morning."
Since Steele rarely strode through the office doors before noon
scarcely applied. The good doctor would be cheered to know that
patient spent most, if not all, of his waking hours trying to
clutches of responsibility. Still, it would hardly be to Steele's
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
on here. In light of this, one admonition I always give my insomniacs
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
As for drinking, he did it mostly socially, and not to excess
occasion called for it. He rarely drank alone. His nicotine intake
governed by quality over quantity. He was willing to succumb
pleasures of a fine cigar. Other habits would be harder to break.
he would regret the loss of those extra few cups of coffee in
"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
fanatic? It was bad enough that nearly every tryst with an eligible
had to be fit in between aerobics classes. He'd managed to resist
so far but the course of idleness certainly hadn't run smooth
"I find that a daily workout routine is the most beneficial
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
stale sweat and cigar smoke it wasn't worthy of the name.
"I think we've covered most of the preliminaries, Mr. Steele.
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 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
to bed, and so forth. I need you to record this for at least
"Won't you be keeping track of my activities here at the
"You won't be required to stay here continuously, Mr. Steele.
check in and we run some diagnostic tests we'll hook you up to
monitoring machine and see how it goes. Thereafter, you'll report
one more scheduled evening around eight o'clock and be hooked
morning. We hope to be able to alleviate the problem primarily
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
"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
Lindstrom scrawled the prescription on a notepad and handed the
Steele. "I regret to say that there will be a delay of twenty-four
until we can take delivery of our new equipment. I think you'll
most impressive. The SleepSentry 2000. It's the state of the
art in sleep
monitoring. Why, the 'Sentry' almost has a personality of its
Steele raised a dubious eyebrow. "An engaging one, I hope."
Lindstrom chuckled. "I think you'll become rather attached
"I can't wait," Steele replied with a singular lack
Lindstrom apologized again for the delay in admitting Steele
to the clinic
and effusively assured him he would soon be getting the best
Steele rose from his chair and followed the man out into the
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
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
"I'll give them my undivided attention. Ah, Miss Holt. There
Steele was relieved to see her, or indeed anyone who wasn't predisposed
treat him as the subject of a lab experiment.
"I'll leave Mr. Steele in your more than capable hands."
appraising eye fixed on Laura for what seemed, to Steele, like
though it would have appeared to the unwary as the merest glance.
admitting him in twenty-four hours for a full work up, the doctor
continued. "In the meantime I suggest that you give your
assistance. We want to be sure that his workload is fairly light
"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."
managed to deliver this pronouncement with only a light frosting
"It's a strange phenomenon. Often busy executives find they
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
"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
"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
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
over burdened with the petty, nuts and bolts operations."
"I'm relieved to see I have no worries on that score,"
"Glad to be able to put your fears to rest, doctor."
"Speaking of rest, Mr. Steele, I've been looking over these
pamphlets and there are some very improving ideas in them."
several folded sheets from her purse. "Even for people without
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
"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
certainly improve the scenery."
Lack of sleep was straining Steele's forbearance to the breaking
He'd had just about enough of the man's feeble attempts at seduction.
voice took on a silkily dangerous edge. "A word to the wise,
Holt isn't for sale. Or rent." The warning in his tone was
"I hope I haven't stepped on anyone's toes," replied
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
"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.
aware of the schedule, doctor. Good day."
Laura shrugged apologetically. "We'll be there," she
assured the bewildered
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
property! I have news for you, Mr. Steele. Any interested buyers
"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
with each step.
Her voice echoed loudly down the corridor. "You think I
someone like him? A womanizer, a flirt, an annoyance? I'm a very
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
me, it's his. The man couldn't keep his mitts off Sheila Marcus
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
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
past her guard. I salute any man who tries to lay siege to the
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
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
"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
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
Eskimo. "If you're hoping for a congratulatory call from
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
away and stamped across the lot to the limo. Steele made it there
to see her push past Fred who was holding the car door open for
flung herself into back seat, and slammed the door shut behind
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
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
Stockholm -- I really don't care."
Steele sank gratefully to the sofa, closed his eyes, and exhaled
The morning had been a disaster of epic proportions. During the
from the clinic the silence between them had settled in like
a layer of
permafrost. Laura had taken a sudden interest in a featureless
highway; Steele had tried and failed to concentrate on a crossword
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,
thought that Laura might want to entertain the notion, even out
spite, was cause for losing sleep. And he'd done enough of that
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
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,
he were so inclined. The fact that he wasn't depressed him even
Steele twisted the cap off the bottle and removed a pill, swallowing
down with a gulp of water. He recoiled as a wave of nausea swept
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
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
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
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
was rarely a skill that was performed under ideal conditions.
had to contend with an alarm system, a tight schedule and pitch
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.
his talents for granted for so long the possibility that he might
he considered a god given ability had never occurred to him.
stocked arsenal of survival techniques was a reliable fixed point
world where nothing had ever lasted for long and addresses and
changed with the prevailing wind.
Since he'd arrived in Los Angeles and assumed the mantle of the
detective, his old skills seemed rather beside the point. He
sometimes in the line of duty but they were hardly as essential
legwork or her well-schooled investigative methods. Even the
recreational detours he took from the straight and narrow hardly
his powers. Perhaps those talents really didn't count for much
But his stubborn pride and a sense of insecurity still gnawed
Steele went into the kitchen and retrieved something from the
of the cabinet. He walked back to the sofa and sat down, placing
in the center of the coffee table. He regarded it speculatively
It was the complete mechanism of a high security pin tumbler
lock. The lock
contained twelve shear cut pins randomly situated around the
360-degree circumference. Each pin had to be picked and aligned
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
it. Such crude methods, though effective, were anathema to a
The word on the street was that the manufacturer offered a reward
who could pick the lock, not that Steele had any intention of
one. The considerable challenge would be its own reward. In preparation
rose, walked over and closed the curtains and extinguished the
put on a pair of dark glasses. He selected two finely crafted
the set of lock picks in his jacket.
Steele sat perfectly still and began to focus on his task, conjuring
mental picture of the lock's internal mechanism from a diagram
seen. His pulse quickened in anticipation. He held the tools
between his fingers, approaching the object as if it were something
well guarded gem or perhaps a lover he'd long been waiting for.
hurry, he let his sense of touch guide him as he explored the
before him with infinite care. Minutes later, his face in shadow,
smiled softly at the satisfying click as the first tumbler fell
Laura pulled the car into a space in the parking garage at Rossmore
turned off the engine. She cranked the top back up on the Rabbit
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
She'd drifted through appointments like a sleepwalker, shaking
of hands, acting businesslike and reassuring, her body going
motions but her mind elsewhere. More than once she thought of
Steele would have handled the client, imagining him winning them
that singular brand of charm and persuasion that he seemed to
without apparent effort.
It was ironic, she thought, that once she had banished him from
she couldn't stop thinking about him, wondering what he was doing,
he was OK. She found out later that Fred had dropped Steele off
apartment several hours ago after stopping by the drugstore to
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
rather puzzling impulse considering that a few minutes earlier
feelings for him had been homicidal. Unable to resolve the contradiction
she forced herself to look out the window at the non-existent
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.
the doctor's behavior almost as disgusting as he did. What galled
beyond endurance about Mr. Steele was that proprietary air of
though they were more than just business associates and he had
some sort of
claim on her. He seemed blithely unconcerned that this exclusivity
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
and out of his bedroom like it was Union Station.
Laura got out of the car and headed for the elevators, telling
every step of the way that a man like that deserved a few sleepless
and why should she care if Remington Steele turned out to be
insomniac? She punched the elevator button and wrestled with
voice inside her head; the one that said it all started with
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
considerably more subdued. What if he'd taken her up on her suggestion
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
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
she'd reconsidered and she wanted to spend the whole day in bed
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?"
"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
expression, his tousled hair, his silk robe that was barely fastened
waist. She caught a tantalizing glimpse of the dark fabric of
before he quickly gathered his robe and tied the belt more securely.
swallowed hard. This errand of mercy business wasn't going to
be as easy as
"I'll come back later."
"No, don't go, Laura. I was, um, just watching a movie,"
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.
Muni, Osgood Perkins, United Artists, 1932. Re-discovered classic."
quickly shut the door behind her. He ran his fingers through
"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
"Are you suggesting -"
"A little bedtime reading? Not unless you brought along
"Why would I have a copy of one of her books?" Laura
"Why, indeed?" Steele grinned slyly. "What a wonderful
knack you have,
being able to describe them in minute detail without having read
was the phrase you used? 'Every thigh is creamy white, every
full and heaving.'"
Despite the triteness of the prose, Laura's imagination began
hyperventilate. There was something about the way his voice caressed
words that made them sound genuinely erotic rather than mass-marketed.
that look. Why did he have to give her that look? As if he were
them both en route to the bedroom door leaving behind a trail
discarded clothing. Although in his case he wouldn't have much
How was it that a man who'd barely slept for days could be this
could still make any passing female's palms sweat and her mouth
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
his face as if he was well aware of the precise effect of his
"Ha! You've read one, you've read them all," she volleyed
"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
"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
"Tuesday?" Laura blurted before she could stop herself.
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
erotic literature in with the gory details of murder, mayhem,
"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
normal you can start solving cases from A to Z - and each and
Steele was affronted. "Filing? Laura, you can't seriously
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
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
perspective sometimes seemed to make sense was beginning to scare
"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
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."
"The finest coffee that has ever passed man's lips. An exclusive
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,
Within minutes a pungent and distinctively rich aroma filled
Steele breezed past the sofa and headed in the direction of the
"Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back."
Laura heard water running briefly, then Steele re-appeared a
later, drying his face with a towel. He was wearing pajama bottoms
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
formal that she relished the chance of seeing him a little more
This time was a bit more than she bargained for. She never expected
catch that quick freeze-frame of him, standing there in his open
naked. The sight had almost made her heart stop. She had a feeling
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
safer that way for both of them - not that any situation where
alone together was entirely safe.
He went into the kitchen to check the coffee and returned with
filled to the brim with the heavenly brew.
"Sorry I disappeared on you. I was just making myself a
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
"UmàI'll stay for coffee, but I really can't . .
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.
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
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
Laura lifted her mug in salute. "Maybe I could add another
line item to the
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
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
"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
her eye: a very sturdy and complex looking solid steel lock and
a pair of
She inclined her head. "Planning to do a little breaking
Steele improvised rapidly. "Just, um, product testing. I'm
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.
idea. Make sure you give me a spare key."
"Oh, of course, Laura, what's mine is yours. You shall have
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
and gently smoothed back his dark hair at one temple, then leaned
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
before she released him.
"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
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
(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
also fait accompli
Number of times solid steel(e) hardware caught the eye of lovely
(2) possibly more, judging from direction of glance
Number of times dreamed about testing mattress with lovely associate
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
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
Times got up for extended periods during the night (3)
Est. hours of sleep obtained (3?)
Times sleep interrupted (5+)
- To Part