Steele Upon a Mattress - Part Six
Date: Saturday, March 15, 2003
Lauryn Poynor <>



Lauryn Poynor

Rated "R" for sexual situations.

Laura turned the key in the lock. "Mr. Steele?"

He hadn't answered the door buzzer, or her insistent knocking. Laura's
lips twitched in a fleeting smile. Murphy would have kicked it in. She
inched her way through the apartment, hanging back with the same
reluctance that sometimes dogged her when she spied on a private moment
during a stakeout or rifled through a bureau drawer for evidence. There
was no reason to feel guilty, she told herself. After all, she had a
key, the agency was paying the rent on the apartment and if the con man
who had charmed his way into it wasn't answering the door, well then,
she had every right to be there, to check up on things.

Seeing no sign of him Laura made her way down the hall toward the
bedroom. She could hear the muffled blare of a movie soundtrack playing
at low volume.

Feeling her skin pricking on the back of her neck, she called out his
name again and peered through the doorway. Steele was sprawled out on
the bed, fully clothed, bedcovers around his legs, a small, neatly
packed overnight case propped open on the floor next to him. The TV
remote dangled from his right hand and his limbs twitched restively as
he clung to his pillow.

Laura sat carefully on the edge of the bed. She knew she would have to
wake him up but she was finding it hard to convince herself it was for
his own good. Let him enjoy what little sleep he'd gotten lately, she
thought, though it didn't seem like he was enjoying it much. Steele
moaned and mumbled something unintelligible, then tried to turn over but
was hampered by Laura's weight on the bedspread. He sank back against
the mattress.

"We can't let you go," intoned the preternaturally calm and
dispassionate voice in Steele's head. "You're dangerous to us. Don't
fight it, Miles, it's no use. Sooner or later, you'll have to go to

Laura reached out and touched his face, drawing her palm gently across
his cheekbone. Her fingers traced the arc of his left eyebrow, causing
Steele's eyelids to flicker briefly in response. Her other hand slipped
to his chest. She could feel his breathing becoming increasingly more
shallow and distressed.

". . . they're taking you over cell for cell, atom for atom. There is no
pain. Suddenly while you're asleep, they'll absorb your minds, your
memories and you're reborn into an untroubled world . . ."

Steele's blue eyes fluttered open and he stared in shock at Laura as if
she were some alien creature from another planet. Surprised, she jerked
her hands back to her sides, and moved back further on the bed. Steele
struggled to sit up, fighting to get air in his lungs, still not quite
sure where his mind or body was or where his nightmare stopped and
reality started.

"Mr. Steele. Are you alright?"

"'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Allied
Artists, 1956." Steele recited the words automatically, as if he were
under hypnosis.

Laura was tempted to snap her fingers to bring him out of it, but that
seemed a little theatrical. "Mr. Steele." She shook him by the
shoulder. "You were dreaming. It's just a silly movie."

Still a little disoriented, Steele peered intently at the woman on the
bed. It sounded like the same old Laura. He searched her face, finding
the crinkle in her brow that was always there when she was worried.

"Laura, thank God. I must have dozed off. 'Creature Feature Matinee' was
on and I - " Steele broke off for a moment and gave her a sidelong
glance. "You don't have a perfect replica of Laura Holt hiding in the
cellar, do you, because in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' the aliens

"I don't have a cellar, Mr. Steele. And there's only one of me - last
time I checked."

"One can never be too careful," Steele replied, clicking off the TV set
with the remote.

"You're the one with the five passports. And which one is the real you,
I wonder?"

"Truth is sometimes - stranger than cinema, Miss Holt. Or whoever you
are. " He winked at her.

Laura felt her heart turn over at the sight of him. Why did he look so
delicious slightly rumpled and half awake? She leaned in and pressed
warm lips to his. They kissed, experimentally at first, then with less
restraint, fueled by the spark that never failed to ignite between them.

"Was that the real Laura?" she gasped, coming up for air.

Steele was as breathless as she was. "Once more with feeling, Miss Holt?
Just to be sure?"

She silenced his doubts with a kiss that could melt Martian ice caps.


"Laura, are you sure you've never seen 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'?
I could swear that was your pod person who took over and drove me
here." Steele scribbled sundry bits of information on the clinic
admissions form.

"I told you we were keeping strictly to the schedule." Laura glanced at
her watch. "I don't know why you're so jumpy. You've skipped half of the
questions." She looked up to see Lindstrom rounding the corner.

"Miss Holt. Long time no see." Lindstrom looked delighted to find his
favorite doctor making the rounds.

"But who's counting," Steele replied acerbically. "I think this is
yours." He gave Lindstrom the admissions forms.

Lindstrom handed them over to the nurse on duty with the blithe
condescension patented by medical men over the centuries. "Make sure
that's in order, would you, nurse?"

"Of course, doctor, "she replied with a hint of irritation.

"Well, Mr. Steele. Are you ready to take a giant step into twenty-first
century medicine? I know you're just itching to cozy up to the future
and the SleepSentry 2000."

"Why, the very thought kept me awake for hours, doctor."

"But first there are some slightly more old fashioned diagnostic
procedures to deal with."

Steele stared coolly at his nemesis. "Nothing too old fashioned, I hope.
No applying leeches, or consulting the entrails of passing pigeons."

Lindstrom laughed uneasily. "That's a good one. I like to see a patient
with a sense of humor. The bulk of your exam, like before, will be
conducted by Nurse Blackell. She's quite skilled at the more 'hands on'

Steele winced. "Those who live to tell the tale have the bruises to
prove it. I'd hoped you'd convinced her to take off for a brief
vacation. To a small, but not inhospitable yurt in Outer Mongolia,

"She has a bedside manner like a buzz saw but she's a very good nurse."
Lindstrom stopped short, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. "What's a

"A collapsible hut used by nomadic -- never mind that. Let's get this
over with, shall we?"

"I just have a few minor adjustments to make to your state of the art
sleep station. You have the signal honor, Mr. Steele, of being the very
first patient to test this equipment. You'll be amazed when you see what
it can do."

Steele yawned at the prospect. "I feel the urge to nap already."

"We'll be monitoring you on video all the way. Down to the slightest eye
movement and muscle twitch."

Steele flinched perceptibly. "Well, I hope my performance is up to par.
I hate to disappoint an audience."

"That's the spirit. One thing you'll find about the Sentry2000 - it
never sleeps on the job." Lindstrom chuckled at his own joke. "Just a
little sleep clinic humor."

"Charming," Steele said dryly.

"Nurse Blackell will be with you shortly. If you two would have a seat
in the waiting area I'll make sure she's ready."

"Busy oiling her rack and thumbscrews, no doubt," Steele replied with a
sour smile. They found two empty chairs and sat down.

Lindstrom's eyes lingered on Laura as he made to leave. "Do you play
tennis, Miss Holt?"

Laura's frowned in puzzlement at this rather odd segue. "I've been known
to. Why do you ask?"

"I couldn't help noticing your admirable soleus and gastrocnemius."

"You'll have to translate. I'm not really a doctor, you know."

"Nice gams."

Laura blushed and looked down at her legs. "Oh, I see."

"Anatomy lessons are on the house," said Lindstrom with a hopeful smile.
"Anytime you need -"

Steele leapt to his feet, barely resisting the impulse to grab the other
man by the scruff of the neck. "She's not the one who needs a lesson,

The hint of street toughness in Steele's tone put Laura on alert; only a
hair's breadth of civility was keeping him from swatting Lindstrom like
an annoying mosquito.

Lindstrom's eyes flickered nervously to Steele as he tried to backpedal
out of harm's way. "Uh, we doctors tend to notice such things. Hazard of
the profession."

Steele's eyes narrowed. "Hazardous, indeed, doctor."

Lindstrom took the hint and ran with it. "I'll just go - get the nurse."
He skittered away like a startled beach crab.


Laura let out a breath as the storm clouds receded. The blustery
atmosphere was making her head spin. "Don't start with me. I'm in no
mood to referee the testosterone Olympics," she snapped ominously.

"You're warning off the wrong man. Or maybe you don't want to warn him

Laura swung her heavy purse onto her shoulder. "I know how to use this -
and I'm inches away from putting the both of you in traction."

"The man's insufferable. Every woman in the world does not want to sleep
with him."

Laura shrugged noncommittally. "Except maybe the narcoleptics on the
third floor."

"Good lord. His sense of humor is contagious. I'll ring the nurse for
some disinfectant."

"Someone we know certainly got up on the wrong side of the bed."

"I was quite content to stay there until you rousted me out. Rather
ironic, don't you think? Waking a man up to drive him to a sleep

Laura gritted her teeth. "This negative attitude of yours is not

"Easy for you to say. You're not being left to the tender mercies of
Lindstrom and his metal sidekick, Sleep-3PO."

"I know Lindstrom's annoying but he is a qualified professional when it
comes to sleep disorders."

"I think I prefer the sleep droid. Perhaps it's been programmed with a
pleasing personality. Pity we couldn't start Lindstrom's from scratch."

Steele had inadvertently added the proverbial last straw. Laura sprang
up like a jack in the box. "That's it. I'm leaving. I haven't heard
this much whining since I had to spend my niece's allowance."

Steele eyed her askance. "You spent your niece's allowance? Really,
Laura. Children must have role models."

"We were at the circus, alright?" Laura huffed. "And I forgot to gas up
the Rabbit."

"So you raided the piggy bank. Tsk. Tsk."

"She shouldn't complain. She got back fifteen percent interest. Never
mind. You're on your own from now on." Laura picked up Steele's
overnight bag and deposited it decisively in his lap.

"But, Laura -"

"Sweet dreams, Mr. Steele."

"But I'm your most important, most - desperate patient. You wouldn't
desert me at such a critical time -"

"Try me."

"Love to, but could we go back to my place? Unless you want to cozy up
to a machine. If you're feeling adventurous we could make it a threesome
but it might get a bit cramped."

"I'm not cozying up to anything. Or anyone. Two's company, three's a
crowd. The future's all yours. I'm going home."

"But, Laura, what about my tension relieving massage?"

"I'm sure your sleep droid has the latest attachments."

"Dial 'M' for massage? That's so impersonal. So - clinical."

Laura waved an arm at their surroundings. "When in Rome, Mr. Steele."

Steele's reply died on his lips as he spied the Gorgon-like visage of
Nurse Blackell. She was frowning down at her clipboard, heavy strides
drawing her ever closer to her prey.

"Mister Steele," she barked in a military fashion. "The head nurse at
admissions was afraid to disturb you. Seems to think you're some sort of
VIP, but as I've told her before, everyone gets the same treatment

"Rather like the Spanish Inquisition," Steele said dryly.

"You may think it's amusing to play hide and seek with your medical
history but we get the last laugh in the end. No one leaves gaps on a
form 1106-C."

"Gaps? Really? Must have run short on ink."

Nurse Blackell smiled unpleasantly and handed him a pen. "I have plenty
of extras." She patted her pocket.

Feeling rather like a prisoner forced to sign a confession, Steele took
up the clipboard, squinting at the large portions of white space
starting somewhere in the vicinity of question 4-B. Pen poised above
it, he glanced around the room as if hoping to pull inspiration out of
his surroundings.

Steele waved frantically at Laura whom he discovered, to his dismay, was
halfway to the exit. "My trusty associate can assist you with filling in
these rather unfortunate blanks. She knows every detail of Remington
Steele's medical history. Better than I do, in fact. I have a mind like
a sieve when it comes to these matters."

"That I can believe," Nurse Blackell replied acidly.

"There are gaps, Miss Holt," Steele cried desperately. "I need your
assistance. Your rare instincts. Your professional opinion."

Laura beat a hasty retreat. "Take two aspirin, Mr. Steele. And call me
in the morning."


"So, how do I seem this time?"

Nurse Blackell surveyed him with a gimlet eye. "As healthy as a
Holstein heifer."

"I see your stock of similes hasn't left the barnyard since our paths
last crossed."

"You want poetry -"

"Go to the library. Yes, I remember. Your gruff and pungent wit has made
an indelible impression. To match the one in my neck." Steele winced and
tried to turn his head away but his antagonist held it firmly in her

"Eyes front." She shined a penlight close to each orb.

Steele blinked. "Shouldn't this sort of thing be done by someone with
the proper credentials? You could hurt someone with that -"

The insertion of eye drops put a temporary end to the discussion.

"This will take effect in about twenty minutes or so. I'll be back
shortly. Don't go anywhere. The last patient who went exploring ended up
in the cadaver room."

Steele grimaced. "That's what I call a stiff penalty."


Nurse Blackell peered into Steele's dilated pupils with an

"What a life you must lead. I haven't seen eyes this bloodshot since I
worked in the methadone clinic downtown."

"I daresay your patients were more rested than I am. I have this
condition, you see. It's called insomnia. Perhaps you've heard of it."

Nurse Blackell ignored his sarcasm, squinting into the scope with a
disapproving head shake. "Not a pretty picture."

"I thought you said I was healthy."

"Healthy. Not perfect. Don't expect me to massage your ego. This is a
sleep center. Not a sensitivity spa."

"You'll find my ego is quite easily bruised. I'm sure it's best for all
concerned if we forego any untoward intimacies. I have a very low pain

Steele stifled a yelp as she kneaded his shoulders roughly. "So I've
noticed. Speaking of massage, I think we're going to get along famously.
My hands are certified, you know."

"As lethal weapons?"

"I used to work for a doctor who specialized in these kinds of

"Where is he now? Embroiled in a costly malpractice suit? Or dodging
extradition in Paraguay?"

"He was my mentor. I learned a lot from him, Mr. Steele." She pressed
two blunt thumbs solidly against his spine. "But I don't mind sharing."

Steele's eyes widened in alarm. "I'd sooner share my toothbrush with
Margaret Thatcher."

"There's a bundle of very receptive nerves just about --"


"Bingo. I never miss. I'm going to enjoy strapping you in, so to speak."

"I beg your pardon?" Steele gulped.

"To your sleep station."

"Ah, yes. The twenty-first century wonder."

"And if you're thinking of switching connections and wandering off like
you did last time, think again."

"It was a rather daring and unexpected ploy, wasn't it? Defies
categorization really, but you could call it an homage to the cinema.
'The Great Escape.' Steve McQueen, James Garner. United Artists, 1963."

"Don't flatter yourself. I've seen the movie."

"You go to movies?" Steele scowled as if the thought depressed him.

"I watch the late show. You're no James Garner. And no one would ever
confuse you with Steve McQueen."

"You're not leaving me many options."

"There's always that little bald guy with the glasses."

"Ah. The forger. Colin Blythe. Played by Donald Pleasance. Not my first
choice but we do have certain skills in common. I'd be happy to supply
you with a passport on short notice. Even throw in some mosquito
netting and a one way ticket on the 'Patagonian Express.'"

"Nice try, but I have no plans to leave my post. I wouldn't want to miss

"What a pity. I was just discussing your vacation with Dr. Lindstrom.
We could all use some rest and relaxation."

"I didn't know you cared."

"I was thinking of the rest of us."

"There are some things about this place I wouldn't miss." She glared
pointedly at Steele.

"Nice to have something in common."

The combatants looked up as Lindstrom came through the door of the
examining room.

The doctor glanced around the room as if expecting to see Laura. "Mr.
Steele." Still a little wary from their recent encounter, he tried to
add an extra measure of cheer to his bedside manner. "Still with us, I
see. And how are we faring?" He picked up Steele's chart from Nurse

"We," Steele replied testily, "are not at all amused."

Lindstrom glanced at the chart. "Really? I'd say the vital signs are
pretty encouraging."

Steele rubbed the back of his neck and winced. "Appearances can be
deceiving, doctor. A few more minutes alone with your accomplice and I'd
have been a candidate for reconstructive surgery."

"I'm sure you'll, ah, adjust to our way of doing things. It's important
for our patients to have a positive outlook."

"I'm painfully aware of my responsibility, doctor."

Nurse Blackell flexed her fingers with a flourish.

"I appreciate that, Mr. Steele," Lindstrom continued. "And mine is to
see that you receive the finest and most up to date treatment during
your stay. Why don't we adjourn to your sleep room and get the ball
rolling, so to speak? I think it's all systems go."

Steele straightened his tie. "Do I look presentable? My associate, Miss
Holt, dragged me out of bed just moments before we arrived, so I'm
afraid I'm not at my best for your candid cameras." Steele hoped that
the casually dropped hint of a mattress testing session with Laura was
not lost on his rival.

Lindstrom looked more than a little downcast, Steele thought, but the
doctor pressed on manfully.

"I'm sure you'll do fine, Mr. Steele. The important thing is to remember
that it's all just part of the treatment."

"Well, one does like to make a good impression."

Lindstrom ushered his patient into the sleep room. Steele strolled
around, seized by an uncomfortable feeling of d_j vu as he stared at
the daunting array of wires, graphs, recording pens, and rhythmically
pulsing and beeping monitors. He couldn't fathom what was so remarkable
about this new and improved sleep station; it looked more like a
glorified, over-fed, calculating machine than an endearing and amiable
sleep droid.

"As you can see, Mr. Steele, we like to simulate the home environment as
much as possible. You can wear your own pajamas, bring reading material,
or even watch television if it helps you drift off to sleep."

Steele raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Do you get the 'Movie Classics'
channel? It's just begun airing and I find it quite relaxing."

"Err, I don't think so. We don't have cable. Just what's on the

"So much for the comforts of home."

"The staff has had your things brought up. You can step into that
adjoining bathroom and change into your pajamas. Then we'll get you
wired, as they say in the parlance."

Steele went into the bathroom and emerged several minutes later wearing
dark blue silk pajamas and carrying his clothes over his arm.

"Nurse, would you hang up Mr. Steele's clothes?"

Nurse Blackell reached out for them causing Steele to step back in
alarm. "I prefer to do it myself. I'm a creature of habit when it comes
to these things."

"As you like," agreed Lindstrom.

Nurse Blackell frowned at her watch as Steele took nearly three minutes
to square the shoulders on his jacket and to drape his trousers so that
the crease would remain flawless.

"You really should invest in some proper suit hangers," Steele
remonstrated. "It would make this much simpler." He smiled innocently.
"I hope I'm not holding up progress."

"Don't worry," said the nurse tartly. "I get paid by the hour."

"So. Where do you want me?" Steele asked his medical team.

"On the bed is -- traditional," replied Lindstrom.

"Of course." Steele stretched out full length on the bed and shifted
about trying to get comfortable. "Not quite up to the Michelin Red Guide
Standard, is it?" Steele gave the pillow an experimental thwack.

"Nurse Blackell, perhaps you should fluff Mr. Steele's pillow."

"I'd be happy to." She yanked the pillow unceremoniously out from under
Steele's head and proceeded to pound it like a boxer striking a heavy
bag. She smiled with satisfaction and thrust it back into place. "There.
Isn't that better?"

"Oh, quite. You've certainly beaten it into submission."

"Nice to know I haven't lost my touch."

"OK, Mr. Steele. Let's get you situated. Nurse, if you would assist me
in hooking up the patient."

"Of course, doctor."

In short order a series of electrodes was attached to Steele's scalp,
near his eyes, nose, and chin, and on his chest and shins. Elastic belts
were secured around his chest and abdomen and a small clip device was
attached to his index finger.

"The clip on your finger will monitor your blood oxygen levels and the
elastic belts will measure respiratory effort. The electrodes, Mr.
Steele, will tell us what you, the subject, are not able to about your
sleep events. They will be recording your EEG, EOG, EMG, and so on."

"Is a translation on the house, too, or will it appear on my bill?"

"Oh. Sorry to sound so technical. It's actually quite simple. Your brain
waves, eye movements, leg movements, muscle tension data will all be fed
into your SleepSentry 2000. The attached recording pens will transfer
the data onto these printouts.

"Yes, I believe I've seen the results before. Charming idea for a
bedspread. You could sell them in your gift shop."

"Two pages of data equal to about one minute of sleep. A patient can go
through a thousand pages a night."

Steele was mildly amused. "The sleeper's equivalent of a Tolstoy novel."

"All in the name of science, Mr. Steele. The high resolution monitors
we've installed at the central nurses' station will display a full view
of your sleep environment, and your various sleep positions, in living
color recorded on videotape.

"I'd have preferred a big screen debut at Grauman's Chinese Theater,"
Steele replied disdainfully, "Still, my hopes weren't high."

"Nurse Blackell will be checking up on you to see that everything is
going smoothly."

"If you need anything during the night," Nurse Blackell said with a thin
smile, "I have a bedpan handy."

"Right. I almost forgot, Mr. Steele. We provide a bathroom but we prefer
that our patients not unhook themselves from the machine. Nurse Blackell
will be on call. You can press this remote button here to summon her
when needed."

Steele made a mental note not to drink any liquids in the next eight

"I suppose it's unfair of me to expect a layman to share my enthusiasm
but I'm awfully excited by the possibilities with our new SleepSentry.
We're at the crossroads of a new era in sleep disorder diagnosis and

"If you don't mind my asking, doctor, is there a massage attachment on
this thoroughly modern machine?"

Lindstrom's brow furrowed. "No, I'm afraid not. I suppose that never
occurred to the manufacturer. But it's not a bad idea. Might be relaxing
for some of our patients."

The intercom crackled with static and a voice announced, "Nurse
Blackell, please report to nurses station two. Nurses station two."

"I'll finish up here, nurse," reassured Lindstrom.

"Your special expertise is required elsewhere, eh?" Steele queried
sardonically. "A lorry load of ace bandages arrive? Or perhaps a
consignment of tongue depressors?"

"Those could come in handy," snapped his nemesis. "We have no shortage
of bedpans. I'll be keeping in touch. I can't wait for next morning's

"What happens tomorrow morning?" asked Steele apprehensively.

"Your sponge bath." Nurse Blackell's lips pulled back in a semblance of
a smile. "I have just the perfect sponge for the job."

Steele was struck speechless for a moment but he quickly recovered.
"Some variant of industrial grade sandpaper? I must warn you I have very
sensitive skin. In fact, a sponge bath could be hazardous to my health.
I only use a specially imported soap from Hong Kong. Or is it Marrakesh?
I doubt you have it in stock."

Nurse Blackell curled her lip in disapproval and marched out to answer
her summons.

"All of our soaps are hypoallergenic, Mr. Steele," said Lindstrom

"Best not to take any chances, don't you think? I could break out in a
terrible rash. Be unable to sleep a wink for weeks."

"I wouldn't worry needlessly, Mr. Steele. None of our patients have
complained of this before."

"Well, the narcoleptics wouldn't, would they? They could sleep through
anything. We insomniacs are more sensitive."

"I'm beginning to think so."

Steele fidgeted on the bed, trying to shake off the feeling that he was
inescapably trapped; at the mercy of the Lindstroms and the Nurse
Blackells of the world, and there wasn't much he could do about it.

"I don't see that a sponge bath is necessary. I thought I was only
staying overnight."

"You'll probably be released before lunch. We want to determine your
sleep phase syndrome based on your wakefulness in the morning and note
any EDS deficits."


"It's an acronym for excessive daytime sleepiness."

"How prosaic. I thought you physicians preferred Latin and Greek."

Steele's eyes darted around the room restlessly. He noticed a device
wired to the sleep station that looked like a downsized version of a
blood pressure cuff. It was practically the only thing he wasn't
tethered to. He held it up by two fingers.

"What's this, doctor? Something you forgot to attach?"

Lindstrom was taken aback. "Well, ah, perhaps, but we don't use it in
all cases."

"I like to know my agency is getting its money's worth. What's it used

"It's an NPT, um, nocturnal penile tumescence device. We give it to our
male patients to wrap around their penis during sleep. You see, some of
them are referred to us due to erectile dysfunction; this cuff device
measures blood flow, duration and intensity of the subject's nocturnal -

Steele held up both hands in a restraining gesture. "That's quite enough
translation, doctor. You've no further need to, ah, expand on the

"Of course, I had no indication it was needed but if you're having any
dysfunction -"

Such a suggestion from Lindstrom was more than he could stomach.
"Hardly," Steele hastened to assure his rival. "I wake up with a smile
on my face every morning, doctor. And several times a night, in fact."

"Really?" Lindstrom winked broadly. "I have the same problem."

Steele highly doubted it.

"Seriously, though, Mr. Steele. That could actually be contributing to
your sleeplessness. If you have episodes of unusual frequency or
intensity, well, we might want to record them for further study."

Steele flushed with embarrassment. "Err, I'd rather not, if you don't
mind. I don't think there's any connection. It's all quite usual,
really." That wasn't exactly the whole truth, Steele mused. Ever since
he had been trying to bed a certain petite, chestnut haired, maddeningly
elusive private eye the frequency, duration, and intensity of his
"episodes" had reached fever pitch.

"I should have asked during your initial interview, " Lindstrom
continued. "Many male patients are rather reluctant to broach the
subject on their own."

"Yes, well, I think the matter has been discussed at length, ah, I mean,
quite enough, doctor."

"Well, if you're sure there's no need."

"Quite sure." Steele wondered if Lindstrom was dense or just goading

"Well, I'll leave you to your session. There's no need to inform us of
when you plan to go to sleep. The system is ready and waiting for its
cue. Whenever you feel the urge just let it happen. We'll know the
precise moment you drift off to dreamland."

Steele made a face. "What a comforting thought. If I skip a number when
I'm counting sheep I'll be sure to check the printout."


Laura nibbled the edge of a Hershey bar and cranked up the ignition.
This was the third gas station she'd stopped at since she left the
clinic. She'd gotten off the highway twice before, with every intention
of turning around and heading back to check on her patient but she'd
managed to talk herself out of it with a combination of unassailable
logic, residual anger, and primal fear. Decision final despite the sharp
pricking of her conscience, she pulled onto the highway and headed for
the relative safety of home.

Her admirably balanced, mathematical brain told her that as long as she
was on the scene there would be friction between Steele and Lindstrom,
and that was hardly the ideal scenario to speed the patient on the way
to recovery. That particular m_nage a trois equaled disaster; Steele
needed to see his doctor as an authority figure, not a rival.

Also on the debit side, her partner's crankiness was not making him easy
to live with. Disinclination to do what he was told had always been his
stock in trade, not to mention that he had some odd notion that medical
science was hugely overrated and she could fix what ailed him with a
head to toe body massage, a sponge bath, and her -- what did he call it
again? Oh, yes. Her lilting voice. His moods and flare-ups she could
handle; it wasn't as if she'd never seen him lose his temper before, but
the job description for his private duty nurse was not what Florence
Nightingale had in mind.

It wasn't just the physical therapy side of the ledger that had her
running for cover. She'd begun to suspect that underneath the flirting
and the frustration was something that, reduced to its simplest terms,
jolted her equilibrium even more. He needed her. Not just her voice or
her touch, but her continual presence, her reassurance, her
companionship. But how could she really help a man whose depths were so
shrouded in mystery? What she knew about him barely scratched the
surface. The pre-insomniac Remington Steele hadn't seemed to need
anyone, least of all Laura Holt. He desired her without equivocation,
had readily admitted he was challenged by her - but he had never needed
her. Until now. It was a sobering, thrilling, scary, spine tingling


Steele sat propped up in bed, a free agent no longer, yoked and tied
like a helpless lab rat into the nerve center of Sleep Central. He
stared disconsolately into space. Being here was far worse than he'd
imagined, even more disheartening because the day had shown such
promise. Laura had put him through his paces at the gym in more ways
than one but he'd rarely had a more stimulating or more enjoyable two
hours. His limbs were beginning to feel the after effects of his
exertions but it was a relatively benign ache at this particular moment.
He wondered what he would feel like in the morning.

Why hadn't Laura stayed with him at the clinic? And what on earth had
set her off like that? He thought he'd been more than civil throughout
this entire ordeal. Certainly far more accommodating than Lindstrom
deserved. It all seemed so trivial now. And so pointless. Having his
angel of mercy on call was what really mattered. Didn't Laura know how
he would miss her?

Trying to fortify himself for the hours ahead, Steele summoned up a
detailed memory of Laura by the pool that, as it progressed, became
nearly unbearable in its eroticism. His body, starved for any form of
excitation reacted visibly and quite measurably in a manner guaranteed
to stretch the limits of any NPT device had one been attached to his
designated appendage. Steele shut his eyes tightly for a moment and
surrendered himself body and soul to the feeling. The spell was abruptly
broken when an involuntary twitch of his leg disconnected an electrode
and sent a monitor beeping like mad, sharply reminding him that he was
still the main attraction onscreen at the nurses' station. He let out a
moan of frustration and rolled over on his stomach, burying his face in
the pillow. It was going to be a very long night.

1:15 am.

Steele stared at the neon green lights of his sleep monitors and
calculated his chances. The bathroom and blessed relief were only a few
feet away but the action entailed a rapid and total disengagement which
would in all likelihood send out the SleepSentry version of an all
points bulletin. If only there were some other warm body he could attach
his electrodes to, but none was convenient. There was nothing for it but
to slip away as quietly and expeditiously as possible.

Steele quickly began removing his tethers. First one sensor, then
another began to beep and blink frantically. All that was needed to
complete the picture was a guard tower, a searchlight, and a barking
Alsatian. "Traitor," Steele muttered darkly to the machine as he sprang
toward the bathroom door.

"Oh, what a relief it is," he said aloud as, bladder finally eased, he
exited the bathroom shortly after. Steele began to weigh the
considerable odds of a complete getaway. Perhaps he could tell Laura
that he sleepwalked during the night and managed to make it back to his
flat by hitchhiking with some compassionate passing motorist.

A familiar gruff voice spoke from out of the near darkness. "Like I
said, no one would ever confuse you with Steve McQueen. And even he
couldn't clear that barbed wire fence."

"Next time remind me to get script approval."

"Try it again. Please. I haven't had to strap anyone to the bed in a
long time."

"I warn you, nurse. One phone call to Amnesty International -"

"Don't push it."

4:10 am.

Steele surfaced, clammy with sweat, from a claustrophobic and uneasy
slumber. He felt dull, yet unsettled, like a car stuck fast in the mud
spinning its wheels. His right eardrum reverberated with the muffled
whine of the SleepSentry's paper feed and he could discern the faint
scratching of the recording pens as they dutifully noted each brain wave
and tiny movement his half awake body was sending.

A line from a poem popped into his head from nowhere: "the moving finger
writes; and, having writ, moves on--"

He had no idea what it meant but it made him wonder if all this
machinery he'd set in motion was capable of answering the one question
that had haunted him for five days and five nights: why couldn't he go
to sleep?


"Good morning, Mr. Steele." Laura smiled down at him.

Steele pulled himself up on his elbows and stared at the vision that had
materialized before him, still unsure if his sleep deprived brain was
playing a few more tricks.

"You look awful."

He decided it wasn't. "You're rather cheeky for a mirage."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's just that you seem rather prone to sudden disappearances and
re-appearances these days. Not that I'm complaining," Steele hastened to
add. At that moment there was nothing he wanted more than to gather her
securely in his arms.

"Stay right where you are, Laura."

"What for?"

He solemnly attached a spare set of electrodes one by one to his
surprised partner. When he placed one just above her right breast she
convulsed with laughter.

"That tickles."

"You wear them well, Miss Holt. Oh, I forgot this." He removed his
elastic chest strap and fastened it tightly around her waist.

"I know you're capable of anything when it comes to getting me helpless
and horizontal, but I never thought you'd go this far."

"Desperate times, desperate measures."

"I don't think that's a medically accepted use for this equipment."

"Anytime you'd like to test my, ah, equipment, Miss Holt, I'm more than
willing to show you how it works."

In an impressive display of agility for someone who was half asleep a
minute before, Steele pulled her fully on top of him. His pulse began to
race when he noticed she hardly resisted.

"Mr. Steele." She could feel his heart pounding hard and fast. She
slipped her palm just inside his pajama top, fingers tentatively
exploring the dark hair of his chest.

"Mmm?" He nibbled her earlobe.

"Don't look now but that printout is going a mile a minute."

"So it is." His lips skimmed her jawline and trailed warm, breathless
kisses down her neck and right shoulder.

"What would Dr. Lindstrom say?"

"He's the expert observer. I'd guess something along the lines of 'Mr.
Steele, for a man who can't sleep, you're in a very enviable position.'"

"I don't think he'd say that, Mr. Steele."

"You're probably right. I'm sure he knows some anatomical term for it."

"Is there any way to turn that thing off?"

"Not from here, apparently. And the nurse's station still has the video
- ah, never mind about that." Steele mentally kicked himself for his
verbal slip.

"Video? You never said anything about video!"

"You never asked."

"Well, how would I know? And besides, you -- distracted me." Laura tried
to wriggle out of his grasp but he held her fast.

Steele grinned in triumph. "I must truly be irresistible."

"Ha! I'd rather kiss a narcoleptic."

"You don't say, " Steele murmured against her lips. "An instant cure, no
doubt. You certainly keep me awake at night."

"You're not blaming all of this on me!"

"Why not? Ironic that wanting to sleep with you has me up at all hours."

"Uh-uh. No fair. I'm not taking this lying down, Mr. Steele."

"Pity. That sounded like a good start. What say we give the gang at
nurses station two something to talk about, eh?"

Laura quirked an eyebrow at him. When she had passed by the station the
one and only topic of conversation had been the impossibly good looking
and semi-famous patient in room 203.

"Those nurses talk quite enough, Mr. Steele. It wouldn't surprise me if
they spend their lunch hour phoning in hot tips about the clientele to
the local news." Laura wondered how many of them were taking notes. She
kissed Steele's forehead chastely and slid off him to one side, looking
around for the video camera.

Not willing to surrender his prize so easily, Steele sidled closer,
slender fingers of one hand teasing the exposed bare skin under the hem
of her blouse.

"Would you stop!" Her hand closed on his, arresting further

Steele's eyes wandered freely over the areas of her body where his hands
were denied permission. He studied her, clearly enjoying the view.
"While you look perfectly ravishing as always, Miss Holt, perhaps a
charmingly backless hospital gown would be apropos."

Confounded by the man who reclined mere inches away, Laura wondered how
many women he'd charmed into just this position. The word "ravishing",
Laura was sure, had never sounded as exquisitely sensual as it did
coming from his lips. Still, she felt compelled to put up more than a
token resistance.

Laura pushed away from him and sat up on the bed. "I think I'll pass. I
don't want my naked tush to end up on 'Spotlight News.'"

"I believe I caught a glimpse of it last night."

"In your dreams!" Laura scoffed at his bold assertion.

Steele sighed fervently. "At least twice nightly - but I was referring
to 'Spotlight News'. Tell me, Laura, just to satisfy my idle curiosity.
Are all American female newsreaders blonde and braless?"

"On 'Spotlight News'? Try brainless."

"You know, Laura, if you'd move just a shade to the left our audience
would have a clearer view of my profile."

Laura's brow furrowed as something else occurred to her. "Speaking of
our audience -- what's an NPT device?"

Steele did a double take. "Ah, why do you ask?"

"Just curious. One of the nurses was saying she'd like to hook you up to

"Really?" Steele's eyes widened. He grinned roguishly and ran his
fingers through his hair. "An attractive bonde, green eyes, lovely

"No. A brunette with a very big perm and a very big -" Laura's hands
motioned expansively near her chest.

Steele raised an eyebrow. "Stethoscope? Ah, I think I know the one."
He paused, lost in thought. "Nurses. That reminds me. Promise me
something, Laura."

"Not without seeing the fine print," Laura said warily.

"I don't think you quite understand. This promise isn't negotiable. It's
a matter of life and death."

Laura detected the rising note of panic in his voice. "I almost believe

"Promise me that if Nurse Blackell appears you'll tell her that I've
just received an urgent communique from Interpol. Must dash to Lyon on
the Concorde without delay."

"Interpol? Aren't we taking our official bio a bit too seriously?"

"Any port in a storm."

"Coward," Laura teased, straightening the collar of his pajamas. "Why
drag me into it? As I recall you used the same approach on Emory Arnoch.
Flight from Bogota, wasn't it?"

"Laura, I wouldn't approach that woman without a loaded pistol. She's
armed with a deadly sponge."

"A sponge?"

"Would you be averse to changing the subject? Ask me how I slept last

"OK. I'll bite. How did you sleep last night?"

"Terribly. The surveillance techniques they practice here put Remington
Steele Investigations in the shade."

"I thought you enjoyed the spotlight, Mr. Steele."

"There are times, Miss Holt, when even the most public private eye
yearns for anonymity. The allure of the camera has its limits."

Laura slid closer, half reclining, and kissed him lightly on the lips.
"How disappointing for your fan club at the nurses station. That blonde
will be devastated."

"She'll get over it. In time." Steele abruptly sat up and began digging
through the toiletries in his overnight bag. He unearthed a bottle of
shaving cream.

"You're going to shave? Now?" Laura's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She
ran her fingers across the dark shadow on his chin. "Actually, Mr.
Steele, I rather like this look for you."

"Hold that thought, Miss Holt." Steele held up one finger in a "time
out" gesture. Managing to stand up on the mattress without disturbing
his tethers, he coated the lens of the overhead video camera with thick,
white foam, then tossed the can of shaving cream back into the bag.

In a flash Steele had resumed his original position on the bed. "That's
better. Now. Where were we?"

Between slow, searching kisses Steele lowered Laura the rest of the way
to the mattress. She hadn't intended things to end up this way but what
he was doing with his lips was enflaming her senses as instantaneously
as a match put to dry paper. Laura reached around his neck, eager
fingers tangling in his thick, dark hair. Not content with that tactile
sensation, she ached to feel more. Her hands wandered feverishly over
his half buttoned pajama top, sliding across silk, tangling in electrode
wires; Steele's own restraint was equally affected; his growing arousal
brushed her thigh.

A loud knock on the door sent Laura springing away as if she'd been
fired from a gun. Frantically, she straightened her clothing and tried
to untangle herself from the electrodes. The door opened and Lindstrom
entered, clipboard in hand.

"Good morning," he greeted cheerfully. His mildly confused gaze took in
the scene. "Can I help you with something, Miss Holt?"

Laura pulled the last connection from her chest and let it fall to the
floor. "I was just, um, checking Mr. Steele's, um - apparatus." She got
up from the bed and slunk to a nearby chair.

"Any problems?"

"On the contrary. Everything is in perfect working order," Steele
replied smugly, covering himself below the waist with a pillow. "What
are your findings, Doctor Holt?"

Laura could feel a ripe blush creeping over every square inch of her
skin. "Everything seems --- to be, um, ah, functioning -"

"At peak capacity, wouldn't you agree?" finished Steele, drumming his
fingers lightly on the bedsheet.

Laura glared a warning at him. "I didn't inspect that closely, Mr.

"That's easily remedied. I've no doubt my equipment can perform to the
most rigid standards."

The inference passed unnoticed by Lindstrom as he busied himself with
removing Steele's electrodes. "I think we have all the data we need for
now." He perused the top pages of the sleep printouts. "There seems to
be some unusual spiking activity in the last few minutes." He scratched
his forehead. "Fascinating."

Steele glanced behind Lindstrom, feeling the skin prick suddenly on the
back of his neck. "Where's your gruff and ready accomplice this


"Nurse Blackell. Has she flown away on her broomstick to parts unknown?"

"Nurse B? Oh, terrible accident. Glass everywhere."

"On the freeway?" Laura asked with concern.

"Not exactly. One of the narcoleptics fell asleep in the hallway when
she was carrying some specimen bottles. Tipped her right over."

"Alas. How unfortunate."

"Don't worry, Mr. Steele. She's fine. Just a bit of a mess to clean up.
It was Ivan Turbell, actually, who was the roadblock. You remember

"Of course. Dear God. How is he? None the worse for wear, I trust."

"As well as expected. Over the years he's gotten used to being stumbled

"All in the line of duty. Good show, Ivan old boy." Steele grinned

"Speaking of the line of duty, Mr. Steele, I have a simple task for you
to complete."

Steele rolled his shoulders, wincing a little. "Does it involve heavy
lifting? I think we covered that yesterday."

"Just a simple alertness test. To measure your EDS levels."

"Daytime sleepiness, yes." Steele repressed a yawn. "Don't worry,
doctor, I'm ready for anything."

Lindstrom handed him the clipboard and pencil and waved adieu. "See you
in half an hour."

Steele looked down at it and felt his stomach turn over. "Crossword

"They're a great mental exercise."

"So they tell me. I'm beginning to think that being an insomniac
requires an infinite capacity for filling in blanks."

"It's a little unorthodox, Mr. Steele. Not our usual method, but I
thought you might enjoy it."

"I'd like to express my gratitude, but frankly, words fail me."

"I hope not. We require at least a seventy percent completion rate."
Lindstrom chuckled at his own cleverness.

"Well then, doctor. I'll try to eke out a gentleman's 'C.'"

Lindstrom tucked Steele's sleep printouts under his arm. "I'll be in
touch with you in a day or so with your results. We'll be doing our
part, the SleepSentry and I, playing detective with the clues from your
sleep record."

"Playing detective? Was it Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a
candlestick? Or Professor Plum?" Laura intoned mock dramatically.

Steele and Lindstrom stared at her with blank incomprehension.

Laura shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry. Couldn't resist. You've never heard
of 'Clue'?"

The pair shook their heads slowly as if humoring someone shy a few
marbles. "Refresh my memory, Miss Holt," Steele recovered enough to ask.
"Who starred in it?"

"It isn't a movie, Mr. Steele. It's a game."

When he looked even blanker she tried to explain. "When things got a
little slow at Havenhurst, we used to sit around, spread out the board
and - well, it was kind of a role playing thing." She gestured
aimlessly. "I guess you had to be there."

"Happy hunting doctor. I think my associate should lie down. She's
obviously unwell."

Laura glanced over at the bed. "You never give up, do you?"

Lindstrom cleared his throat. "Well, I'll leave you to your pencil and
paper, Mr. Steele. I'll be back to check up on you shortly."

"If my, ah, alertness this morning is any indication, I'm sure I'll make
excellent progress," replied Steele with a meaningful glance at Laura.

"Good man," said Lindstrom, on his way out the door.

"Ready to continue your inspection, Miss Holt?" Steele waggled his
eyebrows salaciously.

"I don't think your schedule will allow it, Mr. Steele."

"You may be right. There isn't a moment to lose."

"I'll say. Crosswords aren't your strong suit."

"Point taken, but that wasn't what I meant." Steele glanced up at the
video camera which was beginning to drip shaving cream. "I'd be
delighted to continue what we started earlier but I'm not sure how much
longer we can avoid the roving eye of Sleep Central."

The sight of a deliciously rumpled Steele reclining a few feet away was
almost irresistible. "It's a tempting offer," Laura conceded, "but what
about your crossword?"

"As it happens I know the answers practically by heart."

Laura crossed her arms skeptically. "That sounds suspiciously like a

"Not at all. I worked out this very same puzzle days ago. Odd
coincidence, but there it is."

"Too odd." Laura walked over to the bed and handed him the clipboard and
pencil. "Put it in writing, Mr. Steele."

Steele sighed audibly. "Trust is such a rare commodity these days."

To Part 7