- Steele Upon a Mattress - Part
Date: Saturday, March 15, 2003
- Lauryn Poynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
STEELE UPON A MATTRESS - PART SIX
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.
lips twitched in a fleeting smile. Murphy would have kicked it
inched her way through the apartment, hanging back with the same
reluctance that sometimes dogged her when she spied on a private
during a stakeout or rifled through a bureau drawer for evidence.
was no reason to feel guilty, she told herself. After all, she
key, the agency was paying the rent on the apartment and if the
who had charmed his way into it wasn't answering the door, well
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
bedroom. She could hear the muffled blare of a movie soundtrack
at low volume.
Feeling her skin pricking on the back of her neck, she called
name again and peered through the doorway. Steele was sprawled
the bed, fully clothed, bedcovers around his legs, a small, neatly
packed overnight case propped open on the floor next to him.
remote dangled from his right hand and his limbs twitched restively
he clung to his pillow.
Laura sat carefully on the edge of the bed. She knew she would
wake him up but she was finding it hard to convince herself it
his own good. Let him enjoy what little sleep he'd gotten lately,
thought, though it didn't seem like he was enjoying it much.
moaned and mumbled something unintelligible, then tried to turn
was hampered by Laura's weight on the bedspread. He sank back
"We can't let you go," intoned the preternaturally
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
Laura reached out and touched his face, drawing her palm gently
his cheekbone. Her fingers traced the arc of his left eyebrow,
Steele's eyelids to flicker briefly in response. Her other hand
to his chest. She could feel his breathing becoming increasingly
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,
memories and you're reborn into an untroubled world . . ."
Steele's blue eyes fluttered open and he stared in shock at Laura
she were some alien creature from another planet. Surprised,
her hands back to her sides, and moved back further on the bed.
struggled to sit up, fighting to get air in his lungs, still
sure where his mind or body was or where his nightmare stopped
"Mr. Steele. Are you alright?"
"'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' Kevin McCarthy, Dana
Artists, 1956." Steele recited the words automatically,
as if he were
Laura was tempted to snap her fingers to bring him out of it,
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
bed. It sounded like the same old Laura. He searched her face,
the crinkle in her brow that was always there when she was worried.
"Laura, thank God. I must have dozed off. 'Creature Feature
on and I - " Steele broke off for a moment and gave her
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
"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,
"Truth is sometimes - stranger than cinema, Miss Holt. Or
are. " He winked at her.
Laura felt her heart turn over at the sight of him. Why did he
delicious slightly rumpled and half awake? She leaned in and
warm lips to his. They kissed, experimentally at first, then
restraint, fueled by the spark that never failed to ignite between
"Was that the real Laura?" she gasped, coming up for
Steele was as breathless as she was. "Once more with feeling,
Just to be sure?"
She silenced his doubts with a kiss that could melt Martian ice
"Laura, are you sure you've never seen 'Invasion of the
I could swear that was your pod person who took over and drove
here." Steele scribbled sundry bits of information on the
"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
"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
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
century medicine? I know you're just itching to cozy up to the
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,
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
conducted by Nurse Blackell. She's quite skilled at the more
Steele winced. "Those who live to tell the tale have the
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
Lindstrom stopped short, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. "What's
"A collapsible hut used by nomadic -- never mind that. Let's
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
first patient to test this equipment. You'll be amazed when you
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
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
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
tennis, Miss Holt?"
Laura's frowned in puzzlement at this rather odd segue. "I've
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
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
man by the scruff of the neck. "She's not the one who needs
The hint of street toughness in Steele's tone put Laura on alert;
hair's breadth of civility was keeping him from swatting Lindstrom
an annoying mosquito.
Lindstrom's eyes flickered nervously to Steele as he tried to
out of harm's way. "Uh, we doctors tend to notice such things.
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
"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
Laura shrugged noncommittally. "Except maybe the narcoleptics
"Good lord. His sense of humor is contagious. I'll ring
the nurse for
"Someone we know certainly got up on the wrong side of the
"I was quite content to stay there until you rousted me
ironic, don't you think? Waking a man up to drive him to a sleep
Laura gritted her teeth. "This negative attitude of yours
"Easy for you to say. You're not being left to the tender
Lindstrom and his metal sidekick, Sleep-3PO."
"I know Lindstrom's annoying but he is a qualified professional
comes to sleep disorders."
"I think I prefer the sleep droid. Perhaps it's been programmed
pleasing personality. Pity we couldn't start Lindstrom's from
Steele had inadvertently added the proverbial last straw. Laura
up like a jack in the box. "That's it. I'm leaving. I haven't
this much whining since I had to spend my niece's allowance."
Steele eyed her askance. "You spent your niece's allowance?
Laura. Children must have role models."
"We were at the circus, alright?" Laura huffed. "And
I forgot to gas up
"So you raided the piggy bank. Tsk. Tsk."
"She shouldn't complain. She got back fifteen percent interest.
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.
desert me at such a critical time -"
"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
but it might get a bit cramped."
"I'm not cozying up to anything. Or anyone. Two's company,
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,
Steele's reply died on his lips as he spied the Gorgon-like visage
Nurse Blackell. She was frowning down at her clipboard, heavy
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
VIP, but as I've told her before, everyone gets the same treatment
"Rather like the Spanish Inquisition," Steele said
"You may think it's amusing to play hide and seek with your
history but we get the last laugh in the end. No one leaves gaps
"Gaps? Really? Must have run short on ink."
Nurse Blackell smiled unpleasantly and handed him a pen. "I
of extras." She patted her pocket.
Feeling rather like a prisoner forced to sign a confession, Steele
up the clipboard, squinting at the large portions of white space
starting somewhere in the vicinity of question 4-B. Pen poised
it, he glanced around the room as if hoping to pull inspiration
Steele waved frantically at Laura whom he discovered, to his
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
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
"I see your stock of similes hasn't left the barnyard since
"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
tried to turn his head away but his antagonist held it firmly
"Eyes front." She shined a penlight close to each orb.
Steele blinked. "Shouldn't this sort of thing be done by
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
shortly. Don't go anywhere. The last patient who went exploring
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
worked in the methadone clinic downtown."
"I daresay your patients were more rested than I am. I have
condition, you see. It's called insomnia. Perhaps you've heard
Nurse Blackell ignored his sarcasm, squinting into the scope
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
Steele stifled a yelp as she kneaded his shoulders roughly. "So
noticed. Speaking of massage, I think we're going to get along
My hands are certified, you know."
"As lethal weapons?"
"I used to work for a doctor who specialized in these kinds
"Where is he now? Embroiled in a costly malpractice suit?
extradition in Paraguay?"
"He was my mentor. I learned a lot from him, Mr. Steele."
two blunt thumbs solidly against his spine. "But I don't
Steele's eyes widened in alarm. "I'd sooner share my toothbrush
"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
you did last time, think again."
"It was a rather daring and unexpected ploy, wasn't it?
categorization really, but you could call it an homage to the
'The Great Escape.' Steve McQueen, James Garner. United Artists,
"Don't flatter yourself. I've seen the movie."
"You go to movies?" Steele scowled as if the thought
"I watch the late show. You're no James Garner. And no one
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
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.
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."
pointedly at Steele.
"Nice to have something in common."
The combatants looked up as Lindstrom came through the door of
The doctor glanced around the room as if expecting to see Laura.
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
"We," Steele replied testily, "are not at all
Lindstrom glanced at the chart. "Really? I'd say the vital
Steele rubbed the back of his neck and winced. "Appearances
deceiving, doctor. A few more minutes alone with your accomplice
have been a candidate for reconstructive surgery."
"I'm sure you'll, ah, adjust to our way of doing things.
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
your stay. Why don't we adjourn to your sleep room and get the
rolling, so to speak? I think it's all systems go."
Steele straightened his tie. "Do I look presentable? My
Holt, dragged me out of bed just moments before we arrived, so
afraid I'm not at my best for your candid cameras." Steele
the casually dropped hint of a mattress testing session with
not lost on his rival.
Lindstrom looked more than a little downcast, Steele thought,
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
the daunting array of wires, graphs, recording pens, and rhythmically
pulsing and beeping monitors. He couldn't fathom what was so
about this new and improved sleep station; it looked more like
glorified, over-fed, calculating machine than an endearing and
"As you can see, Mr. Steele, we like to simulate the home
much as possible. You can wear your own pajamas, bring reading
or even watch television if it helps you drift off to sleep."
Steele raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Do you get the 'Movie
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
"So much for the comforts of home."
"The staff has had your things brought up. You can step
adjoining bathroom and change into your pajamas. Then we'll get
wired, as they say in the parlance."
Steele went into the bathroom and emerged several minutes later
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
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
to square the shoulders on his jacket and to drape his trousers
the crease would remain flawless.
"You really should invest in some proper suit hangers,"
remonstrated. "It would make this much simpler." He
"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
"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
Standard, is it?" Steele gave the pillow an experimental
"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
bag. She smiled with satisfaction and thrust it back into place.
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
in hooking up the patient."
"Of course, doctor."
In short order a series of electrodes was attached to Steele's
near his eyes, nose, and chin, and on his chest and shins. Elastic
were secured around his chest and abdomen and a small clip device
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,
Steele, will tell us what you, the subject, are not able to about
sleep events. They will be recording your EEG, EOG, EMG, and
"Is a translation on the house, too, or will it appear on
"Oh. Sorry to sound so technical. It's actually quite simple.
waves, eye movements, leg movements, muscle tension data will
all be fed
into your SleepSentry 2000. The attached recording pens will
the data onto these printouts.
"Yes, I believe I've seen the results before. Charming idea
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
"All in the name of science, Mr. Steele. The high resolution
we've installed at the central nurses' station will display a
of your sleep environment, and your various sleep positions,
color recorded on videotape.
"I'd have preferred a big screen debut at Grauman's Chinese
Steele replied disdainfully, "Still, my hopes weren't high."
"Nurse Blackell will be checking up on you to see that everything
"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
will be on call. You can press this remote button here to summon
Steele made a mental note not to drink any liquids in the next
"I suppose it's unfair of me to expect a layman to share
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
"If you don't mind my asking, doctor, is there a massage
this thoroughly modern machine?"
Lindstrom's brow furrowed. "No, I'm afraid not. I suppose
occurred to the manufacturer. But it's not a bad idea. Might
for some of our patients."
The intercom crackled with static and a voice announced, "Nurse
Blackell, please report to nurses station two. Nurses station
"I'll finish up here, nurse," reassured Lindstrom.
"Your special expertise is required elsewhere, eh?"
sardonically. "A lorry load of ace bandages arrive? Or perhaps
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
I only use a specially imported soap from Hong Kong. Or is it
I doubt you have it in stock."
Nurse Blackell curled her lip in disapproval and marched out
"All of our soaps are hypoallergenic, Mr. Steele,"
"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
complained of this before."
"Well, the narcoleptics wouldn't, would they? They could
anything. We insomniacs are more sensitive."
"I'm beginning to think so."
Steele fidgeted on the bed, trying to shake off the feeling that
inescapably trapped; at the mercy of the Lindstroms and the Nurse
Blackells of the world, and there wasn't much he could do about
"I don't see that a sponge bath is necessary. I thought
I was only
"You'll probably be released before lunch. We want to determine
sleep phase syndrome based on your wakefulness in the morning
any EDS deficits."
"It's an acronym for excessive daytime sleepiness."
"How prosaic. I thought you physicians preferred Latin and
Steele's eyes darted around the room restlessly. He noticed a
wired to the sleep station that looked like a downsized version
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
"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,
them are referred to us due to erectile dysfunction; this cuff
measures blood flow, duration and intensity of the subject's
Steele held up both hands in a restraining gesture. "That's
translation, doctor. You've no further need to, ah, expand on
"Of course, I had no indication it was needed but if you're
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,
"Really?" Lindstrom winked broadly. "I have the
Steele highly doubted it.
"Seriously, though, Mr. Steele. That could actually be contributing
your sleeplessness. If you have episodes of unusual frequency
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.
he had been trying to bed a certain petite, chestnut haired,
elusive private eye the frequency, duration, and intensity of
"episodes" had reached fever pitch.
"I should have asked during your initial interview, "
continued. "Many male patients are rather reluctant to broach
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
cue. Whenever you feel the urge just let it happen. We'll know
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
clinic. She'd gotten off the highway twice before, with every
of turning around and heading back to check on her patient but
managed to talk herself out of it with a combination of unassailable
logic, residual anger, and primal fear. Decision final despite
pricking of her conscience, she pulled onto the highway and headed
the relative safety of home.
Her admirably balanced, mathematical brain told her that as long
was on the scene there would be friction between Steele and Lindstrom,
and that was hardly the ideal scenario to speed the patient on
to recovery. That particular m_nage a trois equaled disaster;
needed to see his doctor as an authority figure, not a rival.
Also on the debit side, her partner's crankiness was not making
to live with. Disinclination to do what he was told had always
stock in trade, not to mention that he had some odd notion that
science was hugely overrated and she could fix what ailed him
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
handle; it wasn't as if she'd never seen him lose his temper
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
running for cover. She'd begun to suspect that underneath the
and the frustration was something that, reduced to its simplest
jolted her equilibrium even more. He needed her. Not just her
her touch, but her continual presence, her reassurance, her
companionship. But how could she really help a man whose depths
shrouded in mystery? What she knew about him barely scratched
surface. The pre-insomniac Remington Steele hadn't seemed to
anyone, least of all Laura Holt. He desired her without equivocation,
had readily admitted he was challenged by her - but he had never
her. Until now. It was a sobering, thrilling, scary, spine tingling
Steele sat propped up in bed, a free agent no longer, yoked and
like a helpless lab rat into the nerve center of Sleep Central.
stared disconsolately into space. Being here was far worse than
imagined, even more disheartening because the day had shown such
promise. Laura had put him through his paces at the gym in more
than one but he'd rarely had a more stimulating or more enjoyable
hours. His limbs were beginning to feel the after effects of
exertions but it was a relatively benign ache at this particular
He wondered what he would feel like in the morning.
Why hadn't Laura stayed with him at the clinic? And what on earth
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
angel of mercy on call was what really mattered. Didn't Laura
he would miss her?
Trying to fortify himself for the hours ahead, Steele summoned
detailed memory of Laura by the pool that, as it progressed,
nearly unbearable in its eroticism. His body, starved for any
excitation reacted visibly and quite measurably in a manner guaranteed
to stretch the limits of any NPT device had one been attached
designated appendage. Steele shut his eyes tightly for a moment
surrendered himself body and soul to the feeling. The spell was
broken when an involuntary twitch of his leg disconnected an
and sent a monitor beeping like mad, sharply reminding him that
still the main attraction onscreen at the nurses' station. He
let out a
moan of frustration and rolled over on his stomach, burying his
the pillow. It was going to be a very long night.
Steele stared at the neon green lights of his sleep monitors
calculated his chances. The bathroom and blessed relief were
only a few
feet away but the action entailed a rapid and total disengagement
would in all likelihood send out the SleepSentry version of an
points bulletin. If only there were some other warm body he could
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,
another began to beep and blink frantically. All that was needed
complete the picture was a guard tower, a searchlight, and a
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
that he sleepwalked during the night and managed to make it back
flat by hitchhiking with some compassionate passing motorist.
A familiar gruff voice spoke from out of the near darkness. "Like
said, no one would ever confuse you with Steve McQueen. And even
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
"I warn you, nurse. One phone call to Amnesty International
"Don't push it."
Steele surfaced, clammy with sweat, from a claustrophobic and
slumber. He felt dull, yet unsettled, like a car stuck fast in
spinning its wheels. His right eardrum reverberated with the
whine of the SleepSentry's paper feed and he could discern the
scratching of the recording pens as they dutifully noted each
and tiny movement his half awake body was sending.
A line from a poem popped into his head from nowhere: "the
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
that had haunted him for five days and five nights: why couldn't
"Good morning, Mr. Steele." Laura smiled down at him.
Steele pulled himself up on his elbows and stared at the vision
materialized before him, still unsure if his sleep deprived brain
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
re-appearances these days. Not that I'm complaining," Steele
add. At that moment there was nothing he wanted more than to
securely in his arms.
"Stay right where you are, Laura."
He solemnly attached a spare set of electrodes one by one to
surprised partner. When he placed one just above her right breast
convulsed with laughter.
"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
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
"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
minute before, Steele pulled her fully on top of him. His pulse
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
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
"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
"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
one and only topic of conversation had been the impossibly good
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
the local news." Laura wondered how many of them were taking
kissed Steele's forehead chastely and slid off him to one side,
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
of her blouse.
"Would you stop!" Her hand closed on his, arresting
Steele's eyes wandered freely over the areas of her body where
were denied permission. He studied her, clearly enjoying the
"While you look perfectly ravishing as always, Miss Holt,
charmingly backless hospital gown would be apropos."
Confounded by the man who reclined mere inches away, Laura wondered
many women he'd charmed into just this position. The word "ravishing",
Laura was sure, had never sounded as exquisitely sensual as it
coming from his lips. Still, she felt compelled to put up more
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
to 'Spotlight News'. Tell me, Laura, just to satisfy my idle
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
would have a clearer view of my profile."
Laura's brow furrowed as something else occurred to her. "Speaking
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,
"No. A brunette with a very big perm and a very big -"
motioned expansively near her chest.
Steele raised an eyebrow. "Stethoscope? Ah, I think I know
He paused, lost in thought. "Nurses. That reminds me. Promise
"Not without seeing the fine print," Laura said warily.
"I don't think you quite understand. This promise isn't
a matter of life and death."
Laura detected the rising note of panic in his voice. "I
"Promise me that if Nurse Blackell appears you'll tell her
just received an urgent communique from Interpol. Must dash to
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
Flight from Bogota, wasn't it?"
"Laura, I wouldn't approach that woman without a loaded
armed with a deadly 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
Steele Investigations in the shade."
"I thought you enjoyed the spotlight, Mr. Steele."
"There are times, Miss Holt, when even the most public private
yearns for anonymity. The allure of the camera has its limits."
Laura slid closer, half reclining, and kissed him lightly on
"How disappointing for your fan club at the nurses station.
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
"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,
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
his tethers, he coated the lens of the overhead video camera
white foam, then tossed the can of shaving cream back into the
In a flash Steele had resumed his original position on the bed.
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
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
sensation, she ached to feel more. Her hands wandered feverishly
his half buttoned pajama top, sliding across silk, tangling in
wires; Steele's own restraint was equally affected; his growing
brushed her thigh.
A loud knock on the door sent Laura springing away as if she'd
fired from a gun. Frantically, she straightened her clothing
to untangle herself from the electrodes. The door opened and
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
floor. "I was just, um, checking Mr. Steele's, um - apparatus."
up from the bed and slunk to a nearby chair.
"On the contrary. Everything is in perfect working order,"
replied smugly, covering himself below the waist with a pillow.
are your findings, Doctor Holt?"
Laura could feel a ripe blush creeping over every square inch
skin. "Everything seems --- to be, um, ah, functioning -"
"At peak capacity, wouldn't you agree?" finished Steele,
fingers lightly on the bedsheet.
Laura glared a warning at him. "I didn't inspect that closely,
"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
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
be some unusual spiking activity in the last few minutes."
his forehead. "Fascinating."
Steele glanced behind Lindstrom, feeling the skin prick suddenly
back of his neck. "Where's your gruff and ready accomplice
"Nurse Blackell. Has she flown away on her broomstick to
"Nurse B? Oh, terrible accident. Glass everywhere."
"On the freeway?" Laura asked with concern.
"Not exactly. One of the narcoleptics fell asleep in the
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,
"As well as expected. Over the years he's gotten used to
"All in the line of duty. Good show, Ivan old boy."
"Speaking of the line of duty, Mr. Steele, I have a simple
task for you
Steele rolled his shoulders, wincing a little. "Does it
lifting? I think we covered that yesterday."
"Just a simple alertness test. To measure your EDS levels."
"Daytime sleepiness, yes." Steele repressed a yawn.
doctor, I'm ready for anything."
Lindstrom handed him the clipboard and pencil and waved adieu.
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,
thought you might enjoy it."
"I'd like to express my gratitude, but frankly, words fail
"I hope not. We require at least a seventy percent completion
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
touch with you in a day or so with your results. We'll be doing
part, the SleepSentry and I, playing detective with the clues
"Playing detective? Was it Colonel Mustard in the conservatory
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
The pair shook their heads slowly as if humoring someone shy
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
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.
Laura glanced over at the bed. "You never give up, do you?"
Lindstrom cleared his throat. "Well, I'll leave you to your
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
"Good man," said Lindstrom, on his way out the door.
"Ready to continue your inspection, Miss Holt?" Steele
"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
delighted to continue what we started earlier but I'm not sure
longer we can avoid the roving eye of Sleep Central."
The sight of a deliciously rumpled Steele reclining a few feet
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
"Not at all. I worked out this very same puzzle days ago.
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
- To Part